Free men are not equal, equal men are not free.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Girl Friday

For the appreciation of aesthetic beauty...


While I have a scheduled item or two going up, I am traveling out of town with very limited computer access this weekend. Hope you all are well, I'll pick back up Monday.

What is Not Seen - Offshoring and Tribal Knowledge, Security

Peter Grant references an article by David Hunt on the impact of offshoring. In it, I saw this little comment by Vox (italics for emphasis):
And while I can, on an intellectual basis, appreciate the economic arguments in favor of offshoring – like the one put forth by scholar Walter E. Williams, a man whose views I generally admire, here, – I will counter that the greatest global economic good does not necessarily equal the greatest American good.  Nor does it take into account other factors like national security concerns.
Now, this is a pet peeve of mine, where efficiency, and long term resiliency and survivability don't mesh up, something I had begun hashing out even before reading Taleb's book on Antifragile systems. And if you believe that a nation has a right to exist, then yes, national security concerns are one of those long-term things you factor in. Whether or not you believe a nation has a right to exist, if you don't factor those in, then whatever nation/culture you are a part of will cease to exist because someone else will take advantage of your lack of foresight.

This strikes to the heart of several issues which, in and of themselves are not a big deal, but in concert, result in our culture and nation dying away, both due to demographic replacement as we chase career and alternate sexualities over family and children, and as we refuse to defend that which we have, and ensure we keep our capabilities to produce in the future. It's not just about not looking past the next quarter, or even year to prioritize long term viability of the company vice immediate profits. It's not just being dependent on other people for your raw materials or parts.

It's about security, it's about "tribal knowledge".

One example - I get it, the US Post Office is a "waste" - and bluntly, it's not terribly competitive. And even if every single USPS customer went to Fedex or UPS, I'd still argue in favor of keeping it. Why?

Let's step back a minute and take a look at what the post office is. Much like Guy Kawasaki pointed out that Honda wasn't a car company, or a mower company, or a motorbike company, but an engine company...

The USPS is a secure communication medium controlled by and beholden to the US government. Even if no other customers used it, it is theirs.

Ditto other similar wastes of money - train tracks or runway sites sufficient for large jets at places not commercially viable. The highway system. Sure, these provide a means for people to better do what they needed to do and transport goods, or have additional safety landing sites, but they also provide the logistical backbone to move goods across the country in the event of a war, or other national-scope disaster that is within federal scope of action.

In the Navy we referred to "tribal knowledge" - that knowledge passed on within the command as a whole as well as its subgroupings - auxiliary machinists, nuke machinists, electricians, etc. - about how things worked, what would get you in trouble, how to fix or deal with particular issues. A lot of it was accumulated over years and experience, and passed on to rising junior members.

A command had people, from top to bottom, knew intimately how everything worked. Officers were exposed to enough rising from their JO positions to at least (generally, of course)* ask their chiefs and petty officers, and chiefs and firsts had done bearing rollouts, worked the evaporator, etc., and knew the issues that didn't show up in the manuals.

We've seen in computer companies like Dell that basically slap their label on someone else's hardware, the fall to and below mediocrity that accompanies no longer designing from the ground up, at low level detail, nevermind building, their own product. All in the name of efficiency. The same thing can be seen at steel mills, etc.

Making parts isn't just about the final part, it's knowing how it fits together, how to manufacture it, etc. Companies that lose sight of the low-level detail become just another value-added vendor that is easily replaced.

The product suffers. Worse: We forget how to make it, how to machine it, lose the physical skillset to design it, or intimately understand how something meshes with software.

A company that wants to thrive for decades can't just be concerned about profits, but about flexibility, maintaining a knowledge base and deep technical skill and knowledge that make the difference between mediocre and great. The companies looking past the quarter and only to the next year aren't looking deep enough.

* I had the experience of seeing the Engineer come back to maneuvering to chew out a qualified, but junior, engineering officer of the watch, for trying to override the reactor operator, when the (very experienced) RO was right.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Music: Sabaton: The Last Stand: Rorke's Drift


On January 22nd, 1879, a British force of nearly 2000 men fought a force of nearly 20,000 Zulu warriors in the battle of Isandlwana, and despite the technological advantages, was nearly totally destroyed. 4000 warriors of the reserve broke off near the end of the battle to cut off some of the British forces, and ended up marching onto a small garrison of roughly 150 men called Rorke's Drift.

Burdened down with hospital patients, they could not retreat, and decided to stand, and fight. They fortified the grounds and buildings. After eleven hours of fighting - often hand to hand combat - finally collapsing the perimeter to the stone Kraal, the Zulu forces left as a relief column approached the next morning.


One of the scenes near the end of the movie Zulu, one I saw in my childhood, is still burned in my memory. The thin British line, each row taking turns firing, and the carnage at the end, despite the lack of blood a modern production would have used, was staggering.

Too bad it didn't really quite happen that way, and there were a number of liberties taken with the actual facts, but it was still a good movie.

The song starts on a fast pace, switching back to a power-metal run driven more by the guitars than a crushing, steady beat. The style, if anything, made me think more of some older Iron Maiden tracks from Powerslave, mixed with a little Dragonforce. But it's still all Sabaton. This is another track that didn't catch me at first, but ended up growing on me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Growing Realization of the Necessity of Christianity

Vox Day takes a look at Tom Howard's journey from religion, and back, adding this tidbit:

And it occurs to me that one of the keys to the success of the Alt-West is going to be a) Christians realizing that Churchianity is not Christianity and driving it out of their institutions and places of worship combined with b) non-Christians realizing that Christianity is, far from being a societal negative, a societal necessity for any Western civilization.
I had never thought of it as necessary before, but damn if it doesn't make sense.

First, one of the reasons why, despite Hoyt's huns, and Eric Raymond, and Larry all having a hands-off attitude toward Vox, I'd gravitated towards the vox populi blog was because independent thoughts, often from separate directions (especially in Eric Raymond's case), all were converging on a shared set of truths.

Eric, for one, had begun coming to uncomfortable conclusions about whether or not the western civilization we cherished was at all sustainable with the ideals of feminism per se. He still has a hard spot against christianity in line with his atheist/wiccan leanings, though he had also remarked that "white" in victorian-era literature was often about behavior than skin color, and could show the text to demonstrate the truth of the assertion. It's relevant because it's one of many factors that points out that the past isn't the totalitarian theocratic straightjacket progressives teach it to be. He also has come to several uncomfortable conclusions about race, and statistical behavior norms, that, alongside his articles on guns, drive some of his more liberal commenters batshit insane.

Another is Stefan Moleneux - who in several videos now has not only pointed out systemic problems with atheism that drive him to the conclusion that he'd rather live in a society of Christians than one run by atheists, but has also done a video on what evidence or arguments exist that there may be a god, and how the Catholic church built western civilization. Yes, he's still an atheist, but...

Also see the interview he did with Scott Adams, where they both discuss how their attitude toward Christianity changed, even if Scott particularly is still fervently Atheist.

It's not specifically about whether or not God exists, or Christianity is true, but that person after person who puts time and thought into these issues is coming to the conclusion that the tenets of the alt-right have merit (Eric) and that regardless of what one believes, that Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, are not only good things, but necessary for the attitudes that built our civilization, and for it to flourish.

And they're making these conclusions against their own personal interests.

Loki's Child

Loki's Child reads like the unholy offspring of Robert Anton Wilson's Shroedinger's Cat trilogy, and This is Spinal Tap.

Some of you - especially those who've delved into the surreal alternate history / worlds next door of the Illuminatus and Shroedinger books, will justifiably see that as high praise.

Those familiar with Spinal Tap will wonder if anyone can capture the insider knowledge and sheer ludicrousness of the music biz.

It does.

If anything, Spinal Tap demonstrated that there are things in reality as weird and surreal as a RAW novel.

Loki's child takes that, and dials it up to 11. Take this description of a piece of music recording hardware:
The secret of the Gromko’s sound is a mysterious circuit sealed in black epoxy. It contains a dereciprocator, a hypothetical component first proposed in 1948, which uses the Graffenmuller effect to inversely transduce the electrical majestance. To build this hypothetical component, you need a hypothetical transuranic element that doesn’t exist on Earth. Luckily, the Soviets retrieved a quantity of a mysterious glowing green metal from an asteroid crater in Siberia, and they were in business. It also took care of that imperialist lackey in the blue tights who kept stealing their nuclear missiles and throwing them into the Sun.
So what is it? It's the story of a record producer who excels at taking incompetent bands and making them sound good. He's tasked with a new band, Fatal Lipstick, an all - female group and the epitome of self-indulgent art rock, dialed, of course, up to eleven. One day though, he discovers they are not merely competent, but outstanding, when no - one is looking.

And then he finds out why.

What follows is a wild ride through Magick, pagan gods, Japan, the seedy underbelly of the music biz, and a deep love and appreciation of music, musicians, and the technology that makes it possible, in a world next door to our own in a very weird way.

And it's worth word read.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Music: Sabaton: The Last Stand: The Lost Battalion


On October 2 of 1918, near the end of WWI, American forces of the 77th division led by Major Charles White Whittlesey advanced into the Argonne forest as part of a planned offensive. They advanced, reaching their objective at Hill 198, a defensible position, but, the French forces expected on their left flank and the other American forces on their right were stalled, driven back by a counterattack, and so at the end of the day, the 77th discovered it was alone, surrounded, beyond allied lines.

The 77th spent the next day trying to re-establish contact, but could not. Patrols caught all of the messengers sent, and carrier pigeons became the only method of communication.  The Germans, for their part, at first believed they were outnumbered, and did not yet attack until later that day. The Germans had no choice but to take them out - leaving the 77th free to advance into the rear would have been disastrous.

Food was short. Water was only available by crawling under machine gun fire to reach a stream. Supplies intended for them were reportedly dropped on the Germans instead. They could not break free, and could not communicate reliably with allied forces. A mistake in the artillery coordinates caused Allied artillery to fall on them, until their last pigeon, Cher Ami, was sent delivering a followup message, "WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALLEL (sic) 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT". 

Not even refusing all calls to surrender, but flat out not even replying, the 77th fought with rifle, grenade, and bayonet to hold their strategically critical position, until finally relieved several days later.


This is actually two tracks. "Diary of an Unknown Soldier"  and "The Lost Battallion" - the first a very short spoken piece that could have occurred anywhere in the Argonne offensive, building up to the driving, slow, heavy drumbeat of "The Lost Battallion", and it's choral - style opening. The song itself is classic Sabaton: grim, steady, determine, with soaring chorals. In tone it fits the unrelenting meat grinder of WWI trench warfare. 

Monday Art: Frederic Church

No buildings in this one, but ice.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Scott Adams, Persuasion, and Hillary

Scott Adams, of Dilbert Fame, had for quite some time now been endorsing Hillary for President. 
As most of you know, I had been endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, for my personal safety, because I live in California. It isn’t safe to be a Trump supporter where I live. And it’s bad for business too.
But that has changed.

Lets look into the reasons. First, he flat out admits he doesn't know enough about event current issues, much less issues that have not yet arisen, to pick either one on the basis of their expertise. Hell - the only reason he had been endorsing the psychopathic Hillbot was because his writing on Trump was being taken as endorsement, and was resulting in threats, etc.

Weirdly, even though his "endorsement" of her ("for my safety") was a slap in the face, it worked, and the uproar died down. He explains why at one point - but it has to do with the fact of the endorsement, no matter how couched, being more important than why.

So, it came down to Hillary proposing something that would hurt him and his family:
Given the uncertainty about each candidate – at least in my own mind – I have been saying I am not smart enough to know who would be the best president. That neutrality changed when Clinton proposed raising estate taxes. I understand that issue and I view it as robbery by government.
First, he dings Hillary on bullshit. Remember how HC and her supporters ding Trump on having "no policy?"
Confiscation of Property: Clinton proposed a new top Estate Tax of 65% on people with net worth over $500 million. Her website goes to great length to obscure the actual policy details, including the fact that taxes would increase on lower value estates as well. See the total lack of transparency here, where the text simply refers to going back to 2009 rates. It is clear that the intent of the page is to mislead, not inform.

So don’t fall for the claim that Clinton has plenty of policy details on her website. She does, but it is organized to mislead, not to inform. That’s far worse than having no details.
Worse than no details. Let that sink in. He's very politely saying her web page that is supposed to make clear her position is nothing but superficial bullshit.
I call this a confiscation tax because income taxes have already been paid on this money. In my case, a dollar I earn today will be taxed at about 50% by various government entities, collectively. With Clinton’s plan, my remaining 50 cents will be taxed again at 50% when I die. So the government would take 75% of my earnings from now on.
This isn't the first time she's raised this. For those of us who were around in the early and mid 90's, in addition to pushing for ObamaCare beta and Imputed Income for tax purposes, she even then wanted to jack up capital gains and estate taxes. It's one reason why anyone who remembers the Clinton presidency but thinks he can't vote Trump because Trump isn't a "true" conservative is a moron. 

And imputed income? Let's say you were smart, and didn't buy more house than you could afford, or set aside more money to pay it off faster, and now had no mortgage. Hillary wanted the IRS to treat that money you were no longer spending on a rent or mortgage as taxable income, because most Americans had that money going to a roof over their heads, and you had it free and clear.

Except for the part where you worked your butt off or didn't buy more house than you could afford. 
3. Party or Wake: It seems to me that Trump supporters are planning for the world’s biggest party on election night whereas Clinton supporters seem to be preparing for a funeral. I want to be invited to the event that doesn’t involve crying and moving to Canada.
OK, that's just funny.
Most of the job of president is persuasion. Presidents don’t need to understand policy minutia. They need to listen to experts and then help sell the best expert solutions to the public. Trump sells better than anyone you have ever seen, even if you haven’t personally bought into him yet. You can’t deny his persuasion talents that have gotten him this far.

In summary, I don’t understand the policy details and implications of most of either Trump’s or Clinton’s proposed ideas. Neither do you. But I do understand persuasion. I also understand when the government is planning to confiscate the majority of my assets. And I can also distinguish between a deeply unhealthy person and a healthy person, even though I have no medical training. (So can you.)
So - go read the whole thing.

Safety Third

During the relatively short - lived show "Rocket City Rednecks" - Travis Taylor explained why their philosophy was "safety third". To wit, if safety is your first concern, they you won't do anything fun, and second, that the expression "safety first" is so overused that people simply filter it out.

In those lines, it's worth also watching Mike Rowe at one of the few TED talks worth a damn - especially where he relates being on an Alaskan crab boat in a storm.

But what brings me here today is stumbling into one of my favorite scenes from the late Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather" - illustrated (side note, the BBC version is worth watching). The man was observant of people, had a writing style that has been imitated but rarely equaled, and was intellectually honest enough to change his mind on things (Eric Raymond has a story about how he took Terry shooting... and Pratchett enjoyed it ), or at least admit he didn't have all the information.

The panel speaks for itself.

A Constitution is Only as Good as the People Living Under It - Systems and Principles

OK - so due to the interview between Scott Adams and Stefan Molyneux, I've been doing a lot of thinking, about habits, patterns of thought, free will, and tools to reprogram ourselves. So now - government.

The constitution, the original document as written, is a system. A tool. Like all tools, it is morally neutral, and it is actually the Bill of Rights that provides moral boundaries, or guiding principles to it, while the earlier Declaration in a way provides aspirational inspiration. Even in it's time the framers of the Constitution believed that their system of government would not last the ages, and was only suitable for a christian, moral people.

So when some on the alt-right mock the conservative fixation on "muh constitution" - it bothers me, I value it - but I get it.

It's just a system, a set of habits, methods, algorithms. There are other ones. Some are "better", some are worse, and in a number of ways that valuation depends on what kind of people the system is helping  -for lack of a better word - govern, and their temperament. Just like developing new habits, we can put new systems in place. The choices made will increase or reduce administrative and bureaucratic friction, encourage or discourage entrepreneurs, and make treaty decisions and foreign relationships more stable or not. In the end, it's a methodology - just like solving a word problem. There may be an easy way and a hard way, ways that are better matches for your priorities, but as long as you reach the truth, or the correct answer, they are morally irrelevant.

But what if the government decides the answer is to round up every left-handed redhead and execute every tenth one? Well.... that's why we have the Bill of Rights.

To me, the first ten amendments in the Bill of Rights are far more important than the actual system of government administration and legislation. They are also mostly agnostic to the system they are attached to. Those rights are either recognized, or they are not. In being recognized they will limit the form of government - for example by preventing the government from rounding up and executing redheads "just because" - but as we are seeing in the US these days, the system is mostly still in place, while the rights the government is supposed to leave alone are eroded year by year.

The safeguards in place, the system matters, but not if the goal is not to limit the power of government. Without those limits, the system will rapidly devolve, expand per Pournelle's iron law of bureaucracy, to further its own existence without limit.

In this, I include corporations. No, you're not going to see an "occupy" rant about evil corporations, but, concentration of power is concentration of power. A company town is still a state - just a corporate one.

Of course, you can't simply regulate the power of corporations. Power is one of the most addictive drugs out there, and so those with money and clout will bend their will to realign political power to their own advantage.

So this brings us back to the people. If the people don't care about freedom of speech instead of limiting "hate" speech. If they don't care about freedom to practice one's faith, to be armed to effectively defend oneself, then they will undermine the systems until those rights are effectively null and void. A society that wishes to preserve those things must value those things, and must demonstrate that value by teaching the following generations what they have, and how to preserve it. More importantly, they must have and raise those following generations.

In this case, importing those generations via mass immigration is not only a cheat, but guarantees - whether you think it's simply cultural inertia or statistical trends in genetically driven personality traits of populations - that those values die out.

If you value those freedoms, have kids, raise them, teach them, don't take shortcuts. Don't import another culture.

The future belongs to those who show up.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Music: Warren Zevon: Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner

This song is a darkly funny ghost story, and has, to me, one of the most grim and funny lines in music - which is high praise given the hilarity that Weird Al Yankovic can bring forth.

The song tells the story of a Mercenary named Roland, hired to fight in the Congo war. Eventually, he's too good, and the CIA decides they want him dead, having one of his teammates knock him off.

Roland's ghost searches throughout the continent of Africa, looking for his murderer, and finds him:
Roland searched the continent
For the man who'd done him in
He found him in Mombassa
In a bar room drinkin' Gin
Roland aimed his Thompson Gun
He didn't say a word
But he blew Van Owen's body
From there to Johanasburg.
 Savor that line again...
Roland aimed his Thompson Gun, He didn't say a word
Headless ghost, right?

This song, like many of Warren's, is darkly funny, and probably my all time favorite, beating out "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," as well as "Werewolves of London", and "Excitable Boy" - which only needs a minor revamp to fit in alongside Oingo Boingo's "Only a Lad". It's very different in tone from his other favorites of mine like Veracruz.

And am I the only guy who hears what sounds like "Werewolves" starting up only to discover it's Kid Rock? And is pissed?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Love Will Find a Way

A Police PSA on how germans should deal with terrorists on trains.

Music: Sabaton: The Last Stand: Blood of Bannockburn


In 1296 the wars for Scottish independence from England had begun, and in 1304, the English had apparently won. But in 1306 Robert the Bruce ascended the Scottish throne, and re-opened the conflict. In 1314 Edward Bruce, Robert's brother, besieged the strategically critical Stirling Castle, controlling the route north into Scotland. To relieve the fort, and preserve their strategic position, the English assembled a force of 17000 men, two thousand of them cavalry, to crush the Scottish forces roughly half their size.

Where most battles in that time were short, this lasted two remarkable days of fighting, with the Scots finally driving off their superior foe, and leaving the route open for the Scots to raid into northern England.


While the album has been solid so far, this, this song, is the point it fucking takes off for me. This isn't the relentless gravity and steadily advancing power of "The Lost Battallion" or the title track,  The feel of the melody is of soaring speed - a car racing full out down a winding road, or soaring low over Scottish hills as messengers run to carry the message and the call to war with a celtic and bagpipe flair. Yes, there's faster music around, but this is a relentless, full bore, pedal to the metal rush that I also get out of songs like the live, Show of Hands version of "Red Sector A" by Rush, or "Turbo Lover" by Judas Priest. 

Girl Friday

Yes, lowbrow again - sue me....

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Wait - I've Been a Victim All My Life?

It's a good thing I don't give a shit about the NEA, as they don't really give a shit about students, otherwise I'd have to consider that all of my life, especially during those crucial, tender, snowflake years, I've been a victim of continual microaggressions and didn't even know it! (Well, I am white, so perhaps my "privilege" canceled that out?)
Overlooking or downplaying the significance of getting a name right, explains Rita Kohli, assistant professor of education at the University of California at Riverside, is one of those “microagressions” that can emerge in a classroom and seriously undermine learning.
I won't go into detail, but while my parents were raised in the US, they weren't born here, and the name I got saddled with is one that only those of Northern European linguistic background  or exposure growing up are likely to pronounce without difficulty. This resulted in about a dozen nicknames and pronunciations before I finally gave up and stuck with one easy to pronounce Americanized version.

Was it frustrating sometimes? Sure. So? One of my best friends in elementary school was a (at least half) hispanic Mormon with as stereotypically Irish a last name as you could get. It was, on the scale of things, a small thing, and looking back, a negligible contributor to the personal issues I had to overcome later in life.

So yeah, I get it, teachers should try, but this, like all motte - and - bailey PC bullshit, takes something that's basic manners, and while claiming that's all it is, pushes said civility all out of proportion to a subjective standard determined by the recipient. Add to that the bizarro-world spellings of common names some parents insist on saddling their kids with, the oddball "ethnic" names other parents insist on choosing, and the difficulty of pronouncing some sounds unless you grew up with the relevant language, and the NEA can just fuck off - there's no way most teachers will be able to pronounce some of the names.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Of Course They Were Lying

The recent controversy that has caused more BLM-inspired riots (as if they need a reason)was the shooting of an "unarmed" black man by a cop (black, but it's all whitey's fault anyway, donchaknow), who's daughter turned on her camera and promptly told the world he was completely innocent and just holding a book.

In addition to the riots, tweets went out with how a black man with a book was more dangerous than a black man with a gun. Yeah, right.

While I was willing to consider the possibility the story, as presented in the media, was true (hey, Charleston finally gave the lying death-cult press the dead innocent black people at the hands of whitey it's been praying for) .... I doubted it.

How could I tell? Well, muslim bombings aren't the only place I'm a Bayesian.

Sure enough...
So, yeah. A reporter taking photos of the scene has, in frame, something that is not a book. Looks like he was not unarmed.

Like SJW's and BLM will care.

In case the tweet becomes unavailable....

Update: As it turns out, the police fucked up in the case of tweeting out that specific picture, but not on Keith Scott being armed. What is shown in that picture is actually a glove. Other pictures and video from the event show him wearing the ankle holster police released evidence photos of. 

Music: Sabaton: The Last Stand: Last Dying Breath

On October 7th of 1915 a Major named Dragutin Gavrilović addressed his troops. The battalion and small group of volunteers was ragged and battered, having fought for hours against the German and Austro-Hungarian troops in the defense of Belgrade. Shot to hell by artillery, ground down by the Austro-Hungarian reinforcements, they'd fought back close and hard. Putting flowers from a local flower shop on their uniforms and guns, they were preparing for a last stand,

On the day of the decisive battle, they received the Communion in the Ružica church (Little Rose church) in the Kalemegdan Fortress, and then they scattered around Dorćol and the Danube quay, readily waiting for the enemy. They sang to chase away the fear of certain death to which they were led by the speech of their commanding officer Major Gavrilović, who wanted to inspire them and lift their spirits before the upcoming battle.

“Soldiers, exactly at three o’clock, the enemy is to be crushed by your fierce charge, destroyed by your grenades and bayonets. The honor of Belgrade, our capital, must not be stained.

Soldiers! Heroes! The supreme command has erased our regiment from its records. Our regiment has been sacrificed for the honor of Belgrade and the motherland. Therefore, you no longer need to worry about your lives: they no longer exist. So, forward to glory! For King and country! Long live the King, Long live Belgrade!”
Quickly overcome and with Gavrilović injured, they fought so valiantly that General Mackensen wrote: “We fought against an army that we have heard about only in fairy tales, who defended themselves with virtually unprecedented courage. The moment we conquered Serbia hurt us more than her allies.”

He also erected a monument in honor of his heroic enemies, the city's defenders.

The Song

I really didn't like it the first time I listened, but it's grown on me, and I really like it now. It's still not up there with my favorite songs on this album - in large part because it's overall so awesome -  or my favorite songs by Sabaton, but it's confident, driving, and hangs together in lyric and style, and well worth the listen. Given my high opinion of their oeuvre, barely missing that bar is nothing to be ashamed of. The grinding, relentless driving feel well echoes the feel of facing an unending, oncoming onslaught of shells and men.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Gamers - How We See Ourselves

I actually think this is better than the song they're spoofing.....

Music: Cruxshadows: Ethernaut: Citadel

The next track I stumbled into off of Ethernaut was also one recommended of of one of John Ringo's book inspiration playlists - Citadel. Another danceable, synth-heavy, driving song. In it, you can see the inspiration for the battlestation developed in the Troy Rising books.

Lyrically it is one of their shorter and more repetitive songs. The first verse sets the scene, with cold winds, storm, and rain arriving as an omen of the human storm arriving to besiege the title fortress. Then we shift viewpoints, to a soldier at the gates, looking on all of this, unbowed, determined to stand.
I see storms on the horizon
I see the tempest at the gates
I see storms on the horizon
And a citadel alone
Clinging brave defying fate
And I will stand here at the gates to face the onslaught fighting
Without surrender or defeat
With Troy besieged by tyrants' greed - (tyranny)
In Hector's memory, God willing
We shall save this victory
Without surrender or defeat
The song poetically recalls the fragility of each moment that defeat has not arrived, of Achilles death, and closes with a determination that Troy shall not fall. We know it does, but the sacrifice, the courage, the unwillingness to bow, the sheer heroism are to be treasured.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"No Evidence..." and Other Bullshit

First - I was wrong. I wrote that I "have yet to hear insistence that Islam had nothing to do with it." - and I hadn't - but only because I didn't dig further into the official statements by Cuomo, de Blasio, etc. We're getting responses like:
Bomb experts will analyze the device and how it was made, according to CNN senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.

"It could be somebody that has grievance against the US military, possibly the Marine Corps specifically, and have nothing to do with an overseas-inspired attack like ISIS. So it still could be terrorism without being international, without being al Qaeda or ISIS or another affiliated group."
Even better, de Blasio:
During a press conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that there is no evidence that the explosion in Manhattan had any terror connection
Similar statements are being made, that it's not certain it was terrorism, etc.

And it's all bullshit.

I get it, if we don't know, we don't fucking know, but then the only four words we have to say are "we don't know yet". Meanwhile, there's also no evidence it was white supremacists, the Amish Sepratist Front, or Leprechauns, but there damn well is reason to believe it had something to do with Islam.

Look, one major tell someone is bullshitting you is when they use a lot more words than are needed. They're trying to hide something, talk around something, misdirect you from something, but more importantly, obscure something like a needle in a haystack and distance you from what they're saying (it's George Carlin, worth watching). Yes, we geeks are often accused of overspeaking when trying to be precise, and very smart people of "using big words to show off" - but there is a difference, in cadence, in feel when someone is bullshitting you (Aside - the Harry Frankfurt book "On Bullshit" is worth reading, and he also has an online essay).

In the above cases we get handed a bunch of words that are - sometimes only in the barest technicality (what counts as "evidence"?) - true, but intended to sell you a lie, minimize the problem, make you believe a falsehood.

I've been told "But they don't know for sure so they can't say it was terrorism" - much like the news is trying to slam Trump for saying "bombing" before the official statement was made.  Again - bullshit. if they don't know, those are the only three words they have to say. Every extra word in those statements, especially prepared ones, has a purpose - so look, again, at what they're minimizing.

And how did Trump "know" it was a bombing? How did we figure it wasn't a radicalized Mennonite?

Sabaton: Last Stand: Sparta

In the fall of 480 BC, Xerxes, avenging his fathers loss to the greeks at Marathon, invaded the greek peninsula again. Various political factors left the city-states unable to field their main armies in a timely manner, so Leonidas, one of two Spartan Kings, took his personal guard of 300 men, their supply train, and in conjunction with some other forces, arrived at, and began fortifying the narrow pass between the cliffs and the sea. Roughly 7000 men faced an army often described in the millions, and even at more modern estimates of 150,000 faced staggering odds. The only hope they had to hold was superior training, superior equipment, and superior position.

In the end, a treacherous farmer led a contingent of the Persian army behind the force. About to be surrounded, Leonidas sent most of the forces away, keeping a force of 400 Thebans, 700 Thespians, and his 300 men. They fought to the bitter, bloody end. The battle lost, the Persians were nevertheless delayed long enough for Athens to be evacuated, and the city-states to gather their forces, turning the tide at the battle of Platea.

Two famous quotes that stay with me are of course, Molon Labe - "Come, then take" in response to a request for the Greeks to lay down their weapons. You want them? Then you come over here and take them from us. The other of course was the famous reply when the greeks were told the arrows of the Persian army would blot out the sun. "Then we shall fight in the shade."

This battle is immortalized. Cheesy as it is, I love the Frank Miller inspired 300 (Victor Davis Hanson has an interesting take...), and there is the outstanding, lyrical, and solidly written "Gates of Fire" by Steven Pressfield. It's also inspired countless other stories, including some aspects of Ringo's  "Troy Rising" series.

So of course, Sabaton, continuing their practice of writing about war and warriors, could open their new album with nothing else, but "Sparta"

It's a great track and a great opener to the album. If I have a complaint, it's that the story of Thermopylae is a bit too complex for the time allowed, and so some of the quotes and images feel wedged in, without context. As it is, it's a nit.


(And thanks to the Didact for clueing me in to a new Sabaton album coming out, and to Sabaton in general...)

Monday Art : Frederic Church

Absolutely love the use of light in his landscapes and buildings.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

On a Plague of Series

Looking at the fantasy and science fiction landscapes these days, they are dominated by neverending series. And lo, it has become fashionable to complain that even before mediocre writers earn their craft, they are already working on neverending series, milking money one dollop at a time from the waning pool of traditional readers by pumping them full of mediocre writing, over, and over again. 

Insofar as it goes, it's true. Outside of Neal Stephenson, I'm hard pressed to name a one-off I've read recently. Traditional (mostly Baen), or Indie

Another major stumbling block is authors painting themselves into a corner, or worse, losing control of the series overall arc. Simply not finishing it - or looking like it never will. As has been discussed ad nauseum regarding George RR Martin's Westeros books, he long ago wandered off the trilogy reservation, is still adding more plot threads and characters, and doesn't seem on track to finish the books in his lifetime. The TV series has eclipsed the series which started twenty years ago.

You know what I loved about Babylon 5? It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even Gary Larson and Bill Watterson quit before their work became a parody of itself. 

John Ringo has how many series now that have just petered out and not come to a conclusion? Granted, they're all awesome, and he writes so fast you lose track of what was left behind as you buy the next hit of black ink crack. It's also true he's at least found good stopping points for many. He's mostly resolved the Council Wars, thank god the Prince Roger books found a good stopping point, and The Black Tide books came to a sudden - and clumsier than usual, as much as I loved it - but appropriate halt, but the Aldenatta storyline is in cliffhanger mode, Troy is in limbo, Harmon and the Keldara need a new mission, and holy crap he's writing in Larry's universe? 

Series have one other nasty effect - even on authors that are utterly outstanding, and haven't lost the thread. 

Opportunity cost.

OK. I love Larry. I love Ringo. They're fantastic storytellers and their writing has only improved. I want to find out what happens to Owen, Milo, Earl, and hell, even Franks - and I'll stand by my opinion that as much as I like all the MHI books, Alpha and Nemesis just work better. If all Larry ever cranked out was MHI and Grimnoir, would we see "Son of the Black Sword"? As much as I want to find out what happens to Tyler Vernon, or Prince Roger, would I want to sacrifice Sophia and Faith? Or Chad?

Ringo will wrap up or simply drop the series until the muse attacks him in a dark corner again. And even his muse is hard pressed to keep up with the torrent of different universes he generates.

Larry dodged this also - while there will be more Grimnoir books, they won't be properly speaking sequels, but further forward, a new generation, new people, new stories. MHI is still effectively open ended, but he's now free to explore new territory and ideas.

If they stayed in their current worlds, they could never tell stories that cannot be told within the existing series.

So some stories need more than one book. Many don't. Authors should give themselves the opportunity to try something new, even as they forge ahead with what they know works.

ISIS, Again. #Coincidentally

A man goes around the St Cloud Mall in Minnesota with a knife attacking people. Amazingly, it is reported he was shouting Allahu Akbar, that he asked his victims whether or not they were muslims, and ISIS claimed credit. Just as amazingly I have yet to hear insistence that Islam had nothing to do with it. 

A wonderful example of reporting the facts while still carefully avoiding any of the obvious conclusions. After all, if we state that his political ideology / religious death cult was a motive, we'd have to start looking deeper at the pattern

The bomb in New Jersy that injured no-one near the route of a USMC charity run.

The bomb in Chelsea, NYC, that injured 25. A second device was reported found, and while I hadn't seen the word "terrorist" bandied about, the reported behavior of the police was that of "We think this is terrorists, so we're on the lookout for secondary explosives to catch responders."

I've noticed that these attacks, while news is posted on them, are quickly shuffled aside. You can blame "it's not news anymore" when we regularly have body counts and injury rates equal to or well North of what used to get extensive national attention (San Bernandino, Ft Hood, Boston). That said, the lying press decides what to fill the airwaves with. Reporting the bare minimum allows them to claim to be truthful, while they go back to wring their hands over Trump, Pepe, and "RACISTS!!". 

If they report the news, if they point out the connections, the constancy of the attacks, again, and again, and the multiple common traits. If they even begin to speculate "on air" that a culture that holds grudges for centuries for blacking their eye when they came raping, pillaging, and burning is at fault (remember, loot, pillage, then burn. Burn always goes last). People might get angry, and do something about the ones who know what we should want for us. And maybe we'd have to accept that "magic dirt" doesn't convert someone from the beliefs they brought with them. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fuck. What now with Tagon?

I have no idea how Howard will pull this one out - or if he will. But damn.

If you like Schlock Mercenary, you've probably seen the comic before you came here.

Let's just say that very bad things happen to very good people, in the cause of keeping loved ones and friends alive.

Here's the thing - yeah, he no longer spends the quality time with Larry - or anyone else remotely conservative - on Writing Excuses (and it had gone downhill about the time the Puppeteer showed up - before I even knew her opinions on various people I looked up to, like Dr Pournelle - because she doesn't really add anything, and all depth was lost with breadth) but he gets how to write a kick-ass story, and has years of experience finding not the first, or even second, likely solution to an issue.

If you haven't read Schlock before - well, if you're a Ringo fan, let's just say the Troy Rising series started as a prequel to the Schlockverse, before it rapidly became non-canonical. I also know where Howard tells people to start - and it certainly is at a point his artwork and story pacing had vastly improved  - but I still love the early strips, bad art and all. Various things like the lawyers collective and the origin of Ennesby's name are buried back in the old archives.

Back When Chris Rock Was Funny

A very useful PSA, especially for BLM types...

SJW Convergence and Apple, Redux

I recently wrote about how Apple, despite the technical momentum and inertia it still has, is already being affected by loss of both product and technical focus as it spends more and more time virtue signalling by working to have "diverse" presenters, a "diverse" programming staff, and expanding their product line.

And sure enough, the iPhone release and iOS 10 update proved my point.

First - we had a few update issues in the early hours of the iOS10 availability that caused a small percentage of phones to brick. I say small in the overall scheme of things, but large enough that it was reported, and caused people problems. As things go, it was actually not a problem with iOS10 itself, but an issue with the update servers that was quickly resolved.

Should it have happened? No, but it's not unheard of, and frankly, pushing out major updates like this is what we call "non-trivial" - note that most android manufacturers, never mind the carriers, effectively don't do the update thing. In isolation, it would be annoying, but...

The new iOS was released. It was presumably beta-tested. Yet T-Mobile is now recommending their customers do not update to iOS10 if they own an iPhone 6, 6plus, or SE. "iOS 10 is causing those three iPhone models to lose connection to the T-Mobile network."

While there is a temporary workaround (reboot the phone) and Apple and T-Mobile are working together to get it resolved via software or carrier-side fixes, and again, it's not unheard of in isolation....

Let's talk the iPhone. I'm not even going to argue the whole "no headphone jack" decision - I'm personally neutral. I get some stuff needs to be deprecated but that throws out interactivity with a lot of stuff out there. Sure, they provide one free adapter and lightning earbuds, but people need to charge the damn thing while listening to it sometimes...

No, this is even more subtle.

So one of the new features of the iPhone 7 is the "taptic" home button. Basically, the home button no longer is a mechanical button, but "clicks" by kicking off a little tactile feedback device. This was apparently to deal with a huge chunk of the non-American market that, due to a few failures of the home button, actually use an accessibility feature to enable an on-screen home button.

Well... we can deal with not having the fingerprint sensor work when sweaty, or wearing gloves, but keep in mind, these trackpad-style surfaces need skin contact.

Where the screen is sensitive enough to register a touch through thin cloth, screen protectors, etc., the new home button either uses the fingerprint sensors, or is much less sensitive due to said fingerprint sensors, and will not work through thin cloth, plastic excercise pocket covers, and even many "touch" capable gloves.

Seriously - I know Jobs is famous for some really weird fucking design decisions. Some, like killing ADB ports and the floppy drive were needed, and worked out in the end. Others, well, you either wanted to use a device that way, or you didn't. Some post-Jobs even made a half-assed sense, charging the new generation mice and the pencil is annoying, but at least it's quick. To me, the headphone decision, even if it's "wrong" falls into this "we made a deliberate choice" category.

But the home button? What fucking moron didn't think to ask about how people working out, or in winter north of the Mason fucking Dixon line were going to open up their phones?

Not a single one of these in isolation is more than an embarrassing blip. Taken together in close conjunction, and the pattern emerges that Apple is no longer as focused on quality of product, whether or not you agree with their vision of said product.

Hmm - Tim Cook is a great material and logistics guy, but what have he and the company been focusing on other than just "awesome product!"? (SJW Convergence and virtue signalling ruin everything....)

And while I've been a mostly-Apple guy since my first highly modded II+, I've got a lot of time in Windows and Linux as well - and so I'm not above laughing at Apple, or myself.  If you don't mid a little simply wrong humor.... (don't say I didn't warn you)

Still not sure if and how I'll jump ship. For mobile, Android is the only other viable option for my requirements, and hardly a privacy/etc. improvement, though outside of that Linux could handle most everything else (I usually keep one up in VMWare and do roughly a quarter of my work there), with a VM for MacOS or Windows as needed. Also, it's not like the other hardware manufacturers are becoming less mediocre...

Friday, September 16, 2016

Worthless Degrees and Creeping Credentialism...

For those of you who are worried that your degree in advanced basket weaving isn't enough of a waste of perfectly good money and time...


Man, I absolutely love the little stick toy the dudes playing with, got one set at a ren faire, but that's not why I'm posting this shot.

That said, I brought you this lovely image because it looks like the god KEK has a sense of humor. Or Eris. They can fight over it, I'll stay out of the way.

Just look at the sign being held up on the hood, and the full glory of their attitude towards that which got them there in the first place.

Another Name for "Habits": Systems... a Continuation

So Stefan Molyneux interviewed Scott Adams a while back, and covered a lot of interesting ground.

I don't want to get into the whole free will vs. meat-robot thing here - and will go ahead and agree with the following - we are hugely influenced, and strongly driven by our bodies, our instincts, our habits, our hormones, what we ate and how that affects our mood. So much so that we fall into ruts, and cannot break out of them. Worse, as the saying goes, we're not the rational animal, but the rationalizing one.

That said - we can change that. Maybe less the rationalizing part than the how we react. We can, to a limited degree, reprogram ourselves. The example Scott uses is his system of going to the gym every day, whether he works out or not. In a similar way this blog was started to quit the wankery of absorbing everything I see and sometimes commenting.

If you listen carefully, what you hear being described is what we would have, in the past, called "building a good habit."

I don't think Scott is trying to be pretentious - he calls it a system, because it is a system, a system for building other systems, or habits, to change his life, his lifestyle, and the choices he makes. It's also a useful way to abstract away the moral dimension of discussing "good" and "bad" habits. Much like one Marine officer I knew detailed how in planning sessions they'd talk in terms of whether or not something would work rather than if it was good or bad. The latter are value judgments. They are why you may want to build a different system or habit, or take a different approach based on the overall holistic results and consequences, but they don't bear on whether or not eating a tub of ice cream every night puts on calories.

Systems also have to address failure. Scott makes his success criteria not "finish a workout" but "show up at the gym". Since that in and of itself requires a trip, once there, he's motivated to do something, and on days he's dog sick, he can be proud that he at least showed up.

The future, of course, belongs to those who show up.

Once the habit of showing up at the gym is established, or writing every day, you build your life around it, it becomes your priority, and you will actually feel off balance or anxious if you don't do that.

Get in the habit of doing the hard things.

Add them, one little bit at a time, like gradually putting on weights as you progress in weightlifting.

Heck - start out light. You'll be surprised at what gets in the way to drag you back to your old way of doing things.

if you can pick an easy "success" that almost always falls into a bigger success, make that your benchmark. In this blogs case - it's "write every damn day" - even if it's just putting up a shot of Kate Upton.

Have an escape valve - part of what you put in place has to be a way to decide "will this work?" - and if not, fail faster.

You'll get there, eventually.

Girl Friday

OK. I like philosophy, I like culture, music, poetry, and I like intellectual pursuits. Nevertheless not all pleasures are so highbrow.

Yes, Kate Upton. She is easy on the eyes.


Apparently I overestimated you degenerates. Not that I'm blameless... Anyways, a couple more of the marvelous Kate.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I Am Shocked, SHOCKED I Tell You....

It turns out that Noam Chomsky was alway s full of shit, and not just when bloviating about areas outside of his supposed expertise.

Yes, supposed.

While he tends to mouth off about a lit of things, and holds the typically ever-so-liberal opinions on them, he's given a lot of credence because of his academic chops in linguistics.

It also turns out he was fundamentally wrong in his understanding of language learning. And it's not some supposed "conservative" rag that is taking him to task, but Scientific American. I'll grant you, I don't consider them as definitive as I used to any more as they long have sold out to the politically correct view, but in many ways this makes it more fun - their very biases make this even more damning.

I'll be returning to this later once I've gotten over my Schadenfreude and had a chance to think over the article. In the meantime, SJW's always lie. If they're not lying to you, they're lying to themselves, about the very nature of reality or their motivations, if nothing else.

Baen CD's - or How to Keep Your Wallet From Hating John Ringo as Much as You Love Him

In a day and age where most publishers are still not getting the "digital" thing, pricing their books as high as, or more than the paper versions, Baen always had a clue. Not only did they price their e-versions cheap, but they left them clear of Digital Rights Management and copy protection crap, so you could easily read them where and when you wanted to.

Better yet, they had a huge free library, often consisting of the first book or two in a series, allowing you to get to know pretty much all of their authors. Yes, Eric Flint proposed it, but Jim Baen, David Drake, John, and the rest of the authors went along because it made good business sense.

Sadly, much of the free library is gone, to meet requirements to sell on Amazon, though it is slowly being built back up.

No, this isn't a tease.

You see - one other thing they did was with a number of their hardcovers, they included a CD. These CD's had extensive libraries of everything in the current books series up to that point, and often at least one related series. You were expected to copy this and hand it to your friends. Just one hit and you'd buy Baen books forever...... which was close enough to the truth.

And they are still available for download.

Go check out the Fifth Imperium Baen CD archive.

Any damage to sanity from reading excessive Ringo or Weber or Drake (all for different reasons) is not my damn fault.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Not At ALL Surprised - NYC and Free Internet

Well - NYC is disabling web access on the "free" internet kiosks provided (at great expense) to allow people to look at maps, make calls, and browse online.
The tablets will still offer free phone calls, maps, and access to emergency services. New Yorkers can also continue to connect their own devices to LinkNYC Wi-Fi hotspots. But browsing on the publicly accessible tablets is being restricted after some disturbing reports.

"A Murray Hill resident was horrified when she witnessed a vagrant masturbating" at one of the kiosks "while walking her dog Sunday morning," the New York Post reported Sunday. The Post report said that "horny homeless men have been plaguing the [LinkNYC stations] since they debuted in January."
Maybe it's just because I've worked at providing kiosks and access on a much smaller scale at various sites, but I'm trying to figure out how someone got a project this big through the government of NYC and no- one thought "hey, we might need porn filtering?"

Seriously - I've seen bored High School kids hire botnets to take down their school internet connection, and had to put content filtering in place at another client that provided a couple "internet kiosks" because visiting customers were surfing NSFW sites - with kids hanging around a fairly public space.

Libraries also have to deal with this kind of crap.

Seriously, it's not an unknown problem or a new issue... what kind of  idio....

Nevermind, I forgot who is running the place there these days.

Cruxshadows: Ethernaut: Winterborn

A long time ago John dumped a bunch of his id into book format, and brought us Mike Harmon, the Paladin of Shadows, and origin of the "Oh John Ringo, No" meme (an absolutely hysterical read, btw). One of the things prominent even in the earliest publicly available snippets were references to a song by the Crüxshadows, a darkwave/goth band, called "Winterborn".

So I checked it out. Heavy on opening synths. A danceable beat. Meh voice. Absolutely driven in it's delivery, and while dark, not nihilistic.

Now - I have a varied musical past - rooted in a weird mishmash of symphonic and broadway, Laurence Whelk, european folk, the Kiss Halloween special, radio country (and western, both types of music) and classic rock, metal, then new wave, and later grunge/goth/industrial and electronica. So I liked it.

I'll even forgive the macspeech synthesized voices. 

The song refers to a rough translation from the Iliad: For the warriors of Illium were those most powerful and fell, They were those born of winter.

They are used to hardship. They are used to pain, and did not have a soft childhood or origins. They are ready and willing to sacrifice and suffer in order to survive, to ensure others - their friends, their families do. Winter is cold, bleak, but that which endures it springs to life. It also is unforgiving. In a world of whiny emo bands that can't see anything more important than their own personal issues, it was a fucking breath of fresh air.
Dry your eyes
And quietly bear this pain with pride,
For heaven shall remember the silent and the brave.
And promise me, they will never see
The fear within our eyes. (my eyes are closed)
For we will give strength to those who still remain.
Touching on stoicism instead of the emotional hypersensitivity of much of today's generation, as well as how panic and fear are contagious - by comporting ourselves, we set expectations for those around us, keep those with us calm.

Hold your head up high
For there is no greater love
Think of the faces of the people you defend
And promise me, they will never see
The tears within our eyes (My eyes are closed)
Although we are men with mortal sins,
Angels never cry
Echoing the classic line of poetry, and the need, desire, at least in those with honor, to try and live up to our ideals, and embody the image of them.
And in the fury of this darkest hour
We will be your light
You've asked me for my sacrifice
And I am Winter born
Without denying, a faith in God
That I have never known
I hear the angels call my name
And I am Winter born

And in the fury of this darkest hour
I will be your light
A lifetime for this destiny
For I am winter born
And in this moment...
I will not run, it is my place to stand
We few shall carry hope
Within our bloodied hands
Without denying, a faith in God That I have never known - in a way this embodies my own sometimes shaky relationship with the divine. The Creator. God. I have known, and more solidly now know, faith, but there are always periods of doubt.

And in this moment... I will not run, it is my place to stand - We constantly choose. To do, or not. To stand, or give in. He is winterborn - a soldier, and protecting his people. He will do his utmost to save them, and not give in to fear, to panic. He will not run - he has chosen his place.

I started checking out the album it came from, Ethernaut. The theme of the entire album is the Trojan war. Citadel refers to Troy. This was my first inkling that a) they could be godawful pretentious at times, and b) they often enough pulled it off well enough that I could listen to my favorites repeatedly, while ignoring the rest. That said, the band has certain themes. Where Sabaton's last few albums have been about war and warriors, the Crüxshadows tend to deal in myth and history, especially greek. While some of there songs can be hopelessly pedastalizing, others deal in standing and fighting for ideals, for civilization. They're uneven, but in a goth/emo world awash with pointless and nihilistic navel gazing, a band that looks out, that looks to myth, that looks to divinity, to nobility, is a breath of fresh air.

Also - they put on one fun concert - while I'll be posting it when discussing the song, the video for Birthday is a live show of theirs, I believe at some music festival, with a good size crowd.

I welcome any comments on these - as I'm just trying to put down what I get out of these songs, what they speak of to me, and not a full - blown literary critique. 

What is Not Permitted is Forbidden - RPG's and Detailed Skills Systems

Over at the Black Gate, a Game Master discusses why he ran an old-school style game for his friends instead of Pathfinder, a system he's also very familiar with.
I used this when explaining S&W to one of my new players. Now, in Baldur’s Gate, he would click on the ‘Find Traps’ skill and if a trap was nearby, it would be outlined on screen in a red box if detected. And he is aware that in a modern game (like Pathfinder), you would roll a 20-sided dice against your Find Trap skill.

But I explained it won’t work that way in S&W. After I described the environment, he would have to tell me how he goes about looking for traps. Does he examine the ceiling? Does he roll a round stone across the floor? Does he put his fingers in the mouth of the idol (always a dangerous move!)?

To try and bluff your way past the guard at the city gate, you don’t simply roll against your Bluff skill. You have to tell the same story to the Referee that your character is telling to the guard. With appropriate gestures (heh heh).
 One of the things that grew to really annoy me about Pathfinder - outside of the "on rails" modules and the ever increasing bloat of rules (also brought up) was the implicit assumption, especially in society play, that when it came to skills or achieving something, if it wasn't allowed, it was forbidden.

It felt like you had skills for everything. Except that no individual character, or small group of them, could have skills in everything. And if the module or adventure called for a knowledge: obscure plants, and you didn't have it? And it was over a 10 DC? And you didn't have hours to spend at the library?


Yes, I know that in homebrew play, the GM could do as we did with ACKS, T&T, or others, and if you came up with a plausible reason, or everyone had a default zero skill, or....

But if you played by the rules - required for society play - knowledge skills had to be trained. If a skill test was called out, and you weren't, you were screwed. If you failed the roll - no matter how well you role played or justified knowing that based on your character, background, etc. - you were screwed. And it was all or nothing.

In short - skills, which at first look like a good thing, remove your ability to choose, and judge.

As an aside, virtue is something that must be chosen - virtue compelled is not virtue. Creating more laws putting in place what must be done not only creates more ways for someone to become a criminal, but even in compelling them to do the right thing, removes choice. Forbids that which is not required.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Does Poe's Law Apply Here?

They may be rare in real life, but I'm not sure how much they're exaggerating for satire. Hipster SJW's try to have fun.... (though I think in real life they'd be angrier at each other...)

The Rageaholic

If you're tired of your mundane existence of forlornly sitting on your couch snorting a bowl of cheetos and want to get at least some glimmer of what epic is like the shadow of reality on the wall of Plato's cave, check out the latest addition to my blog list -  Razorfist's YouTube channel.

I can but try, and fail, but to emulate his style, and bask in the glory that is his turn of phrase, profane and hysterical. Cursing to turn a church lady an impossible shade of wight, metaphors and similes and vulgar poetry that make you laugh out loud ("lick the botulism off a toilet seat").

Leaving aside social commentary guaranteed to explode SJW in ways the producers of Kingsmen could only dream, you also have detailed breakdowns and histories of bands ranging from Iron Maiden, Queen, Judas Priest, Dokken, Malmsteen, and yes, Michael Jackson. You also get detailed and informed analysis and critique of Daredevil, the Shadow, and more.

I cannot do him justice. Just go fucking watch. And god fucking speed.

I Want One

A new Kickstarter project: "An unusually addicting, high-quality desk toy designed to help you focus. Fidget at work, in class, and at home in style." - the fidget cube.

Even the hipster in the video isn't enough to turn me off.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Music: Bad Company - cover by Five Finger Death Punch

Here you go:

I can't find the interview right now, but I recall there being one where the lead singer of Five Finger Death Punch was asked why they titled their album War is the Answer. The reply boiled down to: because it is. Because everything was a struggle.

I first came across this song used to backend a USMC birthday video put together by some troops. I'm torn on covers. Some, if anything are better. As much as I like the original Tears for Fears Mad World, it is a shadow of even the version for Donnie Darko - as overwrought with "I'm so very sad" as that is - and there are many covers in that same mode that are even better, and less overwrought. Others are "meh" - I originally liked the "Orgy" cover of Blue Monday for the palpable anger - but eventually returned to the original New Order when I matured enough to realize how coldly dismissive, and in the end, far more appropriate, it was.

And we're all familiar with stories of covers that, bluntly, suck.

This one, is awesome. It, and the cover of Sound of Silence by Disturbed, rank as two of my all-time favorite re-imaginings.

Despite growing up with country and classic rock, I never really liked the original - the band or the song. This one fucking nails it. Power, grace, timing, crunch, and I love the guys voice.


Eye of the Storm

Aside from the Ringo book I mentioned earlier - and that the Didact took John to task about the lack of sequels - I wanted to delve deeper into the Cruxshadows song "Eye of the Storm." Actually, I'll be going through a lot of their songs that I enjoy, and while the order will generally be somewhat chronological, in the order I ran into them more or less, this will be an exception. On the Goth spectrum they're more dance, less whiney, "Darkwave", and so closer overall to the Sisters of Mercy than Bauhaus - though Peter Murphy's Deep is an album I still play. Rogue's voice can take getting used to, some of the lyrics can come across as pretentious poetry, and they certainly layer greek myth and religious symbolism almost as heavily as Sabaton does warriors and warfare. They also play violins.

But why start here? After all, my first exposure was Winterborn, courtesy of the inimitable authorial crack output of John Ringo.

 First of all, I had the chance to run into Rogue, the lead singer, at Dragon*Con in Atlanta years back. He was a very relaxed, open, and chill dude. I ended up chatting for a fairly long time - and am glad that no-one else was hitting him up for autographs at the time - specifically about this song.

It didn't hurt that the dancers were hot in a goth-faerie kind of way.

The concert was fantastic, including a killer rendition of Immortal.

It's a long song so I'll include the full copy at the end.

There are a number of ways you can take the opening - both secular and religious. It certainly isn't in conflict with the concept that God would not give you a test greater than you are able to handle if you but trust in him.
The trials you now are facing,
They are not greater than your will,
For there is nothing under Heaven,
You cannot overcome.
See the door that lies before you,
And know - this too shall pass.
The confrontation of your fears,
In strength drawn from the past.
Skip forward a few stanzas
I believe in what I fight for,
And I have paid for it with pain.
I am here because my contributions,
May help turn this fate away.
And all who stood by and did nothing,
Who are they to criticize?
The sacrifices of others-
Our blood has bought their lives...
Ahhh.. head-exploding goodness. I believe in what I fight for.... While a lot of their songs can be as pedastalizing as any pop bands, they certainly get the "warrior sacrifice" thing - a reason John became huge friends with them (and was at Rogue's wedding...). Most notably, echoing Roosevelt's "man in the arena" - And all who stood by and did nothing, Who are they to criticize?

Belief. Kratman of the Carrera novels based an entire spinoff in the Posleen universe, The Tuloriad, the entire point of which was the need to bring religion to a religious war. To believe in something that gives you the will to fight. Having the swiss guard stand and fight with pikes, not so much echoing but rhyming with the last stand of the guard in 1527 with better results, was a bonus.

I believe in what I fight for. Let that roll off your tongue. Civilization. Western values, and free men. Leftists no longer believe in the civilization that gave them birth, and will no longer fight for it.
There is no love untouched by hate,
No unity without discord.
There is no courage without fear,
There is no peace without a war.
There is no wisdom without regret,
No admiration without scorn.
There is strife within the tempest,
But there is calm in the eye of the storm...
In no real universe with humans will we ever be without anger, without hate, without fear. Even trying is damn near the definition of insanity. If we don't have scorn, how can we even have admiration? How does it have meaning? Without something to be afraid of, where can there be courage?

Without the negatives, how can we choose the positives?
The pages of our history,
Are written by the hand,
With eyes and ears and prejudice,
Too far removed to understand.
And so the heroes of the ages
Are stripped of honesty and love.
To make them seem less noble,
And hide what we can become.
Once, in the days of Herodotus, those who wrote history, who spoke of battles and war, were the educated class, and thus also the ones who kept their armor, stood in a phalanx, and marched with spear and sword. They knew the sound of a swordblade scraping on teeth. 

Most modern historians know no such thing. They have avoided the battlefield and think themselves better for it. Morally better. And they look with disdain at those who have fought. And not having fought, not having gotten in the cage, in thinking it was lesser, they strip our heroes of all that is noble. They wallow in the gutter and tell us there are no angels, that we cannot touch the divine. 

Incidentally, it was these paragraphs I specifically talked with Rogue about.
If you find the courage within you,
To face the path ahead,
It matters not the outcome,
If what you will gain instead,
Is a heart deepened in the knowing,
That experience carves the soul,
And the very thing that empties you,
Shall surely make you whole.
Even failure can teach you, if you are willing to get back up and try again, to learn, instead of hide. In the Nietzschean sense, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Eye of the Storm by The Cruxshadows

The trials you now are facing,
They are not greater than your will,
For there is nothing under Heaven,
You cannot overcome.
See the door that lies before you,
And know - this too shall pass.
The confrontation of your fears,
In strength drawn from the past.

Where the silent voices whisper,
'Find the course that is your own,
And however great the obstacle,
You will never be alone.'
For I have watched the path of Angels,
And I have heard the Heavens roar.
There is strife within the tempest,
But there is calm in the eye of the storm.

In fragments of an instant,
The chaos has returned,
And all that was left to sentiment,
Beneath the banner burned.
And as that voice was slow receded,
Into echoes, memory,
My doubts were re-ignited,
And fear awakened from it's sleep.

I believe in what I fight for,
And I have paid for it with pain.
I am here because my contributions,
May help turn this fate away.
And all who stood by and did nothing,
Who are they to criticize?
The sacrifices of others-
Our blood has bought their lives...

This is the moment of truth,
At the point of no return.
Place faith in your convictions,
As boundaries start to blur.

There is no love untouched by hate,
No unity without discord.
There is no courage without fear,
There is no peace without a war.
There is no wisdom without regret,
No admiration without scorn.
There is strife within the tempest,
But there is calm in the eye of the storm...

The pages of our history,
Are written by the hand,
With eyes and ears and prejudice,
Too far removed to understand.
And so the heroes of the ages
Are stripped of honesty and love.
To make them seem less noble,
And hide what we can become.

This is the moment of truth,
At the point of no return.
Place faith in your convictions,
As the boundaries start to blur.

There is no love untouched by hate,
No unity without discord
There is no courage without fear,
There is no peace without a war.
There is no wisdom without regret,
No admiration without scorn
There is strife within the tempest,
And there is calm in the eye of the storm...

There is no love untouched by hate,
No unity without discord
There is no courage without fear,
There is no peace without a war.
There is no wisdom without regret,
No admiration without scorn
There is strife within the tempest,
And calm in the eye of the storm...

There is no love untouched by hate,
No unity without discord.
There is no courage without fear,
There is no peace without a war.
There is no wisdom without regret,
No admiration without scorn.
There is strife within the tempest,
And there is calm in the eye of the storm...

If you find the courage within you,
To face the path ahead,
It matters not the outcome,
If what you will gain instead,
Is a heart deepened in the knowing,
That experience carves the soul,
And the very thing that empties you,
Shall surely make you whole.

Where the silent voices whisper,
'Find the course that is your own,
And however great the obstacle,
You will never be alone.'
For I have watched the path of Angels,
And I have heard the Heavens roar.
There is strife within the tempest,
But there is calm in the eye of the storm.