Trigger Warnings and Coal Mine Canaries


In discussion of trigger warnings  (particularly when requested by college students), I've seen a fair amount of think pieces suggest that this is more evidence that young'uns have gone soft.  It's not quite "When I was your age, I walked uphill both ways, five miles, through a sea of graphically dismembered bodies marked with racial slurs, and it made me stronger!" but there's a certain family resemblance.  There just seems to be a suspicion that attaches itself to people complaining that the st … [Read more...]

False Friends and Tone Policing

ear trumpet

When I went on a two-week exchange trip to China, it was clear the cultural briefing was informed by whatever mistakes or misunderstandings had occurred on previous trips, recorded and relayed to us so that we wouldn't think, for example, that our host siblings were hitting on us if they took our hands while we were walking.But the most memorable warning had to do with Mandarin filler words.  While English speakers cover gaps with "uh" "um" "ah" and so forth, the equivalent filler words in … [Read more...]

Who Watches the Executioners?


Yesterday, a federal judge rejected Marcus Wellons's plea for a stay of execution.  If no other intervention is forthcoming, Wellons will be executed this evening.  Wellons's argued that his death should be postponed until the state of Georgia was forced to disclose exactly which drugs they would be using to kill him.After the botched execution earlier this year in Ohio, courts have had to consider whether experimental executions constitute cruel and unusual punishment -- a sentence worse tha … [Read more...]

Prophets and Bottles that Breed Confusion [Pope Francis Bookclub]


In 2014, I’m reading and blogging through Pope Francis/Cardinal Bergoglio’s Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus.  Every Monday, I’ll be writing about the next meditation in the book, so you’re welcome to peruse them all and/or read along.In this chapter of Open Mind, Faithful Heart, Pope Francis explains the Book of Revelation of following a kind of dream logic. We cannot enter into these *figures* just by interpreting them allegorically or by representing them conceptu … [Read more...]

The Merry Merchant and the Sad Antonio

Photo courtesy of Allison Stock Photography

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing the closing night performance of The Merchant of Venice, staged by The Shakespeare Forum.  It was a delightful production, and the cast did a great job making all the jokes (and there are many) land effectively, without undercutting the heartbreaking trial scene (I cried).  The humor of the background characters set apart the two antagonists, Shylock and Antonio, who are some of the only characters who never laughed joyfully.What struck me most about t … [Read more...]

In the Game of Markets, You Win or You Lie


This past week, I've been doing another guest stint at the Center for Applied Rationality as a teacher and the Prediction Markets Mistress.  When I design and run prediction markers, I try to be pretty careful to avoid perverse incentives (that's why the marker on whether a randomly chosen participant had ever broken a bone specified that I would only count bones broken before the beginning of the workshop).But it turns out one Game of Thrones-related market I created sparked a series of st … [Read more...]

Misguided Maps, Unbalanced Games, and Deadly Dresses

extreme mercator

--- 1 --- When my mother read yesterday's post on peer mediation and restorative justice, she was surprised I had left out a story from my own childhood.  In fourth grade, I was a peer mediator, and, one day, after school, our doorbell rang, and my mom found a classmate who had looked up where I lived and walked over to ask if I would mediate an out-of-school fight.According to my mom, I walked outside and started going through the mediation script ("Do you agree to listen to each other" … [Read more...]