Atheists who can’t even talk to theists

A Recurring Character

Among my many years participating in university atheist student groups, there was often someone who played the role of the asshole.

Atheists are, of course, stereotyped as angry assholes, although a lot of this is based on online activity. It’s very easy to be “internet angry”, when you’re merely energetic, enthusiastic, or opinionated. Plenty of people are loud in writing but soft-spoken in person. But I’m talking about atheists who were not merely internet angry, but IRL angry at religion, or otherwise assholes about it. It sometimes reached a point where other atheist students would whisper, “What’s up with them? Are they okay?”

I mean, everyone is an asshole to one degree or another. But mentally, I drew a line in the sand with this question: what if a theist walked through that door? Would this person be able to talk normally with them? Or would they try aggressively argue with them, or otherwise be a jerk?
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Good old puzzles

While I’m on the subject of bad puzzles from 1995, I want to briefly share one of my favorite good puzzles from the time. Around 1995, I received a book titled 100 Perceptual Puzzles by Pierre Berloquin. It’s apparently a newer edition of an older book titled 100 Geometric Games, copyright 1976.

The book contains a wide variety of puzzles, mostly of the sort that rely on pictures, or require you to draw pictures. Many people are familiar with the puzzle where you have a 3×3 grid of dots, and you’re asked to draw four straight lines through all the points without lifting your pencil. That puzzle is not in this book, and instead it includes multiple harder versions!

Other puzzles include: mazes, spot the difference, match moving puzzles, shape counting puzzles, and knot puzzles. The knot puzzles! I will share one knot puzzle.

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Bad Mensa puzzles

I have some questions about Mensa. It’s an organization founded in 1946 whose membership is restricted to people scoring in the 98 percentile of IQ. But IQ is a scientifically dubious concept associated with eugenics and racism, and many people who would qualify for membership probably have better things to do, so I wonder what their membership looks like. I also wonder to what extent it’s just a thing that people sign up for and forget about–maybe subscribe to a newsletter, buy a thing or two from their store.

But this story is more personal–and more petty. It’s the story of why I disliked Mensa from a fairly young age, even though I most certainly would have qualified for membership. See, I received a lot of puzzle-based gifts, and I always thought that those with Mensa branding were the crummiest of them all.

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Link Roundup: January 2023

December tends to be a slow blogging month for me, and apparently that also extends to how many links I end up collecting.  So, just a few things this time.

I recently published an article on The Asexual Agenda analyzing an episode of the kids’ show Recess.

What Elden Ring Is Like For Someone Who Doesn’t Play Games | Razbuten (video, 28 min) – Another perspective on a topic I wrote about, in my dialectic review of Elden Ring.  My husband is definitely a more “advanced” gamer than Razbuten’s wife, and did eventually complete Elden Ring, but he agreed with many of the observations in this video.  He said he went back to look at the tutorial, and it was remarkable how many things he misunderstood or completely missed.  He also tried avoiding difficult encounters by going elsewhere in the open world, but then it turns out that everything else in the game is also too difficult.

For another perspective, I also saw another article titled “‘Elden Ring’ is undeniably game of the year–and that’s a problem“.  While I agree with the main point, I find some of the supporting arguments bizarre.  What kind of person wants to get into gaming for the first time, and goes straight to Elden Ring just because it got game of the year?  How is it that they have heard of The Game Awards at all, without having heard that Elden Ring is hard?  I’m what they call a “core” gamer and even I am barely aware of The Game Awards.

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Origami: Sparaxis/Bitterroot

Sparaxis/Bitterroot

Sparaxis/Bitterroot, designed by Ekaterina Lukasheva

Some context on my origami blogging: I have hundreds of origami photos spanning over a decade.  Every month I select one to blog about based on however I happen to be feeling at that moment.  You can in fact find all my photos on my Flickr, if you are clever enough to find the link, but that’s a rather different experience.

I don’t follow any pattern in selecting photos, except that I separate the photos that I’ve blogged about and those that I haven’t.  One of the consequences of this method is that sometimes it feels like the oldest remaining photos are the dregs.  I don’t mean that they’re dregs in the general sense, I mean they’re my personal dregs, the models that I feel least enthusiastic about for one reason or another.  So let’s talk about this model from 2014, which I have somehow never selected until now.

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The queer musical wilderness

Every year I write an article sharing a list of music. Last year, the theme was “outsider” music, defined as music coming from outside the musical establishment. I remarked that the outsider genre seems to come from an earlier era, when such music was difficult to find. Today, anyone can self-publish their own music–and I speak from personal experience.

If I were to reformulate “outsider” music, I would dub it the musical wilderness, and it wouldn’t be a genre. Rather, it would be a way of exploring and discovering music without totally ignoring the long tail. It’s considered hipster to say “you’ve never heard of the music I like”, but there’s really nothing special about that–that’s literally just most music. The point is not to celebrate obscurity nor to scorn popularity, it’s just simple truth that if you’ve never listened to music nobody else has heard of, then you’re neglecting the vast majority of what’s out there.

To create this list, I searched the “queer” tag on Bandcamp, using the “surprise me!” setting. Why “queer”? Several reasons: a) an unconventional tag will is the quickest route to the wilderness, b) it doesn’t confine my list to any particular genre, c) if I’m going to highlight some random artists, might as well support queer artists, and d) aren’t you curious what kind of music an artist will choose to tag as queer?

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Risk neutrality in EA

Effective Altruism (EA) is a community focused on donating money to create the greatest good in the world. This is mostly (?) unobjectionable–but there’s problems. The EA community has a number of philosophical viewpoints that most external observers would consider absurd, and which materially affect their donating behavior.

In particular, many people in EA believe that the most efficient way to create the greatest good is by preventing extinction caused by AI. EA surveys suggest that about 18% of community members donate to “Long term & AI” causes, compared to 62% that donate for global health & development. Clearly concern about AI is not a unanimous viewpoint in EA, but you have to imagine the kind of community where everyone takes it seriously.

EA has been under the spotlight in current news because Sam Bankman-Fried–recently arrested for massive fraud at his cryptocurrency exchange FTX–was a vocal proponent of EA. More than a vocal proponent, he founded the FTX Future Fund, which committed $160M in charitable grants to various EA causes. At the top of Future Fund’s cause list? AI.

Although I’m critical of EA, I actually think it’s a bit unfair to pretend that they’re directly responsible for SBF’s fraudulent behavior. Instead I wanted to focus on some of SBF’s philosophical views, which are shared by at least some parts of the EA community. Specifically, let’s talk about the idea that charitable causes are risk-neutral.

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