gerald_duck: (female-mallard-frontal)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
As a disclaimer, I'm a little — make that a lot — wary of the stereotypical Bible-thumping rant from the pulpit about some evil or other of our modern world. And I'm wary of being critical of a thing I don't myself partake of. And especially, I'm here actually asking questions — I'm undecided, and I'm not being rhetorical.

For background, Magic: The Gathering is a fantasy-themed trading card game. Players who make it their hobby collect cards to use in constructing decks to use in playing against others. Some of the cards are very rare, and therefore quite valuable — in the thousands of dollars for something that is both rare and considered useful. The makers, Wizards of the Coast (part of Hasbro) promote this state of affairs by intentionally printing relatively few of some cards, and making rarer foil versions, etc.

Is it ethical to play M:tG? (Especially, is it ethical in a Christian context?)

Firstly, is it ethical to play games at all? I'd say yes: it's a useful sandbox in which to hone various skills, it's a social pastime, a recreation. Is it possible to play games overmuch to the exclusion of other activities? Absolutely. Is it possible to play games in antisocial ways? Yup. But the simple act of sitting down with some friends and playing a game seems at least benign.

What about games involving sorcery and demons and all that stuff? It can engender the kind of ill-informed moral panic that is almost self-parodic. A quick Google reveals all sorts of people going, in effect, "Argh, it contains a card called Demonic Tutor so that means it promotes the black arts!" Um. It's probably possible to get the wrong end of the stick, and there's an argument that even people comfortable that playing a game in which they summon demonic forces is not the same thing as actually sacrificing goats to occult powers should be careful not to lead others astray (cf Romans 14), but I'm pretty happy it can all be harmless fun.

But I've just been pointed at this blog entry. I can't recommend reading the whole thing (though I did) — what strikes me as worrying is that the author is talking almost entirely in mercantile terms.

Normally, if I wish to play a game with friends, one of us brings out a box which we unpack and share for our mutual enjoyment. In Magic, conversely, each person owns their personal gaming equipment and gains an in-game advantage from their material possessions. More, the makers deliberately engineer it so that there is in-game advantage from owning artificially rare real-world objects that other players lack.

Magic is clearly a game, but does that disguise a ritual of legitimised real-world covetousness? I feel it's worth contrasting with something like Dominion which is somewhat similar in gaming terms, but which doesn't map worldly riches to in-game riches: scarcity and competitiveness is engineered within the game.

I'm pretty sure that Wizards of the Coast are behaving unethically in structuring the game so as to make people pay a lot of money in the hope of acquiring rare physical objects. For them, it's very nearly an entirely unregulated licence to print money! But how does that affect the players? Are they just victims, allowing themselves reluctantly to be exploited because the game is so good, and there is no cheaper way of enjoying it? Or have Wizards of the Coast also — consciously or unconsciously — structured the game so that the players become emotionally invested in the same defective value set, so that they inappropriately cathect Magic cards and, through that complicity, become blinded to what Wizards is up to?

Although Magic is a game, and people compete at it in gaming terms, it is also possible to compete at Magic using in the real world, using real resources. That causes me the same kind of disquiet as the idea of playing Poker for real money (which I've never done — and not because I'd be bad at it!).

I know (at least in outline terms) that it's possible to mitigate those effects. Some people play with "proxies" when they lack an expensive card they want to use. Many people are generous in lending out cards or entire assembled decks. There are all sorts of "drafting" variants, where players choose cards from a shared pool (though often brand new cards they then keep). Even so, most Magic players I know appear either to delight in owning rare cards, or to be fighting a careful battle against spending more money on the pursuit than they intend.

In Googling around this subject, I came across this page. The article itself appears to have vanished into the aether, but I note comments such as "what da heck magic is not satanic you retarded 12 year old your probably too poor to afford magic cards you prick" and a Christian saying "Now, i own all power 9 and i would never give up these cards…". Never give them up? Is that Christian stopping to think about what they're saying?

Personally, I'd be a lot more willing to play Magic if anybody could obtain any card they liked at a fair price. Am I just self-righteously projecting a personal preference into a moral virtue, or is there actually a problem here?

Running (shoes)

Nov. 26th, 2014 02:13 pm
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
I went running this morning! And Monday! And Saturday! Okay, that's not very many times yet, but it's twice more than I usually manage when I decide that I'm going to take up running, so my hopes are up. This morning I did the first episode of Zombies! Run!, which was pretty good fun, and I think will make it easier to keep it going. I've also ordered some gloves and warmer running gear, as it's been bloody cold when I first get started, and it's probably going to get a fair bit colder before the spring.

I think I could probably also do with getting some new trainers, as the ones I have now are about seven years old, and were pretty cheap and cheerful back then, but that strikes me as something that requires a bit more thought than gloves and leggings. People who run - any pointers on where I should get them, anything I should look out for, and how much should I be expecting to spend? FWIW, I expect to be running about 2-3 times/week, and usually no more than about 5km. Maybe with the occasional 10k run on weekends once I'm a lot fitter than I am now.

Also, in between vignettes about zombies I have music playing, and am really really bad/lazy about picking songs, so if anyone has any good exercise Spotify playlists to share/recommend, that would be fab.

some things!

Nov. 25th, 2014 03:06 pm
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
1. Lunch was sourdough bread made from my breadpet that was identifiably sourdough, it was great, I will add more water next time; and leek-and-potato soup with bay leaves & lovage (Liebstoeckel) from my mother's garden, & the best parev chicken-style stock.

2. I continue to listen to Vienna Teng on loop.

3. I was rather irritated by the most recent poetry-in-translation I read (because of the translator, not the author!). I accidentally had a bit of a rant and consequently feel somewhat better.

4. My largest smallcousin is a fuckin' rockstar and I am so proud of her.

Not the King's piece

Nov. 24th, 2014 05:44 pm
gerald_duck: (duckling sideon)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
I talked about Marc Cohn, about The Things We've Handed Down and about Ghost Train.

I mention Marc Cohn to people once in a while, and they tend to ask "who?". "The guy who wrote Walking In Memphis".

Everybody knows Walking In Memphis. A lot of people would identify it just from those first four piano notes and many more would get there after sixteen. As this article discusses, Cohn was stranded in New York trying to find his muse and decided he needed a change of scenery. He spent a week in Memphis and his experience not only rekindled the muse in him but was self-referentially the subject of the song.

There are many artists who live their lives in frustration that the thing they're famous for is far removed from what they consider their best work. Cohn is fortunate — Walking in Memphis might not be his very best piece, but it's still very fine and he seems comfortable to own it.

The Wikipedia article also contains a fascinating section about how he came to write it.

Once upon a time, the Beatles caused a huge furore when Lennon observed that they were more popular than Jesus. Marc Cohn makes the observation that he almost regrets mentioning Elvis in the song, because people latch onto that and assume that's what the song is about despite the reference being almost tangential. I find it interesting that the song also makes a couple of references to Christianity, but nobody seems to assume the song's about Christ. Is Elvis, even now, more salient in popular consciousness than Jesus?

Notes to self

Nov. 24th, 2014 03:21 pm
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
I am going to try to get to:

(I am still apparently too brainwrong to reliably book tickets for myself for things I want to go to, let alone other folk, so it'd be lovely to see you but I am not going to cope w organising because brains; sorry!)

General election murblings

Nov. 24th, 2014 01:38 pm
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
I have been saying for some time that I really need to look at voting statistics for my borough in order to determine whether I need to vote for my (mostly competent, keeps trying to pick twitter fights with Julian Huppert) Labour MP Andrew Slaughter in order to avoid a Tory, or whether Andy's sufficiently safe that I can vote LD or Green instead depending on policies and candidates.

As it turns out, there isn't enough record to make a good call because the borough's only bloody existed since like 2010 (in its most recent incarnation; it previously existed 1885-1918 and 1983-1997, but I'm not poking at boundary maps hard enough to work out whether that's meaningful for my purposes). Anyway, it looks like Andy's sufficiently safe that I can vote according to my politics + desire for candidates without risking getting a bloody Conservative in; which means I will wait for Green & LD candidates to be announced and then make my mind up. (For all Andy annoys me he does mostly respond plausibly to letters and I approve of his interactions with the NHS, so.)
gerald_duck: (oreille)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
Marc Cohn's first two albums are currently in the car CD changer. Last week, serendipitously, I ended up listening to The Things We've Handed Down, which was poignant listening at a time when the family tree is gaining a new generation. But I found one stanza intriguingly enigmatic:

Will you be a sad reminder
Of what's been lost along the way
Maybe you can help me find her
In the things you do and say

What's been lost? Her? Some Googling revealed that Marc's mother died when he was two. And then his father died when he was twelve. Oh.

Meanwhile, I've always liked Ghost Train. It's a lovely little piece: measured, spare, dynamic, beautifully engineered to let the exemplary performance shine through. But the lyrics never really made much sense to me. Now, knowing about his mother, I began to have an uncomfortable feeling. Sure enough, Marc describes the song as "the narrative about the passing of my mother when I was 2 years old… from a 2 year old's near pre-verbal perspective". Double oh.

As I said, Leonard Cohen is not good music to be hearing afresh while driving. Nor, it turns out, is Ghost Train.

I pulled over. I backed up to the beginning of the song. I played it through three times consecutively. I cried for him; I grieved for him; I prayed for him.

I used to regard Ghost Train as a pleasing and informative hi-fi test track. Somehow, I don't think I can use it that way any more.

Thing of things

Nov. 23rd, 2014 03:42 am
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
I just got round to setting up a DW feed for A Thing of Things, which is written by Ozy Frantz, who I first encountered as the partner of Scott Alexander, and who basically has all of his good points, but also (what I see as) a rather more balanced approach to social justice stuff. I suggest you all add them yesterday.

Shaving a yak

Nov. 22nd, 2014 11:00 pm
gerald_duck: (duckling loop)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
In May 2012 I purchased a Philips PT920 shaver.

In September 2012, it broke. Boots replaced it.

In April 2013, the replacement broke. Boots replaced the replacement.

In October 2013, the replacement replacement broke. Boots declined to help with a product more than a year old, so I contacted Philips. They replaced the replacement replacement.

In January 2014, the replacement replacement replacement broke. Philips replaced the replacement replacement replacement.

But in the meantime I needed to be able to shave. Besides, the two-year warranty was almost up, and I was becoming deeply suspicious of the "Quick rinse hair chamber" and "Fully washable" claims. I decided to buy a new shaver and sell the replacement replacement replacement replacement unused on eBay once it arrived. I got a Philips AT941 which is much the same as the PT920 except it's advertised as "Fully waterproof" and usable for wet shaving as well as dry.

In July 2014, it broke. Boots replaced it.

Now the replacement has broken. I'm going to Boots tomorrow in anticipation they'll replace the replacement for the alternative to the replacement replacement replacement replacement shaver.

This is getting silly. Between December 1987 and May 2012 I had precisely two shavers, both Philips, both reliable. Now I'm averaging two a year.

So far as I know, pretty much everybody who uses an electric shaver on their face uses a Philips one. If they'd all suddenly started breaking every six months, the world would be up in arms. Can I be the only person who takes them seriously about being able to rinse them rather than spend ages frigging around with a little brush every week? Surely everybody who pays extra for washability then washes their shaver? I've tried asking Philips outright what's wrong, here; they just shrug and keep replacing shavers.

Any suggestions?


Nov. 22nd, 2014 09:58 pm
gerald_duck: (whoops)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
Stupid things to catch yourself thinking: I wonder why they don't offer keyhole caesareans yet.
tajasel: photo of me with a rainbow hat and big scarf on (Default)
[personal profile] tajasel
This week:
  • Arranged flights.
  • Wrangled the first bit of travel insurance. (Still to do: pay extra premium for having mildly faulty lungs.)
  • Applied for accommodation, got three offers, accepted one. (Chose the option that was neither eye-wateringly expensive, nor due to be demolished halfway through my trip. Think I made the right choice.)
  • Set up a GoFundMe to try and help fix the shortfall between my grant and necessary expenditure. If you like postcards and/or videos, and have some cash to spare, there are 'rewards' relevant to your interests :D
  • Started figuring out things I need to buy before I leave. (Please feel free to add suggestions in the comments.)

Plus 18 hours of lectures and homework, and 14hrs on my assignment. Word count around a third of what I was hoping it would be by now. This may be a long weekend.


Nov. 21st, 2014 09:06 pm
gerald_duck: (choccyduck)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
When KraftMondelez bought Cadbury, back in 2010, I joked that this would mean we'd end up with Dairylea-flavoured Green and Blacks.

In fact, one curious effect has been that there are now those swing bags of chocolate-coated pretzels, Crunchums, etc. … which are consipcuously similar to the Milka swing bags available in Germany. A cynic would be forgiven for thinking they switch to a different roll of packaging, replace the hopper of "distinctive Cadbury flavour" with the "creamy Milka flavour" and set the production line running again.

The crossover product that's a stroke of genius, however, is the pairing of Ritz crackers with Cadbury chocolate: chocolate and biscuit, and just a little saltiness which always sets chocolate off nicely.

There is a long history of my liking things and them promptly getting discontinued because nobody else did. Fortunately, you can still get Ditsch pretzels in Little Waitrose and the Tangy Jaffa Viennese do keep reappearing, but still, I'd consider it a favour if somebody other than me bought some Cadbury Ritz thingies!

Meanwhile, Maltesers, though generally inferior to Crunchie and especially to those big slabs of honeycomb that only sometimes gum your teeth together, offer "Merryteaser" reindeer at Christmas and "Malteaster" bunnies at Easter. These are made of an interesting and tasty stuff altogether more truffle-like than actual Maltesers. Recommended.

Alas, the Pita-ahh heritage grain pita chips I discovered in Tesco in the summer vanished as quickly as they arrived.

Many of you will know how gorgeous the sea salt and balsamic vinegar crisps at The Anchor are. I have stumbled upon a quick and easy way to approximate them fairly closely at a fraction of the price in the comfort of one's own home: buy Sainsbury's new Ready Salted Potato Fries microwave them to within an inch of their lives (so a bit longer than the instructions say) then drizzle some balsamic over them as they cool down. It's not the same, but it'll do!

Popcorn-wise, I'm a sucker for cheese popcorn. The best I know is Joe and Seph's Mature Irish Cheddar popcorn, though I only ever tend to find that in Harrod's. A reasonable alternative is Metcalfe's White Cheese. Meanwhile, I still have an intriguing bag of mixed popping corn from Milton Farm Shop that I keep meaning to pop.

One way or another, my cheesybread recipe has been getting a lot of outings recently, to widespread acclaim. I'll include the link again, in case I can tempt anyone else to try it. (-8

While homemade jams are always ideal, of the shop-bought brands, Tiptree seems about the best and Cranberry Jelly their best flavour. It's always been hard to find… except that I've now discovered Waitrose stocks it with sauces rather than jams (despite Tiptree treating it as a jam and offering a separate Cranberry Sauce). Result!

I'll also put in a good word for Marks and Spencer Fruit Sherbets and the Thornton's Strawberry Dreams and Continental Orange Sevilles.

The observant will note that not much of this food is especially healthy. I should be diversifying into healthier foods and, indeed, of late some pots of soup have languished in my fridge until they hit best-before date, untasted. There's always been a really good reason not to get around to trying them, honest. /-8
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
First Charing Cross appointment survived as of Wednesday lunchtime! Barrett did an excellent job of walking the line of the non-actionable; he was determined to tell me lots of incredibly irrelevant anecdotes about his time working with youth offenders, but fundamentally I treated him like an incompetent and irritating supervisor who considered me incompetent and irritating, and this worked well. (Case in point: I successfully rendered him temporarily speechless by telling him very politely that naturally I understood that he had to take a conservative approach...)

Outcomes: I now ~understand~ that ~gender neutrality~ is like ~anarchism~ in that it is inherently unstable and will inevitably collapse into one of democracy or dictatorship (YOU'RE WELCOME); I note that "people find it too difficult to present as gender neutral in ~~~real life~~~" is not in point of fact an argument that gender-neutral identities don't exist, and you position yourself uniquely to believe that in fact they do not; "but what if in a decade's time you don't feel comfortable taking your shirt off on a beach!!!" is not in fact an argument against giving me top surgery now; etc etc. Not dreadful, nothing I couldn't cope with, and next time I possibly get to see Lorimer.

My mental health has improved markedly since starting the vitD, which is extremely pleasant. I am so, so much better; it's a great relief - I'm back down to PHQ-9 score of 8 (from 18 when we tested my bloods). (8 is operating-within-normal-parameters for me -- I am scoring quite highly on the fatigue questions because I've had a long lab stint, and have been in work every day yes-including-weekends since sometime early last week.)

The rest of the ten good things! )

VID REC: Repetition (Iron Man/MCU)

Nov. 21st, 2014 10:02 am
such_heights: iron man in the sky (avengers: iron man [powered up])
[personal profile] such_heights
I am super into [personal profile] thuviaptarth's latest vid right now.

Summary: Engineering is a process of iterative development.

This is a really stylish, cool vid, with a great song choice and some fantastic editing, which is all the icing on a delicious cake of feels. It's about how Tony works and improves and tries and fails and tries again, both with the suits and with people - his relationships with Rhodey and Pepper are beautifully foregrounded, which delights me.

That's not how it works

Nov. 19th, 2014 11:57 pm
gerald_duck: (ascii)
[personal profile] gerald_duck
I've been playing around with networked computers for over three decades now; I ought to have got the hang of such things.

So why, even now, when I stop using the desktop PC, pop downstairs to do some faff, go to the bedroom and switch on the tablet, do I instinctively refresh LJ, glance at IRC, check e-mail, etc. as though somehow I expected the tablet to be viewing a different internet from the one I was looking at on the PC a few minutes earlier?


Nov. 19th, 2014 06:55 pm
tajasel: photo of me with a rainbow hat and big scarf on (Default)
[personal profile] tajasel
Quote to sum up my most fun conversation today: "He only died once!"

(As much as I would love it if my stepdad had come back to life since 2008, it's just not scientifically possible. You'd think seeing the death certificate once would be enough though…)

PS, hello neglected blog friends, I'm going to Finland, and trying to get free money out of organisations to do so is exactly as difficult as you might expect.

Mouse-schitt mit

Nov. 19th, 2014 12:51 pm
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
[personal profile] sunflowerinrain
I have realised how practical cottage-style furniture is for a rural house. Those legs, lifting the chairs and settees and cupboards well off the floor: they're so that rodents can't get into the gap underneath and lurk there unreachably.

Every piece of furniture in the living-room has a gap underneath which is perfect for mice and too small for cats. Even the bookcase and CD shelves, which look as though they go down to the floor, have a space under the bottom shelf and are open at the back.

This morning I took apart the bed-settee to find Noodles' latest pet. Now the mechanism has jammed and it won't fold up. Would love to dispose of it, and its partner, and get a cottage suite.

Posting in December

Nov. 18th, 2014 01:24 pm
such_heights: amy deep in thought (who: amy [dust after rain])
[personal profile] such_heights
Like half my reading list, I too feel enthusiastic about trying to post some more things in December. I didn't get to many of last year's prompts so I may well mine them again because there were some great ideas there, but if anyone's got anything they'd like to see then please do.

Also also, from the makers of the Aims Vidding Project comes ... the 1989 Vidding Project because of our collective Taylor Swift situation. [personal profile] silly_cleo is still looking for vidders if you'd like to get involved.

Is there a docker in the house?

Nov. 18th, 2014 01:36 am
hairyears: (Default)
[personal profile] hairyears
So everyone's read today's report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, on the future of rented housing?

…Right? OK, here's the link:
Soaring rent rises to leave nearly 6 million private renters living in poverty by 2040
It's a useful 'Wake up, people!' headline, but I have some doubts about it.

It's based on a study from Heriot-Watt University, and I have no doubts about the academic rigour of the authors, but I would like to inject a note of realism: this isn't a prediction, it'a projection - a guide to policy and a source of usable baseline figures for the required expenditures to head off that kind of future.

The real world won't be like that in 2040, and they know it.

The unfortunate reality... )
NOW let's talk about housing and the future of renting... )
Ok, that's our snapshot-and-soundbite of the current state of housing... Fast-forward to 2040! )
I foresee at least ten million people living one-family to a room, sometime after 2030; and every prospect that this, a return to the way we lived a century ago, will be normal for a quarter of the population by 2040; and this proportion will still be rising, well into the 2050's.**

I foresee a future of stacked bunks in workers' dormitories for the unskilled labourers who now face workfare - and they will be the lucky ones, fighting like dockers at the gates to clamber over those who get the zero-hours deal of a few hours here and there, and nothing every month or two to put them down where they belong.

Middle-class means renting a room of your own, and a bathroom for you and your domestic partner. It's a better deal than junior clerks and skilled tradesmen got in 1870.

The Eastern Europeans - Poles, mostly - who worked here in the first decade of our century, really did live six and more to a room, 'hot-renting' a sofa in shifts for someone to sleep on. They went back to the developing economy of a former Soviet satellite state; you might want to think about that, and what opinion it expresses about a London working household's prospects of of making economic progress through wage labour in the current rental market.

And the bottom six million, pro rata for the population size, lived like this in 1870. We're not going to do all that much better.

yes, I do footnotes... )