Howard at Salt Lake Comic Con

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:54 am
[syndicated profile] schlockmercenary_feed

Posted by Howard Tayler

I’ll be at Salt Lake Comic Con this weekend. You can find my stuff at booth 1611 (the Brandon Sanderson booth), and they’ll also know when I will be around for signings. They can text me, too!

My schedule is pretty light, and I have huge piles of work to do, so I won’t be hanging out behind a table between sessions – I’ll be hiding somewhere drawing pictures.


  • 2pm: 251D – Story Telling in Parts
  • 3pm: 151D – Makers of Stories
  • 4pm: Booth 1611 – Signing and sketching!


  • 12pm: 151D – Writing Excuses records live
  • 4pm:  Worldbuilders gaming party


  • 3pm: 151D – Some game thingy where I tell lies on stage.
  • 4pm: Booth 1611 – Signing and sketching!
  • 8pm: 151a – Science Fiction to Science Fact
[syndicated profile] popehatfeed_feed

Posted by Popehat

Colin Cortbus, who has written here twice before about free speech issues in Germany, returns to discuss recent German censorship measures.

Angela Merkel‘s German government has decided to crush digital freedom of speech to silence opposing voices ahead of an election. The measures taken by the German government have chilling consequences for digital freedom worldwide – and Vladimir Putin‘s regime has already began to copy them.

After over 11 years in power, Germany‘s tired Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition partners appear to have panicked that they might underperform in the crucial, upcoming federal election in September.

It is not hard to see why. The circulations of mainstream newspapers, which traditionally mollycuddle the Germany‘s political establishment, have been uniformly falling. The only nationwide papers to make gains in sales at all in the last year were Der Freitag, an outspoken, left-liberal newspaper focused on opinion pieces, and Junge Freiheit, a national-conservative outlet strongly critical of the government. The Junge Freiheit‘s adversarial, if at times deeply disagreeable, reporting has long been a thorn in the side of Germany‘s political elite. Unspurprisingly, the newspaper was unconstitutionally targetted by the state‘s domestic intelligence agencies until 2007. To this day, the taxpayer-funded Federal Agency for Political Education warns the voting public that the paper represents a “key outlet of a radical nationalist opposition, which seeks a fundamental change in the social, political and cultural conditions in Germany“. That is an entirely fair, opinionated criticism of the paper‘s percieved mission if you are a private citizen. But it can hardly be deemed to be an ethically acceptable intervention into the debate when it comes from a publically-funded government agency with a legal duty to maintain “balance and distance pursuant to the rule of law“.

But even such Orwellian methods can‘t put a stop to the fact that increasingly, ordinary people are expressing scepticism towards the Government‘s official narratives – preferably via social media, where they can network more easily with like-minded people, often under the saving cover of anonymity. This makes old-style, brute force legal thuggery quite redundant. The government‘s inquisitorial hirelings might potentially be able to intimidate one or two frightened citizens into silence by threating to take vague, and constitutionally bogus measures; For example, police reportedly opened a “criminal investigation“ for “defamation“ against a speaker at an opposition party campaign rally in December who criticised Angela Merkel as „criminal and insane“. But against an ever-growing, often anonymous, sometimes out-of-control crowd of outspoken netizens, these crude, resource-intensive, individualised tactics are but a bureaucratic drop on the hot stone of popular discontent.

Absent of an easy route to get at the netizens themselves, what the government really needed was a quick way to force social media firms to make their platforms inhospitable environments for critical, dissident expression; But taking action against social media networks did not turn out to be all that easy.

In 2016, prosecutors had to humiliatingly drop a pointless, four month-long investigation into a German Facebook executive. The manager had been bizarrely accused in a citizen‘s criminal complaint of abetting racist incitement by puportedly not deleting hateful comments quickly enough – even though his personal role within the social media company did not actually have anything to do with content control.

But coercively targetting social media companies remained an attractive option for the German government. Outsourcing censorship to privately-owned social media firms presents a neat way to circumvene the high bar of constitutional scrutiny that would apply to the state if it tried to enact such censorship directly.

In this context, a tiny number of largely hard-line pro-Government legislators convened in an almost empty parliamentary chamber, just before the end of the last key pre-election Bundestag sitting, late in June. Without all too much ado, they quickly rubberstamped an ominous sounding law; the Netzwerkdurchstetztungsgesetz, or Network Enforcement Act in English.

On paper, the Network Enforcement Act is supposed to combat the purported dangers of “fake news“ and “hate crime“ on social media, in light of events related to the US presidential election.

But this is a poor, figleaf excuse for one of most Machiavellian anti-free speech laws in the Western world.

Surprisingly, the Network Enforcement Act itself does not create any new speech offences designed to better deal with the incitement of violent racial hatred or the glorification of terrorism. In fact it does not even confine itself improving the technical means to clamp down on such specific speech.

Far rather, it weaponises Germany‘s already wildly overbroad and repressive anti-insult and criminal libel laws, which have been previously highlighted on this website. Under these pre-existing, but often ineffectively or inconsistently enforced laws, truth is no absolute defence and even criticism of long-deceased historical figures can be criminalised.

Pursuant to the Network Enforcement Act, social media companies now face substantial fines of up to 50 million Euros if they fail to delete content that is “obviously illegal“ under these laws within 24 hours of recieving a complaint. The same fines apply if not-so-obviously illegal content is not deleted within one week. Moreover, social media companies are also obliged to respond to requests (possibly for data about allegedly criminal users) from state prosecutors within 48 hours – a fraction of the time it would take a good lawyer to write a letter disputing or refusing any mala fide requests.

German courts take months or years to decide whether or not certain speech counts as criminal libel or insult – and even then they often cannot agree. Social media companies cannot possibly accomplish the same in 7 days, much less 24 hours – and the Network Enforcement Law does not even attempt to define what is meant by an „obviously illegal“ posting that has to be deleted in 24 hours. As a result, social media companies will simply feel forced delete all and any disputed content, amid a flurry of malicious complaints from censorious politicians and businessmen who are keen to stifle criticism and inconvenient election campaigning. No wonder, given that experts estimate the fines and costs in case of non-compliance might set social media providers back by up to 530 million euros in total, annually.

Merkel‘s government knows all this full well. Legal experts have voiced strong criticisms of the Network Enforcement Act at parliamentary hearings. The government has been advised by its very own parliamentary research service that the law is in breach of European Union rules. Experts acting for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which Germany is a member, have voiced concern that the law fails to strike an adequate balance when it comes to freedom of expression. David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur for free expression, has pointed out that the „ obligation placed upon private companies to regulate and take down content raises concern with respect to freedom of expression… A prohibition on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous criteria, such as ‘insult‘ or ‘defamation‘ is incompatible with article 19 of the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights“. Moreover, the UN special rapporteur noted that he was “also concerned at the provisions that mandate the storage and documentation of data concerning violative content and user information related to such content, especially since the judiciary can order that data be revealed. This could undermine the right [of] individuals enjoy to anonymous expression ..“.

When a government is desperate to win an easy election and vindictively crush popular dissent, such fine matters of international human rights law are scarely of any relevance. Merkel and her ministers have not even taken window-dressing steps to ensure the law would eventually withstand legal challenges once it comes into force– or for that matter that compliance would be affordable for social media companies. Even the government‘s official justification for the law – to prevent ‘fake news‘ or ‘hate speech‘ from impacting election campaigns, as purportedly occured in the US, is a dishonest non-sequitor; Although the government has had a rock solid parliamentary majority for years, it only passed this law at a point in time so close to the election that technically, the Network Enforcement Act is extremely unlikely to come into force until a few weeks after the election.

What the law says, and what happens when or if it ever comes into force technically is actually quite arcanely insignificant. The law already achieves its objectives by merely existing as a future prospect; The potential of the government even contemplating enacting the costly, repressive, vastly overbroad act is entirely sufficent for bringing in the sweeping and lawless regime of state-mandated, privately enforced mass digital censorship that the government appears to crave so strongly.

In an effort to avoid endless legal battles, vast administrative efforts and hundreds of millions of euros in administrative costs, social media firms will likely be cowed into deleting controversial, critical content preemptively; Right now, prior to the election or the law coming into force. After all, any profit-oriented private business would want to do everything it could to try to avoid the vastly expensive law entirely. By acting now to show the government that they can do the censorship job themselves, making clear that they are capable of acting informally and directly, that there is no actual need for this meddlesome legal regulation. After all, when the coalition government brought in the law, it explicitly stated that one reason for the purported neccessity of the law was that “too small amounts of illegal content are being deleted“ by social media providers, and that user complaints against illegal content were not being processed by social media providers “immediately and sufficiently“.

Thus, the Network Enforcement Act unleashes an immediate, informal, and ultimately lawless tsunami of content deletion; Content deletion that will be conducted kleptocratically by private businesses out of their sheer need for economic survival, far away from the prying eyes of the public, without even a facade of due process or any means of legal recourse. And as an added bonus for the government, netizens who rely on anonymity right now to freely express their thoughts are also likely to be pressured into silence. However vague, the possibility that someday in the future their user account details could be given to prosecutors in some ominous, ill-considered 48 hour express procedure will now weigh heavy on their fingers as they type.

The result will be a stolen election defined by the voices of a politically well-connected media elite, with debate taking place firmly within the government-dictated boundaries of acceptable expression.

Heated, at times hyberbolic, and yes, occasionally emotionally hurtful grassroots exchanges in the marketplace of ideas are what defines a functioning, open democracy. In Merkel‘s new Germany, free, open debate will only be discernible by its silent absence.

Naturally, Merkel‘s government desperately wants to hide this sore reality from a global public.

Very few contempory authoritarian leaders enjoy the enacting their repressive laws in the light of day. When a global swimming championship came to the Hungarian capital Budapest, wannabe-strongman Victor Orban rushed to take down neo-Soviet style propaganda posters that had previously polluted almost every street with their ugly presence. Evidently, he did not want foreign sports fans to think too much about how his regime uses tax-payer funds to promote its own party political propaganda, all while enacting cheap, nefarious pseudo-laws designed to prevent opposition movements from displaying privately funded anti-corruption messages in public. Turkey‘s dictator Erdogan also loves to distract from his systematic destruction of free speech, Kurdish human rights and religious liberty by ranting about fantastical conspiracies involving Gulenists and supposed Kurdish PKK sympathisers (who are secretly actually linked to “atheist Armenians“, according to one of Erdogan‘s right-hand men). It could just as well be Elvis Presley plotting to silence the prayer call of Ankara minarets with loud country music broadcast from his hideout on Mars via a supersonic hyperloop; Any lie will do as long as it takes the heat away from the crimes Erdogan himself is actually committing.

Germany‘s power-obsessed leadership doesn‘t just want to maintain a bog standard clean reputation. It is actively trying to establish itself on that very special moral throne Trump recently vacated because of his venality and imprudence; That of the leader of the free world. And that requires some very out of the box political reputation management.

So, just hours before the German parliament passed the Network Enforcement Act on the 30th of June, its legislators truimphantly passed a bill introducing equal marriage rights for gay people. Merkel had decided to no longer require lawmakers belonging to her centrist-conservative CDU party to vote against the measures, allowing lawmakers to freely choose how to vote as a matter of personal conscience.

Conveniently, this unexpected decision by Merkel dominated the global and domestic news cycle for days. It made the chancellor a darling of global community. Critical coverage of the Network Enforcement Act was relegated to a minor item in the packed news agenda.

But Merkel‘s decision to hold the marriage equality vote at such a time was not just a cynical attempt to abuse gay people‘s rights as cheap political cover to distract from the introduction of repressive censorship laws. It also represents more widely the hypocritical, stage-managed 'democracy' the government presides over.

Angela Merkel had over 10 years in government to find the time and space to realise that gay equal rights were an issue of conscience, not suited to partisan voting instructions.

Choosing to hold a free vote just before the election doesn‘t appear to represent a genuine change of mind on the issue.

Far-rather, it seems like a deeply utilitarian device to allow Merkel to avoid a humiliating forced concession to her political rivals a few months later; All of Merkel‘s three potential coalition partner parties had included red lines in their manifestos, pledging that they would never enter a coalition with the Merkel‘s centre-right CDU party, if she continued to refuse to introduce gay marriage. Germany‘s proportional electoral system essentially makes coalitions unavoidable. So, come what may, long-overdue marriage equality would have been on the books by the end of the year; But by introducing it this way Merkel could dishonestly soak up some of the international credit, and maybe collect some votes from gullible centre-leftists domestically as well.

And what about the government‘s lawmakers, who ceremoniously gathered together in parliament, voting in favour of gay marriage on account of their ‘conscience‘: Where was this conscience of theirs in the years before? Does it only compassion towards gay peoples‘ civil rights when it is electorally opportune to do so? Did they not think that the equal rights for gay citizens are sufficiently important to merit defying mere partisan voting instructions over?

As Germany has economically boomed under Merkel‘s leadership, social compassion and honesty in the public sphere has reached a record low. Corrupt property developers, ruthless drug dealers, and organised crime are being allowed to take over economically deprived parts of Berlin, Frankfurt, Bremen and Colonoge with impunity, while police simply watch. As Berlin‘s political-corporate elite shops in an ever-growing number of luxury all-organic supermarkets, they cheer on the financial rape of Greece and other Southern European countries by the German-led EU‘s austerity programs; Brutal regimes of cuts and privatisations have left some ordinary, hard-working people in those countries unable to afford even basic essentials such as food and medical care. The supposedly anti-racist, pro-equality mainstream media in Germany outdoes itself day-on-day in finding new, politically-useful ways to implicitly suggest to their readers that ‘lazy‘, ‘heat-dazed‘ Greeks deserve all the degrading austerity they get.

While German authorities dishonestly smear outspoken political rivals as a racist or extremist without due process to shut them up, the government‘s very own Federal Police Agency racially profilies perfectly law-abiding Turkish, Kurdish, Arab and African German citizens with glee; Flagrantly violating the Basic Law‘s protection of equal individual liberty in a desperate but sleek attempt to win over the votes of the very people the government publicly condemns when they speak out. The government that digs up every moral trope in the box to condemn racism when it happens to come from its political opponents on the (far) right is the same one that to this day has never brought to justice the murderers of Laya-Alama Conde, a black man brutally tortured to death by German Police in 2004 in the city of Bremen; A sadistic crime for which cops took 9 years to even apologise for. Evidently, the only kind of xenophobia the current government has ever cared about combatting is the variety that reduces its share of the vote.

Merkel‘s government is taking Germany, and with it the European Union, a step towards the path of Putin, Lugaskenko and Victor Orban. Building an illiberal democracy in Germany risks setting back freedom globally, and emboldens dictators.

Unsurpringly, Vladimir Putin‘s authoritarian United Russia party has already moved to replicate the Network Enforcement Act. In July, it presented an extremely similar draft social media bill in the Russian parliament, the Duma, that even goes as far as explicitly referring to the German law as its inspiration. Proving that imitation is the sincerest flattery, Russian legislators even copied the exact, expedited content deletion timeframe of 24 hours directly from the German government‘s law.

Copyright 2017 by the named Popehat author.

Episode 1551: Tonfa Tough

Sep. 21st, 2017 10:19 am
[syndicated profile] darths_and_droids_feed

Episode 1551: Tonfa Tough

The "exotic martial arts weapon badass modifier" is a well known bonus that certain weapons get simply by virtue of not being bog-standard boring old Western European swords, daggers, maces, and similar weapons. Weapons from exotic cultures with curved or wavy blades definitely get a bonus, but the largest bonus is for blunt weapons used as an adjunct to martial arts.

The ultimate progression of this is of course the scrawny, mystical monk who can do twice as much damage by slapping someone with an open palm than a brawny knight can do with a two-handed sword.

Keybounce writes:

We have min-maxing with a stick. "Same as a blaster".

I have known someone who could make a first level RoleMaster character min-maxed to having two +20% modifiers on things that first level characters normally have no modifiers for; this is the same player who made a Champions character with a massive level of Strength (provides a bunch of benefits beyond just physical strength, such as physical defense) combined with Stretching to turn that Strength into a ranged attack.

I wish I could say that we have never seen a stick with a modifier made as strong as a sword. The truth is, I can't tell. My memory isn't good enough to separate what actually happened from the things we joked about.

But I absolutely love the line, "Yep same effect" / "We need to do more testing".

What I am noticing though, is the lack of the <roll>; the lack of hit numbers. Imagine, arguing for bonuses to hit for situation, weapon damage, all sorts of favorable things, and then rolling a two.

I might not remember what I rolled, but I did miss.

Hold on a second - "don't kill anyone", and firing a blaster? And somehow, these blasters are weak enough that they are only doing the damage of a stick? Since when did stun weapon blasters become so common?

— Keybounce

aurilee writes:


This is a great excuse to do basically anything.

You took some food from somebody's plate? You were testing it for poison.

You were pick-pocketing townsfolk at the market? You were testing your dexterity and reflexes after recovering from a severe injury to your hand.

You broke into the estate of a wealthy noble? You were testing his security. (Bonus points if you can convince said noble to compensate you with his fantasy-Italian red carriage.)

The list goes on.

— aurilee


[syndicated profile] grrlpowercomic_feed

Posted by DaveB

Grrl Power #564 – It’s time to play Beat. That. Deathtrap!

This whole time the Black Reliquary thinks it’s alerting the Council’s authorities there’s a party going on. I guess no one had invented parity checking when they built the vault. Not that it would have done any good in this case, other than the Vault knowing the alarms weren’t going through.

Ancient death traps always make me wonder how they tested ancient death traps. Really I guess the only way is to trigger them, clean up the carnage afterward and reset everything. Indiana Jones and the Goonies and other 80’s movies made those a big plot element, but so many of them weren’t just a trap door, they were shit that brought down the house. One Eyed Willy set up a Rube Goldberg that caused the wall of a cave to collapse and his pirate ship to set sail. That would be a real pain in the ass to test. And presumably One Eyed Willy was the Einstein of Engineering to set all that up in the first place without access to a laptop. (Let’s all ignore the fact that the hemp rope or twine and wooden gears he used to pull all that off would probably have rotted beyond usefulness in that wet cave.)

In fact any base or tomb or prison or whatever that self destructs at the end of a movie (that doesn’t just involve a bomb or a reactor melting down) somebody rigged that to happen, and in almost every instance they did it without computer aided engineering, and probably couldn’t test it because they’d have to rebuild the whole base if they did. That’s putting a lot of faith in your masons. Also, wouldn’t it make you nervous walking around in a base where the whole thing was rigged to could come down at a moment’s notice and the self destruct mechanism was a bunch of ropes and gears that a rat or termites could fuck up without any warning? Evil Overlords aren’t probably super in to hazard pay, but man, henchmen should really unionize.

Double res version will be posted over at Patreon. $1 and up, but feel free to contribute as much as you like.

Meditative States As Feedback Loops

Sep. 21st, 2017 04:17 am
[syndicated profile] slatestarcodex_feed

Posted by Scott Alexander

Three years ago, in Going Loopy, I wrote:

If the brain had been designed by an amateur, it would enter a runaway feedback loop the first time it felt an emotion. Think about it. You see a butterfly. This makes you happy. Being happy is an unexpected pleasant surprise. Now you’re happy that you’re happy. This makes you extra happy. Being extra happy is awesome! This makes you extra extra happy. And so on to as much bliss as your neurons are capable of representing. In the real world, either those feedback loops usually don’t happen, or they converge and stop at some finite point. I would not be surprised to learn that a lot of evolutionary innovation and biochemical complexity goes into creating a strong barrier against conditioning on your own internal experience.

“Evolutionary innovation and biochemical complexity”? Haha no, people are just too distractable to keep having the same emotion for more than a couple seconds.

I get this from Leigh Brasington’s excellent Right Concentration, a Buddhist perspective on various advanced meditative states called jhanas. To get to the first of these jhanas (there are eight in all), you become really good at concentration meditation, until you can concentrate on your breath a long time without getting distracted. Then you concentrate on your breath for a long time. Then you take your one-pointed ultra-concentrated mind, and you notice (or generate, or imagine) a pleasant feeling. This produces the first jhana, which the Buddhist scriptures describe as:

One drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses one’s body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of one’s body that is not suffused by rapture and happiness.

Brasington backs this up with his own experience and those of other meditators he knows. The first jhana is really, really, really pleasurable; when you hear meditators talk about achieving “bliss states”, it’s probably something like the first jhana.

And here’s the book’s description of why it happens:

When access concentration is firmly established, then you shift your attention from the breath (or whatever your meditation object is) to a pleasant sensation. You put your attention on that sensation, and maintain your attention on that sensation, and do nothing else…

What you are attempting to do is set up a positive feedback loop. An example of a positive feedback loop is that awful noise a speaker will make if a microphone is held too close to it. What’s happening is that the ambient noise in the room goes into the microphone, is amplified by the amplifier, and comes out the speaker louder. It then reenters the microphone, gets amplified even more, comes out louder still, goes into the microphone yet again, and so on. You are trying to do exactly the same thing, except, rather than a positive feedback loop of noise, you are attempting to generate a positive feedback loop of pleasure. You hold your attention on a pleasant sensation. That feels nice, adding a bit more pleasure to your overall experience. That addition is also pleasurable, adding more pleasure, and so on, until, instead of getting a horrible noise, you get an explosion of pleasure.

The book doesn’t come out and say that the other seven jhanas are the same thing, but that seems consistent with the descriptions. For example, the fourth jhana is a state of ultimate calm. Seems like maybe if you become calm, then being so calm is kind of calming, and that’s even more calming, and so on until you’ve maxed out your mental calmness-meter.

And the explanation of why this doesn’t happen all the time is that non-meditators just can’t concentrate hard enough. A microphone-amp system that turns on and off a couple of times each second will never get a really good feedback loop going. A mind that’s always flitting from one thing to another can’t build up enough self-referentiality to reach infinite bliss.

Left spouse here for contractor

Sep. 20th, 2017 11:50 pm
archangelbeth: Woman doing a zombie "braaaaains" pose (Braaains!)
[personal profile] archangelbeth
Did long drive.

Missed the exit on the way back and went the long way home. -_-
I hate driving at night.


Havva Quote
f___ has started something called Norsemen, which she thought was going to be like Vikings--which she has at least heard about, and appears to be of the Tits & Scowling Historical subgenre--but this seems rather like...wry comedy, so far? Huh.
arcangel [to f___]: Huh!
f___ says, “A cheery Viking is giving a little pep talk and introduction about getitng to Norway to the crew on his ship.”
f___ | "We won't get paid? We... I feel the flow of information on this ship is extremely arbitrary. And that's totally uncalled for, when we're so crammed together in such a small craft. I didn't know until yesterday that we were even going to Norway!"
arcangel [to f___]: Heehee
E•••• hee.
f___ e says, “Dude saying that just got punched.”
-----------------------Quoted by f___-----------------------
A moment later, at the prow of the boat:
"Do you think that was a bit much?"
"No, no, you're the chieftain, it's expected that you're a bit, uh, like that when you're in charge."
"It's just that a fear-based leadership style is... It doesn't feel right."
I–– giggles.
f___ says, “There is a very comic scene happening involving a series of old men who are supposed to do a ritual where they leap to their deaths, and are feeling a little uncertain about it after the first guy went, while the guy leading them tries to urge them on.”
arcangel giggles
-----------------------Quoted by f___-----------------------
"Maybe I don't want to jump."
"Come on, guys, go, go do it."
"It's not my sort of thing!"
"Okay, well, I'm a slave, I can't make you do anything you don't want to do, but, uh... Could you please just stay from Nordheim? So that people don't understand that you didn't do the aettestup?"
"Of course, no problem!"
"Great, thank you, wonderful. Bye!"
arcangel heehee
f___ says, “This is bizarrely hilarious.”
f___ says, “A viking is trying to figure out if it's a little pathetic that he's still pillaging and hasn't settled down with a wife and land like his peers.”
f___ says, “The thing that makes it /bizarrely/ hilarious is that this is all being done with meticulous costuming, sets, landscapes, music, and good camera work.”
--I love the "livetweets" of what people're watching on the MUSH

INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )


Sep. 20th, 2017 05:13 am
[syndicated profile] the_devils_panties_feed

Posted by Jennie Breeden

You know what they say about a guy with a long scarf…  

Most women are more interested in the tease or the ‘story’ than blatant full frontal. We’ll take a Captain Jack Harkness over a dick pick. And at the Kilt Blowing we don’t let body type get in the way of our geek lust. A good cosplay wins out over a six pack. Photos of 2017 Kilt blowing.

Augh, meant to be here...

Sep. 20th, 2017 12:07 am
archangelbeth: Bleary-eyed young woman peers up, pillow obscuring the lower half of her face. Text reads: SO not a morning person. (So Not A Morning Person)
[personal profile] archangelbeth
But wasn't, don't know if contractor showed up, went gallivanting off to check on some things in the next town over (so to speak). Gah.

Got some beads out of it, anyway. *sigh* They are very pretty, very cheap, shiny gimcrack beads.

Mother-in-law has huge blood clot in leg, and they are gonna keep her in the hospital for a wee bit till they have the blood-thinning med dose set up right. We are pondering figuring out how to loan her an Apple Watch to see if she'd use it to Stand Up More, because lack of moving legs is Not Good.

I also ....blanking... blanking...blanking... Ugh, brain. Anyway, spouse was being taxi for his mom a lot, including in the ER while they got the ultrasound done (they did not get it done after waiting HOURS, like till 10pm, last night, 'cause the Venous Ultrasound person'd gone home), and getting her checked in.

Then spouse and kid went for dinner, and I did trash night all alone -- including having to deal with the trash bags being in the garage. Our kitchen floor is higher up than our garage floor, for Reasons. Geologic ones, even. So we have stairs in the garage up to a little landing, and then a door into the house. The bottom of the stairs is currently blocked by the metal scaffolding that our contractor guy is using to get at the ceiling. I have discovered -- after Flicker-cat made a break for the garage FOR GODS KNOW WHAT REASON last night, and had to be lured out from under things -- that I can (as I suspected (yes, there are too many dashes and parens in this; sue me)) put one foot over the stair railing, slide that foot under the stair railing so there's enough Stair there to support me, and swing my other foot over.

So I tossed the trash bags over the railing, basically, followed them over, and bagged the trash. Left it in the garage near the door, went back over the railing, through the house, out the front door, to the car. Backed it up, opened the door, loaded the trash into the back, closed garage door, drove the 300 foot driveway IN THE DARK (I am not hauling the trash out by hand; are you kidding me??), with headlights of course (I specify the darkness because NOT HAULING IT BY HAND IN THE DARK FOR 300 FEET!), unloaded, came back, parked out of way of spouse's car, and went back in the front door.

Most of the accomplishment is the railing, but the context around my railing escapades is important.



...did I mention getting to bed at 5 in the morning again? *sigh*

Oh, hey, I wonder if this looks like crap or not in reality. -_-

Havva Quote
I will end with some wise words from Reverend Mord: The universe is not uncaring. It cares about very strange things sometimes, but the great powers within it care even for the creatures as tiny as you and I.
--sabine (DW)

INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )
mbarker: (Fireworks Delight)
[personal profile] mbarker posting in [community profile] wetranscripts
Writing Excuses 12.38: What Do Editors Really Want, with Toni Weisskopf and Cat Rambo


Key Points:
Q: What do editors really want?
A: Chocolate and bourbon. To give you a contract for your bestseller and $50,000. The next XXX, but not the same. To buy a book that works. The writer to do the work!
Q: What are they looking for when working with the editor?
A: The ability to take direction, to achieve the author's vision. How do we bridge the gap between "Don't write to the market" and "Editors buy for the market?" The first audience is yourself. Readers, like dogs, can smell crap. Write what you are passionate about.
Q: When an editor finds a problem, what is the next step?
A: A challenge to the author. Editors suggest fixes, but good authors don't do that, they do it their own way, in their own voice.
Q: What are some common pitfalls or advice?
A: Be timely. Don't try to be perfect, just respond, and keep the communication going. Ask yourself, "Will this news get better if I wait?" Editors are not parents or bosses. Collaboration is the name of the game.
Q: Is there an exemplary or hilarious incident from the trenches?
A: Don't respond to a rejection slip with the news that your mother liked the story. Arguing with rejection letters is pointless.

Chocolate and bourbon, over and over... )

[Dan] So let's finish up. I'm very excited to hear our homework. Which is what I have written down as the Weisskopf possum theory.
[Toni] Oh, God. We don't have enough time for that.
[Toni] Telling the possum story would be at least 10 minutes.
[Dan] Oh, well, we can't do that. Can you give us like a 10 second version of it?
[Toni] Cat, go first.
[Cat] Here's my writing advice.
[Dan] Okay.
[Cat] Try something new this week. If you always write indoors, go right outdoors. If you always write by hand, try it on a typewriter. Just mix it up a little. See what happens.
[Dan] Awesome. That's great advice.
[Toni] All right. This has nothing to do with possums. But listen to dialogue. Sit down and write down, if you can, how people actually talk. This is not how you write dialogue, but it will help you writing dialogue.
[Dan] That's great advice.
[Howard] When she says listen to dialogue, listen to people speaking to each other. Not TV dialogue. Listen to people talking.
[Toni] Yes. Thank you.
[Dan] Aaron Sorkin…
[Toni] That's why you're the writer.
[Dan] One of my favorite bits of writing advice he gives is go sit in a coffee shop for an hour and just listen to people talking to each other.
[Toni] Yup.
[Dan] Awesome. Well, that is our show. Thank you very much, Cat and Toni, for being here. We are very excited.
[Cat, Tony] Thank you.
[Dan] Everyone else, you're out of excuses. Now go write.

Savage Love

Sep. 19th, 2017 05:15 pm
[syndicated profile] savagelove_feed

Posted by Dan Savage

Can a straight guy find love with a lady with a penis? by Dan Savage

I am a 35-year-old straight guy. I met a nice lady through the normal methods, and we hit it off and have grown closer. I think we are both considering "taking it to the next level." We are on the same intellectual wavelength, enjoy the same social experiences, and have a lot of fun together. So what could be the problem? My friend decided it was the time to inform me that she is transgender, pre-op, and will not be having gender-reassignment surgery. This was quite a shock to me. I'm not homophobic, though I've never had a gay experience. I'm open-minded, yet there is a mental block. I like this person, I like our relationship thus far, and I want to continue this relationship. But I'm in a state of confusion.

Confused Over Complicating Knowledge

Lemme get this out of way first, COCK: The nice lady isn't a man, so sex with her wouldn't be a "gay experience" and homophobia isn't the relevant term.

Moving on...

You're a straight guy, you're attracted to women, and some women—as you now know—have dicks. Are you into dick? Could you develop a taste for dick? Could you see yourself making an exception for her dick? It's fine if "no" is the answer to one or all of these questions, COCK, and not being into dick doesn't make you transphobic. Evan Urquhart, who writes about trans issues for Slate, argues that in addition to being gay, straight, bi, pan, demi, etc., some people are phallophiles and some are vaginophiles—that is, some people (perhaps most) have a strong preference for either partners with dicks or partners with vaginas. And some people—most people—want their dicks on men and their labia on/vaginas in women.

"There's no shame in it, as long as it doesn't come from a place of ignorance or hate," Urquhart writes. "Mature adults should be able to talk plainly about their sexuality, particularly with prospective partners, in a way that doesn't objectify or shame anyone who happens to be packing the non-preferred equipment."

Some straight guys are really into dick (trans women with male partners usually aren't partnered with gay men, and trans women who do sex work typically don't have any gay male clients), some straight guys are willing to make an exception for a particular dick (after falling in love with a woman who has one), but most straight guys aren't into dick (other than their own).

Since you're confused about what to do, COCK, I would encourage you to continue dating this woman, keep an open mind, and keep taking things slow. You've got new information to process, and some things—or one thing—to think about before taking this relationship to the next level. But don't drag it out. If you conclude that the dick is a deal breaker, end this relationship with compassion and alacrity. You don't want to keep seeing her "to be nice" if you know a relationship isn't possible. Because letting someone live in false hope is always a dick move.

A few months ago, I started dating someone. I made it clear early on that I didn't feel comfortable being in a nonmonogamous relationship. They said that's not usually what they're into but they weren't interested in seeing anyone else and they had no problem being monogamous. It's not that I don't trust them, and they've never given any indication that they're unhappy with our arrangement, but I can't shake the fears that, though they won't admit it (maybe even to themselves), they'd prefer it if our relationship were more open and I'm taking something important away from them. Can someone who usually doesn't "do" monogamy feel fulfilled in a "closed" relationship? Can it work out, or will they just slowly grow to resent me for this?

Deliriously Anxious Monogamist Nervously Inquires Today

If you stay together forever—what most people mean by "work out"—your partner will definitely grow to resent you. It could be for this reason, DAMNIT, or for some other reason, but all people in long-term relationships resent their partners for something. If it’s not monogamy, it’ll be something else. And if monogamy is the price of admission this person is willing to pay right now, let them pay it. There are a lot of people out there in closed relationships who would rather be in open ones and vice versa. And remember: What works for you as a couple—and what you want as an individual—can change over time. Resentments too.

My relationship with my husband is bad. We have been together for twelve years, and we were married for eight years before getting divorced last year. We have small kids. We reconciled four months after the divorce, despite the affair I had. I have a history of self-sabotage, but in my relationship with him, it has become near constant. Everyone thinks I'm a smart and kind person that occasionally makes mistakes, but I'm not that person with him. With him, I'm awful. I make promises I don't keep and I don't do the right things to make him feel loved even though I do loving things. We have been in couples therapy a number of times, but I always derail the process. I have been in therapy solo a number of times with similar results. I always get the therapists on my side and no real change happens. I want to change but I haven't. I want to stop hurting him but I keep doing it. He doesn't feel like I have ever really fought for him or the relationship. Why can't I change?

My Enraging Self-Sabotaging Yearnings

It's unlikely I'll be able to do for you in print what three couples counselors and all those therapists couldn't do for you in person, i.e., help you change your ways—if, indeed, it's your ways that require changing. Have you ever entertained the thought that maybe there's a reason every counselor or therapist you see winds up taking your side? Is it possible that you're not the problem? Are you truly awful, MESSY, or has your husband convinced you that you're awful in order to have the upper hand in your relationship? (Yeah, yeah, you had an affair. Lots of people do and lots of marriages survive them.)

If you're not being manipulated—if you're not the victim of an expert gaslighter—and you're awful and all your efforts to change have been in vain, MESSY, perhaps you should stop trying. You are who you are, your husband knows who you are, and if he wants to be with you, as awful as you are (or as awful as he's managed to convince you that you are), that's his choice and he needs to take some responsibility for it. By "stop trying" I don't mean you should stop making an effort to be a better person or a more loving partner—we should all constantly strive to be better people and more loving partners—but you can't spend the rest of your life on a therapist's couch. Or the rack.

If you truly make your husband miserable, he should leave you. If your marriage makes you miserable (or if he does), you should leave him. But if neither of you is going anywhere, MESSY, then you'll both just have to make the best of your messy selves and your messy marriage.

On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern about left-wing anti-Semitism:


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Sep. 19th, 2017 09:56 am
rachelmanija: (Default)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
I just spent several minutes trying to figure out where the hell the mysterious rustling noises were coming from.

One of my cats (Alex) was entirely hidden within the depths of a shoebox-size Priority Mail box. He has just now emerged, and his sister Erin has vanished inside.

No cat photos because I don't have an X-Ray camera.
[syndicated profile] schlockmercenary_feed

Posted by Howard Tayler

Random Access Memorabilia, Schlock Mercenary Book 13, has launched on Kickstarter.

That link has all the details, but here are some bullet points:

  • Kickstarter and Backerkit are how we’ll be handling pre-orders for Random Access Memorabilia.
  • The funding period is just 24 days.
  • Books will begin shipping to backers in February of 2018.

For the next four weeks I’ll probably be something of a one-note symphony. Schlock Mercenary feeds (and houses, and educates, and transports, etc) our family, and the book collections are the largest part of how that happens.

We really look forward to putting this book in your hands. It’s one of my very favorites, and the bonus story is looking amazing.

Thank you for your support!

Tools of my Trade

Sep. 15th, 2017 08:53 am
[syndicated profile] schlockmercenary_feed

Posted by Howard Tayler

I illustrate everything by hand, using pencil and ink on paper. In the last three years my choice of tools for making comics has shifted a bit. Here’s the current suite¹:


Since about 2016 I’ve been penciling in blue or red (or sometimes both). I use mechanical pencils exclusively.

  • Kaweco AL Sport 0.7mm pencil
  • Paper Mate Clear Point 0.7mm pencil
  • Pilot 0.7mm Eno Soft Blue
  • Pilot 0.7mm Eno  Red

I sometimes use 2mm “clutch” pencils for construction lines, especially in backgrounds and on large pieces.

  • E+M Workman Lead Holder (2mm)
  • IC Comic Draft Blue 2mm leads

When I erase, I’m either doing broad cleanup, or removing specific clutter.

  • Prismacolor kneaded eraser
  • Tombow Mono Zero eraser

I also use some stencils and templates for construction lines. I have circle templates, ellipse templates, straight-edges, french curves, and flexible straight-edges. Those last three are critical for backgrounds involving any sort of perspective, or architecture.


I ink in three stages. In the first I’m taking care of the outlines, and committing to a few of the many possible lines apparent in my blue line work.

  • Staedtler Mars Pigment Liners, .01, .03, .05, and .07mm black

Those pigment liners have been my go-to since the very beginning of Schlock Mercenary in 2000. I’ve killed at least a thousand of them in the last 17 years. I’ve tried several other brands², but always came back to the Staedtlers.

The second stage is where the picture really comes together. I use brush pens to add weight to some of the lines, and to shade or fill. (I used to do this with the pigment liners, but  in 2015 I started brushing³. I still have a lot to learn!)

  • Tombow Fudonosuke hard
  • Tombow Fudonosuke soft
  • Pilot Futayaku double-sided brush
  • Pentel Pocket Brush

The third stage is backgrounds and cleanup. For this I’m using the pigment liners to put lines down, and white gel to make bad lines and smudges go away.

  • Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153

If you ever want to peer behind the curtain and see how non-magical things are, hold one of my originals up to the light and look for the places where white gel is covering up my slop.  Every piece I do has at least some of this. EVERY LAST ONE.


At the outset I said that I work in pencil and ink on paper. When you see my work in color, that’s because somebody else colored it. For Schlock Mercenary, that’s Travis Walton. I scan my work at 600dpi, in black-and-white, with the threshold set low enough to ensure that even the scritchiest blue scores in the paper vanish. Travis colors in Photoshop, and passes the files back to me in glorious CMYK.


I might get around to reviewing some of the products above, but in terms of recommendation, I’ll lead with this: if you’re learning to make art, always have at least one tool lying around that you do not know how to use yet. Let that tool tempt you into picking it up and making a mess, because after the mess you may discover beauty, or exhilaration, or this-goes-faster, and that’s how we level up.

¹Everything I use is available from JetPens, with the exception of the Paper Mate mechanical pencils⁴, which I think I got at Wal-Mart. I do this because it means I don’t need to go shopping. I can just click some buttons and supplies will arrive at my house.
² Sakura Pigma Micron is a favorite for a lot of cartoonists. I used them for a while, but they flowed just a teency bit too fast for me, making some of my lines fuzzy.
³Lar DeSouza introduced me to the Tombow Fudonosuke pens in a classic “when the student is ready the master shall appear” moment. I still haven’t bought him enough drinks to pay him back.
⁴ I bought these because colored leads are messy, and tend to gum up even the very best pencils. My favorite three mechanical pencils failed on the same day, so I executed some warranties, and then bought some cheap replacements so I could keep working. The cheap pencils work just fine, though they lack the hefty joy of the fancier tools.

[syndicated profile] darths_and_droids_feed

Episode 1550: Mech (sic) and Chicken; or Los Pollos Caminos

It's good to have miniatures to help the players visualise enemy forces and battles.

And although improvised figures will do, it's definitely better to have appropriate miniatures.

(Yes, we know the Spanish is terrible and doesn't mean the same thing.)

aurilee writes:

It was the first walker-type! And he apparently had no miniatures.

The poor players, having to use their imaginations while playing a tabletop RPG. Oh the humanity!

And unfortunately, the GM never saw my very, very clever suggestion of gluing some guns onto Timon. So everyone had to suffer through chickens.

With guns.

— aurilee

Keybounce writes:

Something that I never realized before: Chicken miniatures.

There is no movie; this GM actually had chicken walkers, and chicken miniatures.

Chicken. Miniatures.

Never mind the deformed seal-walrus-whatever it was, where do you get chicken miniatures? Are there other farm animals yet to show up?

I find myself wondering, what would a cow standing on two legs like a meerkat look like? (Lorenda? Kria?). Oddly, I have no problem imagining that cow holding a gun.

Looking over the last two comics, I'm realizing the clear advantage of the chicken walkers: they bring in close air support. Easy to tell apart from enemy fire. Easy to tell apart from the kitchen mess.

But the whole design still seems wrong. It still seems too easy to take out one leg, and turn the main body into skeet. (Have we ever seen one of these guys self-destruct? There's always a self-destructing something in movies, right? Toss a grenade in, tie up their legs... do they self destruct? What kind of hum do they make before they go boom? There was a self-destructing speeder in the TV series, but that's not the same.)

So let's look at the soldiers. Last comic, we see a huge number of soldiers appearing with the walker. They spread out in front of the walker. This comic starts with two in the first panel, then has a lot more in the second panel.

So who is killing the soldiers, and why do we not see them shooting? It sure looks like there's a lot of bodies in the center of the last panel, but we don't see them being killed. Presumably, this is just the choice of screen captures. It sure looks like we see a soldier being shot in the last panel. But we don't see who is shooting them at all. Are they really running into a killbox?

Meanwhile, all of the other civilians have gotten out of the way. "Our heroes" are the only ones left to get into trouble.

— Keybounce



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