Sunday, December 16, 2012

Telling it like it is

What do you think is the best way to tell your friends that you have depression. I'm struggling very much with this right now. 

Allow me to answer your question with a question - Why do you want to tell your friends? I ask this not to put you on the spot or make you doubt your decision, but because the why will have an important impact on the how.

Likely your friends, when you tell them, will be confused and uncertain, and they will take their cues on how to react from you. This gives you an enormous opportunity to frame your illness in whatever way you desire.

If you don't want it to be a big deal, and you want your friends to keep treating you the same way, just mention it casually, like "Oh man, I just got back from the doctor and apparently I have depression. That really sucks."

If you're looking for support and comfort, then you can take your friends aside (either one by one or separately), sit them down on a couch and say "Look, I have something to tell you. I have depression, and I'm going to need some help getting through this."

Whatever you do, you shouldn't beat yourself up if things don't go exactly right. For all the power there is in framing your own experiences, you can't actually control how people are going to react. Maybe you'll try and play it casual, and one of your friends will over-react and start wailing and gnashing their teeth. Or maybe you'll be super serious and one of your friends will get uncomfortable and try and diffuse the situation with an inappropriate joke.

If they do those things, it doesn't mean that you did anything wrong. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and if you don't want to keep it private, you have every right to talk about it as much as you like. (Or as little. You are not obligated to tell anyone if you don't want to. It is entirely reasonable to keep it as something between you and your doctor, if that's your preference.)

I guess the thing to remember is that presumably the reason these people are your friends is because you like and trust them, and thus, even if they don't react the way you want them to, the probable worst case scenario is that they react in ways that are consistent with the reasons you like and trust them in the first place. And if that is the case, then there is no wrong way to tell them except the way that feels wrong for you.

Finally, with all that being said, my main advice is that you not rely on the advice of some random internet weirdo, and, if this remains a problem for any length of time, to discuss this issue with your doctor or therapist. They have experience in this sort of thing, and can point you in the direction of further educational and supportive resources.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gagging Mr Spock

ivicia from asks

How to approach fixing the burden of bad experience that fills you with stress and makes you avoidant ,
its irrational so its very problematic.

Im up for any practical, philosophical, or metaphorical advice you can share.

Thank you. 

I hate Mr. Spock. I know, I know, it's nerd heresy, but despite the fact that he's cool, and funny, and heroic, that's how I feel. See, Mr. Spock says emotions are illogical, and that offends me. Not as a romantic, or a humanist, but as a logician. Logic doesn't work like that.

The only thing logic can do is preserve the truth value of arguments. This can be very powerful, but it is also limited. Logic cannot tell you what goals are worth pursuing, what facts are true, or what values are worth having (unless, of course, any of those things contradicts established truth).

In a broader sense, this is true of rationality as well. It can tell you the best course of action, but only you can define what "best" actually means. Your feelings are not irrational, they're pre-rational. They are not conclusions, they are premises. And treating them like premises will give you enormous power.

Take the true statement "Mt Everest is very tall." What is the logical conclusion we can draw from this fact? Trick question - it depends entirely on our additional premises. Consider the difference in the following arguments:

Mt Everest is very tall
I want to climb Mt Everest
Therefor I should gather equipment and assistance


Mt Everest is very tall
I hate climbing
Therefor I should choose a new destination for my vacation

In each case, the meaning of the first premise is defined by the context provided by the second. In the first argument, "Mt Everest is very tall" is an obstacle in the second, it is a warning.

What is your second premise? Because if all you want to do is minimize stress, then your feelings are a warning, and nothing to be ashamed of. Avoiding things that cause you stress is a rational reaction. In fact, people do it all the time. It's the reason I don't hang out with drug addicts and only drive my car when I have somewhere I absolutely need to be. Cutting yourself off from things that make you unhappy can be a very mature response.

I'm guessing, though, that you have other goals, and that your stress is stopping you from doing things that you want to do. In that case, remember - your stress is an obstacle, and obstacles can be overcome. Which is not to say that you can charge through on pure willpower, but rather, that you can plan around it. You can seek the assistance of friends, family, or professional counselors. You wouldn't climb Everest without a Sherpa guide, you don't need to confront your stress alone.

On a more practical note, I find what helps me is to remember that people can only see the outside, and that if I can force my body to go through the motions, that can be good enough. If something needs doing, it doesn't matter if I'm cool or suave or sexy while I'm doing it. I'm not James Bond, I don't get extra points for sang froid.

Whatever you do - don't beat yourself up for having feelings. You inhabit a body whose internal meat computer is programmed to register distress when it is reminded of previous bad experience. This is not something you can change. It is a value-neutral fact about the world. So save your rationality for where it might do some good - in formulating your response.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

To Geek or not to Geek

Here's a letter from's Radiant Song

Can you please recommend well-written and engagingly characterized novels, especially in science fiction, fantasy, or horror, that cite genuine philosophers as the characters explore ways of coping with existential angst?

In other words, I'm looking for genre novels that might make me feel better over being alive despite my life being meaningless and without strategic value. 

This question was a bit tricky, because while I could do some online research to find works which match your criteria (Stanislaw Lem seems to come up a lot, btw), I wouldn't really be able to vouch for the quality of those books. Thus, in the interest of honesty, I will restrict myself to books I've actually read.

Unfortunately, the pickings there are slim. The problem is that while there is a lot of overlap between philosophy and the themes of genre fiction (for example, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is heavily indebted to philosophical modernism), there is relatively little direct cross-pollination (for example, Renee Descartes is not mentioned once in the entire Matrix trilogy).

The only thing I can think of which exactly matches your specifications is the fiction of Albert Camus. Though they are more interested in establishing the limits of existentialism than in coming up with any concrete answers, some of his works do feature genre elements (No Exit is set in hell, for instance). If you're really interested in the intersection between popular fiction and philosophy, it might be better to come at it from the other side. I've found the Pop Culture and Philosophy series to mostly tread the line between lay-accessible, but not dumbed-down philosophy, and sheer geekery with admirable aplomb. In particular, I think you might enjoy the essay in Star Wars and Philosophy where Yoda and Emperor Palpatine are compared to the ideal stoic sage.

However, if you'll permit me to address the why instead of the what of your question, I can offer some (admittedly vague) advice. The quest for meaning is deeply personal, and philosophy, in general, is not especially helpful in the pursuit. The key is to find what inspires you, what gives you joy and hope, and to go after it with passion and fortitude. If a work lacks that spark, it doesn't matter how philosophical it is, it's not going to do you any good.

I'm thinking, specifically, of something like Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy's tale of utopian communism, which, depending on your political views, might be either an optimistic and inspiring look at the future, or a naive oversimplification of complex economic problems (I think it's probably both, though, regardless of your politics, it's certainly worth a read purely to see what an educated 19th century man thought the year 2000 might look like).

With that caveat in mind, I can recommend two books I've read in the last year which, while not directly citing historical philosophers, nonetheless dealt with philosophical themes in a way I found personally moving.

The first is A Door Into Ocean, a novel which deals with the conflict between a pacifist and militaristic society, and explores the implications of nonviolent resistance, humanity's interaction with the environment, and the individual's relationship to death and suffering. In addition, it does some unique things with biotech, and the author has a great eye for detailed world-building.

The second is How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, a time travel story about the nature of regret. Its themes of predestination, thwarted ambition, and creeping middle age are probably more resonant with me than they would be with someone just the slightest bit younger or older, but the end is hopeful, even if the main character's problems are not entirely solved.

But beyond those specific suggestions, I think what will help you most is the quest itself. So don't stop looking, and maybe, one day, you'll look back and realize that the search for meaning was the meaning you were searching for.

Gangsta Love

Here's a letter from Boco, via

I am writing a short story in which the characters go on a series of increasingly ill-advised, illegal, and potentially dangerous dates, starting with breaking into a Build-a-Bear Workshop after hours and culminating in a bank robbery that goes south. I want about three other dates in between those to casually mention and not really dwell on in detail. What are your suggestions? 

There's not a whole lot of room between breaking and entering and bank robbery, so if you want a steady escalation, you might want to start a little lower on the crime scale, but if you don't mind an uneven progression, I do have some ideas.

The danger and ill-advisedness of these dates need not be directly tied to their illegality. You could have the danger be due to the terrain, as with a case of romantic vandalism where your characters might have to climb a public monument to spraypaint their message of love near the top. Alternately, the danger could come from other criminals. Gambling in an underground casino, or even playing on a playground after hours (when the park is taken over by drug dealers, prostitutes, and their customers) both present certain risks.

Finally, if your characters are psychopathic enough to go for it, even the most mundane and domestic activities can be ill-advised and dangerous if done as part of a home invasion. Snuggling on the couch, making fajitas from leftover chicken, or dancing to a romantic song on the radio are downright creepy if you have a family of hostages tied up in the other room (and, if you're going for something a little more innocent, they are still pretty damned criminal if the homeowners are away on vacation).

I hope that helped, and good luck with your story.

Tragedy is When I Cut my Finger

Here's one from's Donald K:

Okay, I was trying to drill some (nice) holes in the floor and ceiling. I was going to, you know, put some... like, trim or something on the holes, so they look nice. Then I was going to thread some ethernet cords and stuff in there, so I could get internet upstairs.

Anyway, while I was drilling through the floor, I drilled into a man who'd moved into the floor between the ground floor and the second floor.

So can you help me with any of this stuff? I mean, I don't know what to put around the holes so they look nice, and I'm not really sure what kind of router or cords I want, or if I can even plug them into the PC upstairs, and man, I feel like I really shouldn't be held responsible for the guy in the floor, since there really wasn't any way I could have known he was there beforehand. I kind of think I should just be able to leave him there, but I don't want to get, like, arrested for that. That would really suck.

Also, I think I might have hit a pipe and maybe some electrical stuff when I tried drilling a different hole. There's some water dripping onto the floor, and I got a bit of an electric shock. Know anything about that?

I'm honestly having some trouble visualizing your situation. Someone was living between the ground and second floor of your house? Do you mean the first floor, or are you going with the American convention, and this man was living in-between the floor and ceiling? If it's the first case, there's nothing you can do. The landlord will notice eventually and the police are very good at building a case even from trace amounts of blood.

If it's the second, then what you should do is report this incident to the authorities. Living inside someone's floor is so strange that they're sure to believe you when you tell them it was an accident, and you'll get in far less trouble for that then you would if you were caught covering it up.

As to your other problems, I don't think trying to decorate the holes is going to be very productive. They're holes, you know? Even on the best of days they're not going to be attractive. You'd be better off trying to conceal them. A decorative rug or screen might work best, but you might also consider getting a terracotta planting pot from a garden store and then running your cables through the holes in the bottom. The pot itself could then be filled with anything you think is interesting or pretty, like glass beads or artificial plants. You don't need to worry about your cord fitting your PC, because ethernet cables are standardized, so it's simply not possible to get the wrong kind.

Finally, hire a plumber and an electrician. The cost is annoying, I know, but water damage is no joke, and messing around with electricity when you don't know what you're doing is a sure fire way to get yourself hurt.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I'll Probably get Caned for this One

Another one from, courtesy of AikiGhost:

Is it ok to cane your submissive till they use their safeword just because you want to take them past what they can handle? 

I went back and forth on this issue for quite some time. On the one hand, part of the submissive fantasy is being out of control, and possibly going past what you can handle. Furthermore, the whole reason you have a safeword in the first place is to put a stop to something that is going too far. On the other hand, just because you're submissive doesn't mean you automatically consent to everything your dom tries to do to you, and if you've already established and negotiated a certain pattern of interaction, then suddenly and unilaterally changing the rules might feel like a betrayal, even if the safeword is uttered.

So, on the balance, I wouldn't. What you should do instead is talk to your partner. I know it doesn't seem as sexy or dominant to do it that way, but presumably, this person you're caning is someone you care about, and the trust you've established in your relationship is far too important to risk. The fact is that there are only a limited number of reasons not to discuss this in advance.

Either you are too embarrassed to admit your true desires, which seems unlikely to me, and in any event unnecessary (seriously, this person is letting you cane them, I doubt that there is much that would shock them). Or you really want to do this, and you're afraid your partner won't go for it, in which case the need to talk is doubly important (the "it is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission" philosophy does not apply to sexual activities - even when dominance play is involved.)

Or, you might sincerely believe that not asking first will make it better for your partner. I can't say that you're wrong about this, because it certainly seems plausible to me and you would know your partner best, but even under this best case scenario, you're still not letting your partner decide for themselves, and that can be infantilizing. Your partner is an adult, and they deserve a chance to own their own sexual fantasies.

Nonetheless, if you do go ahead without talking about it, my advice would be to tread carefully. At the start of the session, warn your partner about your intent to push their limits and take your time ramping up the intensity. That way, if they discover they like it, they will feel like they had some collaborative stake in the experience, and if they don't like it, they will not feel as if you ambushed and trapped them into doing something they didn't want to do.

Above all, remember that the key to any grown-up relationship is mutual respect, and that being a submissive involves a massive amount of trust. It is your job as a responsible dom to be worthy of that trust.

Precious Cargo

This question comes from Giel M, via

What's the most efficient way to transport large amounts of beer on the back of a bicycle? 

That depends on what you mean by "large amounts" and what you mean by "efficient."  I am going to assume that you want some combination of maximizing speed and minimizing effort and risk of spillage.

Your method should vary depending on the amount of beer you want to transport. If we're talking about a single twenty-four pack of cans, it would probably be most efficient to remove the cans from the package and place them in a backpack. Depending on how much space was left in the backpack, you might want to fill any empty space with wadded up paper towels to keep the cans from shaking in transit.

For multiple cases, a cargo rack would be best. These are attached to the back of a bicycle, and when properly loaded, will not disrupt your center of balance. Just remember to securely fasten the beer (hint: if you think it's too tight, it's probably not), and to take into account your greater mass and lower agility when navigating.

 A cross-section of cargo racks.

If we're talking about a keg, you'll probably have to go with a trailer. These are not too expensive, about 100-200 USD, but I can't attest to how they affect the riding experience.