How To Entertain Guests

A Guide for Millennials and Zoomers

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Why hello there! I’m Julia Child on the French Chef. We’re going to throw a little social event today, a “soirée” as the French say. It’s a small, intimate gathering of anywhere from say four to ten people, and it’s a lovely way to spend an evening. Be it Friday or Saturday or Sunday, or even just any old weekday if you plan it right. I love having friends over and I’m sure you will too.

What it is, really, is just a small informal get-together, where people can chat and socialize, over refreshments, some snacks or even a whole dinner. Now you may be thinking you need a particular occasion or special event, but in fact you can do this any time you like. Though it helps of course if you have some activity planned to help things along. This could be something small, like playing a game together, or watching a television show. You could also just enjoy a sunny evening outside if the weather is nice. If there isn’t an occasion, you can just make one.

It may seem like a lot of work to organize successfully, but the trick is to prepare ahead of time. If you gather the right ingredients and have them ready, you can throw together a quick mixer in no time.

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The Indifference Engine

(Foreword: No, I’m not dead! I’ve just been very busy. A lot of that has been cleaning, both of physical objects and of data. In doing so, I found this story which I never published. I release it here under Creative Commons NonCommercial ShareAlike.)


“Herr McClellan.” The Dutchman grasped the knob of his walking stick and flicked it out before him as he paced the breadth of my assistant’s lecture hall, bootheels clicking on the dark wooden floor. “Kindly do not treat me as if I were one of your undergraduates. I know the Analytical Society — if you but look, you will find my name on its rolls these thirty years past — and I give you my word before God Himself that it is no trivial task for which I seek its help now.”

McClellan did not rise from the carved, high-backed chair at the front of the empty auditorium. With one hand he gripped the end of the armrest; with the other he rubbed his temples, then slid his tiny gold glasses to the tip of his nose. “We are mathematicians, Doctor Van Helsing. I know your reputation — you’re a physician, a philosopher. I don’t see what aid the Society can afford you.”

But I did. For almost fifteen years I had been the only vampire residing within the Learned Triangle, but if the reports in the newspapers McClellan culled for me were true, that was no longer the case. Thanks to McClellan’s single-handed care, I had not left Cambridge’s walls in almost two decades; Van Helsing’s reputation as a dabbler in all matters parapsychological had begun here.  His return now could not be mere coincidence.  Indeed, had he not turned up of his own accord, I might have sought him out myself. Continue reading

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Diagnosis: Russell Aphasia

russellThere is a particular trick of language that, once understood, you will start to see everywhere. It goes like this:

“I am firm. You are obstinate. They are pigheaded.”

The three statements mostly describe the same thing: strong personal conviction. But they are each loaded with additional meaning, which colors the perception. By placing them next to each other, the differences are magnified and readily legible.

You could say that “firm” appeals to our inherent dignity, that we each have the right to make our own decisions. “Obstinate” is more neutral, and mainly focuses on the factual effect of blocking productive resolution. “Pigheaded” on the other hand is clearly negative, suggesting the issue is the selfish attitude of the person in question.

It’s also no coincidence that the progression goes from “me” to “you” to “they”: we judge others more harshly than ourselves, especially third parties and strangers, and the phrasing makes that clear too.

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Everybody Is Looking For Something

Hell is other people. But as the paradoxical nature of real life hits back to the countless bedroom philosophers who fancy themselves nihilists, turns out you can do pretty much, well nothing, without having people around you.

Lessons are difficult to take in, but there’s nothing like good ol’ fashion lived experience in meatspace to allow the point to be made. For many people school is the worst kind of environment to attempt to do group work. Mainly because unless you are starting a extracurricular club you are pretty much being ordered to do something by a superior. And as it turns out, most people don’t like each other. Sure, you may have friends in your class, but it isn’t really about friends, it’s about the end product. It’s school. It’s prison. There’s nothing funny about a grade or a bunch of shitheads not doing what they are supposed to. Continue reading

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I Can See Russia From My House

I can’t take most of what I read on Trump and Russia seriously. It’s not that my mind is made up, or that I’m not willing to listen. It’s because most writers are not bothering to examine even their strongest assertions, even though they’re really easy to poke holes in. The biggest one is the common thread underlying all good conspiracy theories: an unreasonable assumption of general competence.

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The Importance of Having Your Pain Be Legible

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How to deal with ideological censorship in a community? Who gets empathy and who is humanized the most? Does contemporary rhetoric about toxicity hold up to scrutiny?

“When you keep rewarding people for becoming injured, they self-modify to become injured more easily.”

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Tales from Underwater

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“If you’re wondering whether it feels a little weird to have had someone you don’t clearly remember being make potentially life-altering decisions about you, the answer is yes.”

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