Archive | May, 2009

Starting a new campaign

31 May

This June I will be starting a new campaign run by Trollsmyth. It’s my first big campaign and I’m pretty excited. Well, excited and intimidated. I’ll be joined by some other experienced players.

I’m playing a female witch, Afya. Now I’ve been warned about some of the things that go wrong when men play as women, namely awkward lesbian adventures, but that’s not what I’m shooting for. I also don’t want to be “that player”, the one who just makes life difficult for the DM.

My girlfriend has vented to me several times while running one of her games about how one of the players was just horrible. Copying a second player in almost everything she did, and asking really stupid irrelevant questions.

Anyways, here’s Afya’s back story:

Afya was born and raised on the edge of the Second Lizardfolk Empire. Her mother Malika, a once respected witch, taught Afya of the Mother and the ways of witches, but has been suffering a slow mental decline over that past decade. Malika now spends her time tending to the water buffalo on the family farm and collecting herbs. Afya’s father Jal spent a short time in the Lizardfolk army as an archer, but retired after his tour. He now tends to the family water buffalo and Malika. Jal was wounded and disabled in a border raid by a group of human marauders, and as such work has become more difficult. Afya has one brother, Zahid, who instead of helping on the family farm, left for one of the human cities to seek his fortune, but has not been heard from for some time.

With no relief from the Lizardfolk Empire and a disable father, Afya’s family is having trouble making ends meet. Afya had to make the difficult choice to leave the farm in search of work, her brother, and hopefully something to aid her mother. The family scrounged what they could and even let Afya take a water buffalo, Hercule.

/backstory

Yes, a waterbuffalo. My lovely girlfriend never told me that we were going to be starting on an Island the size of Corsica. Trollsmyth said he never had a player start out with a waterbuffalo before. I figured I have a lot of hard to carry stuff, and a waterbuffalo could help pull objects out of our way.

For fun I made some really terrible concept art of Afya and Hercule. I found a Chador or the clothing list and decided to run with it. Afya also means “shadows” in Arabic, so I thought it worked nicely.

Afya and Hercule

I don’t get libertarians….

28 May

I have several friends who call themselves libertarians, one who keeps sending me anti-Obama stuff. Now, the way I understand it, libertarians are conservative on economic issues, but liberal on social issues. That’s cool, but what gets me is all the libertarians I know tend to vote for republicans all the time.

Now usually values trumps economics. This is why a lot of poor people vote republican. Yes the republicans are usually extremely rich business people who don’t like anything that even smells of worker’s rights, but they’re also religious. Many of the poor people are very religious too, they see the “values” connection and vote for a block of people that usually screw them over. This is what happened with Bush twice. The poor religious people loved him and voted for him both times because he was a “compassionate conservative”.

Now if values trumps economics, you’d think that libertarians would vote for democrats the majority of the time, yet still be angry over the economic policies. Instead it seems like they vote their wallets and then forget about the social ramifications of electing conservatives.

Now I can understand how someone would want government to just stay our of just about everything, but I feel there are some situations in which government should step in. When it comes to social issues, I feel the government should only step in to prevent discrimination and disenfranchisement of a group of people. This includes keeping the government neutral, i.e. separation of church and state. The government shouldn’t be regulating what you can do in the privacy of your own home.

Economics is tricky though. This is where I would disagree with libertarians. The problem with money is that people use it to unbalance the political playing field along with everything else. To many economic conservatives, regulation is a four letter word. Yet when you take regulation away, you get shit like what the economy is suffering though now.

Thunderf00t mentions regulation in the below video around 3:20. The main point of the video is something else entirely, but he makes some good points about how regulation is needed because the free market has no natural mechanism to protect the people when the needs of the people are out-weighed by what is profitable.

Now do I like the idea of a welfare state? No. I don’t want my money going to support someone like octomom. I also don’t want my money being used by people who could normally be working. I am fine with my money going to help the sick and elderly, and to temporarily help someone pay their grocery or heating bill while they are honestly trying to find work. I’m fine with welfare to that extent. But to take government out of it entirely would lead to the same sick social darwinism of the late 19th/early 20th centuries.

Sometimes I wish I had a religion

27 May

Sometimes I wish I had a religion, just to be able to claim all the crap modern religions do. For example, there is a scene in Angels and Demons where one of the Vatican police officers warns Robert Langdon to watch his tongue inside the holy Vatican city. Sometimes I wish I had a religion so I could do that. Imagine, being able to tell religious people that they must hold their tongues and be respectful inside a science museum! Damn that would feel good.

But unfortunately science doesn’t work like that. Science by nature wants you to question! Religions ask you to hold your tongue.

I wish that I could have special holidays that I could take off class/work, with party napkins and special cards, along with sales and “Happy _________” signs.

It would be nice to just  demand blanket respect for my views, and my restrictions on criticizing me put into law. I’d be nice to claim a monopoly on morality and influence the government to enact policies we deem acceptable. It’d be nice to have my faith on the currency and in the pledge too.

It’d be nice to have a list of holy sites and symbols, along with old and sometimes secretive orders. All this would be awesome. Especially the respect and influencing law part.

Heaven is Hell

26 May

As a little kid, did you ever take a plane ride and look out the window onto the clouds, hoping to see angels or perhaps a dead love one? I did, and I’m pretty sure millions of other kids have too.

Growing up, I never really thought of heaven much. I knew that I wanted to go there, but beyond that I didn’t give it much thought. Then I started thinking about all the people I knew who wouldn’t go to heaven, how it would make me really sad if someone I loved was burning forever in hell. How could I be happy in heaven knowing someone I loved was suffering? How could anybody?

I used to think that perhaps if I made a deal with god to trade spaces with someone in hell, he’d see the goodness in that act and we’d both be free to live in heaven. That or maybe if I just asked Jesus to forgive that person even if they didn’t ask for it…..

But what I really found fascinating was the idea of eternity. I was brought up to believe that if you were good and believed in Jesus you would spend eternity in heaven with god, where you would always be happy and feel no pain. Can you imagine eternity? Could you imagine being stuck in one place forever? I’d go crazy! I couldn’t do it, it would eventually become hell for me. The only way I’d be happy would to not exist, to not be conscious of time.

If I had to be conscious of time, I guess I could be happy if I had complete freedom of movement within time and space. I could be there for every event in human (and alien) history. I could go see the moment of creation, spend summers in distant galaxies, explore. Unfortunately, I don’t think my pastor thought this was part of the all-inclusive package.

The heaven that the people at places like “Liberty” “University” speak of would drive me up the wall. An all white gated community, where I am forced to be god’s cheerleader for all eternity. I’d be much more happy not existing.

What it means to be a man and feminism

26 May

As a guy, I’m constantly under a barrage of peer and media pressure to conform to the perceived “norm” of masculinity. Living with a large group of guys for the past year really got me thinking about what this perceived norm is, and how it is expressed, especially in relation to the treatment of women.

Once I started examine “what it means to be a man” I found myself becoming progressively more disgusted. I have a hunch that many guys feel the same way I do about the stereotypes of manliness, but unfortunately the pressures to conform are so great, very few speak out. This in turn leads the really chauvinistic guys to think they are normal. There are a lot of twisted assumptions that won’t get better until normal men stand up and say something. That’s what I’m trying to do.

So what are these stereotypes? Well there are a lot of them. I think a good example is the facebook group “Men“. They have common interests as:

“Guns (okay, weapons in general), food (red meat, or prepared by women), beer, cars (fast or big, mean or sexy), chest hair, war (movies or otherwise), pain, sports, fire, sleep, not asking for directions, face melting guitar riffs, blood and sweat (not tears), big dogs, speeding, pipes and cigars, tattoos, gambling, fight clubs, blowing things up, rational thought and discourse, irrational activities and actions, and never being wrong”

So according to this facebook group with 200,000+ members, being a man means to be stoic, conceited, prideful, and reckless with your health. I’m not surprised that women live on average 5 years longer than men.

male stereotypes

I think a really horrible set of commercials that also illustrate some of these stereotypes are the Milwaukee’s Best Commercials:

Male stereotypes with regards to women are equally bad. The feminist movement has been trying hard over the years to correct these stereotypes, but the improvements won’t stick until normal guys start taking a stand against those stereotypes. Unfortunately, a lot of guys are turned off by feminism. They don’t understand it and they see it as a threat to their comfortable lives.

The best way I heard feminism described was as “the radical idea that women are people too.” Now there is obviously more to it than that, but I think that that sums up a lot.

I think a lot of guys also feel that feminists are just man-hating lesbians that want to eradicate men from the planet. While those fringe people exist, just like all groups have fringe people, the majority of feminists are normal people who just wanted to be treated with the same level of respect and dignity as everybody else.

As I’ve matured I’ve started to become more aware of just how much sexism there is in our society. The majority of guys probably don’t even realize it, the consider much of it normal. But if you pay attention you can easily spot it.

Take this ad for example:

Can you spot it? Only women do laundry? Ads like this are very common. Usually it is some sort of domestic product and it is almost always a woman using it. Are men incapable of doing housework?

Sexism in movies and video games are just as prolific. Think of how many movies/video games there are with competent women as the main character. Someone who does not need a white male to swoop in and save the day in some capacity. You can probably count them on your hands. Out of the ones you can think of, how many of those women are clearly there as sex objects? (Tomb raider, Cat woman, Elektra, etc)

The majority of movies assume the viewer is a white male, and women usually exist as secondary characters or as plot devices to give the main male character motive. One of my favorite movies for example, The Jackal has a really kick ass Russian woman going along helping the main character (a white male) until she is just killed off towards the end of the movie in a stupid attempt to give the male more motive to kill the bad guy.

This syndrome is called “Women in Refrigerators“,  when a female character is injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device, usually for the benefit of a man. This perpetuates the concept of women as objects, things to be used and discarded at will.

I think any sensible person who sees women as human beings would be rightly disgusted by this concept. I sure am. What’s worse is some men still feel violence is an acceptable way of getting what they want. Take this sick poster for example:

sick

I have to wonder about these guys. Does hurting her make you feel like a man? What is wrong in your life when you feel it is right to use physical harm as a way to get what you want?

(Side-note)

Speaking of violence, back to stereotypes about masculinity for a moment, I can’t stand it when guys feel the need to fight each other, especially over women. Granted, they usually do this while drunk, but it is really immature. It makes you look like nothing but unintelligent brutes.

idiots(/side-note)

I think a lot of men are scared off by feminism because it means having to give up some [unfairly] held privileges and assumptions. Assumptions like the woman should be the ones who do the cooking and cleaning, the ones to give up their careers to raise a family, and deffer to the man’s judgment in most situations.

Usually a lot of guys aren’t even aware of how some of the things they are saying might come across as sexist. Google “Anti-feminist bingo”, you’ll find a card that looks like this. On it are some common misconceptions and arguments:

Once you get past these fears and common misconceptions, treating women equally, as people, really isn’t that scary! There are a lot of benefits that come with healthy egalitarian relationships. It also opens up a whole new world of possibilities for men.

So what do I think it means to be a man? Well, I think that’s a loaded question. Characteristics like dependability, ingenuity, strength, honor, and integrity are not uniquely masculine. A better question would be what do I think it means to be human.

The emotions of god

25 May

God is often described as having very human emotions, greed, wrath, love, envy, etc. Does it ever strike you as weird considering how many theists claim that their god is perfect and unchanging?

Furthermore, if god is all-knowing, how can he/she/it get angry when something does not happen the way he/she/it wishes? Being angry implies that you were surprised that something acted somehow differently from what you wanted. How can a perfect all-knowing god be surprised by something?

Would he not have foreseen that X was going to happen the way it did? And had it upset him enough could he not have changed it?

Whenever theists rant on about how sinners make god angry, it just makes me roll my eyes. Do they not stop and think about how petty they are making their god sound by attributing very human emotions to him/her/it?

“Liberty” “University” continues the tyranny

23 May

I must say, this does not surprise me in the least. “Liberty” “University” has banned democrats from their campus, sighting “moral” reasons. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that all the parts about Jesus teaching love and tolerance in the bible were the parts he didn’t want taken literally…..

Rachel Maddow interviewed the president of the now shut down Liberty University Democrats club:

It really must be some kind of dark joke naming the place “Liberty”. You can have all the liberty you want as long as you agree with our narrow minded bigoted positions.

What I find really interesting is that the school recieved a lot of complaints from the parents of some of the students attending about the mere existence of a democrats club. The parents want to send their adult children to an institution that treats them like they are seven, and they want the students to be shielded from people who have different views. How is this supposed to educate them? How are they supposed to interact in the real worl where not everyone is a religious bigot who thinks the world is 6,000 years old? By shutting down this club the school is saying “you can’t be a christian and a democrat at the same time”.  Really?

1. Jesus owned nothing. 2. Jesus argued for the dissolution of the family and the establishment of communes. 3. Jesus loved all people regardless of ethnicity or class. 4. Jesus revolted against the imperial government, established religion and finance capitalism (usury). 5. Jesus taught that we should act as one body, one blood. 6. Jesus taught that his kingdom (ie nation state) is in the heart and not below the feet. 7. Jesus taught that we should fight for Justice and ‘turn the other cheek’ to petty morality. 8. Jesus was a laborer and a teacher. 9. Jesus practiced healing and forgiveness. 10. Jesus taught that you can’t be an imperialist and a disciple at the same time.

Dick Cheney and torture

22 May

Ah good ol’ Dick. I’d been thinking about writing this post for some time now, but after yesterday’s “dueling speeches” by the president and former VP I can no longer resist.

“Enhanced interrogation” is one of the most bullshit phrases I’ve ever heard. I mean, it’s so blatantly a new-speak euphemism it’s beyond me how some people can swallow it.

I find it very interesting that the one fall back position Bush republicans seem to have is “we kept the country safe! After 9/11 there were no successful attacks!!!” Yeah, well what about 9/11? Oh that doesn’t count? Let me guess, it was all somehow Clinton’s fault? What about all the time Bush spent playing golf and not reading the intelligence briefings before 9/11? The attacks did happen under republican watch.

Torture is illegal and wrong no matter what the Bush law team tries to come up with, no matter what they decided to name it. We executed Japanese war criminals after WWII for waterboarding. The really interesting thing that came out just recently is the story of how Alberto Gonzales was okaying torture months before the “torture memos” came out. He was doing this at a time when he was not attorney general, just Bush’s lawyer!

Check out this segment about it on the Rachel Maddow show.

Ali Soufan, the guy who first found uncovered the link between the 9/11 attacks and Al Qaeda was interrogating Zubaida and actually getting somewhere when he was pushed aside by a contractor, James Mitchell, working for the CIA. Mitchell, who had absolutely zero interrogation experience or training, developed a torture program that Gonzales signed off on.

Even if you accept the bullshit idea that just because a team of lawyers writes a magic piece of paper saying torture is ok, and that the US doesn’t need to abide by the Geneva conventions, the torture was going on before those lawyers wrote up that magical piece of paper.

I think a lot of republicans are very scared people. Dick Cheney, and the republican leaders know this and exploit it. I think he brought up 9/11 in his speech 24 times. He even opened by recounting the terror of that day. Am I scared? No. Yes there are people out there who want to kill us, but if we live in fear of them, they win. What Dick Cheney advocates is nothing short of destroying all the values we stand for in a misguided attempt to make us safer.

If we compromise on our values, then what do we have left? What have we then become? The terrorists will have succeeded in destroying America. Do I dispute that the people like Zubaida are bad people? No, but republicans like Cheney are so swept up in a blind, fear fueled rage that they think they are justified in stooping this low. They are so sure of their own righteousness that they can’t fathom anything they do as wrong. They see themselves as patriotic heroes, willing to do the dirty work to protect their country.

For this reason I don’t call them evil, but they are sorely mistaken. Their attempts at making us safer only give the terrorists a rallying point. It tarnishes our image in the world as “the good guys”. In a war of idea, this is crucial. The only way we can try to regain some of our lost image is to prosecute those responsible just like we prosecuted the Japanese war criminals.

Yeah, it may be hard to swallow, but if we don’t, then we have absolutely no right to claim that we are a nation of laws. By not prosecuting we will be saying that our laws don’t mean anything as long as you are sure enough of you’re own righteousness, and have a group of lawyers write up a magical piece of paper. What kind of foundation is that for justice?

I don’t know my own strength….or that of a bat.

21 May

So I just finished up a gaming session with my DM girlfriend. We’re about 200 miles apart for the summer (which right now is probably a good thing for my sake) and so we played over a mix of text and g-talk voice.

I spent an hour scanning every room of my dungeon into easily send-able .bmp pictures, thinking she would continue to explore around. But no, she wanted to get a shinny glowy thing she found earlier in another room, guarded by a giant bat.

So off she ventured with her main character, the very promising Biffy Dunwhite, esq. and her masterful sidekick Kai Shiradi.

You see, Biffy had heard that there was a giant bat in the dungeon, and so late one night while she couldn’t sleep, she bought a “Bat’s day-fucker-up” device off of QVC, consisting of a bulls-eye lantern and a mirror.

qualityArmed with this great high quality tool he descended into the dungeon with Kai. After coming to the room with the bat, they spring in upon it, startling it. Kai swings at the bat and hits it with a glancing blow, but the bat crushes the fierce warrior down to one hit point before Biffy can aim the light in the bat’s face, sending it stumbling backward. Enraged, with Kai bleeding her guts out all over the floor, the bat charges at the hapless Biffy, and in one swoop kills her. Kai drags herself up and staggers towards the bat, now standing over Biffy’s lifeless body, between her and the door, she swings, but given her weaken state misses horribly. They bat turns around and finishes her.

And thus ended about 10 minutes of game play after about 3 hours of preparation. (The player’s fault) This is my first dungeon, and I was really hoping not to kill off my girlfriend’s characters, but apparently I didn’t know how strong of a monster the giant bat was. It has 8 hit dice, a challenge level of 9, and 1,100 xp…..my bad……. The rest of the monsters are just goblins of one variety or another, and I thought a giant bat would be cool. Little did this new DM know how un-cool it would be for Biffy.

Death of a hero....

Going to Newcastle

20 May

Well I’m pretty excited, today I got my acceptance letter in the post from Newcastle University. I’ll be going there later this summer for an archaeology program. Hopefully I’ll also be able to travel around the country a bit and see some cool medieval sights during the 3 weeks I’ll be there.

I’ve been to the UK twice before, but only to the south. I hear the northern section of the island is like a whole other country. I’ve also heard mixed things about British rail as a way of trying to get around. I do know that there is someone from Newcastle that views my site, but all I have is an IP address. :-p

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers