Thursday, December 31, 2015

Word for 2016

For 2016 my word is: wait.

I can wait for things to get better.

I can wait for my health to improve.

I can wait to achieve my goals.

I can wait to fix things that are outside my power right now.

I can wait because I am still alive.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Video games are about agency, not power.

An article at The Guardian used one of my button words: agency.
But in video games, I wonder sometimes if something much more subtle and instinctive is going on. Perhaps games aren’t really about power, they’re actually more about agency – the idea that we can have any sort of influence and control over what happens to us, and the world around us.
This makes sense to me-but that doesn't make it true, just gratifying.
For most of us, control is limited and ephemeral. We have jobs to do, people to care for, rules to follow – and we live in societies that place vast infrastructural limits on what we can do or affect. There are complex cognitive behaviours, from superstitions to compulsive gambling to obsessive compulsive disorders, through which the desire for, or belief in, agency express themselves. Throughout the 70s, UCLA researcher Ellen Langer developed the concept of “The Illusion of Control” studying how people often rely heavily on this unrealistic perceptions of their own autonomy. “The argument I’ve been making for the last 40 years,” she said during a talk in 2013, “is that actually, most of us are mindless virtually all of the time.”
And I think this is actually what video games are about. At a very basic, fundamental level, they are simply about providing a sense of control, rather than necessarily about making us feel like superheroes. Video games merely have to confirm us as sentient agents in order to function.
Do so many people really feel powerless and that they lack the ability to make choices and changes in their own lives? Agency is really all we have, in my opinion. I like to play video games, but not because I feel helpless to affect my life.

Maybe video games can be practice for exerting your agency.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Self Defense: notes from a seminar

This is a rough transcription of my notes from a July 2007 seminar given by Rory Miller.

Think about the difference between violence and martial arts. Martial arts is a highly structured sport that uses force.

If you don't train to jump out of the OODA loop (that's the loop of observe, orient, decide, and act) with an immediate, impulsive response (such as a punch to the nose of your attacker), you'll get stuck in it.

The most important thing is to work out your moral/ethical standards in advance.

1. What thing(s) would you create orphans to achieve, be willing to do jail time? What are your go buttons? Examples might be:

-No rape in my presence
-I won't be handcuffed by someone I don't know
-No abuse of children in my presence

What are yours?

2. Learn how attacks happen. Learn to see them coming. What is the body language? Facial expression? Tone of voice?

3. Is it possible to diffuse the situation? Can you/are you willing to use humor, to give up your wallet, to be submissive if that will make the attacker go away?

4. Operant conditioning to flinch reflex effectively. (Yeah, 8 years later I don't remember what I was noting with this sentence.)

5. Freeze--how to recognize it and break it

-Endorphine dump happens to help you cope/survive
-Two conscious actions in a row/at the same time will break it--what are yours? Rehearse, train, practice them
>hit back

6. Fight! This is where the fight happens, if it's going to happen at all. Training gets you through a fight, maybe.

7. Aftermath


Deal with these at step 1. Legal consequences are easy to predict. Physical ones will depend on how the encounter went: did the attacker break your arm, leave bruises, knock you out? Emotional ones depend on preparation, but will surprise you the first few times. Will you be angry? Feel shame or guilt? Maybe you'll have grief. Any emotional response could happen.

A fight is over is 5-6 seconds. Serious damage is done inside range, close up; every action you take should improve your position and worsen his. Keep your balance strong.

Vigilance is important all the time; it increases your appreciation of life.

Adrenaline effects (during and after an attack)
-hearing goes
-tunnel vision
-quick exhaustion
-you get weak
-thinking changes
-fine motor skills gone

A complex response to a complex problem: addressing mass shootings in the US.

Ysabetwordsmith dissects social, structural reasons for mass shootings in the United States.

Remember that America has had plentiful guns for a couple of centuries and only recently developed a persistent problem of mass shootings. Also there are other countries with guns that don't have this problem. So if you want to fix it, you have to look at the root causes, which include...


* Poor job prospects. People who can't get a job that pays enough to live on feel frightened and angry. It is difficult or impossible for them to participate in society, so they feel little if any loyalty to it.

* Social fragmentation. When job options, home insecurity, and other forces drive people to move frequently then that shatters social ties. The family has gone from extended to nuclear to now having lots of singles and single parents. When people don't have a social support network, that undermines their ability to handle challenges well. It also means that more kids grow up without learning a good set of coping skills.

* Lack of meaning. People want their lives to matter. They want to make a difference -- usually, want to make the world a better place. Profession, relationships, and home are among the things most people turn to for meaning. Unemployment and menial labor, lack of family ties, and frequent moves undermine that sense of significance. People go looking for ways to fill the gap, and that can leave them vulnerable to cults, violence, and other problems.

and then offers suggestions to address the root causes (because just trying to take away all guns won't work):

* Provide resources for self-regulation. These may include quiet rooms, reference materials, comfort objects, or whatever else helps people feel safe and calm after something upsetting. Quite a lot of violence -- especially in public places -- happens because someone gets wound up and then has no way to wind back down. That means the next thing that can go wrong tends to trigger an outburst, sometimes a violent one. Think of these as social firebreaks: they prevent small problems from becoming large problems.

* Establish a right to work. It's not that there's a shortage of workers or work that needs doing; what we have is a resource distribution problem where a few people are hogging so much wealth that it doesn't leave enough circulating to meet personal or public needs. Restore the high-tax-bracket system that was developed after the Great Depression, and that would fund public works and public-service jobs for everyone willing and able to work.

[links omitted; please read the entire post and follow the links.] I agree with every word of that post.