Gratitudes

Apr. 28th, 2017 05:16 pm
kass: A glass of iced coffee with milk. (coffee)
[personal profile] kass
1. It is warm today. I am wearing a sleeveless shirt and right now I am barefoot. This makes me happy.

2. Relatedly, I did my biannual closet swap -- moved the winter stuff into storage more or less, or at least out of the way, and moved the warm-weather stuff back into rotation. Now that I have done this we will probably get two weeks of cold-and-rainy, or something, but it still feels good to have shifted the closet over.

3. The flowers we planted in a box on our wee mirpesset last weekend are blooming and they are lovely.

4. I ran into someone at the co-op today who saw me doing my job recently and wanted to tell me that she's rooting for me to get the permanent position. \o/

5. Someone nearby has hung a beautiful wind chime, and I like the way it peals.

Shabbat shalom to all who celebrate.
ravenna_c_tan: (slytherclaw)
[personal profile] ravenna_c_tan

Did you all see that the winners of the NLA Writing Awards were released? These annual awards celebrate the best in BDSM-positive writing and publishing, in both fiction and nonfiction categories. As a member of the awards committee I’ve been involved with these awards for several years and this year had a bumper crop of books!

To quote from the press release that came from NLA: International:

National Leather Association: International, a leading organization for activists in the pansexual SM/leather community, announced the winners for excellence in literary works in SM/leather/fetish writing published in 2016. The judges received a great number of nominations this year and judging in most categories was quite difficult with such exemplary pieces of writing.

Winner of the Geoff Mains Non-Fiction Book Award is Peter Tupper and David Stein (ed.) for Our Lives, Our History (Perfectbound Press). Honorable mention in this category goes to David Wade for “Vanilla Breaks” (Xcite Books), Richard Levine for “Jolted Awake” (Alfred Press in cooperation with Lulu Enterprises, Inc.) and to Slavemaster and slave 7 “Beyond Obedience” (Createspace).

In the John Preston Short Fiction category, the winner is D.L. King for “Cupcakes and Steel” from the anthology For The Men and The Women Who Love Them (ed.) Rose Caraway (Stupid Fish Productions). Honorable mention for short story goes to Caraway Carter for “7 With 1 Blow” (Beaten Track Publishing) and Ferrett Steinmetz for “Rooms Formed Of Neurons and Sex” which appears in Uncanny Magazine.

The winner of the Pauline Reage Novel category winner is Angela Hamm for The Gambler’s Lady (Blushing Books). Honorable mention in this category goes to Amelia C. Gromley for Risk Aware (Riptide Publishing), Scott Alexander Hess for Skyscraper (Unzipped Books, an imprint of Lethe Press) and Jade A. Waters for The Assignment (Carina Press)

The winner of the Cynthia Slater Non-fiction Article Award is Erica Mena for “(K)ink #5 – Writing While Deviant” which appeared on January 26, 2016 on TheRumpus.net. Honorable Mention in this category goes to Jack Fritscher for “He Was A Sexual Outlaw: My Love Affair With Robert Mapplethorpe” which appeared March 9, 2016 in The Guardian.

There is no winner of the Samois Anthology Award as there were no submissions this year.

Congratulations to all the winners! Writers, publishers, the NLA starts taking nominations for judging in September and the deadline is typically December 31st annually for books published in the calendar year. Contact awards@nla-international.com for more details.

Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.

Gratitudes

Apr. 27th, 2017 07:26 pm
kass: glass of white wine (white wine)
[personal profile] kass
1. Today I was good at my job and that felt good.

2. I am making roasted stuffed peppers right now and they are making my kitchen fragrant.

3. I am rich in friends, and there are a lot of people whom I love, and I am fiercely grateful for this, even when my heart aches because some of those beloveds are suffering.

4. The implausible chartreuse of early spring's first leaves, which I adore, every year.

5. The fact that even when life is not easy, I can feel in my bones that I am in a better place than I was a year ago.

Cookbook experience

Apr. 27th, 2017 11:42 am
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
[personal profile] resonant
Has anyone created a family cookbook? Or had other print-on-demand experience?

Adjudicating

Apr. 27th, 2017 02:16 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
How to adjudicate when the GM and player have diverging expectations?

Someone has to act as arbiter, and by default that's the GM, but when the GM decides, what should they decide?

I have no one answer, but a few principles.

If it doesn't matter much, get it out of the way quickly, and defer any discussion about the rules till later.

If the player had a particular expectation, try not to undermine them. I think this is one of the most important things to try to deal with in the moment.

If the player misunderstood an explanation and tried to jump across a 100" wide chasm not a 10" wide chasm, you may need to clarify some other things, but at a minimum, you probably want to say, "you'll just fall to your death, do you want to do something else?" not "are you sure?" "uh, yeah, why?" "ok, you fall to your death".

That applies whether you have someone who knows what the official rules say and was relying on it. If they've set up a shot that depends on the cover rules working the way the rules say and you've never previously altered, it sucks for them to have that yanked out from under them if you improv something instead. Or whether you have a new player who doesn't know what's covered mechanically or not, and tries to do something dramatic like swinging on a chandelier that in-rules doesn't provide any combat advantage. In both cases, the player shouldn't have a hissy fit, but also in both cases, it's your job to do the best you can in the spur of the moment to allow the player's action or give a good substitute. FWIW, I would allow the first player their interpretation of the rules that once, and if it kills an important NPC, I never rely on an important NPC surviving. And for the second player I'd do something like, "make a dex check, if you succeed, attack with a modest bonus (or choose to knock the enemy back)". That fits the sort of action they wanted.

If it's a one-off, it probably doesn't matter much. If it's going to come up repeatedly (eg. rules for hiding), get past the immediate problem, and then review the situation later. Check what the rules really say. Decide if you'd prefer those, or some modification. Check with the player if they have a sensible request, and if so, consider if it makes sense. Then make a decision, make it clear and stick to it.

If you're not sure which rule to go with? Look for easy to adjudicate (if it doesn't matter, you can always go with what's in the book). Look for fun -- the beginner is right, random stunts should TOTALLY be in lots of combat, and it's a flaw in the rules they're not. Look for ones that avoid breaking a tone you're evoking. Look for which way your players would prefer.

Part of this is just, how to make good rulings in the heat of a moment whichever side you come down on.

Part of it is, where do you draw the line between "what happens because of common sense" and "what happens because what it says in the rules". There's a gulf of people's expectations. Both in terms of tone (is this action adventure where heroes do things humans MIGHT be able to do? Or more like an epic norse legend, where great heroes wrestle sea-serpents?) and in terms of pedantry (do you expect the GM to allow an unconscious villain to have their throat slit? or rely on the weapon rules on how much damage that deals?). There's an amount you can stretch to accommodate different players, but only so far: beyond that, you just have to accept you want to play different things.

It's important to figure out if that's happening or not. You can totally have a tone that has character drama all over the place, *and* swashbuckling *and* fart jokes (see: all of Shakespeare). But if 4/5 players want wall-to-wall drama and one wants fart jokes, it may well not work. And the same in reverse.

Likewise, you can easily have some characters who chose well-optimised powers for their class, and some who chose whatever felt cool, and as long as there's not a big difference in power, it's fine. But if some characters want to hand wave away combat to get to the character interaction, and the other characters want to use the class abilities they just levelled up into, it's a stretch to keep both happy. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't.

But that's often the underlying dynamic when players react in very different ways, they're focussing on different parts of the adventure, and you want to give both what they want, but avoid what you give one player obviating what the other player wants. Eg. if conversation is always pointless when combat happens, people who want to learn about NPCs are screwed. If you let one character do things because they're cool, but everyone else sticks to the rules, the other players are eclipsed. Can you do both, or not?

We are Legion (We are Bob)

Apr. 27th, 2017 02:07 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
I saw this recommended online somewhere and the premise was v my sort of thing so I gave it a go.

Bob is a hacker who gets lucky rich, signs up for cryogenic suspension, and at some point in the future is scanned and turned into an AI in a semi-theocratic-dystopian future. This is before that tech becomes reliable or cheap, so it's only used where an AI is needed and the subject doesn't have much choice, specifically running a space probe.

The generally comedic tone allows a lot of interesting premises to be examined which I've rarely seen in other books, like automatically using multiple copies of the most effective uploaded personality, instead of using each once each.

There's a bunch of space exploration which is solid and pleasingly up-to-date, but not otherwise spectacular.

Bob is an example of the sardonic-witty low-self-esteem hacker who shows up in lots of books. An archetype I like, but have got sick of. The sexist comments are fewer than The Martian, but still not zero.

If you like this sort of thing, you will probably enjoy it a lot, but if you don't, it probably won't persuade you.

Tomb of Horrors

Apr. 27th, 2017 10:38 am
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
A long time ago, there was a DnD module tomb of horrors, and every so often since there's been some controversy about it.

AIUI, it was the equivalent of playing a computer game on iron-man difficulty, with no saves, only one life, etc. It was designed for experienced players who wanted a really deadly challenge, often at conventions where there might be an audience.

The general features are (a) there's a lot of challenges that involve player decisions, not specific skills, whether the characters are appropriately really really careful about everything they do. (b) when something goes wrong, it's usually very deadly.

That meant, if you expected "fair" to mean "forgiving", it's really really not -- if you're the slightest bit incautious, you'll likely all die immediately. But if you expected "fair" to mean, "your death stem directly from your decisions" then it is more so than most adventures[1].

But if you don't know that, there is a lot of ire between people who loved it, people who think this is "the one true way" of how a session should be, and people who tried it and became incredibly resentful. It's good that the far end of a bell curve exists when that's something some people want to find, even if *most* modules should be somewhere left of it.

I did once play with a GM who played a few sessions of it inbetween campaigns. I liked the idea, although I usually like roleplaying with more story.

[1] There are some flaws where it might not be completely fair, or ambiguous descriptions, etc, but less than most modules at the time iirc.

Skill challenges

Apr. 26th, 2017 06:32 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
DnD 4e and 5e introduced the idea of skill challenges. Basically a unified framework for handling various things other than combat or parallel to combat that should involve more back and forth than a single roll, like a chase scene, or defusing a bomb.

The idea is, instead of a single "defuse bomb" roll, you need multiple things, open the panel without setting something off, find the deadman's switch, choose the right wire, cut it.

And these might be things that require a variety of skills.

4e designed a version which really rubbed me up the wrong way. It optimised for designing a scenario that could be run mechanically for different groups and present a particular level of challenge, and assumed that each challenge would be defined by "achieve N successes before X failures, using skills A, B, C or D".

I've only skimmed the rules for 5e but it seems to be somewhat more freeform. Because I thought this was a *great* idea, basically codifying something that a good GM would do automatically, but I really didn't like the way it was hard-coded, and presented to the players up-front.

Ideally, it should be obvious without specifying to the players. For the bomb, maybe each failure makes the bomb arm itself, then begin flashing, then finally explode. You don't know for sure how many steps, but you can tell things are getting critical. (And if you're aiming for fun rather than challenge, the GM can escalate or descelate the requirements according to how challenging this encounter should be compared to other ones that have happened this session.) It should be obvious which skills might apply, but they might lead to different paths -- a knowledge skill might open up an easier path to success, not count as a success/failure itself; different skills might stack or not; etc.

Or it ties into combat, each failure makes combat more difficult (it makes the platform you're standing on move dangerously or lets more enemies catch up), or you need to coordinate making skill rolls with other characters doing combat.

If you're improv'ing, that's all fairly easy to do, even though it's hard to spec in advance.

I said on twitter, skill challenges are a great idea, but I find it more fun if it's "how the GM designs the scenario" not "a mechanic the players need to be familiar with". Now I think of it, I see the same contrast with "what monsters you encounter". That easily can be pre-specified, and the players know, basically, the mechanics are "here's the monsters who exist" or "they spawn every two rounds" (as in 4e)[1], and know everyone faced a similar challenge. Or it can be improvised -- if the players faff around, the reinforcements arrive early, if they players have a lucky plan to bar a door, they can't come in, etc, etc. (as I'd like it).

[1] This makes sense from a tactical combat perspective, but I found very frustrating. Every 2 rounds skeletons climb out of a sarcophagus. No, you can't look inside. No, you can't judge how many skeletons could fit inside. No, you can't judge what sort of spell or effect is responsible (well, you can, but you can't expect it to matter). No, you can't try to block the lid. It's screaming "accept the premise and desperately avoid imagining being there". Except that if you do that, you have no way to judge "having the infinite spawning skeletons finished or will they continue" and are punished for guessing wrong. I feel like you could have 90% of the effect by saying "there's a pile of bones, a skeleton assembles itself out of them, there's still 3/4 of the pile left" or "the sundered skeleton parts begin to reassemble themselves" or "the air shimmers and a skeleton warrior sprouts from the ground".

Interesting Links for 26-04-2017

Apr. 26th, 2017 12:00 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker

(no subject)

Apr. 25th, 2017 04:50 pm
sheafrotherdon: (Default)
[personal profile] sheafrotherdon
An update:

The secretary wrote me back yesterday, and apologized profusely. I wrote back and said that misunderstandings happen and that I was glad we had cleared things up.

I secretly delighted in her apology, proving I am not actually the bigger person.

Bought a Pack for Backpacking.

Apr. 25th, 2017 06:06 pm
copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Oh good, I needed some new madness. Being fair to me, it was a chance to buy a nice $200 backpacking pack for $40. (It’s second-hand but all the wear I saw was cosmetic. It just needs a bath and a few minutes with some strong twine and a needle.)

I got the idea because REI has this program where for $250 they take you backpacking for a weekend, and I looked at that and thought, I’m a cheap asshole but I bet between what I’ve already got and a $250 budget, I can almost completely kit myself out for an entire month of weekends of camping if I so desired. 

$210 to go. Fortunately I have most of the activewear I need, and since I’m only looking at overnighting right now, I won’t need cooking supplies just yet. And my stepdad’s giving me his sleeping bag, so there’s a chunk I won’t have to spend. 

The tent will almost certainly be the only other significant expense, and I can wait a while on that – I have several recon trips planned to the campground before I’ll even be overnighting it. If I get that far this summer, my weekends are filling at an alarming rate. 

But I have my backpack! Now I get to fill it. 

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jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
Last post, I decided that what's "really there" for fundamental particles is typically a quantum thing, specifically, a probability wave of possible values a particle can have which appears to collapse into one particular place only when its interacted with.

However, this "collapse" sounds very suspicious. If two different particles emitted from the same particle decay (or something?) are known to have opposite spins, but not what those are, do you get all the usual wavelike behaviour, can each self-interfere, etc? Yes, of course. And yet, when you finally measure them, lo, the spins are still conveniently opposite.

Something that looks like collapsing to a single answer seems to happen, because when we measure them, we always do get a single answer. But that's not an event. If you measure one, does a spooky force reach out across the room to force the other to collapse at the same time? Does it collapse the value you measure, but still allow other properties of the particle to continue being multiple? That looks awfully like what happens, but it should seem wrong to start with, even before you ask "if you measure one particle, does the other know to wait until you interact with it, but store the answer you're going to find until then" and "if you measure them both a long way apart, does the collapse rush faster than the speed of light (aka backwards in time) to make sure both answers agree with each other?"

Any theory involving particles "knowing" or "waiting" or "choosing" depending on how you measure them sounds very unlike physics.

And yet, the particles go on behaving like probability waves until you measure them, and if they came from a shared source, then when you measure them, they DO agree. Just as if this spooky shit was happening. What might be going on?

Hypothesis 1

Whenever one particle collapses, a spooky force travels faster than the speed of light to the other particle, and then hangs around telling it what value it will have when it's finally measured.

This *works*, but hopefully you can see why it doesn't seem correct.

Hypothesis 2

Just like hypothesis 1, but we try to avoid thinking about it. This is not really satisfying, but it works and is a pragmatic default for many physicists. (Sort of Copenhagen interpretation?)

Hypothesis 3

Even while a particle is still smeared out across a probability of many potential positions/values, it has a hidden property which tells it how it's *going* to collapse when something interacts with it. Like, not necessarily "hidden", but basically some sort of determinism.

This is roughly Hidden variables interpretation (right?)

This would be fairly satisfactory except that it turns out it's impossible.

This is not very mysterious or controversial, but involves more simple probability than I can manage to wade through. Look up the EPR paradox or the Bell inequality. The idea is, you choose something like polarisation angle that could be measured at many different angles. You randomly choose to measure at different angles for two particles known to have opposite polarisation. There are various correlations between the probabilities when you measure the two particles at an angle to each other (the detectors neither parallel nor orthogonal). You can prove that no possible hidden value would make all those correlations true at once, but QM does and that's what's actually observed.

I can't really prove this to myself, let alone anyone else, but AFAIK no reputable physicists doubt that it's correct, only maybe what it means, so I'm willing to accept it as true.

There are still edge cases, like, people argue whether the experiments have ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY proved this spooky collapse effect would have to go faster than the speed of light, rather than going at a possible speed (but depending what exact moment sets it off, etc). But I don't find any of that very persuasive. A spooky collapse effect which is triggered by measuring a particle and goes at the speed of light or below, while not ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY ruled out, doesn't sound at all likely. I don't think anyone seriously expects that if they make the distance apart in those measurements a bit bigger, they'll suddenly get difference results: that's not how you expect physics to happen.

Hypothesis 4

Those weird quantum probability waves don't only exist for tiny particles, they happen just the same for everything including macroscopic objects, humans, etc, but you can't observe the effects except for tiny things (because to see interference you need something isolated from other particles, and you need to be able to detect its wavelength, which is way too small for anything bigger than a molecule).

I'm still working on understanding *why*, if that's true, it produces the effects we see. But most physicists, even ones who don't like this line of reasoning, seem to agree that it *would*.

This makes everything above non-mysterious. How does the collapse effect move around? It doesn't. Every "collapse" is just another probability thing of a scientist (and all the other macroscopic stuff) interacting with a particle and becoming two never-interacting possible scientists, one observing A, one observing B. We know both happen. We know, when we measure things light-hours apart and then compare notes, that we will be comparing notes with the version of the other scientist who observed the opposite polarisation to what we saw, while our shadow twin will be comparing notes with the other scientist's shadow twin.

The multiple non-interacting versions of the macroscopic world are called "many worlds" or "parallel universes" which admittedly makes them sound very implausible.

It seems like, this leaves some things to ponder, but resolves a very large part of the things people find mysterious. And yet, many physicists really don't like it. I need to read the bits of Scott Aaron's book about different interpretations[1], because I trust him to know more about this than me and he doesn't seem convinced.

Footnote [1]

The hypotheses above are called interpretations. I don't know if my ones exactly map onto the real ones. The name is because they all predict the same results, and yet seem quite different.

You can argue, "they're the same", but I don't quite agree. See for instance space outside our light cone -- we have no way of observing it, so the hypotheses "it's got physics just like ours but with different stuff there" and "it's all purple unicorns" are both possible, and yet, the first one seems a lot more like actual reality.

In both cases, it sort of doesn't matter, but you can imagine (a) which answer is most plausible, most useful, easiest to work with, or least ridiculous (b) if we're wrong and there IS some difference, which one would actually be found to be the one that exists.

Tales from Tutoring

Apr. 26th, 2017 12:08 am
delfinnium: (Default)
[personal profile] delfinnium
Me: So if the mother has A blood type, and the father has B blood type, what are the chances of their having a male child with A blood type?

Student: Uuuuuh I don't know.

Me: Okay, what are the chances of them having a boy?

Student: .... I don't know! Isn't that up to God?!

Me: ....................Up to God? So, what, you can have a girl, boy or a puppy!?

(Yes, I know that there are conditions that can skew the chances from 50% male-female, and yes, XY and XX doesn't map directly to male-female sexes when there are XXY, XXX, and other genetic differences. But we're revising basic Mendelian genetics and inheritance.)
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
You should be able to select multiple pokemon from your reserves when choosing which pokemon to fight with.

When you're training a friendly gym, the default pokemon selection should avoid pokemon very slightly higher CP than the ones you're fighting that automatically reduce the prestige gained by 40%.

"Vaporeon used hydropump" should always come slightly before the special move takes effect, rather than slightly after.

If your pokemon is on 5% health and you switch to another pokemon and that one is knocked out, its default replacement should be the *next* one, not the one which will be knocked out instantly. (Is there a shortcut for "next pokemon" without going through the pokemon select screen?)

If your switch pokemon and while you're in the pokemon select screen, your previous pokemon faints or you forget which pokemon you started with, and you click frantically click a pokemon again and again trying to select it and nothing happens, it should select that pokemon even if it's the one already selected.

If you select "run away" there should be a quick gesture to do so in a single click, without needing to get to the "yes" button before your next pokemon is knocked out too.
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
This has so much I love.

An interesting space empire, full of detailed calendrical minutae, customs, etc, etc.

A mathematically gifted protagonist struggling to serve loyally as a minor officer in the infantry.

A legendary rogueish maybe-monster.

The empire is built on basically mathematically-based magic, following particular social codes (both on an "infantry formation scale" and a "society as a whole" scale) allows various exotic technologies to work that wouldn't otherwise, including more powerful weapons and other tech that enables the empire to function at all.

I had some reservations too, which may contain spoilers, so will be moved into a follow-up post. Please make any comments which contain spoilers on that post too.
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