Trump, the internet, and privacy

Mar. 30th, 2017 05:02 pm
ithiliana: Image shot from ground up through branches of tulip poplar tree, green and gold and blue. (Default)
[personal profile] ithiliana
I am so going to donate to this effort when the next paycheck arrives:

(plans to buy internet histories of politicians and make them public).

And I was snickering while reading the Trumps' Troll Fans are outraged at this attack on their internet privacy:

(no subject)

Mar. 30th, 2017 12:11 pm
yhlee: wax seal (Default)
[personal profile] yhlee
I have an AMA (Ask Me Anything) today over at r/Fantasy here--please come say hi! I'll be back to answer questions over there around 7 p.m. CST today.

(no subject)

Mar. 30th, 2017 12:05 pm
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
Deflecting the investigation into the Russian scandal.

The problems with Trump's hotel deal aren't going away. I have to admit a small amount of personal bias: the hotel is the former Old Post Office Building, which used to have affordable, good restaurants, a food court, and little pushcart booths of interesting stuff. It was the great place downtown to get ice cream near the Mall unless you wanted to go to Air and Space for the little 'dot' ice creams (before the renovation of the cafeterias in Natural History and American History museums.) And now I don't even want to go near it.

I don't know zippit about VPNs -- but this article says they won't help with Congress's takeover and give-away of your right to online privacy. And how about the 'penetration tester' that your boss can hire to go through your email? Meanwhile, the push to retain internet privacy moves to the statehouses.

Black Sails exchange

Mar. 30th, 2017 09:16 am
dorinda: a tall ship with all sails set (sailing ship)
[personal profile] dorinda
Word is spreading of a new fic and art exchange for Black Sails:

...yeah, I keep reading it that way too. :D

Anyway, nominations opened today and will be open until April 5, and you can nominate characters and relationships (both & and /).

I don't feel ready to try writing any Black Sails yet, so I'm sticking with Night on Fic Mountain for my spring-into-summer exchange needs, but I hope anyone interested out there has a great time!

Happy whelping day!

Mar. 30th, 2017 07:26 am
batwrangler: (Who? Me?)
[personal profile] batwrangler
Puccini is fifteen years old today. He had his annual well-pet check-up and senior-dog blood-work done last week and according to the vet, "His blood-work is so good, he'll probably live forever."
rydra_wong: Nichole watches TV: "My name is John Dean III and I want to spill my guts out." "Proceed." (john dean III -- watergate)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
I can’t recommend this too highly:

The Ezra Klein Show, “Elizabeth Drew covered Watergate. Here's what she thinks of Trump”, 21 Feb 2017. Available on iTunes or your podcatcher of choice, etc. etc..

Drew wrote Washington Journal, a real-time reporting journal of the Watergate saga as viewed by a journalist in Washington, which I immediately acquired after hearing this.

The podcast is an incredibly sharp and thoughtful discussion of the usefulness or otherwise of Watergate analogies, the similarities and differences, and what might happen with Trump -- Drew is firmly opposed to thinking of this as "Watergate 2.0", but she has a very Watergate-informed (as well as shrewd) perspective.

One of the things she’s strongest on is the experience of being in the story, not knowing what’s going to happen, the uncertainty and confusion and fear of everything that (in hindsight, summarized) looks like a nice linear narrative. Her point is that this isn’t Watergate 2.0; we don’t know what it is yet and we can’t see that from where we are. And she knows this not least because she lived through Watergate 1.0, and knows that nobody could see the story from inside it then.

Which is actually one reason why I’m finding all my Watergate-obsessing so mentally useful right now (other than because of pure autistic happy and because it’s an extraordinary story), because when you dive into the details you get into the mess and confusion and long-drawn-out uncertainty (for example, something I had absolutely no clue about: after the existence of the White House taping system was revealed, Nixon remained President for over a year). There are weird similarities between then and now; there are huge differences (Drew has one of the best casual precision-strike putdowns of Trump I’ve heard: “He doesn’t do concepts”).

I have no doubt that there was collusion of some kind between the Trump campaign and Russia, but I don’t know how tacit it was, and we can’t afford to pin our hopes on there being a “smoking gun” somewhere, though it’d obviously be fucking hilarious if there was. It’s risky in some ways to think “oh, this is Watergate all over again, we know how it’s going to go.”

But I think Watergate gives us, if not maps, at least some clues to orient ourselves in this territory (and I’m filling Washington Journal with bookmarks of spooky resonances). We don’t have a map to where we are, only the haziest hints of shapes, but through them we can see another map, the lines of a story that’s not the one we’re living in now, but which is one of the stories underlying it.

And there’s information there for us to raid — for example, looking at what elements have to be in place for the system to work and for a corrupt and criminal President to be impeached. Even with a Democrat-controlled House, it was the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who were critical to its credibility, and the story of how they were won over is fascinating, and to me — surprisingly moving. Then there are the fracture points in the conspiracy, the people who would go so far but no further, or who were willing to take the fall but not alone, or the people who wouldn't volunteer information but wouldn't lie either.

It’s useful to know that we’ve been — if not here, then somewhere not totally unrelated to here before now.

(no subject)

Mar. 30th, 2017 07:53 am
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
Does anyone have good recs (or a source for good recs) for Black Sails fanfic? Or am I the only one entranced by these characters -- all these characters? (Except the governor, evil rat that he is.)

ETA: Re the governor, in the last episode I would love to see him gotten rid of by someone who loved or respected Eleanor. And I want good endings for Anne, Max, Jack Rackham, Madi and John Silver. I want Flint to find his lost lover up in Georgia. And I want a pony, too. Yeah, not all going to happen, but I can wish...


Mar. 29th, 2017 06:17 pm
adair: stack of books (books)
[personal profile] adair
Currently Reading

I am still in a sluggish reading state - I have Deadly Virtues by Jo Bannister. It's a very good British mystery I found in the Books to Prisoners workroom. The central characters are a young policewoman named Hazel and a man with a tragic history - Gabriel Ash. Ash has a dog, Patience, who accompanies him everywhere. Hazel is new to her job, with a strong sense of police work as social service. Despite what these details might suggest there is no romance here. It's terrific book, published in 2013, with at least 2 more to follow. I have ordered them all, and a 4th seems to be in the works. All 3, Haze, Ash and Patience got my attention from the start. I am picky about mysteries, but these seem right to me, and I will have to investigate more from Jo Banniester.

Reading Next

I need to get through this book during the weekend, because Convergence, the latest in Cherryh's Foreigner series, is due out on April 4, which is next Tuesday, and since I ordered it long ago I should get it on that day. Next Wednesday is a normally a free day, but my annual mammogram is scheduled then. I can read in the morning, I can read on the bus to the clinic, I can read on the bus on the way home - I will be reading Convergence in every possible minute.

Real robo-callers

Mar. 29th, 2017 06:31 pm
batwrangler: Just for me. (Default)
[personal profile] batwrangler
Everyone else was probably already aware of this particular piece of technological progress: I'm getting a lot of calls that are clearly completely automated and playing recordings based on voice prompts (rather than auto-diallers connected to a live-person call center). Makes it easier to just hang up on them, despite the breezy "personal" style of the pre-recorded scripts. 
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
DW's birding trips don't begin until 8:30, so when they're quite close, like today, it's the most leisurely morning of my week. Six of us walked up Stream Trail as far as the second set of "trail closed" signs, a little past the inaptly named Trail's End (no bikes past that point), not much more than a mile. Redwoods are notoriously un-birdy, but this amazing relict stand is closely surrounded by willows, chaparral, and other habitats, and edges are always have the best birding. Bird of the day would have been western pygmy owl, hooting in the distance, except that I could not hear it at all well, unlike most of the group. I may have a hole in my perception at that frequency or something. Therefore bird of the day was Pacific wren. We heard half a dozen or so calling and singing along Redwood Creek; in one location two males were counter-singing, songs overlapping and continuous. We also got one excellent and extended look at a Pacific wren sitting out in the open, preening; they are secretive little brown birds so this was great. Birds of the stream banks: )

AK identified the tiny blue butterfly we saw as a spring azure, or echo blue, the plainest of the four common tiny blue butterflies.

That was scary

Mar. 29th, 2017 11:32 pm
dhampyresa: (Default)
[personal profile] dhampyresa
Some time last night I made the apparently colossal mistake of trying to boot my computer in safe mode. Reader, that did not work out.

I was unable to even access my password screen. After hours of fruitless frantic rebooting and phone-searching for a solution (it's no use telling me how to solve the issue from the troubleshoot menu if I can't access the troubleshoot menu) I gave up and went to bed past my bedtime. Then I woke up before my alarm (bleh) spent some more time fruitlessly trying to fix it to no avail. Then I took a shower and ate breakfast and when I tried again I could suddenly access the troubleshoot menu! So I fixed my computer, copied some important files I hadn't backed up yet and checked if it booted properly now. It did.

I don't even know. But hey! I have my computer back!

Exchange news: Self, you need to stop claiming pinch-hits and being an idiot. You're not even in that exchange! WHY

Other Exchange news: Night on Fic Mountain progressing as it should. Worldbuilding exchange fast approaching (eep!).

And now I'm going to go read about the time when the Seine rose 8m62 (23'3") and Paris flooded. AND THEN IT FROZE OVER. Good times.

Wednesday Reading Meme

Mar. 29th, 2017 05:48 pm
sineala: Detail of Harry Wilson Watrous, "Just a Couple of Girls" (reading)
[personal profile] sineala
What I Just Finished Reading

Nothing! Maybe if I finish this RBB chapter before Friday, I can read something. (At least this is the longest chapter. Probably.)

What I'm Reading Now

Comics Wednesday!

Avengers #5.1, Infamous Iron Man #6, Mighty Captain Marvel #3, Spider-Woman #17, Thunderbolts #11 )

What I'm Reading Next

Don't know. There are so many books I want to read but I am not reading them.

wednesday reads 'n things

Mar. 29th, 2017 03:02 pm
isis: (medusa)
[personal profile] isis
What I've recently finished reading: No books have been finished by me this week!

What I'm currently reading: I'm still trying to convince myself to keep reading Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. Corey. It's not that it's bad, it's just that I always find I have other things to do. On the other hand In the other ear, I am finding that it's easy to convince myself to do exercises (which I need to anyway) just so I can listen to a little more of West with the Night, Beryl Markham's memoir. Other than one too-long anecdote presented in the conceit of a story from a horse's point of view, so far it's been an enjoyable smorgasbord of interesting events from her life, told with panache.

What I'm reading next: As I mentioned last week, I have The Marches by Rory Stewart, about walking the border between Scotland and England, sitting on my desk waiting to be opened. For audiobook, I am on the waiting list for something through Overdrive, but I don't remember what it is, and I can't log in because "the library authentication server is overwhelmed due to high volume." So it's likely to be a pleasant surprise when it shows up, which is not uncommon as I usually forget what I've wait-listed on Overdrive or from my library, or requested through ILL, until I get the email that it's available!

In other news, we have finished S1 of The Expanse and are making ready to catch up on Black Sails.

Speaking of, there is a Black Sails Exchange happening! [community profile] blacksailsexchange and yes, that looks like Black Sail Sex Change to me, too. Nominations are now through April 5th, then signups through the 16th. I may or may not participate, haven't decided yet. It might be too much because...

...I am putting together nominations for [community profile] nightonficmountain and hoping to participate (for the first time). [And aie, I see AO3 is going down for a 30-minute code update in about 45 minutes!]

Speaking of exchanges, [community profile] sutcliff_swap is not running this year, as my co-mod [personal profile] riventhorn has Things Happening this summer, and so do I, though with fewer capital letters. (So if you'd like to write or draw for (or receive art or fic for) a Sutcliff book, why not nominate it for [community profile] nightonficmountain?)

In gaming news, I'm still really enjoying the Witcher 3 Blood & Wine expansion. There seem to be a lot of easter eggs and a lot of humor in this one; while walking through the main city I overheard a man singing "I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me..." and the quest I'm on now involves a note by "Smegole Serkis" about his "precious" gold spoon and has sent me off to find treasure in the kitchen of the legendary elven cook "Ra'mses Gor-Thon", who must be the chef Gordon Ramsay.
pandarus: (Default)
[personal profile] pandarus
I have made a podfic of Gyzym's fabulous HP novel What We Pretend We Can't See, because it is an absolute gem and a balm to my soul in these dark times of Brexit and the Trumpocalypse.

Harry/Draco, set seven years post-Battle Of Hogwarts. Chromatic characters. This is comforting and nostalgia-inducing as a warm blankie and a mug of hot chocolate with a slug of brandy on a cold winter's night, but it's also blessedly diverse - I have utterly embraced black!Hermione, biracial!Harry and Asian!Pansy as canon now. NC17 eventually, but mostly good old fashioned mutual pining, plotty goodness, found family and worldbuilding. Love it.

Massive thanks to the delightful Cybel for generously turning my jigsaw puzzle bits into an audiobook, and for hosting the file. <3

EDITED TO ADD - nearly 60 people have successfully downloaded the podbook from filefactory, but some folks' virus scanners apparently have hysterics when encountering the page. If you're having problems, try this site:
just_ann_now: (Reading: All the things!)
[personal profile] just_ann_now
What I Just Finished Reading

Two BIG Mount TBR projects done! The Seal of the Worm, the last (of 10!) of the Shadows of the Apt series, and what a GREAT finish it was, completely satisfying in every way. And now I kind of want to reread, but, my gosh, 10 massive books. And what a book hangover, omigod, it is the WORST.


No lie, there. And to make matters EVEN WORSE, a few hours later I finished my reread of Lonesome Dove. But it was a rainy morning, and good for crying *grin*. (I also found some excellent Shadows of the Apt fic, by the, ah, two other people in the fandom, both excellent writers. So that helped a lot.)

Mount TBR progress:

1. Rusalka
2-14 Whitehall
15. The Stars Change
16. Kindred
17. Silvertip
18. Hidden Figures
19. The Interior Life
20. The Drowning City
21. Europe in Winter
22. The Golden Compass
23. The Subtle Knife
24. The Amber Spyglass
25. Little Brother
26. So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction
27. The Honey Month
28. The Woman Warrior
29. Darkchild (Sunstone Scrolls #1)
30. Bluesong (Sunstone Scrolls #2)
31. Starsilk (Sunstone Scrolls #3)
32. Spin
33. The Man Who Spoke Snakish
34. Gardens of the Moon
35. The Air War
36. War Master's Gate
37. The Seal of the Worm
38. Lonesome Dove

What I Am Currently Reading

I probably should have just read fic or watched movies or something for the rest of the day, but no, instead I started Steal the Sky, from my WOGF2017 list, and The Native Star, from Mount TBR. I'm sure they're both perfectly good books, but hey, book hangover.


What I Am Reading Next

Sitting here next to me: City of Stairs, the first of a series which I've seen recommended a lot lately, and A Madness of Angels, recommended with great enthusiasm by [personal profile] avon7!

Question of the Day: Memorable book hangovers! What are yours?

Fic mountain nominations

Mar. 29th, 2017 09:28 am
dorinda: Someone writing at a desk while wearing a large helmet with an oxygen tube attached (a device called "The Isolator"). (isolator)
[personal profile] dorinda
Just a followup, Fic Mountain-wise. I ended up nominating:

* Almost Human, John/Dorian

* Rejseholdet, Fischer/La Cour

* The Sting, Henry/Johnny (and also Kid Twist in the character set)

And I added Nero Wolfe to the Nero Wolfe character set.

I feel so lucky re: Almost Human! The rule is that in order to qualify, a fandom has to have fewer than 500 stories (complete, in English, 1000 words or over). And when I ran a filter on Almost Human, its total came to 497. Yikes! That was a close one.

So I nominated it immediately. Once approved it gets to stay in, even if 4 more stories roll in in the meantime, and it has been approved. Whew! \o/

I do love Housman

Mar. 28th, 2017 08:56 pm
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
Her strong enchantments failing,
  Her towers of fear in wreck,
Her limbecks dried of poisons
  And the knife at her neck,

The Queen of air and darkness
  Begins to shrill and cry,
'O young man, O my slayer,
  To-morrow you shall die.'

O Queen of air and darkness,
  I think 'tis truth you say,
And I shall die to-morrow;
  But you will die to-day.

(Anybody want to expound on why it's "I shall" vs. "you will"?)


Mar. 28th, 2017 09:14 pm
yhlee: snowflake (StoryNexus: snowflake)
[personal profile] yhlee
Poll #18118 side project for fun
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 16

If I were to do a mini-gamebook (~100 sections) just for fun as a side project, it should be about:

View Answers

the hexarchate
10 (62.5%)

a sequel to Winterstrike (StoryNexus game)
3 (18.8%)

non-hexarchate space opera
3 (18.8%)

something else that I will explain in comments
2 (12.5%)

ticky the talky tea tocky!
5 (31.2%)

For reference: Winterstrike is now completely free to play (all the previously Nex-locked options are now free options, which should make it play faster!).

Fic rec!

Mar. 28th, 2017 09:49 pm
sineala: (Avengers: Not tonight)
[personal profile] sineala
A Steve/Tony fic rec! If you are the sort of person who enjoyed Marvel's 1872 miniseries but you feel it would have been better if Steve had been a merman, you will probably like A Man to Ride the River With by a_sparrows_fall. Alternatively, if you just like stories about dudes who fall in love with mermen, hey, it's got that going for it.

(Yes, this post was also an excuse to use my 1872 icon.)

Happy moment.

Mar. 28th, 2017 09:15 pm
hannah: (Robert Downey Jr. - riot__libertine)
[personal profile] hannah
Magnolia buds are out in Riverside Park. Not blossoms, yet, but the promise. When I was out walking through it earlier today a woman noticed me and asked why I was smiling when it was so cold and wet and miserable out.

"It's seasonally appropriate misery," I said. And it is, at long last. Things are leveling out somewhat, at least as much as they can in a place where it rains in summer. It'd have been nice to have some more cold and snow, but if it's leaving right around now, at a reasonable time on the schedule, I'm not going to complain, just sigh.

Also I said she had a nice dog and a cute umbrella, and got her to smile back.
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
I met U in the Inspiration Point parking lot at 7 am and walked north just far enough into the eucalyptus after 1 1/2 mi to hear a house wren, at which point we headed back south. The usuals with gaps: )

The tree with the Townsend's warblers was full of birds: kinglets, red-breasted nuthatches, Wilson's warblers, juncos. U saw a hermit thrush at the back of the tree but I missed it. Dang.

We were back at the cars about 11 am and went our separate ways until we met at the Bayside Court parking area at 1:30 for U's last shift of the season as a docent on the Bay Trail. There were a few dabbling ducks and a few shorebirds but almost nothing out on the Bay. Just the summer basics: )

And that's largely it for the shoreline until, oh, July, when the early migrants begin coming back through the area. Being a migratory bird is hard!
yhlee: M31 galaxy (M31)
[personal profile] yhlee
When I was younger, I cared a lot about worldbuilding in the sense of realism or plausibility. I hoped to write fairly standard Eurofantasy. I pored over books on siege engines and polearms, pondered the role of Swiss mercenaries as inspiration, took copious notes on books like Dorothy Hartman's Lost Country Life. I was determined for my worlds to be as "realistic" as possible, whatever that meant. Why? Because I was convinced that this kind of faithfulness to the waking world was the key to capturing readers; that a world with every pothole papered over, in which every city was mapped out to the least cobble, would be the most immersive.

I don't believe that anymore.

I came to this thought by way of games. For the longest time--an embarrassingly long time--I tried to learn chess the wrong way. The pageantry and imagery of chess, the fluff if you will, fascinated me: queens and knights and kings, rooks that looked like castles. I was very young when I had my first encounter with chess, and I developed this conviction that because the imagery of chess was based on medieval warfare, understanding medieval warfare would help me understand how to win chess.

(Those of you who do play chess are laughing. Hell, those of you who don't play chess are laughing. I know, I know!)

There are all sorts of things that an interest in medieval warfare will get you, but playing better chess is not one of them. I presume medieval knights did not get around the battlefield by jumping in L-shapes. On the other hand, chess knights never have to worry about broken lances or drowning in their own blood if their helmets get smashed in. (I read about that somewhere--whether it actually happened, I don't know. I don't remember the source.)

One thing is clear, though. The "failure" of chess to simulate medieval warfare in a mimetic sense has nothing to do with how successful, or immersive, it is as a game.

Video games are another example. These days a lot--not all, but a lot--of games sport beautifully rendered graphics that make my aging computer cry. The vocabulary of game graphics became so embedded in my thought processes that I have on multiple occasions had beautifully rendered dreams where I thought, Wow, that's some amazing polygon count there. (I have lucid dreams sometimes.)

Yet I remember being addicted to games with crude pixellated graphics back when I was in high school. I will own that one of those games was the Gold Box game Azure Bonds, which we picked up a bootleg of from an entrepreneurial fellow student when I was in Korea. (Something like two decades later, I caved and bought a legitimate copy from Good Old Games.) There was something jinxed about the bootleg's graphics, and it wasn't just the pixellation, which was how the game was supposed to come. No; something about the bootleg caused all the colors to load up in shades of sky blue, aquamarine, and lavender. (Given the title of the game, perhaps not entirely unfitting!) Nevertheless, the crudeness of the graphics and the eye-searing colors didn't destroy my enjoyment of the game. We never beat it (even today I haven't beat it!), but we spent hours killing trolls for bounty, trying to figure out how to outwit a black dragon, and prowling through the labyrinthine halls of Zhentil Keep. It's been rare that a more modern computer roleplaying game, despite the high-powered graphics, has been able to keep my attention in the same way.

The more books I read, to say nothing of book reviews, the more I become convinced that immersion in sf/f, as in games, is not a function of "realism" or even, necessarily, of meticulous worldbuilding. What a given reader will find acceptable--"plausible"--seems to be a function of familiarity or preexisting prejudice. We have hordes of hard sf books where faster-than-light drives are casually referenced; Jack Campbell's (excellent) military sf adventures have ships maneuvering at significant percentages of the speed of light yet the Lorentzian contraction factor never comes into play. The message I take from this is to choose what matters to you, and don't worry about the rest, because there is no such thing as perfect worldbuilding. I am not even convinced that perfect worldbuilding of the intensely time-consuming Tolkienian type is always desirable. Certainly it is sometimes desirable (it is difficult to argue with Tolkien's success!). But that doesn't mean it is the only storytelling mode that can work.

We accept all kinds of compromises with reality as part of the "speculative" part of speculative fiction. If you're telling a branching-lives story about how a woman's life might have played out if she had come to different decisions about how to handle her best friend's illness, is it all that realistic from a quantum mechanical "many-worlds" hypothesis standpoint that all the branches being explored have to do with her emotional crisis? When I'm reading a Warhammer 40,000 adventure in the grimdark future, does it really matter that the Latin is distorted in odd ways? If I had to read every line of dialogue in footnotes in a work that sought to represent pervasive multilingualism, would it really enhance my pleasure in the story, as opposed to concessions to the author and reader's actual shared language(s) and the occasional too-good-to-resist pun that exists in English but probably not as well in the constructed language of your choice?

Different readers care about different worldbuilding details; different writers care about different worldbuilding details, and both groups have differing areas of expertise. What's more, a given story may not rely in the slightest on a realistic depiction of its setting. I can watch Suits and enjoy the banter and office politics because I don't have the faintest clue how a law firm runs, but some of my friends are lawyers and they have all told me that they can't stand that show. Suits might perhaps best be considered a fantasy (in the loose sense of the term) only vaguely using the furniture of a law firm as a backdrop for its exchanges and power plays. If Suits had been written--worldbuilt--with greater attention to how law firms and legal negotiations actually work, it wouldn't do thing one to enhance my enjoyment of the show. That level of mimesis in that particular area is simply not relevant.

In its way, a story can be likened to a model. And no model can perfectly replicate the original, or it wouldn't be a model anymore. As an author, I want to carefully choose where I expend my effort building a world. If the story is mostly concerned about gardening, there might be much discussion of mulch, weather patterns, and slugs, but less care taken with the provenance of the yarn that shows up in a one-line throwaway. Not every aspect of a story can be rendered with equal depth, nor should it be. When I spend a lot of time on that mulch, and very little on the yarn, I am signaling to the reader what is important in this particular story. (And also saving myself time researching fancy yarns. As an ex-knitter, I have been that route!)

It is not that worldbuilding is bad. It is that worldbuilding is a tool, like any other--to be used judiciously.

(yes I know I'm a massive hypocrite)

[cross-post: Patreon]

Rules of Play

Mar. 28th, 2017 03:24 pm
yhlee: icosahedron (d20) (d20 (credit: bag_fu on LJ))
[personal profile] yhlee
The most recent book I read is Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman's Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. I never had a very large collection of books on game design and game design theory, but I lost almost all of them in the flood last year. Generous benefactors, donated replacements for a couple, which I am still reading (I tend to bounce between books); but it also occurred to me that I could check the local public library for any game design books. This was one of my finds.

My interest in game design comes partly from screwing around with game design, as you might expect; past efforts have included parser IF (interactive fiction--think text adventures like Zork), a really terrible Monopoly mod involving thoroughbred racing, and a fantasy adventure game that inadvertently resembled Talisman more than it had any right to. It also partly comes from the intersection of game-as-narrative and narrative-for-writing, and partly from my fascination with game designer John Wick's statement that roleplaying games are the most immersive form of storytelling because they're the only kind in which the audience is also the author. (Something like that. I'll try to dig up the exact quote sometime.)

So, here are the good things about Rules of Play: it is 600 pages of chewy, thoughtful, massively interdisciplinary theorizing about how games work, what makes them tick, what makes good games good. While it's copyright 2004, I would say that on a theoretical level almost all of its material remains relevant, even when some of the examples are dated. (I mean, I suspect that Chess is still Chess, you know?) It is also one of the most beautifully organized textbooks I have ever seen. The book is divided into thematic units (Core Concepts, Rules, Play, and Culture; Rules, Play, and Culture represent three outward-expanding schemas through which games can be studied), and each unit into chapters. Each chapter lucidly explicates different frames (e.g. Games as Emergent Systems, Games as Narrative Play, Games as Cultural Resistance), and ends in a 1-2 page summary with vocabulary/terminology bolded for easy notetaking. (I did just that--I copied out all the summaries. If the book had been of a size amenable to photocopying, I would have done that instead, but alas.) There are also recommended readings that further elucidate on the topics of each chapter, a few of which I was already familiar with, most of which not.

Also interestingly, each unit ends with a commissioned game that requires very basic materials (think a deck of playing cards, or some six-sided dice, or a game board printed in the book itself) as well as the designer's notes/diary on the design and playtesting process. The game designers are Richard Garfield (who is best known for Magic: The Gathering), Frank Lantz (Gearheads and The Robot Club), Kira Snyder (Game Designer and Lead Writer on Majestic at Electronic Arts), and James Ernest (Cheapass Games, e.g. Kill Doctor Lucky and Give Me the Brain). I was particularly taken by the beauty and cleverness of Lantz's Ironclad, which is almost two games in one on a 6x8 checkerboard, with one game taking place on the squares and the other on the intersections, and the two inner games interacting with each other in interesting ways.

This is an excellent textbook, and I do not hesitate to recommend it if you are interested in game design theory, but it comes with an ENORMOUS caveat--not something that's bad, but something you should be aware of. It is that this book will not teach you how to design a game. It will teach you a ton of theory about game design and analysis. But it will not lead you through the game design process, or present exercises, or talk about rapid prototyping, or about the business side of the game industry, or any of that. I can in fact imagine someone picking up and reading this book and not ending up with much clue as to how to start designing a game. It would undoubtedly make a fantastic supplemental text to a course on actually doing so, of course. But as far as practical game-designing advice goes, you'll want to go elsewhere.

The most accessible resource I have seen for actually learning to design a game remains Ian Schreiber's online course Game Design Concepts, although it also requires the text Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. That text is well worth it, and is more hands-on as well (I have read it, although God knows I didn't do the exercises--so many exercises!). As an example of how Schreiber's approach differs, one of the first things GDC does is to lead you through the creation of an extremely simple racing game. It's not an original game. It's not even necessarily an interesting game. But it does break that first "What do I do?" block.

[cross-post: Patreon]

okay now i can go eat my ramen for lunch LUNCH LUNCH OM NOM NOM

Film Meme, part 2

Mar. 28th, 2017 12:35 pm
movies_michelle: (Film)
[personal profile] movies_michelle
I would like to start this return in time by first going back in time and throwing myself on the mercy of my fellow nerds, as I COMPLETELY LEFT OUT STAR WARS! Seriously, I saw it in the THEATER! MY MOM TOOK ME!

*sigh* Onward.

1978: (Ralph Bakshi's) The Lord of the Rings (Seriously, my first exposure to Tolkien. We pretty much killed the VHS tape we had of this.)

Honorable Mentions: Hot Lead and Cold Feet (This is totally me, and my weird Jim Dale love. But it's peak cheesy Disney 70s live-action: Jim Dale as good-and-evil-twins-separated-at-birth and a pseudo-western!), Watership Down.

1979: Monty Python's Life of Brian (Hands down, my favorite of their movies.)

Honorable Mentions: The Muppet Movie (it's STILL funny, and I still love the songs), The Black Hole, The Kids Are Alright, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Okay, it's not my favorite or one I re-watch a lot. But you know, it will always be the movie where SPOCK HEARS KIRK'S MANPAIN FROM ACROSS THE GALAXY!!!), Time After Time (I love this movie, but I don't know if I can stand to watch the upcoming TV series)

1980: Empire Strikes Back (So much angst! So much romance! So much, so much!)

Honorable Mentions: The Stunt Man (Oh, if ESB weren't out in the same year, this would be number one.), The Watcher in the Woods

1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Do I need to say?)

Honorable Mentions: The Devil and Max Devlin, Dragonslayer (DRAGONS, MAN!)

1982: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (I remember seeing this in the theater for the first time, with no expectations of how it ended, and being DEVASTATED. And going back and seeing it again and again.)

Honorable Mentions: My Favorite Year (It probably should trigger my embarrassment squick hard--and there are points it does--but I love this movie to pieces.) Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, The Dark Crystal (CREEPY FUCKING PUPPETS, and not in the Sid and Marty Croft way), The Flight of Dragons (It's not the best animation, but I love this story), Hanky Panky, The Secret of NIMH (there's a lot of animation on these lists for me, isn't there?), Timerider (Fred Ward time traveling on a motor cycle: what more could I ask for?), Tron, Victor/Victoria.

1982 was a pretty good year for me. :-)

At freaking last!

Mar. 28th, 2017 11:36 am
istia: wavy canadian flag (x | cdn flag)
[personal profile] istia
When I got my 1st car when I was 16, I stuck a marijuana flag in prominent view on the glove compartment door. (Every time I drove my mum somewhere--she didn't drive--she'd roll her eyes at it, then pointedly ignore it. Heh.) It was about 5" x 3", impossible to miss, & looked exactly like this:

Now finally marijuana is going to be legalized across the country by 1 July 2018 (Canada Day celebrations are going to be pungent next year!). I'm amused at how a major tussling point in vying for voter support between the NDP & the Liberals (our left & centre parties) is who will finally legalize it. But Trudeau's come through on his campaign promise, so \o/

Related, sort of, anecdote )

♠ ♠ ♠

Speaking of Canajun, I'm adoring the new serialisation of Anne. So far, 2 (of 8) episodes in, it's surpassed, for me, Megan Follows in the 1985 adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. 15-year-old Amybeth McNulty is picture-perfect Anne in all her red-haired, freckled, temperous, fanciful, locquacious glory! Geraldine James is a wonderful Marilla & ♥ R. H. Thomson ♥ is Matthew! Mrs Lynde is brilliant, & even Diana, who can appear vapid, has sparks of personality & dynamism. We haven't met Gilbert yet, but I'm expecting good things.

Details )

Seattle peeps—Anais Mitchell show

Mar. 28th, 2017 10:28 am
killabeez: (koala yay)
[personal profile] killabeez
Hey, Seattle-type people, Anais Mitchell is coming to the Tractor Tavern on Sunday, May 14th (with Hip Hatchet). Anyone interested? *bounce*

Grr. Argh.

Mar. 27th, 2017 07:04 pm
settiai: (Tegan -- isiscaughey)
[personal profile] settiai
Well, I'm at home right now. My car, however, is still at work. It's been one of those days. :-/

For something like four years now, my car does this odd thing where from time to time it just... won't start properly. The radio turns on. The AC turns on. The light turns on. But the engine itself doesn't actually turn on. If I leave it alone for 5-10 minutes, it will usually start working on its own, but once in a blue moon it takes an hour or two of ignoring it before the problem resolves itself.

Today was apparently one of those rare times where it takes forever to start working again. At least, that's what I'm hoping. If it's still not working tomorrow, then the panic will start gaining a foothold.

When it pulls a stunt like this, jump starting the car doesn't actually fix the problem because it's not actually the battery that's the issue. Since my only other option was hanging around the parking lot for an hour or two and hoping it eventually started (which I didn't particularly want to do), one of my coworkers gave me a ride home. It's usually not an issue to leave a car in the parking lot overnight (not unless it's there for several nights in a row, at least), so she's going to pick me up in the morning and give me a ride back tomorrow in the hope that it will be working again by then.

My fingers are very much crossed that it's the same issue as always and the car starts normally tomorrow. It's been ages since it didn't turn on properly after 5-10 minutes, though, so I can't help but be a bit worried. If it doesn't work tomorrow, well, then I can start panicking about trying to raise money for even more car bills.

Happy Monday?

One phone call, for a good cause.

Mar. 27th, 2017 05:23 pm
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
Eric Schneiderman, the NY attorney general, is accepting calls to investigate Trump's violations of the emoluments clause and EAGERLY tallying up public support. He doesn't care whether it comes from residents of New York or other states.

Staffers recommended we call AND e-mail, (212) 416-6218 and e-mail address:

Your message only needs to say: "Hi, my name is [ ] and as a concerned American, I urge you to please investigate President Trump's possible violations of the Emoluments Clause."

(That's the clause in the Constitution that says that the President may not enrich himself because of his office while serving as president.)

it's a building

Mar. 27th, 2017 03:47 pm
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
When I hear someone say, "The White House says..." I don't buy it. Not because someone who is temporarily in that structure might or might not say whatever it is, but because what they're saying should not always have the psychological weight -- the assumed gravitas -- it acquires from being said from within that place.

What is that place? A building, constructed by slave labor from wood and stone and glass, built to be impressive but also built to be a public official's private home. It has had laundry hung indoors from lines stretched across meeting rooms when the weather was wet and the sheets *had* to get dry. (The weather can be wet in that particular part of downtown in summer more often than elsewhere; it has to do with land contours, prevailing winds, and the affinity of humidity for places near major waterways -- the Potomac, the Tidal Basin, even all those reflecting pools. Thunderstorms that turn the sky purple-black can come up out of nowhere sometimes, and afterward it's still as humid as before.)

It's been rebuilt and reworked every few years, sometimes by necessity; Harry Truman's beloved piano was heavy enough that it nearly fell through the floor of the room it was in (damp rot, anyone?) Also, it was rebuilt from the original pale yellow structure after the War of 1812, of which it was a casualty. There is a swimming pool, and a bowling alley, a cafeteria and a catering center. There are guest rooms and historical rooms where previous occupants said or did things. There are public and private areas in a building that is, at least in a titular way, public.

It is just a building. Those who say things, all of them, any of the things, could be out on the lawn instead of in the Oval Office with the blue rug and the changeable eagle (yes, characters on "The West Wing", I do check to see which way it's facing). They could be outdoors under the cover of the portico. They could be in the so-called War Room or the hyperconnected command center downstairs. They could be in the bunker underneath the house itself -- what a message that would make!

The White House does not say anything. Neither does its West Wing, regardless of the TV series. Neither does the Senate wing of the Capitol, or the House wing. Neither do the Senate or House office buildings, whose longer formal names I forget.

The only people who let buildings do their talking, or try to, are ones who don't have the nerve to take credit for their own words. It's a political maneuver, to give them deniability. It's also dishonest.

The White House doesn't say a damn thing. Remember that, the next time some bloviating newscaster alleges that it does. If it did, it might say something entirely different from what the current occupants and the officials and anyone else might expect. But that would not make the news, would it?

Penultimate Black Sails

Mar. 27th, 2017 11:39 am
movies_michelle: (Face)
[personal profile] movies_michelle
This season has brought many things, referenced many things. It's had some of the most gorgeous cinematography of the series, and that's saying something.

But whatever else this season has done, it's kept to its central theme: whenever men have a chance, they will sit around and talk about their feelings. :-)

Also, that my theory that the series itself is (Doylian hat firmly in place) about storytelling, and how stories we tell take on lives of their own. Once a story is told it is no longer in the teller's control, and if that story is about who the teller is...

Really, it's to be expected, right, when you base an entire series around one of the biggest bullshitters in literature.

If the entire series is about that, though, then this episode if the ultimate culmination of it.

Cut for comments, both Doylian and Watsonian, on XXXVII )
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
Finnish Weird an online journal of fiction and commentary by Finnish authors. ETA: the link has the English translation, so you need not brush up on language skills before reading.
isis: (quill)
[personal profile] isis
I wrote something! Actually this is the first thing I have written in a year that wasn't written for a fic exchange, if you count polishing and posting a longfic that I had mostly written the previous year as "writing". And it's in a fandom I don't think any of you are in, but I'm going to link it here anyway:

The Mark of the Year (3801 words) by Isis
Fandom: Wiedźmin | The Witcher (Video Game)
Rating: Mature
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon/Astrid (The Witcher)
Characters: Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, Astrid (The Witcher)
Additional Tags: Post-Canon, Witcher!Ciri, References to game events, Sauna
Summary: One year after burying Skjall and facing the Wild Hunt, Ciri returns to Lofoten.

This story came about entirely because there is a scene in the game involving Ciri going to a sauna. (In this game, the player usually controls Geralt, the titular Witcher, but there are quests in which the player character is Ciri, Geralt's sort-of-adopted-daughter who he spends the first part of the game searching for.) Astrid, whose brother has a crush on Ciri, asks Ciri if she likes him; one possible player response is, "To be honest, I prefer women." But if you choose this response (and I did!) nothing racy happens, alas, which is sort of surprising because Geralt has several romantic scenes (or at least the possibility of them). SO I HAD TO WRITE SOMETHING.

(Not that this fic makes sense without knowing the game, or that I expect anyone on my flist to read it, just that I wanted to tell the story of why I wrote it!)
mab_browne: Alpine scene and flowers from a painting by Rebecca Osbourne (Default)
[personal profile] mab_browne
Cuz either I have some terrible disease, or I managed to bruise my palm crushing a catfood tin for the recycling bin this morning.

In better news, Family Business is fast approaching 51,000 words, and, um, yeah. At this rate I am totally going over 60,000 words. Eek!

Friday 5 on Sunday

Mar. 26th, 2017 09:56 pm
istia: john sheppard eating a power bar (sga | john w/ power bar)
[personal profile] istia
[community profile] thefridayfive is late this week--& for once, it's not me! They only posted the questions today.

Cooking! )

FIC: Sid/Geno and Rusty/Dales

Mar. 26th, 2017 07:02 pm
snickfic: (Default)
[personal profile] snickfic
Two fics have I posted this month! First, a wingfic I started a while back for Pens Monthly but couldn't finish in time, which also deals with Geno's rookie season, when Geno was lonely and new and Sid was gearing up to be captain. I usually say I'm not that interested in them as babies anymore, but I feel like those particular angles don't get written that much.

Anyway, some wingfic:
Auspices (4748 words) by Snickfic
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Hockey RPF
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin
Characters: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal
Additional Tags: Wingfic, Coming of Age

“You can see the future,” Sid said when he cornered Geno after practice the next day.

Geno shrugged. “Not me. Birds see. I only watch them. Most stuff they don’t tell me, anyway.”

“Yeah, but, I mean—” Sid pulled up, lost for words. “Geno.”

Meanwhile, last week I asked for prompts and got linked to this photo, which resulted in some brief fluffy Rusty/Dales.
Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty (945 words) by Snickfic
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Hockey RPF
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Trevor Daley/Bryan Rust
Characters: Trevor Daley, Bryan Rust
Additional Tags: Skinny Dipping, Kissing, Pittsburgh Penguins

He realizes with some surprise that he’s come to the last fire anybody’s bothered to build, and that Dales is sitting by it, and that, biggest surprise of all, Dales is alone. “Isn’t the party supposed to be where you’re at?” Bryan asked, dropping onto one of the railroad ties circling the fire.


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