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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

     The title concept here is one that's always interested me. If was first used in a poem, later converted to song, about the civil rights movement, and has been adapted in many forms including a feminist subversion criticizing misogyny in hip-hop, The Artist Possibly Now Once Again Known As Prince doing something no doubt sexual, and a Greek broadcasting company protesting austerity cuts. It's an interesting concept that deals in public image and how the media can shape a narrative regarding a conflict, no matter how large or small, how earth-shaking or insignificant. The title was also used, I feel with most relevance, by a documentary about Hugo Chavez's removal from office in Venezuela. The title comes into play in this film in reference to alleged footage of Chavez's supporters firing on a protest march shown on Venezuelan television, which is contradicted by independent footage that shows the streets below empty, as the protest had never taken that route. Obviously, the media is a powerful weapon, but what would happen if one were to revolt against that weapon?

     If one were to wage war against the media, how would one go about doing so? What would the public perception of that war be, if the ones shaping the public perception were one of the combatants? I'm hardly the first to weigh in on this, and will likely be far from the most artistic of word, but I feel it's necessary that I do so, considering that I have a vested interest. As a form of disclosure, you all know that I'm a gamer. I've written several pieces in my tenure thus far on Erin's blog, as well as some critical of the popular games media . On the other hand, I am a progressive liberal (as much as I find the tactics of those I share my political landscape with distasteful these days) and up until a few years ago called myself feminist, so I understand that threats and harassment are a problem, and one that isn't easily solved.

     Due to timing, I've had to delay this series, and I feel a bit awkward walking in three months late to the party, but Doctor Who took precedence. So in the meantime I spent some time as sort of an embedded journalist (I use that as metaphor. I'm an op-ed writer at best, and would shame some of my heroes were I to apply that term to myself). I've spent time browsing 8chan. I've checked in on Reddit's /r/KotakuInAction board, created when /r/TumblrInAction decided that particular brand of drama warranted its own space. I've also studied the stories put forth by outlets like TheVerge, Polygon, GamaSutra, and subreddits like /r/GamerGhazi. I've spoken to people on all sides (note how I didn't say both sides). I've put out a few inflammatory statements for the purpose of measuring replies. In short, I've done some god damned homework on this issue. A fair sight more than I feel a lot of people have, as I've seen a ton of people plagiarizing each other in manufactured outrage, even people in the Gun-O-Sphere. That last bit particularly shocked me, as most of the outlets covering Gamergate have been liberal, and gunnies, in my experience, run mostly somewhere between conservative and libertarian (I'm not using those as slurs, unlike those same liberal media outlets would). Even more worrisome, I've seen talking points taken directly from websites like DailyDot, Salon, and Feministing that would happily throw gun owners to the wolves at the first opportunity.

     In short, this is a topic that's a lot more complicated than the liberal-biased media would lead you to believe. And, on a personal note, it's hard for me to write these words. I've always known that most media leans hard either left or right, but I admit that until recently I had no idea how pervasive it was. It's never pleasant having your eyes opened the hard way. So far you've heard how there's this group of white, cis-male, misogynerd pissbabies living in their mother's basements who just want to harass a group of women and keep their exclusive boy's club. But I've seen things that break that narrative, and I'm going to share them over the coming weeks, because I cannot stand by and let people just be misled by a liberal media narrative any longer. Me 10 years ago would never believe I would be writing these words now.

As Captain Picard once said..

The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based. And if you can't find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don't deserve to wear that uniform!

 Next week: A history lesson

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So, about that cat shelter...

So here's what I did with my afternoon:
  1. Bought a cheap cooler and plastic bin at the Mart of Wals.
  2. Measured the difference in height between the interior and exterior of the cooler. 
  3. Cut a hole in the bin.

  4. Put the cooler in the bin and cut a hole through the foam.

  5. Made sure the holes matched up.

  6. Gorilla Taped the edges to make sure the cooler was secure and flush with the bin (and also to keep it from being damaged as the cat went in and out).

  7. Lined the interior with cushy foam, a heating pad (because mom's a softie) and a washable leopard print cloth to make the cat feel pampered and at home. 

  8. Made sure everything was lined up, with the door out of the wind, and put some kitty treats inside the shelter.

  9. Observed as cat refused to make use of its new shelter, choosing instead to sleep on the cold hard cement outside house.

This is why I prefer dogs.

What I'm working on today

It actually got down to freezing last night, so I'm making this shelter for the neighborhood stray cat that comes by and begs food off us.

If it turns out all right I'll post pics later.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Traveller Tuesday: Air/Rafts & the Flyer Skill

According to the Core Rules, using an air/raft requires the Flyer skill. This is silly for several reasons:
  • Air/rafts are ubiquitous pieces of technology; not only are gravcars and landspeeders a staple of science fiction, damn near every starship in Traveller has an air/raft as it's ship's vehicle.
  • However, out of 12 careers in the Core book, only six of them offer an opportunity to learn the Flyer skill.
  • Of those careers, two of them only give the skill via a random-chance Life Event.
  • Worse, the air/raft is the ultimate all-terrain vehicle, and yet it isn't a skill that Scouts can learn in character generation.
  • Not even in the expanded Scout book.

As a GM, I find this unconscionable. Therefore, it's house rule time!

Let's look at the Flyer skill.

All right, so we've got Fixed Wing, Rotary Wing, and Gravity as specialties. Now, let's play "Which of these things is not like the other?"  Well, there are two choices:
  1. Grav is the odd duck out, because it uses antigravity to fly while the others use wing lift. 
  2. Fixed wing is the odd one, because it can't hover like the others. 
Combine that with my objection above, and we've a strong case for throwing this skill out completely. But what do we replace it with?

First of all, it's patently obvious to me that Fixed Wing needs to fall under Pilot. There's about as much difference between an atmospheric plane and a space fighter as there is difference between said fighter (a small craft in Traveller parlance) and a capital ship 

For grav vehicles, the answer is "it depends."
A lot of PCs use grav vehicles like hovercraft (cf. Luke Skywalker's landspeeder). This is the Drive skill, pure and simple, as it the craft only moves in the X and Y axes. It's really a high-tech hovercraft. So let's put most uses of grav vehicles there, especially since hovercraft are listed as a Drive specialty which states "For hovercraft and other ground-repulsion vehicles." Ground-repulsion... that sure sounds like anti-gravity, doesn't it?

However, some folks are going to want to use their air/rafts to fly. In movies that feature flying cars -- from Back to the Future 2 to Star Wars: Attack of the Clones -- we see cars flying along in nice, level traffic lanes. They're behaving like regular cars, only higher up. From that we can infer one of the following:
  1. The traffic lanes interface with the air/raft computer and automatically raise it to the proper elevation through operation. This makes driving through the air no more difficult than driving along a freeway -- if you want to land, take an exit lane.
  2. Traveling along the vertical axis requires a gear shift, just like going in reverse does. In this case, the air/raft is basically a helicopter with training wheels:
    • You get to where you want to go;
    • You stop your forward motion;
    • You shift into "down", and
    • You lower yourself to the ground. 
    Some lateral motion is allowed for precise maneuvering into a parking space, but only at about the speed a car goes with your foot off the brake.
  3. A combination of the two. Consider it the difference between an automatic transmission and a manual. 

And then there's Anakin, who flies his speeder like a proper aircraft, with lots of banking, diving, and changes along the Z-axis (and likely breaking many traffic rules in the process). He's actually flying his craft. Gee, if only we had a skill for that! Oh, right, we do; it's called Pilot
So what it comes down to is this:  If you're driving an air/raft like a car, no matter the altitude, it falls under Drive (Hovercraft). If you're flying it, it falls under Pilot (Small Craft).

That leaves us with Rotary Wing. It's halfway between grav (it can hover) and fixed wing (it uses aerodynamics). Where does it go?

I confess that my first thought is "Who cares?"  I have never seen this skill used in any Traveller game, ever. But I acknowledge that my games are not your games and you may very well have a place for it.

My suggestion, then, is to make a new skill called "Exotic" and populate it with the following vehicles:
  • Helicopters
  • Plane-helicopter hybrids like the V-22 Osprey
  • Ornithopters
  • Hot-air balloons
  • Dirigibles/Zeppelins 
Actual flying, be it from wings (biological or artificial), grav belts, or glide suits, ought to fall under the Athletics skill -- and oh, look, they already have a specialty called "Flying"!

Well, there we go, then. 

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