First and foremost, my brother died in December. We weren’t especially close, but we loved each other and he helped me whenever I needed him. Everything else that happened this year is background noise.

And the background noise is mostly pleasant. But for the bummer headline, this was another great year for me and mine.

I feel that I continue to grow in my patience and attention for my children, but this is hard to quantify. Mary read a ton about homeschool, including some books I got for her, and I think both of us became more zealous advocates of the practice. Mary continues to improve in administrating homeschooling as well. Scarlett is getting better at reading and at math, and she impresses with her creativity and knowledge almost daily. Her art has taken a sharp turn away from constant drawings to cutting out components for games or costumes. Obi is becoming more physically capable and more verbal. He is much better at asking for things he wants now. Mary and I continue to have a strong relationship, but we work on it regularly. We are both great communicators.

I ran a lot less this year, but I lifted pretty regularly. My weight trended up all pandemic, but I’m working now to move that the other way. My sleep has been pretty good. Toward the end of the year I set up DDR in the rumpus room and I’ve been playing that pretty regularly which I know is good for me. I’m pretty sure I got covid in late October (reduced taste/smell, fever of 103.3) but it only lasted three days (fever was only bad one evening) and I don’t think I have any lingering effects. Overall I was pretty healthy this year. In December I signed up for BJJ classes at a place right near the house, but they aren’t scheduled to open until after Jan 10.

I meditated off and on this year. I am certain it’s incredibly good for me. I hope to do it much more regularly in 2022 and forward.

Starting in March of this year, every day I wrote down in a journal two things I’m grateful for. I missed a few days, but always came back to it. This is something I will be doing for the rest of my life. I consider it a good mental health practice.

I changed a bunch of stuff in the house this year, but I might not remember much of it and some of the rest I’ll confuse with last year. I put rock wool batting insulation in the garage and got a portable AC unit for it too. I fixed the bathroom outlets to not trip GFCI from downstream draws.I switched Obi’s bedroom and my office and had to run cable through the floor and walls. That went ok. We were beset by bees and I think I fixed the problem. I finished installing the gutter guards and cleared the front gutter and I think it doesn’t overflow in big rains now. J came over and fixed a leak in one of the bathrooms. The hole is still in the ceiling, but I’ll figure that out and get it fixed soon. I started setting up smart home stuff in my office and elsewhere, including plugging the disco ball and light into a smart outlet so I can say “turn on the party” and it lights up and spins. I’m sure I’ll be doing more of that next year.

I started working for CAVA at the end of November 2020, last year was my first full year working there. It’s going fantastically. I’m learning a great deal, I’m doing great work, and they’re happy with me. End of year work was a bit stressful, but I’m coping just fine. My home office setup continues to perform admirably. This year I upgraded my desktop to hardwood (the ikea top I was using was crunching under the monitor stand clamps).

I didn’t play much magic this year (pandemic), but I did draft a couple times at the house with friends and went to a handful of other events. I hope to draft with friends much more in the future. Played tons of boardgames this year. Current favorite is probably It’s a Wonderful World. Mary enjoyed Wingspan.

I posted a lengthy update on the state of my cubing near the end of the year, but the summary is that I continue to improve in my times, slowly. I also spent a ton more time watching cubing youtube content this year.

I played over 5,000 games of bullet chess this year. I watched a ton of content from Eric Rosen and a few other chess creators this year, and I am positive I improved a lot, but I have found that bullet chess is overall bad for me right now. I may continue to play it this year, but probably much less. I enjoy playing chess, but playing 100 games in a day seems to make me very irritable.

I think the only book I finished this year was The Anarchist Handbook. I am realizing that if I don’t find a way to make reading books my priority from time to time, I will continue to read only about one book per year.

I stayed about the same in my juggling this year. I still can’t juggle four balls or three clubs, but I’m still trying a little.

Guitar stagnated for another year. I played very little. I did play some piano this year, but without prioritizing it, I will stay essentially unable to play.

Nick Calcaterra also died this year. I actually got to catch up with him the weekend before it happened. He invited me to draft at Marc’s shop, I learned Marc had a shop, and I showed up and Marc called him and he came down. It was the first time I’d seen him in probably 8 years, but we had a great chat.

Despite the pandemic, I got to see friends fairly often this year. That’s great! Mary and the kids and I did a number of fun things this year, including getting season passes to Saint Peters Pools and going fairly often.

I watched a ton of Michael Malice content this year and am caught up on the Penn podcast. I really enjoy all the things both of them produce.

Archon was weird this year. I’m glad we went and particularly glad we took Scarlett for the first day, but it was much less attended and didn’t have the two biggest events, masquerade and dance.

If I close my eyes and pretend I didn’t lose my brother and become an only child, this was a great year, especially for a pandemic year. But I did. I live a world without him now. All of our time is too short in this world. I feel grateful for every day.

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Drag Race All Stars s03e01

Watching season 3 episode one of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars.

In All-Stars, the elimination gimmick is: each week, instead of the bottom two queens lip syncing and the loser getting eliminated, the top two lip sync and the winner of the lip sync chooses which of the bottom two queens to eliminate.

Ben De La Creme wins the lip sync and chooses to eliminate Morgan McMichaels with the following rationale:

1. everyone agreed that morgan did better this week than the other bottom queen
2. Everyone except morgan agreed to the policy of “we will eliminate the bottom queen who does worse that week”
3. Because Morgan didn’t agree to the policy, she should be eliminated

There are layers of irony to this that I love. Ben eliminated Morgan because Morgan (honestly!) divulged that she would eliminate the stronger queen. But in eliminating her, Ben was doing exactly the thing that Ben thought Morgan deserved to be eliminated for. I sure hope Ben is up for elimination next week and gets eliminated for doing the thing that everyone said not to do, and then in week three, the queen that eliminated Ben gets eliminated for the same reason, etc, forever. This is very funny to me.

Mary had a great comment regarding the drama of forcing the queens to eliminate one another with tortured, overdramatic rationale:
“They’re all female impersonators, but now they’re being forced to *really* impersonate females.”

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Responding to Ravi Zacharias on the truth of xtianity

FIL sent me this video.

My thoughts on the main argument:


i guarantee you: only in the judeo christian worldview do you find these four questions answered with corresponding truthfulness and with the coherence of a worldview.

I say: what?

it’s trivial to find two christians who disagree about whether evolution is true (adam and eve, the flood, etc)

do we live to serve god, each other, ourselves? I think these are not settled matters among all christians

jews and christians certainly disagree on some of these matters, but christians are divided on morality of issues as pervasive as homosexuality, immigration, war, even the flagship issue of abortion

there is no judeo-christian vision of destiny. Jews have no afterlife. Christianity is predicated on the notion of the afterlife.

And this is only responding to the question of coherence, not truthfulness — which is certainly even more suspect for all four.

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Mere Subjectivity

I was raised Catholic, dallied with hip, evangelicalism-for-teens in high school, and gradually slipped from believer, to agnostic, to atheist in my young adulthood.

Nearly all my friends are non-believers of various stripes. I think that one’s social circle matters a LOT more than study, deliberation, and ratiocination in terms of where one lands on a wide array of categories of belief and behavior.

I believe that rationalization is a much more powerful force in human minds than reason.

That all said, I have a lot of thoughts about what I think Christianity is, what it’s for, what good it does, and why it and people who believe it are wrong. At the moment, the most important idea I’m wrestling with is the subjectivity of belief.

It goes like this: There’s an episode of Community where the characters play a game of D&D. Abed is DMing and Troy asks “shouldn’t there be a board, or some pieces, or something to … Jenga?” Abed explains, “No no, this is a role-playing game. It takes place entirely in our collective imagination.” (video here as of publish date.)

I’ve played a fair bit of D&D, but for some reason the shared subjective reality of the game was something that had never occurred to me before hearing that exchange. I sit down to play the game with five friends, one of whom is the DM. We all share descriptions of what we see and what actions we perform. Only the DM has final authority on the reality of the game, but even though they are responsible for the world in a significant sense in terms of setup and gameplay, the way they describe a room or an object will certainly lead different players to picture the thing differently in their mind’s eye.

This subjective experience inside of an assumed shared reality is how I think of Christianity, except there is no DM (no human with final authority on what’s true). There is no one true faith, because no two Christians will agree on every tenet of belief or history. Every religion is ultimately personal, though it may share a LOT with the next fellow’s faith. Descriptions of reality in terms of spiritual law or divine order assume away this sticky element of subjectivity. If something is universal and we can check it, it’s not an aspect of religion, it’s part of scientific description. If we can’t check it, we have no way of confirming universality.

But my father in law really wants me to be a Christian. He tells me that he sees much of himself in me from a time in his life when he had similar doubts or worldviews to my own. He wants me to read Mere Christianity and I promised him over a year ago that I would. So here we go. I’ll be reading it and posting my thoughts here on the ol’ blogarino. I’ve tried reading it before and found Lewis’ self-assurance misplaced and his sanctimony off-putting. But I must keep my word. Here we go.

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It’s 2020. In early 2010 I was

-unmarried, but dating Mary for about 3 years and that was going well.
-still in college. I graduated later in 2010.
-Still driving a taxi
-working at the Show-Me Institute.
-not yet a person who had played in more than one pro tour. I q’ed for paris in December 2010
-living in St Louis, never having lived in another place
-not yet a runner or a lifter. Since then I have run two half marathons, squatted 300 and DL’d 350.
-not a dad
-making less than half what I do now

There’s no question that I feel more comfortable and in control of my life than I did ten years ago. I have improved a LOT since then in several ways. I hope I can say the same in ten more.

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We bought a house this year. We got very lucky in getting a house that was nearly everything we wanted. After 7 months, it seems to have worked out well. It will continue to be a source of projects and pride and occasional stress forever, most likely.


Mary and I continue to get better at communicating. Buying a house wasn’t really any added strain, having a second kid for an entire year was. Anyone who sees our relationship from the outside only at intermittent gatherings might think we “never fight”. This is not true. We have disagreements that manifest in what could be called fights at least every two weeks, sometimes multiple times per week. Like anyone else, the stress of life can weigh on us and we sometimes take it out on each other. We work through it by taking time, being patient, talking, listening, and forgiving. If we didn’t do all of those things, we wouldn’t have made it this far. I know — because we both say it to each other frequently — that we both feel lucky to have the other.

Professional life

Work continues to be very similar to years past. Once again I am frustrated by my inability to advance within Merkle (since the acquisition was finalized). I passed the GCP engineer certification in March on my second attempt with MUCH preparation and study. It had no effect on my job. I did some work with Gregg this year and felt I was learning and advancing for a change, until Gregg summarily ended the relationship as he felt I wasn’t learning as fast as he needed me to. That was a reckoning moment for me in terms of prioritization, but I didn’t make any changes immediately. I hope to get better about this in 2020.


Obi is going through things that Scarlett went through, only 3 years later. That just means I already have tools to handle those things. It’s still work, and I couldn’t do it without Mary, but it’s not a source of stress.

Scarlett, on the other hand, is constantly treading new ground and presenting new challenges. I have to keep trying and learning to handle her new needs. I’m still reading and thinking a lot about parenthood.


My weight stayed in a decent range this year but was headed up at the end of the year. I did a decent job lifting semi-regularly and keeping myself decently strong but hope to be better about this next year.

I ran around Forest Park a few times before we moved away.

Played very little magic this year, that will likely continue. I did play Free Commander a few weeks at my new LGS, Collector Store, and I played Vintage a few times at Moonbase near the beginning of the year, but that was about it.

Spent much more time playing video games than in years past, but this was because it has become something Scarlett and I can do together. I started her watching playthroughs of the Mario games: 1, 2, 3, world, 64, and then I started playing 64 right in front of her. That went very well.

Made very little progress in cubing, but stayed roughly the same. Last year I got what is likely to stay my PB time for years (without careful study and improvement), but this year I got some good times as well.

Once again I read much less than I’d hoped this year. Mary and I worked through the Ramona books which was a complete delight. Re-read a bunch of Crichton this year. Man, do I like Crichton. Re-read machinery of freedom, read The Power of Habit.

Eric died this year. He was one of my closest friends. I’m so sad about it months later that I think I’m likely to stay mourning for a very long time. I’m so glad he came to stay with us earlier this year, but it’s not that strange because he did that every year or two. He was so good about staying in touch with people, among many other things he was incredible at.

Archon was great this year and Mary was in the masquerade for the first time, and in her amazing Nano Gauntlet costume. She even won an award — Best Original Concept! Mary made faerie houses for ren faire. Took Scarlett to the pool near our house a few times. Hope to do that every summer from now on, a lot. Scarlett was flower girl in two weddings, Mark/Kelsey and Gregg/Vivian. She did a fine job in both.

I got to see Weird Al live! Strings Attached tour at the Fox, it was great. Saw Gone With The Wind in the theater. It was very good in that format. Not surprised so many other people saw it in the theater.


This was a good year for me. Losing Eric sucked, but I guess that’s the way it goes. I’m grateful to have all the friends that I do. I hope I can keep doing the good things right and learn from the bad things for next year.

note: I wrote this in May 2020, but tried to stay true to the feel of the year at calendar rollover

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Eric D. Dixon, greatest person to ever live, you are mist

Eric is gone. Like my father, he was taken by a sudden heart attack before age 50. He wasn’t family and we never lived together, but I felt closer to him than most people who are in those categories. His friendship meant more to me than I can ever say.
I learned so much from him and thought I would keep doing so forever. The depth and breadth of conversations we had were unmatched by anyone else I’ve ever known. Every time I see art that strikes me as strange, I think of him first and always will. Yesterday my nieces showed me an odd movie they’d made and I was telling Mary this morning how much I thought Eric would appreciate it. That was a few hours before I got the news.
I first heard the quote “every time someone dies, we lose a library” from Penn Jillette. It’s hard to imagine anyone exemplifying the magnitude of loss embodied in that quote more than Eric.
Eric was a repository of an unbelievable amount of knowledge about economics, history, religion, grammar, music, movies, art, and countless other categories that I could never hope to enumerate. But Eric could, and he’d do it with a big grin. He knew the details off the top of his head and when he didn’t, he knew where to find it. He was the best internet researcher I’ve ever even heard of, and he was himself an archivist: collecting and retaining the information and memories from his life and upon request the lives of his friends, families, and other relations for the sake of posterity and nostalgia. Both my and Mary’s blogs were hosted by Eric.
I could always count on Eric when I had a question. Even though we’d lived far away from one another for years, we stayed in touch over gchat. My last conversation with him on there was asking for help with a question of language, and him immediately having an abundance of useful information. He was a world-class editor and grammarian. I learned more useful information from him on the topic (with sources!) than in all of my formal education.
I’m grateful he met my children and that Scarlett might carry forward some memories of him. I guess I figured that every year or two he’d keep coming to town for a concert and getting together with us or crashing on our couch. I wish I’d known this April would be the last time that would happen.
I think the thing I’ll miss most about Eric is that we didn’t always agree, but we did always enjoy talking to each other. Smart people who stay honest and kind while disagreeing are the rarest and best people.
Eric was smart, kind, contagiously enthusiastic, and impressively skilled at the things he cared about. He could play the accordion, get top scores on Rockband, type 130 wpm with 100% accuracy, and cite sources for seemingly every idea he put forth.
They say we should always try our best. I believe Eric did. I’m really gonna miss him.

“n.f. f. n.s. n.c.” When spelled out it stands for “non fui; fui; non sum; non curo,” which means “I was not; I was; I am not; I care not.”

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“Useless and necessary”: thoughts on Reflections on the Guillotine

I’m reading Reflections on the Guillotine by Camus. It’s phenomenal and disturbing, as I should have expected. This part really got to me:

The State cannot
escape the dilemma Beccaria described when he
wrote: “If it is important to give the people proofs of
power often, then executions must be frequent; but
crimes will have to be frequent too, and this will prove
that the death penalty does not make the complete impression
that it should, whence it results that it is both
useless and necessary.” What can the State do with a
penalty that is useless and necessary, except to hide it
without abolishing it? The State will keep it then, a little
out of the way, not without embarrassment, in the
blind hope that one man at least, one day at least, will
be stopped from his murderous gesture by thought of
the punishment and, without anyone’s ever knowing it,
will justify a law that has neither reason nor experience
in its favor.

There are other things that the US government does today besides the death penalty that are useless and necessary (for proving power). Here’s a short list of some examples:
1. excessive police force
2. TSA
3. guantanamo and related detention for enemies of the state
4. drone strikes
5. other military adventurism

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Thoughts on another arbitrary Simpsons anniversary

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Simpsons episode The Last Temptation of Krust.

That’s the episode where Krusty realized he’s completely out of touch and no longer the behemoth showbiz success he used to be. He has a moment of panicked clarity when he sees Bart’s room, overflowing with his merchandise.

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Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of The Simpsons. I consider the first 8 seasons to be among the best TV ever made, and I maintain that most of the episodes from that period hold up over 20 years later, even in the current TV renaissance of the last ten years or so.

Fewer people who know me know that my feelings about the rest of The Simpsons is much more tepid. I thought the movie was good the first time I saw it, but I’ve cooled on it. There are a few OK episodes from after season 8, but the decline in quality was rapid and consistent. Other people on the internet have detailed and chronicled this phenomenon much better than I can here.

In the episode, faced with his inability to freshen up his act, Krusty announces his retirement at a press conference. He opens with an excerpt from the poem “To an Athlete Dying Young” and is interrupted by one of the journalists.

View post on imgur.com

I watched The Last Temptation of Krust a few nights ago with Mary. It was OK. It has the legendary “Canyonero” sequence as a closing bit, which stands on its own as a great musical segment from around the golden era of The Simpsons. The rest of the episode really was just OK. Right after watching that we watched Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1. It’s a bit unfair to compare, considering that’s one of the best Simpsons episodes ever, but the difference in quality was stunning.

I think The Last Temptation of Krust was a high point for season 9, but that season was part of the steady decline that the show never recovered from.

I don’t mind that The Simpsons isn’t as good as it was, I know there are plenty of people who still enjoy it. I just can’t because it’s so inferior to what it was before.

The next question Krusty gets from the press is

View post on imgur.com

Someone on Reddit mentioned that this anniversary would be a great time for The Simpsons to announce retirement. I don’t think that’s going to happen for the same reason it didn’t happen 20 years ago.

I don’t begrudge the enjoyment of folks who like current Simpsons. I just know that re-watching the early episodes is more than enough for me.

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My top ten tv shows

Originally posted here.

30 rock
arrested development
bojack horseman
it’s always sunny
parks and rec
rick and morty
the wire
venture bros


preference order added on 8-21 for crybaby Eric:

arrested development
bojack horseman
it’s always sunny
rick and morty
the wire
venture bros
parks and rec
30 rock

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