5 Good Things — 1/29/2017

January 29, 2017

Every couple of weeks I’ll share a few things that I found interesting, enjoyable, or otherwise worth sharing.

It seems like everyone is going to a protest on a daily basis nowadays. Take a break from witty sign-on-a-stick crafting and feeling depressed about the world and check out these good things:

1. Excellent One-Pot Braised Chicken


There’s nothing better than a quick and simple one-pot recipe that actually tastes good. I’m always on the hunt for these and while most of the recipes I try are good, this one was truly excellent. There’s nothing fancy here, just proper cooking principles (don’t make crispy skin soggy) and amazing flavor combinations (cabbage and apple cider vinegar). This recipe is one I will definitely return to.

2. Obituaries For Teenage Girls If They Actually Died When They Say They’re Dying

What it says in the title. For no apparent reason I found this uproariously hilarious.

3. Unicorn Governance

An excellent analysis of a problem I, as libertarian-inclined, encounter all the time in political discussions. Particularly if you are not libertarian, I honestly think this deserves careful consideration. It’s not an attempt to convert you or anything, just to help you see political and social problems from my perspective. A couple of additional thoughts:

1. I think the optimistic perspective on the Trump administration is that perhaps it will lead to a renewed interest in separation of powers and limited government principles. Allowing the expansion of state power seems all well and good when your party is in charge, but when the opposition wins, they wield the same power. That reality should always be on the forefront of our mind.

2. I think the article also illustrates the importance of what some call the ‘economic way of thinking’, particularly being acutely aware of the existence of opportunity costs and trade-offs. I see this most abused with left-leaning arguments about there being a contradiction between not supporting federal welfare programs and the commands to care for the poor. It assumes that the alternative to federal welfare programs is no care for the poor whatsoever, whereas a typical conservative/libertarian position is that the alternatives are, in fact, better for the poor. The argument from the left assumes that such a position doesn’t even exist, which is ridiculous. Whether the alternative is, in fact, better than federal programs is where the debate should exist. I see this fallacy all the time and it drives me batty.

3. An additional consideration often neglected in these kinds of political discussions is whether or not a given policy can remain uncorrupted from normal politics. A regulation may be good, but will it open the door to regulatory capture. An assistance program may be good, but will its administrative bureaucracy bloat to the point where it’s not cost-effective?

4. Why Netrunner Matters

This article is frequently hyperbolic, to the point of frustration, but it also captures many of the characteristics that make Netrunner such a masterpiece of game design and theming. Highlights:

“[T]he largest synchronicity between Netrunner and the world in which we play it is its very asymmetry. Clark (the designer, not the author) noted that, unlike something like chess, in which the playing field is artificially identical, Netrunner acknowledges that in the real-world there aren’t equals; everyone we encounter in life is, in some manner, an “other,” rather than a hypothetical, perfectly matched peer. Competitive games are normally predicated upon the notion of an equal playing field, but we don’t see fair fights take place in real meeting rooms, on real asphalt, in real chatrooms. We see two “others.” […] [W]here Monopoly envisioned capitalism as a game of one absolute winner surrounded by losers, Netrunner’s asymmetry wrests some control back to the have-not. Monopoly was a game with an equal playing field about a world that was not one; Netrunner is a game with an unequal playing field about the world’s attempt to balance the scales.”

My review of Netrunner that I’ll eventually publish on my upcoming board game website tries to get into some of these sociological themes in the game, but I don’t think I get to the meat of it to the extent of this author.

5. Music Obsession: Sufjan Steven’s “Carrie and Lowell”

I’ve listened to this album about 50 times in the last month. The first couple of times I listened to it I wasn’t a huge fan, but it massively grew on me. It’s quiet, subtle, almost maddeningly restrained. But when he finally lets go, just a bit, in the last third of the album it’s heart-wrenching.

The album is a reaction to the death of Sufjan’s mother. It winds through themes of guilt, depression, and loneliness. It’s intensely personal, like we’re secretly peering into Sufjan’s diary. It’s full of memories (particularly about time in the pacific northwest), and sometimes it seems Sufjan is simultaneously clinging onto those memories and trying to block them out of his mind.

The album climaxes with two incredible songs of desperation. “John My Beloved” has grown to be my favorite; it concludes with this beautiful cry for help:

So can we contend, peacefully
Before my history ends?
Jesus I need you, be near me, come shield me
From fossils that fall on my head
There’s only a shadow of me; in a manner of speaking I’m dead

I know for many of you this album will be old news as it’s nearly 2 years old. I’m terrible at keeping up with music, so it’s new to me. If you didn’t listen to it before, I highly recommend it now.

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