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Posted by /u/cool_lanyard_dude

I heard a fire truck racing down Ditmars (probably responding to the smoke coming from Astoria Park?) with its sirens on—then a loud crash and no more sirens. Look out the window to see people running west on Ditmars toward the intersection. Went down to see it myself and there's a bus whose front end is almost into the storefronts of Bowery Bay and the shops adjacent to it. There are people on the pavement (sitting, talking, some lying down) being treated by the firemen from what I'm guessing was that firetruck.

Anybody actually see what happened?

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[personal profile] swaldman
I found myself saying this to a number of people over the last couple of days, so I thought I'd write it down... that doesn't mean that it's right - I don't pay all that much attention to Tory politics most of the time, so I may be misremembering, but....

People wonder why something as big as leaving the EU can be decided on a simple majority and doesn't require, say, 2/3 of the voters (or even the electorate) for it to pass - as it is the case in some other countries for major constitutional matters.

In my mind there are two answers to this. One is a theoretical / technical one: That it's meaningless setting a threshold in what is, from a legal perspective, a purely advisory referendum. The purpose of the referendum is to find out what the people think, not (in theory) to determine a course of action.

The second answer is a more pragmatic / political one: This referendum was not called because anybody wanted a to enact a fair and sensible way of determining the future course of the United Kingdom. The referendum was originally promised before the last general election, in order to persuade anti-Europe Conservative voters not to defect to UKIP. Given that nobody thought the Tories would have a majority at that time, Cameron et al probably thought that they were safe promising it because they could abandon the promise and blame it on coalition politics. Then they won a majority, and had to implement their promise... oops, but never mind, because the people fear change and will plump for the status quo (c.f. the Scottish indyref). And then the people didn't do that, and... oh, shit. The best description I've heard of Johnson & Gove's speeches post-result was "that moment in The Producers when they realise that Springtime for Hitler will be a success".

Anyway, the point of going through that is to point out that the purpose of the referendum was to please eurosceptics, and that specifying that a 2/3 majority was required would not have done much to please them, because it would seem (even more) implausible that it could be achieved. So what we have now is not what any of the main actors actually wanted (except maybe Farage), the unintended result of a short-term political ploy within the Conservative party. Somehow, that makes it even more depressing.
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Posted by Gordon Jackson

Okay, not everyone is going to be excited about a visual guide to the action figure carrying cases of the ‘80s. But for those select few that still obsess about the golden age of toys, you’ll absolutely want to kick in a few bucks to this Kickstarter.


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Posted by Rob Bricken

There Are Official Evangelion Dumbbells and Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

Do you like Evangelion? Do you like working out? Do you live in Japan? If you answered yes to all these questions, I’m pretty sure you still won’t want these utterly ridiculous, yet totally real Evangelion-branded dumbbells.


It occurs to me...

Jun. 26th, 2016 04:26 pm
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
[personal profile] davidgillon
... this may be my fault.*

One of the novel concepts I've been intermittently noodling about involves a UK separated from Europe and willingly dominated by an ultra-right wing, intolerant America.**

The last time this happened we got Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Syria. "The Arc of Fire, nation set against nation from the foothills of the Himalayas to the shores of the Mediterranean." Me, circa 1990.

Dear brain 1) stop it, 2) restore universe to save point 22-Jun-2016

* Solipsist much.

** Okay, Orwell got there first.

Privacy Brainstorming

Jun. 26th, 2016 02:49 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

The garden I’m docent-ing    had this narrow trellis, just inside the fence, which supported a massive wisteria. We’ve been struggling with the lack of privacy in our backyard — as you can see in pictures 2-4, it’s overlooked by an apartment building immediately next door, as well as a set of new townhouses that are being built to the northeast.
We’ve been talking about what we might do to amend that space. There are some plants there — a hedge rose, a somewhat blighted young cherry tree, but both of those could be moved, along with whatever random perennials and bulbs are there. I’m not sure where I’d put the hammock, but maybe it’d go to sun. But the question is what we could do for shade, given the restrictions on fence height (it’s currently at max).
The typical choice there is arborvitae, tall, skinny trees — I had been thinking they would be too wide, and would really crowd the space, but I’ve been looking at it again, after seeing some arborvitae at one of the other garden walk homes, and I think they might work there. The bed is about 4′ wide, I think? I should measure. Do you think a row of them would fit? It would make the yard somewhat darker / shadier, but I think that’d be all right — the other side is still plenty sunny, if we’re in the mood for sun.
Alternately, we could build a trellis like the one she put in for the wisteria, but build it even taller? Would that look goofy, to have a two-story trellis? It could run all the way to the garage, in theory, shielding the townhouses from view as well.

There are also fence extensions I think you can add to an existing fence (train clematis or some such over it for screening), though I might have to check code and/or check with my neighbor who owns the apartment building. I’m guessing he’d be fine with my adding more screening / privacy, that his tenants would like that at least as well as looking into my yard, but I should check with him.

A combination, maybe?  Arborvitae to anchor the ends and block the worst of the privacy issues, and a trellis or fence extension screens in the middle?  Another option is possibly bamboo (it looks like variety Nuda grows to about 10′ in the Midwest)?

South Scoville

Jun. 26th, 2016 02:21 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

This is the garden I’m docent-ing today for the Garden Walk. It’s a postage-stamp of a garden, on a small lot, but she has packed an amazing number of plants in. There’s a host of sunny plants in front, but my favorite parts were the way she used heucheras, hostas, ferns, etc. to create a colorful mosaic in the backyard shade. I’m heading in that direction for my shady spots, but still have a ways to go. And I must add a water feature (or two)!

IMG_7715 IMG_7716 IMG_7717

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Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Dipika’s husband is Malaysian; the novel was deemed ‘too political for America’ by publishers she submitted it to here. It was published by a U.K. press, and I’m looking forward to reading it.


I do wish Serai (Chicago’s only Malaysian restaurant) was a bit closer, as I would gladly eat their chicken curry with roti pratha (buttery, flaky deliciousness) and their nasi lemak (coconut milk rice, fried egg, beef rendang, pickled vegetables, and onion sambal) every week. Worth a trip to Logan Square, recommended. Yum.

IMG_7683 IMG_7700 IMG_7701 IMG_7703 IMG_7706


“In Mukherjee’s contemporary political novel, colonialism threatens a family. Jay Ghosh, professor of biotechnology and a Malaysian living in Boston, returns home after 30 years to pay back debts to his mentor, Colonel S, and to the family of his lost love, Shanti. His presence disturbs Shanti’s daughter, Agni, and her grandmother, Shapna, as do the street protests of ethnic Indians, “immigrants” who have lived in Malaysia for decades. Worse, Colonel S, an expert in explosives, plans to take matters into his own hands. Mukherjee imbues her family drama with the crossbred history of intertwined communities who celebrate one another’s holidays even as they carp about one another’s failings. Jay and Agni, the “broken things,” approach healing through their buried history “until the river floods and the silt uncovers what should remain hidden.”” — Publisher’s Weekly review


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Posted by Rob Bricken

Here’s something you may not have realized about Bryan Fuller’s upcoming Star Trek TV series being on CBS’ All Access thingie instead of CBS proper: it’s not beholden to Network Standards and Practices, meaning it can be more graphic than any Trek series before. But that doesn’t mean it will.


What am I missing?

Jun. 26th, 2016 02:09 pm
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[personal profile] steepholm
Percentage of Scottish voters who voted Remain: 62. A resounding endorsement justifying a second referendum to split Scotland from the UK.

Percentage of Labour voters who voted Remain: 63. A woeful performance justifying a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn.

Dice Tales: A Matter of Leverage

Jun. 26th, 2016 01:00 pm
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Posted by Marie Brennan

Roman twenty-sided die(This is the twenty-fifth installment of Dice Tales, an ongoing series of posts about RPGs as storytelling.)


No, not the heist/caper/etc TV show. 🙂

One of the things I like about gaming is that it makes me think about story in ways that are both similar to and different from writing. As a result, I find myself carrying lessons in both directions — and one example of RPGs teaching me something useful in writing is the concept I think of as leverage.

What do I mean by this? Years ago, when I was writing A Star Shall Fall, I made a comment about Galen, one of the book’s two protagonists, showing up in my head with (metaphorical) handles sticking out of him, onto which he was helpfully tying identifying labels. That was my way of trying to articulate the fact that Galen, from his very first conception, offered me a lot of leverage. His family, though of good name, was having financial problems, requiring him to marry for money: there’s one lever. He was in love with the Queen he served: that’s another lever. He was desperately trying to find a way to save the faerie court he helped rule, but feared he couldn’t live up to the example of his predecessors: lever number three. Basically, leverage is any aspect of a character I can use to propel them through the story. If I needed Galen to do something, to get into trouble, to have some kind of conflict or crisis, all I had to do was look at those handles sticking out of him and decide which one was the best to push on for that to happen.

As a player, I try to design PCs with lots of leverage, because that helps the GM design plot that will engage me. My D&D character was the daughter of a half-dragon; her father had conflicted feelings about his heritage, but she was eager to channel the glorious might of Bahamut, the god of good dragons. She had a bunch of older sisters whose legacy she had to live up to, and a single brother nobody ever really talked about because he’d become estranged from the family. My Buffy character had albinism, which always made her feel like an outsider; she’d gravitated toward the goth community, where her appearance was treated as positively exotic instead of negatively so, but that created a lot of problems when she became a Slayer and was suddenly expected to destroy the vampires she admired. My L5R character was secretly the daughter of somebody very important in Rokugan and had a childhood sweetheart she wanted to marry but couldn’t because he was engaged to somebody else. Etc.

In a good campaign, the story won’t just be about whatever the GM has decided the PCs are going to do; it’s also about the PCs’ own lives, the things they care about. And ideally, these two things are going to interlock, with effects going in both directions. Why do the PCs engage with the game’s metaplot? Because it touches on things they care about. Why does personal plot matter? Because it has effects for the metaplot. As a GM, I find happy, well-adjusted PCs who have everything they want in life to be the most difficult to work with, because there’s nowhere for me to get a grip on them. I want characters who are a little bit broken, so I can press on the fracture lines and see what happens.

But not too broken. In my last post I mentioned the type of player who takes a bunch of Disadvantages they think won’t actually matter in game; the other failure mode there is the player who saddles their PC with a bunch of Disads that do matter. So many, in fact, that you start to wonder how the PC functions . . . and sometimes the answer is, they don’t. Whether this is represented in the mechanics or not, a character with too much angst and trauma is difficult to play with, because too much of their time and attention is taken up with their own problems. If my Buffy character was also suicidal and addicted to drugs and had a broken family life and got involved with an abusive boyfriend, then pretty soon the game would no longer be about the other characters or the larger story; it would be all about her and her problems. Which isn’t very fun for the rest of the players, and remember: gaming is a group activity. If you want to tell stories about somebody who’s completely dysfunctional, writing is a better venue for that.

Especially because it’s damned hard to get a character like that engaged with the story. The single worst type of PC, in my opinion, is the one who is filled with trauma, but won’t talk about it. If you want to give your character a terrible dark secret, go right ahead! I love terrible dark secrets! But it should come out in play. In fact, you should plan for it to come out. Look for ideal opportunities to hint at the secret, and then blow it out of the water at the right moment. If you need to play the long game with your secret, then come up with lots of other hooks to make your PC interesting, so you have stuff to do in the meanwhile. The dark, brooding loner who doesn’t want to get involved with the team and spends all his time angsting privately over his trauma is hard enough to make work in fiction, where the author controls all the pieces; in a game, it falls as flat as a badly-made souffle. Get engaged, give people a reason to care; then drop the bomb on them. Otherwise your fellow players will be bored and annoyed.

It also helps to have at least a general idea of where the game is going, of course. With that information in hand, you can make sure your character is someone who will have a reason to engage with the central plot. But designing your PC with the rest of the game in mind is a large enough topic that it will have to wait for the next post!



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Tim Chevalier

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