sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
Empire fiction is a community for fiction based around Profound Decision's Empire LRP system. This is a story I wrote set in that world. Yay, I wrote fiction. I like it when I write fiction. I don't believe any knowledge of the system is necessary to enjoy (or dislike) the story.


Jun. 30th, 2013 11:06 am
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
It occurs to me that me continuing enjoyment of Young Adult literature well into adulthood (and arguably senility) is because it's a rare market segment where women getting to have an adventure is totally accepted and normal.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
I thought this article was interesting, if overly long for the point it was trying to make. However, the alpha SF nerd in me feels compelled to point out:

(a) if your role models came from SF and fantasy, why didn't you want to be Lessa the Weyrwoman, or Sigmy Mallory (or pretty much any Cherryh heroine) or Cassandra of Troy (the Marion Zimmer Bradley version)?* I bloody well know I did. To suggest that the genre is absent of real female protagonists is odd. For Lessa, you don't even have to wonder away from entirely mainstream SF (although being a McCaffrey character, she is of course, problematic in some ways).

(b) I don't think Moffat's female characters are any worse than RTDs, low bar though that is. The only one that was genuinely likeable was Donna Noble. This is one of the reasons we so desperately need a female doctor (preferably a fat, 40 year old, slightly obsessive one - still waiting for that call, Moffat) - so the writers can get used to the idea that female characters can exist as people (although to be fair, it's rare that anyone, except the Doctor himself, is allowed to be a rounded person).

*Or Marianne from Sherri S. Tepper's Marianne Trilogy, whom I sometimes felt like I actually *was* (despite, I should make clear, not suffering emotional abuse from my brother myself). But very few people will have heard of her, I suspect.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
Costa coffee have possibly the worst loyalty card system of all the coffee shops. You get 5p worth of store credit back for each £1 you spend, so essentially 1 free coffee for each 20 or so cups that you buy, which is about twice the number required by anyone else. Admittedly you can spend the credit on anything, but it's still not that great. However, they recently started selling their coffee for home Tassimo machines, and as a promotion offered me a machine which retails at £120 (market price £80-£100) for £30.

I've never been a huge fan of the idea of pod coffee machines. The pods vary between 20p each for standard coffee, to 65p for a latte, so they are pretty pricey. Last year, my second Gaggia espresso machine died and I can't afford to replace it, so regarded as a mechanism for cutting down my coffee shop spend, even at 65p a cup, the £30 cost of entry suddenly made the whole thing a lot more appealing.

The best thing about the Tassimo is that it's the easiest, cleanest coffee machine I've ever owned. You put the pod in, press the button, and you're done. The least good thing about it is that you're stuck with whatever pods Kraft feel like producing, and it's a closed system, so there's no competition on price. Buy the T-Discs from Amazon or the local Tescos, you will pay the same for them. While there are a number of latte style drinks provided, they use Kraft's UHT condensed creamer, which, although pretty acceptable for that sort of thing, is only available with sugar, and, well, still isn't as nice as ordinary milk. I can heat milk in the microwave, but none of the local stores sell a stand alone "espresso" pod, which makes life difficult (at least for first world values of difficult).

Here comes the nerdery. I just wanted to write this down somewhere before I forgot it. If you do not care about Tassimo coffee machines and how to hack them to get around some annoying restrictions, then you won't be interested in the rest of this post.

The interesting thing about Tassimo is that the brew program is dictated by bar codes printed on the top of the pods. There is a bar code reader inside the machine, which translates the bar code into temperature and pressure settings. It's all documented at

I have a label printer (a brother QL-560LE) which prints sticky labels, and can print bar codes on it. Sure enough, a little experimentation shows that the bar codes on the pods are I-2/5 standard with a checksum bit, and that setting the printer software to generate them at medium size with a 2:1 aspect ratio produces a 34mm wide bar code, which appears to be the right width and can be read by the Tassimo machine.

Armed with this knowledge, I was able to scan the lid of a Costa Cappuccino coffee cartridge (i.e. one designed to produce espresso style coffee to be mixed with the creamer) using my phone. The code for this cartridge is 063050. The label printer was very happy to produce a 60mm odd high (the width of the printer) sticker with this bar code on (and a small text label to say which bar code it is). This can then be trimmed with scissors and stuck on to any cartridge. Sure enough I can now brew "espresso" using any base coffee cartridge, and make it into latte with the use of microwaved milk. It tastes, if not as good as the best cup of coffee I've made with an espresso machine, far far better than the worst one.

(The file for the P-Touch labeling software can be found here.)
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
It occurs to me that the game Civilization would make an excellent setting for a SF novel. There's a bunch of immortal leaders inexplicably in charge of nation states of short lived humans who proceed to mess with all sorts of aspects of their lives throughout time.

It further occurs to me that this may already have been done and in fact by Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
Well, I have finished The Walking Dead. Like Shaun of the Dead it succeeds because it decides to use zombies to tell a story about human beings, which is pretty much the only way I can end up not being bored to (un)death by zombies. It's a good story, but I question all those "game of the year" awards. It's more of a choose your own adventure film than a game, really. It's worthwhile without a doubt, but I'm not sure I'd say it does anything particularly innovative and interesting with interaction.

The one thing I did like game wise is the way that the save system is set up to encourage you to live with your mistakes. If you don't manage to do something in time, then it's hard to go back and do it again, and I felt this did add to the storytelling, making the protagonist into a flawed hero quite nicely. What was less good was that when I screwed up, it was usually due to issues with the rather clumsy controls, or the standard "no, I meant be sarcastically reassuring, not berate the guy like a total dick" dialogue dilemmas.

PS Quick time events are pretty lame in FPSes. I'm not sure Telltale is doing anyone any favours by infecting (do you see what I did there?) the adventure game genre with them.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
Advance notice that I shall be holding my 40th birthday party in Oxford on Sat 10th Aug. (Although I propose to hold my 40th birthday on the 9th, because I don't think the universe will co-operate otherwise.) Further details to follow. Partners welcome.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
In recent years, I have discovered that my vestigial sense of (spiritual) faith has atrophied to the point where I can no longer be said to believe in any deity. I have always felt uncomfortable with the terms agnostic and atheist, and have therefore tended, when necessary, to self-describe as humanist. Today I had a conversation in which I kind of straightened out some thoughts I have about religion, and I thought they might be worth sharing.

Mumblings about religion. )
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
38 Degrees are still up to their usual tricks. Since I really do care about legal aid, I decided to sign one of their petitions against my better judgement. They provide no means even to opt out of signing up to their mailing list if you do so. Hence this email (entitled "your awful email list policy").

Hello there,

I have just signed your petition regarding legal aid, because it's something I believe in a great deal.

However, you provided me with no option not to receive further campaign emails from you.

I know you think that you're saving the world, but spam is spam. If a commercial company did that sort of thing you would doubtless be up in arms.

Please don't tell me that the vast majority of your users are pleased to receive your emails. I am not the vast majority of your users, and I am not pleased.

I would be grateful if you would remove this email address from any of your mailing lists, and would urge you to reconsider your policy, at least to the extent of allowing people to opt out of your mailing list.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
I have been fairly vocal about my dislike of the Veronica Mars movie kickstarter, and I did promise DanielWhoseLJNameIHaveForgotten that I would explain quite why I disliked it so much. I'm not sure I can articulate it very clearly, but basically it goes against what I regard as the current spirit of the kickstarter model - communities of like minded individuals forming together to get something done that would be hard to make happen within conventional models.

The problem with Veronica Mars is that it's simply selling a commodity. It's clear that the backers have no real ownership of the project. (Also true of many other kickstarters, but I prefer at least society to benefit from a kickstarter, even if I don't.) It is priced at the same level as a full retail release, despite the lower costs of marketing through Kickstarter. It was originally available only in the US, and is still unavailable in most countries in the world although this has got better throughout the campaign. This to me betrays the global nature of the Internet and attempts to enforce an outdated business model onto an international medium. It also sells "extra" and bit parts in the movie, thus taking work from struggling artists. Rewards are delivered electronically as DRM protected streams, so buyers have no guarantee they will not disappear when the film is no longer profitable. All this is going towards creating a slick safe conventional piece of Holywood product that it should be possible to make entirely within the conventional system.

Contrast this with Alex Cox's "Bill the Galactic Hero" Kickstarter. The pricing model is similarly excessive, but at least for your $25 you get a DRM free MOV file of the film to keep. He is making a black and white film of a minor 60s SF classic with a message that genuinely does deserve wider modern attention. He's shooting for $100000, which is a ridiculously small budget for a modern movie, shooting on analogue film, and relying on obsolete model shots for special effects. Holywood have no interest in this project and never will. The actors, while unpaid, are at least receiving a share of the profits, and are, like pretty much everyone else in the project, giving their time for love. And he has committed to editing the whole thing in an Open Source movie editing tool.

So the difference boils down to this - Cox is using Kickstarter to create niche art that would be impossible to fund within the conventional movie industry by connecting directly with the people who want that. Rob Thomas, by contrast, is taking pre-orders. The Veronica Mars film may well end up being enjoyable, but it is by and large business as usual. Alex Cox is also doing what he's done for most of his career - making movies despite the system, while pushing open technology and consumer friendly distribution. Kickstarter is a way for him to do that that cuts out the inefficient brokerage of the 20th Century studio model, and this is the kind of Kickstarter I really enjoy and am glad to fund.

Bill the Galactic Hero Kickstarter


Apr. 8th, 2013 05:11 pm
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
So, Thatcher. We all know the bad. What I'd like people to remember is that she clawed her way up from humble beginnings and carved out a space for herself among the elite. Also, having got there, she tried her very best within her own paradigm to ensure that the ladder wasn't pulled up behind her. There has not since her been a British politician so committed to equality of opportunity, and this is a sad thing. Our supposed left wing politicians could do far worse than look to Thatcher when it comes to giving impoverished but gifted people the means to succeed.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
So, I have finished Bioshock Infinite. I shall not spoiler it. However, the people who truly had their minds blown by the ending simply don't read enough SF - it's all fairly standard tropes, albeit in a very well presented package. Also, it dicks with the 4th wall in exactly the opposite way to Bioshock, which I thought was kind of cute.

I did not anticipate the final twist, but I feel this was largely due to an Agatha Christiesque withholding of the crucial information necessary to piece it together properly.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
From my social media this morning, it seems as though about 90% of you were using it, which (given its vaunted "social" integration) surprises me, as I thought it was just me.

My current favoured replacement is Feedly, which I have been using successfully on mobile for a week or two with some success, and is definitely my favourite mobile Google reader interface anyway. They say they will automigrate over your bookmarks as well, although I would take a backup anyway to be certain.

I am yet to love the desktop version, but it's early days yet. I do wish websites (LJ included) wouldn't assume a minimum width - I like to run my browser on one half of my screen so I can use the other half for something else, but many sites seem to assume a 1024 pixel minimum width, which is a shame.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
Had an utterly fab time at King's Musketeers this weekend, of which there may be more froth later.  However, it was pointed out to me that some found my performance surprising as I "always" play evil.  I was in a sort of retrospective mode, as this is the tenth anniversary of my first UK freeforms weekender, so I went back to work out if this was indeed the case.


I think what this tells me is that my evil characters are way more memorable than my good ones.  My favourites are probably (in chronological order) Greta Savos, Cassandra, Maud Gonne, Suzanne de Batz-Castelmore, which suggests I have no particular preference for good over evil.

Thoughts appreciated, particularly if you've played in these games.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
In Star Trek: Deep Space 9, there is a certain pattern in crisis conversations.  Usually they are between Cisco and O'Brien and go something like this:

Cisco: Is there any way to re-energise to molestators?
O'Brien: Well I could reroute the capitulation circuit to cross-cut the tachyon pulse which should reverse the direction of chronon emissions.
Cisco: Good plan, chief.  How long will it take?
O'Brien: Two days
Cisco: You have half an hour.

Is it just me, or is demanding things faster than people say they can do them not a very useful management technique?  Is there something about stating a time limit with sufficient authority that slows down time, or something?
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
My letting agents inspect 4 times a year, which seems excessive to me.  I have made my peace with this, as it forces me to tidy the place, which is a Good Thing.  Which is what I spent yesterday doing.  The inspection today took approximately 10 seconds - may have been as long as 15.  I don't really have an issue with this - I'm tidying for me, not for them - but it does make me curious as to the purpose of the inspections.  Is it to check I've not installed a fireman's pole or demolished a wall?  It's hard to see that anything less obvious than that would be picked up by it.

I conclude that the most likely reason for the inspections is to ensure that the property is thoroughly cleaned 4 times a year.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
Saw Les Mis today.  Was intended to be a family outing, but mother and niece both too upset by Fantine to continue, which was a shame.   I've seen suggestions it doesn't work well as a film.  It's certainly true that many of the pacing problems of the original have survived despite a re-ordering of some of songs around "One Day More" that I actually regard as an improvement on the original order.  (I was briefly scared they'd cut "Do you hear the people sing", but moving it to straight after "One Day More" actually lessens some of the feeling of anti-climax I normally get after that.)

However, as a film of a musical, it's pretty perfect.  Lovely costumes and set dressing, and most of the actors were fantastic, although both Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman lack the gravitas for Javert and Valjean, and neither of them are particularly strong singers.   (Jackman does however manager a couple of nice emotional moments>) Amanda Siegfried and Mr Cheekbones-for-cutting-glass (mmm) actually made me give a slight shit about Cosette and Marius, which was handy as the above casting had robbed the Valjean/Javert arc of some of its power.  Anne Hathaway chews the scenery beautifully as Fantine, the children actively failed to be annoying, Eponine was a inoffensive to good, and Sasha Baren Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were fantastically campy as the Thenardiers.

The big gimmick they've been pushing with this film is that the songs were recorded live on set and thus acted.  While it does afford a more natural flow and greater dynamics of expression, I can't say it made that much of a difference to the finished product.  Consider that Moulin Rouge employed many similar techniques while still using pre-recorded singing, and it's not clear that all that much is gained.  I don't think it will convert anyone who is unconvinced by Les Mis, but if you already enjoy the show, it's definitely worth a watch, even if I did keep wanting Philip Quast back.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)
Appear to have failed at being invited to NYE parties.  Oops.
sesquipedality: (Queen of Swords)

Peter Molyneux's Kickstarter god game has been fundedn with less than 2 days to go.  This is good news, as he's local talent, the inventor of the entire genre (with Populous, which some of you may even be old enough to remember) and really seems to care about doing what he does well.  For a while this looked like it was going to be the first major Kickstarter to fail, so it's good to see that's not the case.
sesquipedality: (Default)
The talented and hard working Ashrow Theatre Company are putting on a new production of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" tonight at the White Bear Theatre in London before taking the production on tour. I love the cynicism of Russian humour, think it's fantastic that they've had the courage to put on something a bit out of the ordianry, and will be along to see the production soon, although I can't make tonight in London sadly. If you're stuck for something to do this evening, and in London, you may want to consider it, as there's still a few tickets let.

(The observant among you may be able to figure out my connection to the Company. It's left as an exercise for the reader. No, I'm not in it.)
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