Trivialities: The Perils of being an Outlier

I am an outlier.  At least in one way.  I am incredibly near-sighted.  I also have an enormous head.  So yesterday at the eye doctor didn’t go well.  I saw a sweet pair of prescription sunglasses, which had a sort of Malcolm X  look.  They were so cool.  But they were too small for my enormous head (we’re talking ENORMOUS).  I asked if they came in different sizes and then the bomb was dropped.  Since prescription sunglasses often wrap around the head, there are few that even come in my atrociously high prescription.  But almost NO glasses even come in the size that’s appropriate for my head.  So I left without a new pair of prescription sunglasses.  So I had my glasses cleaned and that was that.

As an outlier it’s harder to find items that work for you.  Businesses that manufacture and sell items can’t waste their time and money by keeping items in stock that almost no one wants to buy.  They’re here to provide a service to people, but there’s no use in providing a service that no one wants.  The problem is few people want prescription sunglasses, but then the number of those people who are also people with enormous heads and terrible vision is even smaller.  So unless they are some kind of specialty shop, how can they devote stock and money to providing prescription sunglasses for people who probably won’t come in.  So we’ll see if I can acquire a set of prescription sunglasses.  I hope so.

Tune in MWF for more content.
Peace be with you,
-JS

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America’s Skewed Perspective

America (or the American media) have a skewed perspective on the world.  Every piece of news comes out looking all upside down or sideways.  Think back to almost every major leak by wikileaks, or to Edward Snowden’s revelations.  It’s almost as if the people who do the news are looking at the issues while hanging from monkey bars.

There’s a weird formula that all major episodes with a whistleblower go down.  They follow this outline:

  1. Leaker leaks his leak saying US Government/party/candidate did terrible things X, Y, and Z.
  2. Sometimes some foreign news outlets will run the following story: US Government/party/candidate did terrible things X, Y, and Z.
  3. The ubiquitous story in the US becomes: Leaker leaks his leak!  Tune in to hear us discuss whether we think Leaker is a good guy or should be tried/murdered!  The token devil’s advocate will say “but what about X, Y, and Z?” and be quickly dismissed while we discuss all the dirty details of Leaker’s personal life.

Consider the following cases:

Even some of the most balanced seeming reporting, e.g., settles on the question of whether Snowden (and the few press who cooperated with him) is a criminal and should be punished and not on the issues his leaks expose.

 

This happened again after wikileaks leaked the DNC’s emails showing their concerted (and corrupt) effort to make sure Hillary Clinton got selected as a candidate over Bernie Sanders.  I’m not sure what this skewed perspective means.  Maybe it’s something to do with political pressure on the media.  Maybe everyone in the media has a particular sort of state apologist’s perspective on the world.  Maybe it just makes for more watchable news to talk about a guy than to talk about terrible government wrongdoing.  I’m not sure which of these is true.  It’s simply concerning, and, I would think, depressing for those who may leak the next terrible wrongdoing by various American actors.  Our only hope, really, is the alternative news outlets.

Tune in MWF for more content.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Branson Vacation Pokemon Haul

If you’d like a guide to Pokemon hunting in the Branson are, check out this link.

I had a lot of fun hunting Pokemon in Branson.  Here are a series of images showing the Pokemon haul I got from casual Pokemon hunting on vacation in Branson Missouri:

There were so many great Pokemon on this trip.   This happened so much throughout the vacation.  I would run out of Poke-balls and immediately be surrounded by Pokemon.  This was super frustrating.

But here is my full Pokemon haul from my vacation in Branson:

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Tune in every MWF for more content.

Peace Be With You.
-JS

Pokemon Hunting in the Branson, Missouri Area

Hunting Pokemon in Branson, MO was a lot of fun.  Later on I will post about my Pokemon haul from down there.  And it was quite a haul.

But let me spend some time talking about the various places to play Pokemon in Branson Missouri.  There are a number of places I’d like to recommend to you as great both for your tourist needs and for your Pokemon Go needs.  The Branson area has a lot to offer.

College of the Ozarks

The first place I noticed was College of the Ozarks.  It is full of PokeStops.  Unfortunately, Niantic put about 8 of those stops in a very important war memorial.  So Pokemon Hunting is quasi-banned in College of the Ozarks.  So, after hearing this I did some research and this is the scoop.  Pokemon Go is banned near the war memorials in College of the Ozarks.  You are welcome to play Pokemon Go at the myriad other stops on campus, as long as you do it respectfully.  This is a great place to stock up, and a beautiful campus to admire.

Silver Dollar City

A trip to Silver Dollar City is also a great place to stock up on Poke Balls and to catch some rare Pokemon.  The Branson area is absolutely LOUSY with Nidorans, so you’ll catch a bunch of them.  The best times to hunt hear seem to be around opening time and around closing time.  These are the times I caught things like the Snorlax I found there, among other cool things (like a couple squirtles).  You will have a problem here.  You will have trouble keeping up with the Pokemon with the PokeBalls you get if you are enjoying the park at an ordinary park pace.  There are tons of stops, but there will be more Pokemon.  Silver Dollar City is great for Pokemon Hunting whether you are going hard core Pokemon or just enjoying the park while playing the game.

Branson River Landing

If, instead, you want to enjoy some tourist shopping instead of theme parks or college tours then you might want to enjoy Branson River Landing.  Here there are tons of little shops and things to enjoy, as well as tons of PokeStops and Pokemon.  Go a little further down the hill and you can enjoy two stops and tons of Pokemon at the Bass Pro Shops on the river.  This is also a great place to hunt Pokemon.

Table Rock State Park and the Hatchery

There is a road that goes by Table Rock State Park, several other cool destinations, and ends at the Fish Hatchery.  There are tons of stops along this way that will allow you to get out and take a look at the beautiful countryside.  This was a very fun part of the trip both for Pokemon Hunting and for enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

Later I’ll do a Pokemon Haul from the trip, but hopefully this will help those of you considering Pokemon Hunting in the Branson area.

Thomism and Epistemology

I’m a Thomist, but I’m technically a specialist in analytic epistemology.  I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find people who give a Thomist epistemology.  I’ve struggled to find anything particularly helpful.  Etienne Gilson says some interesting things about modern epistemology and its roots in the Cartesian doubt.  He rightly points out that Thomas Aquinas doesn’t think of skepticism as a live option.  But he also thinks that Thomas Aquinas purposely distances himself from epistemology.

But there has to be a Thomist epistemology.  A Thomist epistemology needn’t take skepticism seriously.  There are all sorts of respectable epistemologies that don’t take skepticism to be a live option.

But there’s also a nearly irresistable urge when we take this line to construe Thomas as an externalist.  I also think that this is problematic.

So how do we proceed in trying to figure out what Thomas’s epistemology is so that we can subject it to critical scrutiny?  I’m not sure what the answer is.  We need to look at the places where knowledge comes up in the discussion of other topics.  We need to look where the knowledge of God comes up.  We need to look where Aquinas talks about the sciences and their nature.  We need to look at where Aquinas talks about how we know God.  We need to look at his theory of cognition.

In the coming years, I would like to engage in a project of searching out some of the main places where Aquinas discusses knowledge so that I can settle once and for all what Aquinas thinks about the nature of knowledge and justification.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Making Sense of Trump

Donald Trump, primarily, is a reality show star.  He knows this world and he knows the strategies of this world.  But what is being a reality show star about?  Well, one of the best strategies in reality shows is to be outrageous and villainous.  That is, you should do things that keep people talking about you and make yourself the most recognizable person in the show.  Say outrageous things.  You’ll get people saying “Can you believe what Johnny said on Survivor yesterday?”  You need to create a persona.  Preferably you will create an outrageous one that gets people talking.  You will also make your persona able to be boiled down into a few words.

Trump, for example, is playing the outrageous brash business tycoon.  He’s the classic confident reality star who “isn’t here to make friends; he’s here to win.”  He stays in your brain by saying those things that will trigger the offense circuit in your brain and make you clutch your pearls and say “well, I never!”

This keeps him in your mind.  Everyone who is continuously offended by Trump (especially those in the news media) is playing right into his hands.  Trump’s message is carefully constructed to get you to feel a certain way.  He is then able to predict your moves and what you will think, because he made you feel in that particular way.

Think of the masterful way that Trump has recently taken the headlines again.  Wikileaks releases records of the DNC’s emails showing the contempt the democratic establishment had for Bernie supporters, and for a day or so the news is about the leak and is about the DNC.  But with a single speech Donald Trump has made the headlines about him.  He says that if Russia was the group that hacked Hillary’s emails, then he hopes they’d find those missing emails and release them.  All of a sudden the media is on a fainting couch saying “Can you believe that Trump just called for Russian espionage?!”  And all of a sudden, Trump wrenches the headlines back to talking about him.  He also anticipated that his comments would be misconstrued, giving him more ammunition with his followers to play the “misunderstood” card.

He’s a genius and the media are playing straight into his hands.  The down side of all of this is that we don’t ever know what Trump’s actual views are.

Honestly, I think that Trump will be a deeply mediocre president if elected (but terrible in the sense that a libertarian thinks all presidents are terrible).  He only plays a supervillain on tv to trick you into still thinking about him.  Hillary isn’t any better.  Vote Gary Johnson I guess.

Is Rey too good at everything in Star Wars?

There has been a lot of online discussion over the last six months on the question of whether Rey is a Mary Sue (a term for a–usually female–character for whom everything comes ludicrously easy) in Star Wars Episode VII.  Max Landis, a really great writer, director, and YouTuber, is the originator of this theory.  And there are accusations that this is a sexist charge, and it probably is for many individuals on the net.  Here’s Max’s point: all Rey does is succeed.  She never fails and beats everyone up and is an expert at everything and beats a more experienced Sith lord in a lightsaber fight.  Max thinks that this removes all the tension from Rey’s story, and to a certain extent I think he’s right.  We don’t ever worry about whether Rey can do it in any situation in the movie.  This makes the story not very compelling.

I’m not so sure.  I won’t talk about the in-universe explanations that make her being good at stuff make sense because this isn’t Max’s point.  Max doesn’t think the story doesn’t make sense, he just think that the story as written doesn’t contain enough tension.  He thinks it doesn’t get us invested in the action.

But I’m not sure that the action is supposed to be what gives rise to the tension in this movie.  Rey’s story is about emotional growth and acceptance of oneself.  We are fairly liberal with Rey’s abilities (relatively easily explainable in universe) so that the action doesn’t distract from Rey’s emotional journey.  Fundmentally, Star Wars Episode VII is a coming of age story that takes place in a world paying homage to the original Star Wars movies.  It’s a story of a girl who is having trouble coming to terms with being a magical space wizard.  And believe me, this is difficult to come to terms with.  She’s also struggling with letting go of ever seeing her family again.  There are two parts of Rey struggling within her.  There is the part of her that just wants to live an ordinary life, waiting on Jakku for her parents, but there is the other part of her that longs for something more than her ordinary scavenger’s existence.  The movie is about her finally coming to accept her power and her being extraordinary.

Now, there are other characters that some accuse of having too little to do in Episode VII, but we’ll discuss these at a later date.

Check back on WMFs for new content!

Peace be with you.
-JS

Bug Out Bags: What Apocalypse is most plausible to prepare for?

So as a fun way to think about catch-all emergency-readiness, in our house we do some basic things “in case of zombie apocalypse.”  This is obviously silly.  A zombie apocalypse is not going to happen.  But apocalypses happen. And there are emergencies to be prepared for.

The most reasonable kind of emergency to prepare for involves evacuations.  Evacuations happen fairly often, as apocalypses go.  You will be subject to evacuation most often if you live in an area subject to hurricanes.  But you might have to evacuate an area due to almost any large-scale natural disaster.  You may be evacuated for a hurricane, for an earthquake, for flooding, and even for when the aliens from Independence Day come down and destroy all our most treasured monuments.

So in my house we’ve created Bug Out Bags.  Many people have these and you can find a number of great websites devoted to what you should put in your bugout bag.  But creating a bugout bag can be a fun thing to do.  Look through some of the lists on line, think about what you would need in a situation where you need to live away from home on short notice for a while, be frugal, and if you don’t have family nearby, maybe live in a camping or survival style mode for a while.  If all else fails, you’ll simply have prepared a backpack for some rugged super minimalist camping.

Good luck with your prepping. In future posts I’ll talk about some of the trials and tribulations of coming up with our bugout bag.  And maybe I’ll talk about our survival pack, which is like a mini, entry level bugout bag that is more portable.

Check in for more posts every MWF.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Why Do People Not Get Pokemon Go!?

It’s weird. Above a certain age, in all probability the only mention that will be made of Pokemon Go! is of people walking into the holocaust museum playing it, people getting injured playing it, people falling off a cliff playing it.  Even people that are seeing the benefits of it do so through gritted teeth.

I went to the Doctor today and was talking about how healthy I felt after playing Pokemon Go for a couple of weeks straight.  I was told that the doctor didn’t care what a person did as long as it got them active.  It’s the weirdest thing.

You should have been there. It was as if the very idea of Pokemon Go pissed him off, but he was having to admit that it has some few benefits.  I honestly don’t get it.

Do people hate texting because some people pay attention to  their texts instead of the road and got hit by a car crossing the street?  Do people hate gum because some people stop paying attention while putting in a stick and trip over their own feet?  Do you hate baseball caps because someone disrespectfully wears a baseball cap in church or at a funeral?

The answer to all these questions is no.  You may be unhappy with people’s behaviour, but you don’t dislike the vehicle of the person’s bad behavior.

So what is it that people hate about Pokemon Go?  Maybe it’s the connected to those old trashy MTV dating shows. Do you remember those shows?  There were these shows where a person would be set up to go on a blind date with a person, and at any point in the date, they could end it and bring in another person, rejecting the first date.  Invariably the person who got rejected would change their attitude upon being rejected.  They would invariably turn to the camera and say that they never even wanted to go out with that jerk.

Maybe this is the problem people have with Pokemon Go.  They see a thing that other people are enjoying and they can’t enjoy it, so in order to convince themselves that this is the right case, they decide instead to think of this thing that clearly looks fun as something to be hated.  This makes them feel better about not understanding the really cool new thing that everyone loves.

What do you think? Is this why a lot of older people hate Pokemon Go?  Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Tune in MWF for more content.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Pokemon Go: Some basic rules for safe and courteous Pokemon hunting.

Pokemon Go is a great game.  It gets people active and walking around their communities.  It gets people talking to new people.  It helps people get in shape and it even helps people with mental illnesses to get out and get social.  But there are ways to be a bad Pokemon trainer.

Usually in video games anything that you can physically do with your own body to win is fine and shouldn’t be considered bad or below the dignity of the game.  It’s a game, and games usually don’t allow you to play them in ways that they don’t want you to play them.  But Pokemon Go! will bring you out into the real world and that’s different (although, it’s also cheating to break a game, like when you spoof gps coordinates to not have to walk to play the game).

In the real world there are rules to play by, because your interaction with the video game involves you interacting with people in the world and their property.  So here are some rules I think are important to follow when you are playing Pokemon Go!

  1. Only hunt Pokemon in public spaces unless you have permission from the owner.

Seriously.  Don’t go wandering onto people’s property finding Pokemon.  This is wrong, and possibly illegal.  The whole world isn’t your Poke-park.

2. Step briefly out of the walkway and onto the grass beside it when pausing to catch a Pokemon.

This will minimize the number of times you have to deal with people riding or running past you while you hunt Pokemon.

3. Always cross the street at designated cross walks.  It may mean some extra walking to catch your Poke-stops, but it will be worth that cost in safety.
4. Never hunt Pokemon while driving!
5. I mean it! Never hunt Pokemon while driving.
6. If you would like to hunt Pokemon in a car, there are some rules:
6a. Have a designated driver, and the passenger should hunt for the driver as much as he/she can.
6b. Don’t alter your driving for the passenger to catch Pokemon.
6c. If you would like to use a Poke-stop while someone is driving, politely ask them to safely park nearby.

When hunting at night:

  1. Only hunt Pokemon in well lit areas.
  2. Only hunt Pokemon in places where there are others hunting Pokemon.
  3. If possible, only go Pokemon hunting at night with a group of friends.

These are rules of thumb that will help you stay safe when out at night.  But there is another rule you should follow if you want to refrain from creeping people out at night.  And that is this:

4. Don’t be a car creep.

When you’re out Pokemon hunting at night, it can be tempting to just sit in your car while hunting, even when there are a large number of people hunting outside.  The people who do this are called car creeps, because they make hunting much more scary for anyone hunting Pokemon at night.  Imagine going for a walk with 5-10 people just lurking in their cars without the lights on while you walk around.  It’s terrifying.  You are a car creep if you do this.  Don’t be a car creep.

Check back every MWF for new posts!

 

Peace be with you.
-JS