candidgamera: (Default)
This pertains mainly to online roleplaying, as cleverly specified in the title, but some bits of it are relevant to any kind of roleplaying game. These are based on my observations as a four year 'veteran' of LJ RP, and having many years of IRC experience before that.

Long. )

Nrgh.

Aug. 6th, 2009 11:58 am
candidgamera: (personal spite)
My ability to tolerate ignorance is being taxed to its maximum today. At lunch, I overheard a couple of evolution-deniers reinforcing one another's idiocy. One stated he could prove evolution was stupid. See, cause if it was true, then to evolve a woodpecker, a whole species would've been born and then wiped out because their beaks were too short, repeating until finally, woodpeckers.

EVOLUTION : IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY.

And then over on Facebook, one of my fairly right-wing friends and one of her complete right-wing whack-job friends are talking about a post put up by the Obama administration. It offers a way for people who receive "fishy" emails about Health Care Reform to send those in, so the White House can debunk them. According to the right-wingers, this is a sinister left-wing conspiracy to build a list of those who oppose health care reform so that they can be monitored.

The Friend-of-a-Friend went so far as to ask why the ACLU wasn't jumping in on this.

BECAUSE THERE'S NO CIVIL LIBERTY BEING VIOLATED.

I did point out that it was the *previous* administration who was spying on American citizens without a warrant.

I like to believe I can have civil discourse on most any topic with most anybody. But blatantly self-contradictory beliefs or a muddying of the fact-opinion line are buttons for me, as is assumed authority - and people who clearly don't understand something acting as if they are better equipped to discuss it than the world's foremost experts hit all three buttons.
candidgamera: (Default)
I must be on a roll or something.

I was contemplating the problem of advertising, the other day, inspired by some discussions on messageboards I frequent. Specifically, advertising and body image issues. And there was a thread today that discussed advertising and gender stereotypes and roles, so I think I'm going to roll that in as well.

The question I'm pondering is - to what degree do commercials (and more generally, mass media) shape people's thoughts and attitudes about stereotypes, body image, gender roles - and to what degree do they simply reflect those thoughts and attitudes?

I'll start the ramble on body image, because that's what originally inspired me.

Blahblahblahblah.. )
candidgamera: (Default)
Damn applications for the ADD Generation.

On the Free Market Economy :

Some folks believe the free market can solve any problem. They are technically correct. The problem is that the free market assumes that everyone acts on good information in their own long-term best interests. Some people act on bad information, or in their own short-term best interests. Witness the financial market meltdown late last year.

The other problem is that, even when it is working properly, the free market does not solve problems immediately. And the cost of a delay in the resolution to some problems is measured in lives. This is why we control utility costs - because if the power company had complete autonomy to raise their rates, they would raise them when demand was high, and the people who couldn't afford the new rates would die, come winter. That would reduce demand, allowing the power company to lower rates - if they bothered to - but people would be dead.

So I don't worry too much about the much-maligned government bailouts. In an ideal capitalist world, our economy would've collapsed early this year with the financial institution failure and the big automakers going under. I don't think some conservatives really grasp that. Even George W. Bush recognized the need for some government money pumped into the system, and he's pretty much the dimmest bulb on the Republican tree. I mean, I don't want to sound alarmist, but money wouldn't have been worth the paper it was printed on, the government would've had to declare martial law, and I'm pretty sure there would have been zombies.

My point is that I'm really tired of the 'socialism' talking point, I suppose. Capitalism and Socialism are not two settings of a switch. You're not one or the other. It's a spectrum, and I don't believe there is any country in the world that represents either of the extreme ends of that spectrum. If a country collects taxes from its citizens, that's (a touch of) socialism. Because it's taking from individuals to give to the whole. I don't hear conservatives complaining about the ten percent of our income taken that goes to the military. But it is a socialized military. Of course, protecting the health of our citizens with partially socialized healthcare - that doesn't involve violence, so that's bad.

The funny thing to me is that pure capitalism would fail as surely as pure socialism does. You need a dash of both to make things work as a society.
candidgamera: (Default)
Henceforth, Jim the Comic Book Guy Who Can't Shut Up will be not-so-affectionately nicknamed 'Pip', after a conversation with [livejournal.com profile] mint_tea this weekend reminded me of the Ben Stein-voiced character from Animaniacs. Jim was last referenced here.

I made an arrangement to catch Pip at the weekly Flea Market he sells things at on Sunday; I brought along the 2nd Edition AD&D books about which he'd expressed interest. This gave him a chance to examine the goods, regale me with a few stale stories for the thirteenth or fourteenth time, and demonstrate one of his new quirks.

See, Pip asks 'So what have you been up to?' I'm not sure if it's conversational filler for him, or what, but I have a theory. Of course, it's a perfectly reasonable thing to ask. Once per conversation. The fourth time, it's a little excessive. Asked and answered, Pip, please move on. Of course, the frequency of the question has increased since I talked to him about one of the goings-on at work a while back. See, our university shares a campus with a community college. We used to be one institution, but the state is mandating that we be split into two. This helps no one and causes massive headaches. Pip has persistently brought the subject up in every conversation since, because 1.) I think he's under the misapprehension that I have more to do with it than I actually do, and 2.) ranting about the "stupid" people running the government fits very neatly into his hopelessly constrained world view.

Pip rambles about how the local comic market is poisoned by the dealers who are rude to customers. I just kind of smile politely through that portion, because I think the local comic store owner does a pretty good job, and his business is successful, so.. eh. Pip picks out the books he wants from me and I go through them. Normally, with 2nd Edition books - which are almost entirely useless to me as I never intend to play that version of the game again - I cut people a deal for about a third of the old cover price. They're kinda scarce, but not collectible. They just take up space in my house.

For Pip? 50%. Because I want room to negotiate down, and because I already have an inkling that this will not be a cash deal. So I count everything up based on my roughly 50% price point, and come to approximately $250. Pip offers the Grant Morrison run of Doom Patrol I'd expressed some interest in. He has it priced at $250, he'd previously offered to sell it to me for $200, and it's probably actually worth $150, if that. On the other hand, it's stuff I don't own, and haven't read, and takes up less space. So I go for the even swap.

So, our business concluded, I'm ready to go, but Pip's not done. One of the recurring themes of conversation with Pip over the last two months is his printer saga. Well, not so much a saga, as kind of an epic-length whine. See, he needs a printer to make cover letters for brochures for his 'business'. Single-quotes to be explained in a moment. So he inquires my advice about different kinds, and mainly uses the topic to rant about the high price of printer ink. That one's easy to sympathize with, but I don't need to hear it every time. Of course, his dilemma about printing problems is less sympathetic when he tells me that his uncle had given him a printer, so the whole conversation is kind of moot, he just hasn't had time to set it up yet.

Cut back to Sunday, and his printer still isn't set up, but he's prepared an envelope for me with his 'business' brochure. And before we part ways, he rambles on about multiple streams of income, and having read a fascinating book written by a real-estate mogul, and I'm thinking the whole time that it sounds like those dodgy 5:30 AM infomercials where the rich guy offers to sell you his money making secrets for $250. And it turns out I'm right on the money, and there's even a bonus. When I get home and look at the brochure, it is not only exactly that sort of crap, it is also a pyramid scheme. Once you buy in, you get a cut of the membership fees of people you get to buy in. I thought these things went out of fashion in the 1980's!

So now I wonder if Pip's naive enough to believe in the money making techniques, or cynical enough to take advantage of people knowingly.
candidgamera: (dragon turtle)
I'd like to talk a little bit about roleplaying games. I play a variety of tabletop games, and participate in a number of LiveJournal based games, and I got to thinking about some of the different things I enjoy about games.

One of my peculiar quirks is that I don't like using dice and character sheets for online games, preferring them to be 'free form', and I also hate doing diceless 'free form' roleplaying in real life. Different (and opposite) preference for the differing formats. The only current exception to that pattern is [livejournal.com profile] eemick's weekly D&D game, which he hosts online on a MUD we both belong to. That works pretty well. Of course, in some respects, it's almost like a second layer of roleplaying, but I digress.

I'm going to focus on LJ roleplaying here a bit, but some of the points are pretty general. There are four structures a game can adopt.
Blah blah blah.. )
candidgamera: (personal spite)
Okay, ordinarily I wouldn't do this, but yesterday was a uniquely frustrating experience, so I present it here as interesting content.

There's this guy in the local community, named Jim. Jim is a comic book nerd and roleplaying gamer, and thus, we should naturally get along well, one would think. But one would be wrong. It's not that we're in conflict - it's that Jim can't shut up.

I first met the guy at a flea market. There are several recurring flea markets in the area, and I occasionally like to browse them for old comic books, mainly. And Jim happens to sell old comic books. And we chatted. I learned several things about Jim.

Jim likes to complain. Every local comic store is horrible and conducting their business in such a manner as that they'll shortly be out of business. The people at Wizards of the Coast are the devil. Everything is the worst thing ever, and even hyperbole can't do the awfulness true justice.

Relating to that, Jim is still playing 2nd Edition AD&D. It's a personal choice, and I can respect it even if I can't understand it. I don't even mind hearing his war stories from RPG sessions, but .. Jim doesn't have a great memory. He doesn't remember which stories he's told me before.

Jim is also the sort of person who is at once cynical, and gullible. He believes things that feed his own biases or that make interesting tales to pass on. Reality gets distorted. He complains about Third Edition D&D coming out only 'weeks' after the last major 2nd edition revision. (For the record, Player's Option : Skill and Powers came out in '95. The Third Edition Player's Handbook came out in 2000.)

I made the past mistake of giving Jim my contact information, so every time he sets up at a flea market, he emails me to let me know. And I find something else to do, because I'd mined his stock for all the books I wanted. But he got new stuff recently, so Sunday I went out to look. I spotted a copy of Richard Dragon's comic, which interested me. I remarked 'Wow, I've never actually seen a copy of Richard Dragon in person..' Jim stops listening after the word 'Dragon' and launches into another one of his broken anecdotes. 'And you won't,' he says. Apart from the ones that already exist, I suppose? I actually had a premonition - I knew where this conversation was going. 'DC sold all the rights to their karate stuff to the people who made the Karate Kid movie. That's why you don't see Karate Kid anymore.' Yup. Exactly what I thought.

I correct him gently. 'That's not true, but I know what you're talking about. Karate Kid's still in the Legion of Super-Heroes.' See, when Columbia went to make the movie, they wanted to use the name 'Karate Kid' - but DC owned the trademark and rights. DC allowed Columbia to use the name. Jim is initially flustered that his factoid is wrong, but seems to take in the explanation. I suppose the only way I'll know it stuck is if he doesn't repeat the factoid to me later on.

The most frustrating thing about Jim is that he is a conversational black hole. Once you're within his event horizon, not even light can escape. Each anecdote dovetails into another, going around and around until you end up back at the original one. It's a moebius strip of conversation without beginning or ending. When I finally extracted myself from his table, intending to look at some of the other people's tables before they packed up and left, I wandered into an adjoining room. I wandered back into the main room through a door farther from Jim's table a few minutes later - and he had gotten up from his table, apparently looking for me, with more to say. The anecdotes begin again.

I still have my ink pen in my hand as I wander along with him, trying not to be rude. Trying to give him nonverbal cues that I need to go. Looking away. Glancing at my watch. Anything to hammer home the point that I do want to go, without having to be rude. I felt something snap - nothing metaphorical, not in my mind. My pen. I actually had pressed my thumb against it with such force that it broke in my hand. I was just that frustrated.

I finally escape a second time, and make a beeline for the door, not risking a re-engagement.
candidgamera: (Default)
First, a disclaimer. Though the recent debate on my journal is why my mind is on this subject, the metaphor contained within is an exceedingly generic one. Anyone attempting to extrapolate it to apply to the subject of the previous discussion (feminism and the gender divide) is a moron, and will be mocked soundly. As a specific analogy, it is failsauce. Also, the metaphor is pretty facile, but I'm not trying to insult anybody's intelligence - it just helps me write with greater clarity.

Perspective - it's a point of view. Most perspectives are inherently limited, as human beings, by and large, do not tend to be omniscient. By default, these tend to be neutral, rational things, but beware their cousins, below.

Bias - It's a point of view someone has decided to barricade. Biases can be based on accumulated legitimate personal experiences, and thus rational in origin, but the important distinction between a bias and a perspective is that the perspective accepts new facts and adjusts to incorporate them, whereas the bias prejudges new facts and discards, understates, or exaggerates them to fit the conclusions already drawn. This is called confirmation bias. When feelings and beliefs are allowed to warp data, the perspective is no longer objective.

To spare some of you my pontification.. )

Debuting a new tag - I was going to use 'political', as I have for most of my rambles so far, but 'ranty', I think, is more suitable.

On Bias

Mar. 17th, 2009 09:58 am
candidgamera: (skeptical)
This is going to get ramble-y, people, so feel free to skip along merrily, I'll think no less of you. This is partly inspired by [livejournal.com profile] angrylemur and [livejournal.com profile] mint_tea, both people I like and respect who have a passionate zeal for women's issues. It is also inspired by people for whom I have less admiration, like PETA and fundamentalists of any religion.

Wow, I sure can talk.. )

Ranty

Feb. 13th, 2009 10:27 pm
candidgamera: (Default)
Still enjoying my vacation, starting to wish I'd blocked off two weeks instead of one.

But now, as promised, a rant.

A friend and I were discussing the popular position of Democratic politicians to espouse support for civil unions, but to not endorse gay marriage. She asserts that this indicates the politician in question, President Obama, isn't supportive of gay rights. I say that is not necessarily the case, and I'd like to elaborate on that point.

Point one - no, civil unions aren't sufficient or fair. Separate but equal, isn't. We need to get to full recognition of gay marriage in this country. All that is given.

However, I think it is a perfectly defensible position for a politician who believes all of the above to, nonetheless, advocate for civil unions - thereby understating his or her position.

It's all about making progress. If you're a politician supportive of gay rights, and you want to get elected to a powerful office to help work on that, you basically have a choice - you can admit your actual position, that you fully support gay marriage, or you can understate your position, advocating for civil unions.

Why might you do the latter? Well, the obvious first reason is electability. Gay marriage scares the hell out of the religious fundamentalists and the South. Civil unions are simply more palatable, and if you don't get elected, you can't work to bring about either one.

The second reason is a little more subtle, and I'll try to illustrate with two examples.

President O advocates for gay marriage. He pushes the agenda in Congress. He is all but guaranteed to fail. He cannot then try to get Civil Unions as a consolation prize, because Congress and the American people know exactly where he's going with it. Assuming a miracle occurs, and he actually pulls off the votes to legalize gay marriage, we have another problem. There would be a huge cultural backlash. Violent, ignorant people would attack and kill those they perceive as responsible for the unwelcome change.

Scenario two - President O advocates for civil unions. It's not ideal, but he has a better chance of making it happen, and actually gets gay rights closer to par than would simply doing nothing.If it passes, there's a much smaller chance of backlash, as it's an idea that a majority of the country seems to approve of.

I think scenario two is perfectly defensible, even if it isn't ideal. I'd love to see instantaneous change to fix the unfairness of the system, but a slower, gradual change is better than none, and - here's the tricky part - if civil unions actually got recognized by the Federal government? We'd see legal gay marriage in a decade, thanks to the Supreme Court and the Equal Protection clause.

I'm not saying take what you can get, just.. don't dislike the guy for pushing the "civil union" notion. It's not perfect. But he's smart, he knows that. He'll move us further down the road, making things a little better.

I fully expect feedback from about half of my friendslist on this, to whom it is an issue of immediate concern. :)
candidgamera: (Default)
I spent several hours Sunday sanding, scraping, sweeping, and generally cleaning in the bathroom - basically getting the drywall ready to paint. I think I will be able to do at least part of it next weekend, if not before. Very anxious to see how it turns out.

Tomorrow is West Virginia's Democratic primary, and Hillary Clinton will likely win in a landslide. Nevertheless, I plan to make the effort to go out and vote for Barack Obama. I think I could be content with a Hillary presidency, but I'm actually enthusiastic about the idea of an Obama presidency. Here're my thoughts as to the candidates.

John McCain - Back in 2000, I was really impressed with McCain. Despite a number of policy positions at odds with mine, he seemed like a rational, intelligent person, with whom one could civilly disagree and try to find middle ground. Some of you may think that's a low bar for picking a presidential candidate, but compared to Mr. "With Us Or Against Us", I think McCain would've been a fine president.

Oh, what a difference eight years makes. McCain's spent the last several years kissing the ass of the Republican establishment. "Straight Talk Express" indeed. I believe his motivations in running for president are acceptable - I think he wants to make the country "stronger" - but his particular brand of "stronger" involves picking fights around the globe to show the world who's boss, I fear.

Hillary Clinton - I've known Hillary would run for president for years, because she's been channeling Machiavelli to set up the dominos to do so, for years. Her senatorial efforts in New York were an obvious precursor to help her carry the Empire State in a national election. Now, that said, I really never understood what a lot of people seemed to have against Hillary - until recently. Her campaign against Barack Obama (and make no mistake, it's not a campaign FOR Hillary anymore, it's a campaign against Obama at this point) has been laced with the smears and half-truths that I typically would associate with the Republican electoral machine.

She's playing dirty politics, and she's pretty good at it. However, I don't have any taste for it. While I agree with her on most policy issues, her willingness to sling mud leaves a bad, bad taste in my mouth. I believe her motivation in running for president is to acquire the prestige of having been elected president - and that doesn't sit well with me. Still, if a miracle occurs and she's the Democratic nominee, I'd take her over McCain.

Barack Obama - Inexperienced? Sure. We've had presidents with less experience, though. His candidacy was born of a fluke - a powerfully motivating speech at the Democratic National convention, as a freshman Senator, back in 2006. It resonated with people, and the buzz started. And the man is a powerful speaker - refreshingly, he is also an honest one, saying unpopular things that happen to be the truth. With Obama, I see an honest, compassionate candidate free of the usual corrupt, cruel practices of political office.

Yes, I think his inexperience is an advantage. He's an idealist, but he can appoint solid advisors to help him make the tough policy decisions. He inspires hope in people when we're in the middle of a recession with record high gas prices and a seemingly neverending war in the Middle East. He refuses to pander to people by endorsing the gas tax holiday that wouldn't save them a dime. I think his motivation in running for president is to help people - and that's pretty damn rare.

Rationality. Honesty. Fairness. Compassion. Humility.

I don't think we could ask for a better person to be president.
candidgamera: (tardy)
You'll excuse me while I divulge into a rant. Or, more likely, a series of rants. I came across a blog-meme today about political leanings, and I started to take it, only to see that the questions.. well, the answers one could provide didn't really represent the entirety of the political spectrum, to me. They offered two choices for each, sometimes the choices weren't even opposed or mutually exclusive. About half the time, they didn't have the answer I wanted to give, or the question made pre-suppositions.

This caused me to doubt the whole validity of the meme, and then I realized - it's probably not valid. It's probably just a tiny thing some college student with too much free time came up with. It's hardly going to be definitive.

But I could stand to spell a few things out.

Read more... )

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