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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


"Dungeons and dragons is not just for a bunch of beardy boys in a basement, it's for everybody and anybody."

So says the BBC with a cringeworthy video from, I don't know, one of their journalists?

Let's skip the video for a moment and talk about the comic strip Knights of the Dinner Table, which focuses on role-playing groups playing a game a lot like 1st edition AD&D. In the main group, harried DM B.A. has to run a game to capture the interests of munchkin Dave, hack-and-slasher Bob, role-player Sara, and rules lawyer Brian. For some reason, this group of players stays together, despite their differences. Maybe it's friendship. What they don't do is exclude others.

This fictional group resonates with role-playing gamers. They know, or know of, people like these characters. Perhaps they put up with people like them, or perhaps they try to avoid them.

The good thing about D&D is that it's just a rules set. It can handle many different styles of play. If a player doesn't like that the other players shoot first and ask questions later, there's always another group. If a player doesn't like the DM's campaign world where there are no monsters, just misunderstood creatures, there's always another group. If a player doesn't like how every NPC is described like they're in a Frazetta painting, there's always another group.

At a large convention like Gen Con, I've played team tournaments entirely focused on combat and tactics, where good rules knowledge and a bit of luck is required to succeed. I've played ongoing campaigns where the primary focus is on building your own character. And I've played events with pregenerated characters, with an emphasis on role-playing and interaction with the other characters, where it's common for the players to never leave the first encounter of the adventure. All of these styles of gaming are supported with the same D&D rules set.

Now, let's go back to the video in the link. I wager that more than 90% of the people who talk about exclusion were never actually excluded. I've played for most of my life, in both home groups and organized play, and almost everyone has been eager for more people to play, and supportive of newcomers. I'd also wager that, for people of the appropriate age, they were more likely to be the excluders (calling role-playing games childish or nerdy) than the excluded.

That said, there's an important thing to remember. You can't expect every person to like you. In my experience, D&D groups can be cliquish. Some people rub each other the wrong way. I know I didn't get along with everyone who shared this wonderful hobby. But I moved on, persevered, and found people who became some of my best friends.

Remember, there's always another group.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The ethnocentric view of diversity

Ethnocentrism: A tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one's own.

There's a fatal flaw to the way people refer to diversity, and I'll be referencing Magic: the Gathering once again.

Wizards of the Coast, creators of Magic: the Gathering, have always been of that far left coast bent, very focused on diversity and representation.  To give you an example of how that attitude has existed since the beginning, check out David Drake's All the Way to the Gallows, a collection of his more humorous works, and see how he describes writing a short story for a Magic anthology back in the mid-90s.

They've been very focused on representation in their art, and I don't mean including fantasy races.  It can be observed in multiracial portraits in cards like Village Outcasts (from the Innistrad world, roughly based on northern Europe) and Kytheon's Irregulars (from the Theros world, roughly based on Greece).  And the article linked here shows the royal family in the new expansion, Thrones of Eldraine, whose inspiration draws from Arthurian legends and Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Sure, there wasn't a lot of international trade in King Arthur's days, but if Wizards of the Coast wants to say their world is different, that's fine.

There's only one problem: They only do this some of the time.

In the worlds of Kamigawa (based on Japan), Tarkir (based on east and southeast Asia), and Kaladesh (based on India), there was none of this diversity.  (The Kaladesh example was the most egregious, because of the world building and the story.  It was a prosperous steampunk world, with travel by trains and cars.  And the story had a grand inventor's fair, surely something that would attract travelers from all over.  But no, everyone looked like a local, save for the deceased father of the planeswalker retconned into being from the world.)  It was important to have people of African heritage seen in Innistrad, but not important in these other worlds.  Why is that?

I'm going to coin the term ethnocentric diversity for what was seen here.  The people at Wizards of the Coast have shown themselves to be very ethnocentric.  When they think about diversity, they can only think about what diversity looks like in their own culture, from the people they see around themselves every day in the Seattle area.  They never asked themselves, "What does diversity look like in a world based on India?"  They could have looked at India and its history, or do what they normally do, and say that all colors of humans are present.

Instead, they saw "Asia", and said, "Diversity accomplished".

On another note, Wizards of the Coast did a good job bringing in new Japanese artists to do art for Kamigawa, and new artists of Indian heritage to do art for Kaladesh.  The whole of Thrones of Eldraine has been spoiled, and as far as I can tell, there was no similar effort to find new artists from the United Kingdom (Arthurian legends) or Germany (Grimm's tales) to represent the culture of their people.

Because, don't you know, all white people are the same.  At least according to Wizards of the Coast.

(Aside: Which is more diverse, the Kenriths in the picture above, or Disney Jr.'s Sofia the First?  Because Sofia the First has one element of diversity that does not appear to be present in the Kenriths, class diversity.  Sofia and her mother were commoners.  The Kenrith mixed family both appear to be part of their world's 1%.)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Midnight Basketball

A brief history lesson:

When Bill Clinton first took office, one of his first domestic policy goals was a "stimulus package", widely derided as a payoff for the big city political machines that helped elect him.  It was so egregious that enough Democrats joined Republicans in opposition that the bill failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Congress.

One of the spending proposals that got the most attention from journalists and pundits was midnight basketball, basically funding leagues so that inner city youths could play basketball at, well, midnight.  Obviously, that costs a lot more than what most people do at midnight, which is "get a good night's sleep and get ready for school or work".  Someone, somewhere, thought it was a good idea.

To me, that's just a reflection of the casual racism of the left.  Because if midnight basketball was such a great idea, why wasn't it popular in wealthy liberal communities?  No, it's a clear indication that the left saw "those people" as in need of this distraction to keep them out of trouble.  Not so for their own, better, communities.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Privilege, again

I do listen to voices that disagree with me.  And on the subject of privilege, they insist that it does not deny another's struggles or disadvantages, but rather it focuses on the disadvantages you didn't have, due to one's privileged status.

One example often given is a white person will be viewed less suspiciously in any encounter with the police.

Now, ask this question: "Do you support training and outreach to reduce bias and improve the relationship between police and minority communities?"  I suspect there would be strong support for that proposition.

Now, a group of people who wanted to effect change should address this issue, and countless others like it, in this manner.  We know it's worked in the past; civil rights activists made the moral case for equality and changed the racist attitudes of 1950's culture.

Instead, they call it white privilege.  In doing so, they move the focus away from the people doing wrong (biased police officers) and onto people who did nothing wrong (average people in the majority group).

This is a phenomenally bad idea.  It's simple psychology.  No one likes being blamed for something they didn't do.  And when the right thing is harder to do than the wrong thing, treating doing the right thing the same as doing the wrong thing is going to encourage people to not do the right thing.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Box of Cheerios

Morning Joe Asks Howard Schultz How Much a Box of Cheerios Costs. He Does Not Know.

That's Mediaite's summary of MSNBC talking heads asking a question of the Starbucks CEO and possible politician, trying to demonstrate how out of touch he is.  But what it really reveals is how out of touch the media types are.

What size box of Cheerios is this?  At what store are we shopping?  Is it regular price or sale price?  Do we have a coupon?  Are we talking about name brand Cheerios, or would the store brand work?

I guarantee you these TV hosts don't think of themselves as out of touch rich.  That's for CEOs and others with more money than them.  But the questions I raise have to be answered before the original question can be answered.  It's pretty clear they don't buy Cheerios themselves.

These talking heads are so out of touch, they think of a box of Cheerios is one thing that's the same everywhere.  Either that, or they desire to live in a Communist utopia where the plebs don't have any choices about cereal, or anything else.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Shutting down dissent

The big news today involves Facebook shutting down a number of people for "hateful speech", which happens to be, with one token exception, speech from one political side.

Story time.

This one is from college, a long time ago, during a presidential administration whose domestic accomplishments included Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.  Dark times, indeed.

Like most universities at the time, there was a place where people gathered to speak.  This area could be reserved by groups, but it wasn't closed down.  It was mostly students using this place, of course, but it also attracted preachers.  These preachers were universally considered a joke, mocked by everyone.  Picture a fire and brimstone preacher, straight out of an old cartoon.

Now one day, the campus gay rights group reserved this place.  This was back when gays and lesbians were far from accepted.  (Remember the dark times I mentioned.)  Of course, one of the aforementioned preachers came.

Now, this was a gay rights group whose name specifically called it out as a place for allies, as well as gays and lesbians.  So imagine the kind of student this group might want to reach: attended church as a child, learned that homosexuality was wrong, but never thought too hard about it.  Imagine the impact you could have by contrasting the two.  Pro: a reasoned argument from an intelligent college student.  Anti: a crazy preacher who says everyone will burn in hell.

But if you know the left, you know what actually happened.  The gay rights group had the campus police remove the preacher.

Why?  They must not have believed in the power of their own arguments if they thought it would lose to a joke.

So now we have today.  Alex Jones is a punchline.  Infowars is a joke.  How bad must your argument be if you fear people comparing it to that?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bribe Your Way Into Yale

Quite the story going around now, about the wealthy advancing from merely making large donations to universities to outright bribing the schools into admitting their less than capable children.

The linked article is about how the elite hates standardized tests, and quotes a tweet from one ultraprivileged individual (who is too cool to use capital letters):

a casual reminder that lots of upper middle class parents (perfectly legally) improve their kids’ SAT scores by paying tutors to teach them to game the system. mine did. my math score jumped almost 200 points, which i promise reflected no similar increase in my command of *math*
without that systemic leg up, i doubt i would have gotten into yale, from which i graduated with honors etc. i was exactly the same applicant pre & post tutoring. i just looked different on paper. well aware most of my peers’ families could not afford to give them that advantage.

Well, 200 points is not actually enough to swing an average SAT score to Yale-bound levels.  But she needed it, because Yale had minimal standards, even for someone part of Hollywood royalty.

From the article:

And it’s likely that many commentators will use this event as an opportunity to attack the SAT and the ACT. Progressives view test-based admissions as inequitable because some marginalized groups are significantly underrepresented among the pool of top-scoring college applicants.

I've long rejected the idea that these standardized tests are biased against certain groups.  I'm willing to be proven wrong, and this is how you would demonstrate that the exams are biased:

  1. Come up with three standardized tests to measure intelligence.
  2. Have experts in the fields say that these are all tests designed to measure intelligence.
  3. Say that on test 1, group A will outperform group B.  On test 2, group A and group B will score about the same.  On test 3, group B will outperform group A.
  4. Demonstrate these assertions by actual members of group A and group B taking these three tests.

The article continues:

But millionaires and elites also hate standardized admissions tests, because their children’s admission to top colleges is contingent upon test scores.

So true!