Monthly Archives: March 2007

Want to Vote? Write Your Congressman!

Are you passionate about an issue?  Any issue?  For something?  Against something?  Write your Congressman.

It’s easy.  Do a google search for their name.  Go to their official website.  They’ll have a form you can fill out, with your name, address, and your message.  You don’t even have to open your own email application.  It will take less than five minutes.

Why is this a good idea?  Because those letters get read.  They don’t all get read by the main reciepient, but lots do.  And here’s why:  Nobody writes their congressmen.  The people who do are die-hard, obsessed, passionate individuals, who not only vote, but are activists and mobilize others to vote.  That’s what you look like when you write to your congressman: someone who cares.  Someone who matters.  They might not agree with what you have to say, but you will be heard.  In our country of three hundred million, being heard is hard to do.

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Vampire is Not About Politics

Politics is about the polis, the city, the whole, and not the individual.  The schemes of vampires are about the self, and petty intrigues.

Vampires call what they do ‘politics,’ but they do not know the meaning of the word.  Mind control powers, blood bonds over your enemies, half remembered texts by Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Marx, and Dracula, the ability to bootlick and toady to those more powerful than you, and the propensity to screw over those less powerful than you does not make you a Politician.  It makes you a petty, gossiping, backstabbing locust feeding off society.*

Unless you are thinking of something larger than yourself, you are not a Politician, and you are not engaging in Politics.

If you could ask your Vampire character what public-policy goals they have, what would their answer be.  (Things like ‘my own survival,’ ‘my own comfort,’ ‘my childe’s survival,’ and the like are personal goals, not public-policy ones.)  Chances are they don’t have any, or if they do, it’s a cookie-cutter, party line “advance the goals of my covenant” screed.

Hell, even D&D characters tend to have more actualized public-policy goals: overthrow the evil Emperor, overthrow the evil church, free the slaves, restore justice, make life better for peasants, unite the good countries to stand against the evil countries, etc.

(*The mortal petty, gossiping, backstabbing, locusts that feed off society actually have interests, and constituents, and generally are trying to work towards an actual long-term agenda other than their own petty survival and comfort.  So they actually ARE politicians.)

Totally Awesome Grindhouse Review

Read it!

Very stoked.  Looks like it’s up my alley.  Of course, I knew that since I saw the trailer.

It’s Been a Rough Weekend

It was some sort of school wrestling event in Madison this weekend.  Friday and Saturday night I had a packed hotel, full of kids running around and drunken parents.

The hotel is not a babysitter.  Eventually, something horrible is going to happen to some unnattended kid, and the hotel’s going to get blamed for it.  I’m tired of running around chasing down kids who roam from floor to floor, trying to get them to either stay in one place or go to their rooms.

The hotel is not having a party in the room across from you.  I know it’s loud, and you’re paying a lot of money for a night of rest.  But I can’t respond to these things instantly, and sometimes I can’t even know it’s going on until someone complains.  I deal with these things the best I can, but it’s always unpleasant.  And taking your frustration out on me makes me less sympathetic to help you, not more.

The hotel is not your personal playhouse.  Just because you rent a whole lot of rooms does not give you liscence to disturb other guests.  Even if you have most of a floor.  Even if you have a whole floor- there’s still other people above and below.  If I have to, I will call the cops and have you kicked out.  No one wants that, so please keep things reasonably quiet, keep the doors shut so sound doesn’t travel, and have someone designated to watch the kids so you get to have a good time with your friends, the other guests get to have a good nights sleep, and I have a non-stressful night where I don’t have to come down on you.

Writing Your Own Game is Fun

Bucket of Magic Grease

3 AP to slather yourself up with magic grease.  For the rest of the turn, you may move through walls and doors, and every 1 AP is worth 2 spaces of movement.  You may not carry the Deus ex Machina while covered in magic grease.

Madison Mayoral Matchup

With the Madison Mayor election less than two weeks away and an in-depth coverage of the two candidates in the Journal, it’s time for some electorate min-maxing.

Cieslewicz (Chez-Lev-Itch) is pre-sold if you like the current state of affairs in Madison, and he’s got a lot of nifty initiatives to his name, like building of a wi-fi network in town and looking for an improved city transit system.  However, his administration is plagued by a number of problems:  the Madison public water is considered undrinkable my many (but not me),  and there is urban blight on the south side.

Allen’s public ad campaign thus far has been unimpressive.  This might be because I don’t watch TV, but all I knew was that he’s black and anti-trolley.  That does not build a campaign.

On the issues, Allen seems to have better priorities:  improving water quality, attracting businesses, improving opportunities for low-income housing, and improving police quality.  Cieslewicz agrees all of these are priorities, but seems to lack a coherent plan for dealing with any of them.  On these issues, Allen out performs Cislewicz on every one.

But- what of benefits for workers and health initiatives, like Madison’s recent smoking ban?

Allen is also silent on what programs would be cut or taxes would be raised.  This is a hard question for Allen.  I have no qualms about higher taxes, but if budget cuts are on the table, he needs to start picking programs.

And is Allen too conservative for Madison?  He’s donated to the Republican party recently, but seems on the left of the right, supporting domestic-partner benefits (he’s silent on gay marriage, as far as I can tell), and poverty.  He’s on the record as pro-choice, which I applaud, and which he’s taking fire for from other conservatives.

Verdict:   Both men have good aims, and this seems what politics should be about- looking for the best candidate, not the lesser of two evils. 

Allen seems to be the early favorite in my book, and a clear plan for budget cuts and reform should clinch things.  Cieslewicz favors many beneficial ‘green’ initiatives, but his aims seem to be gentrifying downtown Madison, not improving life for everyone.  If Cieslewicz can’t prove he’s a populist, I’m voting Republican in this one.

Action Points!

Having finished the first draft of Pandora’s Box, I now turn my eye back to game design.  Let the others play with their rpg designs for now- what I really want to do is write a board game.

I’ve been toying with a game design inspired by Doom, Descent, Heroquest, and Tom Nipple’s ‘Dungeon’ (which likely has much of the same source material.)  A bunch of peeps go into the dungeon, another person controls the monsters, hack and slash ensues.  Good times.

What I’m looking at using is a form of Action Points, these are often used in board games to good effect, and were also featured in the Fallout computer games.  I’m not aware of any RPG games that utilize them to heavy effect, but perhaps some intrepid reader will prove me wrong.  (D&D doesn’t count.  You need more potential actions than that.)

In an action point, or AP, system, you have a number of AP per turn.  You can spend these to do things.  For example, in the boardgame Tikal, your AP can be used to place guys on the map, move your guys, or do actions with your guys, like dig up pyramids or claim artifacts.  In Fallout, you usually use your AP to move, shoot, reload, or use healing items.  Even the Doom boardgame and D&D have a primitive AP use- do you move twice, attack twice, or move and attack?

The key with action points is that you need to not have enough of them.  You always need to be in a position where you’d like to be able to do just slightly more than you have the points for; this puts you in a position where there is a choice, and hard choices are the root of good games.  If you have 7 AP, and there’s only 7 AP of stuff you want to do, you can just stroll along.  If there’s 10, the game is golden, and you have to sweat.  If there’s only 5 or 6 AP of stuff you want to do, that’s pretty bad.  The idea here is that the game rules, not just the game situations, force tactical decisions on the players.

300 Not That Great

I give it 300 stars… out of a possible 500.

Some of the action sequences were pretty good, and there were some nice lines, but it felt like there was too much in between, and there wasn’t much I hadn’t seen done better elsewhere.  Xerxes may be about the hottest thing ever, so hot I’m going to link to that picture again right now.

Verdict:  Rent Sin City and watch that again; Rodriguez is a superior director and the action is more tightly packed.  But also look at pictures of Xerxes on the internet.

This Summer!

You know what the best part of a movie is?  The trailer.

If you like movie trailers, you’ll like this (old) Something Awful flash movie.