October 32nd, Part 3: Personal Reality

Continued from Part 2

After hearing Carrie tell the story of Alex, the alien who became US President in this reality with an October 32nd, I sat there stunned for several minutes. Both at the radical shift in my entire concept of the universe — and at her amazingly concise summary of such an extraordinary series of events!

“Did you really just figure all that out while you were watching TV?” I asked.

She actually blushed when I said that. I couldn’t help noticing this made her several notches more attractive than I had initially thought. Read the rest of this entry »


October 32nd, Part 2: Political Alienation

Continued from Part 1

An hour later I am sitting In a coffee shop with the girl, Carrie. I don’t remember ever seeing her before, but that is hardly unusual in a university of 50,000+ students. Also. she isn’t exactly my type, I note with a wistful recollection of last night’s redhead.

But, she might be the only human being in this reality who won’t question my sanity. Plus, as an early riser, she seems way more on top of things than I am. Maybe she has some idea why we both woke up in a world where it was October 32nd, and an alien was President of the United States.

So, after the first round of shock wears off, I offer to buy her breakfast while she fills me in. She agrees instantly, perhaps as relieved as I am to find someone to talk about this with.

“As best I can determine, this reality was the same as ours until the start of the most recent Presidential election. Well, almost the same. For no obvious reason, October has apparently always had 32 days, while November had 29.”

Turns out Carrie is a history major, so she knows whereof she speaks. The extra day shifted the week of a few elections, but otherwise all the historical events she spot-checked had dates identical to what she remembered. And from what I can tell, she has an excellent memory, and a mind to match.

“The deviation began about three years ago, with the emergence of two bloggers: a Republican called Pat, and a Democrat named Kris. Both quickly amassed major social media followings with their quick wits and incisive commentary. Neither had a picture or appeared in videos, though from their voices the media inferred Pat was a man from Texas and Kris a woman from New York. There was a long-running conspiracy theory that they were a pair of teenage siblings a la Peter and Valentine Wiggins, but few people took that seriously.

“They both scrupulously avoiding mentioning the other until a year before the election, when they jointly released a hilarious animation parodying the intellectual shallowness of both parties front-runners. The combination of Pat’s earthy bombast and Kris’s erudite snarkiness made them a crossover hit.

“Grassroots movements immediately began to draft them as presidential candidates for their respective parties. Numerous polls placed them in the top tiers of the early running, despite a lack of formal campaigns.

“They played coy for months, but finally agreed to a live-streamed debate between them a week before the first primaries. The Internet went crazy not just because of the implied reveal, but because they agreed that the winner would formally run for President.

“The debate began with both participants visible as vague silhouettes on the extreme left and right of the stage. Each of them clearly and concisely articulated a platform solidly in their parties mainstream, with enough flair to appeal to extremists but the right amount of nuance to reassure moderates. After that, however, they launched devastatingly precise critiques of each other’s position. The shadowy figures moved closer as tempers and volume rose, until they appear to lunge at each other in unrestrained fury.

“The violence of their grappling seemed to buffet the screen until it finally fell over revealing… our alien, who called himself Alex. Dressed in a suit as we see him now, the alien explained that he has three brains. The brains called Pat and Kris had devoted themselves to understanding the two major parties, and used the tentacles on their side to create the shadow-puppet silhouettes.

“Alex explained that he was from a planet a hundred light-years away whose three races had almost destroyed themselves until scientists created a hybrid entity able to
empathize with all three sides. After saving their civilization, they immediately began visiting nearby planets to offer their services as mediators. However, they eventually learned it was easier to demonstrate how to lead with empathy than to explain it. So the three parents of Pat-Alex-Kris (“PAK”) were sent here 40 years ago so he could be a native-born citizen and eventually run for President.

“The rest, as they say, was history. The Supreme Court ruled that yes, he was eligible to run for President; his human guardian, the talk-show host known as “William the Red” somehow managed to produce a fully legitimate birth certificate.

“Alex won in a landslide. He took office in January on a centrist platform, and has had a surprisingly uneventful presidency. Until this morning, when he promised to unveil a landmark announcement. Tonight.”

To Be Continued


October 32nd, Part 1: The Day that Never Was

Maybe I drank too much.

Okay, yeah, I definitely did drink too much. I woke up with the mother of all hangovers. But that still isn’t enough to explain what happened.

Maybe it was the witch. But of course, she couldn’t have really been a witch. Just a sexy redhead in a store-bought witch’s costume. Perhaps she cast a spell on me, but that’s hardly unusual at a sorority Halloween party. She didn’t even take me back to her room or feed me a potion. I’ve gone over it in my mind a hundred times, and I still can’t find any way to pin it on her.

Still, there’s no denying Something must have happened. Even if nobody believes it but me.

I woke up in my rumpled bed; severely hung over, as mentioned before. My roommate was gone for the weekend, so I stumbled over to our kitchenette for a glass of water. I remember wondering whether a Bloody Mary might help, then realizing we were out of tomato juice.

It took a while for my fogged brain to figure out what was funny about our calendar. I remember thinking that I should probably flip it over to November. But then I corrected myself, as October obviously wasn’t over. Yesterday was Saturday, October 31st. Today was Sunday.

October 32nd.

Once my brain grasped the incongruity of what I was seeing, my first thought was the same as yours: one of my buddies must be gaslighting me. I padded back to the bedroom on bare feet and strapped on my Apple watch. I punched in the passcode to unlock it and checked the date.

October 32nd.

I scrolled through and changed the watch face, to make sure it wasn’t just a photo. But no, the watch really believed it was October 32nd. I checked my phone and laptop, and they both said the exact same thing.

Still, I’m just a lowly PoliSci major. How the hell do I know what hackers over in CompSci might be able to pull off? Jeremy, for example. He was a whiz with all these Apple gadgets. I could totally imagine him pulling a stunt like this, just to show he could.

We don’t have a TV, so I try to remember where I might be able to go buy a newspaper. I consider checking the web, but figure whoever hacked my computer probably installed some widget to make the browser rewrite all the dates.

Then I remember the TV in the basement of the Student Union. Its never used at this hour of Sunday morning, and I doubt Jeremy even knows it exists. I could just turn on the Weather Channel and get confirmation of today’s date.

In the back of my mind, part of me is wondering why I am so obsessed with disproving this date hack. But the rest of me tells that part to shut up. I shower, change, and stuff some dry Cheerios into my belly. Need to remember to buy some milk.

The quad is mostly empty, just scattered groups of well-dressed kids heading off to church together. I consider asking one of them what the date is, but I don’t want to come across as nutty as Ebenezer Scrooge.

I finally make it to the Union, and climb down the deserted stairs to the basement. Nobody seems to be there, but I can hear noise coming from the TV. Good; it is so rarely used, I was afraid it may have broken down or simply been scrapped.

It seems to be tuned to one of those 24-hour news channels. Which is fine, they probably have a running ticker with the date and time, right? I can just confirm the correct date, laugh at the cleverness and perversity of my friends, then get on with my life.

Except that’s not what happens.

As I enter the lounge, I receive two shocks. Make that three.

First, as you have no doubt guessed, I see the aforementioned ticker, and damn if it doesn’t also say October 32nd.

Second, the room isn’t empty. There’s a petite blonde sitting in the back corner, almost hidden behind an overstuffed sofa. She has some sort of journal in her lap, and appears to be scribbling furiously while glancing up at the screen.

The big shock, though, is what is happening on the screen.

“Holy shit!” says I.

“Oh, thank God,” responds the girl in back, glancing up at me. “You see it too! I was afraid I was the only one.”

I nod absently to acknowledge her, unable to tear my eyes off the TV. It is a scene from the White House. It looks like an ordinary press briefing. The usual crowd of correspondents are pestering the President with their questions.

But not the President I remember. The suit is the same: conservative navy blue pinstripe, double-breasted. Even the tie seems familiar: diagonal stripes, thick blue, thin red, white edging.

But the being wearing them, deftly answering questions as if nothing unusual is happening, is an alien. An honest-to-God, green-skinned, tentacled, bug-eyed alien.

To Be Continued


Beyond Personal Freedom

Freedom was the rallying cry of the American Revolution. And that vision of Freedom is truly God’s gift to the world.

But the worm in that apple of Freedom was always the word “personal…”

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RTFM: The Revolutionary Transparency Manifesto

  1. Asymmetric information is the key enabler of structural injustice

  2. In the absence of information monopolies, the only competitive advantage is asymmetric virtue

  3. Transparent ecosystems inevitably outcompete information hoarders

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Andy Stanley’s Five Question Decision Filter

Andy Stanley 5 questions Christians should ask before decision – The Christian Post

  • First, people should ask themselves, “Why am I doing this?”
  • Second, it’s important to ask, “What story do I want to tell?” — in other words, think “ultimate rather than immediate.”
  • Third, he advised asking, “Is there a tension that deserves my attention?”
  • The fourth question believers should ask is: “What is the wise thing to do?”
    — “In light of my past experience, what is the wise thing for me to do?
    — In light of my current circumstances and state of mind, what is the wise thing for me to do?
    — In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?”
  • Finally, the pastor encouraged people to ask themselves, “What does love require of me?”

Asker/Responder Chain

The A/R Chain is a online communication protocol to help groups deal with emotionally-charged situations when there isn’t a neutral moderator they all trust.

Asker/Responder Protocol

  1. Asker asks Responder:
    1. What are you seeing? (Perceptions)
    2. What are you feeling? (Reactions)
    3. What do you want/wish for? (Aspirations)
  2. Asker comments using “I like/I wonder”
  3. Responder elaborates (and Asker comments, etc.)
  4. Asker asks Responder: “Are you done?”
  5. When yes, Responder becomes the next Asker
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Ultimate Harmony

The ultimate purpose and measure of mental, emotional, and spiritual health is a Harmonious Self, where each Part relates constructively to the Other.

The ultimate purpose and measure of political, economic, and cultural health is a similarly Harmonious Society.

The ultimate purpose and measure of parenting, education and religion is our ability to become Harmonious Selves who co-construct more Harmonious Societies. Read the rest of this entry »


Online Reconciliation Circles

Online Reconciliation Circles are a novel format for modeling constructive dialogue on difficult topics. The goal is to provide a safe place to explore better approaches to polarizing issues, starting with systemic racism.

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THS-4H: Systemic Virtue

America is facing a long-overdue reckoning with issues related to racism and inequity. Again. In fact, this seems to happen every fifty years or so:

  • The American Revolution
  • Jacksonian Democracy
  • The American Civil War
  • Women’s Suffrage
  • Civil Rights
  • #BlackLivesMatter

While there has certainly been progress, I have this ugly suspicion that the way we solved each crisis led directly to the next one. While numerous individual benefited from each of those reforms, there is a nagging sense that whole populations are still as disenfranchised as ever.

Can we do better? I believe so — but it won’t be easy. We remain trapped by the codependency between 18th-century ideologies, currently represented by capitalist conservatism and Marxist liberalism. We need a breakthrough vision of what a good society could be in order to guide our efforts in a more constructive direction.

Below is my first draft of such a vision, building on my earlier THS-IPA: A Game-Theoretic Model of Transformation. I welcome your feedback!

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