Assorted insights

A day of interesting-to-me insights and thoughts. But no time/energy to write them up in any detail, so a couple of notes-to-self as reminders (each of these could be a full entry in itself if I had time and if I were more awake):

  • This morning, it suddenly occurred to me while I was driving that instead of my usual drive-consistently-4-to-5-MPH-over-the-speed-limit, I could try driving right at, or no more than 2 MPH above, the speed limit, and be in less of a hurry. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a change, but from an internal perspective, it’s an interesting new paradigm for me. Perhaps someday I’ll write more about why it’s interesting.
  • Thinking about that while driving this evening led me to realizing that one of the reasons I like rules is that they reduce the number of decisions I have to make, and I dislike making decisions. (This is a minor side note to a substantial entry about rules that I’ve written in my head many times over the last several years, and may someday manage to write outside of my head.)
  • When I’m playing games with kids, I generally don’t mind at all if they win; in fact, in some ways I’m happier if they win. But if I feel that they’re behaving badly in any of various ways while winning (especially if they’re winning by a lot), regardless of whether my perception of their behavior is accurate, it turns out that that pushes my buttons. (There was more to the situation tonight than that, but that was part of what was going on in my head.) There’s also something else there that I need to think about more to figure it out—something along the lines of: if I feel like the game was fair, and the other person played well, then I don’t mind losing, but if I feel like I never had a chance, that makes me grumpy. (That’s not entirely or always accurate, but it’s somewhere in the right direction. And it more or less applies to games with adults or with bots, too.) I think I can be more aware of my reactions and thus moderate them more; there’s almost never a good reason for my getting irritated and snappish with a kid over a game.
  • Speaking of games: I’ve known for a while that I don’t tend to like games that focus heavily on dice. But I only now consciously realized that a lot of the reason for that is that my perception of probability is flawed around dice. When I know that a particular roll has, say, an 80% chance of succeeding, then in my head that feels like it should always succeed. When I know that it has a slightly less than 50% chance of succeeding, then I get upset if it seems to me to happen a lot more than that (or a lot less than that). Somehow with cards I’m much more able to recognize how randomness works and be okay with it when I have bad luck; but with dice, bad luck feels unfair to me.
  • (Insert inchoate thoughts about fairness here, and about ways that privilege contributes to my beliefs about fairness, both in useful and in unfortunate ways.)
  • Up until the past couple years, in almost all of the donations that I made to organizations, I never had to think about their processing fees, because they handled those fees silently. In the past couple years, I more and more often see contexts where the processing fees are explicit, and it makes me feel surly, like I’m being cheated out of something. If I give $n to an organization, then I dislike all of the options: I don’t want the organization to receive less than the full $n, but I also don’t want to have to give more than $n in order to cover fees, but I also don’t want to have to write and mail a paper check. My thought today is that this is one of those areas where something has always been true, I was just blissfully unaware of it (or at least could easily avoid thinking about it), and I think my resentment has a lot to do with being forced to recognize that it’s true. I’m hoping that awareness of what’s going on in my head will help me to be more reasonable about it. (Also, maybe if I think of the fee as a convenience fee to let me not have to write a paper check, that might help.)
  • I’ve been moving very slowly on my current main project at work, and have been having a hard time figuring out why. Today I realized that part of the problem is that I’ve been anywhere from drowsy to half-asleep much of the time when I’ve tried to work on it, and that perhaps working on it when more awake might make it easier. (That’s not the only issue, but it might help some.)
  • I think there was something else, but I’m not remembering what.

That’s a lot for one day. I also folded and put away some laundry, spent some time with Mary Anne and Kevin and their kids, labeled some photos from 2014, had an interesting discussion at work, made some progress on the abovementioned work project (though not as much as I’d hoped), did a fair bit of driving, bought a couple of toys (a new stuffed animal and a tiny Rubik’s Cube, a little under an inch on a side), played a couple of computer games, ate vegan poke, and had a headache.

And now I should probably go do some overdue work for a morning meeting, but I also want to get some other stuff done. We’ll see.

2 Responses to “Assorted insights”

  1. irilyth

    The dice thing is interesting. Playing a lot of Titan, and then Button Men, helps with this a lot — people who play *some* Titan get the hang of the idea that if you roll twelve dice needing sixes, you’d “expect” to get two hits, but when you play a lot by e-mail, and have a handy Perl script to do these calculations, you learn that there’s an 11% chance you’ll get zero, and a 12.5% chance you’ll get four. Which aren’t big chances, but are going to happen more than never, and more to the point, let you say things like “I know I’m likely to get 2, but how bad would it be if I got 0?” and use that in your decision-making.

    (Also, sometimes your dad will still roll 6 sixes on eight dice, and one-punch your Titan with a damn *Troll*. Not that I am bitter, like thirty years later. :^)

    • Jed

      That all sounds very reasonable, but I’m not sure it would work for me—the main place where I’ve seen my skewed ideas about dice probability come up is from playing a lot of Dicewars over the past several years. I’ve looked at odds tables, so I know that (for example) an 8-against-8 attack has just under a 50% chance of success. So when the bot players win their 8-against-8 attacks on me about 75% of the time for a ten-minute period, that feels very unfair to me. Similarly, an 8-against-5 attack has about a 95% chance of success, but in my head, instead of “1 in 20 chance of failure,” I think of that as near-certainty, so each time I fail in such an attack, I get annoyed, because I feel like it should have worked.

      So I certainly ought to take the approach you described (“I know I’m likely to get 2, but how bad would it be if I got 0?”), but in practice my inaccurate gut feeling about how things should work tends to lead me to reacting badly when things don’t go the way I (inaccurately) expect them to.

      (I do sometimes explicitly calculate the probabilities of some things—for example, there’s a less than 1-in-64 chance of an opponent making six consecutive 8-against-8 successes, so each time it happens (which feels like fairly frequently, but that’s probably because I’m not paying attention to all the times it doesn’t happen), I think about how improbable it is.)


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