My remarks to the Virginia House of Delegates Constitutional Sub-committee in favor of redistricting reform (as prepared)

Thank you for the chance to speak.

I’m Sam Davies, a Richmonder, and volunteer with OneVirginia2021. I’m in favor of redistricting reform.

Gerrymandering isn’t the issue that I care about most, but it’s the issue I have to care about first. Whether you’re from the right or the left, you need to know that your concerns are heard by representatives who are as accountable to the People as possible.

I have two daughters, one 6 and one about to turn 10, and if anything they have a fundamental understanding of “fair”. When we talked over dinner last night about what I would be talking about today, I asked them what they’d think if they were about to play a game with someone and that other person got to change the rules before they started. They immediately recognized this as a grave injustice.

There’s another thing my daughters understand intuitively. If I walk into a room and catch them doing something they know is wrong, their dad won’t accept an excuse of “she did it first!” or “she’s doing it too!”. That’s what I see both Republicans and Democrats doing to excuse their behavior: “Well they do it too!”

We have a word for when those in power use that power to help themselves stay in power: that’s tyranny. And we know what Virginians do to tyrants.

My remarks to the Virginia House of Delegates Constitutional Sub-committee in favor of redistricting reform (as prepared)

I visit the Electoral College

I wrote about my trip to Virginia’s Electoral College for This Dang City:

Virginia law is extremely vague on any rules about the Electoral College and I wanted to see for myself. This is a vestigial but essential component of our constitutional republic and the general attitude towards it seems to be ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

http://thisdangcity.com/2016/12/27/mister-davies-goes-to-richmond-one-day-staring-at-virginias-electoral-college/

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Deleting Games

When does a video game cease being fun, and start being tedious? The answer for me is usually long before I actually realize the game isn’t fun anymore and I pump hours into a game when I should really be learning how to farm.

My brain chemistry is drawn to games with strategy, games with quick wins and losses, which allow me to try things out, fail quickly, and hone my skills. My brother-in-law and I have played countless hours of Carcassonne. I’ve probably played over one thousand games of Yahtzee solitaire against the optimizer. And most recently (until not twenty minutes ago, in fact) the game was Pokemon TCG on my iPad.

I started playing to learn the rules to play with my daughters. I kept playing because it was fun. I kept kept playing so I could earn enough “coins” for one more “pack”. It was fun trying out different decks and all that, but I realized I was just going through the motions as the strategy gets fairly repetitive. I realized I wasn’t having fun anymore, so I deleted it.

The other games my brain are drawn to are the high dopamine, just-one-more-turn type of game. These are the Civilizations, the World of Warcrafts, even grinding levels in a Final Fantasy. These games are RED ALERT, DO NOT TOUCH games that will suck weeks of my life from me in one go, like The Machine from The Princess Bride. I can’t play those games for just an hour, I can only play them in time measured by geologists.

So now I’ve got a text editor, and a blog to publish to… and Super Mario Run. Crap. I’ll talk to you after I finish getting all the black coins in World 3.

Deleting Games

Rooting for the Republic

Wil Wheaton on Star Wars and real republics:

I realized that the Republic — our Republic — is worth fighting for, and even though it feels like nothing matters at all right now, everything is terrible, and the forces of evil are going to get away with it because the so-called “leaders” in Congress put their party and their ambitions ahead of their patriotism — maybe because of that — it may soon be time to get off of Tatooine, and join the Rebel Alliance.

May the Force be with us.

http://wilwheaton.net/2016/12/help-me-obi-wan-kenobi-youre-my-only-hope/

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Habits

Here I am on a Friday afternoon, with a mild fever, having reorganized my OmniFocus and feeling more in control. What kicked me over the edge besides a week of feeling bad about myself? I figured out how to get my work’s corporate OneNote to open on my iPad. That’s it. That’s what it took today. The idea that I could do more of my work on my iPad made me finally get my external brain in order. Brains are weird.

I go in cycles. I’m simultaneously a creature of routine and one who rebels against routine. I organize myself in OmniFocus and live the “mind-like-water” life for a couple weeks, then I slip up somehow and say to myself, “System? I don’t need no stinking SYSTEM”. I’ll play with alternative systems—I’ll try to organize my work stuff solely in Outlook; I’ll try to use Reminders on iOS. I’ll do everything to avoid the actual getting things done part of Getting Things Done.

Some people’s default mode is doin’ stuff. My default mode is the opposite. I don’t think I can change that, but I can work to know myself better so that when I’ve got a burst of attention, I make the most of it, building good habits so that my downswings are tempered by mindless, but useful routine. And, when I’m in a valley, I recognize it and don’t beat myself up about it. That only makes it last longer.

What habits do I want to start?

Habits

Sam Recommends: The Tiffany Aching Books

I love reading the Tiffany Aching books to my kid. A young-adult series written by Terry Pratchett, we follow the early life of Tiffany Aching as she learns how to be a smart, helpful, independent woman (called a “witch”). The series starts when she’s nine, and ends when she’s stepping fully into adulthood.

Tiffany is smart, fierce, brave, dumb, and scared. She makes mistakes, but demands to clean up her own messes. She almost always solves problems in ways you don’t expect, in ways that aren’t so much tricksey, but her not bowing to narrative convention or expectations—her making the world the way it should be.

I couldn’t recommend this series without also mentioning the Nac Mac Feegles, little blue fairy folk with Scottish accents (written phonetically). They drink, fight, and steal, but are immensely loyal to Tiffany and have a very strict moral code for their own definition of morals. Their leader, Rob Anybody, and his brother Daft Wullie, have lead to many shared guffaws with my kid.

Pick up these books wherever books are picked up.

The Wee Free Men

A Hat Full of Sky

The Wintersmith

I Shall Wear Midnight

The Shepard’s Crown

Sam Recommends: The Tiffany Aching Books

6 Months a Bus Rider

I’ve been commuting on GRTC regularly for nearly 6 months now, and I still like it. It’s now my habit and I can’t imagine having to get to work any other way.

Some observances:

  • I don’t like driving. Taking the bus every day has made me recognize how much I don’t like driving a car. I know I’m normally all about things I DO like, but I get no direct joy from operating a motor vehicle. Having to drive somewhere at these days feels like a chore (probably because most of my remaining car trips are chores)
  • I’ll happily take 30 minutes of playing on my iPad sitting on the bus over 15 minutes driving myself home. That decompression after a work day is exactly what I need to arrive at my family ready to be immediately present with them. After driving a car home, I’d often have to “take a minute” to myself.
  • There’s a freedom that comes with not worrying about where you’re going to park. Much like a mild chronic back ache, you don’t realize you have it until someone takes the pain away.
  • I greatly value businesses on my route to and from the bus, or generally in walking distance. I can stop and do those “pick something up on the way home” errands at Little House Green Grocery or my local drug/beer store. I’m even considering changing my primary doctor not because he’s bad at his job, but because his office is near Short Pump.
  • I’m fully in favor of the Richmond Transit Network Plan and the “High Ridership” model. That model emphasizes bus frequency over stopping on every block. This means, practically, that you might have to walk two more blocks to a stop, but most busses will come every 15 minutes. I take the Magic 37 and walk a kilometer home rather than take the direct bus because the Magic 37 comes every 15 minutes and I don’t have to worry about missing it.

I’d love Richmond to become a city where not having a car is a stress-neutral choice for its citizens. It’s there for me, and with the Transit Network Plan we can get there for more, if not most, Richmonders.

6 Months a Bus Rider