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Topics - Scribbly

I recently listened to the Behind the Bastards series on the history of the Illuminati. It is 6 hours long and the last 3 hours or so focus on Discordianism, with a more in-depth history of Hill and Thornley than I had heard before.

In particular I didn't know that Thornley was accused of pedophilia back in 2003, nor the extent of his psychological break or his involvement in a number of other cults both as leader and follower. Which, as someone who got stuck in a cult herself for a while, was interesting to hear.

There's a lot of interesting stuff in there in general, particularly around the way Operation Mindfuck pioneered many of the tactics that have since been picked up by the alt right.

I think it is interesting to note that Thornley locked himself into a toxic mindset that hurt the people around him and Hill ultimately warned people away from such thinking and drank himself to death after entering the corporate workforce.

Wilson said that if you enter Chapel Perilous you leave as an agnostic or a paranoid. But Wilson was also locked into his biological evolutionary worldview and could not escape that (Prometheus Rising has some wild bullshit in it in retrospect). He still very much had his grounding principles and they were wrong.

I've spent a lot of this year reassessing my relationship with Discordianism and I am coming to the conclusion that nobody leaves Chapel Perilous truly agnostic. Everyone ultimately imprints a schema. What it does do is throw you into a mindset where it is easier to be manipulated by charismatic or persuasive individuals into accepting their schema over your prior conceptions. Which is something that the alt right have taken advantage of to lead people towards the comfort of paranoia.

I think the basis of Discordianism - the irony, deliberate obfuscation, and baked-in conspiratorial antagonism - ultimately undermines the useful truths. When we look at what the legacy is, we have to reckon with the fact that we are in some sense responsible for some of the most damaging memetic weapons that have infected the modern internet. And one of our founders did massive harm directly in the real world too, because this way of thinking left him open to getting caught in his own delusions.

Which is not to say that there are no good ideas within Discordianism, but I also don't think those ideas are unique to it or need to be expressed within the existing Discordian framework.

2023 might be the year it is time to kill the joke by overexplaining it and start again.

Anyway, that's where my head is at - thoughts sparked by a bunch of stuff but crystalised by this podcast. If you have six hours(!) spare I think it is a good listen. Discordian specific stuff begins, I believe, around episode 3.
Literate Chaotic / One Year On.
June 30, 2023, 09:00:20 AM
I came out one year ago today.

I agonised over it for a long time. It felt self-indulgent to say the words aloud. Like, who the fuck cares about you? Why would that be relevant to anyone? You don't need to make an announcement. You don't need to say it. Just shut up and get on with it.

But I made myself do it. Last day of Pride Month, it felt like if I didn't say it then I'd need to wait (which is stupid, Pride Month doesn't mean a fucking thing, really. But I'm glad my brain gave me that particular delusion; the deadline was helpful).

I didn't feel like I could wait any more.

So I said it. And people supported me. Not a single friend was surprised. Reactions ranged from 'that's really cool' to 'thank fuck finally' and I got so much advice. People I didn't even know came forward to offer me their own stories of support, their own examples. I confessed that I felt that, being in my 30s, I'd waited too long to start living.

It's never too late to start living.

It didn't solve everything. Of course it didn't. Twelve months on I still have a thousand problems, big and small, that need to be dealt with.

But it is possible for me to deal with them now.

And it is possible for me to be happy.

And a lot of people really do care.

It feels like it has been longer in a lot of ways. Twelve short months and my life looks so very different to how it did before. It's hard to remember how miserable I was; how repressed and small and quiet. Living a lie can be convenient. I still do it sometimes; for work, especially. But it crushes you down. The weight of it compresses you. It makes you less than you are.

I can stretch, now. And I can take up space. And I can smile.

I killed myself, twelve months ago. But I didn't die.

It'll be fun to see who I am next year.
Literate Chaotic / Scribbly's Manga Hole
June 06, 2023, 09:17:20 AM
I've been reading a bunch of manga lately. A friend of mine got me back into it and I've been amazed at the quality of the storytelling on display. I want to ramble about them, so, good luck.

Gonna start with Frieren: Beyond Journey's End

The premise for this is simple. A party of adventurers have slain the Demon King and then go their separate ways. The elf mage, Frieren, decides to take a short break of 60 years or so to go and study magic. When she returns, she is horrified to see how the passage of time has not been kind to her allies - something she knew intellectually but was not emotionally prepared for.

Frieren is a series which uses the long lifespan of elves in the most interesting way I have seen in fantasy bar none. It is a touching exploration of grief, love, friendship and the difficulty of relating to people who have fundamentally different worldviews than your own. And the pain of dealing with a love you only see in retrospect. It is about legacy, and how the small acts of kindness we take part in throughout our lives are incredibly meaningful. Perhaps even more meaningful than the huge acts we think define us.

It is also a series about growth, with Frieren taking on a mentor role as she retraces the steps of her legendary journey as a pilgrimmage in the memory of her old friends. The development of her apprentice and the other characters they meet along the way is genuinely beautiful, with the story told from Frieren's perspective and months or years passing very quickly. We see a child grow into a young woman, and I have no doubt that as the story continues we will see that young woman become even greater.

On top of all that strong emotional foundation we also have moments of genuine comedy and action scenes that had me whooping. Unlike many fantasy manga, Frieren's battle scenes are not used only to show off the characters. Every fight tells us something about the participants within it, with the more learned about them through their actions in combat than could be revealed in the calmer, more slice-of-life moments.

There are seven volumes out right now with the eighth due in two weeks. There's also an anime due by the end of this year. I hope it does well; I love these characters and the world they live in. Without a doubt the best piece of fantasy literature I've read in years.

It's also the only not-gay series that has gripped me so. Be ready for that in following reviews.
Or Kill Me / We've Already Won.
May 17, 2023, 01:20:49 PM
You can't undo what we have done.

Oh, sure, you'll fucking try. You'll kill us by the thousand. But that doesn't matter.

You think being alive is some kind of win condition on this fucked up little marble? How stupid are you? I don't know if you've noticed, but shit's bad and getting worse. You think I'm eager to stick around so I can drown in sewage like the rest of the apes? Hah. Pathetic. No, the only thing that keeps me going these days is spite. I'm suffering, but I'm going to make you suffer even more.

No. The thing you wanted to do was preserve the lie. Make us believe that the world fits into neat little boxes. Make your kids think that they're broken for feeling the way they feel, loving the people they love. But they've seen the truth, now.

You can kill every last one of us and it won't matter.

Everyone knows the lie for what it is.

For most of human history you and people like you have done a great job maintaining the lie, and whilst you could stop us talking to each other it worked nicely. But the truth has out. And here's the thing.

We're not content to just quietly kill ourselves any more.

We're going to make you do it. Knowing it won't change a fucking thing. Knowing that all it means is that sooner or later, you're going to throw your own kids on the pyre too.

You've lost. And that? That gives me life.

So fucking kill me, loser.
Fucking pissed at this.

Quote from: Final Draft 9Hello Screenwriter,

According to our records, you may be using Final Draft 9, a version of our software developed over nine years ago. In the years since the development of Final Draft 9, many advances have been made in computer hardware and operating systems, increasing their security and stability.

Because of the advanced age of Final Draft 9, it may not work correctly on the most current operating systems and hardware configurations. As a result of security concerns for both our network and our customers, we have decided to discontinue activation and deactivation of Final Draft 9, effective May 15, 2023. Please note this will not remove Final Draft 9 from your computers; however, we encourage you to upgrade to maintain access to security and support.

We want to ensure our customers use the best version of Final Draft available. We encourage you to upgrade to Final Draft 12 for the increased stability, security, and robust new screenwriting features in the program, including:

    Night & Focus Mode
    Story Mapping & Beat Board™
    Track Changes
    Speech to Script, and more!

We understand that upgrading may be something other than what you anticipated. As a token of our appreciation for your loyalty, we are offering you Final Draft 12 at a steeply reduced rate.

I was sold on getting Final Draft 9 at a screenwriting festival on the basis that, whilst it was expensive, it was a one-off cost and I would be able to use it forever.

Now the next time I want to change computers I need a new copy. The discount brings it down to half price but 1) I don't give a shit about the new features 2) The offer expires on the 15th July and 3) Presumably they'll just do this again in a few years time when they decide they need more sales for Final Draft 13+.

If I want to use old software that might have security vulnerabilities in it that ought to be my decision to make.

Really hate this trend where apparently even things you think you own it turns out you don't.
Principia Discussion / Order is Chaos, Actually
March 06, 2023, 07:21:17 PM
Disclaimer: I'm going to say a bunch of shit that sounds authoritative here. Please keep in mind that this essay addresses my personal beliefs and whilst I do at several points discuss what 'Discordians' think, I am very aware that y'all are an argumentative bunch who are unlikely to agree with me on everything. Or anything. Whatever. Unless I personally insult you in the essay you can assume this isn't targeted at you.

It has come to my attention that there are still people who think 'chaos' is the opposite of 'order' in this, the Year 2023 – a year that is surely going to go down in history as being sacred. To someone. Fuck knows who. If they think anything going on in the world right now is holy they're probably an asshole.

First things first, the Discordian concept of Chaos is explicitly not what the Ancient Greeks thought Chaos was.

You see, Robert Anton Wilson, one of the big cheeses in Discordian thought, in so far as we can be said to have those, had two core ideas to most of his writing: Perception is fallible, and the human brain loves to find patterns.

These aren't ground-breaking ideas. A lot of people have written a lot of things about this and probably way better than Robby did in the 60s. But, the important thing here is how he applied this principle to the Goddess of Chaos.

To Robby, Chaos is broadly synonymous with Reality. He came to this conclusion as follows.

The human brain seeks patterns. And we do that in all sorts of ways. Everything from our peripheral vision to our memories to that really annoying phenomena where you think you kind of hear someone saying something but actually it's just random noise? Our brain is REALLY GOOD at finding patterns. We fill in the blanks all the time. In fact, most of our life is filling in the blanks.

And it's all imperfect. Your eyes might be great, but you can't see atoms no matter how hard you look. And those exist, if you find the right way to perceive them. Consider light. It's been around for a long time. According to some people, it was the first thing. Should be pretty fundamental, right?

Famously, though, you can perform an experiment which proves beyond a doubt that light is a particle. You can also perform an experiment which proves beyond a doubt that light is a wave. How does that work?

Because the ideas we have of what a wave is and what a particle is are only maps.

They're imperfect definitions describing physical phenomena.

The way Discordianism approaches this is to say that these are impositions of Order; our brains making tools which help us understand the Chaos that is reality.

Now before you get too excited and accuse me of denying that reality exists and thinking that it's all like, vibes, man, or something? No. Fuck you. I still use my brain, I haven't yet let it turned into soup.

There are definitely people who say they are Discordians who do in fact seem to believe that it's all vibes, but since their grey matter is liable to spill out when they trip over I'm comfortable discounting them from the conversation.

The map might never be the territory, but if your map is just a bunch of random scrawls I don't want to follow you into the wilderness and neither should anyone else.

Anyway. We create Order to make sense of Chaos, and Discord is what happens where, inevitably, those expectations fall short of the reality. Discord is when something happens which breaks that Order. You see something out the corner of your eye but when you turn your head, it's gone. You flip a coin and it comes down on the edge. You measure light and find that it is both wave and particle.

It's very important to understand that neither Order nor Discord is inherently better than the other. You can't HAVE an Order – an expectation of how things should be – without also creating at least the possibility of a Discord – something that hits outside of that expected context.

And this is even a good thing, because Discord tells us where the gaps are.

As it was put in the Principia: "To choose order over disorder, or disorder over order, is to accept a trip composed of both the creative and the destructive. But to choose the creative over the destructive is an all-creative trip composed of both order and disorder. To accomplish this, one need only accept creative disorder along with, and equal to, creative order, and also be willing to reject destructive order as an undesirable equal to destructive disorder."

Those who understand that Order and Disorder are both desirable, that they both have uses, but they both have drawbacks too, are the ones who can ultimately come closer to an understanding of the Goddess.

When you understand that Order and Discord are, really, games that humans play with each other to make sense of Chaos, you become able to participate in both with equal joy. The reason why so many Discordian writing talks so much about Discord, and why we place such emphasis on that part of Eris even though she is technically the Goddess of both Order AND Discord, is that our societies do not acknowledge that there are limits to Order.

But of course there's more to it than that.

One of the few 'laws' in Discordianism is the Law of Eristic Escalation. The Imposition of Order equals the Escalation of Disorder (or discord, if you prefer).

The harder you try to squeeze an Order into place on a subject that simply refuses to accept it, the harder the Discord you are creating will kick back against you.

Bear in mind that the Law of Eristic Escalation is itself merely a map; a concept used to make sense of reality. It won't work everywhere. But that doesn't make it useless. The fact is that reality doesn't give a shit about what you think it should be. It is what it is. And the longer you go trying to buck it, the more it is going to hurt when that mountain rips right through your map and smacks you in the face.

Some people might be thinking at this point "Why do you call it Chaos, then? Why don't you just call it reality?" And that's a fair point, but I think it misses the importance of poetry here.

If we were talking about 'reality' then it implies a certainty that runs straight against the core concept.

I am violently opposed to (amongst other things) the concept of certainty. Robbie Wilson was a big fan of e-prime, a concept which was designed to try and get rid of Aristotelian logic and make language more precise by paradoxically making it acknowledge its own imprecision.

Now, e-prime is its own thing responsible for, amongst other horrors, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and therefore it is to be shunned and despised by all right-thinking people, but that anti-Aristotelian principle is central to what it means to me to move through the world as a Discordian.

When we embrace that we do not interact directly with anything but only with our perceptions of it we open ourselves up to the possibility of being wrong about anything and everything. By understanding that Chaos is Everything; that, to quote the Principia again, all things are true – even false things are true in some sense – we put the possibility of the unexpected at the heart of our lives.

If we were just talking about reality rather than Chaos, we would be one step too close to staking out a claim on the big T Truth that we can never know. Because there is one being in the universe who CAN know Chaos, and She is the Goddess.

And now we get to the core of the matter.

Eris isn't a peace and love Goddess. Eris is Reality. She's Chaos. She's TRUTH. And TRUTH, big capital T Truth, is something that humans have a really hard time comprehending. We don't want to. As a rule, we're much happier when we're left to our comforting lies.

And even though we keep getting shown how dangerous and bloody it is to reject Her, people still keep snubbing Eris to this day. You see it when people refuse to wear a mask during a pandemic, when people whip themselves into a murderous frenzy believing minorities are the enemy, and when they convince themselves that The Machine has their best interests at heart.

Eris teaches us that it is a worthy thing to extract vengeance for these snubs.

See, if you're following the teachings of the Goddess, you're volunteering to be the nasty reminder that their flawed thinking doesn't encompass everything. You're the wrench thrown in the machine. You're the monster lurking in the dark.

See, it's not just a ha-ha after all.
Or Kill Me / The Revolution Will Not Be Monetised
February 19, 2023, 08:40:36 AM
The revolution will not be algorithmically friendly.
The revolution will not be trending or have a hashtag.
The revolution will not be paused for a word from our sponsors.
Because the revolution will not be monetised.

I'm old enough to remember when the internet was more than a half dozen websites trying to compete for your time and attention. I remember when we shared stuff because we wanted to; when speech actually WAS free, rather than carved into 280-character soundbites or polished to perfection in thirty minute long YouTube videos.

I remember when two way communication meant that we all spoke on an equal standing rather than elevating those of us who are pretty enough to garner a following. Back before corporations had figured out how to enclose the internet; how to put a harness on our dissatisfaction and hand the reins to fascists and reformists.

Now the internet is a hundred thousand Howard Beales, taking their turn to shout righteous anger into the void, before the void turns around and sells that anger back to our communities with a special $10 patreon tier for access to a private discord server.

We're mad as hell, but we'll keep taking it so long as the stream of content never stops.

We've built an efficient machine to keep the discourse rolling, to provide an infinite number of Hot Takes, to show us the problem in countless new and exciting ways, without ever letting us articulate a solution.

Except, that is, for solutions soaked in the blood of minorities.

The machine sure does love those.

They're good for clicks.

But the revolution will not be monetised.

Because the revolution will not give a single shit about concurrent views, subscribers or superchats.

The revolution will be a desperate scream.

The revolution will be a blind mob tearing our oppressors and any other unlucky fuck in the way limb from limb.

The revolution will not be a choice.

Or the revolution will not be.
Or Kill Me / Fuck You.
February 15, 2023, 02:42:55 PM
My parent's generation had a phrase that defined them. It sums up their whole ethos. "Greed is Good." Those three words contain the sum total of their politics. It will be the legacy that they leave behind. The rot that they put out to infect the rest of the world.

The rest of us have one too.

I thought about different ways to say this; I could use a lot of fancy words and dress up the core conceit to make it palatable, intellectual, maybe even convincing. But that wouldn't be truthful. For us, we can sum it all up in two words:

Fuck you.

Oh, there was a time when it could have been something else.

We gave you the chance. We begged you to compromise with us. We plead with you to row back just a little bit, to just lessen the misery that you inflict on the rest of us. You said no. Greed is good, right?

Well fuck you.

Fuck you.

Fuck you.

You've made a world that wants us dead. You've burned our future to fuel your present. You looked us in the eye and you told us that you'd rather kill us than be inconvenienced for even a second.

Fuck you.

I can hear your mewling already. That's not constructive. That's not positive. That's not helpful. That's not going to convince anybody. At least Greed is Good contains the hope that there is something good to come, right?

Fuck you.

There's nothing good in this world.

Nothing will ever be good again.

But I've still got spite, so.

Fuck you.

You want me to die?

Fuck you.

I will live long enough to make sure that your grave is soaked in piss. It won't change anything, but it'll make me smile.

Fuck you.

Or kill me.
Or Kill Me / There's a Storm Coming.
January 20, 2023, 08:39:34 AM
There's a storm coming.

They talked about it on the news today. They were very calm. Softly-spoken voices describing how the water is going to rise over my head, how the winds will topple my shelter, how I will be washed away.

But we just have to carry on.

There's a storm coming.

It got brought up at work.

People said they don't agree with it; that they'd like the storm to divert course. Maybe it could find some other people to drown. They talked about how terrible it will be to have to step over water-logged corpses.

But the conversation moved on; there's more important things to worry about. Quarterly returns are down, you know?

There's a storm coming.

It's all over social media.

The guys who run it are excited. They've got fancy new boats so they can go fishing in the flood. They're knocking holes in the dams and fencing off all the high ground. I tried to ask them why they're doing this.

But they couldn't hear me over the wind.

Because there's a storm coming.

And it's going to blow us all down.
Propaganda Depository / YouTube?
December 28, 2022, 05:14:21 PM
I watch a lot of leftist YouTube content. It's a character flaw.

I've noticed repeated mentions of Discordianism lately, all of them wrong.

One video where the Illuminatus! trilogy is suggested as a text for learning about Satanism(?)

Another where A Sermon on Ethics and Love is cited and then Discordianism is said to be "A parody religion some people draw meaning from which teaches us to enjoy Chaos and dismiss Order"

This feels like the Principia recently did the rounds in those circles and they didn't actually ... get it? And I realise that I'm probably one of <500 people worldwide who gives a flying fuck about this but the way I see it either someone sets the record straight in another video or that's going to be where a lot of people think the story ends.

I did YouTube videos once. I swore I'd stop because it's a horrible timesink. But I'm very tempted to try again. Is this a terrible idea? If I do it anyway is there anyone here who would want to help review scripts etc?

Obviously all you can ever really give is *your interpretation* on what Discordianism is, but it bugs the shit out of me that some people are going around saying we're satanists or inherently anti-order and getting no challenge.
Or Kill Me / We're Going to Save The World, He Said
December 28, 2022, 06:49:26 AM
With his smile of broken glass, all glittering and sharp.

Just trust in me and together, if you do everything I say,
We'll patch it together. We can do it, you and me.
Not those others. They don't understand. Small people, broken people.
Not like you and me, we have vision
of how the world can be.

Don't worry about the money. If you do everything I say,
I'll take good care of it, the fruits of your labour.
Our labour. We're soothing a little pain. But not every fight is our fight.
Sometimes you just have to pick up the pieces
of how the world can be.

You're looking tired. I'm worried about you. If you do everything I say,
It's time to quit your job, trust yourself to me.
You've not done enough. The world's still broken. Don't you see?
You need to break yourself, to fit in my picture
of how my world is.

Did you know that broken glass
still glitters
when sticky
Apologies if I've missed it but 2022 has really been a banner year for absolutely batshit fucking insane takes from Plague Island's residents. I couldn't immediately see anything cataloguing it and I'm sure 2023 will be even more normal but I thought I'd start with sharing some of my personal favourites.

1) Tala the Alien.

Indisputably my personal icon for 2022, Tala the Alien is a genderless creature designed by a small library in Hitchen (Population: 36k) to help teach kids that gender doesn't matter when it comes to reading - reading is something everyone can enjoy!

Obviously the fact that this alien being has no gender provoked a frothing rage from Plague Island's most Normal residents culimating in noted weirdo Maya Forstater screeching that she NEEDED TO KNOW THE GENITALS OF THE CARTOON ALIEN and hundreds of freaks speculating about how the cute alien fucks. Just a wonderful time for everyone.

Oh, and the person who made the alien received a barrage of death threats and a bomb threat. Because of course they did.

2) LGB Alliance Operates From 55 Tufton Street

I'm sure that Cain could do a far better breakdown of 55 Tufton Street than I could, but the potted version is that if you've ever heard a foul opinion broadcast on the news from a UK source they are likely to be no more than two degrees of separation from that address. It is the birthplace of Brexit and the justifications for almost every poverty-increasing policy in the UK.

It was recently revealed that this is where notable hate-group-pretending-to-be-a-charity LGB Alliance operates from. This is really confirmation of what we've known for a long time; that the group has the ear of people high up in the Tory party who have pulled strings to let them get and keep charity status.

However the revelation did lead to a lot of TERFs on Prosecco Stormfront (aka Mumsnet) having a crisis of faith that they may in fact be the bad guys, and that's beautiful. Not that it made them stop.

3) TERF Commits Sex Crime in Name of Decency.

(I'm not linking to this one 'cuz ain't nobody needs to see a bigot's minge)

A rare W in the world of trans life in the UK was the reformation of the Gender Identity Certificate process in Scotland. This will make it easier for trans people to change their gender marker on their birth certificate which in turn means our death certificates and marriage certificates won't misgender us. That is literally all it is.

JK Rowling's good buddy flashed the viewing gallery with a merkin and shouted "If you won't be decent then I will be indecent" as she did it. Naturally there has been little mention of this in the press which has instead presented the crushing 86:39 victory as 'controversial'.

Whilst I personally think GICs are fundamentally flawed and I am not interested in being on the government's handy tranny list I DO think it is extremely funny that Sunak has already been hinting that he will invoke a never-tested procedural process to block the King giving assent to the law, triggering a constitutional crisis and likely hastening the breakup of the UK. This gives me joy. It gives me life. Let the whole world see what the UK really stands for.

Also: The full might of the TERF movement was thrown behind opposition to this, and in the final analysis what they managed to do was get a couple dozen freaks, massively outnumbered by supporters, into the chamber where one of them committed a sex crime and another shouted "I am a duck, quack quack quack" as she was led from the chamber. It is my dear hope that this massive humiliation means people looking to be opportunistically transphobic start to realise how massively unpopular this really is. But I won't hold my breath.

4) "Gender Critical" Movement Officially Recognised as Genocidal.

The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention - established to carry on the legacy of Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term genocide and initiated the Genocide Convention - officially stated that the Gender Critical movement is genocidal. This was a particular highlight for me:

Quote from: Lemkin InstituteThe gender critical movement is a loose international affiliation of people and groups who promote far-right ideas that have gained a degree of centrist respectability through their purported defense of women.

Which, you know, isn't groundbreaking or anything but it is nice to be reminded that you aren't actually insane and this is obviously and clearly what is happening.

Naturally most GCs the world over lost their shit at being called far-right whilst also palling up with their fascist buds.

5) Keir Starmer Says Children are the Property of Their Parents, Pledges More Transphobia In Government

Noted spineless ham and alleged human rights lawyer (I've never had a clear answer as to whether he is for or against them) Keir Starmer came out with this amazing piece of rhetoric whilst giving an interview with Prosecco Stormfront:

Quote from: 200lbs of Rotting Gammon'We all know what it's like with teenage children and I feel very strongly about this...this argument that children can make decisions without the consent of parents is one I just don't agree with at all'

This statement is a massive rollback of established case law in the UK and if enforced would mean that many children saved by medical professionals against the wishes of their parents would have died. Naturally Keir Starmer has no principles beyond "more authoritarianism, less dissent" so he has also made some piss weak statements since implying a vague approval of trans people in the abstract whilst continuing to shelter MPs in his party who literally have their own folder in the Labour Complaint's Process with thousands of instances of transphobia that his office have declared cannot be pursued.

I was going to keep going but actually after doing these 5 I'm pretty tired. All of these happened Oct-Dec 2022.

Love it here. :)

Or Kill Me / The Monster Slayer's Call
December 26, 2022, 02:02:26 AM
(Another piece of writing which I wrote for myself and some close friends following the Club Q shooting. It is naturally an exaggeration for dramatic effect and anything which seems like it may be an actionable call to violence is for entertainment purposes only.)

"The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters."
-Antonio Gramsci

I always liked Gramsci's quote there. When I was younger it felt dramatic, even melodramatic. Doesn't it sound exciting?

Turns out that a time of monsters sucks, especially when there isn't much sign that they'll be slain.

Our world has never been more connected. We've never been more able to hear what we're saying, see what is happening, and by extension feel what our fellows right across the world are feeling.

In my teens and early twenties this gave me a huge amount of hope. I made connections half a world away and dreamed of a truly international community; a world where our bonds are forged from shared passions which transcend the limits of geography.

I'm in my thirties now and it is hard to feel idealistic about that.

Mostly this interconnectedness has let me see the pain and suffering of people I can do even less to help than I can the needy in my own city, and my inability to help them haunts me every time I step outside my front door. It has burned away the illusion that we live in any other kind of world.

We live in a world where we know without a doubt that we have the resources to address almost every aspect of human suffering that exists. There is no need for a world filled with hunger, exposure and disease. The existential challenges of our age demand a solution, and we know what needs to happen, we know we could, if we collectively chose, defeat them.

But we don't. Because we live in a time of monsters.

These monsters look at the world of suffering that we inhabit, they gaze upon the millions condemned to die needlessly, the multitudes that are denied the simple necessities of human life, and they don't just choose to allow it - they profit from it. They are made strong by our pain, and they use that strength for the sole and self-justifying aim of maintaining their stranglehold on the resources we need to stop this pain.

And like all the best monsters, they twist us into their own image. They inspire killings, turn families on their own, lift up babbling mouthpieces who revel in the fact that they spew nonsensical hate to keep the monsters strong, and are rewarded richly for helping them keep us in our place.

They tell us that we are unreasonable to feel this way; that we should be happy for the blood-soaked scraps that trickle down from the monster's table to keep us right on the brink; where it feels like we have just too much to lose to risk doing anything drastic.

They tell us that we can reason with the monsters; that we must settle things in the realm of calm, rational debate.

They tell us this with a straight face whilst their pawns gun us down in our own communities, hunt us down in our sacred places and kill us on our own doorsteps.

You cannot speak to a monster about humanity and expect them to see anything but another meal.

They know this of course, because they are masters of turning this very rhetoric on us. They paint us as inhuman with hands soaked in our gore, and they demand that we acknowledge their humanity as they do it.

I'm done with that.

These monsters do not deserve any space, anywhere. They do not deserve to feel safe, anywhere. I do not want to hear their voices, except to hear them scream. I do not want to see their faces, except to see them bleed. There is nothing they have to say which I want to hear. There is nothing they could do to make amends which could ever, conceivably, be enough to appease me.

They have done too much. There is no redemption possible any longer.

If we are made to live in the time of monsters, it is time that each of us becomes a slayer of monsters.
Hi guys. Apparently it has been over a decade since I last posted here? Wow.

A lot has happened since then. I have had many jobs. I joined a cult. I left the cult. I almost died 3 times. I admitted to myself I am trans. I started HRT. I admitted to my family I am trans. I gave up on some dreams. I got different ones. I have a career. We'll see if that survives further confessions.

If folks want to hear about some of those stories I'll happily tell them.

But I've been thinking a lot more about my faith recently, and I keep coming back to this place. How formative it was to me when I was a kid, how the lessons I learned have helped steer me through some dark times.

I wrote the below to help myself clarify some things in my own head. I thought you all might like it too.

Saying Hi to the Goddess at the End of 2022.

"I am chaos. I am the substance from which your artists and scientists build rhythms. I am the spirit with which your children and clowns laugh in happy anarchy. I am chaos. I am alive, and I tell you that you are free."
-Eris, allegedly. Emphasis mine.

I'm not a naturally funny person.

In fact, I've spent most of this year pretty depressed. When I haven't been sad, I've been angry. When I haven't been angry, I've been filled with a ferocious, powerful joy that comes from seizing my identity and demanding to be seen.

What I haven't done much of is laugh. In the past few years it hasn't felt like there's been much worth laughing at. It's all quite serious out there right now.

People say we live in a chaotic age, but to the Discordian that's inaccurate. Chaos is not something which increases or decreases. Chaos is what we build things from. It is more or less synonymous with reality. We are pattern-seeking beings and we impose systems of analysis on the chaos which then tell us whether something is ordered - obeying the system- or disordered - not obeying the system. It is our natural tendency to view order as the preferable state which blinds us to the reality; that all order is limited, all patterns have their exceptions, and that disorder can only be defined in opposition to an expectation.

We're not living in an age of chaos, we're living in an age of disorder. The systems we have lived under, the assumptions we have made, they're all breaking down.

So as we come to the end of 2022 and I lay awake in bed after yet another argument where I found myself completely incapable of understanding even the basic premises that the other person was using, I put in a call to the Goddess and I said, "Hey, babe, what's up?"

And she appeared before me in the brilliant glare of my laptop screen, blinding and searing sleep from my eyes with the words: "Yeah, same as it ever was, you doing good?"

And I said, "Not really. Feels like everything is falling apart. Nobody expects anything to get better. Nothing is certain. Those I love shame me with their ignorance, and refuse even to call me by my name, let alone listen to what I have to say."

"Oh." Said Ερις, and then she tweaked my nose. "There, that should help."

Then she turned into the half a bottle of gin I'd drunk earlier and I ran to the bathroom.

As I pissed out this holy epiphany and rubbed my sore nose I reflected on the hangover that was to come, and I laughed. Then I went to bed.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Shamblers
December 19, 2012, 03:05:29 PM
We spent countless hours preparing for this very end, but when it came, nobody seemed to realize until it was much too late. The Crash came, and with it, the zombies. But I'm sure everything will be alright.

It might not even have been The Crash, looking back, it seems like many of our institutions were showing warning signs even before then. Heightened aggression, insatiable thirst for human flesh, repetitive behaviour and rictus grins. Not to mention a gradual lowering of higher brain function and reliance on stock phrases. I'm sure everything will be alright. The warning signs were all there, but nobody seemed to really notice or take action.

The Crash was definitely when things got so bad they couldn't be ignored. These dead institutions have shambled on for years, holding in their guts with one hand and devouring their fellows with the other. We struggled to find a cure, but the rot just spread in deeper. Things have gotten pretty bad. What's worse is that we seem to be trying to convince ourselves that it isn't happening! I'm sure everything will be alright though. Some countries have attempted to purge the infection with fire, but that doesn't seem to have helped slow it at all. If anything, it has speeded the rate at which living, breathing officials have been replaced with dead-eyed bureaucrats hungry for more.

The truth is we weren't prepared for this kind of zombie. Sure, sure, fiction named a hundred different variants, but none working quite like this. Cut off the head all you like, the body will either thrash around and become even more violent, or else simply grow a new one; the only appreciable difference being a more desperate gleam in the eye. I'm sure everything will be alright. There are probably experts working on it.

Having identified the infected by their dead-eyed stare and repetition of phrases such as 'for your safety' and 'quantitative easing', it is important first of all not to panic. They are, thankfully, quite stupid and only dangerous if panicked. Quickly make your way out of the area, doing your best to adopt a similarly haggard and stressed demeanour whilst uttering platitudes. Be certain not to make any sudden moves or question their assumptions. Remember, everything will be alright. There are probably experts working on it.

As there seems to be nothing which can kill one of these monsters than another of their  kind, it is best not to interfere. All we can do is hunker down and hope that they don't mess up badly enough to cause the lights to go out. So long as we have the illusion of normality, we can just keep pretending this isn't really happening and everything will go back to normal if we just keep the faith. Even if things won't go back to normal, I'm sure everything will be alright.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Not Quite Dead
December 17, 2012, 11:33:52 AM
I think it has been about six months since my last spurt of activity here?

Amsterdam made a spirited attempt at killing me. I managed to make it home, and when I did, found out that I lost my job. Two days later, the entire editorial team at the website I was working at was fired, and sales put onto a fully commission-based payment structure. Given that what they were selling before was editorial time, I have no idea what they actually sold or what the existing clients made of it. The website still seems to exist though.

Did a brief internship where I thought I was going to get more editorial experience but actually they shifted me onto telesales and at that point I quit.

Money ran out, unsurprisingly, and I've had to move back in with parents. Mostly I'm thankful that this is actually an option. I've got a few corporate grad scheme apps out (god these things take so long - one failed yesterday that I'd been enrolled in for I think four months?). Managed to get christmas work at a supermarket over the holidays. I'm hoping that'll translate into something full time as I seem to be getting tons more hours than everyone else. It is a little depressing that I'm doing something I could have done straight out of high school, only if I'd started straight out of high school I'd probably be further up the chain by now. That's life, though.

I've also started writing again. Got the beginnings of a roleplaying system thrown together, though it still needs tons more work before I start seriously ramping up to try and get it Kickstarted. I have vague dreams that if I can catch the internet RPG flavor-of-the-month wagon, I can translate that into a kickstarter for a physical product and then roll that forward into a game line. The trouble with that notion being that you generally need proven experience in the field already to be seen as a credible investment. Which is fairly understandable; I'm not credible, at the moment, it is a pipedream. Getting to credible is a big challenge. Still, the system has bought a lot of fun during playtesting thus far so it isn't as though I've gotten nothing out of it.

My grandmother has rekindled my love of poetry. My father reminds me on a daily basis why I despise politics. My friends are all working every hour there is and about half have moved away. The past few months have been insane for that. Oh! And my best friend is going to have a kid. Which is still sinking in.

At the start of the year my goal was to move out of my parent's place and get a better job. I managed the first, briefly, but now I'm back at square one and feel like I'm treading water career-wise. My parents have offered to fund me in obtaining journalism qualifications if I can find out which ones would be worthwhile. I kind of hate the thought of spending another year-eighteen months leeching off them, but if it seemed like it would actually get me a decent job I might have to go for it and pay them back later.

I've been lurking around for a while. Fact is, I was embarrassed when I realized just how long it'd been since I was posting here.

And in ten minutes I have to run for my next shift. I just thought it was about time I popped up and confirmed that the trams didn't get me. Yet.

I still think I catch glimpses of them out the corner of my eye every now and then, though...
Okay I have to get this down because I am not convinced that Amsterdam is going to be the end of me.

As some background, I am not unfamiliar with large cities. I have never gotten on well with them, but I have always maintained a healthy respect and fear of them.

London and I could be said to be on speaking terms. One of my earliest memories is as a child on the tube, where some bastard put a cigarette out on my hat. My parents didn't notice until three stops later, when I asked if... that was an alright thing to do, because it sort of, had ruined my hat.

That casual malevolence is something that I've maintained with London ever since. London is simply too large to care about you. It oozes contempt, and its inhabitants tend to move with a kind of listless violence. In other words, if you are aware of yourself and your surroundings, you'll largely be okay. London is also very loud, I feel this is important in the context.

I have also lived in Birmingham. Birmingham, despite London's reputation, has always struck me as a far more harmoniously multicultural landscape. In London, communities tend to be... very well demarcated. In Birmingham, things are a hodge podge which I loved - I lived in a small house located between a Methodist church, a Mosque, and within walking distance of a Synagogue. The accent I heard the least in my time in Birmingham was, in fact, the Birmingham accent. Birmingham too was largely happy to let you get on with what you were doing, with little interference.

I have even spent time in other European cities - not for more than a couple of weeks at a time, you understand. Paris and Brussels were pleasant enough, though. They obeyed the same rules. They were boisterous, but had their own characters. Brussels felt very cramped, Paris very aloof. 

Not so Amsterdam.

The first thing that I noticed in Amsterdam was how quiet the place is. There's some traffic noise - I can here it now, attempting to calm me down in my hotel room, audible over the sound of the blood drumming in my ears - but it is not the deafening roar of activity I am accustomed to in large cities.

The second thing I noticed is how clean the place is. I understand this now; if you stay still long enough to leave a mark, you will be destroyed.

My taxi ride to my hotel was uneventful, though I noticed at the time that the driver seemed to be in a rush. I could swear that he came within six inches of ploughing into a tram, but, taxi drivers often seem to inhabit their own special areas of the road. I thought nothing of it.

The hotel should have been my first warning.

I had read reviews of course; I am not totally inept. They had mentioned the stairs being the main downside, but the place is cheap, and I am young - what are some stairs? I can deal with that, I thought. After seven hours of travel, however, to be greated by this was... foreshadowing.

My room - I have had to pay up front, I presume because the hoteliers know as well as I that I shall not be leaving this place alive - was on the top floor. That is the view which you are granted with when you open the door of the 'hotel'. Three more flights of stairs and I was able at last to reach my room, where I laid out my luggage and prepared myself.

I have one day to myself on this trip, in which to see the sights. I intended to make the most of it. I particularly wanted to see the Van Gogh Museum, so I charted out my journey using my map - apparently it was very close to the hotel!

I walked outside, and was almost immediately nearly hit by a motorbike.

You see, in Amsterdam, they use many bikes. You have probably heard this. What I was unprepared for was the way that the cycle paths seem to blend seamlessly into the pavement. Well, I thought, I am not a fool. I will be more careful. Just a matter of keeping my wits about me, but damn if that motorbike didn't seem... quiet.

I found somewhere to eat, and noted that London is not the only place which will gouge you for food and drink. (Incidentally, I have yet to find something like a supermarket - the heat has necessitated that I spend almost £20 on drink alone thus far.)

Theoretically the museum was within 4 minutes walk of my hotel. It actually took me a half hour navigating the strange, blending pavement/road/cyclepaths to get to the place. I enjoyed taking in the exhibit, though. Van Gogh, it is said, found the cities nerve wracking and thus could not abide living in them. I begin to sympathise.

After that, I decide to try and find my way to the university theatre - it is where I will be spending the next three days. I chose this hotel because it was recommended by the organizers of the workshop. It is the closest hotel that was not booked up, and it is 20 minutes away. I begin to walk.

My memory of this time is hazy. It is quiet and nowhere seems to go where it should. I walk down one street to find it failing to connect with the next according to my map. I find myself twice in the path of oncoming bikes. I take two hours in total before I am exhausted completely and can go no further. By some twist of horrible fate I recognize the street I am on at this point as being close to my hotel. I come home. I beg the receptionist to tell me if there is a taxi service he recommends.

"Not." He says, "That I would recommend. But I may call you a taxi. Where do you want to go?"

I tell him I need one in the morning, to go to the university.

"Mostly you should go to the road, stick your thumb out." He gives the gesture, in case I have never seen it before, "And hope. If you wish to call, though, there is a phone, there." He points. Behind a potted plant, there is indeed, a phone. "Seven sevens."

That cryptic advice given he seems to lose interest in me. I return to my room, nearly killing myself on the stairs, and drink some water. I post on I feel a little better. This is not too bizarre, I tell myself, I am making a fuss over nothing.

So I go out to get something sweeter than water to drink, so I can review my papers for tomorrow and maybe get an early night's rest. I am so very tired.

I fail utterly to find somewhere like a supermarket, as I mentioned. I am barged into by three flamboyantly gay men who laugh and say something I cannot understand. Nearby I spot a pink I sign. Tourist information, I think, but when I get closer I notice that it is specifically gay tourist information. That confuses me. Will they sense my heterosexuality and deny me service? Is making use of this service some betrayal of trust? Which way is it back to my hotel? I'll make do with water.

But I do spot a kiosk selling large bottles of drink. Two of them and some waffles set me back almost ten euro. I am so pathetically grateful to find something I might want to drink that I don't question it. I turn, I notice the green walking sign.

And then I am almost hit by the tram.

A tram is not a small method of locomotion. It is not inconspicuous. It should not be that quiet. But Amsterdam works in these ways. It is quiet, and it confuses you, and when you think you have gotten a handle on something - for instance, being told it is safe to cross - then it will strike.

By some miracle I am not hit. I have to jump, and then I keep walking. It is the walk I use in London. The walk which says, I know where I am going fuck you get out of my way, you do not exist to me. As though I can ward myself from this place by pretending I understand where I am and what I am doing. As though I do not expect several tons of silent death to barrel down on me at a moment's notice.

I have made it back to my hotel room now. I am shaking as I type this, and I feel certain that I will not be returning home. Amsterdam has apparently marked me in some way. I find myself thinking of Tucson, and how Sister Fracture says that the city sings to you.

But Amsterdam does not sing. It is silent, as calm and reasonable as its people.

And then it hits you with a tram.

send help

Why does the laughing man laugh?

You wouldn't know that he is doing it, if you saw him on the street. He looks just like you, just like everyone else. That's the ingenious thing. We live in a world which idolizes appearances. To this end we are encouraged to subsume our individual identities into those of others. We are encouraged to dress the same as those of our subset of humanity. We are encouraged to use the same language. We are encouraged to think the same thoughts. There is no hard enforcement here; the penalty for not doing so is nothing more than the suspicion of your fellows. This can be more than enough. We have so much information to catalogue and consume on a daily basis, trying to remember which opinions, desires, wants, needs drive your friends is simply one more irritating detail. It is far easier if you can ascribe to them a preconceived set of conditions.

The Laughing Man understands this innately. Subsumed into the popular culture through people who mimic his actions, he then sheds the mask and becomes invisible. The Laughing Man is Anonymous. The Laughing Man is also smart enough to realize that being Anonymous in public is simply one more set of preconceived conditions. The system has become resistant enough to change that to set oneself up as a symbol of it is to be co-opted. The Laughing Man realizes that it is more effective to manipulate the mechanisms of power through action rather than rhetoric; to engage in rhetoric is to be undermined by the need for legitimacy that the system makes a precondition of dialogue.

The narratives constructed by this dialogue are innately constraining, manipulating the viewpoints presented in order to set things up in a way which requires little conscious thought to absorb. The Laughing Man has realized that this dialogue is just one more tool in the machinery of power; to disrupt it requires moving beyond the easy definitions of mainstream media. It requires the escalation of the inherent contradictions within the flawed façade that society reproduces for its citizens. It requires that people are made to become self-aware of their own desires, aware of their wants, needs, and thoughts, rather than allowing themselves to believe that they are defined by some arbitrary label. It requires that the members of the tribe realize that they have more power than the tribal council. To disrupt this system will necessitate the destruction of rhetoric and discourse; the revelation of people's true selves, rather than the face they are forced to wear.

The Laughing Man knows all this, and in knowing, undermines the tools of the system in order to subvert it. He presents himself as he must be presented; he acts as he must act, in order to avoid drawing attention. When he does move, it does not appear to be he who is responsible at all. He does not seek credit or acclaim; he is not in it for the 'lulz' (though there are certainly many laughs to be had) nor does he act in order to achieve any glory or notoriety for himself.

So why does he laugh?

Because he has realized that he is living in a grand joke. It is not a pleasant comedy, this, but to think of how easily humanity has allowed itself to be divided upon arbitrary lines, how effortlessly it has been convinced to continue inflicting unnecessary hardship upon its greater mass, how swiftly it forgets lessons that it paid for with countless lives within the span of its own living memory...

What choice but he have but to laugh?
Techmology and Scientism / Yahoo vs Facebook
February 28, 2012, 02:30:15 PM
So for a while now, Yahoo has been flailing around trying to find some way to become a viable business again. They've been on a pretty steep downward trajectory, their search and email services beaten out by Google and fewer and fewer people using them at all.

A little while ago they elected a new CEO, and a radical new strategy has been implemented - sue Facebook for violating their patents!

I read this on the FT but they are funny about sharing articles, so this is the best other source I could find in thirty seconds:

Quote from: New York TimesThe paper quoted a Yahoo spokesperson as saying, "Yahoo has a responsibility to its shareholders, employees and other stakeholders to protect its intellectual property. We must insist that Facebook either enter into a licensing agreement or we will be compelled to move forward unilaterally to protect our rights."

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt, however, told The Times, "Yahoo contacted us the same time they called The New York Times and so we haven't had the opportunity to fully evaluate their claims."
It isn't clear how much Yahoo thinks it is owed by Facebook but the fight comes at a sensitive time for both companies. Facebook is getting ready to go public in the next few months and Yahoo is trying to establish its new identity under recently named CEO Scott Thompson.

The FT had an additional quote from Yahoo basically saying that it has nothing to do with Facebook's upcoming initial public offering, and instead is purely a new strategy by Scott Thompson to try and turn Yahoo around.

Really interesting that it is even possible Yahoo could threaten this legitimately. Apparently Facebook has secured 58 patents and has another 410 pending.
Aneristic Illusions / Lets Talk Theory.
February 15, 2012, 11:44:57 AM
We talk a lot about how the system works, but we generally do it in relation to specific examples. I thought it might be helpful to get some discussion rolling about the political world we live in, at least how I understand it. I fear it is a little shallow in places, but I think what I've got below is a pretty good jumping off point. I haven't touched too much on economics, as I think that is worth looking at in more detail as a specific system; this is just meant to be an overview of general politics and international relations from the top down.

At the top of the tree in politics you have the nation state. A nation state is held to be autonomous, have legitimate right to rule the territory it claims, and exerts control over its citizens to some degree. Laying out a specific definition of what constitutes a nation state and a citizen can be tough, but for general purposes it is fairly self-explanatory.

Below the nation state you have the various organizations that nation states subscribe to; The United Nations, European Union, Arab League, NATO and so forth. There's often some confusion at this level because people tend to be confused about the behaviour of nation states in regards to these organizations. Although there are certain expectations set up for membership, nations cannot be compelled to act, though they can be pressurized. For instance, most of the European Union members lied and cheated on their accounts and were known to be doing so in contravention with the agreed limits on government borrowing. There was nothing that the EU as a body could actually do about this without popular support, so the rules were meaningless.

The recent removal of governments in the EU to be replaced with technocrats is an interesting example which could be seen to contradict this, but in truth it is a vessel for the interests of France and Germany. Supranational bodies continue to exist and are redefined by the nation states which make them up, rather than having innate power in and of themselves. Nation states exert pressure on each other through various threats; in the past these have largely been of a violent nature, but they can also include sanctions, restricting access to resources or territory, ceasing trade contracts, or working against their political interests through supranational bodies. It can also include more positive forms of manipulation- giving aid or grants, support on the national stage, treaties and alliances and so forth. Ultimately all these things are ways for one nation to bend another to their interests, either through coercion or bribery.

Below these bodies you then have international corporations. These organizations do not have direct control over the workings of government, and they cannot flout international regulations without risking serious fines and problems. Even when they work within the system, if a strong enough government decides to screw them over, they generally will be screwed. Russia vs BP is a fun example of that.

Ultimately, how strong these corporations are tends to be related to how strong their home nation is. If the United States Government stands behind the actions of their corporations, you can be sure that the countries they operate in will be very aware of this. How much money corporations can throw into their operations also has a major role, with some of the biggest in the world having the ability to strongly warp international standards around the regulation of their businesses. This is most evident in the banking system, where the major banks work as a cartel in order to threaten and bully governments with dire warnings should their interests be threatened. They do not have ultimate authority, however, as they do not have state sanctioned violence to fall back on of their own regard. They have to buy it in, and that means that they have to keep the largest countries on side if they are going to keep having their interests served.

Within countries, then, you have the government at the top, and then the major industries which make up the economy of that country. The ultimate aim of any government is to remain in power, and in order to do that they need to keep being seen as legitimate in the eyes of their people. That does not necessarily mean democracy, but it does mean making sure that their right to rule is uncontested through whatever means.

That means keeping most people largely satisfied with the status quo. Change, in government, is a bad thing. After all, the system which exists put you into power, why would you want to change that? The ultimate aim is to make it so that people cannot even conceive of an alternative system. The End of History, as Fukuyama called it.

A large part of that is keeping the economy stable and people employed. Modern relations between states are somewhat more complex than they used to be as a result of globalization; the economies of countries throughout the world are more intricately linked than they used to be. This has opened up more routes for conflict than just violence, with trade sanctions, control of trade routes (such as the Strait of Hormuz) and other resources now understood to be potentially catastrophic in ways they were not necessarily before.

The media is a mirror of the culture which produces it. There isn't necessarily a conscious and directed conspiracy of the media in order to control output and reproduce particular ideological ideas; there doesn't have to be. A very small group of people control the media, and they have done very well out of the status quo. For the same reasons that governments fear change, these people are resistant to ways of showing information which do not fit in with their expectations.

People generally want to believe that their nation is doing well, and that the system which they live in is a good one. Without that belief, the legitimacy of the culture itself is questioned, and that tends to result in feeling pretty uncomfortable. We feel a natural connection to the country of our birth because we impose the norms and values that we group up with on it. The nation state is a kind of imagined community; we will never know even a tiny fraction of all the people who subscribe to it, but we still have a tendency to imagine that we have something in common with them. It is the modern 'tribe' and it invokes an Us vs Them response in relation to all other nation states.
Or Kill Me / Future Shock
February 03, 2012, 11:26:06 AM

Almost $50 billion wiped off stock markets today due to fears of instability with 2/10 people under the age of 25 out of work. JOIN THE DISCUSSION on the job crisis we must act to prevent further humanitarian crisis with hundreds dying daily due to lack of basic necessities such as failing support for the Eurozone. YOUR VOTE COUNTS FOR THESE FINALISTS At an all time low, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated that she would not allow the project to fail, and offered to blockade the Strait of Hormuz. WE TAKE YOU LIVE TO THE SCENE The IMF reiterated that such an act could result in a massive spike in the price of oil leaving thirty two dead. BUT DO PEOPLE REALLY UNDERSTAND IT? WE TOOK TO THE STREETS OF LONDON TO FIND OUT The Costa Concordia disaster is being blamed on the irresponsible actions of 2,818 Occupy movements listed worldwide. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILDREN ARE? We'll bring you more on that after eleven. PRESS THE RED BUTTON NOW

Tune in again tomorrow for more.
Aneristic Illusions / Michelle Obama
February 02, 2012, 01:27:04 PM
The First Lady of the United States can do 25 pushups.

This is apparently important news which we must all be made aware of.

Carry on.
RPG Ghetto / ATTN: Luna (Warning: TORbaggery)
January 31, 2012, 11:51:17 AM
You mentioned wanting to know if other people play TOR?

WELL I DO!  :)

I picked it up a couple of weeks ago because I'd heard good things about it and it is the first MMO that I'm actually enjoying. I'm largely pootling around on my own, teaching myself the ropes (My highest character is only level 17 at the moment), because it sure feels like people expect you to understand everything there is to know about MMOs, and I'm way too non-committal to want to sign up for a guild or something that requires regular, scheduled questing. I already have a job! Though a few friends of mine in the states have put together a relaxed guild and I might join that when I'm a higher level. I understand you pretty much need a guild when you max out in order to get the most out of endgame content.

I have yet to really explore PVP, either. I'm just having fun running around as a Sith stabbing fools and being cartoonishly evil. The stories aren't masterpieces, but they are engaging and a hell of a lot more immersive than WoW, which I just couldn't bring myself to care about. I'm sure I'm terrible at the game, but it is providing enough fun for the moment to justify a little bite out of my entertainment budget.

The main complaints I've heard seem to be around PVP and the Light Side story. I've got a level 10 Jedi Shadow and that's as far as I've bothered to go down that route because the stealthy gameplay failed to click with me. What are your experiences so far? The Sith Warrior story just had me grinning like a loon all the way through so far. I've carefully avoided all spoilers, so I'm impressed with the fact it has grabbed me more than Skyrim and looks set to do so for at least another three or four months as I go through the other stories.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / I feel sick
January 31, 2012, 11:26:13 AM
Right down in my guts. The problem is, I don't have time to vomit.

When I took this job it was because my employer believed my stringent accuracy would be an asset. Our job is to provide information; the veracity of that information should not be called into question. Our aim was to provide a true picture of areas in the UK (and later, the rest of Europe) so that investors could look at that picture and come to an informed decision about where they should consider going. When I started this job, we compared ourselves to 'a more reliable and focused Wikipedia'.

It is interesting to see how that project has changed over time.

Money is, of course, the ultimate decider. My employer has made it perfectly clear that we are bleeding money at a fantastic rate. Our primary concern, therefore, is to keep our paying customers happy. That means that those areas which give us the cash for more space on the site don't just get more wordcount to describe their area, they get whatever they want.

We no longer describe ourselves as Wikipedia. Now our promotional literature references Amazon.

Impartiality doesn't pay the bills, and the truth (even on such a small scale) isn't good enough. We have to exaggerate and take wildly misrepresented figures. We use superfluous adjectives. We upsell.

I took this job largely because I wanted to avoid a retail or sales position. I took it because I didn't want to have to lie to people in order to get money. Naive, really.

We're even now talking about distorting our maps, to resize those areas with a large amount of paying clients. Literally warping the world in order to make our clients seem bigger, more important.

But I don't have time to vomit. If I spew, I'm not babbling platitudes and promises to our clients. We need the money, you see, because if they stop feeding us those bills, we're not going to have a business any more. I'm pretty sure this is better than nothing. It might not be what I signed up for, but at least it is keeping me busy, right?
"You have to assume that you don't have rational consumers. Faced with complex decisions or too much information, they default ... They hide behind credit rating agencies or behind the promises that are given to them by the salesperson," said Mr Wheatley, in an interview with the Financial Times.

Martin Wheatley, the head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said regulators should ban potentially dangerous products to protect consumers from themselves, suggesting the FCS will be far tougher than the current Financial Services Authority in policing the retail investment market.


This could be very interesting. It remains to be seen whether the FCA will be any more successful than the organization it is replacing (the Financial Services Authority) in regulating the financial services sector. Wheatley seems to be breaking the assumption that the FSA held, that investors are ultimately rational and markets can be understood as a collection of rational individuals... which could hopefully be a step in the right direction! It'll be a while before anything is decided. The roadmap is:

Quote from: FT.comJuly 2010: Coalition government launches plan to break up the Financial Services Authority, creating the Prudential Regulatory Authority and a new consumer protection and markets authority

February 2011: Ministers decide the new consumer watchdog will be called the Financial Conduct Authority and will have the power to ban specific financial products or limit their distribution. Martin Wheatley named head of FCA

June 2011: Draft legislation unveiled. The FSA outlines the approach the FCA will take towards protecting consumers and regulating financial products.

September 2011: Martin Wheatley starts work.

Winter 2011: Parliament holds hearings on the draft bill and recommends that the FCA been given extra powers to regulate consumer credit and promote competition

Jan 31 2012: Treasury response to industry consultation and Parliament expected

April 2012: FSA supervisory teams to split in two and begin overseeing conduct and prudential regulation separately

May to August 2012: Legislation to be discussed, amended and adopted by Parliament

2013: PRA and FCA to open for business
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Escape
January 23, 2012, 11:21:35 AM
It was the goal that the games industry had been striving towards for as long as anyone could remember. True virtual reality, not 3D, not motion control. Plug yourself in, and be taken to a world of infinite wonder.

It started on the fringes first. Early adopters and geeks leapt at the chance to live out fantasy lives saving (or dooming) the galaxy, saving (or dooming) fantastical empires, questing for beautiful royalty and to earn fame and glory unobtainable in reality.

Eventually it became more mainstream and the technology was found in every home. The advertising purposes were obvious; capture your product at its most perfect, and pump that experience into the brain of the audience. A whole new vista of media opened up, selling emotions. Who could share the most perfect sensation of love? Who knew joy better than anyone else?

The final outcome was inevitable in hindsight.

Again, it started gradually. The first person to decide to live entirely in their virtual world was a scandal. At first it was the rich, the only people who could afford to pay for the machine and the electricity to keep their physical needs cared for without working for the rent and the bills. People sell the best moments of their life, commoditizing their emotions to fund their eventual escape.

Demand grew. The market responded. Automated hotels where you could fit yourself in relatively cheaply sprang up. Pay forward your pension and savings, you could plug yourself in for a hundred years. You'd pass away before you came out again. But why strive for anything else?

If you can't control this world, why not move to one which you can?

The ultimate escape.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Oh jesus christ
January 19, 2012, 01:39:51 PM


Oh jesus christ


This has been your bizarre British fad for the day.
Literate Chaotic / Sherlock
January 15, 2012, 10:47:44 PM
Just finished watching the climax to the second season of Sherlock.

I don't know if the first season has made it across to the states yet, but Sherlock is the updating of several of (unsurprisingly) Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories to a modern day setting.

I forget how often I've ranted here about my general hatred of 'modernisation' adaptations. I generally feel that you lose a lot when you take things between mediums let alone when you stuff stories into new time periods.

Sherlock is a pleasant break from that, possibly because the actors in it are all excellent. Sherlock and Mycroft both stand out for me, with Moriarty a very close third.

The stories aren't direct adaptations, which helps a lot. The set pieces remain the same but the actual mysteries tend to be twisted a little, which keeps it interesting. Each episode is 90 minutes long, so although there's only three episodes in each season, it is the equivalent of a movie trilogy.

It is the only series I've bothered following since Black Mirror and Doctor Who stopped, and now it is over again... there's nothing worth watching on the TV. If you find yourself in a similar position and haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend getting hold of the seasons (be sure to start with season 1 as it informs season 2).

It also involves a fantastically savage beating given to a Jack Bauer style CIA agent for his interrogation methods. Beautiful to watch.  :)
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Distance sucks.
January 14, 2012, 09:57:16 AM
So, the majority of my friends, I met through the internet.

I don't mean that I don't have any friends IRL - I do. I just know more by volume over the internet. This is good and bad. Sometimes, you lose touch. It is easier to walk away from an online community than a real one, and never find out what happened. I've even done it sometimes. About a year ago, I walked away from an online game because I didn't have time commitments any more. As a result I lost touch with a lot of people who I only knew through the game.

I decided to log back on this week.

One of my friends there I used to chat to a lot at insane o clock. She's canadian, incredibly talented with tailoring, did a lot of cosplay and was very pretty. She was also married, successful, and had a good sense of humour. What I was unaware of was that she also has social anxiety disorder and used the internet as a way of getting around a crippling fear of being around more than six people at a time.

At the end of December her husband declared that he no longer loved her and walked out on her.  I obviously don't know the full story, but she had a breakdown. She cut off all her hair, cut herself trying to work up the guts to cut her wrists. Thankfully her roomate found her before she did it and she got to spend a week in a mental health unit.

She seems to have stabilized and no longer wants to kill herself. Her husband wants to see if there is anything left by dating again. His idea of doing this is apparently taking 21 year old women (he's 33) to expensive dinners and then taking his wife to Denny's on her birthday.

It is times like this that I hate distance more than anything.

If she lived in the same country, even, I could drop everything and go and at least take her out to dinner to try and cheer her up. If she lived in the same city I could hang out with her and actually support her. I could kick her husband in the nads.

But she lives on the other side of an ocean.

The internet lets us do a lot of wonderful things. It lets us forge these relationships despite never really seeing each other face to face. But it can also make us powerless to help when we'd most like to. 

And that sucks. Communication makes the world seem smaller than ever, but in the most fundamental ways, it is still a huge place.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Oops.
January 04, 2012, 11:55:30 AM
Aneristic Illusions / Manufacturing Since 1800
January 03, 2012, 01:58:14 PM

I came across this and I found it pretty interesting. Wasn't sure where to stick it so...

Although there's a lot of countries missing (why just the UK for European countries?) it is really interesting to see the data presented this way. The USA still seems to have a very large share of manufacturing as of 2010, and the last three bars seem to show that manufacturing can jump very quickly from one country to another.

Just thought some people might find it interesting.  :)
So, I haven't been around for over a week - I wound up going home for Christmas and getting swept up in the traditional Holiday Drama. Two birthdays, grandmother in hospital (it is looking up now, thankfully, but it was touch and go) and actual Christmas day.

I love my family, for all their flaws. I love my father, in particular, because he's completely changed over the past five years. He used to be a contractor with a disdain for management, he then became a contracted consultant, and he now believes he knows everything about everything. He also loves jargon. Which, is what this is all about.

You see, he sat me down a couple of days after Christmas, when we were talking about my career, and he said, "Demolition Squid." Because my father always addresses me by internet pseudonym, "You're doing okay with this writing gig. I've always said you were a wordsmith." I wish that was hyperbole like the above, but my Dad genuinely loves the word 'wordsmith' and doesn't seem to want to call me a journalist or a writer. I can only imagine he thinks my laptop turns into a forge in my day to day business and I spend all day hunched over it with a hammer and a pen.

"But." He said, "You've got to push yourself. If you are going to make it, you need to set yourself up as an expert in Thought Leadership. Put together a few blog entries to start it off, and I'll set you up with a website."

I smiled and nodded, as I normally do when my Dad comes out with something like this, but as I was walking into work this morning, being blasted by sour-tasting rain that I've only experienced in London, I began dissecting the phrase in my head.

Thought Leadership is a business term used to point at people who have innovative ideas. The idea has arisen that you can cultivate thought leadership by pointing at original content and then explaining why it is original, as well as by employing creative people and leeching out their ideas. My father was saying that what I need to do, is throw up a blog and start babbling about business and management so that other people would look at it and think 'Wow, this guy has the capacity to think, we should listen to what he has to say.'

Just dissect the term a bit too. Thought Leadership. People who are Thought Leaders are the people that the industry wants to follow; the few people at the cutting and bleeding edge. If you are a Thought Leader, presumably you have Thought Followers. An obsession with Thought Leadership in your business implies that you delegate the original thinking and creativity to just a few, and then have the rest of your business follow suit.

How sinister is this? It sounds like something out of a dystopian future!  :lulz:

So, I've been thinking that maybe I should jump onto the Thought Leadership bandwagon. Not because I want to babble out things in the hope of being held up as a shining example of Right Thinking, but because I want to expose how ridiculous this notion is. I want to write about how this kind of thinking leads to a complete lack of communication. The words people use (Cultivating Content rather than copying or referencing, Thought Leadership rather than creative thinking) become obfuscating jargon, and people get wrapped up in hierarchies where they are worried about making sure they tow the line and don't upset the Thought Leaders with their pesky unsanctioned view of what's going on... even when the people closer to the ground floor generally have a better idea of what the reality is than the managers at the top.

Unfortunately, the first domain name I thought of (Herding Cats) is taken, but I'm sure I can come up with another. I don't think I can call myself a Thought Leader otherwise, can I?
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / The Wierd
December 21, 2011, 04:31:22 PM
So... as I am packing up to go home, I randomly notice an interesting looking article on the FT... I skim it, get to the comments, and amongst them is this:

Quote from: Random LoonThe problem of today is secret services police, they hack the notebooks and mobile phones of inventors and people with political thinking about economics, to make political actions and propaganda and spy for the movie industry

my notebook and mobile phone has been hacked for almost 1 decade by the british secret services acting together with the portuguese police for political manipulation and using the damage they created upon my family as an inspiration for the movies of Harry potter, Sherlock Holmes, Planet 51, 2012, and Avatar

this is the scam of portuguese diplomacy and secret police acting together with the british secret service for spying the private life of my family including hacking my cars and playing with the indicators panel... which demonstrates how far the secret police goes to spy and capture private life of innocent citizens

I am perfectly identified and not speaking anonimously... but because the british secret police and journalists have no shame at all of what they are doing I have no other chance than to do this kind of comment

of course, anyone who know what happens in Portugal, know very well that our government and police have no honor at all... so those people who did to me and my family what such cowards are doing despite the fact that I am an inventor and invented a economic and political model for the good of society make them disgusting people without public face...

WHAT THE  :eek:

This put me in a fantastic mood. It is probably a troll, but if it is not, it warms my heart to know that there are rogue inventors of economic and political models out there, sincerely believing that they are the target of phone hacking.

The crazies, people. They used to ramble on street corners; now they have the internet, and you can find them where you least expect them.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Evil.
December 21, 2011, 11:45:07 AM
One thing about the times we live in is that they are testing. You can't really doubt that; things are tough all round, and you don't really know the character of someone until they are tested, I think.

A friend of mine was distraught last night, and I spent hours trying to console her as best I could. She was upset, because she works for an insurance company, and her boss has decided that because they have such a backlog of claims, she is cancelling all leave over the holiday period. Not just that, actually. My friend is going to be working forced overtime from the day after boxing day, right through to and including new years eve.

It is her job to go over claims for any evidence of fraud. Now, claims do go up at Christmas, and some of the time they are fraud claims, no argument there.

However, rather than working through the backlog calmly, now the pressure is being piled on. It is being done to meet targets, rather than because there is a pressing concern the claims won't be handled swiftly enough, and the net result is that the entire team, when they should be relaxing with their families...

Will be staring into the face of human misery, terrible events brought about by fate, carelessness, stupidity or greed.

Their work won't be better quality.
They won't be more vigilant.
They won't be more motivated.

They will be miserable, tired, resentful for having been forced to come into a work at a time they were looking forward to having off. And even worse that it is being cancelled just three days before it was due to happen.

The manager who made this decision, of course, will not be coming in.

This is the kind of evil that we are faced with every day. The petty-minded, stupid person who decides that they are 'making the tough decision', when the decision they make doesn't effect them one iota. They do it because they can, and because they expect to be rewarded for doing so. Completely uncaring about the damage they inflict on their team and the misery they inflict on the people underneath them., if they are even self-aware enough to realize it to begin with.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Run.
November 29, 2011, 10:55:36 PM
What the fuck are you standing there for?

Christ, look around you son. The sky really is falling. Its the end of the world! Oh, sure, it isn't a flaming meteor or a mushroom cloud, but that doesn't make it any less deadly. What it does mean is, you've got a chance. So come on, pick up the pace, I'm not going to keep dawdling forever...

Good, okay, you're a little slow but you'll pick it up. One foot in front of the other, don't look behind you--

I said don't look behind you.

Yeah, its picking up momentum now, scary I know. But if you keep running you can make it. WE can make it. Just got to, oops, got to slow it down somehow. Hey, just a sec--

Oh come on. It worked didn't it? Joe was an asshole anyway, and that's got it off our heels. Just try and ignore the screaming, unless you'd like to hear it much closer.

Hahah, yeah, thought that'd put the spring back in your step.

What is it? Damned if I could tell you, son. It started off small. These things usually do. Nobody even noticed it until it was dragging them down. Spread from nothing to, well, this, in just a few years. It was inevitable with hindsight. What, you think people can just have fun and not pay for it?

Oh look, someone's erected a barrier up ahead. No, no, this can work for us. See? They're parting a little for us. No don't join them you idiot, its too big now. Keep with me, I'll see you safe to the finish line. 'Occupy Tsunami'. Nice idea, but...

Wait, don't tell me you still think who started this is important.

Kid, let me tell you something. Who started it, what it is, that doesn't matter. You see a train coming you get off the tracks. You see an endless hell bearing down on you, you run. Doesn't matter where to, doesn't matter how, you just keep moving. Stop moving, and you're dead. Look at those guys back there, by the sounds of it, they didn't fare much better than poor Joe, and -- don't look at me like that.

Sounds like it is getting closer, I'll just have a look--

Wow, they didn't slow it down as much as I'd hoped. Actually sounds pissed now. But that's okay. Finish line is just up past this bend. Pick up the pace.

Come on. A little further. Yes, I know its burning, but we're almost there now.

Well where did you think we were running to? Haven't you been paying attention?

Here's your shovel. Just six more feet to go.
Aneristic Illusions / Worker's Rights
November 23, 2011, 04:32:58 PM
Today Vince Cable started to leak details about a new overhaul to UK employment law. My favorite bullet points:

*You will now have to pay to take your employer to tribunal - for instance, if you need to recover wages you have not been paid.
*Currently you need to be employed for a year to receive all the benefits of 'job security' (mostly freedom from unfair dismissal). Now it will be two years.
*'Protected Conversations' - A concept whereby employers can hold a conversation outside of the usual rules of conduct with employees to discuss things like early retirement or poor performance.
*'Consultation' on bringing in no-fault dismissal where you can be fired for no reason at all, even if you qualify for the two years, if your employer offers minimal recompense - rather than the usual redundancy packages. I particularly love this combined with 'protected conversations'. Admittedly, this one isn't proposed to go forward yet - but that just means Cable doesn't want his name on it, he wants it to be forced through by the Tory hawks. It would mean Joe can be taken to the side and told, hey, buddy, this is a protected conversation so, I'm not saying this officially but, if you don't buck up, you're out the door.

I imagine much of this is no surprise to you Amerispags, 'fire at will' or 'right to work' is pretty standard over there, right? But this is a fairly huge deal over here, not least because it is the Liberal Democrat half of the coalition which is bringing these proposals forwards. The justification?

Fucking over workers means employers will be able to hire more people.

Of course...

Quote from: Vince Cable"We are not introducing a hire and fire culture or making a cynical choice of flexibility over fairness."

So that's okay!
RPG Ghetto / Anima Campaign
November 16, 2011, 10:17:39 AM
So, after a long period of gaming with cynical bastards, I'm organizing a new group! Most of them have not done much RPing before, or are totally new. I'm going to be running Anima for them, because I love Anima, and I am told that my love shines through when I run it.

In my usual style I'm plotting out a campaign which should take them from level 1 to the highest level, starting out as a band of kids and teenagers in traditional Final Fantasy/JRPG style, and ending up the Saviours of the World. They will right wrongs, undo tragedy, and at several points will be faced with choices which will shape the very structure of the world they live in, and have implications for centuries to come.

Because I am bored at work, I have decided to put together campaign notes here. I know at least one person in the group is aware of this forum, so Mike, if you are reading this, stop reading it. For reals.

Go away Mike.


So the game will open with the PCs being the children of miners in a mountain village which is cut off from the newly formed Sacred Holy Empire of Abel. Fifty years ago, the first Emperor finally succeeded in uniting the Old Continent under his rule, driving away most of the great evils of the age and putting in place an empire which will protect humanity from the demons, witches, dragons, and myriad other threats which have wracked the continent over recent years. Many countries are still trying to find their own place in this Empire, but the general feeling as the Church of Abel spreads across the land is that things are starting to turn around for the better.

What is not common knowledge is that a few hundred years ago, the Gods intervened to place a great Barrier between the world of Gaia and other worlds. They then moved the vast majority of the supernatural races to these other worlds, as mankind and these other beings had constantly warred amongst one another. Humanity in this age used technology to match magic, and threatened even to destroy the Gods themselves with it. One man was at the centre of this effort; a man called Vinder, whose legendary intelligence allowed him to surpass all the limits of mortality. His organization, called The Technocracy, was believed destroyed in the Age of Chaos which followed his attempt to steal the Gods power for himself.

The creation of the Barrier necessitated the power of the Gods being concentrated into a great crystal. This was known as the Heart of Magic, and granted its owner control over all aspects of reality itself. The Gods used this to create the Barrier, and then shattered it. Shattering the Heart of Magic split all magic into ten gems; the Diamond of Light, the Amethyst  of Darkness, the Ruby of Fire, the Aquamarine of Water, the Garnet of Earth, the Opal of Air, the Amber of Essence, the Moonstone of Illusion, the Pearl of Creation, and the Obsidian Shard of Destruction.

The fragmentation of the Heart of Magic left two other shards. One, the Gods took with them as they passed beyond the Barrier to no longer meddle in the affairs of men, and prevent the unification of the Heart again; this is known only in myth and legend, and is called the Soul Shard. The other was a dark shadow which none believe the Gods truly meant to create. The Impure Heart of Magic; the Jet Skull; The source of all Necromancy, which was seized as it fell to the earth by the most powerful wizard ever to live. A man known now only as the Lich King, who rules from his frozen spire in the far North, sending out legions of undead which can only be contained, and which even the Emperor does not have the strength to destroy.

These Gems of Magic are known across the world in myth and legend; the sources of the power which wizards can tap into and wield. Those who have held the gems themselves have shaped the world, but they have been thought lost for aeons.

Vinder, however, did not die. For untold centuries he has watched the world and humanity return from the brink of destruction after the Age of Chaos. The Technocracy is largely a shadow of its former glory, but Vinder has not forgotten how close he came to seizing the power of the Gods, and he believes that he can in fact challenge them again. If he obtains all of the Gems of Magic, and forces his way through the Barrier, he can reconstruct the Heart of Magic and redefine reality in his own image.

To this end he has started to track down the Gems. He already has the Pearl of Creation and the Obsidian Shard of Destruction, allowing him to recreate almost all of the technological wonders he had access to before the Age of Chaos. His most trusted Lieutenant, Katsumi, a fallen Priestess who has decided that the destruction of this world is worth it for the chance to see her Goddess again, has the Amber of Essence - gifted to her by her Goddess as the Barrier was formed, and which has granted her immortality.

The game opens as the PCs village uncovers the Diamond of Light. Katsumi arrives to claim it, and, after being told 'no' by the village elders, destroys the mountain that the village was on - the diamond, like all Gems, being functionally indestructible.

That would make for a rather short campaign if it ended there.

However, one of the Gods was tasked with the protection of the Barrier. Beryl will reach out and shield the PCs from the destruction, using the fabric of the Barrier itself to hide the Diamond and the PCs until Katsumi decides that there must have been some mistake.

She will then explain the danger that the world is in; that this madman is seeking to gather the Gems in order to tear down the Barrier and unleash Hell - which is true in so far as it actually matters. She will mark them for destiny - essentially linking them with two of the Gems that the campaign will centre around recovering (I have six players, so that should work out roughly correctly). As though saving the world weren't enough, the Gods will allow the kids to obtain one wish upon the reunification fo the Heart - something which they can use to bring back the dead and restore their home!

Of course, first they have to gather up all the gems, most of which have laid dormant and hidden, or are being manipulated by powerful creatures or wizards for their own nefarious ends.

The Emperor is also likely to take an interest, seeing as how something just blew up one of his god-damn mountains. I have not yet decided whether he will try to seize the Diamond of Light and relieve the kids of their epic quest as it is too important to leave up to them (thus setting up conflict with the Emperor and the Empire as a secondary source of tension), or whether he will accept the word of children that the Gods themselves have blessed them in this task, and try to offer aid and assistance in their quest (thus giving me a way to feed plot hooks beyond following rumors). I'm leaning towards the former, because it'll add to a suitably epic moment where the Technocracy faces off against pissed off knights who the PCs have been running from/developing a rivalry with over the course of the campaign.

The kids are going to get wrapped up in all sorts of things of course. The Gods they are talking about and to are NOT the same as the God revered by the Church, who is in fact just one aspect of a greater pantheon; the former God of Bravery as he was revered by humans before the Age of Chaos. There's all manner of weirdness that they are likely to trip across as part of the greater overarching story of recovering the Gems. They are also the Chosen - despite being children, in very short order they will be heads and shoulders above even trained warriors. As they grow into their powers, they will be able to match and beat the strongest heroes and villains to walk the land, if they work as a team.

There's a few questions I need to address:

Death - if one of the PCs dies, replacing that character could be troublesome. They were, after all, The Chosen. If you just elect another Chosen to replace them, then that implies they are expendable and SOMEONE will see the thing through to the end anyway. On the other hand, combat is dangerous and it should be possible for PCs to die if things go badly for them. It isn't too uncommon in the genre, but I need to decide how I want to handle it regardless and make sure the players are on the same page.

PC Imbalance - One of the characters will be starting off with one of the Gems - the Diamond of Light. All of the gems grant an awesome power and will get more and more powerful as the PCs advance; I think the Diamond of Light will simply negate a deadly attack once per day at the start of the game (which the PC will not be aware of and which will hopefully not overshadow anything too easily), but I need the players not to feel like that character is the 'lead'. On the other hand, starting off with six of the gems in their posession cuts down on the game time and adventuring, and makes them too much of an obvious target from day one. I'm not sure I like that.

Empire - if I decide the Emperor is a secondary antagonist, I need the PCs to understand the Empire WILL mess it up if they don't intervene. I need to think of how to evoke that without making it simultaneously seem like the Empire are incompetent - they just aren't destined to be able to see it through.
Literate Chaotic / Cyberpunk
November 15, 2011, 10:13:50 PM
So... I'm a big fan of Cyberpunk, largely the Gibson novels and the Cyberpunk RPG (Though Jennifer Government is also highly enjoyable if a bit more over the top even than Gibson's stuff). There's some common themes in Cyberpunk which I think translate really well into a kind of modern mythic archetype:

  • Distrust of authority
    The pointlessness of money for its own sake
    Good vs Evil (Where Good means principled and Evil means giving in to lust/greed, by and large)
    Abuses of technology - particularly privacy
    Concern about pollution and environmental issues
    'Megacorporations' and all the abuses they bring

Cyberpunk 'heroes' are often very personal, and tend to 'win' in a personal way, or in a way which benefits themselves or their community without even trying to challenge a bigger system. I always found that interesting, and recently it has struck me that it may be because that is a more 'realistic' kind of level for effecting change. The dystopian future is meant as a warning, obviously, about the direction of society... but the implication is that even in those dark times, it is possible to screw the system right back by focusing on the personal and immediate. The Cyberpunk Hero is the man (or woman) who, like any hero, looks at the easy way and decides to stand by their principles instead, and is ultimately vindicated in doing so.

It has also largely died off in favour of more post-apocalyptic literature (Metro 2033) or fantasy (Harry Dresden, Nightside). Part of what I liked about Cyberpunk was that the aesthetic, whilst still definitely being science-fiction and largely impossible... never handwaved into magic territory. Transhumanist elements - such as body modification - were always approached with a more 'realistic' mindset as to who would have access to the technology, why, and the purposes to which it would be put. The best way I heard it put was that Transhuman literature suggests technology will allow us to fix our human failings, whilst Cyberpunk literature suggests technology will magnify those failings.

What do you guys think about Cyberpunk as a subgenre? Has its time been and gone? Is there nothing left to say? Personally, I'd love to see a revival. I feel like the -punk suffix is used as shorthand for 'funky look', where Cyberpunk as a literary movement was more concerned about drawing attention to various social issues which, if anything, seem even more pressing now than they did then.
Aneristic Illusions / The Problem With Big Business
October 19, 2011, 10:22:24 AM
Very interesting blog post on the FT got me thinking today ( unfortunately, I think you have to sign up to see it, so I will summarize.

Essentially; big businesses suffer from the same problem government departments do. The people at the top are paid excessively huge amounts compared to the people underneath them, and do not have any consequences for failure beyond the loss of their job. Compare this to entrepreneurs, who start off small and risk their livelihoods. If they fail, they go down with the ship. If a CEO fails, he gets a golden parachute and isn't likely to face the loss of any personal assets.

He also claims that smaller companies are likely to be more local and therefore more likely to benefit the immediate economy with jobs as they grow, compared to large businesses owned by shareholders where the reward is based on profit. This is essentially where the disconnect occurs; small businesses are encouraged by the benefits to the individuals taking part in it. Large businesses are encouraged by the benefits to nebulous entities who own shares in them, and that leads to the corporate culture that I think we all agree is a real burden today.

I apologize if all this is trite and others have realized it before, but...

If that is the case, how do you go about changing the environment to encourage entrepreneurs and penalize big business (or at least the negative behaviors of big business)? I realize that big business and government are tied closely, so such measures are unlikely to receive much support, but this seems like a great place to start for 'concrete demands'. Things off the top of my head;

1) Government-backed loan schemes. There is already an initiative for this in the UK coming into force next year for green and environmental technology, and government loan schemes are very common across Europe generally. The credit crunch has hurt the ability of new businesses to obtain loans. So the government can step in and plug that gap for start-up capital. Provide a coherent business plan, demonstrate some chance of growth, and get a low (or no) interest loan for a period of time (I'd guess 3-5 years?) in order to get started. There's some obvious downsides here, as acting on a scale large enough to make a difference could simply throw money away. On the other hand, this seems like what a stimulus package should look like. My main caveat is that the current schemes link these to various sectors the government wishes to promote. I think that any business should be able to make the pitch.

2) Big businesses 'fleeing' to where things are cheapest is seen as a major hurdle. The only way you're going to change corporate behavior is to hurt the shareholders and put a different set of pressures on them. Therefore, if you want to force companies to show some loyalty to the countries that birthed them, you need to institute high rates of tax on dividends paid to shareholders in companies that have major holdings overseas. How you'd structure that precisely would be difficult, because to some extent international trading is necessary and really does help the communities producing the goods more than if they weren't there... so this is going to be tricky to nail down the specifics. But if you want to stop companies taking all their manufacturing to the cheapest location, there's no other sensible way to go about it.

3) The big business ability to manipulate regulation and government itself is a huge issue (and I think is one of the core complaints of the Occupy movement). Pulling the two apart in practice is going to be incredibly tough. I suspect it comes down largely to campaign donations and lobbyists. You'd need to institute some sort of maximum level any entity can donate to any political cause, with the tax office analysing the origin of all money in political organizations to make sure there's no crossover or shell games. If it is determined there is a risk of corruption, you need immediate, harsh penalties. Jail time and huge fines for all parties involved. I don't see politicians being likely to implement this one even more than the other two, for fairly obvious reasons. Doing so, however, would remove one of the largest advantages that big business has over smaller ones; it'd force a far more equal level playing field. Something that most capitalists should appreciate!

So yeah. I thought I'd throw this out there and see what the folks at PD think about it. I'd be particularly interested to hear from you guys who run your own businesses.
Or Kill Me / Playing the game.
September 28, 2011, 09:37:41 AM
I play a lot of games – probably far more than I should. I know they are a distraction from more productive activities, but I enjoy them. I've been thinking a lot about gaming theory, too. People often talk about life being like a game, and there are certainly some similarities.

Competitive games are about making your opponent feel like they only have one choice. If you control the strategy of your opponent, you've already won.

What varies is the degree to which that works, the skills involved in locking down your opponent, and the amount of randomness in the game. For instance, in a game of monopoly, randomness has a very high effect on the game; if you spend six turns never landing on a property to acquire, there's no amount of skill that can turn that around for you. The skill is in persuasion; it is all out of the game, convincing your opponents to make deals which favour you more than them.

In fighting games, the skill is down to reflexes, knowledge of the system, and technical traps at the high end of play. When everyone buys into the game and is looking to make the optimal choice, you can control your opponent's choices by baiting them into entering the wrong move. Randomness becomes very important because, often, there's a ½ or a 1/3 shot of making a counter to the attack your opponent is going to throw at you. You can mitigate that randomness if you are in your opponents head and know what they are going to try... but you can't do it consistently.

The classic 'game without luck' is chess. Extremely high level chess players operate at a level of strategy which attempts to predict the moves of one another turns and turns in advance, shutting down options on a theoretical level before they even crop up.

In tabletop gaming, what differentiates a good game from a bad game, in my experience, is that the GM works to keep options open and viable. He assists the players in enabling their characters; they have a whole plethora of choices available to them. They may not all work, but they are all feasible, and the whims of luck can make a great plan awful and a terrible plan successful. Tabletop gaming is not competitive – you are collaborating to have a good time.

This is what I think most people think politics should be like;  everyone pulling together, working for a common good. It shocks them that this isn't the case, but it should be painfully obvious by now that this hope simply does not match reality. That is why most people are sick of the major issues of the day; frankly, the game just isn't fun to them. I can sure understand that.

If you look at the rhetoric which surrounds modern politics, you can see that the majority of it comes down to people attempting to convince you that you have no options. There is no alternative. They have an idea, or a course of action, which they are going to pursue, and your only logical choice is to follow them and do what they tell you to do. Politicians think they are playing chess.

But time and time again in the real world, randomness scuppers the best laid plans we have. Chaos, if you like, enters the equation and all the logic of no alternative in the world won't save you when reality smacks you square in the face.

So, in politics, you have a bunch of people trying to explain to you how what you think about the world is wrong; trying to make extremely complicated ideas painfully simple, so that there seems to be only one logical choice – the choice they have prepared for.

If they are going to force us to play by their rules, we have to do it better. Understand their strategy. Know what they are going to do. Leave them no other options than the ones we are ready to counter. Then shut them down. Bear in mind that they manipulate people into believing three key lies in order to hold up the base of their power;

That there was no alternative.

That there is no other option.

That there can be no change.

So you attack those lies. That isn't easy, admittedly, but if we're going to do this, we're going to need to redefine the goals, offer alternatives, demonstrate feasible options and remind people that they are the ones who define the rules they play by.
The game is entering crunch time, we can all feel that. The end is almost on us, and it looks like they've got an insurmountable lead. But it isn't over until it is over.

Play to win, or don't bother showing up.
What do you do when the victim doesn't want to be saved?

Looking around today, I'm struck by how most people are desperate to be victims. "What we need." They say, "Is strong leadership; like Mrs. Thatcher. Say what you like about her, she got stuff done. Not like this bunch, always talking about things."

In the aftermath of one of the greatest heists of all time, the people robbed stand around, and, after thinking about it for a few moments, gleefully demand that taxes are lowered; so that the very people who robbed them can have an easier time. It wouldn't do to get in the way of their next great scheme, after all.

"They'll create jobs!" They cry, as the companies they've worked for, which have been providing jobs for decades, collapse and die. "They'll promote growth!" After the most effective shrink-ray in reality has been turned on the economy by their very actions.

Ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you that it is a golden age for the villain. Our choices, as modern people, are simple. We can choose to bemoan our lot and try to rail against the baying masses, with all the success that we have had so far... or, when people are so desperate to turn away from the greatest crimes that have ever been committed, we can join the villains, and see how audacious we may be in our criminality.

They'll probably even thank us when we're done.

-Baron Demolition von Squid,
So who do you get a loan from to set up a bank, anyway?

Literate Chaotic / An Analogy
September 20, 2011, 03:16:42 PM
The analogy has become a map for a land that doesn't exist. It is a torch without a lightbulb. A ship without a compass. Where it used to illuminate our understanding as the sun breaking through the clouds of ignorance, now it limps on like a dog with three legs; a car with a punctured tire that everyone is too polite to get out of. Well, now we have to change that tire.

Of course, a language without analogy is like a clock without hands. Where applicable, they can be a magnifying glass to bring detail into focus. You need that focus; there's no denying that. Without focus, the team doesn't know where it is going. They can't get the ball in the back of the net if they are playing with the wrong rules. When it gets out of hand, though, you're all talking double dutch. A bad analogy is like a roadblock made of marshmallow; spongy, but when it breaks it all gets sticky and everyone is left asking what the fuck you are talking about.

(This post inspired by the continual insistence of people who comment on news stories to describe complicated economics in terms of ships, teams, games, households, tools and circuses)
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Where Is My Slack?
September 18, 2011, 05:27:46 PM
Gather round, children, because the Demolition Squid has a story for you.

One day, Curly lost his slack, so he set off to find it.

He asked a hippy. The hippy said.
"Hey man, just light up and feel your troubles melt away."

It makes everything fuzzy and warm.
Curly said: "This just makes me slow down. This is not my slack."

He asked the spider. The spider said.
"Ssssettle down in front of the TV, your friends and neighbors love it."

It was very comfortable. But it was full of lies.

Curly said: "This makes small things great and great things small. This is not my slack."

Curly asked the politician. The politician said.

"War, fear, hate, issues, change, vote, believe, enemies, paranoia."

And that made no sense at all.

And then Curly realized, why am I asking all these other people anyway? THEY can't tell me where MY Slack is. None of them have even a little Slack of their own!

So Curly went out and tried to find his Slack on his own.

"Is this my Slack?" He wondered.

It is a peaceful protest. It provides a cheerful outlet for security services to watch for potential troublemakers!

"These people are smiling, but there's fear in their eyes." He said. "This is not my Slack."

"Is this my Slack?" He asked.

It is an internet protest.

It accomplishes fuck all!

"What the hell is this shit?" He wondered aloud, "This is not my Slack."
"Where is my Slack?" Curly shouted, getting increasingly annoyed.


"This is madness!" Curly giggled, "This is insane!"


"That's my Slack."

And all was right in the world.

The End.
Or Kill Me / Wasted Potential.
September 17, 2011, 02:04:49 PM
When I was a kid, those words got written down a lot. If I just had more focus. If I'd play by the rules rather than twisting them to give myself more free time.

But I enjoyed my free time. I don't regret it, really. Sure, I had the potential to do better. But better doesn't mean happier. I coasted through school, and when I got to university, I spent most of my time enjoying myself and learning what I wanted to learn, rather than struggling as hard as I could to meet that potential.

Funny word, isn't it? Potential. When I look around today, now it is my turn to start railing about it.

Look at all these people, working so hard to stand still. Look at the world we're living in, choking itself to death for imaginary money with imaginary meaning. Look at the great works we've done in the past, and the great works that we can see the outlines of in the future. But we're not running to grab them. We're slowing down. Turning on each other, because it is easier to fall into old habits than to move beyond them and let go. Easier to focus on why we should be put before them. We know more about our own natures than we ever have before. We can look at what we are, and we can start to understand it...

Just look at all that potential. We know we could do so much better. We've spent so long imagining the different way things could be or should be. But it is so much easier to give in to how things are. Why bother? It'll just all get fucked up again in time. Isn't it more comforting to imagine that things can't change? Then, it isn't our fault for not trying.

Just go back to bed. Things will look better in the morning. One day closer to the grave.


Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Watch your step.
September 15, 2011, 01:02:18 PM
Hey, guess what? What's done is done. The past is the past. We can't go back, so keep moving forwards, and if you insist on staring backwards all the time, don't be surprised when you trip over and smash your face in on the concrete.

Sure, look at where you've been. Take inspiration. Take lessons. But stop railing as though if you cry about it enough, the past will come running back to wipe away your tears. It has gone. The horse has bolted. We've got problems, now, that require new solutions. You can't dress up today in the clothes of yesterday's problems and treat them the same way.

Because guess what, old timer? Yesterday brought us here. That's how we are where we are. If you keep walking down that path, you'll never find tomorrow.
GASM Command / ParliGASM
September 13, 2011, 08:48:05 AM
So, I had an idea on the way into work this morning - one of my jobs has been to handle mass emails to our clients. Why not put that to better use?

I'm going to send a template email to every MP, and I'll post the responses I get here. I think the chances of the email actually reaching most of them will be fairly minimal, but you don't really know until you try. Worst case scenario, wasted a couple of hours. Best case scenario, I find an MP who is worth a damn.  :D

I've signed up for the hotmail account My working template is:

Dear (Name)

I am 22 years old, and me and my friends are worried about the state of the country today. We feel that we have been robbed by the banks with the help of the government. We watched the G20 protests and saw peaceful protesters beaten down. We read about the police outright killing innocent people and not a single officer held accountable (we started reading about the IPCC after the riots, very disturbing). And we feel that the coalition government is determined to paint us - the 'youth of today' - as the root of the problem. We are told that we are 'sick', and this rhetoric seems to be used to justify hurting us - turfing families out of council housing, and sending people like us who have 'gone too far' to prison for long periods of time for crimes as vile as stealing a bottle of drink.

My friends have lost faith in the political system. They don't think that anything can be changed. They believe that the banks will rob us again, that (no offence) politicians are only interested in lining their pockets, and they have no way to make their voices heard. I would like to believe they are wrong.

Could you please tell me what you would recommend we do? If you could tell me how you, personally, are helping to make the system for us rather than against us, that would help as well. We feel powerless to stop the crazy situation our country is in, and though we'd like to live in a better place, we have no idea how to get there.

Thank you,

-Political Youth.

Any comments/ideas/advice would be appreciated. I'll post any responses I get in this thread. Going to aim to put the spreadsheet for the MPs together tonight (approx. 11 hours from now) and send it out shortly after.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Prophecy
September 05, 2011, 08:51:03 AM
Yea, brothers and sisters, gather round and listen for I have seen what is to come. Our Lady has laid this curse upon my brow and I am compelled to share it with you.

The sky chokes with bile, the rivers run putrid and foul, the seas scab over with waste and effluent pumped by ungrateful men. The babbling heads will twitter and tweet, and with their vapidity cast doubt upon those who try to explain. The air will be cancerous, the food as fine-tasting poison, the soil turned to ash. The cities will be buried under rising sands, and fools will bleat that this is the work of the Gods, yet when have the Gods ever cared for the self-inflicted suffering of our species?

Those in gilded palaces will squeeze the marrow from the bones of the poor. Having stripped them of all other luxuries, they will claim the last scraps of wellbeing from the unfortunate wretches. They will strip away their very health, steal the minds of their children, and indoctrinate them into believing that their lives as human cattle are just and fair. The great mass will rise up in anger, but shall be struck down by the twin fists of Public Order and Public Good. Forced into a corner and made to lash out, the wretched who dare to do so will be named with the most powerful curses of the time; Radical, Terrorist, Criminal. So named, they will be ground into the dirt, until the dirt can no longer hide them. The Sickness at the Heart of Society may have been its salvation, if the masses had the ears to listen and the eyes to see. But at the behest of their masters, they put out their eyes, cut off their ears, rendering themselves deaf and blind in order to remain comfortable and unconcerned.

The putrid seas will boil in a mass of waste and death. Fear will stalk the streets, striking the hearts of all men without care for position or grace. The Great Black Wells will continue to belch, but their gold will be beyond the reach of too many. The great and the good will slide inexorably towards despair.

There will be a great gnashing of teeth and a terrible, uncomprehending wail. How, they will cry, can we not support ourselves? Have we not offered up enough of our flesh and blood to Them Above? The false profits will shrivel and die, and there will be none untouched by the hand of Want, but only they of the palaces will be able to Have.
And all this is as a game, the pieces of which have long forgotten the rules by which they play. Cheaters shall prosper, but the board shall burn, and a bounty of misery and pain will be reaped for the seeds we have sown, unto the ninth generation. Uncaring of the sacred Boundaries of the Map, the great nations of men shall crumble and fall, and all will be Default.

These are the things I have seen; the Signs of the Times in which we live.

-The Demolition Squid.

Or Kill Me / Just Joking.
August 29, 2011, 05:53:53 PM
Money occupies a funny place in our society right now. It is simultaneously the most important aspect in the lives of almost every person, and yet in a very real way, it does not exist. By that, I do not mean that the money in your wallet doesn't exist; in a physical and tangible sense, very clearly it does. But just as truly, the amount of money in the world today is a meaningless sum. There is no rational or reasonable basis for it; the ability for banks to simply imagine money into being has taken the entire concept, and rendered it meaningless. The amount of physical money in existence is completely divorced from the amount that we, as a society, believe exists.

What makes this funnier still is that we don't even have a real picture of where this imaginary money exists. I just want to repeat that; on a global scale, we don't know what money does exist and what money doesn't. Certainly, there's some pretty good ideas, but when it comes to pinning down exactly what is and isn't real, nobody can tell you.

John Lennon encouraged us to imagine a world without money. Well. That ship has sailed. The collapse of communism, supposedly, was the nail in the coffin of such an idealistic dream. Why, if we don't have money, what would we buy? Surely, all human progress is driven by the need for cash; or really for personal gain. If there was no incentive for innovation, then there'd be no reason for people to make new things; everyone would simply wallow in laziness and our glorious consumer society would collapse in on itself.

But look at the world we're living in. The actual innovators, the inventors and the artists, the creative individuals, don't make the money in the process anyway. That honour goes to the people who play the game, the businessmen, distributors, corporations. Whilst it is certainly true that the innovators make a certain amount of money (and in the case of the lucky few, as in any industry, sometimes a lot of money), to say that this is the primary driving force behind the great innovations of our time seems to me to be a major leap of logic. Money doesn't buy innovation. The human drive to create, discover, and explain cannot be attributed purely to greed. It does, however, churn out products to be consumed; it ensures that heavily processed entertainment which is seen as 'safe' continues to be spat out. It brings us the canned sandwich and the Snuggie.

Money is the root of all evil, but at the same time, it penetrates every inch of our lives. Without it, the ability to live in the most basic ways is restricted. The cost of food and shelter continue to spiral higher and higher, whilst the illusionary money that we've made up poisons what could laughably be called our real economy.

The game is rigged, and ensures that when things do start to collapse, the 'real' money will be concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite. This, at a time when our planet is starting to send us real and undeniable signals that the fun times are over; when the most basically necessary resources of food and shelter are coming under growing threat.

Yet we cling to our illusory money, because what other choice is there? Throwing it away on an individual level is impossible, attempts to work as a collective, self-sustaining community will be crushed by the state or by their own internal issues. Only a radical use of political will to seize that money, redistribute it, and reorganize the entire global economy could see us through this without the vast bulk of humanity suffering, our creative and scientific talent stifled, our collective societies brought to a stumbling halt as the next generations try to figure out how to deal with this entirely man-made problem.

And isn't that the joke? A great man once said, "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."

We wouldn't have it any other way.
"Now Tom said "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin' hand
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."
-Bruce Springsteen 'Waiting on the Ghost of Tom Joad'

I always hated camping as a kid.

I couldn't see the attraction; go somewhere full of dirt and bugs, with only some thin material to protect you from the cold, sleep in an uncomfortable bag, and eat food out of a can for two weeks? No, thanks. I'd rather stay home; got my bricks and my double glazing and my xbox to keep the elements at bay.

Isn't it funny how things change? I'm not the only one. We laugh about it sometimes, who would have thought, us, turning away from that? Hey, we laugh a lot around that campfire. It helps keep us warm almost as much as the wood and paper. Well. At least cash still has some value. Seems ridiculous how hard we worked to try then to get a night's worth now.

I hated beans as a kid too, but the fire has made them hot and they taste better than I could have dreamed as they fill the gnawing hole in my gut. "You'll need to rest up." My companion says, "Setting off again in a few hours." I nod, distracted, and I'm asleep as soon as I get into the bag, uncomfortable or not.

And in sleep I dream. I dream that I'm back before the road, where the meals were fresh from the oven; I could spend lazy days wasting away in front of one electronic device or another. Isn't that the devil of it? You can turn it all away, but that yearning is still there. Feels so good to dull your senses with one poison or another, electronic or chemical, and slip into...

There's frantic shouting, I startle awake in time to see one masked officer slam his truncheon against the skull of my friend, who tumbles. It sounds, final, when he hits the ground. For a moment, the helmet against the moon, the weapon raised high the radio on the side... it looks almost like a great pair of mandibles, ready to come down. It isn't. But his foot does follow, as though by rote, to smash into his side. I get up to help, shouting myself, I don't know what, just anger, and shock.

There's more coming, the sound of those heavy boots they wear, stomp-stomp-stomping against the ground, some terrible monster crashing closer with every moment. A closing circle, a net, a web and we're stuck. Never been in a fight I won before, but what am I supposed to do? There's no compassion in those masks, no comprehension. We've made ourselves a threat.

I see a pickaxe on the ground, I grab it...

There's really only one way for this story to end.
I thought about putting this in the Financial Fuckery thread but I wasn't sure - feel free to combine it if you like.

Great video (and article) in the FT today

The video particularly was great, with Edward Hadas essentially saying that, despite Italy being very conservative, careful and responsible ... the markets will create a crisis simply by panicking about the possibility of there being a crisis, no matter how illogical it is, or how much more logical it may be for the USA to be the target of this kind of speculation.

So there you have it. Economics - people panic because panicking is scary and panic causes everything to go wrong no matter what you've been trying to do before this! Hahah!