Make America Great Again

America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

Alexis de Tocqueville

It’s hard to say precisely the moment when America ceased being good. Some might even say she never was good–at least not wholly. Our country was built upon interracial warfare and slavery–against American natives, Africans, even the white poor.

To say any of that was ever good is shortsighted and misleading.

And yet, one can’t help but argue that America has always been great: a bastion of freedom, a new exploration of democracy on a scale that hadn’t been seen before, a righteous (but not self-righteous) country whose faith lay not in ethereal deities or divine mandates but upon the collective goodness of the people themselves. Yes, America hasn’t always met these ideals (if ever she has), but striving toward ideals is itself a a constant struggle and a constant celebration of the small victories along the way.

Yet now, amid political corruption and mass shootings, what victories remain?

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Probably Potter

Do you play Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?

I’m a math guy. I understand the nuance of probability and the fact it’s often counter-intuitive. And yet, when I try to explain that to friends, it gets lost in translation.

So I decided I’d do some digging and write about how we often misinterpret probabilistic possibilities (and why do it), and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is the perfect medium to discuss it in a future post. But to make it work, I need your help.

I’m conducting a probability survey and I need players to gather and submit data. The time commitment is yours to decide–you can do it for 30 minutes or a whole week.

On July 30, Wizards Unite’s next event begins: Potter’s Brilliant Calamity. New Brilliant Golden Snitches will be appearing everywhere, and this is what makes it so perfect: There is only one Foundable encounter that appears during this event, and it will have the same rarity / catch rate / recovery chance for all players. This means we can gather a large data set to more easily demonstrate how probability underlies the gameplay.

And so how probability often Confounds us when we try to understand it.

Your job, should you accept it, is simple: Play Wizards Unite and keep track of your spells cast when encountering the Brilliant Golden Snitch. Was it Fair, Good, Great, or Masterful? Did it result in success or failure? Aside from Dawdle Droughts, avoid using Exstimulo Potions–those will change the probability of success, and thereby, negatively impact the data. Once you’ve got your tallies, just submit them using the form below.

Probably Potter: Data Collection

After the event ends, I’ll compile the data, crunch some numbers, and report back with a detailed analysis about why probability sometimes seems so…improbable.

Sloom

Sloom. Intransitive. British, dialectal. To doze. Become weak. Drift along slowly.

I like the word intransitive. In middle school when I learned the word it didn’t mean much, but now I can tease it apart and dissect its meaning: trans across, in meaning opposite. It does not go across. It’s an action without object.

Adrift is a good word too. Describes the feeling nicely. Adrift in the ocean: a battered raft riding the waves, sun rays beating down, dehydration, head lolling off the side, tongue lapping at the waters–but if it’s salty, it’s like drinking death anyways.

Or maybe adrift in the air: like a bird gliding through an updraft, slung upward, seeing the ground far beneath it, but unable to do anything but lilt in the wind. Or adrift in space: an astronaut untethered, touched not by gravity. Total silence. Absolute abyss.

Or maybe, like me, adrift in my own head.

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Man in the Iron Masc

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

When I was six or seven, my aunt gave me a copy of The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas. It’s part of his D’Artagnan saga, most notably begun as the Three Musketeers. It’s a novel of historical adventure, with a political twist–not quite satire, but enough criticism it probably played a role in catalyzing the French Revolution.

The version I was given, however, was adapted for children. I never read it.

The book sat on my bookshelves for ages, and I probably still have it somewhere, stored away in a box in a closet probably, but because it was a gift, something given to me, I always felt obligated to read it. The intrigue was always present, if my interest in reading it was not: Who was this man? And why did he wear a mask made of iron?

The historical figure we may never know, but the fiction is a story all its own.

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Breaking the Binary

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

“Male or female?” The form is generic–it could be anything–but the question is as particular as it could get. Just two options. No room for black or white or grey. Just male or female. Or. The “either” is implied; the “both” is inconceivable.

For me, it doesn’t matter. I check the first box (because, after all, the male box always goes first) and carry on with my day without giving it a second thought. That’s because the sex I was assigned at birth is the sex I identify with. It’s a privilege often taken for granted, that when the doctor overseeing my birth wrote “male” on my birth certificate, it ended up describing me pretty well. Just like how the magazine printed on cheap newspaper in the checkout aisle looked at my birth date, said I’m a Gemini, and then stuck me in a box forever. Thankfully, that descriptor ended up pretty on point, too.

But all that means is I’m just one of the lucky ones.

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TERF Wars

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

It’s a logical dilemma, I told my friend Cole. We’ve been friends for over a decade–we met in an online writers forum and though we’ve never met in person, I consider Cole one of my closest friends. When you share your writing with someone, an intimacy develops that rivals romance, and Cole has not only shared but inspired my stories.

Cole is also trans, and while I was investigating transgender issues more deeply and hitting mental blocks of my own to better understand trans experiences, Cole was kind enough to let me lean into the discomfort and talk about the hard things.

Cole has also given me permission to share some of the words we exchanged, for which I’m especially grateful: Not only did their words help me understand things more deeply, they also said them far more eloquently than I ever could.

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Battle Lines

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

It’s raining today. The sky was overcast all morning as I nurtured a throbbing hangover. Last night was my first gay wedding. Well, it wasn’t my wedding, but of all the weddings I’ve been to, this was the first same-sex affair. It was a delight. The grooms hosted an amazing party, with delicious cupcakes and a well-stocked bar at a local staple of the “gay district” in Milwaukee, and two local drag queens performed. It was beautiful.

It was, in a word, progress.

There’s a reason why this was my first gay wedding: Up until a few years ago, same-sex marriage was still illegal in most of the country. But through advocacy and activism, through raising our shared voices and not just waiting for legislators to give equality, but facing the courts and demanding it, this battle was won.

But this battle, big as it was, is just a single front in a much larger, ongoing war.

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Queer Capitalism

This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.

The streets shine with rainbows. Pride flags wave in the wind, snapping back and forth in a sudden gale. LED screens flash in scrolling letters, “HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! <3 <3”

And yet, standing at the street corner, turning around to take in all the colors, I’m not smitten by feelings of inclusion, but concerned that I’m being commercialized.

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