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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mrs. Wright's new book

L. Jagi Lamplighter, aka Mrs. John C. Wright, today published THE RAVEN THE ELF AND RACHEL. Mr. Wright describes it as follows:
If asked, I describe the book as ‘Nancy Drew coming of age in the Roke of Sleepy Hollow hidden in the world from FRINGE hidden in the universe of Gaiman’s Sandman hidden in the multiverse of Zelazny’s Amber meets Aslan at Camp Halfblood: girl detective at magical boarding school uncovers figures from spooky New England folktales, secret weirdness and secret conspiracies, ghosts and elves and gods and greater powers beyond that, hellish and heavenly. And has a crush on a boy.’

Before coming to Roanoke Academy, Rachel Griffin had been an obedient girl—but it’s hard to obey the rules when the world is in danger, and no one will listen.

Now, she’s eavesdropping on Wisecraft Agents and breaking a lot of rules. Because if the adults will not believe her, then it is up to Rachel and her friends—crazy, orphan-boy Sigfried the Dragonslayer and Nastasia, the Princess of Magical Australia—to stop the insidious Mortimer Egg from destroying the world.

But first she must survive truth spells, fights with her brother, detention, Alchemy experiments, talking to elves, and conjuring class.

As if that were not bad enough, someone has turned the boy she likes into a sheep.

When someone tries to kill a fellow student, Rachel soon realizes that, in the same way her World of the Wise hides from mundane folk, there is another, more secret world hiding from everyone-which her perfect recall allows her to remember.  Rushing forward where others fear to tread, Rachel finds herself beset by wraiths, magical pranks, homework, a Raven said to bring the doom of worlds, love’s first blush, and at least one fire-breathing teacher.

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Our underoos are not magic!

This announcement betrays an almost shocking naivete concerning human nature:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has declared that it is offended by ridicule about the undergarments worn by its faithful and references to them as "magical underwear".

A video released by the church on YouTube compared the underwear, known as "temple garments", to nuns habits, priests' cassocks, Jewish prayer shawls, Muslim skull caps, and the robes of Buddhist monks.

It said: "Some people incorrectly refer to temple garments as magical, or magic underwear. These words are not only inaccurate but offensive to members of the church. There is nothing mystical or magical about temple garments and church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of good will."
Look, I have zero problem with Mormons. They are, by and large, good people. Numerous readers here are Mormon. Larry Correia, Brad Torgersen, and Orson Scott Card are all Mormons. They may harbor a few strange beliefs, but then, so do I. But look, you simply cannot wear special, funny-looking underwear and expect people to find no amusement in it. You just can't! And then informing the pulic your underwear stirs "the deepest feelings of the soul" is just asking, nay, demanding amusement at your expense.

The Church would do much better to grin and bear it than try to play the offense card on that basis. Because, like it or not, underwear is intrinsically funny to most people and "magic underwear" is downright off the charts.

UPDATE: Josh has a better solution:

Honestly...the best way for them to handle this would be to say: "Because of our masculinity and virility, we Mormons require undergarments that offer more support for our massive penises."

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A state of war

Dmitry Orlov considers the current state of US-Russia relations on Zerohedge:
So far, this all seems like typical economic warfare: the Americans want to get everything they want by printing money while bombing into submission or sanctioning anyone who disobeys them, while the rest of the world attempts to resist them. But early in 2014 the situation changed. There was a US-instigated coup in Kiev, and instead of rolling over and playing dead like they were supposed to, the Russians mounted a fast and brilliantly successful campaign to regain Crimea, then successfully checkmated the junta in Kiev, preventing it from consolidating control over the remaining former Ukrainian territory by letting volunteers, weapons, equipment and humanitarian aid enter—and hundreds of thousands of refugees exit—through the strictly notional Russian-Ukrainian border, all the while avoiding direct military confrontation with NATO. Seeing all of this happening on the nightly news has awakened the Russian population from its political slumber, making it sit up and pay attention, and sending Putin's approval rating through the roof.

The “optics” of all this, as they like to say at the White House, are rather ominous. We are coming up on the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II—a momentous occasion for Russians, who pride themselves on defeating Hitler almost single-handedly. At the same time, the US (Russia's self-appointed arch-enemy) has taken this opportunity to reawaken and feed the monster of Nazism right on Russia's border (inside Russia's borders, some Russians/Ukrainians would say). This, in turn, makes the Russians remember Russia's unique historical mission is among the nations of the world: it is to thwart all other nations' attempts at world domination, be it Napoleonic France or Hitleresque Germany or Obamaniac America. Every century or so some nation forgets its history lessons and attacks Russia. The result is always the same: lots of corpse-studded snowdrifts, and then Russian cavalry galloping into Paris, or Russian tanks rolling into Berlin....

[W]hy has war been declared now, and why was it declared by this social worker turned national misleader? Some keen observers mentioned his slogan “the audacity of hope,” and ventured to guess that this sort of “audaciousness” (which in Russian sounds a lot like “folly”) might be a key part of his character which makes him want to be the leader of the universe, like Napoleon or Hitler. Others looked up the campaign gibberish from his first presidential election (which got silly young Americans so fired up) and discovered that he had nice things to say about various cold warriors. Do you think Obama might perhaps be a scholar of history and a shrewd geopolitician in his own right? (That question usually gets a laugh, because most people know that he is just a chucklehead and repeats whatever his advisers tell him to say.) Hugo Chavez once called him “a hostage in the White House,” and he wasn't too far off. So, why are his advisers so eager to go to war with Russia, right now, this year?

Is it because the US is collapsing more rapidly than most people can imagine? This line of reasoning goes like this: the American scheme of world domination through military aggression and unlimited money-printing is failing before our eyes. The public has no interest in any more “boots on the ground,” bombing campaigns do nothing to reign in militants that Americans themselves helped organize and equip, dollar hegemony is slipping away with each passing day, and the Federal Reserve is fresh out of magic bullets and faces a choice between crashing the stock market and crashing the bond market. In order to stop, or at least forestall this downward slide into financial/economic/political oblivion, the US must move quickly to undermine every competing economy in the world through whatever means it has left at its disposal, be it a bombing campaign, a revolution or a pandemic (although this last one can be a bit hard to keep under control). Russia is an obvious target, because it is the only country in the world that has had the gumption to actually show international leadership in confronting the US and wrestling it down; therefore, Russia must be punished first, to keep the others in line.
Empires always fall. The most powerful military is always eventually surpassed by its rivals. These are lessons of history that the average individual, especially the average American, never takes into account. And very, very few individuals in a society in decline ever recognize that it is in decline at the time. However, the USA is presently showing many signs of decline that have previously been observed in imperial societies of the past, including both democratic Athens and republican Rome.

Obama's plan to open the immigration floodgates and give out 34 million green cards on top of the 60 million immigrants already in the country may mark the final nail in the coffin, but such things are merely consequences of the country abandoning its original identity as a white Christian Anglo-Saxon nation. There is no mechanical fix for that, and it should surprise absolutely no one that an empire that is no longer predominantly a white, Christian, Anglo-Saxon nation does not abide by either the traditions or the values of white, Christian, Anglo-Saxons.

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The 18-year delta

Ender was excited last night because, with his B team season at an end, the first team had extended an open invitation to the B team players to practice with them. It's a chance for the coaches to see which young men are ready to play with the men, and who the eventual up-and-comers are. The first team practices at the same time my veteran's team does, so we drove over to the clubhouse together despite a howling wind and a black sky that threatened some serious rain.

It's getting near the end of our season too, three-quarters of my teammates are banged up, and I discovered when I got there that a) the veteran's practice had been canceled, and b) the first team was missing half its players due to vacations and whatnot. But I know several of the first team players and coaches fairly well because we're permitted to field two players below 32, but over 25, and some of them play with us when they have an evening free. So, I asked one of the guys I know if they needed an extra player - thinking that they were just going to scrimmage - and he suggested that I stick around and join the practice. So, I changed, put on my cleats, and joined them in the middle of the field.

There were about eight of Ender's teammates there, huddled together against the cold rain that had begun to fall and vaguely intimidated by the first team players. They know who I am, of course, and were visibly startled by my presence there - let's face it, no one is more contemptuous of a middle-aged dad than an elite teenage athlete - and were further taken aback when the player-coach leading the practice greeted me with an enthusiastic handshake-hug. What they didn't know is that I've played several games up front with Stefan and we are molto sympatico on the field despite him being much better than I am. We've both given assists on each other's goals, and like most stellar strikers, he prefers having a strike partner who looks to feed him the ball rather than shoot.

However, Stefan had a full practice in mind, not a scrimmage. It wasn't brutal, but it was strenuous, enough so that he came over twice during the repeated agility drills to make sure I wasn't about to keel over. His concern wasn't entirely unjustified, as I'm beyond old by first team standards; the oldest player on the team is 28. I would have been insulted, especially given the fact that I was pretty much keeping up with the tall B team defender in front of me in the line, were it not for the fact that I was fairly certain two more run-throughs would have resulted in vomiting. Ender and the midfielders were having no problem, but some of the defenders looked to be mildly in shock at doing 2.5x more repetitions, and doing them at faster speed, than they'd ever done before. Fortunately, we moved on to the team keep-away drill next, which is fast-paced, but gives you a chance to catch your breath if need be. Which was, in fact, the case.

The bad thing about being a sprinter is that you quickly run out of steam. The good thing about being a sprinter is that you bounce back just as fast. So, by the time we were doing the final drill, which involved a 20-meter sprint to a cone, turning around to receive the ball and firing a one-touch shot on goal, most of the B team kids had slowed to a jog, but I was still running. I even managed to put a few past Ender, who was alternating with the first team keeper in net. Ender acquitted himself well, making some diving saves and drawing praise from the first-team guys, which pleased him immensely.

I was more than a little pleased myself when, back in the clubhouse, Stefan clapped me on the shoulder and said, "hey, why don't you come to the next one too?" Which, I have decided, I am absolutely going to do. It's not that I will ever play for the first team, but I suspect he may find me to be useful in goading the younger players. None of them will have any excuse for falling behind, given that I'm literally three decades older than most of them. The best compliment, however, came from Ender, when I asked him if he'd found it embarrassing to have his old man running around the field.

"Actually, Dad, I didn't even notice except for when you were the one shooting at me."

I'll take it. It's a rare pleasure to be able to play sports with one's son on an equal footing, so I will enjoy it, however long it lasts.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Debating Amazon

Joe Konrath hands Rob Spillman his head in a debate over Amazon:
“What I can’t understand is why you would cheer for Amazon in its fight against traditional publishers. Here comes one of my analogies that you love to pull apart – -it seems like rooting for the lions against the Roman prisoners in the Coliseum.”

I was a Roman prisoner in the Coliseum, being feasted on by lions. Those lions were big publishers. After 20 years, a million written words, and nine rejected novels, I finally landed a book contract. And I worked my ass off and published eight novels with legacy publishers, dozens of short stories with respected magazines, and went above and beyond everything that was required of me, in order to succeed.

And I got eaten. One-sided contracts, broken promises, lousy money. But it was the only game in town. If I wanted to make a living as a writer, I had no choice.

Then Amazon invented the Kindle.

I first self-pubbed in May of 2009. That first month I made $1,500, publishing books that New York rejected. Those same rejected books have earned me hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I cheer for Amazon because it saved me, and thousands of other authors, from the Coliseum. And I try to show others there is a way to make money from publishing where the terms are better, and the writer stays in control.

“My central argument is that if Amazon crushes us all, it will be able to dictate whatever terms to anyone using its massive platform. What if it suddenly decides to flip terms and only offer you 30 percent, or decide that your books really should be sold for 50 cents?”

Rob, that’s what the Big 5 already do. Except for an elite, tiny group of upper-tier authors, the Big 5 treat 99.9 percent of us badly. Keeping rights for term of copyright? Non-compete clauses? Twenty-five percent e-book royalty on net? I’ve had chapters cut by editors that I wanted to keep. I’ve had terrible cover art. I’ve had my titles forcibly changed. And my experience isn’t unique. I’m friends with hundreds of authors. A few were treated like kings. Most were screwed.

You worry that Amazon might someday offer 30 percent when publishers right now offer 17.5 percent? You must see how odd that is.
I was treated very well by Pocket Books. I have no complaints on that score. But my personal experience, which was mostly positive, doesn't change the fact that mainstream publishing is extremely exploitative of authors; the feed-em-in-and-spit-em-out system is constantly churning and destroys the careers of the vast majority of authors who enter it.

And speaking of independent publishing, I'm pleased to say that we should be able to announce as many as FOUR new Castalia authors in the near future.

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Accidents?

Zerohedge appears to be more than a little suspicious:
Three months ago, the CEO of Total, Christophe de Margerie, dared utter the phrase heard around the petrodollar world, "There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars,"  as we noted here. Today, RT reports the dreadful news that he was killed in a business jet crash at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow after the aircraft hit a snow-plough on take-off. The airport issued a statement confirming "a criminal investigation has been opened into the violation of safety regulations," adding that along with 3 crewmembers on the plane, the snow-plough driver was also killed.
Total, in case you didn't know, is "the world's 13th biggest oil producer and Europe's 2nd largest. It's a little strange, however, that this accident would have occurred in Russia, as one would presume that de Margerie was there as some sort of business partner or even ally of Putin. There is, after all, a long history of Russo-French alliances contra Germany, England, and now, perhaps, the USA.

Did the defenders of the global dollar target him? Or did Putin make him an offer that he couldn't refuse, which he neverthless refused?  Who knows? We'll probably never know. Anyhow, it's not for we minnows to overly concern ourselves with the struggles of the mighty sharks and whales and squids and krakens in the depths. They will sort themselves out in the end.

However, this was not the only fatal accident of late:
American journalist Serena Shim has been killed in a car crash in Turkey just days after Turkish intelligence services had accused her of spying. She was reporting on the siege involving ISIS in Kobani at Syria’s border. Shim was a US citizen though she worked for Iran’s state-owned Press TV as correspondent in Turkey and other regions. She was returning her hotel in the city of Suruç when her car crashed into a ‘heavy vehicle’. The Daily Mail reports the car collided with a cement truck.
I suppose the silver lining is that even if these are targeted hits, those responsible for them still feel the need to disguise their actions. Although I have to say that banker's "nailgun suicide" still stretches credulity. Frankly, at this point, I'm surprised that any politician is still willing to travel by plane:
The campaign plane of Eduardo Campos, a Brazilian presidential candidate and scion of a resurgent political dynasty, crashed on Wednesday in the port city of Santos, killing him and six others and shaking up an increasingly competitive race in Latin America’s largest democracy.

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ON WAR and the CH newsletter

We are on the verge of releasing ON WAR: The collected columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009. It is a 915-page monster that is not to be missed by anyone with an interest in military history, military theory, or current events. Featuring a Foreword by noted Israeli strategist Martin van Creveld, this insightful collection of columns reads very much like today's news, only written ten years ago.

As Lind himself notes, the value of any theory is in its ability to correctly anticipate events. By this measure, Lind's 4th Generation War theory is very valuable indeed. ON WAR will first be available in two ebook formats for three days, beginning Friday, on the Castalia House store, to newsletter subscribers, at a price of $6.99. It will be available on Amazon on Monday, October 26th. Subscribers who purchase the book from Castalia in the first three days will also receive their choice of a free book from five options that will be specified in the newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, simply leave a comment on the Castalia House blog and check the box that says "Add me to Castalia's New Book Release mailing list".

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Monday, October 20, 2014

The importance of names

Daniel writes an extended review of A THRONE OF BONES on Recommend:
Names are important in A Throne of Bones, and I'll highlight two: Selenoth, the continent upon which the action takes is, a nod, I believe, to the element selenium, which occurs naturally in volcanic areas. Considering the photosensitivity of the material, it seems natural that the land provides an elemental basis to the development of Selenoth's primeval magic. Even more interesting, however is the name of the main country: Amorr. Yes, it is a play on the legendary "secret name" of Rome, which provides a clever signal that this strange society will in some way mirror the Roman republic.

However, more deeply, it is also a direct tip to the Latin word for "love" and this is where, if the magic of Selenoth draws the bow, the arrow of Amorr strikes the heart. Day is, after all, an incorrigible romantic, and not of the hopeless variety. The nostalgia, realism and richness of Selenoth is crystalized through the lens of Amorr, and, to put a fine point on it, love is all around.

Love in degraded, if happy, form in the camp followers and brothels among the soldiery. Love between sibling reavers on a mission to draw former victim states into an alliance against certain doom. In a scene stunning, dreadful, long-coming but still shocking scene, love grips in stoic, complex anguish.* The raw and needful love between man and wife. Long-distance love between the clever (yet earnest) and the cruel (yet sympathetic). Love of complex relational intrigues. Love of language. Love of order. Love of family, of honor, of duty. Love of dragons. Love of gold. Love of knowledge. Love of good men, of good life, of good death. A love of the hope that all things, not some or most, will pass away, and yet that all things, not some or most, will be restored by the hand of the Almighty.

Every page, for its grit and realism, its tragedy, folly and danger, the thwarted plans, curses, whoredom, brutality, the death of youth, the loss of ideals, the temporary victory of murder and evil, is an out and out love letter to the Immaculate. Death, in all its towering, all-consuming bleakness, is small, and soon to be swallowed by a love so great it lays its life down, and in defeat, quite literally overcomes all.

A Throne of Bones is doorstopping fantasy for far more than its physical dimensions. Metaphysically, it shuts the door to the world we know and provides an escape to a better reality, and one far more dangerous than the one in which we now dwell. It expresses longings (to master dragons, to find treasure, to save the world on a mission from God, to restore and enjoy the family, to live abundantly and in reality, enjoy and defend the relationships that matter, and many, many more) in such richness of detail.
One of the things I enjoy most about writing books is discovering, after the fact, what others perceive I put into it. Sometimes, absolutely no one recognizes it. Sometimes, I simply fail what I set out to do. And sometimes, people perceive more than I had originally thought. But that doesn't mean they are necessarily wrong, because the truth is that the writer isn't always aware of everything he is doing or what all of his intentions are.

Well, perhaps some writers are, but I'm not. I just sit down and do it, one chunk at a time, until the whole edifice is finally constructed and I'm hoping that the whole thing more or less holds together. And since I seldom go back and re-read anything, sometimes I don't even know what it was that I wrote, especially in a book this size. Perhaps that is what John C. Wright is talking about when he discusses his Muse, I don't know. We lesser writers are not touched by the Divine Fire; where they soar on the wings of their mighty inspirations, we trudge along, one step after another, until we suddenly realize that we have arrived at our destination.

Book II is coming along slowly, but surely, and I think it is a better book in some ways than its predecessor. But then, that isn't for me to say.

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A response to Brianna Wu

Brianna Wu, who may or may not be the former Bruce Freeman, has successfully sold his sob story to the Washington Post:
They’ve taken down women I care about one by one. Now, the vicious mob of the Gamergate movement is coming after me. They’ve threatened to rape me. They’ve threatened to make me choke to death on my husband’s severed genitals. They’ve threatened to murder any children I might have.

This angry horde has been allowed to wage its misogynistic war without penalty for too long. It’s time for the video game industry to stop them.
No. What part of this does he not understand. "You could say all gamers drink the blood of innocents under a full moon and I still wouldn't give a fuck." - Phasmal. That is exactly how the average gamer feels about this. Whether Wu ends up being ritually tortured and force-fed Ebola before being sacrificed to Cthulhu on an altar made of desert-aged E.T. cartridges or not, his fate is not going to alter any of our opinions on the matter in the slightest. We don't care. People are dying of Ebola in Africa too. We are still going to design, develop, and play exactly the sort of games we want to design, develop, and play.

And as for those hypothetical children, well, to paraphrase the immortal Zaphod Beeblebrox, count the chromosomes.
Gamergate is ostensibly about journalistic ethics. Supporters say they want to address conflicts of interest between the people that make games and the people that support them. In reality, Gamergate is a group of gamers that are willing to destroy the women who have invaded their clubhouse.
No, #GamerGate is a broad spectrum of gamers who have no intention of permitting a small group of pinkshirted SJWs do to games what the pinkshirts have done to SF/F literature, namely, destroy it through hyperpoliticization. And we are well aware that the so-called "game journalists" are conspiring with those pinkshirts to do it.
The next day, my Twitter mentions were full of death threats so severe I had to flee my home. They have targeted the financial assets of my company by hacking. They have tried to impersonate me on Twitter. Even as we speak, they are spreading lies to journalists via burner e-mail accounts in an attempt to destroy me professionally.
Boo-freaking-hoo. Even if we assume those "death threats" are genuine, Wu destroyed himself professionally when he lined up with the pinkshirts in the media against the gamer community. No serious gamer will ever play one of his games, no matter how many ideological sympathetic game journalists write favorably about it.
We’ve lost too many women to this lunatic mob. Good women the industry was lucky to have, such as Jenn Frank, Mattie Bryce and my friend Samantha Allen, one of the most insightful critics in games media. They decided the personal cost was too high, and I don’t know who could blame them. Every women I know in the industry is terrified she will be next.
We don't want them, and it is entirely obvious that we don't need them either. There are more than a few real genuine women who are part of GamerGate. Obviously Wu doesn't know any of them, because unlike him, they are not pinkshirt-wearing political activists who are more considerably interested in ideological propaganda and self-inflating genre than in electronic entertainment.
The culture in which women are treated this way by gamers didn’t happen in a vacuum. For 30 years, video games have been designed by men, marketed to men and sold to men. It’s obvious to anyone outside the industry that video games have serious issues with the portrayal of women. It’s not just oversexualized examples, such as Ivy of the Soul Caliber series. Games are still lazily falling on the same outdated tropes involving women. Princess Peach, of Nintendo’s Mario games, has been kidnapped in 12 separate games since 1985. Perhaps the most disturbing of all is the propensity of games to have women thoughtlessly murdered as a motivation for the male hero, such as Watch Dogs.

The consequence of this culture is male gamers have been trained to feel video games are their turf. In stopping Gamergate, the men who dominate it – not just women — must address the culture that created Gamergate.
No. In a word, no. We don't have to do anything of the sort. Nor do we wish to do so. It is our culture. Also, I note that Wu is dismissing the work of very single genuine female in the industry over the last 30 years. Roberta Williams, Jane Jensen, Brenda Laurel, Scorpia and Charlotte Panther at CGW, just to name a few. (To say nothing of Dani Bunton.) As for the "women thoughtlessly murdered" in video games than the men, surely Wu doesn't imagine that the virtual body count is even remotely close to being distributed equally on sex grounds.
Some have. But many more have been silent. In the male-dominated video game media, many have chosen to sit by and do nothing as Gamergate picks us off, one by one. IGN has not covered Gamergate. Game Informer has not covered Gamergate. Ironically, the people who most need to hear this message are not hearing it, because of an editorial choice to stay on the sidelines.
He spoke too soon; Andy caved earlier today. So, it is an absolutely ludicrous lie to claim that anyone in the game industry is not hearing the absurd message, especially when anti-gaming pinkshirts are openly bragging about how the media is in their back pocket.
There are many straightforward steps we can take to change this.

First, major institutions in video games, which happen to be dominated by men, need to speak up immediately and denounce Gamergate. The dam started to break this week as Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb broke the silence at their publication on Monday. Last week, the industry’s top trade group, the Electronic Software Association spoke out against Gamergate, saying “Threats of violence and harassment have to stop. There is no place in the video game community for personal attacks and threats.”
No one, literally no one, cares what "the Electronic Software Association" has to say. Considering how successful they were attacking video game piracy, if they're on the anti-gamers' side, the pinkshirts ought to raise the white flag now.
Secondly, I call upon the entire industry to examine its hiring practices at all levels. Women make up half of all gamers, yet we make up only a fraction of this industry. While it’s possible to point to high profile women in the field, the fact remains. Women hold a shockingly disproportionate number of high level positions in game studios, game publishers and particularly in leadership roles. There are just 11 percent of game designers and 3 percent of programmers, according to The Boston Globe. Game journalism also plays a critical role. It doesn’t matter how many women we get into game production. If the only people evaluating the work we do continue to be men, women’s voices will never be heard.
Women no more "make up half of all gamers" than Brianna Wu has two X chromosomes. Playing Candy Crush Saga or Angry Birds or Kim Kardashian's Mutant Butt Destroys the Sheboygan Mall doesn't make one a gamer any more than playing Myst did. "Gamer" is derived from "wargamer" and it is shorthand for "core gamer" or "serious gamer". It does not refer to anyone who happens to play an electronic game any more than it refers to someone who plays hopskotch. No one is stopping women from starting their own game reviews. That's exactly what I did in 1991 when virtually no one was reviewing games in the mainstream media and that's how I ended up being nationally syndicated, with a game review column running weekly everywhere from Boston to San Francisco.
My friend Quinn told me about a folder on her computer called, “The Ones We’ve Lost.” They are the letters she’s gotten from young girls who dream of being game developers, but are terrified of the environment they see. I nearly broke into tears as I told her I had a folder filled with the same. The truth is, even if we stopped Gamergate tomorrow, it will have already come at too high a cost.
To dream of "being game developers" is not at all the same thing as doing the hard work of developing games. Those young girls may desire the status, but they show  absolutely no sign of wanting to actually do the work involved. Anyone who really and truly wants to make games will do so, and will not permit anyone to dissuade them. You don't need anyone's permission to be a game developer. You don't need anyone's encouragement. You don't need hugs and a welcome mat. Thanks to the panoply of great tools available, it has never been easier to develop games. Wu can cry if he likes, but the fact is that none of "The Ones We've Lost" were ever going to develop a single game. Ever. Not even if they were welcomed into the industry with pixies, unicorns, and rainbows.

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An unmoored state

John C. Wright drops a daisycutter of law and logic on the celebrants of the ur-legalization of sodogamy:
The proponents of what is called (with unintentional hilarity) gay marriage express the gaiety for which they are named by crowing and gamboling with delight that the Supreme Court has declined to do its core Constitutional mission of interpreting the law, and chastise and check the abuses of activist judges overruling the sovereign votes of the decent and sober majority.

They should perhaps rein in their gay celebrations: gay marriage cannot be justified either in law or logic. This means the law has just departed from the environs of law and logic.

The gay partisans should instead recoil with dread, for the thing, by being given into their hands, is effectively destroyed. Whatever meaning or sanction the pairs of homosexuals are seeking out of the pretense of marriage is destroyed by the very fact that it is a pretense, not a marriage.

I am not speaking about an abstraction, but as a matter of law. The way law works, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the basic principle, is that once a precedent is established, until and unless it is definitively overruled, it has controlling authority over every case standing on similar facts, and the degree of similarity is the core of what all legal arguments are about.

This ruling, now left to stand, will and must create more havoc with family law, with testaments and estates, divorce laws, property laws, far more than if the government simply decreed marriage to be a private contract. No matter what the desires and tastes of the reformers, and no matter their promises, once set in motion, the law operates by a logic and by an inertia of its own.
I have been pointing out the increasing U.S. abandonment of law (and, for that matter Law) for nearly a decade now. I first noticed it back in the 1990s, when a petty legal case to which I was the only witness was settled, in the courtroom, by the judge literally flipping a coin. At the time, this was shocking to me. These days, I think the average man would consider himself lucky if he managed to get fifty-fifty odds of genuine justice being done.

What we are witnessing here in the Supreme Court's cowardly decision to permit the widespread implementation of sodogamy through inaction is precisely what Wright describes, the abandonment of law and logic. I'm not even remotely surprised by the Court's decision to punt; the reason they did so was expressly because they did NOT wish to set a precedent, any precedent, in either direction. On the one hand, they did not wish to "turn the clock back" in favor of traditional, actual marriage because they wish to curry favor with the global elite that are actively seeking to destroy marriage. On the other, they did not wish to set an actual legal precedent because there are no solid legal or logical grounds that would permit them to demolish the concept of marriage consisting of the union of one man with one woman that would be limited to only changing the "man/woman" element; every argument that can be made for sodogamy can also be made every bit as effectively for polygamy and for unions with non-human entities. Regardless of whether you are anti-sodogamy or pro-marriage equality, this abandonment of jurisprudence should not be celebrated.

The continued abandonment of law and morality is inevitable at this point, to the extent it hasn't already happened. It is part and parcel of a civilization in the latter stages of decline, and our responsibility is not to try to prevent its fall, but rather, to continue to uphold each petty traditional schwerkpunkt represented by the families and institutions that have not succumbed to the cultural rot. Human societies are cyclical entities, and one can no more fight the cycle than gravity. This is not, however, a counsel of despair, but rather, one of hope. "Progress" is neither linear nor inevitable. What we are seeing has happened before, and will happen again. Our fathers and grandfathers may have failed to sustain the civilization they inherited, but we cannot be held responsible for that. What we can, and will be responsible, is if we fail to keep the seeds of that civilization alive to pass on to future generations.

We are the bases of tomorrow's civilization. We are the foundation of tomorrow's societies that will rise from the swirling barbarism. Don't forget that.

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We can do that

This guy quite clearly doesn't understand how the game industry works and is attempting to put the media cart ahead of the millions of horses that are the gamers of the world.
I compiled a list of the news and opinion outlets that have published articles critical of #gamergate just in the last few days. They're welcome to boycott these all, it'll just hasten their increasing irrelevance.
And yet, none of this is having ANY effect whatsoever on the activity of game developers. Literally none. There are no AAA developers suddenly deciding that instead of a 3D shooter, they are going to develop Kim Kardashian's Mutant Butt Goes to the Mall. Blizzard is not going to halt Warlords of Draenor in order to put more clothes on the girl-Dranei or ensure that they are sufficiently Strong and Independent for Literally Who's liking. Matrix is not going to start publishing Fashion Quest: Kicky Heels instead of its 576th World War II wargame, Operation Johann: the Czechoslovakian Plan to Invade Lichtenstein. And as far as I am aware, no one is running out to hire Zoe Quinn as a design lead.

But #GamerGate is having a tangible effect on the media organizations. Intel and Mercedes have stopped advertising on Gamasutra and Gawker. Other advertisers will follow suit; I have heard of other publications discovering that their advertising revenues are imperiled. The pinkshirts of the games media are going to find out, over the next few months, just who is truly irrelevant, who is truly impotent. And it isn't the gamers of #GamerGate.

#GamerGate ultimately comes down to one thing. We gamers like our core games the way they are, and we aren't going to change them for anyone or for any reason except better gameplay. And we don't give a quantum of a damn what any casual gamer who plays Myst/Cooking Mama/Farmville/Angry Birds does, thinks, wants, or says. All the theatrical handwringing rhetoric about misogyny and harassment and death threats means absolutely nothing to any of us. It doesn't matter if Literally Who, Literally Who 2, and Literally Wu wind up being ritually tortured and force-fed Ebola before being sacrificed to Cthulhu on an altar made of desert-aged E.T. cartridges, that's not going to alter any of our opinions on the matter in the slightest.

One gamer, by the name of Phasmal, speaks effectively for us all: "You could say all gamers drink the blood of innocents under a full moon and I still wouldn't give a fuck."

D'accordo. In the meantime, if you're interested in either reading honest game reviews or writing a few yourself, check out Computer Game World. I'm in the process of adding many of my old reviews and others are adding new ones every day.

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So, astrology is now science?

That appears to be a possibility in light of this latest science news:
Researchers studied 400 people and matched their personality type to the season when they were born. The scientists claim people born at particular times of the year have a greater chance of developing certain personality traits. They said this was because the seasons had an affect on certain chemical substances in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, which control mood. They discovered that babies born in the summer were much more likely to suffer mood swings when they grow up.

In contrast, those born in spring tended to be excessively positive, upbeat and optimistic. They also found that those born in the autumn were less likely to be depressive, while winter babies were less likely to be irritable.
As the scientific research progresses, it would be interesting to map these "chemically generated seasonal personality types" to the various astrological signs and see how well they match. It would certainly be amusing to see the expression on the faces of various science fetishists upon learning that they were henceforth to be deprived of one of their favorite rhetorical devices.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pinkshirts vs GamerGate

No worries, once "pinkshirt" becomes widely adopted as a derogatory term for a feminist or SJW, there can be little doubt that the pinkshirts will promptly pretend that it isn't a "Vox Dayism":
Ian Miles Cheong @stillgray
So sad to see GamerGaters latching onto Vox Dayisms like “pinkshirts” to refer to feminists. Oh well, they deserve each other.
One thing I find mildly bemusing is the way various pinkshirted newbies and wannabes still have no idea how long I've been in the game industry or what I do there. I mean, Wikipedia isn't exactly complete, but there is SOME information there.
Laurel Halbany ‏@neverjaunty
@scalzi It's pretty impressive how many shitbirds who never heard of gaming before this are jumping on GamerGate to peddle their snake oil.

John Scalzi ‏@scalzi
@neverjaunty As soon as GG happened, it was just a matter of time before that one signed on. Which is fine. The two deserve each other.
That's even dumber than the accusation that my father somehow obtained my column at WND for me. For the record, I have been professionally reviewing games since 1991, beginning with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, then Chronicle Features, and then for Universal Press Syndicate, Computer Gaming World, Electronic Entertainment, and the Atlanta Journal/Constitution. Since I retired my AJ/C column, I have continued to write for various game industry publications since then, albeit not under this name.

I happen to know exactly what sort of corruption is rife throughout the games media; I was the only game developer permitted to write for CGW for exactly that reason. Johnny Wilson and Chris Lombardi both trusted my integrity, as did the editor of Electronic Entertainment. They knew I would cut my thumbs off before I would give a false review of any game. And they sure as hell wouldn't have trusted the integrity of the most of the current breed of "game journalists".
Ian Miles Cheong ‏@stillgray
Reminds me of Vox Day and every other parasite who’s latched onto this stupid movement.

Space Bunny ‏@Spacebunnyday
You might want to look at the dates of @voxday 's posts on the topic before claiming he's "latching on" to it.
As it happens, I've known the games media longer than most of its biggest names have been around. I grew up with the late Paul Anderson and I still have a cassette tape with "Three Chord Song" and other songs by Andy McNamara's band around here somewhere. I remember when Game Informer was Funcoland's six-page in-house rag. I am familiar with the constant pressure the games media faces to ensure the flow of advertising money from the very companies it is reviewing. Some organizations and individuals are able to retain their integrity, but unfortunately, most don't. Unless you truly love games more than money, you will succumb eventually. The smarter ones usually end up migrating to the development side in the end, where the influence is smaller but the pay is better.

I never accepted anything from anyone except free games for review. I suspect most of today's "game journalists" would leap at the chance to sell out for a trinket or a free dinner, much less a skanky pinkshirt. Not only are they corrupt, some of them are even in ideological collusion, as can be seen by the timing of these various "Gamers are Dead" articles:
'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over. Exclusive http://archive.today/l1kTW Leigh Alexander Gamasutra Aug 28, 10:00am

An awful week to care about video games http://archive.today/rkvO8 Chris Plante Polygon Aug 28, 1:21pm

The death of the “gamers” and the women who “killed” them https://archive.today/ZyLdw Casey Johnson Ars Technica Aug 28, 5:00pm

A Guide to Ending "Gamers" http://archive.today/2t93l Devin Wilson Gamasutra Aug 28, 7:57 pm

_We Might Be Witnessing The 'Death of An Identity' https://archive.today/ht088 Luke Plunkett Kotaku Aug 28, 8:00pm

_Gaming Is Leaving “Gamers” Behind http://archive.today/jVqJ8 Joseph Bernstein Buzzfeed Aug 28, 8:29 pm

_Sexism, Misogyny, and online attacks: It's a horrible time to consider yourself a gamer https://archive.today/HkPHc Patrick O'Rourke Financial Post Aug 28, 9:33pm

_It's Dangerous to Go Alone: Why Are Gamers So Angry? http://archive.today/9NxHy Arthur Chu The Daily Beast Aug 28, time unknown

_The End of Gamers https://archive.today/L4vJG Dan Golding Tumblr Aug 28, time unknown

_This guy's embarassing relationship drama is killing the 'gamer' identity https://archive.today/L4n6p Mike Pearl Vice Aug 29, time unknown
And as far as "never heard of gaming" goes, Ender and I are in the process of testing our latest Fifth Frontier War module. For VASSAL. Which, by the way, I named.

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VPFL Week 6

73 Greenfield Grizzlies (5-1)
68 Texas Chili Eaters (4-2)

59 RR Redbeards (5-1)
49 Bane Cornshuckers (2-4)

87 Gilbert Gamma Rays (4-2)
69 Mounds View Meerkats (4-2)

74 Boot Hill Bogs (1-5)
73 King (2-4)

77 Favre Dollar Footlongs (3-3)
69 Clerical Errs (0-6)

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Dems are getting worried

The checked-out president is beginning to make Democrats, both politicians and in the media, observably nervous and twitchy. Consider Frank Bruno at the New York Times:
Rationally or not, this is one of those rare moments when Americans who typically tune out so much of what leaders say are paying rapt attention, and Obama’s style of communication hasn’t risen fully to the occasion. Even as he canceled campaign appearances and created a position — Ebola czar — that we were previously told wasn’t necessary, he spoke with that odd dispassion of his, that maddening distance.

About the ban, he said, “I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily.” About the czar, he said that it might be good to have a person “to make sure that we’re crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s going forward.” He’s talking theory and calligraphy while Americans are focused on blood, sweat and tears.

Ebola is his presidency in a petri dish. It’s an example already of his tendency to talk too loosely at the outset of things, so that his words come back to haunt him. There was the doctor you could keep under his health plan until, well, you couldn’t. There was the red line for Syria that he didn’t have to draw and later erased.

With Ebola, he said almost two weeks ago that “we’re doing everything that we can” with an “all-hands-on-deck approach.” But on Wednesday and Thursday he announced that there were additional hands to be put on deck and that we could and would do more. The shift fit his pattern: not getting worked up in the early stages, rallying in the later ones.

It’s more understandable in this case than in others, because when it comes to statements about public health, the line between adequately expressed concern and a license for hysteria is thin and not easily determined. Still, he has to make Americans feel that he understands their alarm, no matter how irrational he deems it, and that they’re being leveled with, not talked down to, not handled. And he has a ways to go.

“If you were his parent, you’d want to shake him,” said one Democratic strategist, who questioned where Obama’s passion was and whether, even this deep into his presidency, he appreciated one of the office’s most vital functions: deploying language, bearing, symbols and ceremony to endow Americans with confidence in who’s leading them and in how they’re being led.

Right now in this country there’s a crisis of confidence, and of competence, and that’s the fertile ground in which the Ebola terror flowers. That’s the backdrop for whatever steps Obama and Frieden take from here. With the right ones, they can go a long way toward calming people who are anxious not just about Ebola but about America. I don’t even want to think about the wrong ones.
That is not the writing of a happy rabbit. After all, it is pretty hard to argue for more government intervention as one watches an indifferent president lurch half-heartedly from one potential disaster into the next one.

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Trolls beware

Andrew Marston, among others, would appear to be heading for some serious jail time if he doesn't change his ways:
Internet trolls will face up to two years in jail under tough new laws proposed by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling following a number of high profile cases. The sentence for internet abuse is presently six months but under the plans Mr Grayling is proposing to take a hard stance and quadruple it.
As Spacebunny pointed out, although this law is nominally intended to protect women, the reality is that it's going to affect a lot more women than anyone suspects. I would encourage every black knight to be sure to log and report all harassment from female trolls. Because they expect men to be unwilling to hold them accountable for their actions, they'll set themselves up for prosecution more readily than their male counterparts.

Speaking of trolls, I already have large collections of Andrew's comments as well as smaller ones belonging to Phoenician and Tad. Trolls never seem to realize that once you have as few as three examples of their posting, all one has to do is to call their ISP, or alternatively, Google, to correctly identify them. Call yourself whatever you want, hide your IP address with Tor, it makes no difference. As long as Point A and Point Z are known, everything else in between is irrelevant.

I also find it a bit ironic that some people have tried to label me a troll in the past when I have never trolled anyone anywhere. I have no need to do so. If I wish to express my opinion about someone, I will do so here, in the open, where everyone can see it.

On what one hopes is a completely unrelated note, you can now access my book recos on Recommend without registering or signing in. I've also added a link on the left sidebar, under Voxology, if you wish to keep up with it. I'll be adding one or two books from my 2014 reading list every day, then I'll probably start in on the 2013 books. If you're on Recommend, note that you can create a list and then designate it for public view in Edit/Settings. It's a new feature, so it's not exactly user-friendly yet, but as you can see, it is functional.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ay caramba

Spain's industrial output has collapsed to 1976 levels. This is why the EU is going to collapse in the next ten years; it has completely failed on its promises of delivering economic prosperity. All it truly ever had to offer was a medium-term credit bubble in exchange for the mass sacrifice of national sovereignty.


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On the topic of Firearms

This should make for an interesting discussion. At Recommend, they need to determine the appropriate topics and sub-topics where recos will be categorized. Obviously, Firearms is too broad to cover everything from optics to 3D printing, so what are the most important subtopics. For example, I immediately thought of the following:

Firearms: rifles
Firearms: handguns
Firearms: shotguns
Firearms: ammo
Firearms: optics
Firearms: customizing
Firearms: tactical shooting
Firearms: gunsmithing
Firearms: 3D printing

What else am I missing? And I can tell you right now that there will not be a Firearms: sexual orientation subtopic devoted to the discussion of 9mm Glocks.

Also, I've got a specific list set up with all of my book recos. 24 so far, and I expect I'll have the entire 2014 reading list in by the end of the week.

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Barack Obama, homosexual harasser?

Some old news about the current resident of the Oval Office comes out of the closet:
Barack Obama served as the president of the Harvard Law Review while in law school there, and during his tenure in that position, he was allegedly accused of sexual harassment. Two editors at the law review filed complaints with the university administration alleging that Obama had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior. The university allegedly settled the cases and offered them agreements that allegedly included financial compensation and required them to remain silent about the nature of the settlements.

The story, based on one reported in The Kansas Citian, is reported here. The claim is that Barack Obama, while president of the Harvard Law Review, engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with two male editors of the review.

Sodahead reported this about the allegations, “In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Obama and his administration repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the journal. They have also declined to address questions about specific reporting confirming that there were financial settlements in two cases in which men leveled complaints. THE KANSAS CITIAN has confirmed the identities of the two male journal editors who complained about Obama but, for privacy concerns, is not publishing their names.”

The report also claims someone ask[ed] White House press secretary Jay Carney about the allegations, “White House spokesman Jay Carney told THE KANSAS CITIAN the president indicated to White House staff that he was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and that the university’s general counsel had resolved the matter.”
If this sort of completely unsurprising news about Obama's predilections is finally surfacing, one can only conclude that the PTBs are very unhappy with his presidential performance. Is it the economy? Is it failing to pass or unilaterally declare the immigration amnesty? Or is it that even PTBs don't want to find themselves bleeding from their eyeballs and they're no happier about the lack of a travel ban than ordinary Americans?

Needless to say, one can expect that the mainstream media's complete and determined lack of interest will be deafening. Their eyes will remain firmly averted unless and until a) the relevant documents surface or b) the two male journal editors speak out.

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Business advice from SJWs

I thought juxtaposing this pair of posts from Re|Action was both informative and more than a little amusing:
This is an open letter to Steve Butts (IGN), Stephen Totilo (Kotaku), Justin Calvert (Gamespot), Chris Grant (Polygon), Dale North (Destructoid), Ludwig Kietzmann (Joystiq), and all other Editors-in-Chief of gaming websites:

1) Publish a highly visible reference statement explaining your site’s stance on sexism, racism, classism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia.

2) Hire (more) people to moderate your forums and comments sections.

In February, I wrote a guest editorial for Kotaku. I enjoyed writing for a mass audience and I would sincerely love to write for Kotaku again. I’ve seen Stephen Totilo dive into the fray when a blogger on N4G produced an elaborate conspiracy theory that Kotaku was seeking to generate revenue through feminist articles. I appreciated seeing Stephen Totilo articulate his strong stance off site and I wish he would do so in a perma-linked resource at the top of Kotaku. All this being said, my one experience with Kotaku commenters was brutal.

3) “Take the risk.”

You will anger readers by taking a stand. Some of them will leave. Some of their threats to leave forever are not, in fact, empty. You’ll get flak from NeoGaf and Reddit. 4Chan will make the same ugly threads about you as they do about me and my friends.

Do it. Piss them off. Take the risk. Make a decision now that they are not worth your time and that the ad revenue they provide is not worth the toxic atmosphere they bring to your sites. They’re not worth continuing to bear the reputation of being an unsafe place for people who are not straight men.
"An Open Letter to Games Media" was published on June 19, 2013. It was followed, not too terribly long afterwards, by this:
[re/Action] is closed
We tried something new, but the market has spoken. We published three issues
In other words, no one is buying what they are selling. So take their advice at your peril. In a similarly astute manner, another SJW trans-something or other, John Scalzi, is repeatedly insisting that he totally doesn't care, not even a little bit, that many gamers continue to announce that they will no longer buy his books due to his anti-GamerGate position. He had yet another tweet on the subject yesterday:
It genuinely flummoxes some folks that I don't care if they stop buying me because of my GamerGate opinions.
Assuming that he is telling the truth, which is always a risky proposition, his stated position does surprise some people considering that Intel and Mercedes obviously don't share it. Unlike John Scalzi, both corporations value the opinions of gamers enough to have stopped advertising on Gamasutra and Gawker Media, two sites that have taken explicit anti-GamerGate positions. So, perhaps #GamerGaters also need to let @torbooks and @pnh know that they will no longer be buying books from Tor Books as a result of John Scalzi's oft-professed antipathy for genuine gamers concerned about the politicization and corruption of the games media. Perhaps Tor Books cares about their customers, even if John Scalzi does not. The fact that Tor still publishes Orson Scott Card, the Great Satan in the eyes of the pinkshirts, suggests they do.

The observable reality is, as @AngryHarrysPage noted: " actually poses a genuine threat to the progressive establishment. They’re causing economic harm."

On a side note, it's telling how many of these "women in games" are actually men wearing dresses, men who aren't fit to wear Dani Bunton's shoes. It is also informative to note that most of the actual women involved in anti-GamerGate don't play games, don't design or develop games, and observably don't know much about them.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Time to get hardcore

Random idea. Ender is nearly done with his rework of my original Fifth Frontier War module and we're gearing up to play it. Now, I'm wondering if there is anyone here besides the game's designer who has significant experience of it and would care to serve as a rules catcher, given that the chances we are going to get a few things wrong on this second attempt are all but guaranteed. (The first one went down in flames when we wanted to use the table for ASL after getting things mostly set up.)

As a general rule, we never try to fix rules that we miss, but instead seek to play properly from the point at which the mistake is noticed. I'm going to post the turns here for the edification of the three or four readers who are actually interested, and I figure that we may as well take advantage of any real FFW experience. Corrections are welcome, so long as it's kept in mind that this is a first playing.

Big Chilly and I set the game up several times when we were in high school, but we never got beyond plotting the initial turn because it took so long to setup and we always ran out of weekend. That's one of the things Ender has improved in the module; the standard setups are already in place when you start. The other nice thing about having it on the computer, of course, is that it means we can use the projector....

Sure, there is Ebola and mass immigration and the general decline and fall of Western civilization to take into account, but the simple fact is that this is occasionally an awesome time in which to be alive. Fifth Frontier War on a five-meter wide board on the wall... and no need to clean up a game in progress? And to think I once thought that playing Wing Commander on a 50-inch screen was the pinnacle of techno-civilization!

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As wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah

Thus spake the Rev. Billy Graham:
Reverend Billy Graham, arguably the most well-known and respected evangelical preacher of the last 50 years, said in a recently published commentary that America was “founded by men who believed in prayer” and that prayer can turn “the tide of history,” adding that while “America is just as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah” and deserves “the judgment of God,” this judgment can be lessened through prayer.

“Even though America is just as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah ever were, and as deserving of the judgment of God, God would spare us if we were earnestly praying, with hearts that had been cleansed and washed by the blood of Christ,” said Rev. Graham.
It's hard to argue otherwise without throwing out the entire metric. Post-Christianity is a bitch, and a pretty nasty one at that, as the West is gradually beginning to discover.

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#GamerGate harassment

Alert the New York Times! Get a press release out to Gawker Media! We have #GamerGate harassment, I repeat, WE HAVE HARASSMENT! We have THREATS! Wait, what? Hold on....

Oh, really? It's just a 16-year old girl doxxing and harassing a pro-GG man? Never mind. STAND DOWN EVERYONE. Stand down. Nothing to see here, move along.

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Recommending books

First of all, thanks to the nearly 100 Ilk who went to Recommend and set up accounts there. I've already personally found it to be useful, as I picked up a copy of Battle Academy 2 on Kool Moe Dee's strong recommendation of The Campaign Series from Matrix Games. It was also nice to see the strong recommendations for A Throne of Bones by David Jirovec and even for this blog by Aquila Aquilonis.

One reason you may be interested in following along, even if you're not initially interested in recommending anything yourself, is that I am methodically working my way through my reading list and making recommendations on the various books I have read this year. So, if you'd like to know my actual opinion of those books, you can join up and read them there. Here are four examples of my recently posted book recos:

FAIR: The Elephant Vanishes and Other Stories by Haruki Murakami occasionally shows the award-winning author at his diffident best. Not all the stories will be new to the longtime reader; the original version of The Wind-Up Bird is here, and frankly, it is more appealing in many ways than the novel it subsequently turned into. The title story is arguably the most interesting, as who but a Murakami character would become fascinated with an aged elephant and his equally decrepit keeper? But the most insightful and most troubling is probably the story of a woman who loses the ability to sleep, and in doing so, also loses her connection to her humanity. As is often the case with his longer works, Murakami seldom provides the answers to his mysteries, but then, it is the journey rather than the destination that is to be most savored here.

DISAPPOINTING: Although Eco is easily my favorite writer and he demonstrates both his esoteric expertise and his customary attention to detail in this book, The Prague Cemetery simply isn't very absorbing. It's an origin story for "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion", but the mercenary protagonist is neither sympathetic nor interesting, a strange identity device is utilized that is neither relevant nor even remotely convincing, and the extended detour into the Risorgimento seems forced. Still worth reading, because, after all, even a lesser Eco book is better than most books by other authors, but it's not Eco at his best.

BAD:  Despite the title, the religious need not fear this book. A Manual for Creating Atheists, by Peter Boghossian, is far less likely to turn theists into atheists than it is to turn atheists into agnostics out of sheer intellectual embarrassment. A more accurate title would have been Atheism: Begging the Question. Boghossian's entire manual can be reduced to three simple steps: 1. Beg the question. 2. Redefine any commonly understood dictionary term to mean something completely different. 3. Declare victory. There are perfectly rational arguments for atheism to be made, but none of them are to be found in this particular book. Peter Boghossian would very much like to replace the late Christopher Hitchens as the Fourth Horseman of Atheism, but it is no wonder that Messrs. Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris are disinclined to admit him to their ranks.

AWESOME: Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers, is a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, and as such, is a good book worth reading. But it is more than that. By setting it at the site of her old academic haunts, Sayers also presents us with a vivid portrait of bygone times. The portrayal of female academics at Oxford in the early 20th century is keenly historical, for all that it is fiction, written by a literary master who was actually there at the time. The mystery itself is almost secondary to the fascinating interplay of old rivalries and lingering jealousies that remain active among a group of exceptional women. Sayers always had unusual insight into the human condition, and Gaudy Night is perhaps her novel that most clearly demonstrates this.

If you think "Awesome" is a bit much for the Sayer's novel, you're absolutely correct. The four-rating system is a little limiting and Recommend will go to the six-rating system that I personally prefer in November. Two negative ratings, HORRIBLE and DISAPPOINTING, will go with FAIR, GOOD, EXCELLENT, and AWESOME. The idea is that the EXCELLENT rating should be sufficiently superlative to encourage users to actually distinguish between something that is legitimately AWESOME, such as The Lord of the Rings, and something that is more reasonably described as EXCELLENT, such as Gaudy Night or A Game of Thrones. And, of course, I will bump up The Elephant Vanishes to GOOD once the new system is active.

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Travel ban? Who needs a travel ban?

Vomiting Africans dying on planes is an everyday occurrence, right?
A plane from Nigeria landed at JFK Airport Thursday with a male passenger aboard who had died during the flight after a fit of vomiting — and CDC officials conducted a “cursory” exam before announcing there was no Ebola and turning the corpse over to Port Authority cops to remove, Rep. Peter King said on Thursday.

The congressman was so alarmed by the incident — and by what he and employees see as troubling Ebola vulnerabilities at JFK — that he fired off a letter to the federal Department of Homeland Security demanding more training and tougher protocols for handling possible cases there.

The unnamed, 63-year-old passenger had boarded an Arik Air plane out of Lagos, Nigeria, on Wednesday night, a federal law enforcement source said. During the flight, the man had been vomiting in his seat, the source said. Some time before the plane landed, he passed away. Flight crew contacted the CDC, federal customs officials and Port Authority police, who all boarded the plane at around 6 a.m. as about 145 worried passengers remained on board, the source said.
I have the impression that if Ebola starts to spread, people are going to be very, very angry indeed.

As the Ebola crisis surges to the top issue on the minds of Americans, a new poll finds that 82 percent of those following the issue closely want to quarantine anybody who has recently traveled to the virus-stricken nations. The Economist/YouGov poll found that women are more concerned than men and would refuse entry to anybody from those nations. Just 16 percent would allow them into the nation.

If you want change, scare the women. This is the immutable law of broad-spectrum democracy.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola Curve Week 41

The Ebola curve may not be getting steeper. From the Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report, 15 October 2014.
A total of 8997 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been reported in seven affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) up to the end of 12 October. There have been 4493 deaths.

Data for epidemiological week 41 are incomplete, with missing data for 12 October from Liberia. This reflects the challenging nature of data gathering in countries with widespread and intense EVD transmission. These challenges remain particularly acute in Liberia, where there continues to be a mismatch between the relatively low numbers of new cases reported through official clinical surveillance systems on one hand, and reports from laboratory staff and first responders of large numbers of new cases on the other. Efforts are ongoing to reconcile different sources of data, and to rapidly scale-up capacity for epidemiological data gathering throughout each country with widespread and intense transmission.

It is clear, however, that the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone is deteriorating, with widespread and persistent transmission of EVD. An increase in new cases in Guinea is being driven by a spike in confirmed and suspected cases in the capital, Conakry, and the nearby district of Coyah. In Liberia, problems with data gathering make it hard to draw any firm conclusions from recent data.
The good news is that the reported number of total cases are considerably shy of the 9,862 total cases that I calculated last week would indicate that the outbreak was getting out of control. The bad news is that the 8,997 cases reported do not include those that are are missing from Liberia. So, due to the lack of accurate reporting, it's not safe to assume that the outbreak is already beginning to burn itself out, even though the number of new cases does not appear to be growing at the previous doubling rate any longer.

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Why economists ignore private debt

Actually, from most of the models I've seen, mainstream economists completely ignore public debt as well. After all, since credit owed is (mostly) endogenous, what does it matter how much Peter owes Paul? That's the main reason so few of them saw 2008 coming. The article is focused on Australia, but it is globally applicable.
There is a reason why mainstream economists ignore private debt while focusing intently upon public debt. Neoclassical economic models assume markets operate in a static state of equilibrium, but these models are based on a slew of preposterous assumptions which are never met in the real world. The banking and financial system is modelled by assuming that money, debt and banks do not exist! The element of time is also removed, making it difficult for economists to understand the inter-temporal allocations of debt.

This is like an astronomer or astrophysicist building a model of our solar system absent the sun, moon and gravity – an inadequate framework that will inevitably produce glaring mistakes. By using a circular form of logic, private domestic and external debts are assumed to be the outcome of rationally-derived contracts, so the level of debt is deemed to be efficient by definition. In contrast, public debts are considered to be managed by ‘irrational’ government planners, who cannot make optimising decisions; a clear fallacy based on stereotypes of the competency of financial actors within the economy.

In the post-1970s era, neoliberal economic policy has dominated mainstream perspectives. A major goal of government has led to an unyielding mantra that public debts must be reduced by running surpluses where possible. The obsession with public debt and deficits has blindsided policymakers to the rapid accumulation of private debts. For instance, the severe mid-1970s recession was caused largely by the collapse of the dual commercial and residential real estate bubbles, inflated by sharply accelerating private debts, but the economics profession failed to take notice.

Unfortunately, this made no difference, with the 1981 Campbell Report advocating further deregulation of the banking and financial sector. By the time of the 1997 Wallis Report, neoclassical economists had the benefit of hindsight when examining the mid-1970s dual commercial and housing bubbles, the 1981 Sydney housing bubble, the 1987 stock market bubble and crash, the late 1980s dual commercial and housing bubbles, and the lead-up to the largest stock market bubble in Australian economic history, the Dot-Com era.

With Australia’s economic history littered with asset bubbles, irrational exuberance, recessions and depressions, what were the recommendations of the Wallis Report? More financial deregulation! Mainstream economists in Australia (and elsewhere) are wilfully blind to countervailing evidence which demonstrates the harms caused by financial deregulation.

The reason that financial deregulation is advocated becomes obvious: booming private debts enhance the power, profit and authority of the horde of private monopolists, usurers, speculators, rent seekers, free riders, financial robber barons, control frauds, inheritors and indolent rich.

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