These Clocks are Still Broken

Tomorrow, some of my clocks will be wrong. But that will not be their fault. They will keep time correctly. That’s what a clock should do. A clock keeps time.

But for some reason, society demands we use the clocks that do their job wrong—the clocks that insist after 1:59 comes 1:00, contrary to the basic laws of arithmetic.

Clocks are not a political tool. Clocks should not be used to nudge our sleep and wake times. If we fail to use daylight to its maximum extent, then what should be changed are our work and school hours, not our clocks.

In a few hours, we change to standard time again. This time, let’s keep it that way.

(Please see last year’s post, This Clock is Broken, for a more pragmatic argument against Daylight Saving Time.)

An Argument for Honesty

Whenever I was rejected—from a university, an audition, a job, a date, some other application, or really any other purpose—the rejection letter or statement was always sweetened up. A common theme in these rejection statements is that “we were humbled by your talents and achievements,” or that “you have our very best wishes.” Obviously, these statements are not entirely genuine. They exist to soothe the pain of rejection.

In the past, I have found myself in a position where I can only accept a proper subset of all applicants for a position. I have myself sent out some of these canned rejection letters to applicants. Not all of the statements contained within the letters were truthful. Certainly, I did not believe that every applicant was “exceptionally talented and qualified”, although the letters asserted that they were.

I did not hesitate in sending the rejection letters, even though their content was mostly false statements. I was literally lying to the rejected applicants. Because the statements were subjective, the lies were not incredibly misleading. Even so, they were made with the intention to conceal my true feelings.

Is it ethical to lie, if the goal is to make someone feel better? Not hurting someone’s feelings is certainly a good thing. But it inhibits others’ ability to act on accurate information. They may believe that the sole reason for rejection was bad luck, and not some other more fundamental issue, and therefore they may find it difficult to improve and increase their future chances. By deciding to hide the truth, I have also made an implicit judgement that they are unable to handle the truth, and that they would not have the self-control and maturity to handle raw criticism. In this sense, by lying, I am devaluing their status as rational, human minds and treating them almost as if they are children.

Perhaps a major reason for the desire to sugar-coat the rejection letters is my own selfishness. If I had been honest in sending the letters, then I would likely have made some people mad. My future relations with them may be sour and toxic. On the other hand, by sending out rejection letters carefully worded to minimize pain, I increase the recognition of my name and its association with helpfulness and kindness. This in turn increases the chance that I will have positive relations with those people.

The desire to have positive relationships is in turn self-serving, because I hope that I will get enjoyment or other benefits from these relationships. It causes a vicious cycle with positive repercussions for me: my reputation will improve, which will cause others to have higher opinions of me, which will further improve the depth and breadth of my relationships, and that will improve my reputation.

Perhaps, then, selfishness is a good explanation for why I lied in the rejection letters: it was a calculated move to shield me from anger and instead foster better relationships with others. I wish I could defend my actions as being true and honest, but frankly, my words were about as dishonest as possible.

Of course, I am not the one to blame for dishonesty in rejections. It has become a societal convention that all rejections must include statements of praise, allegedly for soothing the pain. I was, for the most part, merely following this convention. However, dishonesty is probably not the best policy. The rejection letters are sent to mature and rational human beings, and it is most respectful to treat them as mature beings capable of knowing the truth, because in the end that will help them more.

I should have instead included a reason for rejection—not coated with vitriol but not coated with sugar either—stating the facts about why the decision was made. A letter containing that information, such as “Your application was rejected because you have not achieved the required years of experience,” is more informative and more honest, and by and large more ethical.

I look forward to being rejected in the future. Perhaps, just perhaps, I won’t be lied to.

Liquid — A simple board game

I’m working on a new open-source game: liquid. It’s going to be a simple board game with simple mechanics but strategic gameplay.

The game is played on a 4 by 4 board, with 16 grid cells in total. Each grid cell is separated from neighbouring grid cells by walls of varying strength. The stronger walls are coloured purple, and the weaker walls are coloured red.

A four-by-four grid of cells, each with walls of varying colours.

When you hover over a square, the weakest edge of that square is highlighted in a lighter colour.

The players, blue and green, take turns clicking on squares. When a square is clicked, the player to move adds a third-square of liquid to the square. If Blue is to move, the liquid added will be blue, and if Green is to move, the liquid added will be green. Players can only click on empty squares or squares with their colour of liquid; players cannot put their liquid on opponent’s squares.

When a square is full, the player whose liquid has filled the square can click it again to destroy the weakest wall (think of it as the water pressure building up). This action will merge two squares, and is called an “explosion”. If the other square had liquid in it, it’s converted to the moving player’s colour.

Green's square is full, and the square below it is partially blue.

On Green’s move, he or she can click the full green square to merge it with another region. The weakest wall is the edge below that square.

Note that it takes three clicks to fill a square. The fourth click, which blows up the square, does not actually add any water. Therefore, it takes four clicks to explode a square with another.

One two-by-one square, four sixths of which are filled with green liquid.

Green has now moved to explode the full square. The blue liquid is converted to green liquid, and the liquid volumes are summed. Note that no additional liquid is added with this click.

Now, these two squares are functionally one region. It can be merged with neighbouring squares once it fills up, and indeed a neighbouring square might just merge with it first. Regions can also merge with other regions to form bigger regions. Regions get progressively bigger as the game progresses, until one player no longer has a legal move. That player loses the game.

In liquid, it’s common for vast regions to change hands quickly. The strategy in the game is to claim squares wisely, based off how regions can be attacked or defended. That’s where consideration of edge strengths come in.

If you try this game out, I welcome any and all feedback on any aspect of the game: the gameplay, the UI, the instructions, etc. This game is in active development and I hope to make it great.