Time of Troubles

This time the newsletter isn't late because of some excuse. I intentionally decided to delay it until today for reasons that should be obvious. Let's cover some other biz first. We got us a new forum! The old forum is now a permanent archive. We walk the walk when it comes to technology. We back up all our data, and make sure our URLs never become 404. Learn from us.

Despite it currently being cold, we haven't had major winter storms yet in NYC, and the first day of Spring is exactly two months away. Fingers crossed! MAGFest is still visible in our rear view mirror, but PAX South is next week. PAX East is not far off. We pre-recorded a bunch of podcasts, and we're going to make videos at the conventions. I'm also going to do a bunch of streaming of Nintendo Switch games once it arrives. The redo of our very old web site has also begun. Wheels are in motion.

Posta Geeka

I actually got some replies, but they weren't to newsletter 35. They were just more replies to newsletter 34. Listen people. I don't want you to reply to the newsletter for my own sake. I just need replies so that I have something to put in this section. If you want your letter to have a chance of being printed here, just reply to this newsletter directly via e-mail. Just click the reply button and type away. It's simple, easy, and fun! Maybe I'll start offering prizes to people who manage to get their letters published.

Here are some replies I received to newsletter 34.

Hi Scott,

I like your comment on ambition. I'm pretty much the same. I would gladly be swept up in others' causes, but can't be motivated to work on my own. I've tried to dedicate some time for some personal aspirational projects but find that my level of commitment will not lead to them getting off the ground.

Maybe we just need to find more meaning in our lives to get that "ambitious drive". I've increasingly felt like just a gear in a machine at work. Maybe the solution, if I were to change jobs, is to find one that has more social impact, such as those dealing with health, education, science, political causes, etc. I haven't really looked at it much as yet, but it looks like 80000hours.org might help in this. Alternatively, meaningful volunteer work outside of the normal job will probably also scratch the same itch without the risk of changing jobs.

If you don't have any goals, why not try helping someone reach theirs. 

Anyway, I hope you'll find some of these suggestions useful.

BTW, if you publish my comment, please omit my name. Thanks.

Hey Anon. Having meaningful work is a good motivator. I have actually applied for work at a few such places. Unlike the startups that I reject, which have long hours and high pay, the meaningful non-profit work has long hours and low pay. I would willingly do such work, perhaps even for free, but living in NYC is a very high priority. To do that I need more money than such organizations can offer.

The degree to which I can relate to you on this is crazy. I've been struggling with my own realization that I lack the ambition that was once plentiful for at least a couple years. I have ideas, vessels for which ambition could fuel great action, but no juice. And it's as you say. It's impossible to help someone with this problem. The problem can only be fixed by the person in question or by the unavoidable circumstance of life, and my life, as yours, is adequately secure, comfortable, and in line with my desires so as to make this unlikely.

I don't have a point to make, an advice to give, or a clever denouement. Just commiseration.
Have a nice day, though, and let us know if you have an epiphany concerning this matter!

- mistershake2099

There are almost ten more replies just like this, so know that we are all together on this. In fact, we are likely the majority. If strong ambitions were common, wouldn't there would be more rich/famous people? Or are there a great many people with strong ambitions, and most are failures?

Four Square - Part 1

Disclaimer: This story is only mostly true. How much do you expect me to remember from over twenty years ago?

One summer back in his middle school days, Scott attended a day camp. Just after lunch his group was always scheduled to spend time together in their "cabin." It wasn't so much a cabin as it was a wooden shelter. A large square platform a few cinder blocks above the ground. Other than some short walls, benches around the sides, and a triangular roof, it was completely open to the warm summer air.

Painted on the floorboards of this structure was a sporting arena. How could they not heed its call? Red Voit ball in hand, they played four square every single day. The game itself is not important. What is important is that when a player is eliminated, the survivors move up to fill the vacant position. A new player comes off the bench to fill the low position and make four. Most important of all, the game has only one other rule. The player in the king position makes the rules.

Four square may as well have been fucking Calvinball. To make matters worse, they were playing a game designed for an open space in an enclosed area. There were all sorts of ambiguous situations, especially in regards to the ball bouncing off the wall or ceiling. 

All the other campers would make rules to benefit themselves. Their primary goal was to stay in power by any means necessary. They had no regard for fairness or making the game more fun. Given absolute power, all they could think to use it for was to keep it as long as possible. It was a travesty.

Even young Scott could not tolerate such injustice. His sense of game design was disgusted that such dirty play was explicitly legal. The game must be fixed so that it provides fun for all. Days went by and Scott played many times, but was always eliminated before reaching the top position. All the while he sat on the bench formulating the perfect set of new rules.

But how could he convince anyone follow these new rules? The other campers would not listen to someone whining on the bench. The complaints of a sore loser would not be heard. The counselors didn't care either. This was basically their break time.

The only way Scott was ever going to fix this game was to become the king himself. Somehow he must succeed at a game when all the rules were stacked against him. The problem is that the same feelings fueling Scott's desire to fix the game, also prevented him from winning it. He refused to play dirty. He wanted to win, but could not stoop so low as to use the evil underhanded techniques that he wanted to eliminate. Scott already obeyed the rules of Scott, even though he was the only one doing so.

That is until one day, the light shone down from on high. Thanks to the goddess of chance, and other campers eliminating each other, Scott arrived just one spot away from the king position. If he could eliminate the king, four square would be changed forever. Awoken by the scent of victory, Scott abandoned his moral code, and used a despicable technique in order to take the throne,

Before the next round began, a new law of the land was put in place. It probably took at least ten minutes of explaining and answering questions, but they had to listen. The one rule that nobody could change was that the king makes the rules. If they didn't learn these new rules, what chance did they have to ever change them back once Scott was inevitably dethroned?

From then on play proceeded in a manner that looked much more like a real sport. Plays were longer and players were harder to eliminate. Everyone had more fun. The problem with the game being fair was that Scott was far from the best player in the cabin. His elimination came relatively swiftly. Was that it? Would this time of greatness truly be so short-lived?

And so the new king emerged. And what laws did our new king proclaim? 

"We will play with Scott's rules."

So let it be written. So let it be done.

The rest of that summer there were a few kings who declared a return to the old ways, but their reigns were decried and short-lived. A few experimented with new rules of their own. In the end, most kings simply declared "Scott's rules" or "Scott's Rules with these modifications." Regardless of what campers believed beforehand, or whether they liked Scott or not, when they finally experienced the world of Scott's rules, they could not deny that they made the game better for all.

In that cabin Scott learned all we need to know about politics.

To be continued...