C.I.T.O.K.A.T.E.

Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error

5/14/15 01:10 pm - Who To Turn To For Help In A Volunteer Organization

Here is the email I sent to the i3Detroit mailing list:

We discussed this at the Board of Directors meeting this week. Our hacker space is experiencing a lot of growth, so not everyone knows everyone any more. We want i3Detroit to be a place where, if someone hassles you, steals from you, or walks all over you without consideration, they can't just vanish with impunity-- one more stranger in a crowd of strangers. Some conflicts can't be resolved unless the group itself takes action.

In a new social circle, sometimes it takes a while to know who you can go to. If you're new, and someone at this facility makes it clear they are not interested in respecting the boundaries you set, you should know exactly who to ask for help.

One of the biggest reasons I became a Board member was to advocate for our members and guests in cases of conflict. I have experience with this in several all-volunteer not-for-profit organizations. The Board has designated me as the point of contact. If I am no longer a Board member after this fall's election, they will choose another person.

An advocate is expected to do the following:

- Be aware of what is in our code of conduct. https://www.i3detroit.org/wiki/Harassment_Policy

- Either support our code of conduct, or campaign to change it.

- Never say "well, I just don't want to support our code of conduct."

- Handle private information with discretion on a need-to-know basis.

- Report to the Board and pursue the matter until it is resolved, keeping it consistently moving toward resolution.

- Provide a definite outcome one way or another, to each party who has a stake in the conflict.

- Take personal accountability when (not if) one or more parties to the conflict are not happy with the outcome.

- Maintain some means of reasonable notice to our members and guests, to let them know who they can go to for help.

In order to keep our social circle vibrant, and retain people from a variety of walks of life, there are some situations where this organization can't just leave you to fend for yourself. We must have your back regardless of who mistreated you-- a Board member, officer, warden, or cofounder; a very popular person; or a respected master builder. And our promise to you is no good unless you know about it, so we're telling you.
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3/29/15 01:26 am - "Dirk Gently" BBC Series

I finally watched the 2012 4-episode BBC series which adapted "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" and "The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul", by the author of "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy".

This is a science-fiction comedy about a fast-talking con man. He peddles self-serving conspiracy theories, but each time, his scheme is foiled when he turns out to be accidentally correct. He really is psychic; he can perform real hypnosis; it's really aliens. Ghosts. The Illuminati. He'd get rich, if only he could come up with a lie so outre that it doesn't turn out to be true.

As a private detective, Dirk is not a genius-- at least in the conventional sense. When everyone else is satisfied with the surface appearance of a solved crime, Dirk saves the day with his stubborn insistence that any explanation of the whole crime is incomplete until it is a bizarre tangle of circumstantial evidence. Every coincidence in the universe is connected by threads of cause and effect. Following the threads will lead to the same conclusion every time: yet another dubious rationalization to give Dirk money.

I adore how this franchise parodies the absurd scenarios in every detective mystery. The second thing it parodies is the hero-worship glorification of "Sherlock". Both shows concern a obnoxious private detective in London with a straight-arrow partner. And yet, in "Dirk Gently", the writers do not fawn over their protagonist. No one comes crawling back to Dirk. No one in Dirk's life begrudgingly respects him. No one even pays him. No one loves him. Except, I guess, me. :)

Expectations are low for television adaptations of beloved books. To my surprise, I enjoyed every moment of this series. Part of the appeal of the novels was a convoluted plot which rewards multiple readings, revealing ingenious levels of interconnection, foreshadowing, and big ideas. That was impossible to directly convert to episodic format, so the elements of the story were extracted individually, then rearranged to be more accessible. But the show-runners understood the appeal of the source material and successfully channeled its spirit. Bravo!

2/20/15 10:30 am - Retroactive Interpretation

Have there been times in your life when you experienced an emotion due to circumstances you were already in, and then someone spoke to you, and you retroactively perceived the words as the cause of that emotion? For examples:

Feel anger -> interpret words as demands.
Feel guilt -> interpret words as criticisms.
Feel fear -> interpret words as threats.
Feel shame -> interpret words as dismissal.

2/2/15 11:38 am - Questions About Burning Man

Lakes Of Fire people: Help me out. I was planning to get a ticket, but I'm really struggling with a feeling of dread about attending a camping event. Whenever I hear about Burning Man and its regional satellite events ("Burns"), the complaints are specific (and devastatingly severe), but the praise is vague. Can you tell a story about something that happened to you at a Burn that was good, that would not happen just by staying home?

For a person who dislikes the outdoors, camping, bodies of water, rave music, dancing, and getting intoxicated, what is good about a Burning Man regional event? How much art is there which I can't see at my local hacker space (where much LOF art is built)? Is there food in a campsite, that I can't get a hundred times better at a restaurant?

Is a Burn just a spiritual training exercise in the "10 principles", or is it a form of enjoyment, or both? Do you enjoy it for some reason other than the outdoors and intoxicants? Do people just sit around talking? Or worse, getting obnoxiously drunk? Do I have to be radically inclusive toward intrusive behavior from drunks?

I enjoy creating experiences that other people enjoy! So, I've been trying to think of some experience I could provide to LOF attendees in the harsh and deprived environment of camping, while I'm all sticky, gross, smelly, camping, miserable, sleep-deprived, camping, begging others to gift me with the necessities to avoid becoming a filthy, starving, shivering, diseased animal, because of camping.

Is it acceptable to sleep in a local hotel? Exactly how frowned-upon is that practice?

Will I leave with both middle fingers raised in a "NOPE NOPE NOPE" the way I did at Pennsic?

1/3/15 12:42 pm - Climbers Only

If your relationship style is adventurous, you're journeying down a road less traveled, with only vague maps. There's nothing wrong with spending your life in a hobbit hole, playing it safe, and doing what everyone has always done. But my friend, when you're an explorer, trying to reach as far as you can into the extents of what you and your partners can enjoy-- then... then. You're up in the high country.

Think of it this way. You and your partners (when you have partners) are in an adventuring party, climbing a mountain while tied to each other with ropes. Everybody has emotional needs and falls off the mountainside (anxiety, depression, reflexively feeling guilt for no reason). It happens to some more than others, but it happens to all of us. The rest of the party uses the ropes to pull them back up.

When they fall, your job is to pull. But here's the thing. When you're the one dangling from the end of the rope, your job is to try to get back on the mountain side. At least co-operate with your lovers' attempt to pull you up. Your lovers and metamours are not your therapists. They are there to achieve something together, not to be pulled down with you into the abyss. They chose you because you'll quest with them.

So here you are in this situation. You meet a person climbing alongside you, who seems like a good potential partner, the "PP". This person offers to clip a carabiner to yours, to connect to your rope chain.

So naturally you look at the other person who you would be connected to-- the potential metamour ("PM"). Let's say the PM wants to climb down to the foot of the mountain and stay in the hobbit hole in the base camp. (Did I mention there's nothing wrong with that?)

But the PM doesn't want to be in an adventuring party, or climb the mountain. PP is dragging PM along by the rope. Instead of climbing, PM is glaring stubbornly, with arms crossed, swinging from the end of the rope, deliberately stuck in an emotional freefall to punish PP. PP is doing all the work, and PM is pure liability. It turns out PP pressured PM into going on this adventure, and now PM is going to sabotage it.

If PM wants to go downward, PM can join the nearly-infinite number of people going that way. But PP has to choose. Go downward with PM, or upward with you? It can't be both.

You're responsible for your partners' emotional safety. Are you prepared to be responsible for the emotional safety of their partners? The bottom line is, don't let anyone clip a rope to you unless they un-clip from the non-climber. No reluctant polyamorists allowed. Do not get involved with someone who is pressuring their other partner to go along with it.

Reach out a hand when PP falters and slips. Keep pace and offer encouragement and tools. Just keep it clear to the PP that you're going upward, with or without them. No tug-of-war is allowed. If you're going to climb, your entire rope chain must be trying to go up. They can fall, but they must demonstrate that they're trying. The rule is "climbers only".

You cannot "motivate" someone to climb who never wanted to. The more you try, the closer you get to coercion and violations of consent.

When selecting a partner, there are very few things more important than a shared direction for the relationship itself. It doesn't need to be identical, but it must be reasonably similar. Most things can be compromised, but not goals for the relationship itself. If you are on incompatible paths, there is no compromise other than mutual failure.

First, find someone who will climb with you. Love is second. When you find love going in the opposite direction, never ask love to sacrifice it's journey of love, to go in your direction. Neither should you destroy the path that works for you to go on a path that's false for you. You'll only destroy both of your journeys. Exercise restraint, walk away, and find love going where you're going.

7/27/14 10:24 am - Feedback From Boardgame Publishers On Habitat



  1. It's in the $50 to $60 price bracket.

  2. To maintain dramatic tension in the end-game, don't allow the players to be certain that the game is about to end. That works for other games. Not Habitat. To accomplish this:

    • Each time a stack of discs is depleted, put a "Comet Disc" in the bag. If three Comets are on the track at the same time, the game is over.

    • Each stack of terrain tiles should have one tile, shuffled into the bottom three copies in the stack, which ends the game when revealed.


  3. Players don't know how to make moves that advantage themselves until halfway through their first game. Most successful games have this problem, but it's avoidable.

    • A simplified pre-designed "intro setup" will be crucial for new players to get comfortable with the system.

    • Accommodate what everyone intuitively expects about nature. For instance, if a predator has no prey when it needs to eat, it should starve and leave the game board.

    • The default scoring system is now simplified. If there are going to be end-game bonus multipliers, they should be introduced in subsequent play-throughs. Allow experienced players to mix and match from a selection of complex variants in the back of the rulebook.

    • "When a terrain tile leaves the board, it is awarded to a player as a fossil."

    • "When it leaves the board."

    • "When it leaves. Leaves." <-- Pantomiming picking up a tile off the board. The 12th time this question was asked by the same player. I think the fossilization rule has a problem.


  4. This game is definitely ready for me to stop using the generic discs that I use for many of my prototypes. The mechanics have come along far enough in development to spend the time on graphic design to enhance the theme, which in this game is very strong and unique.

  5. "The best Euro-style game I have played at Protospiel this year."

7/23/14 10:53 am - Pennsic Packing List

I have been told that I need the following things for my first trip to Pennsic in a week and a half (August 1-4). Part 1- Things I still need to obtain include:

• Tent
• Air mattress
• Tarp
• Tent floor: picnic blankets/rugs (probably unnecessary)
• Snacks: meat sticks, beef jerky, granola bars
• Comfortable shoes for lots of walking
• Feast gear (I don't even know what this means)
• Knife
• Water bottle
• Flash light
• Dirty laundry hamper (optional)

Things I do not need to obtain include:

• Clothes: Underwear, all tunics/SCA clothes, socks
• Belt pouch, belt
• Wallet and keys
• Phone and charger
• Aloe and sunscreen
• Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, hair comb, shampoo, conditioner, razor, tweezers, nail clipper, towels
• Camp chair

5/30/14 04:44 pm - Laser Cutters And Social Justice

We can't level a playing field by pretending it's already level. The laser cutter that I use is frequently mis-aligned, and cuts poorly unless I level the platform. Imagine if I keep getting bad lasering jobs, and instead of leveling the platform, I get mad because I feel all defensive and accused. "I'm in favor of a level playing field! I'm not the sort of person who pushes it out of level! Why would I do that?"

This is why there are two definitions of racism and sexism. By one definition, racism and sexism are deliberate choices, made by bad people, out of hostility and antagonism toward a group. By the other definition, racism and sexism are systems of unintentional disadvantages, resulting from the well-intentioned actions of good people, like you and me. If you don't understand why somebody told you that you did something racist or sexist, it might be the second kind.

The second kind is like my laser cutter's alignment.

I'm going to say something now that will be scary to many of you for a minute, but bear with me, and it will get less scary. Almost every time I use the laser cutter, I have to grab the higher end of the platform (whites, men, straights, Christians, able-bodied, thin, that's you), to keep it from rising, while I grab the lower end of the platform (non-whites, women, LBGTs, non-Christians, disabled, fat, that's you) and lift it up to the same height. That's how to get a level playing field.

Un-leveling mostly happens accidentally, passively, easily. Leveling happens deliberately, with energy and difficulty. I favor the lower side of the platform over the higher side until there is no longer a higher and lower. I can't do it by being "level-blind". If I'm "level-blind", I'm keeping the platform out of level. Breathe deeply while I say the next thing-- Are you ready? -- By the second definition, if you say "I'm color-blind", you are an unintentional racist.

If the higher end of the bed were a person, it would probably feel like it's being punished. If it only knows the first definition, un-leveling is only something that happens deliberately. It knows it's a good person who does not deliberately put the platform out of level. Therefore, it assumes the bed is already level. All it has to do is abstain from deliberately un-leveling it. Therefore, the laser must be cutting fine, and the resulting parts must have been intended to look that way. And even if it is out of level, isn't it the whole machine's fault? So change that! Or redefine the word "up" so the current alignment of the platform is the absolute reference frame of the planet Earth. Anything but putting my hand on top of the right side of the platform to prevent it rising while I raise the left side.

The right side of the bed will assume, since it believes that it's already level, that if it lowers, it will go out-of-level, and be lower than the left side. This is why, very early in any discussion of equality, the subject changes from helping a disadvantaged class, onto making sure the people who are already advantaged do not become a new persecuted class. We pay far too much attention to that. That is not what's at stake, but that doesn't even need to be said. Whites, men, straights, Christians, the able-bodied, and the thin, do not need to ask for reassurance about that.

If you want reassurance of that, just be on the lookout for your advantages. It takes time, but it's possible to start noticing them. Pretty soon you'll realize how wealthy with privileges you are, and you'll realize just how little it costs you to level the playing field. And that's the part where this concept becomes much less scary.
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4/3/14 03:18 pm - Ann Arbor Events This Weekend

Friday night, 8PM: FoolMoon, a parade of luminary sculptures on Washington Street at Main Street. It's a branch of FestiFools, an event two days later.

Saturday afternoon, noon to 5PM: Work on the TuxTrax site for Penguicon, at All Hands Active hackerspace, 525 E Liberty. Lunch is provided to developers.

Saturday evening, 6PM: Nerdsplosion, a concert of nerd music at Cavern Club on 1st Street at Washington, sponsored by Penguicon.

Sunday evening, 5PM: FestiFools, a glorious parade of giant puppets on Main Street. My past FestiFools reports:

My FestiFools 2011 report. (Schematics) (Video)
My FestiFools 2013 report.

3/31/14 12:05 am - My Penguicon 2014 Schedule

I'm presenting or leading the following events at Penguicon this year:


Friday 6PM: Developing Software For Penguicon

Penguicon has begun to host hackathons year-round to develop software to help organize this convention. Please join us at the whiteboard! Developers and interested stake holders will meet to discuss the project’s purpose, stack, and next steps. Look at the user stories in the readme and the flowchart image in the wiki: https://github.com/MattArnold/penguicontrax


Saturday 2PM: Penguicon Board Meeting

You’ve done the convention, you’ve met the staff, and you’ve even socialized with the ConCom. But what about those *other* Penguicon people? Those shadowy figures that create the multi-year rules, have their fingers on the money, and cause a ConChair to mysteriously appear every year in a puff of penguin-scented smoke? Ever wonder what the Penguicon Board of Directors does in their secret sanctum, and where they are taking Penguicon? Come to the Board of Directors meeting and see!


Saturday 6PM: Annual Dominion Tournament

In this million-selling “non-collectible card game,” players start with the same simple deck, and use their hand to buy cards into their collection from the middle of the table. Whoever buys the most expensive victory cards first, wins. Winners take home plastic trays for displaying cards during play. Plan to play through two games with pre-designed sets. Please sign up at Ops, but walk ins are still welcome!


Sunday 10AM: Board Game Design

What does it take to design and produce a new game? We will discuss all aspects, from initial concept and mechanics to playtesting and even funding through Kickstarter. This is a Q&A panel so bring your questions!


Sunday 11AM: Creating Machine Tool Paths In Adobe Illustrator

If you use a laser cutter, vinyl plotter, or other CNC tools at i3Detroit or another hacker space, you need 2D paths that the tool will follow. This path, or “vector”, is described with various formats such as SVG (scalable vector graphics), AI (Adobe Illustrator), or DXF (digital exchange format). This class will teach you the basics the premiere vector illustration tool, Adobe Illustrator, with an emphasis on how to prepare your file to be used as a tool path. Computers and software are not provided, we can help if you bring a prepared file or Illustrator.

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