Thanksgiving Hiatus

Folks, it’s been a pretty crazy semester. Between revision projects, home renovation, kids’ school activities, and Denisa teaching three classes, I’ve felt like I’ve been holding on for dear life.

So I’m going to take a vacation for Thanksgiving.

Not that I don’t usually take a vacation, but I think I’m really going to just take a step back and take a vacation from pretty much everything. Certainly the blog, and maybe even writing. I just want to clear my head for a bit and see if things can even out some. Otherwise, I just feel like this:

 

Round and round I go, and something tells me I’m never getting those seeds . . .

So have a pleasant holiday. You can catch me on social media some, I expect. I’ll be back after Turkey Day.

When Clicks Begin to Sway Your Content

Having blogged pretty much every weekday for going on 11 years now, I still haven’t figured out what causes a post to be popular and what causes one to just not get read. Some of this is, no doubt, due to the way I publicize my blog. It goes up on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and that’s about the extent of it. Every now and then I’ll share something on an appropriate sub-Reddit, but for the most part, I just write the entries and let them loose into the wild.

Some of them soar, some of them fall flat on their face. And I can never quite guess which will do what.

Because I want all my writing to succeed, it can be tempting at times to resort to tricks to try and increase those clicks. To write misleading or inflammatory titles. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll use a great title when one comes to me (“Heaven is a BYU Game” was a perfect fit for the article itself), but I won’t push the boundaries too much. “Donald Trump is a Terrorist” would, no doubt, have gotten me way more views than “Stochastic Terrorism,” but at the same time, I felt like that was crossing an important line for me.

My blog isn’t here to make me oodles of money. (Though it does bring in a bit, thanks to my lovely, wonderful, fantastic Patrons. I’ve had a couple leave lately–maybe you’d like to join the ranks and get me back above that $10/month mark? I’m just one $1/month donation away, really.) It’s mainly here for me to have a platform to write about things I care about. To think different issues through, and then share those thoughts with anyone who wants to read them.

I personally feel that one of the reasons our political climate has deteriorated is due to the continued quest of news sites to get clicks, not just present content. I understand why this happens. All it takes is for one site to start resorting to tricks, and it snowballs into a sort of article weapons race, with all the sites doing it to try to woo readers.

After writing posts and watching my statistics, I know full well that an inflammatory title will tickle Facebook’s algorithms far better than a tame one. And it makes sense, since Facebook is driven, ultimately, by clicks. I’d much prefer people to subscribe to my blog and get via email or a feed reader (like Feedly). Because I spend time on each post, and I’d like to think each one’s worth reading, and not just the one that Facebook happened to think would be better for its site that day.

But in the end, I just write the posts and sit back to see what happens.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How to Win an Argument When You’re Wrong

I get it. Sometimes, we all say things that just aren’t right. We have beliefs we can’t back up worth a bean. But just because we think something that’s totally unjustified, doesn’t mean we need to lose when we argue for our point of view with anyone else. If there’s one thing I’m learning from our current political environment, it’s that you can win just about any argument as long as you approach it the right way. Here’s my breakdown of Important Steps to Follow:

  1. If at all possible, try to move the focus of the argument away from the area where you’re completely wrong, and over to safer territory. If the argument is about who should do the dishes, and you haven’t done the dishes in five months, switch the battleground to something where you’re stronger. Say . . . the ultimate breakdown of household chores. It doesn’t really matter where an argument begins. All that matters is where it ends. And you winning.
  2. Keep track of several irrelevant weaknesses of your opponents. Whenever they draw blood in an argument, whip out those weaknesses and divert the attention away from your own. So what if you didn’t do the dishes this month. They didn’t remember your birthday three years ago. I think we can all agree that people who don’t remember birthdays are far less caring than people who do minor things like “live like a complete and utter slob.”
  3. Never, ever, EVER let yourself be suckered into allowing the argument to shift toward verifiable facts. Facts are not your friends when you know you’re wrong. As soon as the argument shifts into absolute truths, you’re going to be sunk. So keep it grounded in generalities if at all possible. Things that can’t really be proven one way or another. Ideally, things you can say are a certain way, without anyone coming along to question those statements.
  4. Ask for proof when someone makes a claim against you. Lots of proof. No matter how much proof they provide, question its reliability and ask for more. Who cares if they’ve been keeping a “Who Did the Dishes Diary” for the past several years. Was it just them keeping it? Why wasn’t it an uninvolved bystander? Should we really allow their evidence to stand when it’s so clearly biased?
  5. When things aren’t going your way, you can always shift from generalities into hyper-specifics. (If you do this fast enough, it’ll really stump your opponent.) What does “doing the dishes” mean, anyway? What does it consist of? You brought a dish to the sink last February. Isn’t that part of “doing the dishes”? Why haven’t we ever really nailed down this definition? Can you honestly be expected to live according to a standard that (up to now) was so loosely defined? I mean, you can commit to following anything from now on. You’re a reasonable person. But let’s not be petty about things and take cheap pot shots just because you haven’t scrubbed a pot in the last decade.
  6. If you happen to be painted into a corner with facts and hard evidence that destroy any shred of a hope you have of actually winning the argument, fall back on the old reliable approach : deny. Deny the proof. Deny that you said that. Deny it’s your voice on the recording. Deny it’s you on that video tape. Just keep denying things. In the end, an argument is won by the person willing to keep arguing. Anyone walking away from the argument is clearly the loser. Deny until they give up.
  7. Always remember that logical fallacies are your friend. Straw man arguments. False dichotomies. Slippery slopes. Use these as much as possible. Ideally, your opponent will call you out on them, and then you can switch the argument away from where you’re losing and over to safer ground: about how your opponent uses hoity toity language to try and distract from what really matters.

With these simple steps, you’re pretty much guaranteed to never lose an argument ever. Which you can brag about often to anyone who actually still cares to listen to what you have to say. #winning

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Heaven is a BYU Game

I headed down to Massachusetts over the weekend to go to the BYU/UMass game, being played at Gillette Stadium (home of the Patriots). I’d been looking forward to going for quite some time, since the last time I’d been able to see the Cougars play live was back in 2014, four years ago.

This time, they had a bunch of activities surrounding the game, with a “tailgate” beforehand. It turned out to be inside, and it was jam packed with BYU fans. I heard they’d been planning on having 500 people show up, and around 1,600 came, instead. You could tell they weren’t prepped for so many. Lines were really long, but it was still fun to see Cosmo (the mascot), have free face painting, eat snacks, and hang out with a ton of likeminded fans.

The game itself started out really shaky, with BYU quickly going down by 10 points in a game they were heavily favored to win. Thankfully they turned things around, and things got much better after that.

But really, the coolest thing for me was the chance to have multiple run-ins with people I hadn’t seen in a long time. Old roommates, old friends from church, professors, family. It was like one big reunion show, with guest stars that weren’t announced ahead of time. And that’s just the people who we managed to somehow run into. I imagine there were many more people there who I knew, but I didn’t know they’d be attending.

That feeling (running into old friend after old friend and meeting up again after a long time away) is one thing I really look forward to in the afterlife. A lot of the concepts of the hereafter can be very foggy and hard to really picture in concrete terms, but this is one that’s so easy to picture. It’s a consolation when people pass away, thinking of the other people they’re now able to see again. (Yes, this presupposes you believe in an actual afterlife, but let’s keep this topic bright and cheery, shall we?)

I’m not sure how this would work for other fans of other teams. When Penn State plays a game out in California, do a slew of Penn State fans show up? There were thousands of BYU fans at that stadium. It definitely felt like a home crowd for BYU, based on the amount of noise we were able to churn out. I tend to think BYU sits at this strange intersection of sports and religion and alumni, but it could also be just because I’m familiar with it more than any other university. Ute fans who live on the east coast feel free to speak up to contradict me.

In any case, it was a fun time, and I was very happy we had a chance to go. (And win!) Go Cougars!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Bad Step Forward for Fake News

The Trump presidency got off on a bizarre foot the day after he was sworn in, back when he had his press secretary swear up and down that Trump’s inauguration was the most attended inauguration ever, despite the fact that photographic evidence clearly disproved that claim. I couldn’t believe someone would just look at the proof against the argument and then dispute it as “fake news,” but that’s what happened.

That’s been a trend Trump has followed since then. His supporters don’t seem to mind. They tend to dismiss anything that disagrees with their views as “media bias” and “hit jobs.” Not that this is anything particularly new. Right wing pundits have been poking at the “lame stream media” for years now. But Trump really dialed that up to eleven, basically saying something was black when it was white, and not caring if anyone disputed him, confident that his supporters just wouldn’t mind.

The next step was to start accusing media of doing the things the Trump campaign has been doing. Of lying, or at least doctoring the truth. Essentially, the approach was to first have the media make a big hullabaloo about “fake news” to the point that it really enters the common lexicon, and then to use that same argument and all the furor around it as a weapon against the media itself.

This all took a very negative step forward with the recent events around the CNN reporter being banned from the White House. If you haven’t heard about it, he was essentially asking Trump a series of hard questions in an press briefing. Trump didn’t like it, so he asked for someone to come take the reporter’s microphone away. The reporter didn’t back down. It’s all on tape. The aide that tried to take the mic was a female intern.

Trump has since used the “we need to stand up for women” argument to justify why they revoked the reporter’s credentials to visit the White House. They don’t tolerate reporters “placing [their] hands on a young woman just trying to do her job.” And to prove their point, they highlighted a video of the event.

Except the video they highlighted was doctored, a fact multiple experts are now coming forward to prove.

I have no doubt the Trump administration will deny it. “Fake news.” But I also don’t doubt they’ll start to use this same argument (“videos can be doctored”) against anything that comes out against them. It’s part of the pattern they’re following, and I’m not sure what we can do to stop it. (This is especially important as video doctoring becomes more and more sophisticated. Right now it’s relatively easy to tell what’s been done to a video, but in an age where video cameras are ubiquitous on cell phones, we’ve been relying on that video evidence more and more for “proof.” But when that proof suddenly is debatable . . . )

It’s a very discouraging development in my mind. I wish this weren’t the world we live in, but I don’t know what to do to fight back against it. I would like to see both sides of the political spectrum reject it, but I think slowly but surely, the argument will worm its way into our debates.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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