You Should Know: China’s Gulags

“When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

A lot of people don’t have a good grasp on China. With the changes in its relationship and public branding, it’s easy to forget that it’s still a totalitarian Communist regime, not all so different from the Soviet Union with the exception of the fact that its market liberalization has saved it from economic ruin (though, perhaps, not entirely).

However, what a lot of people aren’t aware of is that China is perhaps the greatest human rights abuser in the world. Between its treatment of the Falun Gong and other religious and ethnic minorities, it’s no secret that rights in China go as far as the state permits them to.

However–and this should not surprise the astute reader–China goes beyond mere crimes against handfuls of citizens, and has turned portions of one of its provinces into gulags worthy of the Soviet era.

Why is this happening, and why isn’t it all over the news? The Chinese government has been regularly imprisoning its Muslim Uighur population, and it would likely be a surprise to the average citizen of the world.

The only answers can–and must–be cynical ones. The simple truth is this: our society doesn’t want to change, even if it’s necessary for evils to be ended. China exports cheap, relatively-well made consumer goods and other “necessities” of the modern age, and the cost of any significant action would be the loss of these comforts.

Even more cynically, it could be said that we don’t care because it’s outside our cozy daily lives. The atrocities of China are not blood on our hands, after all. We are not the ones building the fences, pulling the triggers, manning the crematoriums.

We are not Uighurs, but we are human. Every one of us must be conscious of the fact that with every dealing we have with China, we are being part of the machine that promotes what now appears to be heading toward not mere suppression and brainwashing but outright ethnic cleansing and genocide.

I’m not advocating military action against China, or anything like that. I believe such a thing would do more harm than good. However, we must be unflinching and unyielding in doing what we can to raise awareness. Our dependence on Chinese products is a major source of the problem; so long as we are chained by our dependency, we cannot stand up to the evils that we are facilitating.

One way to do this is by limiting our use of Chinese products. While this is likely difficult, as there may be no easy way to guarantee that products have not been fabricated at least partly in China, despite labeling, having even a little vigilance can help to choose alternatives to Chinese-made products that can limit the financial resources of its tyrannical regime.

I’ve also written to my Congressional representatives on this matter, and I suggest that each reader go to their government officials and demand an answer from them. We are permitting the worst evils of the 20th century to be repeated in the 21st century. Demand accountability.

A Great Deal on “The One Ring”

Any Lord of the Rings fans who are also tabletop roleplayers might appreciate the fact that Humble Bundle currently has a substantial offering from the One Ring product line for $15.

This is half off of its regular price on DriveThruRPG, and includes a whole bunch of stuff. If you just want the core rulebook to test it out, you can find it for a paltry $1.

My review (of a slightly older edition, though I believe it’s still the same mechanics) is duplicated below:

The One Ring lives up to its impressive source works; providing an epic amount of quality and more in a game that is built to work with the feel of Middle Earth.
Everything about this game feels right; the art, the writing, and the mechanics blend together into a marvelous product that feels very much like the original books by Tolkien. The game takes very few liberties with the setting, and feels very much like picking up one of the original stories in terms of how play and characters work; I personally saw a major relationship between The Children of Húrin and this work, at least in terms of how the adventuring bands work, though the same link goes for any of Tolkien’s tales.
Anyway, I will say that this is one of the best fantasy games out there, and as a fan of Tolkien I’d throw my support behind it 100% as a top-notch and accurate game which sticks true to the feel of Tolkien’s work.
The closest thing to a gripe I have with this is the gimmicky Feat Die, which has a potential to roll a Gandalf or Sauron rune, but it makes the game flow quicker and adds interest, so I’ll concede that it’s actually good (especially given that you can use a standard d12 and just modify the results slightly).
Quick Summary: Content: 5/5 (A great look at Tolkien’s world and making adventures within it; it’s built well) Art/Typesetting: 5/5 (I’d say that this is one of the highest quality games I’ve ever seen in terms of design) Writing: 5/5 (I’ve never had a gripe with Cubicle 7’s quality, so I see no reason to start now) Awesome Factor: 5/5 (I’m biased because I’m a Tolkien fanboy, but this gets it right!) Interest: 4/5 (Not perhaps the most interesting part of Tolkien’s sagas, but a good one) Maturity: 10+ (There’s not really anything in here I see that warrants a content rating, other than heroic violence) Value: 5/5 (You get a lot in this pack; the Loremaster’s and Adventurer’s Guides, and two maps [one for each], so the asking price is great)

Review of The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild (2011 Edition)

Alternatively, I’m buying it myself, so you can take that as a ringing endorsement if you want.

Music for Today: Arvo Pärt’s Symphony #4

Today’s music that really spoke to me was Pärt’s Symphony #4. It’s a great piece that really shows off Pärt’s minimalist style.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Pärt before, but he’s one of my favorite composers, and certainly my favorite contemporary composer.

What I really enjoy about his work is the way that he can send one’s mind off in contemplation without relying on forceful compositions. Sometimes somber, sometimes uplifting, Symphony #4’s restraint comes in spite of its incredible power.

With a master composing music, there is no need for bombastic showmanship. I am not trying to say that these things cannot be good (after all, I love a good Tchaikovsky piece when I can get one), but rather that the slow, deliberate movements and restrained use of complex harmonies that forms the core of Pärt’s distinctive style can be incredibly intense in ways that would surprise those used to some of the more “meaty” composers out there.

You can listen to the symphony on Spotify and on YouTube.

Reflections on Weight Loss

As of this week, I’ve hit my original goal weight when I started dieting. I’ve still got some distance left to go before I’m at an ideal weight, but I’m a lot healthier and happier than I was before I got here, so that’s a good plus.

A few things I’ve noticed that I want to quickly reflect on before I forget them on this are:

  1. I’ve gotten a lot more deliberate in what I eat. No more sides at restaurants unless they’re something I actually want.
  2. Letting myself have an occasional indulgence as part of a planned, regular occurrence (AKA cheat day) makes it a lot easier to resist those temptations during the rest of the time, since I’m not developing a “Woe is me, I can’t have donuts” complex.
  3. It’s required me to change the way I view my actions. No more blaming the junk food for my choice to eat it. Developing the ability to resist temptation is important, and one of the reasons my prior efforts have failed.

I think it’s a little telling that despite the fact that I eat less, and generally a little more austere fare than what I ate before I went on my diet, I’m still pretty happy with what I’m eating.

In fact, I think I might actually rate my overall satisfaction from the food I eat as higher than I would have before my diet. There are a few things that go into that, of course, since I’m not getting as much carbohydrate-induced spikes in hunger, but I think some of it is getting rid of the things I used to eat just to have something to eat.

Now that I just eat primarily protein and greens, with fresh fruit as an added element, I find meals more enjoyable than I used to because they don’t have any associated feelings of overindulgence (and guilt) or potential pain down the road in the form of indigestion.

Shifting Down a Gear

Recently I’ve been maintaining two blogs every day, this one, and the official Loreshaper Games blog on steemit. This has been going okay, but I’ve seen a few issues with it.

First, Loreshaper Games is the public face of most of my writing, and it’s where I’ve been putting up my high-yield articles. While this blog is also tied to steemit, it’s a lot slower than my other stuff and largely personally interesting rather than intended for an audience.

Second, writing two posts a day is not necessarily difficult for me, but keeping up the high-quality posts is becoming more problematic. There is a limit to how much good writing I can do.

Third, I either wind up with too much overlap or too little focus. I’ve frequently worried that I repeat myself too much here. I don’t have a diligent content creation plan like I do with the Loreshaper Games steemit platform.

So I’m going to be shifting down a gear on this blog. I’ll still be writing posts occasionally. I’m not going to go into a long hiatus like I did in the past (unless something extreme happens). Rather, I’m not going to feel like I am pressured to write for this blog every day. Something like 70% of my writing until very recently focused on game design, and now I want that to all happen over at Loreshaper Games. The remainder will happen here.

I think that will result in more quality. The quantity of writing will be less overall, but not meaningfully so; I’ve been writing ~3000 words a day on many days, but at the cost of not getting enough work done on my game projects and hitting a wall in terms of stamina and burnout.

When I have something interesting to say about philosophy, my campaign of self-improvement, or other non-game topics, I’ll write it here. Everything game-related, except for reviews, will go to Loreshaper Games.

Fall of Babylon

in myriad ten-fold they stood to watch their leader

“trust in me” he said, holding armageddon in his hand

so they trusted, looking to the skies with war straightening their spines each held a lance and each wore a crown because they were free as they followed their leader they wore crowns

they did not know God or the cosmos or the order of creation they did not know the path to peace nor did they care to learn it and they stood with their backs straight and their souls empty

only the wailing of the children left behind remained

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street

Wrapping up the 12th chapter of Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Amazon Affiliate link) feels a little surreal, because I’ve now been going through it for almost a month or so. It’s been quite a long journey, and I’ve been trying to apply some of the tips that Peterson gives to my life.

And, not too surprisingly given the feedback he’s gotten on the internet, many of them work. Some of them overlap with things I already did and knew about, but where I have made an intentional effort to pursue the objectives laid out in the 12 Rules I can see immediate improvement in my outlook and performance.

Continue reading “Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street”

Mechanical Keyboards: Pros and Cons

I’ve been using mechanical keyboards for a while now, and I want to quickly write up my observations on them. They’re quite fascinating and I love the tactile feedback and responsiveness they provide, and the nice solid construction they have that most membrane keyboards lack.

Continue reading “Mechanical Keyboards: Pros and Cons”

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, Rule 11: Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding

For those of us just joining me, I’ve been reading Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Amazon Affiliate link). The core lesson in the 11th chapter of Peterson’s book is a little different from the title, and I’ll probably spend more time trying to unpack the points rather than giving a blow-by-blow of Peterson’s argumentation.

Continue reading “Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, Rule 11: Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding”