Log in

No account? Create an account
Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark — LiveJournal
void where prohibited, except by law
My last entry was entitled "escape". That's fitting. With the new Livejournal Terms of Service, I no longer feel comfortable posting here. I'm Sesquipedality at Dreamwidth. I won't close the account. Perhaps LJ will untaint itself at some point, and this is a permanent account which has existed for over 15 years, so I won't be deleting it. But it's unlikely I will post here again.

So long, and thanks for all the fish, Livejournal.
2 comments or Leave a comment
Waitlisted for Shogun. :( Very very :( I have played the last 14 weekend freeforms. Legendary flakiness of roleplayers, do not fail me now. (Due to high demand, places were assigned by lottery this year.)
Leave a comment
“We're not going to war with you. We're a travelling circus, not a country. Thing is, if you attack one of us then you attack the Circus. We don't declare war, we just turn up and kill you all. Which we'd rather not do, since we quite like you and enjoy your company.”

- Madame Imogene, explaining Realpolitik to 'Pope' Pineapple

To which I might well add as a post script. "Hans? Are we the baddies?"
Leave a comment
It makes me miserable. The ratio of pleasant/interesting conversation to awful political bile drags me down with it. I may well quit. Which would leave this as my only active social media account. And mostly shouting into the wind. It is hard to be positive today.
13 comments or Leave a comment
There has been a bit of a rush off of Livejournal of late, with the revelation that the LJ servers have been moved to Russia. The thing that slightly perplexes me about this is why having your data stored in Russia is necessarily worse than having your data stored in America. In both cases, your data is at the mercy of a large foreign power with a questionable record on privacy. In the case of America, however, there are a whole bunch of mutual co-operation treaties that are likely to make it easier for the UK government to get their hands on the data.

Now I don't suggest that the American government is as totalitarian as Russia (yet), but I am honestly having trouble seeing a qualitative difference in the risk profile of using LJ now it's a Russian rather than an American service. Is there some sort of cognitive bias at work here?
11 comments or Leave a comment
by Sesquipedality (sesquipedality@gmail.com)

This is a short piece intended to address some difficulties I've had playing Nordic style larps recently. It's not intended to be critical of those writing and running this type of game, who are doing an excellent job. Rather it's intended to be a way of starting a discussion on the one part of this style of game that for me, and a few others I've discussed this with, isn't really working yet.

Here is the thing. People come to games to play games. An hour sat in pre-game is an hour that is not playing a game. (Some people actually do find workshopping a game background an enjoyable part of the process, but for me at least, I want to spend at least three times as long playing the game as I did creating the setting.) A Nordic game will often involve generating characters and setting, so is already going to be longer than a traditional briefing, which means it's super important to keep it lean and focused.

There's a bit of a tendency to over explain things in these briefings. I think it comes from nervousness, and the idea that Nordic is different from what people may have experienced before. The thing is, it's really not all that different, particularly given the way UK games tend to take Nordic influences rather than being a full on wholesale adoption of the style.

In a traditional larp no one includes in the briefing that you will be physically embodying your character. It's obvious. So in a Nordic game, try not to explain at length the obvious stuff. What's obvious is probably more than a game runner might expect, particularly when dealing with a crowd of experienced freeformers. If its obvious to the person running the game, it will probably be obvious to those playing too.

Hearing the Nordic Larp 101 every time such a game is played is simply not necessary for most or all of the players. And the players are smart, they can figure this out as they play, taking cues from the more experienced players if they have to. They can also ask questions, so if a game runner is clear that the players while in a group or individually throughout the game can ask questions, there is absolutely no need to explain the basics in more than a couple of sentences.

Safety systems do often require greater emphasis in the Nordic style, because such games frequently deal with serious themes that could be upsetting. They are important, but they are designed to be simple and easy to use, which means that a demonstration is probably unnecessary. If you cannot summarise each call/action in your safety system in two sentences, it is probably too complex to serve its purpose and should be rethought. For example, "the door is always open" (you can leave the game at any time without needing to give a reason) is a safety system, and I absolutely just explained it in one sentence. If a game runner spends a lot of time explaining these systems, players will start to worry that they are expected not to enjoy the game, which is clearly far from the point.

If using veils (topics that for what ever reason the players do not want to be a part of the game) this needs careful handling. Players will generally be uncomfortable about saying if there is something they don't want in the game, and different players will find different methods easier. Allow players to email veils in advance if you can, and advertise ahead of game that players will be allowed to declare subjects veiled if they wish, so that they can think about what they might like to exclude. A list of suggested veils can be helpful, but again risks giving the generally false impression that the game is entirely full of awfulness.

In pre-game, veils are best done by writing them down, and I recommend asking those who have no veils to write "I do not have any veils to request" on the paper, so that no-one knows who is requesting veils. Remember accessibility - it may also be worth letting players know that they can tell you their veils privately, if there might be any difficulty with writing.

Demonstrations in general are another thing that are best kept to a minimum. Sometimes a mechanic will genuinely be such that players need to see it done at least once before they understand how to do it, but most things are self explanatory.

Practising mechanics is dull and usually even less necessary. I'll single out practising pulled blows here as something I'd really rather never do in a larp again. Pretend to hit someone but don't touch them is not a difficult concept. (There is, however, a school of thought that says practising safety systems makes people comfortable and familiar enough to use them in game, and for this reason game runners might want to practice those regardless.)

Many games have a number of stages, and mechanics that come into play at each stage. There is a temptation to explain the whole lot up front. This slows things down, and people generally cannot take in all of the mechanics at once. The game runner will inevitably need to explain them again at the time that they happen. I have two tips for dealing with this. Hand out a 1 to 2 side rules summary that the players can read before the game and/or refer to when necessary. This will allow the brief to be kept short. Don't explain more than is necessary before the time it's needed. Invariably it will be explained again at the time it's needed anyway.

Perhaps the most controversial thing I'm going talk about is workshopping. There are two types of workshop. Generally people enjoy brainstorming characters and backgrounds, but it's the game runner's job to make sure this stays focused, because the point is to get to the game. It's a delicate skill that probably requires someone wiser than I to offer fuller advice than that on.

The second type of workshopping is improv and trust exercises. These are intended to avoid players having to come at a game cold and to build relationships between the players. The thing is, your game will probably do that better than the exercises would.

I am likely now straying more info the realm of personal preference than I have in the rear of this article. And I should say that I was a dirty thesp long before I was a roleplayer, and I hated warm up exercises even then. However, I think it's a wider cultural thing than that.

Players will often feel silly and embarrassed doing these kind of exercises. This is probably not the frame of mind a game runner will want them to start the game in. There are those that believe these type of exercises do encourage greater buy in to the game, but if not having a cold open is important to your game, it might be better to run small short background scenes (with the players broken into small groups in necessary) as a way to build rapport instead. This has the added bonus of combining ice breaking and world building.

So to summarise, here are my tips for running a Nordic game brief.

  1. Pacing is important. People are there to play the game not the briefing so the goal is to keep it as brief and snappy as it possibly can be.

  2. Trust the players. For everything in the briefing, consider whether it really needs explaining, or whether players will already know or be able to work it out

  3. Safely mechanics are important, but don't overemphasise or overexplain them. It sends the wrong message to your players.

  4. If your game needs it, then give your players plenty of notice to think about things they don't want in the game ("veils"). Make sure they can let you know about any veils they might like in the game without having to announce them to other players. Provide multiple methods of giving you veils where possible to make it as easy as possible for people to let you know.

  5. Demonstrate mechanics where necessary, but remember that they are probably the least interesting part of the game. Really think hard before getting players to practice mechanics for this reason.

  6. Ground exercises to build player bonds or set mood in your world building where possible. Players will enjoy them more, and the game may be richer as a result.

  7. Workshopping can drag, and it's important to keep up momentum in this part of the pre-game, although care must be taken not to railroad the players.

  8. Rather than explain everything, make sure that players have the opportunity to ask questions about what they aren't sure on both collectively during the brief and individually before and during the game

Again, I am enormously grateful to those bringing Nordic style larp to the UK. It adds to the richness of the hobby, and has produced some amazing games. I hope that this has been a constructive exploration of how to do that even better than it already is being done, but it's really only one person's opinion, so feel free to pick and choose anything that I've covered that seems useful according to taste.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
2 comments or Leave a comment
The random firing of my neurones during REM sleep, remembered due to an attack of cat.

A nondescript man with dark hair came through the doorway. "My name is Schielicke," he said. The most noticeable thing about him was a bright red rosette on his chest, which I reached out and plucked. He did not seem to mind, although I was surprised at my forwardness. In any event, there was another one underneath, as though he had anticipated and planned for its allure. I had the peculiar impression that it was rosettes all the way down.

"I'm campaigning," he announced, presumably to explain its presence.

"What for?" I replied. It only seemed polite, having relieved him of his rosette.

"Oh, nothing. I just thought it sounded like an interesting thing to do. It turned out that it wasn't, but by the time I realised that, I had got into a routine, and didn't feel as though I should disrupt it." Apparently, Schielicke drove a mobile library van from library to library because "even libraries need a bit of company sometimes".
1 comment or Leave a comment
Another thought on ethical stances and judgment. In order to not be singling out the Jews, let's pick another example. Some evangelical Christians believe that it is wrong to marry someone who is not themselves a Christian. ("Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14) Ignore for a moment the tone of that verse, which I don't think is terribly helpful, or much embraced by those who follow the modern version of that belief. Now a Christian can say that it is not a value judgement, and that it is about removing obstacles to their own personal practice of righteousness. They are not making a moral judgment about others, merely about what is best for them. The problem with this stance comes in the fact that underneath that reasoning, it has to be accepted that the reason unbelievers are problematic within the internal logic is that they are doing something wrong.

The point I'm getting at is that we might wish to be morally permissive, to say that our ethics are personal and we respect the views of others, but at the bottom of that, we do believe we are right about our ethical stances (perhaps with some degree of doubt, but it would be a very odd or unusual person who embraced an ethical framework they regarded as on balance incorrect).

The problem is that by making a choice, a person is essentially saying the other choices are less good/more wrong. It's intellectually honest to admit that they might be mistaken and respect the choices of others. I'm not sure it's as intellectually honest to say that their choice does not criticise others, because an ethical stance is a value judgment. While it's important to respect the ethical stances of others, I'm not sure we can go as far as to say we don't regard them as acting sub-optimally from an ethical standpoint.
4 comments or Leave a comment

This strikes me as an interesting ethical dilemma. Presumably it is only a small subset of Judaism that regards activating a motion activated light switch or electronic lock to be a violation of the Sabbath laws, but it does render it very difficult for them to deal with some aspects of the modern world. The interesting question is how much the modern world should have to accommodate that. The easy response is to say "they don't have to live in that block of flats", but bear in mind these measures weren't in place when they moved there. Someone actively (albeit unintentionally) rendered their own home massively inconvenient for them. I regard these restrictions as absurd, but isn't the point of tolerance that if you only tolerate things that you agree with, then it's not really all that tolerant?
2 comments or Leave a comment
So, the results of no social media month are in. I missed it very little, and it became very clear what a huge time sink social media has become for me. (Although I was sad to miss out on communication with cool people, I did not feel quite as lonely or isolated as I feared.) As I result I shall be keeping my social media presence minimal. This account will carry on existing for now, and may get used for organisation from time to time, but I'm definitely going to keep my presence here minimal. I'm not good at happy medium between total abstinence and excess, but I'm going to try only doing social stuff on Twitter, where it is difficult to get into prolonged engagement. (I am @sesquipedal there, and would very much welcome your friends requests.)

I still have nowhere to live come October. If anyone has any suggestions of cat friendly 1-2 bed places with good links to Chancery Lane and Oxford, they would be most gratefully received. Thanks.
Leave a comment
Today I have been pointlessly active on Facebook, even more so than usual. It is draining my life away, and I think I need to take a break. I have resolved that August will be No Social Media Month (modulo tiny bits of organisation). I am always happy to receive email on sesquipedality@gmail.com but as of midnight tonight, I shall be closing all my social media stuff and hopefully not reopening it till September, which means no Twitter, no Facebook, no Livejournal.

I am a bit worried I will go insane. I've been on LJ for over 10 years, and social media is a huge part of my life. So many of my friends I only speak to in social media, and I'm worried it will be isolating. As to what will happen in the long run, I don't know. Partly it's about seeing how no social media affects my life and what it is like to live without it. I hope to get a lot of reading done. There will be negatives and positives, and it'll be interesting to see what happens.

See you all on the flip side.
Leave a comment
Did anyone complete NaNoWriMo and not have any interest in buying Scrivener. In which case, could I have your 50% discount code, please?

These instructions should still work:

1 comment or Leave a comment
£30 for a PDF is a bit rich for my blood for a game I'm unlikely to ever get to actually play, but if you're the sort of person who is happy to drop this kind of money on a roleplaying book, I can guarantee that at least one of the authors has written some damn good games in the past, as I've had the pleasure of working with him on the Millennium Moon games at Gencon many years ago. I expect great things.

Leave a comment
It's possible you've already seen my comments on the Bechdel Test, but if not, first, a quick recap.

The Bechdel Test (not in fact devised by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, but by a friend of hers, Liz Wallace) as originally expressed was a criterion for which films to go and watch. Wallace would only watch movies if they contained

1) at least two female characters
2) who have a conversation with each other
3) about something other than a man.

The test has become increasingly popular in modern years, and there's even a website which now indicates how much of the test films manage to pass. The problem is that of course it doesn't test a great deal. The point of the test is as a conceptual tool to demonstrate the narrow confines into which women are placed (particularly within film and television), as appendages to the really important male characters. But increasingly people are using it as a metric for a film's feminist credentials, which it was never really intended to be. Indeed, in Sweden, one chain of cinemas is now giving films a Bechdel rating. Consider that all the St Trinian's films pass the Bechdel Test with flying colours. Now I quite like the St. Trinian's films, but they are about as feminist as Bernard Manning.

After last night's trip to the cinema, I have an excellent example of a film I regard as feminist which utterly fails the Bechdel test. That film is Gravity. There are only two female characters (from a cast of five, only three of which are seen alive on screen), who never speak. But the lead character is an excellent female character. While she is out of her depth in a way that the male character is not, there are sound plot reasons for this (he is a retiring veteran astronaut, she a rookie on her first mission) and she is demonstrably an extremely capable scientist in her own right. The second and third acts of the film focus almost exclusively on her solving her own problems by her own agency, and the story is really about her rising to the challenging circumstances which she encounters. She is demonstrably capable, without in any way being "a woman with something to prove" (another lazy stereotype that plays into patriarchal story telling rather than subverting it). She has family related backstory that's possibly slightly playing to stereotypes, but actually it would work just as well for a father as for a mother.

Now it's not a perfect film from a feminist perspective. The unnecessary male forename ("my father wanted a boy", ugh - I do wonder if in early drafts the character was male), and a few very male gazey long body shots when she's outside of her spacesuit spring to mind, but it is a film that gives a female character her own arc, motivations, and reality.

I suppose my point is that "this film is misogynist because it fails the Bechdel Test" really isn't something we should be saying. The point of the Bechdel test was to demonstrate that Hollywood marginalises and dehumanises women, and it's doing that that makes a film misogynist. The Bechdel Test was a valuable tool in that it drew attention to this behaviour, but isn't it time we looked beyond the manifestation of that behaviour as expressed in the test to the underlying behaviour that causes so few films to pass it?

(Final paragraph edited to make the point a little clearer.)
10 comments or Leave a comment
Back in the late '90s/early 2000's, The Register popped up as a breath of fresh air, with its irreverent reporting of IT and technology news. Today, after 15 years of using it a as a news source, I have removed it from my feed reader. I don't think it's likely to return, unless there is a major change of culture.

I'd been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with El Reg's approach to news stories for a while. I found their inexplicable fascination with amateur rocketry to be dull, but I'm not going to be interested in everything published on a news site, so that's OK. What was less than OK was that they named their rocket project LOHAN, and every headline became a stupid sneering sexual innuendo about Lindsay Lohan.

Then there was the fact that as an IT news site, they felt it incumbent upon themselves to report on a women getting out her breasts on Italian TV.

Today, finally, they posted an article about the difficulties of women having a career in IT, and illustrated it with this.

I'm fed up of seeing this picture.Collapse )
14 comments or Leave a comment
A friend on Facebook has just mentioned to me that he imagines the character of Patience in Scott Lynch's "Republic of Thieves" (I haven't read it yet, no spoilers please) as me. Would you indulge my self-obsessed curiosity and tell me what fictional characters remind you of me, please? I will return the favour if I can.
Leave a comment
I am considering selling my Nook Simple Touch eReader (which is in excellent condition and less than 4 months old) to fund the purchase of one with a backlight. Would anyone in Oxford be interested in purchasing for it for £25? Will deliver to a mutually convenient location within the ring road.
Leave a comment
4 comments or Leave a comment
As previously announced I will be holding a birthday party at my place on Sat 10th Aug. There will be a BBQ which will start at 6, but people are welcome from 5. Hope to see people there. If someone knows me, they're welcome to come. Partners welcome too.

Contact details should be accessible from a link at the top of my LJ to people who know me. If you need them, you can email me at sesquipedality@gmail.com.
6 comments or Leave a comment
Empire fiction is a community for fiction based around Profound Decision's Empire LRP system. This is a story I wrote set in that world. Yay, I wrote fiction. I like it when I write fiction. I don't believe any knowledge of the system is necessary to enjoy (or dislike) the story.

Leave a comment
It occurs to me that me continuing enjoyment of Young Adult literature well into adulthood (and arguably senility) is because it's a rare market segment where women getting to have an adventure is totally accepted and normal.
2 comments or Leave a comment
I thought this article was interesting, if overly long for the point it was trying to make. However, the alpha SF nerd in me feels compelled to point out:

(a) if your role models came from SF and fantasy, why didn't you want to be Lessa the Weyrwoman, or Sigmy Mallory (or pretty much any Cherryh heroine) or Cassandra of Troy (the Marion Zimmer Bradley version)?* I bloody well know I did. To suggest that the genre is absent of real female protagonists is odd. For Lessa, you don't even have to wonder away from entirely mainstream SF (although being a McCaffrey character, she is of course, problematic in some ways).

(b) I don't think Moffat's female characters are any worse than RTDs, low bar though that is. The only one that was genuinely likeable was Donna Noble. This is one of the reasons we so desperately need a female doctor (preferably a fat, 40 year old, slightly obsessive one - still waiting for that call, Moffat) - so the writers can get used to the idea that female characters can exist as people (although to be fair, it's rare that anyone, except the Doctor himself, is allowed to be a rounded person).

*Or Marianne from Sherri S. Tepper's Marianne Trilogy, whom I sometimes felt like I actually *was* (despite, I should make clear, not suffering emotional abuse from my brother myself). But very few people will have heard of her, I suspect.
12 comments or Leave a comment
Costa coffee have possibly the worst loyalty card system of all the coffee shops. You get 5p worth of store credit back for each £1 you spend, so essentially 1 free coffee for each 20 or so cups that you buy, which is about twice the number required by anyone else. Admittedly you can spend the credit on anything, but it's still not that great. However, they recently started selling their coffee for home Tassimo machines, and as a promotion offered me a machine which retails at £120 (market price £80-£100) for £30.

I've never been a huge fan of the idea of pod coffee machines. The pods vary between 20p each for standard coffee, to 65p for a latte, so they are pretty pricey. Last year, my second Gaggia espresso machine died and I can't afford to replace it, so regarded as a mechanism for cutting down my coffee shop spend, even at 65p a cup, the £30 cost of entry suddenly made the whole thing a lot more appealing.

The best thing about the Tassimo is that it's the easiest, cleanest coffee machine I've ever owned. You put the pod in, press the button, and you're done. The least good thing about it is that you're stuck with whatever pods Kraft feel like producing, and it's a closed system, so there's no competition on price. Buy the T-Discs from Amazon or the local Tescos, you will pay the same for them. While there are a number of latte style drinks provided, they use Kraft's UHT condensed creamer, which, although pretty acceptable for that sort of thing, is only available with sugar, and, well, still isn't as nice as ordinary milk. I can heat milk in the microwave, but none of the local stores sell a stand alone "espresso" pod, which makes life difficult (at least for first world values of difficult).

Here comes the nerdery. I just wanted to write this down somewhere before I forgot it. If you do not care about Tassimo coffee machines and how to hack them to get around some annoying restrictions, then you won't be interested in the rest of this post.

[Nerdery]The interesting thing about Tassimo is that the brew program is dictated by bar codes printed on the top of the pods. There is a bar code reader inside the machine, which translates the bar code into temperature and pressure settings. It's all documented at http://blog.chapmanconsulting.ca/wiki/Tassimo%20Hacking.ashx.

I have a label printer (a brother QL-560LE) which prints sticky labels, and can print bar codes on it. Sure enough, a little experimentation shows that the bar codes on the pods are I-2/5 standard with a checksum bit, and that setting the printer software to generate them at medium size with a 2:1 aspect ratio produces a 34mm wide bar code, which appears to be the right width and can be read by the Tassimo machine.

Armed with this knowledge, I was able to scan the lid of a Costa Cappuccino coffee cartridge (i.e. one designed to produce espresso style coffee to be mixed with the creamer) using my phone. The code for this cartridge is 063050. The label printer was very happy to produce a 60mm odd high (the width of the printer) sticker with this bar code on (and a small text label to say which bar code it is). This can then be trimmed with scissors and stuck on to any cartridge. Sure enough I can now brew "espresso" using any base coffee cartridge, and make it into latte with the use of microwaved milk. It tastes, if not as good as the best cup of coffee I've made with an espresso machine, far far better than the worst one.

(The file for the P-Touch labeling software can be found here.)
19 comments or Leave a comment
It occurs to me that the game Civilization would make an excellent setting for a SF novel. There's a bunch of immortal leaders inexplicably in charge of nation states of short lived humans who proceed to mess with all sorts of aspects of their lives throughout time.

It further occurs to me that this may already have been done and in fact by Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald.
3 comments or Leave a comment
Well, I have finished The Walking Dead. Like Shaun of the Dead it succeeds because it decides to use zombies to tell a story about human beings, which is pretty much the only way I can end up not being bored to (un)death by zombies. It's a good story, but I question all those "game of the year" awards. It's more of a choose your own adventure film than a game, really. It's worthwhile without a doubt, but I'm not sure I'd say it does anything particularly innovative and interesting with interaction.

The one thing I did like game wise is the way that the save system is set up to encourage you to live with your mistakes. If you don't manage to do something in time, then it's hard to go back and do it again, and I felt this did add to the storytelling, making the protagonist into a flawed hero quite nicely. What was less good was that when I screwed up, it was usually due to issues with the rather clumsy controls, or the standard "no, I meant be sarcastically reassuring, not berate the guy like a total dick" dialogue dilemmas.

PS Quick time events are pretty lame in FPSes. I'm not sure Telltale is doing anyone any favours by infecting (do you see what I did there?) the adventure game genre with them.
Leave a comment
Advance notice that I shall be holding my 40th birthday party in Oxford on Sat 10th Aug. (Although I propose to hold my 40th birthday on the 9th, because I don't think the universe will co-operate otherwise.) Further details to follow. Partners welcome.
Leave a comment
In recent years, I have discovered that my vestigial sense of (spiritual) faith has atrophied to the point where I can no longer be said to believe in any deity. I have always felt uncomfortable with the terms agnostic and atheist, and have therefore tended, when necessary, to self-describe as humanist. Today I had a conversation in which I kind of straightened out some thoughts I have about religion, and I thought they might be worth sharing.

Mumblings about religion.Collapse )
21 comments or Leave a comment
38 Degrees are still up to their usual tricks. Since I really do care about legal aid, I decided to sign one of their petitions against my better judgement. They provide no means even to opt out of signing up to their mailing list if you do so. Hence this email (entitled "your awful email list policy").

Hello there,

I have just signed your petition regarding legal aid, because it's something I believe in a great deal.

However, you provided me with no option not to receive further campaign emails from you.

I know you think that you're saving the world, but spam is spam. If a commercial company did that sort of thing you would doubtless be up in arms.

Please don't tell me that the vast majority of your users are pleased to receive your emails. I am not the vast majority of your users, and I am not pleased.

I would be grateful if you would remove this email address from any of your mailing lists, and would urge you to reconsider your policy, at least to the extent of allowing people to opt out of your mailing list.
1 comment or Leave a comment
I have been fairly vocal about my dislike of the Veronica Mars movie kickstarter, and I did promise DanielWhoseLJNameIHaveForgotten that I would explain quite why I disliked it so much. I'm not sure I can articulate it very clearly, but basically it goes against what I regard as the current spirit of the kickstarter model - communities of like minded individuals forming together to get something done that would be hard to make happen within conventional models.

The problem with Veronica Mars is that it's simply selling a commodity. It's clear that the backers have no real ownership of the project. (Also true of many other kickstarters, but I prefer at least society to benefit from a kickstarter, even if I don't.) It is priced at the same level as a full retail release, despite the lower costs of marketing through Kickstarter. It was originally available only in the US, and is still unavailable in most countries in the world although this has got better throughout the campaign. This to me betrays the global nature of the Internet and attempts to enforce an outdated business model onto an international medium. It also sells "extra" and bit parts in the movie, thus taking work from struggling artists. Rewards are delivered electronically as DRM protected streams, so buyers have no guarantee they will not disappear when the film is no longer profitable. All this is going towards creating a slick safe conventional piece of Holywood product that it should be possible to make entirely within the conventional system.

Contrast this with Alex Cox's "Bill the Galactic Hero" Kickstarter. The pricing model is similarly excessive, but at least for your $25 you get a DRM free MOV file of the film to keep. He is making a black and white film of a minor 60s SF classic with a message that genuinely does deserve wider modern attention. He's shooting for $100000, which is a ridiculously small budget for a modern movie, shooting on analogue film, and relying on obsolete model shots for special effects. Holywood have no interest in this project and never will. The actors, while unpaid, are at least receiving a share of the profits, and are, like pretty much everyone else in the project, giving their time for love. And he has committed to editing the whole thing in an Open Source movie editing tool.

So the difference boils down to this - Cox is using Kickstarter to create niche art that would be impossible to fund within the conventional movie industry by connecting directly with the people who want that. Rob Thomas, by contrast, is taking pre-orders. The Veronica Mars film may well end up being enjoyable, but it is by and large business as usual. Alex Cox is also doing what he's done for most of his career - making movies despite the system, while pushing open technology and consumer friendly distribution. Kickstarter is a way for him to do that that cuts out the inefficient brokerage of the 20th Century studio model, and this is the kind of Kickstarter I really enjoy and am glad to fund.

Bill the Galactic Hero Kickstarter
Leave a comment
So, Thatcher. We all know the bad. What I'd like people to remember is that she clawed her way up from humble beginnings and carved out a space for herself among the elite. Also, having got there, she tried her very best within her own paradigm to ensure that the ladder wasn't pulled up behind her. There has not since her been a British politician so committed to equality of opportunity, and this is a sad thing. Our supposed left wing politicians could do far worse than look to Thatcher when it comes to giving impoverished but gifted people the means to succeed.
Leave a comment
So, I have finished Bioshock Infinite. I shall not spoiler it. However, the people who truly had their minds blown by the ending simply don't read enough SF - it's all fairly standard tropes, albeit in a very well presented package. Also, it dicks with the 4th wall in exactly the opposite way to Bioshock, which I thought was kind of cute.

I did not anticipate the final twist, but I feel this was largely due to an Agatha Christiesque withholding of the crucial information necessary to piece it together properly.
1 comment or Leave a comment
From my social media this morning, it seems as though about 90% of you were using it, which (given its vaunted "social" integration) surprises me, as I thought it was just me.

My current favoured replacement is Feedly, which I have been using successfully on mobile for a week or two with some success, and is definitely my favourite mobile Google reader interface anyway. They say they will automigrate over your bookmarks as well, although I would take a backup anyway to be certain.

I am yet to love the desktop version, but it's early days yet. I do wish websites (LJ included) wouldn't assume a minimum width - I like to run my browser on one half of my screen so I can use the other half for something else, but many sites seem to assume a 1024 pixel minimum width, which is a shame.
Leave a comment
Had an utterly fab time at King's Musketeers this weekend, of which there may be more froth later.  However, it was pointed out to me that some found my performance surprising as I "always" play evil.  I was in a sort of retrospective mode, as this is the tenth anniversary of my first UK freeforms weekender, so I went back to work out if this was indeed the case.


I think what this tells me is that my evil characters are way more memorable than my good ones.  My favourites are probably (in chronological order) Greta Savos, Cassandra, Maud Gonne, Suzanne de Batz-Castelmore, which suggests I have no particular preference for good over evil.

Thoughts appreciated, particularly if you've played in these games.
13 comments or Leave a comment
In Star Trek: Deep Space 9, there is a certain pattern in crisis conversations.  Usually they are between Cisco and O'Brien and go something like this:

Cisco: Is there any way to re-energise to molestators?
O'Brien: Well I could reroute the capitulation circuit to cross-cut the tachyon pulse which should reverse the direction of chronon emissions.
Cisco: Good plan, chief.  How long will it take?
O'Brien: Two days
Cisco: You have half an hour.

Is it just me, or is demanding things faster than people say they can do them not a very useful management technique?  Is there something about stating a time limit with sufficient authority that slows down time, or something?
11 comments or Leave a comment
My letting agents inspect 4 times a year, which seems excessive to me.  I have made my peace with this, as it forces me to tidy the place, which is a Good Thing.  Which is what I spent yesterday doing.  The inspection today took approximately 10 seconds - may have been as long as 15.  I don't really have an issue with this - I'm tidying for me, not for them - but it does make me curious as to the purpose of the inspections.  Is it to check I've not installed a fireman's pole or demolished a wall?  It's hard to see that anything less obvious than that would be picked up by it.

I conclude that the most likely reason for the inspections is to ensure that the property is thoroughly cleaned 4 times a year.
17 comments or Leave a comment
Saw Les Mis today.  Was intended to be a family outing, but mother and niece both too upset by Fantine to continue, which was a shame.   I've seen suggestions it doesn't work well as a film.  It's certainly true that many of the pacing problems of the original have survived despite a re-ordering of some of songs around "One Day More" that I actually regard as an improvement on the original order.  (I was briefly scared they'd cut "Do you hear the people sing", but moving it to straight after "One Day More" actually lessens some of the feeling of anti-climax I normally get after that.)

However, as a film of a musical, it's pretty perfect.  Lovely costumes and set dressing, and most of the actors were fantastic, although both Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman lack the gravitas for Javert and Valjean, and neither of them are particularly strong singers.   (Jackman does however manager a couple of nice emotional moments>) Amanda Siegfried and Mr Cheekbones-for-cutting-glass (mmm) actually made me give a slight shit about Cosette and Marius, which was handy as the above casting had robbed the Valjean/Javert arc of some of its power.  Anne Hathaway chews the scenery beautifully as Fantine, the children actively failed to be annoying, Eponine was a inoffensive to good, and Sasha Baren Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were fantastically campy as the Thenardiers.

The big gimmick they've been pushing with this film is that the songs were recorded live on set and thus acted.  While it does afford a more natural flow and greater dynamics of expression, I can't say it made that much of a difference to the finished product.  Consider that Moulin Rouge employed many similar techniques while still using pre-recorded singing, and it's not clear that all that much is gained.  I don't think it will convert anyone who is unconvinced by Les Mis, but if you already enjoy the show, it's definitely worth a watch, even if I did keep wanting Philip Quast back.
Leave a comment
Appear to have failed at being invited to NYE parties.  Oops.
4 comments or Leave a comment

Peter Molyneux's Kickstarter god game has been fundedn with less than 2 days to go.  This is good news, as he's local talent, the inventor of the entire genre (with Populous, which some of you may even be old enough to remember) and really seems to care about doing what he does well.  For a while this looked like it was going to be the first major Kickstarter to fail, so it's good to see that's not the case.
3 comments or Leave a comment
The talented and hard working Ashrow Theatre Company are putting on a new production of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" tonight at the White Bear Theatre in London before taking the production on tour. I love the cynicism of Russian humour, think it's fantastic that they've had the courage to put on something a bit out of the ordianry, and will be along to see the production soon, although I can't make tonight in London sadly. If you're stuck for something to do this evening, and in London, you may want to consider it, as there's still a few tickets let.

(The observant among you may be able to figure out my connection to the Company. It's left as an exercise for the reader. No, I'm not in it.)

Leave a comment
Just a reminder that if you were planning to back the Star Citizen kickstarter and haven't done so yet, you have about 6 hours to do so. The game is already the most successful crowd funded video game ever, having raised $5.5 million (via Kickstarter and the game's own website). While I personally think all the higher reward tiers are a bit bonkers, laying out for the base game now if you're likely to buy it (at $35 it's still cheaper than a standard new release) will allow for extra features and manpower and a better game.

10 comments or Leave a comment
Just withdrew from 2 games at Consequences as I have an interview in Leeds, which means I have to block out an entire day for travel and can't do Fri night - Sat afternoon. Now only playing 4 games as I was too late to book for Radiance Rose on Thursday evening. Perhaps I should grit my teeth and play Hollywood Lives even though I'm not really sure it's my thing. Otherwise my freeforming may be distinctly limited this year. Given I normally play 8-9 games a weekend, this is a bit of a disappointment for me.

Bet I don't get the job, either.

Tags: ,

2 comments or Leave a comment
When I was young, my brother and I took our Commodore 64, a portable telly, and a copy of Elite, which we used to transform our under stairs cupboard into a starship. To this day, it has to rank as one of the most immersive gaming experiences of my life. He would shoot things, and I would plot courses and organise trade, as well as being spotter in combat.

Ever since then I've tried to recapture the joy of flying my own space ship, and to this day, I am a sucker for grandiose space opera. I don't know how much of that is down to Elite, but it has to feature in there somewhere. The problem is, no game has ever come close to bringing back the feeling I got when playing that game. The Elite sequels, Frontier and First Encounters were unpilotable, and fundamentally I suck at piloting (and can no longer draft in my brother to have reflexes). Eve Online was too big a time sink for me to want to invest in it.

But I keep hoping. And my latest hope is Star Citizen, a new single and multiplayer persistent universe spacefaring game by Chris Roberts, who has an impressive pedigree which includes the Wing Commander games and Freelancer. What's most exciting about this game is that it will be possible for multiple players to fly in squadrons or man different stations in the same large ship. So, yeah, I plonked down some money for the Kickstarter.

But I don't do multiplayer unless it's with people I know. Playing games feels too personal an act to do with strangers. Which means I need all of you to go and buy it too. Come with me to the cupboard under the stairs. It could be awesome.
11 comments or Leave a comment
Apple really seem to have lost the plot recently. The Ipad Mini continues this uninspiring trend. They have released a tablet too large to fit in a handbag or jeans pocket with a lower screen resolution, and costing 70 quid more than the equivalent Nexus 7. This is a product whose only market is people who only buy only Apple because it's Apple.

Now doubtless there are enough people who will buy an Apple tablet with no discernible use case because they still think of Apple as 'cool' that they are going to make money off the damn thing anyway, but gods I miss an Apple who were innovating, even when that innovation was basically prettifying and simplifying already awesome tech to the point where it could become mass market.
18 comments or Leave a comment
I have made what is possibly the most important discovery of our time, for which I expect to receive the Nobel Prize for Very Clever Science in short order.

If you thinly (~3-4mm) slice Haloumi cheese and grill it on both sides until it is dark brown, the resulting substance occupies a culinary niche not unadjacent to bacon. Specifically it manages to do that crunchy/chewy thing that no brand of facon I have ever come across has done. Long live the HLT!
5 comments or Leave a comment
Modern economics is broken. The oven on my cooker has stopped working in a way which is probably a wiring problem. (The ovens and half the grill don't work, but the rest of the cooker is fine.) My landlord is therefore buying a new cooker. Since he has asked me to dispose of the old one, I thought I'd see if anyone wants a probably fixable electric cooker. The huge caveat is of course that you have to be willing to come and pick it up from my place on Friday.
Leave a comment
Most of you probably know about Project Eternity already - basically some of the people behind Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights 2, Planescape: Torment, Fallout: New Vegas, etc doing an old school Baldur's Gate style isometric RPG. It is currently the highest funded project on Kickstarter, but has 11 hours to go and is $25K off $3.5 million in funding.

I mention this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if they do hit $3.5 million, they will include a second large city in the game, which is likely to make it significantly more involved and interesting. If anyone out there likes old school party based CRPGs, this will almost certainly be worth your money - these people really are the best in the business at creating CRPGs with actual PLOT. (They also did Icewind Dale, but no-one's perfect.)

Secondly, they have recently added plans for an expansion pack. Adding $20 to your pledge (read the instructions on the main page) will get you a digital copy of the expansion pack as well when it is released. From what they are saying, this will be an expansion in the traditional mould rather than more modern style DLC, so is likely to represent good value. It's possible that some people who have already backed don't know about the expansion pack, and it's a good way to get that total up past the magic $3.5 million.

3 comments or Leave a comment
Have bought all my stuff back from Nottingham. House is now Too Full of Crap.

On the other hand, now have a working laser printer for the first time in ages. I also got tired of it being trapped in 1970 and discovered that Windows is quite happy to act as an NTP server if you frob the appropriate registry entries.
Leave a comment
People on my friends list have indicated that Zurker uses a model of ownership that renders it somewhat resistant to Evil Corporate Takeover. This is basically done by giving shares away for getting people to sign up. It's a good way to grow a user base quickly, but frankly I don't think it makes Zurker resistant to take over, any more than all those building societies that are now banks were.

What it does do, however, is create a user base of early adopters with a financial interest in making the platform succeed. I suggest that this is the factor that may prevent it becoming a similar graveyard to Diaspora or Google+.

If you want to get in on the action, you know where to go. It may just be free money. The devious bastards.
1 comment or Leave a comment
A rare post from me, because I wanted to get this out of my system somewhere where it would stay around. There are some words (apparently largely neologisms) that are so colossally unhelpful that I feel the world would be a better place if people just stopped using them. Why? Because they seem tailor made to polarise, insult, and genuinely prevent constructive dialogue. Here are the three I can think of. Please suggest more in the comments.


Seriously, there are many good reasons to hate people in this world. The fact that they dress and talk in the same way that all their friends do isn't one of them. I remember being at an LRP event once where a bunch of people in orc masks were discussing the working class' terrible taste in clothes. It's not that any of the people who were doing it were bad people. It's more that the word chav had just labelled people as other. It encourages people to judge others on what they wear how how they speak rather than what they do or what they say. And it carries a strong implication that working class people are scum. It's stereotyping pure and simple, and I'd like it to stop.


Descriptive noun sometimes used by cyclists and bikers to describe car drivers. Again, this word smacks of superiority. It's sometimes quite difficult to get car drivers to engage with the idea that cyclists are road users too, but this word does nothing except polarise and anger the very people cyclists are trying to reach. There are a lot of entitled car drivers out there, but being derogatory to them only lowers the debate to their level. Cyclists are a minority, and if we are to effect change, it won't be by promoting an "us and them" mentality which is ridiculous, since many (most?) cyclists drive as well.


Yes, it is very annoying when one expresses one's frustrations on the Intarwebs, only to elicit a bunch of 'helpful' responses when all you really wanted was sympathy. It can be patronising, and being patronised is generally annoying. However, there are a couple of problems I have with this term. Firstly, the people doing the patronising are doing so because they've misunderstood the nature of your communication, and in their own way are expressing sympathy by trying to help with the problem. Geeks tend to be solution rather than emotion focused, and emotional content of written messages is enormously difficult even if you're very good at understanding emotional content face to face. So when someone is accused of "mansplaining", they are essentially being slapped in the face for offering the wrong kind of sympathy. This same message can be expressed succinctly and less judgementally by the phrase, "thanks, but I was actually just venting".

But "mansplaining"? Isn't that right on a par with "hysterical" for gender biased assumptions? I concede it's likely that on average women focus more on the emotional content of a message and men focus more on practical solutions, but like all such generalisations, this one is essentially meaningless. I've spent years working at a job where my main role is to help people come up with practical solutions to problems. Without wanting to make this about me, I'll admit that I have, from time to time, "mansplained" or "misread a request for sympathy as a request for help" as I like to call it. And frankly I'm sure there are many men who are excellent at telling the difference between the two and never "mansplain". So why make it about gender? It's the behaviour that's problematic, not the gender of the people doing it. Isn't doing that just implicitly asserting that men are emotional cripples? Which to me seems about on a par with suggesting my genitalia oblige me to like shoe shopping.

Labelling the activity in this way might be cathartic, but does it accomplish anything else other than to piss those misguidedly trying to help off? Again, it just doesn't seem constructive.
27 comments or Leave a comment
Only managed to get to half an event, and for the first time this year. So glad I did though, as it was definitely once of the better events I've ever done. I even wrote fic.
3 comments or Leave a comment