Hubris: 17 January 2021

This is Hubris: 17 January 2021 edition, the newsletter where I have the audacity to think I’ve written something worth reading.

It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks, hasn’t it. Covid-19 is running rampant because people continue to gather in large crowds and refuse to wear masks. There’s a civil war raging in the United States. I’ve got person things going on behind the scenes that I don’t even want to talk about. We’re all physically and emotionally exhausted. So let’s try to switch things up, give ourselves a break, and try to focus on living a simple creative life as much as we’re able.

Rewatching Marie Konda

Most of the time I’ve been listening to music while I work. Blue Note jazz, synthwave, 1960s soul, 1970s funk, all upbeat and energetic. Occasionally I want to hear some human voices speaking, though, just as background noise. Movies and scripted TV shows are too distracting. Musical cues, changing volume, it’s hard to process. So I’ve been streaming the most innocuous reality shows I can find on Netflix. Which led to me putting on Marie Kondo’s show, which I had watched through when it first came out.

I’m not going to editorialize about Kondo. If her methods work for you, great. If you find her a little weird, hey, you’re entitled to your opinion. What caught my eye this time around were the people she was trying to help. I’ve noticed this on a lot of reality makeover-type shows before: people clearly don’t want to change.

They’re resistant to the advice being offered, even when it’s objectively good and is the obvious solution to their problem. There’s not mistaking that a lot of compliance is performative; they’re going along to be on television, and get whatever appearance fee or other perks they’ve been promised. Most of them likely when right back to their old ways as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.

Becoming minimalist, or tidying up, or whatever you want to call it, is like any other change. It has to come from within. You need to acknowledge the problem, and sincerely want to embrace the solution. Otherwise you’re just finding a new way to waste time and money.

Business Plans

While I’ve been not-blogging I’ve also, sadly, been not-writing. As much as I wished I were sequestered away making word count, so far 2021 has been all about business. I rewrote my business plan (something every small business should do periodically) to refocus my goals and identify new opportunities. Then I rewrote Katie’s business plan, with her input of course, to help her figure out where to best spent her time and resources. I did a little consulting with some colleagues, people I trust and who know what they’re doing. We bounce ideas off each other, which is always beneficial to solopreneurs.

It’s like going on a road trip. As much as you want to be on the road, you can’t always hop in the car and start driving. Having a map, knowing how much you have to spend, and packing some supplies will make the experience a lot more enjoyable.

Social Media and Peace of Mind

Being offline for huge swaths of time, as well as spending some quality time immersed in the audio, visual, and written works of Hank Green, has given me some new perspectives on social media. I’ve needed to take a step back and look at these platforms as tools. They’re like cars. A lot of people rely on them for work, for their social lives, or as feats of artistry and engineering. There are some innate problems with cars (fossil fuels and emissions, for a start) but they’re not intrinsically good or evil.

There are some foundational and enforceable rules with cars, though. You aren’t allowed to drive on the sidewalk, for instance. Generally you can’t do things that could result in people getting hurt. I’m old enough to remember the outrage when states began requiring automobile insurance. When I was a kid there were no airbags, and seatbelts were neither standard nor mandatory to wear. People felt these safety measures were an infringement of their rights.

At some point we’ll see the benefit of having rules and go along with them. You don’t hear a lot of rants about having to wear a seat belt these days. Lack of insurance compliance is mostly an economic issue, not a protest against the concept. Social media will settle down eventually, and we’ll see decent behavior and deplatforming as social norms.

Until then, I kind of expect that “free speech” advocates on social media will look a lot like second amendment rights advocates in terms of intensity.

Hubris: 17 January 2021

Final Weekend of the New Year Sale

DriveThruRPG is running their annual New Year, New Game sale. They’ve selected some Dancing Lights Press titles, which are anywhere from 15% to 25% off. What they didn’t include were any of our actual game systems. So we’re having our own sale, so you can try a new game in the new year. Digital core rulebooks are 25% off, through the duration of the sitewide sale.

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Hubris: 10 January 2021

This is Hubris: 10 January 2021 edition, the newsletter where I have the audacity to think I’ve written something worth reading.

My current pet peeve is people who try to win arguments by citing how much money they make, or how many social media followers that have. As if the real world is a strict meritocracy. There are plenty of people who earn egregious sums of money but are still dangerously bad at their jobs. Having the multitudes tracking them on Twitter, TikTok, or whatever doesn’t mean their opinions are factually correct or deserving of attention. It’s a false equivalence at best. At worst it says terrible things about their own self-worth, as if their only value as a human being is that one metric and their ability to lord it over other people.

Less is Now

The Minimalists: Less is Now is a fantastic documentary. So far I have watched it 4 times. At 53 minutes it is concise in its messaging. It came about at the right time, as I’m reassessing my priorities and trying to be more flexible in these uncertain times.

Their story is my story. Being successful but miserable in a well-paid corporate job. Having a marriage unravel because stress and money and unrealistic expectations of life. Taking a minimalist path and finding peace and happiness.

It’s on Netflix, along with the first documentary about The Minimalists. Check them out.

I am a Literary Snob (Apparently)

So there’s a person of my acquaintance that regularly chastises me for not including pictures in my books. They don’t need illustrations or diagrams. It increases the cost of production for me and the price point for consumers for no reasons. Everyone else does it, though, so they think that’s a reason I should do it too.

This same person recently called me a snob because I don’t think listening to an audiobook is the same as reading a physical book. Yes, there are studies that show that both provide some of the same benefits. You’re not learning spelling and grammar, though. The ability to re-read something I didn’t quite understand, parsing out the words, is hard to do with audio. I sometimes like to re-read passages for the beauty of the prose.

Anyway, I pointed out that audiobooks don’t have pictures and that seems to have shut them up.

My 2021 Writing Paradigm

Since I don’t do resolutions and the state of the world has caused me to abandon goals, I’m now using the word paradigm. Having a pattern to the way I work will get me where I want to go. If I develop good habits, I shouldn’t have to think about deadlines. The work will get done, in a reasonable time frame.

Anyway, since mid-December the paradigm is writing a minimum of 6 pages per day. The writing has to be on an active project or it doesn’t count. Typically I have 2 or 3 active projects going at once; if I get stuck or bored, I move to one of the others for a while. That’s an old habit that keeps me moving.

I don’t have to stop at 6 pages, so if I’m on a roll I can keep going. Any extra pages, however, don’t roll over. If I write 10 pages, that’s not 6 today and 4 banked toward tomorrow. I still need to do 6 tomorrow. After I’m done with my 6 pages, I can work on anything else I want, including this newsletter and any essays I want to write for this site.

So far, it’s working. It’s far less stressful, and I’m better able to get other tasks done. Writing is the core work, after all, so it should be the centerpiece of my day.

In Case You Missed It

Bad Faith, Free Speech: Outrage Over Imagined Rights

Several years ago I began pulling away from a friend. It was after the A&E network suspended Phil Robertson, one of the stars of Duck Dynasty, from that show. Robertson had done an interview with GQ where he equated homosexuality to bestiality. After issuing a statement that Robertson’s views did not reflect the opinions of A&E, and reaffirming their support of the LGBT community, they sacked him.

My friend tweeted, “Whatever happened to free speech?”

Two years later this repeated. Walmart banned sales of the Confederate battle flag and anything containing its image. This extended to Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia. Models of the iconic car the General Lee, which has the flag painted across its roof, were removed from shelves.

My friend went on a tear about First Amendment rights.

About That

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

First Amendment of the United States Constitution

Show me where Congress passed a law saying A&E had to kick Phil Robertson off the show. That never happened. Show me where the government rushed in, confiscated all of the copies of CQ featuring the interview, and burned them. It didn’t happen. The interview is still up on GQ’s website; I linked to it earlier in this essay. First Amendment rights have not been violated.

A&E reversed their suspension of Robertson a week later. It was moot anyway, because the new season featuring Robertson was already in the can and the network stated that they would air those episodes. The reason for the suspension was free publicity. A charitable reading of the situation is that it allowed A&E to making it clear they did not support their star’s homophobic opinions.

Similarly, show me where Federal agents stormed Walmart and seized everything with a Confederate battle flag on it. Present to me the order issued by a government agency requiring Walmart to remove said flag. Never happened.

You can buy Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia on Walmart’s website, including models of the General Lee. They’re offered by third-party sellers, not Walmart itself, but a lot of people won’t see the distinction. It should be noted that none of the merch I found showed the Confederate battle flag. All shots of the car were low and from the size, avoiding views of the roof.

Bad Faith, Free Speech, and Manufactured Outrage

The same friend also supported the notion that businesses should be able to refuse service to LGBT people. No bakery should have to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, nor should a photographer be compelled to capture it for posterity. He was also good with the outcome of Burwell v Hobby Lobby, and supported the idea that Chik-Fil-A should be able to donate money to whatever organization they please. The rationale is that they are businesses and should set their own policies.

I’m not going to try to go into how those cases are different from Robertson and Walmart. It would be more productive for me to run head first at a cinder block wall. Getting this out of my system is already wasting valuable time that I could be spending on more important things.

My point, of course, is that A&E is a business. Walmart is a business. They decide what content they provide. Where said content is deemed harmful, it’s gone. When the person providing the content is problematic, they’re out. Period.

Bad Faith, Free Speech and Imagined Rights

Of course this post isn’t about my former friend, or things that transpired many years ago. It’s about Simon & Schuster deciding not to publish Senator Josh Hawley’s book. It’s about Twitter finally enforcing its own terms of service and permanently banning a certain high-profile individual. More to the point, it’s about people claiming that this is a violation of free speech. Hawley was claiming, on Twitter and elsewhere, that Simon & Schuster had violated his First Amendment rights. Seditionists are crying about censorship.

Everyone wants rights. No one wants responsibilities. Unfortunately freedom of speech does not include freedom from consequences. Nor does it entitle you to a platform. It does not provide protections for an individual’s sense of entitlement.

Twitter went so far as to include the two Tweets that instigated that guy’s ban in the explanation of their decision. You can see what he put out into the ether. Hawley’s free to shop his book around to another publisher, to self-publish it, or to release it online for free. There is nothing preventing them from spewing their opinions; they just can’t do so on venues that have chosen not to support their messaging.

Bad Faith, Free Speech, Shut Up

Playing the victim when held accountable is tiring. Arguing that not allowing them to have their way is unfair to the point of violating their rights is tired. Get over it. Learn how to comport yourself in a civil manner, and this won’t happen. Figure out how to get along with other people, and not advocate for stripping people of their rights, and this won’t happen. Educate yourself as to what your actual rights are, and how to exercise them, and this won’t happen.

Stop acting in bad faith, and you won’t have to worry about free speech. Until then, just shut up.

What Can I Say About the Capitol Riot?

No, seriously, I don’t know what anyone expects me to say about what’s happened in the United States. I’m surprised that anyone’s shocked. There’s been a fraction of the American public that’s been itching to run buck wild since 911. We watched the birther horseshit unfold during the Obama administration, and saw the brand of populist nationalism the Tea Party movement churned out. It isn’t as if we haven’t listened to a man who openly admires dictators call Mexican rapists, brag about inappropriately grabbing women, mock the disabled, disparage Muslims, and call for violence against journalists. All of us witnessed what happened in Charlottesville, at the Michigan State House, and at otherwise peaceful protests across America. How are any of you dumbfounded by the Capitol riot on 6 January, 2021?

I Don’t Want to Go Back

When asked why I want to stay in Finland, I point out that those people in red hats don’t miraculously go away after the inauguration. It’s like when you flip on the lights in the kitchen and the cockroaches scatter. You can’t see the roaches any more, but you know they’re still there. We’ve lived here since 2014. Before we left we had people ask why we’d ever want to live anywhere other than the greatest nation on Earth. A family member accused us of hating America because Katie said, and I quote, “We like living in Finland”. I have no doubt that the kind of domestic terrorists we saw yesterday would do us harm if given the opportunity.

I recognize my privilege.

Getting sent back to the United States would be hard, annoying, and possibly dangerous. There isn’t a drug cartel or government death squad waiting to take me out. I’d rather live in a place that isn’t infested with cockroaches, though. Especially when the landlords have historically done a piss-poor job with pest control. Security at the Capitol riot was a joke. Punish those who engaged in sedition, or they’ll keep coming back and the problem will only get worse.