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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Have a couple posts mulling in my head that are not yet ready to be put down, nor to have a chunk broken off to post (usually later figuring out that's all I need to be said).

One topic is from several recent articles of SJW's in tech and a couple of old postings over at Eric Raymond's Blog. The second link is an article on Kafkatraps well worth reading on its own... and if you search for the articles, the usual suspects get their panties in a bunch.

Another relates to GM style, rules, and campaign worlds from a recent Jeffro discussion.

Oh, and still not tired of winning: Are Trump voters ruining America for all of us?: Tom Nichols

Materialism - it's About the Experiences Too

Return of Kings has an interesting article on what they call the "hedonic treadmill." titled "Are You On A Treadmill Of Materialism That Goes Nowhere?"
Prepare yourself because it is only going to get worse. The giant marketing machine that is the modern media will become even more pervasive and insidious as technology continues to evolve. There will be nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. If you live at all in the digital world the drumbeat for material consumption and accumulation will never stop. Through electronic tracking and sophisticated algorithms you will be increasingly targeted. The goal, of course, is to forever separate you from your hard earned money by keeping you on the Hedonic Treadmill.

In terms of materialism, the Hedonic Treadmill means that “enough will never be enough.” In other words, corporations are well aware that it is human nature to become accustomed to higher and higher levels of material existence and wealth. The tendency then, is to then seek out further improvements and upgrades to maintain a certain level of satisfaction and enjoyment. As if on a treadmill, anyone who assesses their identity through material means will never really get further ahead in this regard; one’s self-worth will always spring back to par, thus the need for constant consumption to maintain worthiness, status and pride.
It's worth noting one thing. Materialism isn't just about "stuff," and in many ways the name they give this kind of existence - the hedonic treadmill - is far more accurate than the title.

It's not just about the nicest car, the latest TV, the latest computer, the latest game console, the nicest house, the new shiny set of golf clubs (blech.... ), or the latest AR-platform from Springfield Arms or JP rifles...

It's about living for the "experience." Travel to exotic locations, nice meals, vacations when you can't afford one, etc. ad nauseum. Why?

It's not the pleasure - we all need some contentment in our lives. And yes, even moderation must sometimes be practiced in moderation.

It's the mentality of the "bucket list" in the first place. The only difference is that instead of a tangible good, you get an ephermal experience - possibly with pictures. Maybe, just maybe, waking up to see the sunrise on the east coast, and flying to see it set on the California coast is fun, but compared to what you could have built, or simply meditated on staying at that morning shoreline? All you did was spend a bunch of money so that you could say you did. If you're planning a getaway, sure, go see the Grand Canyon (have some nice pics myself), but trips to go see places should be about the trip, not about getting to cross the destination off the bucket list.

It's not necessarily a firm line. Everyone needs some time in nature, to themselves. My favorite was to get a cabin rental around Gatlinburg near the smokies for a few nights (roughly the same cost as overpriced hotel rooms, much cheaper for groceries vs. restaurants, and far more solitude), drive into the park and hike a trail, usually to a waterfall. Hang out. Come back. Shower, grill, and watch the sun set over the hills. Spend some time reading. Walk the tourist strip one night and get a dinner and some taffy.

So where is the line drawn? I'm not sure. One flag, as the article notes for materialism in general, is when you're spending more than you can afford. Another is that you care more about the event for how it makes you look - though I've seen people camouflage that by then talking about how enlightening/etc. the experience was.

While we're at it - consider how colleges these days are determined to sell the "experience" of how much fun they'll have.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Star Realms - the Game

Well -tried the game out finally.

I'm not a huge fan of deck-builders generally - the kind where you build your deck in-game - but have been reasonably successful playing my friends in the DC comic themed games, and seriously considering buying Core Worlds. Overall, I liked it, despite the usual huge frustration at watching opponents grab up the cards I want and then trying to figure out how they're chaining together 30-40 points of damage when I can't stop my 1-point scouts from popping up.

For those who aren't familiar with how the game plays, you start out with a deck of entry cards  that do one point of damage or one point of trade/purchasing power. You also start out with a pool of "authority" points that are lost when damage is done to you. You play the cards in hands of five to purchase ships and bases. Each of those ships allow you to either do more damage, heal more damage ("gain authority"), or buy more trade. Special abilities exist to scrap cards out of your discards (to flush out low-value cards and increase the odds of desired cards coming up), draw additional cards, or gain additional trade/etc. if ships from the same faction (there are four) are played.

Bases stay out, and give you some benefit every turn - scrapping cards, trade, authority, or damage, for example.  Some - outposts - also act as tanks. They have to be attacked before your opponent can attack anything else, and if he cannot do the minimum damage to eliminate it, are unaffected.

The artwork is solid, the mechanics straightforward, the factions each have their unique strengths regarding scrapping unwanted cards, pulling more cards, etc., and a player is not advised to concentrate on one, or even necessarily two of them.

Oh, and Jon Del Arroz has a nifty book out set in this universe.

You can download the digital version of the game through Steam or the Android Play store or the iOS App store. The free version allows play against the AI, but not online play.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Temples of Iron and Searching for Dragons

I stumbled across this a while back, and haven't known how to present it. All I can tell you is that it has given me a lot to think about, a lot to reflect on, and little that I feel I can add.

Go look up the blog "" - originally "searching for dragons" - and especially this post on why searching for dragons.

An excerpt:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Crazy Cat Ladies R Us

On Saturday the Frisky Pagan reviewed a Hugo-nominated story called Our Talons can Crush Galaxies, by Brook Bolander. He was not kind.

I had no intention of reading it for myself to see if he was fair. First, the quotes he provides already make my skin crawl.

No, I'm not kidding.

I'm used to some grade-A solipsism and narcissism out of feminists, but rarely do I read things that, if the person writing them were in the room with me, I'd be looking for an escape exit and never, under any circumstances, be alone with them.

Some examples, you ask? Crap.

Let's start with the opener.
This is not the story of how he killed me, thank fuck
Yeah. Everything up through "me" would be an interesting opener, but no, we have to be edgy and curse and be vulgar.

Unfortunately, what it is a story of is even less pretty.

After starting out complaining how the heroes and the villains get all the attention, the victim doesn't even get a name, and so she won't tell you how she got killed...
So, no. You don’t get a description of how he surprised me, where he did it, who may have fucked him up when he was a boy to lead to such horrors (no–one), or the increasingly unhinged behavior the cops had previously filed away as the mostly harmless eccentricities of a nice young man from a good family. No fighting in the woods, no blood under the fingernails, no rivers or locked trunks or calling cards in the throat. It was dark and it was bad and I called for my sisters in a language dead when the lion–brides of Babylon still padded outside the city gates. There. That’s all you get, and that’s me being generous. You’re fuckin’ welcome.
No, it's not the story of that, and the victims are forgotten, but I'm still going to hint at how it went and you'll be grateful that I decided to hint at it when I said I wouldn't tell you.

So yes, as the Pagan has told us, we get to a set of bullet points as if in a power point presentation. And the very first point does indeed get contradicted later in the same story. "I meant nothing to him/he wanted to get her attention and she wouldn't even look at him." - but then borderlines I've been unfortunate enough to know wouldn't balk at such conflicts to their own vision of their righteousness.
I was playing at being mortal this century because I love cigarettes and shawarma, and it’s easier to order shawarma if your piercing shriek doesn’t drive the delivery boy mad. Mortality is fun in small doses. It’s very authentic, very down–in–the–dirt nitty–gritty. There are lullabies and lily pads and summer rainstorms and hardly anyone ever tries to cut your head off out of some moronic heroic obligation to the gods. If you want to sit on your ass and read a book, nobody judges you. Also, shawarma.
Yeah, petty. I'm sure some would defend it by pointing out how goods and spirits in Greek and other myths would interact with mortals for very mortal and small reasons - usually love, greed, jealousy, etc., but shawarma? How... hip. 

The thing is that this pettiness goes on.
I hatched anew. I flapped my wings and hurricanes flattened cities in six different realities. I was a tee–ninsy bit motherfuckin’ pissed, maybe.
Again with the vulgarity and the teen-speak. What a small-minded god. That's not the pettiest part though. Flattening cities in six realities because she's a tee-ninsy bit pissed?

Let's leave aside the collateral damage and mass death of innocents for the crimes of one - she can't even be grandly pissed? High righteous anger? Maybe we're aiming at cool hipster understatement here. Sorry babe, death in the Sandman comics did it far, far better. And took her job far more seriously. Even when this godlet does things that are grandiose, she cannot at least admit to grandeur.
I may have cried. You don’t get to know that either, though.
She's still playing head games with her audience because we don't deserve to know. 
We swept back onto the mortal plane with a sound of a 1967 Mercury Cougar roaring to life on an empty country road, one sister in the front seat and three in the back and me at the wheel with a cigarette clenched between my pointed teeth. You can fit a lot of wingspan in those old cars, provided you know how to fold reality the right way.
Speaking of Neil Gaiman, I think she learned all the wrong lessons. Still petty though, no steeds, no lightning, no winds, not a quiet approach on foot. Nope, a '67 cougar and fitting the wings if you can fold reality. 

I dearly suspect this woman has never meditated, really, really thought, of ancient myth. This feat she takes care to mention wouldn't be worth mentioning by a Greek god, or an angel, except to note the wings or other visible traits were folded away, hidden. Of course they'd know how.
Did he cry? Oh yeah. Like a fuckin’ baby.
Yeah. Petty, sadistic pleasure at the suffering of the victim. This isn't justice. That said, note the focus. Not that the transgressor was punished, but that the transgressor suffered, cried.
Our talons can crush galaxies. Our songs give black holes nightmares. The edges of our feathers fracture moonlight into silver spiderwebs and universes into parallels. Did we take him apart? C’mon. Don’t ask stupid questions.
Yeah, playing head games with the audience again.
Anyway. Like I said way back at the start, this is not the story of how he killed me. It’s the story of how a freak tornado wrecked a single solitary home and disappeared a promising young man from a good family, leaving a mystery for the locals to scratch their heads over for the next twenty years. It’s the story of how a Jane Doe showed up in the nearby morgue with what looked like wing stubs sticking out of her back, never to be claimed or named. It’s the story of how my sisters and I acquired a 1967 Mercury Cougar we still go cruising in occasionally when we’re on the mortal side of the pike. 
 Except it's not most of those things. It's coyly dancing around the story of how she was killed, but certainly not avoiding it either. It is not the story of a freak tornado but of how they covered their actions in the story. Since she supposedly didn't tell us how she died, it's not the story of how a Jane Doe ended up in the morgue - the author barely hints at what happened, opens by saying she won't tell us even, before dancing around it. And why should I care about the car? They didn't acquire it! There's not story of how the went about getting it, they just manifested it, like they could have manifested a 68' Corvette or a Mercedes G-series.
You may not remember my name, seeing as how I don’t have one you could pronounce or comprehend. The important thing is always the stories—which ones get told, which ones get co–opted, which ones get left in a ditch, overlooked and neglected. This is my story, not his. It belongs to me and is mine alone. 
Still the superiority and head games. It's her story, and it will be there till the end of time with her. No other story matters.


You can't diagnose someone from their writing - I dread someone digging up some of what I wrote in high school - but what I see of the author, in what they idealize, even though I'm perfectly well aware of the rule of not confusing an author's belief's with a character's, scares me. Why?

Because it's full of head games. It's about petty, nasty pleasures of the moment, petty, nasty, personal revenge over the equivalent of a mosquito bite - their talons crush galaxies, after all - about how she's sooooo much better than anyone else, about head games, about her utter unconcern for others who did her no harm and how she uncaringly destroys them across multiple realities because she's pissed, and ultimately, about how her story is the only one that really matters.

On Seagulls and Greatness

Over at Seagull Rising Jon Mollison discusses Cora Buhlert and her lack of awareness of what she refers to. Cora B in bold....
*Does anybody else find the idea of a rabid puppy taking inspiration from Jonathan Livingston Seagull of all things as funny as I do?
Of course she thinks it's funny.  She doesn't know what you're talking about.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the story of a seagull whose unwillingness to conform to the demands of the crowd results in his expulsion from the flock.  It was adopted by the hippy-dippy movement in the 1970s as they struggled to escape the conformity provided by hard work, the Christian faith, and showers.  Cora still operates under that out-dated mindset, clinging to the notion that true rebels write works that conform to the demands of the university system, major publishing houses, Hollywood, every major media outlet, and most major businesses like Target, Google, and Starbucks.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the story of a seagull whose unwillingness to conform to the demands of the crowd results in his expulsion from the flock.  Her mirth makes it clear that she either has not read the work in question - which is largely agnostic on matters of politics, hewing closer to  a 'you be you even if it means going against the majority' message than to her assumed 'stick it to the man, and once you are the man, stick it to those who want to stick it to the man' message.  Proving once again...

These people don't read
I agree utterly - these people don't read. Most of what I've seen on the hugos, and I've looked, is about what kind of authors and characters were in the story, and what they reference. "And there's this girl, and she's black, and she has lucid dreams and it's, like, Freudean, and.." - yeah, fuck off, I'll go re-watch Dreamscape or re-read the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. Oh, wait, that's the article describing a new comic series Afar. It's cool because it has a new twist on Freudian dream theory, you see, and this girl is utterly helpless through most of it, then she makes a horrible mistake she can't undo, but it's all about us and our dreams, and...


Where were we? Oh, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

I hate to Break it to Jon, but I think he missed an important point of the book, which I first read back in 4th grade a long time ago.

Sure, it's not about specific politcs - it's about the willingness to follow a path even if it's not in lockstep march with what everyone tells you in general, and as he points out, that is by no means the monopoly of the left or liberals, especially when they have become the man.

Here's where it goes deeper. It's not just that our intrepid seagull is determined to do his own thing - all the seagulls "fly" after a fasion. They all dive for fish, after a fashion. They all eat, after a fashion. It is that he is utterly dedicated to excellence. What sets him apart is is his quest to be the best, to fly the best. To find the limits of what is possible and maybe even push a bit further. He could of course choose something else, and of course he is not content to just live life like the herd - but he wants to achieve mastery.

Often in life, we have to accept good enough, but to master ourselves, to achieve excellence, there have to be areas we care about where "good enough" is not good enough.

UPDATE: In all fairness to Jon - on rereading this I realized I made it sound like Jon didn't realize there were more meanings to the story. A guy who's site is called "Seagull rising".

Yeah, right.

So - first of all, sorry Jon, it was a failure in my writing to not make it clear that Cora B's failure to grok JLS went far deeper than just "outsider evicted for bucking the flock" but to excellence and working for it, for, as Jon pointed out elsewhere, the art of the whole and not just badly assembled very pretty bits of craft. The fault was not, as I made it appear, in your understanding of JLS.

I for one am a person who hates to draw distinctions between, say, illustrators, and artist, and craft is ultimately required for most great art, but Jon is utterly correct - one can master craft, and not know how to put the whole thing together into a thing of beauty. A cargo cult of mistaking the craft for the art, without understanding the spirit, the soul of the thing.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weaponized Autism

Vox Day had recently posted on the controversial teaching methods of a certain college professor who has some rather controversial teaching methods involving anti-free speech rioting and bike locks. It was noted how it was the 4chan guys at /pol/ that tracked down the professor from various images of the event.

Two comments I found interesting.
/pol/ = weaponized autism

I f*cking love these guys.

Their ongoing persecution of the Le Barf fool, and the ease with which they've run rings around him, is just ... delicious.

May they never grow up.
This is of course referring to the earlier exploits involving "actor" Shia LaBeouf who had created a livestreaming "art" project centered around how Trump "will not divide us."

It was promptly crashed by various alt-right and alt-white types, some of the funniest being non-white minorities. In response, our intrepid "actor" had taken to hiding his installation. At one point in the middle of some field with the camera point straight up.

So /pol/ used a combination of real-time shots of the starfield and airline schedules cross-referenced to planes observed in the FOV to pinpoint the location of the camera.

Weaponized autism.

Autism has been weaponized for a long time, it's just we used Ivory Towers and Monastaries before the internet. Remember, the old polite term for it is "touched by god".
A core premise of the novel Anathem is that the monasteries were created to keep the "odds" and geniuses isolated and undistracted by real-world concerns. It's not just to keep them safe from society, but to also keep society safe from them and the consequences of what they discover. Not only are they restricted in how much they can "own", but very restricted in the kinds of modern, especially nano-based, technology they have access to.

As it turns out, that wasn't as much of a limitation as would have been hoped. Weaponized autism will find a way.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Girl Friday

Enjoy the weekend.

Alt-Star Wars, and Childhood

Bradford Walker has suggested we fork Star Wars, and then proceeded to suggest some other sources to look at - and said sources immediately tugged at some truly nostalgic memories.

First - Yamato. While I'd had some exposure while visiting the grandparents via Boston channels to the giant-robot cartoons out of Japan, "Star Blazers", as it was released in the states, was truly something else. Sure, the Battleship was awesome, but instead of a giant, and even then, sortof cheesy robot (despite also fondly remembering "Shogun Warriors", you had a spaceship that looked like a battleship, interesting characters, nail-biting action, beauty, fighters that still look freaking cool, and a story that dragged you in kicking and screaming and would not let you go.

Given it was before the day of practical VCR's for most families, I cursed the days the bus was late, or my mom made me finish my homework first, because it came on minutes after I usually got home. When I later started collecting anime via tape-trading groups, I made it a point to get my hands on a few of the Yamato movies, which I enjoyed.

Looking back, the animation is definitely of its time from a quality standpoint, but the style and storytelling still hold up. It has a lasting audience as well, as repeated movies, the live movie, and the newer TV remake mentioned at Walkers indicate.

Next, Macross - which I first saw as the opening third of the Robotech TV series. I'd been looking forward to it a bit since I already had a couple of the "Robotech Defenders" models and the Valkyrie-based "changer" model which of course I'd recognized as sharing the same source as a number of the early Battletech mechs. Fortunately - because I had to leave for the bus before the episode would finish, we had a VCR in the house, and I was able to record - though I later lost - the entire series all the way through the last of the "Invid" ( Genesis Climber Mospeada ) episodes.

I was hooked, and that started my hunt for any and all other anime I could track down, and from there the various mail-based swap clubs, and some truly weird stuff. Among other odds and ends I got my hands on the Monogram model for "Cy-Kill" from Gobots which was actually a rebranded Cyclone from Genesis Climber. I also could do a pretty decent rendition of the transforming bike/suit armor in ink - not my illustration included.

But Macross - along with Crusher Joe and a handful of other titles - has stuck with me over the years where most of the other stuff I saw was forgotten to time and mediocrity.

It's a pleasure when you go back to revisit something you loved in your childhood, and discover that it holds up, rather than being an artifact of Childhood Nostalgia Disorder

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Hey, my apologies for referencing a disco song, but as much as I like Yngwie Malmsteen, I won't subject you to "Now Your Ships Are Burned."

Anyway, Jon Del Arroz writes on blacklists, the need to make others aware of them, and more importantly , the need to, as Vox would put it, to develop alternate platforms.

More to the point, to forge forth and not look back.
It all comes down to blackballing again. And here’s where I call to you writers: burn the ships and don’t look back.

By which I mean get rid of these middlemen and gatekeepers who have this mentality. You don’t need them. You don’t need the contract they offer you to be legitimate in the world today. Amazon, evil corporate monopoly that it is, has leveled the playing field and gotten rid of all barriers to entry. A “real” publisher won’t market you anyway — they don’t spend resources on new writers, only established brands. You’ll be left in the wind there as much as you are on your own, but without control of your own product, and receiving a lower percentage on every sale for your work. There is literally no benefit to these middlemen’s existence. They are only there to tell you what you’re allowed to write and what readers are allowed to read. Their opinions might not even match up with readers at all.

You are a real writer. If you’re getting good feedback on your work, don’t hesitate. Put it out there. That’s the only way to get ahead: especially if you’re white, male, Christian, conservative, any or all of those things. They gatekeepers hate you for who you are, and it doesn’t matter how good your work is. Stop giving those Christaphobic racist, sexist bigots validation by seeking yours through them.
And if I can't in good conscience subject you to that one particular track off of Rising Force, maybe I can give you a decent substitute:

In Case of Social Justice Break Glass

And pull out some wrongthink. (Hat tip to Brian Niemeier)
The Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway is about showcasing authors who have been marginalized by the gatekeepers of the sci-fi publishing industry for the sin of not complying with progressive social justice dogma. From Sarah Hoyt, who was accused of racism and ”internalized misogyny” for her association with the Sad Puppies campaign to reform the Hugo Awards, to Nick Cole, who lost a publishing contract for daring to write a story about an artificially intelligent computer who is troubled by abortion, these authors have faced smear campaigns, boycotts and blacklisting for failing to toe the progressive line.

Far from being discouraged by the social justice crybullies, however, these authors have thrived by continuing to focus on writing great stories that connect with readers. And now they are teaming up to help spread the word about each other’s books.

The real winner in all this is you, the avid sci-fi reader. We’re holding a huge giveaway and giving away seven kickass sci-fi titles just for entering. In addition, three winners will each receive seven MORE books.

Just for entering, you’ll get:
Curious to know what's in it? How to enter? Well -head to the site and find out.....

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kinda That Mood. Waves, Wrecks, and Warren Zevon.

OK. So Eric Raymond posted on a document on rogue waves on youtube, then followed up with a posting at his blog referencing that documentary and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

First, the BBC special. Being reporters I think they got some of the math terms wrong, but... there's enough here to make you go hmmm....

Rogue waves are considered one of the possible reasons for the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald, said wreck the subject of the hit song "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

And since I was in that sort of ballad mood - one of my favorite Warren Zevon songs...

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Bubble of Frozen Culture

I was catching up on Stefan Molyneux's call in show via podcast, and question 6 of the April 5 podcast (available here) was from a man who'd been dragged to the US as a child and illegal alien, and had moved back to Mexico, discussing his alienation.

All in all it's a damned interesting conversation, but Stefan dug out a metaphor that really hit home for me personally. He pointed out that even in the "good" cases, you or your parents, the adults, and to a lesser degree the children, take a small bubble of one's culture with them when they arrive at their new home. Over time, that bubble erodes, but as the actual home culture moves on, evolves, the little bubble one brings along is frozen in time, in stasis. And of course, the kids, legal or otherwise, are left in between - neither fully of the new culture (though in some cases closer than others) nor any longer of the old. It's moved on.

Like the line in Gross Pointe Blank - " I, I'm standing where my, uh, living room was and it's not here because my house is gone and it's an Ultimart! You can never go home again, Oatman... but I guess you can shop there."

Whenever you try to go back, it may not be leveled and replaced with a convenience store, but it will be different. You've brought something with you that makes you not entirely of the new home, yet freezes you out of the flow of the old one.

I've seen it. Not only in grandparents who - no matter how staunchly anti-communist, left to go back to the home country once free. They were anti-communists, not Americans. I've seen it in others more recently from my parents home country comment how archaic my vocabulary is - because the vocabulary I learned in Sunday school has been frozen in time since the last big wave of immigrants immediately post WW2.

I've also seen it in cultural assumptions. You'd think that - for a group of people who's last wave of immigration was escaping Soviet and communist tyranny - that the lessons would be burned in about the evils of central control.


Fuck that. Many of the parents I knew growing up, many of the kids generation I know now, are die hard socialists and democrats through and through.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Girl Friday

Have fun guys.

Growing out of Codependence

While my dad was not perfect, it was courtesy of female teachers, and far too much feminist propaganda growing up, that I all too readily believed my mother about his faults, or failed to see the role she played.

One result was a long-delayed and ongoing struggle to outgrow "nice-guy" and codependent behaviors (as an aside, No More Mr Nice Guy by Dr Glover was a total eye-opener, and I'd already started the journey well before). Thus this recent piece by Aurini caught my attention, and is worth considering. One excerpt:
People treat you the way that you allow them to treat you.  In the case of ToastedCookieOats, he tolerated behaviour that was utterly beyond the pale, and then rewarded her for it with a “Thank you!” message.  If she hadn’t blown him off, he likely would have showed up for a second helping of being ignored.  The Navy Seal who’s terrified of his wife didn’t become that way after he put the ring on her and she revealed her true face.  There were always warning signs – worse than warning signs, he’d been actively encouraging her to behave this way during the earliest phases of their courtship.  Rather than worrying about her emotional needs, he’d been worrying about the trappings of their relationship.  He’d chosen appearance over essence, time and again.  Maybe he wanted a hot piece of arm candy.  Maybe he wanted a Traditional Life™ complete with two SUVs in the driveway, and a McMansion off base.  Despite the great instincts he’d developed for operating in the field – or in business – or in the meat market – his personal life was nothing but a consumer product.
The article leading up to it is worth reading as well.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I am tempted to try this out

Home brewing. From Art of Manliness:
If you’re wondering why you need an article on how to make beer from a kit, if it already comes with directions, know that while the kit simplifies and streamlines the brewing process, there are still sticky points the first time you try it. While the first batch of homebrew I made a few years ago was okay, I was pretty clueless about the whole operation. I didn’t really understand what the various supplies were for, I didn’t understand the process enough to know how to troubleshoot any issues, and I wasn’t even sure what my beer was supposed to look like in a few of the steps. I’ve gained a bit more experience over the years, and I’ve also had a chance to talk to some professional brewers about the most important homebrew principles, as well as a couple ways the amateur should deviate from a kit’s directions to really get a great beer. In understanding all the supplies and processes behind kit brewing, you’ll be better able to handle any problem and have a better chance of creating a beer that’s worthy of sharing.
Looks like a rather nice and thorough overview. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

There Is No-one So Blind As a Man Who Will Not See.

Google recently put out its methodology for determining wages and pay to address allegations that they are systematically underpaying female staff and programmers.

The verge of course has the expected response (web archive). Let's start with the headline:
Google releases pay methodology in attempt to prove no gender gap exists
Subtle, I tell ya. Reeeeeaaal subtle. 
The statement once again denies that any pay gap exists within the company, explaining the “gender-blind” way the company makes its salary calculations, which it says is based on “role, job level, job location as well as current and recent performance ratings.”
Nice scare quotes you've got around "gender-blind."

In case you're too dense to get the hint the Verge editors are trying to apply with a two-by-four, immediately above the giant, flaming, eye-searing pink pull quote "GOOGLE USES A SUPPOSEDLY ‘GENDER-BLIND’ METHOD TO WORK OUT PAY" you see:
Google’s expressed methodology would seem to iron out imbalances in wages, but Naughton notes that before pay details are run through the equity model, they can be adjusted by an employee’s line manager — “providing they cite a legitimate adjustment rationale.”
And we know those schemers are trying to find any rationale they can. Right?

It doesn't matter how converged you are - if you have any dedication to quality, to getting the job done consistently, right, and well, SJW's will get on your case for the inevitable side effects of not having the current desired distribution of "minorities".

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

United Also Breaks Guitars.

I try to avoid point-and-laugh articles but recent circumstances have tempted me to take the easy path, and given my distaste for United, I willingly jumped in and wallowed in it.
The problem here has a couple of aspects.  First: the whole antiquated overbooking phenomenon.  In what other venue can you buy a product, pay for it, and be denied it?  If you buy a flat screen TV and walk it out to your car, Walmart can't come up to you and take it back because they also sold it to someone else.  Maybe a better analogy is sports.  People will buy a season ticket to see their favorite team and not go to the game.  Either way, there's a finite number of seats that need to be sold for a certain date.  If the buyer doesn't show up nobody else gets that seat.  They don't sell the seat to two buyers and figure "we'll deal with it if they both show up".  If you don't go, you forfeit your seat.  Why isn't airplane seat the same? Why would they overbook in the first place?  Today, they have computerized systems tracking demand for seats that tell them on a flight-by-flight, seat-by-seat basis what the demand is and adjusting the prices moment by moment.   Sell the number of seats on the plane and then stop.   
The other aspect is that in the name of airline safety we've made the airlines immune to prosecution for this sort of insanity.  It's a violation of federal law to disobey the orders of the flight crew.  And that's totally ignoring TSA, Air Marshals and the rest of the security kabuki.  In the air, that has a certain sense to it.  Airplanes have a restricted set of conditions they can fly in (their "envelope"), and someone has to be in command.  If the pilot tells the passengers to do something, they'd generally better do it.  On the ground, overbooking the flight and telling some passengers they have to get off the airplane or they'll be bodily subdued and taken off that airplane is seriously wrong.
Yeah. "Three times is enemy action" is as much a statement about the presence of systemic failures as anything else. I have known people who work at the airlines, and no human organization is perfect, but various things I've heard and seen have led me to the position of taking any other carrier when possible. Not two weeks ago we had stupid petty decisions about leggings, and now this.

My biggest beef with them is not that they make mistakes - see my previous comment about "no organization is perfect" - it's that it's not the first time they've  done something this monumentally stupid, and past experiences show an arrogance about it, as if their employees feel no need to make up for United's cock-ups, or make good on them for their clients.

A particularly hilarious example from a while back (that actually ended up on CNN) - and worth watching even if you hate country music:

There's also a followup though at 2 million views instead of the 16 million the above video had.

Monday, April 10, 2017

More Leo - Genie in a Bottle

OK. Is nothing sacred?

Kidding - I'm not an Aguilera fan, and while I'm not a huge fan of death-metal vocals, it works here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Girl Friday

That time of week again...

How Different Is It?

Chris Jones over at Classic RPG Realms writes how D&D and AD&D were two different games. Looking around at what I've heard and seen of 5e (no, have not played it), what I'd played of the original basic (mostly Keep on the Borderlands) and AD&D (a fair bit including some heavy home-ruling) and Pathfinder, I think he has a point that other games evolved more from original D&D. I think AD&D evolved from the other more than he believes, it needs some distilling, but even ACKs, which I dearly love, owes more to Basic D&D than AD&D, and most OSR games do as well.

One thing that jumped out at me was the following:
Now, this may seem simple to some. Maybe others have experienced the same thing in other games. Even games based on Original D&D. I have not. In fact I am struggling with 5e now for this very reason. The game seems shallow, and lacking in substance. I feel like it is the copy of a copy of a copy. And yes, very cartoon-like. This has been something I have struggled since I came back playing 3.5. I see them as very cartoonish and over the top. Not the fantasy I like to imagine. I also feel it is far too oversimplified, even the massive 3.5, 4e, and PF. Yes, even these huge option heavy systems where the complexity is in the proliferation of character options instead of actual game depth. The exact plagues that Gary mentioned before are the very ones that have plagued D&D since its inception--those that AD&D was supposed to rectify.
Insofar as PF that criticism is spot on. Lots of tour books (inner sea guide, this guide, that guide), and book, after book, after book of character options where a number of people who regularly play refuse to make up characters by hand to track all the options, but instead use Hero Lab.

Yeah, AD&D could get complicated, but the Players Handbook was the players handbook, and the DMG was the DMG, and you didn't end up with "Ultimate this" and "Ultimate that" and the other thing..

Reading this article it occurred to me that as thick as the PF core rules book was, it spent far too much of its space on characters.

The first 17 pages are "how to play RPG's" of which the last few are an overview of the character generation process. Chapter 2 - 10 pages or so - delves into stats and fluff on each of the races, in fine print. Classes ties up the next 56 pages (and keep in mind that there are a lot more books with even more classes, this is just the core rules...). Another 50 pages on skills and feats. 

With the exception of combat and additional rules, you don't really hit the GM-specific rules until page 394. Of those first 394 pages, 330 are basically the players handbook (though you could argue a good chunk of equipment belongs in the DMG...)

This in a book with 575 pages, in a system which has several bestiaries, an advanced players guide, and far more beyond that for character options that I haven't even begun to cover.

Let's compare this to ACKs. 270 pages for the core rulebook. 14 to introduce the game and its tone. 76 more pages to cover basic character classes, equipment, proficiencies, and spells.

All the rest is GM stuff.

Is ACKs the successor to AD&D? No. As set forth in the article, it very much is rooted in the original D&D. 


It to me strikes a perfect balance between simple enough and complicated enough. A chunk of the GM section is consolidated economics and rules of thumb so that when your character (or his "heir" several deaths later) becomes powerful enough, you actually have the framework needed to get a castle, a kingdom, a town, and so forth built - something even AD&D didn't manage, and D&D didn't even try. It fleshed out the world to fill in holes in basic D&D (and as noted, even AD&D), while at the same time making the rules a little more consistent.

This last is where the genius creeps in. Alexander Macris saw the original rules and the potential in them, and tweaked them so that they could easily be extended up to clashing armies (Domains at War) and basic firearms (Guns of War) of the pike and shot age. The classes in the core book are closer to the original D&D than AD&D, but they're based off the methodology in the Players Companion, giving you both ready-made templates with few - but significant - options to choose, and a very flexible character creation system that distills down to a simple character sheet that works.

And soon, they will publish another adaptation of the rules for heroic fantasy.

While, in my youth, I leapt to AD&D and never looked back, I agree that something was lost in the quest for completeness, and consistency. If I had to chose between my childhood systems of D&D it would be AD&D in a heartbeat.

That said, I'm not sure that, at least as shown in ACKs, going back to the same roots hasn't resulted in at least some better stuff. Yes, Pathfinder has certainly worn on me with its bloat and shallow breadth, but the additions to ACKS actually change the nature and depth and core rules of the game - yet you can take them or leave them as you wish.

We have at least one system that manages the complexity, reasonable conceptual consistency, and verisimilitude that AD&D aimed for, but slightly leaner, and giving the GM more room to decide what actually makes sense in the light of what the players decide.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Splinter in the Mind

Ages ago, shortly after Star Wars came out, Alan Dean Foster released a novel of a Star Wars followup story with an awesomely cool cover that included Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader. I was young - innocent to the ways of movie tie ins - and it was much later that I learned that this author was also the author of the first Star Wars book, supposedly written by George Lucas. By then I'd already ready more than a fair bit of Foster's stuff, including With Friends Like These... and the followon collection Who Needs Enemies, all the available Flinx and Pip books, most of the Humanx books, and the Spellsinger books.

Oh, and he wrote a hell of a lot of movie novelizations as well, including the book version of The Last Starfighter.

So I read this book, and enjoyed it. And when Empire came out, and later Jedi, got really confused because things didn't mesh up with the book I'd read.

I expected things to make sense.

Anyway, I was recently reminded of this book when I stumbled into this review of it at Recalcitrant Male Watches Cinema:
On its own, Splinter of the Mind's Eye is a solidly entertaining, reasonably well-written piece of light pulp. It doesn't really fit well into what the franchise would later become and got swept under the rug more often than not by later writers, but Dark Horse Comics adapted the story in the 90s with a bunch of continuity fixes to bring it closer in line with the Expanded Universe proper. It doesn't have a whole lot of substance going on, and its not as grandly ambitious as The Thrawn Trilogy, but I would recommend it as a snapshot of the humble early years of Star Wars.
Kalvaitis notes is strengths, weaknesses, its background, and the various issues that caused it to later be ignored. Worth reading, and in my memory, a fun book.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Diversity and SF Sales

We are repeatedly assured that we need "diverse" characters (of uniform belief) so that women, and other minorities than while males (women are not a minority) can see themselves in the characters to better appreciate the story and the role model.

I'm going to ignore for the moment the whole "content of character" not being the same as "color of skin/shape of genitals" thing, and take them for their word.

If we need people who represent us - let's leave aside stories with alien protagonists, etc. that we've enjoyed, we're not dealing with reality but SJW-world - then stories who's protagonists are female will not appeal to men by the same logic that male protagonists supposedly don't appeal to women.

If stories with white protagonists cannot be understood or appreciated by blacks, then, in the US, writing a black protagonist excludes roughly 80% or more of the population.

If stories with straight characters cannot be appreciated by gay people, then the inverse is that the 90+% of the world, more likely 97+%, that isn't LGBTBBQWHATEVER will never appreciate it or gain insight from it.

Instead of believing in a universal human experience that can be, at times, touched even by people who don't share them, we instead eliminate large swathes of the potential market (and if you argue that straight people can appreciate LGwhatever-protag fiction, what's the problem with the opposite, again?).

As I mentioned with computers - in this day and age, and even with the gatekeepers given how eager they were for the "correct" kinds of authors and views, the only thing keeping "minorities" and minorities from publishing to their available audience, even if you agree on it being so self-limiting, is their own desire to do so.

But if you buy this "must be representative" drivel, and a publisher can only put out , say, 20 books a year, even if the percentage of minorities enjoying SF were the same as for the bemoaned "white men" demographic, then every book published targeting 10% or less of the available audience will exclude everyone else who doesn't fit, and not sell as well.

And then they wonder why the market share for SJW-themed comics and books is falling off a cliff.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Congratulations to Peter Grant

His Brings the Lightning - an excellent, excellent read - won the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Book Alliance Book of the Year for 2017.
I'm very grateful for my readers' support.  This is a minor competition, to be sure, but the competition was fierce - to go up against John Ringo and Larry Correia was tough!  Thank you for coming through for me with your support.
Did I mention it's an excellent book? Go, read it.

If you're looking for something more science-fiction, check out the Maxwell Saga, starting with Take the Star Road.

Oh, and Ringo's take on Larry's MHI-verse is a fun read too. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Yeah, "Rap" is music. Barely.

Vox recently posted that "rap" inherently leads to a dead end.
Seriously, is there a bigger pop music abomination than the massive steaming dump that Jay-Z inexplicably slathers all over Alphaville's "Forever Young"?

But when I got to thinking about it, I realized that this musical dead end was inevitable. It was always going to be the case. Most of the early "rap is crap" critics were committing a category error when they complained about "rap music". Their instincts were right, but their sneering arguments were mostly off base and therefore unconvincing. The fact is that rap is not, technically speaking, music at all. To call it music is akin to describing "scatting" or "falsetto" or "rhythm" or "electric guitar" as music. It is, rather, a non-melodic vocal styling; it is an element of music, or if you prefer, a musical tool, rather than a form of music in itself.

And while that vocal styling can be utilized in a broad variety of music, from metal to ambient, it is not music in itself. What is often known as "rap music" is a degraded, primitive form of music created mostly by non-musicians, which is necessarily going to be either sample-based (Public Enemy), childishly simple (Dr. Dre), or an additional vocal track added to existing music (Puff Daddy, Jay-Z).
First - I had never heard of that Jay-Z track, and what in the holy fuck possessed someone to kill an awesome song like Forever Young?

Yeah, it suffers from the usual 80's issues, but still.

Note carefully - we are distinguishing between the genre of "rap" which has some melody, etc., and the vocal tool. As Vox notes, "keyboard" is not music, it's an instrument. So is "voice". So, when I say "rap is music", I'm not just relying on the infogalactic entry, I'm talking about the genre, most often by black performers, heavily centered on rap vocals.

FWIW, as defined:
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. The common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics (loudness and softness), and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture (which are sometimes termed the "color" of a musical sound). Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and with vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping, and there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike; "art of the Muses").[1] In its most general form, the activities describing music as an art form include the production of works of music (songs, tunes, symphonies, and so on), the criticism of music, the study of the history of music, and the aesthetic examination of music.
 I'd long ago thought about it and realized there was no way to define rap-based music as "not music" that would not eliminate things I considered good music. Lack of instruments? No problem. Lack of melodic singing? No problem.

So, yes, Rap - some would argue more properly, hip-hop and it's offshoots which are heavily rap-centered - is music. (look, people call both the music, and the vocal style "rap).

said, syllable for syllable, singing and holding a note requires more technical proficiency. And while some rap "songs" have complex and long sets of lyrics and a more rapid-fire delivery, many.... don't. The subjects of most are degraded as well - the subject of most being "I'm so big and bad, with all the women, the money, the and the guns, living a party life." One commenter at Vox's noted that "it's always the same three subjects."

Rap, the genre, is generally crap. We've gone from jazz, to, simple, degraded, dreck. Is simple bad? No, I love folk, some punk, and the Ramones managed to make a popular career out of an almost deliberate lack of sophistication. There's something to be said about lyrics and main melodic lines that are straightforward and catchy. As noted, again, the degradation isn't just the loss of intricacy and fineness, but a fall from uplifting to gutter vulgarity.

And if I ever hear another "uh... uh... uh.."

Seriously - what is supposed to be high-grade rap, the soundtrack to Hamilton, is just (PC misrepresentation of events and people aside), gunk. After hearing it I immediately put on the Pirates of Penzance because if I was going to hear the line "modern major general" I was going to hear it done right, and sung.

Is there good rap (genre) music?

Yeah. Vox mentions Beck, and Twentyone Pilots, and the influence the rapid rap delivery has had on them and other bands such as one of my favorites, Disturbed. I also like a fair bit of the Beastie Boys, and I always hear "Intergalactic" in my head whenever I log into Infogalactic. I also liked one album by Pop Will Eat Itself, especially the tracks "X, Y, and Zee", and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet".

And yeah, vulgar as hell, but I'll almost always get a laugh out of Eminem's "Without Me". Yeah, it's an "I'm so badass" song, but more original than usual. Oh, and love the dig at Tipper Gore.