Link roundup: April 2024

Lots of articles to share this month.

Health in the Ace Community (2021 Survey) | Ace Community Survey – Full disclosure: I’m sharing this because I’m a director of the survey.  However, I do not personally perform analysis or write the articles anymore.  This month, the Ace Community Survey published an article discussing health statistics (drug usage, disabilities, suicide, and more) in the ace community.

The Great Sex Rescue: Marital Rape | Tell me why the world is weird (cw for anecdotes of rape) – This article is part of a series (that I’ve plugged before) going through The Great Sex Rescue, a book that aims to correct sexual attitudes in (Evangelical) Christian culture.  In the chapter covering marital rape, it’s not making any moral statements that aren’t obvious.  It’s still rather horrifying how prevalent these Christian attitudes are, and how women and men are deprived of the hermeneutical tools to really understand it.

The Orthodox Jewish Sex Strike to Let Women Divorce | Rebecca Watson (transcript & video, cw for sexual violence) – I saw this right after reading the above article on marital rape, and it was way more horrifying that way.  If a group of women within a conservative community are calling for a sex strike, you just know that there’s some sexual violence going on.  Watson jokes about the strike at first, but comes around to talking about the serious implications.

The return of Gamergate is smaller and sadder | The Verge – Recently there’s been some drama in the gamer space, undeservingly referred to as Gamergate 2.0.  Something about a narrative consulting company called Sweet Baby Inc supposedly injecting wokeness into all the games so they can appeal to ESG investors.  Ha!  These people think ESG holds power!  The whole thing is laughable, but here’s an article if you want the low-down.  I’m writing this blurb mid-March, so I don’t know if anyone will even remember it by the time I publish in April.

Let’s Talk Websites | Reprobate Spreadsheet – HJ explains some of the technical background relating to the recent incident where FTB went down for several days.  I’ve never touched web development, so I didn’t know any of this stuff about domain name servers before!  By the way, if FTB ever goes down again for an extended period, you might find me on my old blog,, the one I used before moving here.  Or you could look for PZ’s Mastodon account for updates.

How Chinese Censorship Works | Chinese Doom Scroll – An interesting account of the mechanisms for Chinese propaganda.  The Great Firewall isn’t that effective, but the language barrier is.  And since USA folks talk openly about social issues, this makes it look bad from a Chinese perspective, where they’re used to societal problems being silenced until they burst out into the open.

Media Literacy and Dune | Jack Saint (video, 37 min) – Earlier my husband read Dune, and we were discussing, WTF is this book’s perspective on colonialism?  The book was published in the 1960s, and I seriously have no idea how people back then felt about colonialism.  So I found this essay arguing that Dune distinguishes between “good colonialism” (American) and “bad colonialism” (Russian), and my husband found that to be such a compelling interpretation that he couldn’t read it any other way.  But I’ve also heard that the later books subvert the previous ones, which is definitely an interesting dynamic in a series where different people will read 1, 2, 4, 6, or 26 books.  Of course, I’ve read 0 of the Dune books, so I get to have the fun of speculating about it, without the effort of knowing what I’m talking about.

Anyway, in this video, Jack Saint talks about several works with conflicting interpretations–such as the white savior narrative in Dune, and the (often-missed) subversion of the white savior narrative.  But are people wrong for just reading it as a hero’s journey–for enjoying it as a hero’s journey?  People sling around “media illiteracy” like it’s a moral failing, but what if we just are media illiterate?  Then what?  Honestly, I haven’t taken a class in literature since high school, and it was one of my worst subjects, so maybe I’m one of the media illiterate ones.  And by all accounts Dune is a legitimately complex work that most people don’t see to the end, so.

Why I dislike this gaming trend (Delayed Variable Reward) | Jorbs (video, 1:16 hours) – This is a strategy gamer ranting about delayed variable rewards (aka random reinforcement, or what slot machines do).  He’s extremely averse to delayed variable words, and goes much further than I would go, but it’s a compelling perspective.  When I think of video games with slot machine gameplay, I often think of Diablo II, which I played over a decade ago.  In an objective sense, it wasn’t a problem, because I wasn’t gambling money, and it was mostly just a way to spend time with my brothers & (then) boyfriend.  But the core gameplay was a bit icky in its similarity to gambling–and this is born out by the monetization schemes of later Diablo games.

But when I think about it, delayed variable rewards are basically everywhere, inside and outside of games.  Jorbs talks about several examples like chess, social media, and jigsaw puzzles.  To that I would add books, because you don’t know how good the story will go until you read the thing.  Considering the sheer ubiquity of delayed variable rewards, it’s hard to say it’s a problem without creating an existential crisis.  But regardless of whether it’s a problem, I don’t personally like it very much, and I don’t like the idea of media that specifically leans into it for its primary appeal.


  1. says

    Thanks for linking to my post 🙂

    I watched the video on “delayed variable rewards” – he defines it really broadly, like basically any situation where you don’t know what’s going to happen but it *might* be something *interesting*. I’m not convinced that it’s useful to define it so broadly. The actual problem is when people get sucked into doing things (games, microtransactions, scrolling through social media) which feel good in that moment (and make money for some company, probably) but don’t actually make your life better.

    The part about not paying attention to the outcomes of individual rounds, but only to your overall strategy- that reminds me of when I watched the show “Deal or no deal” which was a really simple probability/ expected value game but somehow they made it into a whole tv show (???)- the contestant has a case with an unknown amount of money in it, but they know the possible values that it could be, and the banker makes an offer to buy the case from them for some amount of money. Anyway after the contestant decides whether or not to take the deal, they open the case and find out whether “you made the right choice” (ie did you sell it to the banker for more money than what’s actually in the case). And I was always like “it doesn’t make sense to think of ‘making the right choice’ as dependent on what amount of money happened to be in the case in this 1 round. If your strategy is good, then it *is* the right choice even if it ends up earning you less money sometimes.” (I seem to recall that show was a mess of not really understanding probabilities…)

  2. fusilier says

    I’ve read Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune.* IMHO, they are less about colonialism, than “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” Apparently Dune was too subtle for JohnGhodCampbell’s readership, so Dune Messiah was blatant in its message about religious fanaticism.

    An interesting counterpoint is a story Herbert wrote just a year or two before Dune:

    www . gutenberg . org/cache/epub/24721/pg24721-images.html. (remove the spaces)

    OBTW, Herbert seems to have been pretty damned homophobic – read the descriptions of Baron Harkkonnen.

    fusilier, SMOF, jg. (ret.)
    James 2:24

    *My Beloved and Darling Wife uses the term “Herbert’s Disease” for not knowing when to stop the story.

  3. says

    @Perfect Number
    The way Jorbs defines DVR makes sense to me. But because DVR is so common, it makes it very difficult to argue that it’s a problem in itself. I definitely don’t think jigsaw puzzles are a problem, and it’s really hard to imagine someone being “addicted” to jigsaw puzzles in the way one might be addicted to gambling. After all, the optimal strategy for solving a jigsaw puzzle is to minimize the amount of trial and error.

    There are several questions we could ask: Where is DVR occurring? Where is DVR a problem? And where does DVR personally feel icky to me? I find it interesting to consider the differences in the answers to each question. For example, Diablo II was something I personally feel icky about, but it wasn’t actually a problem (at least not for me). Is it because I sensed that Diablo II could be a problem for other people? Or do I have some sort of emotional aversion to what it’s doing?

  4. says

    Also I just read the one about Chinese censorship and yeah it’s pretty insightful. “Every Chinese person I know seems to have a lot of skill in reading the news between the lines to figure out what’s actually happening through the bullshit.” Yeah this checks out. I wasn’t really as aware of the censorship until I was in the 2022 Shanghai lockdown, and wowww I would go on WeChat and click on a video someone shared, and it would just show a message “This video has been removed”- and that was happening CONSTANTLY during the lockdown. It was SO OBVIOUS how intensely they were censoring the reality of how bad it was in Shanghai. And it was a reality that millions of people were all experiencing- you can’t really censor that. (I saw a joke that someone shared on WeChat during the lockdown- It was like, let’s thank the people who have worked so hard during the lockdown. Doctors and nurses. Food delivery workers. And, wait, what’s this other group? Oh, they’re the tech workers censoring social media.)

    Also the part about VPNs is very true! Very easy to get a VPN in China, and then you can go to any website you want. Like the article says, a lot of useful sites like github/ google/ wikipedia are blocked, so it’s very normal for companies to have VPNs that their employees need to use to do their jobs. The government doesn’t really try that hard to do anything about VPNs. I mean, I wouldn’t write the word “VPN” on WeChat though, because the government can see everything you write there (I often see people write “v**” or “that software that helps you get on the internet” or something like that, when discussing it on WeChat).

    Also lol I remember when AO3 got banned in China. Sad day.

  5. says

    Re: DVRs and “feeling icky”- do you think it’s about realizing “I am spending a lot of time on this but it’s not making my life better, it’s making it worse”? That’s how I felt about things like spending too much time on twitter/ playing candy crush/ etc. Or, since you said in Diablo II it wasn’t an actual problem but just felt icky, is it like, “this is a gimmick that they’re trying to hype up like it’s a really cool thing, but it’s actually not”- like they’re trying to manipulate you into being interested in something that’s pointless?

    (I don’t know anything about Diablo II btw)

  6. says

    @Perfect Number,
    Yeah, I think that’s pretty close. I don’t like games that lean too much into DVRs because even if they engage me in the moment, the remembering self doesn’t enjoy them. I have a mindset where I want to use my time productively, and spending that time on otherwise uninteresting tasks to collect in-game rewards isn’t it. I wouldn’t say this is the “right” way to feel about the games, it’s just how I feel.

    Jorbs seems to come from a different place–having gambling addiction in the family, and having played poker professionally. He’s also such a Spike. I don’t really agree with his strong stance against DVRs, but I’m sympathetic to his emotional disposition towards DVRs.

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