Electability? There’s only one choice left

Well. That’s that. Thanks to the #LabourPurge there is now only one electable Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone else who wins will have won dirty, and needing egregious and public cheating on your behalf makes you unelectable at the next level up. But even before that Corbyn was the most electable simply because the other candidates were too lightweight to come up with an answer fo him,

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Why safe spaces for social awkwardness are worrying

On Facebook, a friend just shared a link about the idea that Geekdom being a place where socially shunned males are free to be themselves is a radical rewriting of history. that erases women. The link is true as far as it goes; there are many many influential female Geeks that Tauriq Moosa missed out including Verity Lambert, Grace Hopper, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But there are two other extremely important points I want to make.

Geekdom is thought of by some as the only place where socially shunned males can be safe and be themselves. I am a socially awkward male geek who sometimes has all the tact of a rhino in a china shop (a bull in a china shop turning out not to be that bad). But I don’t want a pure safe space simply because I’m awkward and mess up. When I mess up I want to know about it so I can try to do better next time. I do want somewhere I can share interests and a sense of fun, and that it has its own rules is a good thing. But that’s a different issue.

It’s hugely different because the single easiest way for someone to hide being deliberately harmful is behind a veneer of awkwardness.

Don’t think it could happen in geek circles? We’re going to talk about two alpha-geeks from the 60s. A married couple, in fact. Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. (OK, who spotted the hook in the first paragraph?) In geek circles, Marion Zimmer Bradley was a famous and prolific SF and fantasy author, ran several fanzines, gave numerous authors their start in her various anthology collections, and much much more. Together they were founders of the Eastern chapter of the SCA – and Walter went on post-divorce to become an extremely influential coin collector. They were both highly influential members of various deep subcultures and put a lot of work in.

Walter Breen died in prison for child abuse. Marion admitted helping him commit and cover up his crimes in court.

***TRIGGER WARNING – child abuse, child rape – the links in the following paragraph are detailed about some aspects of the abuse. I’m going to talk about how and why.***

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So what the hell just happened with the election?

The  2015 election is done. We have a new Tory government – and one that gained about 25 seats. And much is being made of the Tories gaining 25 seats and the Labour losing 25.  That happened, and it’s important. But from the perspective of the election (as opposed to the future) it’s a side effect. There are four stories to the election which are probably in reverse order of importance:

  • How a party without a vision other than “We’re not as bad as the other guys” makes no inroads (The net change between Labour and the Tories was a two seat swing to Labour (eight Labour went Tory and ten Tory went Labour)).
  • That the rise of UKIP soaked up a lot of disaffected voters who’d otherwise have voted “Kick the bums out” in favour of Labour (particularly in the North of England)
  • The rise of the SNP (taking 40 seats off Labour and 10 off the Lib Dems)
  • The disintegration of the Lib Dems who lost almost all their seats to whichever the competing party was as the party faithful had a real chance to make its opinions on the leadership known. The apparent Tory gain was caused by the disintegration of their coalition partners.

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Advanced Tactical Voting

There are a lot of people at this (and every other) election talking of voting tactically. Whether you should is an interesting ethical question – and one outside the scope of this blog post. The only thing I’ll say on the ethics is that many people voted Lib Dem at the last election to keep the Tories out. This is a guide coming from a keen amateur game designer for the would be tactical voters to making the best use of your vote under the First Past the Post system. A system designed for game playing rather than getting representative results. Continue reading

I get by with a little help from my friends

In my last post about healthcare costs I compared the amount spent under the British system to bills from the American system, and it was far my most popular post so far.  One of the most popular questions was about costs by procedure or condition, something which lead me to do a little research as last time I checked the American data simply wasn’t available – it now is.

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How much is that cystectomy in the window?

There are regularly stories (either in the news or viral) about how much American healthcare costs.  I’ve blogged in the past about some of the causes.  British healthcare is free at the point of delivery, so the patient doesn’t see the cost and people don’t know how expensive healthcare should be.  But British internal prices are public information, so it’s easy to see approximately how much things cost in a well-run health service.

The prices do, however, need some interpreting and the government’s “simple guide” runs to 72 pages.  I’m going to explain the system in a single (long) blog post.  And then I’m going to take estimates of how much a British hospital bill would get for each of the linked hospital costs.  The current costs are here (next year’s includes a 3.8% “efficiency saving” (read: underfunding)).

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The value of a well-fitted suit

No knowledge is useless, and the world is fascinating.  Even knowledge about the most seemingly inconsequential information can be incredibly revealing as I found out recently, and am going to share.  A working knowledge of fashion shows a lot of what was wrong with what looked initially like an incredibly successful, powerful, and effective empire: The Third Reich, and its snappy uniforms.

Urban legend says they had great dress sense and it’s a pity they had Hugo Boss working for them, and his sense of style.  (For the record he worked for the Nazi Party, not the Wehrmacht).  Urban legend also says the Germans were great engineers and equipped their troops well early in the War.  Looking at the standard Wehrmacht uniform (the M36 Feldbluse) we’re going to see whether this is true or whether it demonstrates a lot of what was wrong with the Nazi mindset.

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Progress through Blood and Fire

It’s December 1.  I’ve just seen my first brass band of the year and seen my first red kettle.  Which means that it’s about time for the annual “Don’t give to the Salvation Army” posts to start appearing.  I wrote up why a couple of years ago.  (There are of course plenty of others around the net).  But this is not that post.  This is instead one to say “We’re winning”. Continue reading

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall

The Ferguson Riots are not just about the shooting of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson.  Yes, that particular tragedy is the trigger.  But it’s not the whole cause.  There are two immediate causes; the first being the shooting of an unarmed black man by a cop,  The second being the second.  Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is not exactly a new thing.  The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was making darkly funny jokes about it in the early 1990s.  (At the time I, as a middle class WASP living in a country where we seldom armed our cops despite an ongoing terrorism campaign thought the joke was entirely on the overreaction to the presence of the cop; I wish that I’d been right rather than not yet even a teenager and growing up in a family where I’ve heard someone unironically claim “British Police are the best in the world“)


But the cause of the protests and riots were the Grand Jury, after being given all the evidence, proclaiming that there wasn’t a case against Darren Wilson.  Something which sounds reasonable, after all, they were a Grand Jury and they were asked to look at all the evidence.
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Weaving worlds: Yes but games should produce stories

In my penultimate post in this series I mentioned Ron Edwards and the Forge.  The Forge closed down in 2005, having done its job (and Ron Edwards ensuring that he was controversial  by talking about bad games giving people brain damage) – and most of the community there moved to Story-Games.  And they’ve been producing interesting enough games that they are worth the final post in this series.  Story Games tend to have seven aspects; three which are common in the Forge-ist narrative RPGs of my previous article and almost ubiquitous in the Story-Games wave, and four that are almost distinguishing features of what are often referred to as Story Games.

The three that are common in the Forge-ist RPGs are:

  • Challenge Based Resolution
  • Fail Forward
  • Everyone designing the universe

And the four that are almost distinguishing marks of this wave are:

  • “Yes-but” resolution
  • Intentional, rules-mediated inter-PC drama
  • Less, or even no role for the GM
  • Actions matter more than potential

I’m also going to mention four games in this category (or three and one hybrid toolkit game) and why they are awesome to illustrate this wave of games:

  • Leverage
  • Monsterhearts
  • Fiasco
  • WFRP 3e

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