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Eggs and Endorphins

Higgledy Piggeldy, Joshua Kronengold

6/4/13 02:20 am - Wow

So, I've long been a fan of Jenna Moran's (formerly Rebecca Borgstrom) fiction and freeform rpg, Nobilis. So naturally, I contributed to her (currently running) kickstarter, Chuubo's Magical Wish Granting Engine. Which is as awesome as a plot-oriented RPG about a boy who makes (often ill advised) wishes can be, and if you're interested in it, you should support it, but that's not what I came here to write about.

No -- instead, one of the backer rewards for Chuubos is an expansion for Nobilis, 3rd edition, on Treasure, called "The Book of Treasure". Treasure is one of the new stats in Nobilis 3rd -- it represents your ability to connect to people -- and to connect to -stuff-; both to have a favorite aunt who is important and helpful in your story, and to have a really nice car, or a magic sword that can cut anything, or a pet cat who follows you everywhere.

So, there are a lot of awesome things about this book. It both expands on every element of Treasure (so far; I'm only 22 pages into a 49 page book), and gives design notes for -why- various things are the way they are in the game -- for instance, it explains that the reason making anchors (connected people and things) is a level 0 miracle is because the designer -wants- people making connections, even if they're not heavily invested in the idea of Treasure.

But the thing that inspired me to post tonight is where it talks about abilities -- particularly Treasure -- that follow an absolute. Being as strong as you need to be. A sword that can cut -anything-. Omni-corrupting artifacts, or hats that shield you from corruption.

In other words, powers that start forum arguments rather than ending them--as people argue whether the Hulk being stronger than anyone beats only Thor being strong enough to lift Molnjir.

What Jenna points out, quite successfully, is that arguments like that -- powers like that -- particularly when they work -- are not arguments about rules. They're metaphors -- and moral arguments that center around the metaphor, not about any particular rule.

The Hulk isn't just "the strongest guy around". He's the superhero that represents the limitless strength of righteous rage. The One Ring isn't just infinitely corrupting (although it is) -- it represents that principle that power itself corrupts without providence and faith in Eru [that is, god]. Superman isn't just as strong as he needs to be (although he is); his is the strength of the pure heart taht acts from unsullied motives.

As such, when two "unlimited" powers clash, what determines what wins (ideally) -- what -should- determine what wins--isn't a number like how many tons the Hulk can lift or who has a bigger stat. Instead, it's the right solution to the moral question posed by their metaphors in the situation. Clark Kent should lose to the limitless power of conquest represented by Apocalypse when his heart is divided and his moral fevor weak -- but win if he's resolved his dilemma and acts from pure motives. The Hulk should defeat many other limitless powers, even that of war, but may prove powerless, in the right situation, against someone representing the power of calm.

This is why, Jenna explains, the rank of a Treasure miracle doesn't determine which one wins; instead, the rank determines the scope of the miracle--how many different things you can do with Treasure--but in a contest between absolutes, what should win is the thing that's won the battle of metaphors.

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3/25/13 03:08 am - Resturant Review: La Vie en Szechuan

La Vie en Szechuan, 14 East 33rd Street, New York, NY, 10016

There have been a succession of mediocre resturants in the spot across the street from the Complete Strategist. However, a few months ago, I noticed that the new place appeared to be an authentic Szechuan place--and a fairly popular one, at that. So naturally, being who we are, [personal profile] drcpunk and I resolved to visit La Vie at the next opportunity.

We didn't, of course, do so as soon as we could have, mostly because we'd also wanted to to hit Hot Kitchen (which is also quite good, if more in the Grand Sichuan mode than La Vie is) in person rather than just takeout. But tonight, as it happened, it was on our route home, so off we went.

It was great. Not cheap--but not awful, either (we ordered 3 cold dishes and a tea smoked duck (for $18) and it came to $56 with tip.

First, the menu. It's full of appetizing pictures of authentic food--and from what I saw on our plates and those of the (mostly Chinese) diners around us, totally accurate. This place is certainly paying attention to presentation, but our food, at least, was also delicious.

So, food we got:

The tea smoked duck: Came with three soft buns, and tasted the way tea smoked duck should taste.

Cold dishes ("Appetizers"--hot appetizers are "signature appetisers"):

Sliced beef in chili paste: Lovely and spicy; definitely provided most of the heat in the meal, and very tasty. Unannounced, but welcome by us were some chinese eggplants hidden in the mix.

Chicken in sczechuan pepper sauce: this was served in a spicy and sour green sauce, and tasted very different (but also really good) sauce than the beef in chili paste.

Spring Bamboo shoots in sessame oil: This, like the duck, wasn't spicy, but it had its own tang from the vegitables in the sauce (scallions, maybe garlic) and we had the chili paste confusing our senses. Also really tasty--we love well made bamboo shoot dishes.

Have to go back--the menu is huge, and really varied. Would love to go back with more people so we can get more of a range.

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3/15/13 12:09 pm - where to find me at Lunacon, plus another query re lunacon

I'm apparently on a fair amount of programming at Lunacon (despite the program not, you know, being up even on the day the con starts; yay organization and new software and non-redundant medum-sized groups).

Stuff I'm on :



150 The Life of a Filker Brundage I Filk Sat 10:00 AM Duration: 01:00
I'm dropping this. 10AM is TOO DAMN EARLY, plus I'm on too much on Saturday as-is.
Food Songs Filk Circle Brundage I Filk Sat 12:00 PM Duration: 01:00
This could be fun! But I'm definately going to need more people showing up, as Amy and I can only trade food songs back and forth for so long.
53 What are "Euro" Games and How Do I Get Involved? Elijah Budd Gaming Sat 1:00 PM Duration: 01:00
This sounds like it will be a blast. Between Perianne, Kevin, and YT, we should have stuff covered and a good vibe; I don't know Tim Rogriguez by name, but with "games" in his email address he should have something to add.
80 Online Fandom Migration Birch Fan Interest Sat 4:00 PM Duration: 01:00

This should be fun; a bunch of us have been on since antideluvian times. That said, we could really use, given the panel description:
More people (on the panel or in the audience) with a wider experience (Deviantart, maybe? Or deeper Google+ experience than I have?).
And we -really- could use someone from the fanfic side of the force, as the panel description talks about that but we don't currently have any panelists who are fanfic writers (I've written some fanfic -filks-, but that's not the same as being part of the online fanfic community). Anyone?
159 Travel Songs Circle Brundage I Filk Sat 7:00 PM Duration: 01:00
Just me and Amy again -- help? There are a lot of great travel songs, though.
163 Ghost Songs Circle Brundage I Filk Sat 10:30 PM Duration: 01:00
Lisa and I are moderating this, and we -can- just sing ghost songs for an hour if we have to. Hopefully, we won't have to. :)

73 EReading Device Petting Zoo Maple Fan Interest Sun 1:00 PM Duration: 01:00
I'm curious as to how this will go. I have a (rooted) color Nook, and can talk about calibre, conversions, and, of course, buying stuff online; it sounds like we have a good variety, but I -might- be motivated to pick up a larger tablet before the con just for funsizes (this would be really silly, but stranger things have been known to happen). We'll see how much this is a talking thing vs a "let peopel try stuff out" thing.


So, who's making Lunacon? And...anyone up to helping out for the online communities panel (talk to Kate Nepveu if you are willing to be -included- on the panel, as she's moderating it).

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2/16/13 01:36 am - Gaming, Nerdnyc: Tzolk'in, gearing up for some fun

Tzolk'in: Wow. Took over 3 hours, but really fun game (supposedly, in two previous games the game only took 2 hours; probably down further with more experience, but definitely schedule at least 3 hours for a first game.

And, a relatively casual playthrough/review of the game followsCollapse )

And so that I justify the terrible title, I'll note that while I'm skipping all the fun things happening this weekend (ok, most of them -- not doing Flea, not doing Wicked, not going to Boskone (no room at the inn, or I might have talked Lisa into heading up to Boston again), not doing a Regency tea dance on Sunday, etc), we're heading up to Dreamation on next Friday (and I've been upping my Soul Calibur V game to not embarass myself there then; after months not playing the game), and I expect I'll be busy playing D&D and board games and Soul and maybe even some indie RPGS.

And then the weekend after, two Larps I had a part in writing will be run by a team headed by crash_mccormick, so we've been handling player queries and filling drops and finishing some stuff on both games (mostly Jamais Vue, which we're doing more work on; Electric Labyrinth, also known as "The game Josh was lead writer on rather than just brainstorming, mechanicing, editing, and doing rewrite jobs with"; also known as "The Girl Genius Game" had a full production run and a minor rewrite done for Anonycon, where it didn't run, so we're just reusing that kit for the Intercon run). Jamais Vue has had more runs -- but that only means we know more of the problems with the (otherwise excellent) game and therefore get to try to fix some of the issues. However, [personal profile] drcpunk and I won't be involved in the runtime of this (however much we are involved in casting and handling emails and writing and mechanics-redesigning and production). Because instead, we will be going to Consonance, where Merav Hoffman will be Interfilk Guest (and we've been gracefully allowed to help her out on some songs during her concert; I'll be lending some harp; Lisa will be lending her voice and comic timing).

Which means, in addition to my semi-seriously training for a semi-serious fighting game tournament, I'm also working on a larp and a half, and rehearsing for a concert that's more serious (guest slot, not program participant slot) than the other concerts we've been part of.

And yet...it's -still- been a far less stressful last few weeks than last year, when we were trying to -write-/produce two first run LARPs to be run on the same weekend, and I was trying to train for the Soul Calibur tournament. (Electric Labyrinth and A Vue to a Kill).

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1/9/13 04:51 pm - Labcattery

I posted some ideas for fixing what I see as the one big flaw in the Gumshoe system here: http://labcats.livejournal.com/61895.html

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1/7/13 05:48 pm - Housefilk, Feb 10, Brooklyn

Originally posted http://otherdeb.dreamwidth.org/366572.html

There will be a housefilk at the home of Deb Wunder, 2451 East 26 Street, Brooklyn, NY, on Sunday, February 10th, 2013, from 1 pm to approximately 5 pm. The housefilk will be followed by a short concom meeting for Contata 2014.

This is NOT a kosher home, so the host requests that those who wish kosher munchies please bring them. She will provide fresh veggies, and such munchies as are usual, although donations of food/munchies are always welcome.

There are two cats on the premises, and one roommate, who some of you already know. Extra folding chairs are welcome, as there are not huge amounts of chairs in the house yet.

If you need further info on where she is located, or how to get there, please email otherdeb@gmail.com (or leave a comment in the page listed above, where comments are screened).

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12/13/12 02:57 am - In which my life continues to be a comedy show in another universe

So, [personal profile] drcpunk gave me some documents while I was doing stuff on my computer this evening -- naturally, since we're still in the early 2000s, she did so by sticking stuff on a micro-sd card rather than sending it over the Internet.

Also, naturally, I put the tiny card (in a larger plastic case) on my desk, to be perused at a later time. Stuff happened.

Cut to when we were about to go to bed (yeah, that should have happened already, shouldn't it? Whoops). I went looking for the card. No card. Now, my memory was never what it was, but I was -sure- I'd put it on my desk, because really, despite absent mindedness, well, where would I put it?

Note that this is what my "desk" looks like at the moment (yes, I have a real desk, but I never use it):

messydesk

But, I couldn't find it. Couldn't find it on the floor, either, which was the most obvious place (after all, the thing is tiny). Not under the computer. Not under -anything-, in fact. I looked -everywhere-, including lots of inobvious places. Nada.

Eventually, it occured to me that it could have fallen into the tissue box. Looked. Nope. But that gave me an idea.

Know where it was? (answer behind the cut).

Really? Really?Collapse )

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12/12/12 01:06 pm - What are you reading?

From sartorias.

What I am reading: Surface Detail, by Ian Banks. I’m mixed on this book. On the one hand, as usual, Banks’ creativity and depiction of technology and technological possiblity just sucks me in, with a a microscopic armored tattoo, a philisophical technological war in virtual reality (with some interesting lines placed in terms of where characters break morally), an ancient but highly advanced habitat, etc. On the other hand, despite the fluidity of gender and sexuality in the Culture books, there are definitely problematic issues to the novel, both in the amount of rape (not that much so far, but really, I didn’t need rape both in the slavery story -and- in hell. It would be just fine to drop it from one; or even both!) and how sexuality is handled.

The last book I read was Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold. A lovely and delightful romantic farce, this novel achieves the “looking at the Vorkosigan Crazy from the outside” feel that Bujold was clearly going at for her previous novel (Cryoburn) but unlike the previous novel, this one is very much a success, with an engaging secondary character, great Ivan moments, and lots of well crafted comedic moments. I read it twice.

Next? I’m not sure; I might read the first of Catherynne Valente’s Prester John novels; I’ve been holding on to those for a while and really should give them a whirl.

So, what are you reading? What did you read last? What do you plan to read next?

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11/20/12 04:41 pm - The Bad Snail

This could probably use some more work, as I wrote it straight and didn't bother editing it aside from one line rewrite. But I've found that if I do that, I never go back to things -- so here you are.

(update: and, just to normalize the lines a bit, I've done a quick rewrite...and another rewrite).

The Bad Snail

-- for batshua
Copyright 2012, Joshua Kronengold

I'm a very bad snail.
I like land more than water.
Sand bothers my skin.
My slime's more like sweat.
I have too many limbs.
I'm developing language
And outgrowing my shell.

Maybe it's the salt water.
Or the color of my skin?
It's enough to make you sweat.
Why does anything need limbs?
I wish I knew more language.
So I could describe my shell
And how to be a snail?

I wish I could scratch my skin,
Or at least wipe off the sweat.
I suppose that's a use for limbs...
And complaining one for language.
Maybe I should leave my shell?
Though that's bad for a snail.
Like a fish out of water.

Though I make water -- sweat.
I could stretch out my limbs.
Yet, to use stronger language,
I don't want to lose my shell!
I could be a better snail--
And snails live near water.
Don't want to dry out my skin.

Still, there's pain in my limbs.
I will make up bad language.
And struggle in my shell.
Could I not be a snail?
Except that makes my eyes water.
And tingles up my skin.
It scares me. I sweat.

Why can't a snail use language?
I could come out of my shell,
An articulate snail,
With stories about water,
And no itch on my skin,
Only just a little sweat,
Though they'd all hate my limbs.

Which push out my shell,
I am just an awful snail.
But I want to leave the water,
Feel the air on my skin,
The thought of it makes me sweat,
Puts a shiver through my limbs,
Fills me with hopeful language!

I will always be a snail.
Even though I like fresh water.
But not water on my skin.
Except, of course, for sweat.
I can walk--stretch out my limbs,
And sing out joyful language.
For I've broken my shell.

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11/6/12 02:45 pm - What I believe (some principles of politics and behavior)

I'm not particularly closed about being a life-long Democrat.

That said -- having come this morning from voting a party-line Democratic ticket...my politics are a lot more complex than "I vote for the Democrats, no matter what." If anything, it's more "the weaknesses of the Democratic party are ones I care about somewhat less than my utter repugnance for some of the goals of the Republican party, and I'm not interested in voting for candidates with no chance when I believe there's a difference." So in light of that, a bit about what I actually think.

1. I don't want to be hurt, and support governmental things that protect me. I like laws against theft and murder and fraud, and police and fire departments, and a plausible and effective army, because one of the things the government does is protect people from accidents and other pepople (one of the primary things, in fact). I extend "me" to anything sentient, within limits of authority (whether or not it's human). I don't extend "me" to anything non-sentient (whether or not it's human -- and whether or not it -could- become sentient at some later date).

2. I think that overall, people deserve to be left alone and allowed to do what they want (assuming it doesn't voilate #1)--and that government isn't fundamentally a good tool for shaping/reshaping society, but -is- a good tool for enforcing agreements among people. So I think the government has a role in helping enforce contracts (including marraige contracts) but I don't think the government should be defining what people and how many should be involved in a contract (including a marraige contract) -- much less deciding what people say, what sexual acts they engage in or what (if anything) they pay for them, what substances they injest or inject into their bodies, or anything else as long as it doesn't directly impact on someone else (sin taxes on tobacco = bad -- for more than one reason; laws saying that non-smokers can practically avoid smoke while going about their business = good, within limits; laws about 32 oz soda = crazy).

3. I'm pretty well convinced that geopolitics is complex. So while I don't like the idea of killing people, much less torturing them (and on a -practical- level will accept that torture doesn't work), I won't accept a flat-out "war is bad" policy. This stuff is complex, and while I'll certainly take into account "this person's foreign affairs are nuts" vs "this person's foreign affairs seem to be reasonable" into account, there's only so much weight I'm willing to give her as it's effectiveness, not just principles, that matter here.

4. As a secondary function, I think that government can be effective and is useful at providing "collective good" services -- and that, in fact, it is our responsibility, where possible without interfering in society adversely (which I think it is) for us to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves -- and provide a safety net for to make sure that people do not unecessarily and unreasonably come to harm. This includes social services like medicare and food stamps, unemployment services/funds, publically provided education and the post office (which is, in fact, in the black, but that's another topic), providing a source of education, etc--and that often, the government is going to be more efficient at these topics than private industry (although it's good to have a give and take, as private industry will usually be less efficient but more inovative).

5. I think that in order to fund its primary and secondary functions, it's reasonable for the government to tax people. That said, I think that taxation should take a greater percentage from those most able to bear the cost (that is, I support progressive taxation and disdain regressive taxation). This also means that I hate and would love to abolish/make progressive all currently regressive taxes -- including sales tax, sin taxes (see above), and social security taxes -- all of which hit lower income people for a greater percentage of their income than they hit higher income people. I do understand that progressive taxes can have negative effects (both on the system as a whole and in causing people to officially "move" somewhere else) but think that they also have positive effects (partially countering the way that concentrations of wealth can be significant inefficiencies and sources of harm), that most negative effects can be avoided by not going overboard (no Carter-era 75% marginal tax rates) and that while migration is a serious problem (given that in general, high mobility is a good), that this isn't as much of a problem as it could be and that it's possible that something radical (I could even consider taxing land or property, rather than income) would work as a solution here.

6. I think that people should be able to make money by engaging in creative work that doesn't produce physical goods (hell, I do that, though it's programming, not trying to make money from my writing or whatnot). But that, contrary to where far too much global thought has considered intelectual property a source of wealth, I consider it a qualified evil -- a granted monopoly that actively hurts everyone except the grantee far more than it helps the grantee (or encourages the grantee to make stuff) most of the time. This is my starting point--I don't necessarily call for the repeal of all intellectual property (although it's one option, and I'm pretty confident, given that people like getting new stuff, that there would continue to be large markets for creative stuff and that, at least after the shakedown, authors and painters and musicians would not, in fact, starve--they'd be freeer to create based on whatever influences went past their (our) eyes and people would figure out a way to pay them to make cool stuff), but our current system is insanely out of hand.

7. For the most part, my life is not enriched by spending large amounts of time talking/writing about politics. So I don't.

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9/27/12 06:09 pm - Possibly Temporary post: The Secret World of Guild Wars 2, or a newbie's exploration of the MMO

I posted this on dreamwidth, but it's not reposting for some reason. So just noting, I may remove this if the dreamwidth one finally makes it across (then again, I may not if it's gotten significant comments. I reserve the right to contradict myself).



I've always been pretty leary of MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games, for those of you who have been spending the last decade or so sleeping under a rock, and have only just now emerged for a spot of decannual [mental note: find out what the actual word for "of ten years" is] sunlight).

I mean, first, it seems like they're typically a bit of content wrapped around a crazy reward model.

And...here I go a little long. How'd that happen?Collapse )

9/27/12 04:28 pm - The Secret World of Guild Wars 2, or a newbie's exploration of the MMO

I've always been pretty leary of MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games, for those of you who have been spending the last decade or so sleeping under a rock, and have only just now emerged for a spot of decannual [mental note: find out what the actual word for "of ten years" is--ah. decennial. Thanks, [personal profile] thnidu] sunlight).

I mean, first, it seems like they're typically a bit of content wrapped around a crazy reward model.

And...here I go a little long. How'd that happen?Collapse )

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9/7/12 05:36 pm - A Hugo for Filk?

I posted this in the Facebook Filk group, but since Facebook is inherently transient, and it was long and the result of a fair amount of thought, I'm reposting it here with some edits. Comment or mock me as you will.

[personal profile] drcpunk and I have been attending BMs three years running, partially with the aim of eventually getting a workable Music or Filk Hugo into the mix (in addition to caring about a few other issues--hell, this year I did a good bit to make sure blogs remained eligible for a Hugo).

So, I've kinda thought about the subject a bit.

First, the question of why: Filk is a core part of Fandom. Much more than gaming. As such, it would be really useful to have a Hugo category where filk was regularly nominated to help continue to bind us to the rest of fandom -- reminding them that we exist, and frankly, reminding filkers that we're part of fandom (even those filkers who prefer to only to filk cons and don't do non-filk conventions). The Pegasus is an effective award -- but it's a community award, and simply doesn't work the way the Hugos do nor get the press the Hugos do. So overall, if a Hugo category could be created that suited filk, I think it would be a good thing.

Second: The question of how. It's not that hard to get something done in the Business meeting. You need a case -- and you need people to show up, but any attending member of a Worldcon can show up to the BM, and while it does require some knowledge of Robert's Rules to introduce motions, etc, it requires nothing but the ability to raise your hand or stand up (or equivalent) to vote. That said, there's no point in passing an award category that can't get critical mass -- a Filk Hugo was -passed- at some point (or so I've been told) and the problem was that there was no consensus at all among nominators; everything got 3 votes or 3% of the vote or whatnot (whereas the Hugos require 5% for something to appear on the ballot). So it's not simply a matter of whether we can get a Hugo that's more appropriate than Best Related (which I think, along with the BDP categories, is fairly mediocre as a platform) but which one is best.

Third, then, is the question of what. I'm sure there are others, but I've got four theoretically plausible Hugo categories that could be interesting here:

1. Best Filk Production. For the best compilation, recording, or song in fan-created music produced in the last year. This is more or less what was passed and failed years ago, I believe, but it's possible that with the Internet and the rise of more big stars in our space, that it's far more possible for a consensus to be reached. The big advantage here is that having a Hugo -titled- "Filk" rather than one where filk was frequently nominated would do a good job towards helping bind our community together.

2. Best Music. For the best piece or compilation of SF-related music produced in the last year. This has some advantages in that it isn't expressly limited to filk, but included it--the question remains as to whether filk could compete with Coulton or the musical scores of movies, but it would be interesting to see.

3. Best Filk Artist. This has some of the same advantages of best Filk Production, but is intended to parallel the Best Editor category and partially get around the "nobody can get a consensus" issue for FBP. It also, of course, takes advantage of/falls into the same problem as Best Editor (and Best Artist) -- in that while it's theoretically for work in the last year, everyone knows that the voters/nominators will often ignore this proviso at lest some of the time. Which means it's likely to be a viable category (in a fashion), but not an ideal one. But still.

4. Best Dramatic Production (Fan-created). This would parallel the existing BDPs, but be intended for fan-created pieces of music, shows, youtube videos, and so on and so forth (maybe even including compilations) within the last callendar year -- because just like, as Silverberg (quoted by Scalzi at the hugos) said that fan-writing is the foundation of fandom, fan-productions are -also- at the foundation of fandom; we're not just about passively taking in what receive; instead it's at least as important to make our -own- creations. In some ways, it would also act as Best Fancast (shortform) without the limitations placed on Best Fancast (I had hopes to remove some of the arbitrary limits on Best Fancast to make it usable here, but got focused on trying to save the blog). Between filk albums, youtube memes (including stuff like Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury), I think one can make a good case for there being demand for this, and it would allow for a much greater chance of recognition for deserving works than mixing them into the BDP and Best Related categories.

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8/12/12 12:37 pm - New Icons

It occured to me that the harp pic I've been using for years (and nearly everywhere) as an is getting a bit stale. As, you know, not only has Calliope not been my primary harp for over 3 years...but as of Conterpoint, I no longer even own that harp (as due to my donating it to Interfilk, it has moved on to the custiodianship of [personal profile] bercilakslady). So it's time for a new icon -- which means, among other things, setting up a new Looney Pyramid stack on top of the new harp -- meet Clio, btw, my new, carbon-fiber harp (I also have Terpsichore, a green harpsicle, who I should also post pictures of at some point).


There are also Looney Pyramids on top of Clio, though they're harder to see in this pic (see iceharp1 and iceharp2 for the versions with less harp and more pyramid), but this time (despite dropping the pieces several times while making the pics protip: do not play your harp while things are precariously standing on top of it; they -will- fall; but it is far easier to do this
trick with a free standing harp!) I didn't lose any pyramids in the process.

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6/25/12 01:15 pm - D&D, D&Dnext, and the old stat->power paradigm

So, over on the wizards site they posted a bit on their D&Dnext playtest where players objected to rogues who are trained in perception being worse at spotting traps than clerics who aren't trained in perception.

Mulling over the problem of "how does one make the rogue not (always) have a worse chance to spot traps than the cleric", I'm struck with a curious notion -- a D&Dlike game (or D&D, even) doesn't need the primary stat->attack power equasion any more -- and it is, in fact a sacred cow.

The thing is, even if the cleric were trained in perception, logic indicates that a cleric (who is, after all, a priest, and not a trapfinder) shouldn't be necessarily better than a rogue (eg an "expert trapfinder").

The core of the problem, I'm convinced, lies in the tradition of a "primary stat" -- and that the bigger your primary stat is, the more often you should hit, the more damage you should do, and if you're a spellcaster, the harder it is to resist your spells and more more you should get.

The thing is, early versions of D&D struggled to make your stats relevant -- in AD&D, bonus spells and extra to-hit/damage was pretty much all you got out of your primary stat, and you didn't get that much of it unless you were lucky enough to roll an 18 and follow that up with a high percentile roll (if you were human). But successive versions of D&D have already made your stats hugely important -- giving them individual uses, introducing skills that are rooted in your stat, and tieing defenses into your statistics.

In fact, Next(5e, likely) is one of the most stat centered of all, even not counting to hit/damage/spells. Aside from trained/untrained (and probably feats), you get no other bonuses to your skills aside from your stat [in fact, there are no skill rolls; there are just ability rolls with -bonuses- if you have appropriate skills; a Commoner trained in the Folklore skill will get +3 to an Intelligence check to dredge up a bit of folklore, and +3 to a Charisma check to charm a passing NPC with some folklore]. And the system does try to make skills useful in combat, with simple rules for adjucating stunts. Plus, most importantly, for the first time, every stat can be used in a saving throw. Strength saves you from being pushed around; Dex saves you from things you can dodge; Con saves you from disease, poison, and pain; Int saves you from attempts to overwhelm your mind, Wisdom saves you from things that try to fool your mind, and Charisma saves you from magical compulsions that destroy your sense of self [although the save benefits of Charisma are sadly non-existent in the playtest rules in practice, alas]

More, skills are highly variable relative to class (for the first time in an official D&D game). You pick your class, and you pick your background -- the background determines your skills, while your class determines your primary combat abilities. Pick wizard/scholar, and you're a typical wizard, memorizing lore from everywhere. Pick wizard/Soldier, and you're a wizard trained with the army, trained at intimidation, survival, and perception -- but will likely suffer in these because you still need to keep your Int up.

Fundamentally, the fact that a character has made first (or 5th, or 10th) level in a class should be sufficient to assume they have good attacks and damage. You don't need that association to make people care about their stats -- and having it makes it harder to go against type without providing a good game-reason.

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6/1/12 12:23 am - The Story of the Brace

The floor-standing AC which sat in our bedroom started working Too Well recently (managing to pull a quart of water out of the air every two to three hours, and then not working until the tank was emptied--thus waking us up several times a night). So we needed to replace it. Our library AC had also gone south (ok, it got cracked when the firemen ripped it out of the wall during the fire last summer, and then it was damaged enough when I removed it so it wouldn't be a hole for the Hurricane to get in with that we threw it out right after), so I picked up a pair of them, actually, but that's not important, plus I haven't bothered to put the library AC in yet.

When I bought the ACs, they mentioned that I'd need a brace, as the city now requires it for all buildings larger than 6 stories. Our building is only 3 stories, so I pointed out that I actually didn't need one legally -- but as I'm not fond of ACs falling out of my window, I'd be happy to try the City Approved solution. Once I settled on an AC model, the salesman mentioned that as it was fairly narrow, I wouldn't need the big huge brace, but only the smaller one.

Now, the ACs, due to vacation and mild weather, sat for a week or so before I tried to put them in. But when I did, I was a bit frustrated. First, the braces had a lot of instructions -- not a huge deal, but annoying to follow, with lots of tiny adjustments that needed to be made.

Then, as I found that when I'd used a combination of instructions and know-how to put the brace together enough to figure out how I'd have to adjust it, it turned out that while the AC might be narrow enough to not need the extra large braces, our apartment walls are -far- too wide to accomodate such a tiny brace -- there was no way the tongue would be able to stay inside the apartment (as it's supposed to) while the outside bit was braced against the wall. Just no way.

I could, of course, have gone back to the store, and returned my too-small braces for larger ones. But I was impatient with the process, fairly confident of my skills (I -have- put in a lot of ACs over the years, with nary anything close to an accident) and anyway, as our apartment building is very small, I'm not -actually- required to use the City Approved Brace. (although having an AC fall out of my window would not be ideal)

So, having exhamined the AC and determined that it doesn't have an internal brace of any sort, I went looking for something that would serve as a spacer so the AC could rest flat (well, inclined in the usual "I want it to drain" way) and be very likely to not fall out of the window at any time -- not when I put it in, not when it was in there or during a storm, and not when I took it out during the fall. It was a bit of trouble, actually, to find something appropriate -- I did bring a bunch of wooden blooks I had as a kid when we moved in, but they've all found good homes, so there are none free to hold up an AC any more. And I tried a box, having used one to hold up my monitor at work for the last year or so, but the one I tried was just way too wide. Finally, my eye settled on the so unsuited for its sold purpose brace -- made of metal, durable, rectangular, and apparently about the right size to lie flat as a metal brick between the AC and the stonework of the window.

It fit perfectly.

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5/27/12 10:30 pm - Filk: Sophronia's Song

[personal profile] drcpunk has been running a Kerberos Club game since some time last year, using Fate. The game world is sort of a superhero Victorian setup, so in the game are a speedster Sherlock Holmes, Abraham Lincoln as a two fisted hero, a shape-shifting nobleman, my telekinetic but socially powerless noble ward, and Kristen's clockwork fairy, Sophronia. Sophronia is a clockwork fairy, made intelligent and well (and six inches tall) by her creator's art -- who, frustrated that he couldn't make a device of brass and silver fly, made a deal with the Fey that he would enter fairy and serve them, while his creation would be endowed with fairy powers and, thus, flight. Sophronia, not unreasonably, is rather upset about this deal and thus has the aspect "Take me as I am" -- which for some strange reason, inspired this song (back in early January -- I wanted to spring it on the Sophronia's player (And Heather) so hadn't gotten around to posting it...until now.

Sophronia's Song
ttto Heather Dale's "As I Am"

I suppose I might seem different from the girls of gentle birth,
When my head rests at their ankles, it is hard to reckon worth.
(And) my anger makes me fearsome, when they're gentle as a lamb,
But I only ask you take me, take me as I am.

I didn't ask for magic, I didn't ask to fly,
I didn't ask for clockwork, though without it what am I?
I only ask for friendship, to rest upon your hand,
And I only ask you take me, take me as I am.

I offer you a look inside the clockwork of my heart,
The gears that turn and interlock, the magic that's a part,
Of everything I think and feel, I need your help to see,
What part within is fairy, and what part is just me.

I do not need a partner, I already have a cat,
I do not want a sacrifice, there's been enough of that.
I make my own illusions, I want no other shams,
I only want a person, who'll take me as I am.

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5/12/12 10:28 pm - Game meetup, 5/12

Parade: I've played his before once, but didn't remember it well. Simple strategic card game about not taking cards, with an Alice theme. Won with -13 points.

Shadows Over Camalot. Been hearing about this for a long while--a mostly collab with an authrurian theme. Liked it a lot--it's a lot more individual (and collab, rather than "one guy runs the game") and the nightly quest shine works well, and while there are similarities to Lord of the Rings, I found it a lot more enjoyable.

Citadels: At my request, we played with the Witch over the Assassin (I think the Assassin is simply too powerful. Naturally, I managed to hose myself with the Witch three or four times during the game, and came in second to last (I think) out of six with 18 points.

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4/11/12 05:21 pm - Me, Mneme memes merilly and moves it pnumatically

The only kind of meme that I find interesting is the "write something you don't ordinarilly write about meme. So, it's the only type I'll occasionally do, too. In this case: "Comment to this post and I will list seven things I want you to talk about. They might make sense or they might be totally random. Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself."

I haven't done one of these for a good long while, so I asked the always entertaining [personal profile] redfishie to give me a list. She gave me:


  • The harp
  • Filking 101
  • Larping archetypes that I love
  • NYC versus the rest of the world (ok, she blurfed and gave me Boston, but we worked that out in post)
  • Things that inspired me as a kid
  • What everyone should know about historical dance
  • My favorite Prachett


Some people seem to space these out into separate posts and all that. I, however, am systemically incapable of this -- my motto for the 21st century is "do it now, and if you can't, break it down into things you -can- do now, or it Won't Get Done." So instead you get short. Ish.



The harpCollapse )
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2/21/12 02:46 pm - filk poem

[personal profile] uwf linked to Natalee Caple's "Happy Animal", commenting that the words were included for their sound rather than their meaning.

I agreed, but commented that were I writing it, I might have done more with the structure. So as an example, I wrote this.

Sappy Shamble

Copyright 2012, Joshua Kronengold (Inspired by Happy Animal by Natalee Caple)

Green birds love clean words,
And red birds love time,
Gold birds love old words,
And blue birds love rhyme.

Lizards love wizards,
And camels love sieves.
Night owls love light fowls,
And foxes love thieves,

The world loves the furled wing,
The moon loves the claw.
The sky loves the wry sting,
Of a thorn in my paw.

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2/2/12 11:42 am - Crackdown: Do not Want

I received a (predictable) letter from Senator Gillibrand saying that while consensus could not be reached and Protect IP 2011 was dropped, that "All New Yorkers should be able to agree on the shared goals of cracking down on the illegal piracy of copyrighted material without any unintended consequences of stifling the internet or online innovation." My response follows.

Dear Senator Gillibrand,

Thank you for writing back to me regarding the Protect IP Act of 2011.

That said, I do not agree on the shared goal of cracking down on the illegal piracy of copyrighted materials. The establishment of copyright has a history and purpose; it is (or has been) a necessary evil -- not a goal in and of itself, established for the common good of encouraging creative work and the sharing thereof.

As such, as technology, commerce, and society change, it is very well worth reexamining the purpose and role of copyright.

It has long since been known that in some ways, copyright is an unalloyed bad. The folk traditions -- long the primary means of creation -- relied on building upon the works of both the recent and distant past, but copyright makes that activity illegal -- an activity one might even consider central to human creativity, as we climb upon the backs of our fellows.

I submit that the widespread violation of copyright -- often, though hardly always, by children, and often by those who are spending as much of their income as possible on media -- indicates not that new, harsher measures are called for, but that copyright in its current form may have outlived its usefulness -- and that it is our responsiblity, not to attempt to enforce it even if that means global empire or import censorship, but to come up with new models for ensuring that creators can reap rewards for their creations that do not rely upon the (now false) assumption that reproduction is a valid place to put this reward model.

This -- and putting the works that have been stolen from or denied to the public (and the public domain) back where they should be and where they can do the most good, should be our aims going forward -- not attempting to stick more fingers in a dam that has long since burst.




FWIW, for clarity:

I don't habitually pirate things myself.

I don't think the measures in place now are sufficient to reward/compensate creators when their works are pirated.

I don't think copyright being abolished would suddenly make the world a better place.

However, I think the issue is vastly oversimplified in common discourse and common press, and that widespread piracy is a symptom of something deeply wrong with how copyright works relative to the world, rather than a sign that a substantial population is bad/wrong and needs to be corrected and/or punished. If we stick to didactic enforcement of copyright as a goal going forward, rather than attempting to find a solution to the basic problems, there's pretty much nowhere to go other than tyranny.

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1/18/12 01:13 am - Health alert, hugs

[personal profile] drcpunk was diagnosed with scabies after Arisia this past weekend. Scabies has something like a 1 month incubation period.

Scabies spreads through skin to skin contact. You know, like hugs.

This means that if you got hugged by me or Lisa at Arisia, or GaFilk, or any of the holiday parties we attended, you probably want to go through the (not painful; yay, but annoyingly thorough) anti-scabbies treatment.

Talk to your doctor, and stay safe (and non-itchy/contagous).

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12/9/11 11:39 pm - NerdNYC

(The carpet game) Marrakech: Lovely simple area control game. Came in 2nd of 4, had a blast. Rules summary are for my benefit, but have fun trying to decipher: 12 1x2 carpets per player, directional pawn, 8x8 board with loops around the corners and on the edges, and a 1,2,2,3,3,4 die. On your turn, turn the pawn a right angle or don't, then roll the dice and move the pawn that number of squares. If you land on an opponent's carpet, give them money (points) equal to the size of the contiguous group that carpet is part of. Then play a carpet orthoganally adjacent to the pawn--you can cover someone else's carpet, but you can't completely cover an entirely visible carpet. Game ends after everyone is out of carpet, points are visible carpet squares + gold. 3-player you get 16 carpets instead of 12.

Eminent Domain: I taught emenent domain. It was fun. Also, I lost. And yet--so fun to play. This is a cross between Glory to Rome and Dominion, more or less (closer to Glory, really)

Kingdom Builder: Wonderful area control game with different public goals every time.

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11/13/11 02:58 am - Board Games in Whole Foods, review of Ninjato

I had a brain fart and thought that waltzing was today. It wasn't; the Big Apple Waltz waltz-mazurka and cross-step waltz are tomorrow. Whups! Having cancelled my contrary plans for tomorrow, I'll be there.

So, I checked to see if there was a board game meetup today. And there was. more behind the cut...Collapse )

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11/1/11 02:21 am - Essay-let: Myths, Fairie Tales, and the Prohibitionary Relationship

There's this thing that shows up in faerie tales. Some of my favorite faerie tales, really. Actually, you can trace its thread from myths through faerie tales, through modern renditions of same, subversion, and probably plenty of modern stories I'm not looking at because I don't have time (not right now, anyway). It goes something like this:

Two people meet, and get together. Maybe they fall in love. Maybe it's an arranged marriage, maybe it's a promise from a person of power [that's kindof an arranged marriage, though], maybe something else. Maybe it's not even a sexual thing at all -- though that's out of scope enough that I'm going to consider it a related category, but out of scope for this essay. But they're together.

Except that there's something wrong -- something you just can't let rest (no story can, nor most humans) -- one of the lovers (usually the man) has a secret. And naturally, there's a prohibition somehow related to the secret -- if the prohibition gets broken, the relationship is doomed.
Click here for more Beauty/East/Psyche/Bluebeard/Macha thoughtsCollapse )

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10/11/11 12:45 am - The Application is still king on the phone

An acquaintance recently bought an Android phone and complained that accessing that using Gmail from the browser on the phone, while it worked, interacted badly with multitasking; if he switched applications while composing an email, on his return the email in progress would be gone.

When you get down to it, I think this comes down to a big conceputal difference between the modern ultraportable device (a smartphone or similarly speced out web tablet) and a general use device (a desktop down, to most netbooks (as they usually run laptop/desktop OSes).

and I go on on this topic for a whileCollapse )

tl, dr: Use the browser on netbooks and better, but use apps on phones.

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8/24/11 02:56 am - Confluence, Gencon, Worlcon, not a writeup (or even three writeups)

Keeping with long tradition, I'm not going to writeup Confluence, Gencon, nor Worldcon. (The statue of limitations has probably passed on Origins, Contata, and Dexcon)

But I guess I should say something about them. So...

These aren't writeups! Really! Ok, mabye a littleCollapse )

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8/8/11 02:40 pm - "Mary Sue" considered harmful

The amazing blackholly has posted an excellent response to the use of "Mary Sue" when referring to female protagonists here.

My response follows:

I hadn't touched the feminist issues (partially because IMPerception, people use "Mary Sue" just as much regarding male characters as female; this is probably a flawed perception), but I was remarking a few weeks ago that -except- for "self-insertion character" (the only legitimate "Mary Sue" hallmark, IMO), that the traits associated with a Mary Sue were exactly the traits associated with a protagonist in an adventure story.

That the slur is more often applied to female characters than male ones is, once you point it out, obvious, and very problematic as well.

I'm happy to use "Mary Sue" (or "Gary Stew") specifically for obvious authorial self-insertion characters in fanfiction who warp the story such that it's a fantasy, not a story. And only that.

It is lazy and deceptive to use Mary Sue (or equivalents) when referring to characters in non-fanfic; if the character is unbelievable or an obvious self-insertion fantasy, that should be criticizable without using the misappropriated shorthand.

The only exception I'll allow is when a writer has apparently written fanfic in their own universe (such as late Charles de Lint), in which case treating it as fanfic might make some sense [obviously, there's also commercially published fanfic; the Wizard of Karres, the Peter Pan sequels, various Oz things, etc].
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8/2/11 02:42 pm - Worldcon

Doing Gencon, then Worldcon a couple of weeks later. Who's going? What'cha doing?

BTW, anyone need Worldcon memberships? I currently know of two memberships up for grabs.

7/25/11 02:46 am - New song: Bunny Eared Girls

I first heard [profile] talis_kimberley's "Cotton Tail Girls" in a Lady Mondegreen concert or oneshot -- with Batya, Merav, and Seanan kicking it out of the park with a triplicate lead and fantastic multi-part harmony. I'd not hear the original--didn't even know there was an original, but it was great stuff.

But, here's the thing about me and music:

I can't pay attention to everything at once.

So..I love clever lyrics, and rhythms, and harmony and melodies--but the first time I hear a song, I'm going to miss some stuff. So while grooving on Cotton Tail Girls for the first time, the only lines that really stuck were the chorus and demi-chorus, plus the lines about hearing for miles and about how if Hefner hadn't chosen a rabbit for the Playboy theme animal, the "Girls" would have been relegated to working in the cotton mills instead of the Playboy club.

This? Made me at first assume that the girls had some attributes that made them -particularly- well suited to working as Playboy bunnies. Of course, that's not the song Talis wrote. OTOH, it doesn't make a bad song idea...

Bunny Eared Girls
Joshua Kronengold
Heavily borrowed from and inspired by Cotton Tail Girls (Talis Kimberley)
To the tune of Cotton Mill Girls (c) Hedy West
(Note that the first verse has one extra stanza before the chorus)

(Jess)
Well, the silver screen has always made me swoon,
'cause my Pa was a human but my Momma's a 'toon, and it's

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

(Betty)
I was born in a test tube in back in '93
When they tried to make a woman who could leap a tree, and it's

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

(Luna)
I got bit by my boyfriend on a Saturday night,
Then I found he was a a rabbit when the moon was bright, and it's
Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, x3
hard times everywhere

(Betty)
I serve plenty of drinks, I make plenty of quips,
I give plenty of winks, I make plenty of tips, and it's

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

It may look like you can break me but I kick like a mule,
(So) If you think you can take me, you will end up the fool, and it's

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, x3
Hard times everywhere

(Luna)
I have to change my style as the moon grows brighter,
I can hear for miles, but my hair gets whiter, (and it's)

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

My teeth are scary, but I don't eat meat,
My legs are hairy, and I've got big feet, and it's,

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, x3
hard times everywhere

(Jess)
The ears are natural, but the tail's brand new,
As for my little black nose, well, I ain't telling you, and it's

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

I work my tail off from five to one,
Then you can find me at the drive-in till I see the sun, (and it's)

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, x3
hard times everywhere

(various, as appropriate)
You may think it silly that I (we?) wear these clothes
But we're glad it was a rabbit Mr Heffner chose, and it's

Hard times bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

Cos if he'd had a spider or a lizard as a pet
We'd all be in a freak-show and we couldn't pay the vet, and it's

Hard times bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere, yeah,

Hard times bunny-eared girls, hard times everywhere.

Hard times, bunny-eared girls, x3
Hard times everywhere


Older Lyrics behind the cutCollapse )

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7/11/11 02:46 pm - Life. It's what's worth living

Ok, so [personal profile] drcpunk's posted about most of this, but I've been kinda checked out. So...stuff that's happened.

We ran a con! It was awesome! The guests were awesome, the music was awesome, the conversation and attendees were awesome -- and since I was handling money, playing Vice-Chair, and involved in the Rocky Horror Muppet Show production as Porky Horror, I missed a lot, so I'm quite sure there was a lot more awesome. Come to Concertino next year, with the amazing Playing Rapunzel, as well as Partners in Rhyme, Ariel Cinii, Peggi Warner Lalonde, and much of the filking community on the East Coast -- and to whatever we run in three years!

While this was going on, there was a fire in the apartment across from ours (eg, 3R for Rear whereas ours is 3F for Front), resulting in the gas, hot water and some of the power getting shut off, our door getting bashed in and becoming unlockable (because, you know, we weren't home; we were in New Jersey, sleeping), the ceiling in our kitchen getting its ceiling destroyed (so the nice firemen could make sure the fire didn't spread to our apartment), a window getting broken (smoke, probably), and a hole made in the ceiling of the library (who knows? Probably just to check that there wasn't fire there that didn't touch the kitchen. Or something.

We're fine (New Jersey, remember?) and our stuff/apartment is now secured with a padlock. But we've been staying at friends' houses, while the landlord waits to get approval (which it sounds like he -finally- has -- Monday, the 11th of July, only 8 days after the fire!) from the insurance to begin working on the building. We can't move back until the apartment is, well, habitable by humans. The silver lining in all this is that we've found out how much we -don't- need most of our stuff (even if we like it), and how much our friends and family love us; we've been positively buried in unsolicited offers of temporary housing (although we've turned down or delayed most of them in favor of whatever we could come up with that was most convenient -- we spent one night at [profile] maraphile's place in Jersey, then went to Dexcon a day early so I could telecommute for a day and then hit the con straight from the hotel, and are currently staying at crash_mccormick and his wife's place for a few days.

Finally, we have a crazy idea that it would be fun to go to Gencon. We didn't =plan= Gencon, of course, because it would be totally insane to plan Gencon -and- a 5 day Dexcon -and- Worldcon -and- Origins. (and we did Dexcon and Worldcon, and will do Worldcon). But...it -would- be fun. Anyone planning on doing Gencon (yeah, there's that planning thing again) and have a space in a hotel room with, you know, a bed? Hey, can't hurt, right?

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6/14/11 01:14 pm - Filk Fragment: Slaying Wizard

Has anyone else noticed that some of their best work is in response to someone else trying something similar and missing the mark or abandoning it? No? Probably just me, then.

Anyway, someone posted a not quite coherent version of this on Enworld, so I responded with this. So far, I've enough willpower to avoid filking the entire song...

Slaying Wizard
ttto: Pinball Wizard, by Pete Townshend
lyrics: Joshua Kronengold

Ever since I was a young elf, I've wanted to stand tall,
From Fallcrest down to Nentir, I must have fought them all,
But I ain't seen nothing like him, in any bar or hall,
That deaf, dumb, blind assassin, sure wields a nasty maul.

He stands like a statue, hides himself within plain sight,
Blends into the background, if it's dark or if it's light,
He shrouds his foes in darkness, while he stands back from the fight,
That deaf, dumb, blind assassin, sure wields a nasty maul.

He's a slaying wizard, there's got to be a catch,
A slaying wizard, I've never seen his match.

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6/14/11 12:58 am - Housefilk! Queens, Sunday, June 19, 2011

In honor of "we haven't had a housefilk in the NYC area in ever so long" and "Contata's at the beginning of next month, holy *%~@#!", the lovely [personal profile] drcpunk and I are holding a housefilk at our home ("The Bookery") in Queens this Sunday - June 19th, 2011 (the day after [personal profile] drcpunk's birthday), noon to 6pm -- those who come early have volunteered to help set up; those who stay late have volunteered to attend the following concom meeting.  .
 
The Bookery
48-38 48th ST APT 3F
Woodside, New York, 11377

Directions:
Take the 7 local train to 46th. Exit at the 47th street exit.
Coming out of the stairs, you will be in the middle of Queens
Boulevard, with street on both sides. Turn right.
Also, if you find that you are facing brown awnings
with the "Sunnyside Grill" or the Starbucks, you're facing the
wrong direction, whereas if you see the "Sunnyside" sign (on
46th) or a cigar shop, (on 47th), you're probably facing the
right way.
Cross Queens Boulevard, and continue along 47th street to 48th Avenue.
Turn left (facing east).
Walk one block east, to 48th street. Turn right.
Go about 2/3 of the way down the block, and ring the top-left buzzer,
which is marked 3F.

If you get lost, call the house phone: 718-937-8919

Do RSVP if you can--and while I'll try to get some snacks before the day, if you want to make sure you can get snacks you like, I reccomend bringing them.
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5/1/11 10:50 pm - It's May! It's May!

May is here! This means a number of rituals that I usually don't follow, but I'll see what I can remember.

First--Happy Beltaine, and Bright Blessings!

Second--I have no idea. I was going to say something witty here, but I just forget what it was. So I'll instead say that _Grimm Legacy_ is a lovely romp, set in a loaning museum in NYC, with magic and fairy tales, that I've finally played Loyang and find it a very good competitive development game (and much less like Havre and Agricola than those two games are like one another), that I've been playing Desktop Dungeons (mac and PC) and find it quite good--though they should really do an android/iphone port, and that you all should come to Contata in the first weekend in July (Contata).

Third, to honor the spirit of license and openness associated with the month, I bring you a song (basically worksafe):



Fourth, to honor the spirit of growth and sharing also associated with the day of the month, I bring you a different song (worksafe? Are you kidding? No.):



Fifth and finally, happy birthday, [personal profile] akawil (in 3 days, anyway)!

3/14/11 05:38 pm - Late Eclipse

This and the following post were originally intended to be a single post; a
spoiler-free micro review with a spoilery review behind the cut.

Then, because I'm not a complete idiot, it occurred to me that that was
tantamount to disabling comments on the outer post, so here we are.

Late Eclipses (Seanan McGuire, 2011, DAW) is an excellent book
and you should read it. However, since it's the fourth book in the Toby
Daye series, you probably should read the other three books in the series,
and I'm not reviewing them today.

Should you read the prior books, however, and go on to read Late Eclipses,
here's what you'll win:

* Nasty, nasty, sidhe politics
* Real and significant movement in the series plot.
* A badass heroine with a brain (who uses it, even).
* Heroic urban fantasy in a De Lint mode, with the mystery-flavor-of-the
book (yep--different this time too) being something I'll label as "killer
thriller".

12/5/10 08:30 pm - Dominion: Personal Best

If this isn't my highest scoring Dominion game ever--it's damned close. 186 points -- 169 of them vp chips.

Of note: I did not extend the game to try to improve my score--I ended it at the first available opportunity!

And yeah -- every single "highest scoring dominion game ever" includes Goons in the mix -- and probably always will unless they make a card that allows even more ludicrous scores.

http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201012/05/game-20101205-110841-b515eccc.html.gz

(edit: putting the entire game in, behind a cut, just for archival purposes)

click for game long. Note: it's longCollapse )

9/30/10 01:01 pm - Strowlercon

So...we've decided that we're going to Strowlercon. Too much love there not to go, right?

So...is anyone going up from the NYC area? We'd love to be transported, natch -- but also, we have an object we have a crazy plan of bringing up which isn't really practical to transport by hand.

9/5/10 02:27 pm - Marilynn Padol -- June 29, 1943 - September 5, 2010

[personal profile] drcpunk's mother passed away this morning, September 5, at 8:10 AM.

Funeral arrangements are still to be made (as Lisa, her brother Eric, and I are all on vacation at the moment), but are likely to be on Wednesday morning.

A bittersweet farewell (as Marylinn had been in the late stages of dementia and entubulated for the last few years of her life; a living death), but it is what it is.
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8/17/10 01:14 pm - Recent Reading


Feed -- Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire)


I waited until I was in the right mood before reading this—and as much as I enjoyed the novel, I'm glad I did. Whatever it is (a political thriller with a blogger protagonist, in a world plagued by the ever-present threat of zombies), it's not all bunnies and kitties.


Instead, we've got a book that combines three themes I'm not particularly into -- zombies, political thrillers, and near future sf (ok, I am somewhat into the latter :) into a single book that totally engrossed me. Were there quibbles? Sure; in particular, I don't buy a techonlogy price curve that would have the same person carry a 10 meg wristwatch recorder and a 5 terabyte handheld (it's just too many orders of magnitude--if the 5TB handheld is plausible, a 16gb or even 32gb wristwatch is close to free; we're close to there now, with .5tb handhelds and $7 1gb cards the size of a fingernail)--but while that pulled me out for a moment, it just wasn't important to the story.

The twists and turns in the story are believable, engrossing, and (usually) unexpected; the zombies are both hugely important and not actually on screen enough to make the book "a zombie book"; the themes of the book are both subtle enough not to overpower the story and present enough to grant it weight, and the characters -- both major and minor -- are nicely differentiated and interesting.

One note on this book vs. the Toby books (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, with more to come): As much as I like them, the Toby books know what genre they're in (Modern Urban Fantasy with a significant romance subplot) and nail it. But Feed? Feels like listening to/watching the author geek out about one of her favorite topics (i.e., global pandemics), with the added bonus of having all that other stuff (plot, characters, etc) in there too--which is awesome.

The best part of the book though? Is that there's more where that came from.

White Cat -- Holly Black

I'll have a better idea of what I think of this after the next few books came out, but it's certainly well written, and pretty fun to read.

Think of this world as one of those "everyone has a unique hidden magical talent" books gone horribly right. Magic is uncommon, but well known, with some people/families having hidden, powerful magical talents...also, magic is illegal, so most magical "curse workers" are lone criminals or, more frequently, work for the mob. Our hero is the lone person without magical talent in a magical crime family, and...you know how this usually goes.

There are a couple of interesting factors here. First, there's "the con". For reasons that become obvious, our hero is an accomplished con artist--and the use of "the con" pervades the book in a number of interesting ways.

The second is that of likable characters. The protagonist -is- likable, in a fashion, but not exactly a nice person (maybe?). On the other hand, this is one of a small fraction of books about teenagers where the teens do what -my- set did as teens -- play D&D, read sf & fantasy, and geek out -- and while most of that is our hero's friends, a fair amount is him, which is nicely refreshing (far too often, it seems like even SF & F authors, feeling they have to show their protagonist as a "normal" teen, pretend this stuff doesn't even exist, probably bending over backward in an effort to avoid having things get too autobiographical or making everyone in the world look like them). So one can partially identify with the protagonist, certainly identify with his friends, and at least for me, feel that the teens in the book are "our set" however different their world is.

The Dragon Hoard -- Tanith Lee

This is a nicely short book (162 pages; I started it this morning and finished it over lunch!), and quite enjoyable. Very much a YA adventure novel in the "fairy tale" genre, our protagonist's wicked aunt (or is she a cousin?) curses him and his sister in a fit of pique, setting of a chain of adventures that result, eventually, in multiple marriages, evil enchanters defeated, and, generally, people getting what they deserve. Not deep, but fluffy and fun; very much a nice change after the previous two novels!
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7/25/10 02:27 pm - Fresh Philk: Strike the Rail

Strike the Rail
Joshua Kronengold
(ttto "Strike the Bell" -- trad)

You're heading for an interview--and starting to run late,
You hope they'll offer you a job, and don't want them to wait.
You swipe right at the turnstyle,
Hear a beep, head forward, when,
The turnstile goes ke-chunk and stops,
it says: "swipe again!"

"Swipe again at this turnstile"
It says repeatedly,
A line forms quick behind you and they murmur angrilly.
You try to calm your heartbeat, raise your card once more and then,
You hope for "Go" but still it says to you: "Swipe again".

You're heading to pick up your date, and due at half past six,
In one pocket's a metro card--the other Broadway tix,
But at the only turnstile, there's a line and you can ken,
That at the front there's someone getting "please, swipe again."

"Swipe again at this turnstile"
It says repeatedly,
A line forms quick behind her and you murmur angrilly.
She tries to calm her heartbeat, raise her card once more and then,
You hope for "Go" but still it says to her: "Swipe again".

You've gotten to a worldcon, and you're paying at the door,
You hope the con will rock, and that your roomate will not snore.
You strike a conversation with a girl whose badge says "Wren",
When the volunteer at reg says "could you please swipe again?"

"Swipe your credit card again--it didn't seem to scan,"
You know the volunteer means well, but this was not your plan,
You don't want to be on line, but join the other fen,
And so you hope, that you won't hear these words: "swipe again!"

"Swipe again at this turnstile"
It says repeatedly,
A line forms quick behind you and they murmur angrilly.
You try to calm your heartbeat, raise your card once more and then,
You hope for "Go" but still it says to you: "Swipe again".

5/5/10 12:19 pm - Lisa, books

Lisa's getting rid of books! Help here out here.

5/3/10 01:27 am - Anyone want some games?

Spring cleaning season is here -- AKA "time to put the air conditioners in" season.

As such, I've decided it's time to finally get rid of all the stuff that had been moldering in the "time to get rid of this" pile. Anyone want anything? Here's the list:

Z-Man B-Movie card games: Bell Bottomed Badasses, Kung Fu Samurai, Graverobers, and Skippy's Revenge (Grave Robbers II).
Gother than Thou
Basari (a pretty cool gem-trading game marred by my dislike of the "pick one of three actions, you're screwed if you pick the same action someone else did" mechanic)
Lowenherz (a version of Domain with the same mechanic).
The Order of the Stick (Cool chrome, and the game captures it well. But...it takes long after it stops being fun to end. Maybe the expansion (called "the Shortening" for some reason) fixes it? I didn't bother to find out.
Grand Tribunal: Pretty interesting game, except for the lack of components lining up with rules. It's possible that the post-eratta game is good; I don't know, I can't get anyone to try it.
Dungeoneer (Undead): This is actually a really fun pseudo-RPG in a card game. But I've not played it since the Origins I bought it at, so out it goes.
Nanoficitionary (Beta): I've got the regular game, and I'm not much of a collector. So out it goes.

Anyone want anything? Make me an offer -- including "I'll pay shipping" or "bring it to Games Club/Gencon/Conterpoint and I'll take it" as well as cash/trade offers, and we'll talk; anything I can't get rid of quickly goes out, along with many many books.

4/9/10 02:21 pm - Rapunzel's Revenge

When in the library, I spied a copy of Rapunzel's Revenge, which I'd seen recommended earlier. And...yeah. Kick-ass Rapunzel, no need for a prince to save -her-, pretty cool worldbuilding, good storytelling, and nice role-reversal. Not to mention, hair used as a lasso. What's not to love?
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3/8/10 04:50 pm - Gaming-originating silliness: Yes of the Beholder

[personal profile] drcpunk, in our regular PBEM, managed to typo "Eyes of the Beholder" as "Yes of the Beholder."

Which might, I suppose, explain why I responded with this:

"...I was a Globe of the dungeon yes when I put the gold twixt my eyes like the Draconian tyrants used or shall I wear a red yes and how he gazed at me under the dragon's cave and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my golden grapes and first I sent my rays about him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my orbs all perfume yes and his central eye was twisting like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes." (From Eyelisses, by Janus Jocular)

(with apologies to Mr. Joyce).

3/5/10 03:00 pm - A Local Habitation comments (Spoilers)

I had some thoughts I wasn't comfortable putting in a review, so here they are. If it's not obvious:

Warning, there are spoilers for ALH and R&R here.Collapse )

3/5/10 02:42 pm - Read This: A Local Habitation

I'm a little fried, so I'm going to try not to go into depth -- but I finished Seanan McGuire's (seanan_mcguire's) A Local Habitation -- the second October Daye novel -- and very much enjoyed it.

(no cut tag, but even a spoiler-free review has to say -something- about the work, so reader beware)

Seanan describes herself as an "old-school horror girl", and boy do she show it here, as our protagonist enters combat with a classic combination of horror tropes in a battle to the last murder and last revelation. This time, I, at least, found the mystery (or parts of it) to be fairly obvious -- but there's enough misdirection and stage business to keep you guessing about the details -- and to keep at least -some- surprises for the end.

Unlike the first novel in the series, Rosemary and Rue, where I had some questions about motives that I needed to reread the novel in order to resolve for myself, here, any similar questions are asked and answered in the text (I do have some quibbles -- but I'm a pretty careful reader and unless I close my brain, I nearly -always- have quibbles); this is a tight story with strong characters, a good unity of place and time, (unlike the first novel, where on reread I noticed that we largely rotated among 5-6 sets, this one takes place almost entirely in a single set--but a big and varied enoug one that it -feels- like we're in a different place almost every chapter), and satisfying developments in at least some of the the ongoing storylines established in the first novel in the series.

If you like well written Faerie-themed Urban Fantasy/Horror/Romance/Mystery -- or think you might, read this book!
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2/25/10 01:04 pm - Larp Opportunity

Anyone free this weekend and interested in LARPing?

We've had some drops at the last minute in 1897, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (enough to entirely run through the waitlist and then some, and could really use
replacement players). The game's running at RPI -- near Albany, NY.

Since I'm speaking from a privileged position of having read most of the game and being a GM...this is fantastic game (and one of the very few opportunities you'll have to play in a full weekend game this year).

2/11/10 11:29 am - D&D 4e -- Design that could have been

I've got a new piece in the labcats ljblog here on an issue that's been bothering me with D&D. Check it out!
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12/9/09 11:04 am - crash space, next saturday evening

To folk in Boston (particularly those going to Fezzwig's Ball), does anyone have crash space available for drcpunk & myself?

Also, see peeps at Fezzwig's & the tea dance in Boston the day after!

Still not sure what we're doing -this- weekend.

11/22/09 01:13 pm - Arms

Dan IMed me when I was offline. When I finally got back to him, I was on AIM with several pages, looking at a bunch of different web sites, brushing lsa's hair, and trying to figure out what to do for the day. So...

(11:19:09 AM) DanNKapp: What's up?
(1:04:10 PM) mnemesys: I need more arms.
(1:05:08 PM) DanNKnapp: arms are useful.
(1:05:15 PM) DanNKnapp: but too many of them seem like they would get in the way.
(1:06:08 PM) mnemesys: Sure, but 4 or 6 would be viable. Maybe 4 tentacles plus two normal arms? The tentacles can handle tasks farther away; the arms can handle the "in front of me" jobs?
(1:06:17 PM) DanNKnapp: that makes sense to me.
(1:06:17 PM) mnemesys: yes, I'm aware of what this leads too. :)
(1:06:22 PM) DanNKnapp: the primary problem is shoulders.
(1:06:28 PM) DanNKnapp: which tentacles do help to solve.
(1:06:31 PM) DanNKnapp: what does this lead to? :)
(1:06:38 PM) mnemesys: Fighting spiderman, apparently.
(1:06:41 PM) DanNKnapp: haha.
(1:06:42 PM) DanNKnapp: fair enough.

What's scary enough is that until I expressed the tentacle idea (mostly, to handle the close/far issue and that you mostly want extra arms to handle tasks you're not looking at, so you need a lot more swivel than your regular arms have) it hadn't occured to me that I was reinventing a popular Marvel Comics villain.
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