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All posts for the month October, 2016

So now we meet all of the new guys from this new ship. Mostly, we learn about Q and how fascinated he is in humanity.

Man, so many things changed after this episode, but it was still surprisingly few things. TNG got polished over the years, but the core was pretty steady. So strange.

The Beige and The Bold is not yet available on iTunes. It updates Monday mornings at 2:00 AM ET / 1:00 CT.

Watts Bar 2

The first US nuclear reactor to come online in the last 20 years is in the Tennessee Valley Authority. Watts Bar 2 came in 6.5 Billion dollars over budget, allegedly due to nuclear regulation.

Of course, no one from CNN to the LA Times to Forbes backs that up. Everyone seems hung up on the 20-year construction delay.  Watts Bar 1, a sister reactor, went online in 1996 and it took almost nine years to build Watts Bar 2. You’ll find a lot of sprawling think-pieces which provide these basic facts, generously padded with timeline of nuclear disasters from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl and ending in Fukushima.

News articles on the subject seem authoritative until they describe the iconic cooling towers used to remove excess heat as “reactors.” Everyone is quick to bemoan the cultural insecurity which caused nuclear decline, whether it’s coded as regulatory smothering, environmental hyperactivism, or investment cowardice.

Really though, the focus should be the loss of technical literacy which makes supporters and opponents of nuclear power incapable of speaking intelligently on the subject at all.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/20/us/tennessee-nuclear-power-plant/index.html

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-america-s-newest-nuke-plant-20151011-column.html

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rodadams/2016/10/19/watts-bar-is-now-commercial/#30966e7222c9

So I ran a Magic roleplaying game by straight-up tacking Magic: the Gathering onto FATE. We had a good time.

I should’ve stopped at bridging the gap between FATE and Magic: the Gathering, but I didn’t. This thing is a sprawling, 32-page document that creates a new set of Magic concepts and systems which absolutely do work as roleplaying background, but are fucking impenetrable. But hey, it’s 17k pages so I’m gonna share it with folks.

Moxes The real conflict in creating a Magic RPG is making the cards work in a roleplaying setting. I did that by instituting a set of power tiers–called moxes–which allow spells to scale in power with the planeswalker (or creature) casting them. The five moxes (relevant table on page 18) allow spells to scale. In the lowest mox–Mox Alpha–most spells take on a benign form. Tapping down a creature can make them drowsy, a burn spell can provide light, and a creature might become confused or addled if you make “an opponent” discard a card. At Mox Unlimited, a planeswalker can cast spells which annihilate whole armies. Those scales of power can also be applied to creatures, allowing bigger creatures to be massively more powerful than smaller ones.

Non-Combat Casting The FATE integration isn’t that strong, but one place where it works is non-combat casting. Five skills (Will, Investigation, Deceive, Rapport, and Athletics) are aligned with each of the five colors. Instead of spending a Fate point to invoke an aspect for a skill check for one of those five skills, a planeswalker can discard a card of the corresponding color. All they have to do is describe the spell they’re casting (it doesn’t have to be related to the card) and the aspect they’re invoking.

The Tempest This is the biggest concept to rationalize the randomness of a player’s deck. Planeswalkers channel/are a flow of aether which they can control by shaping it into spells. When a planeswalker runs out of ways to turn their tempest into spells, they must revert to Mox Alpha (the weakest mox) or die by decking out. The primer incorporates similar descriptions of almost everything, from the three ways to summon creatures to using artifacts and what even planeswalkers and emblems are.

Fetters Fetters are optional because they’re a bridge too far. They exist to explain some planeswalkers having higher “starting life” and to give players reasons to connect to planes. As a planeswalker’s maximum mox grows higher, they can connect part of their essence to a great project/thing. Fetters are represented by additional health boxes and act much as a phylactery for planeswalkers (but hopefully with a little more drama).

That still doesn’t cover Slow Casting, Planeswalker Stunts, or the general setting/NPC roster stuff, but I think it’s the high points. I’m especially proud of the three-page “Life, the Multiverse, and Everything” appendix at the end which conjectures on how planes are formed.

(Link)

Nailbiter #5 (Sept 2014)
My local comic book store is selling very old comics that no one wants for 50c each. I’m a cheap bastard and I love hating things so these are my Discount Comics.
I’m seriously intrigued, whatever this is.
Writing: Joshua Williamson
Art: Mike Henderson
The deal with Nailbiter is that it’s an ongoing mystery story set in a small, Pacific Northwest town where federal agents and local law enforcement try to find out why so many of its residents become serial killers. Its visuals are wasted on the excessive dialog and this issue had a plug for a tie-in book. Those Issue 1 sales numbers must’ve been encouraging.
Nailbiter shows why things like this should be released as graphic novels. Why place a mystery at the center of an ongoing story? Mysteries do not work that way. Either you have an indefinite deferred mystery story or end up running plot threads of multiple plot threads all over the book and it becomes possible for the reader to engage or suspend disbelief. Nailbiter could lean on intricate characterization, but it’s just a dump truck of stock characters who are distinguished visually and by their hidden motivations.
By the way, Nailbiter went with “indefinite deferment.” In this one issue, a new FBI agent appears, a lead character is is accused of murder, a third serial killer appears—there were two before—a kid goes missing, someone central to the conspiracy is murdered, the only suspect is released because law enforcement couldn’t move the story forward any better than Joshua fucking Williams, and that suspect saves the protagonist which sets Mystery Number One back to zero. Also the previous investigator is still in a coma and an exhausting heterosexual romance between two white people in their twenties is hinted at.
I have zero investment in this story and I was still frustrated at how busily it marked time.

The Lights of Zetar

Lt. Mira “Crunches” Romaine is someone I wanted to see more of, but since she’s just a shoehorned, one-episode, disposable love interest we don’t. Of course, if Chapel and Uhura can’t get any decent characterization, I don’t know how I can expect it of anyone else.

Did we learn our lesson from the space ghosts in this episode? I feel like we didn’t, but maybe someone did?

Demand

I was in my favorite gaming store the other day. From one of their rental rooms I heard a loud woman talking about how “they” were taking our hotel jobs.

Absurd as it was, she seemed serious. Now, I think that anyone I can hear from an adjoining room has waived their right to not have me join their conversation, but ugh, how awkward would that be?

The issue with folks who’ve traveled to the US illegally for work is similar to issues with sex workers and drug dealers. WE believe we don’t like them doing it for principled reasons; we don’t like drug use, STD spread, or underpricing US labor.

But attempts to stop these activities are always-irrationally-directed at the stereotypical images of the suppliers: Hispanics, women, and black Americans. This is because the people who provide these services for money don’t have money and that lack of power makes them easier to prosecute. Even the most rudimentary understanding of free market capitalism will tell you how ineffective this is.

The persecution of (relatively) low power suppliers of these–technically–crimes might push prosecution numbers up high and make police and prosecutors look like they’re improving their communities, but they’re not.

As long as demand exists–as long as companies, middle-class johns, and high-end drug users are given a pass, those high-minded purposes of those laws will not be fulfilled because capitalism ensures that another desperate person will fill supply-side gaps.

Undocumented workers, sex workers, and folks in the drug trade do what they do because there is demand.

Obviously.

Playing whack-a-mole with dealers is bullshit. The power behind these forces is the folks buying their wares. Until they’re subjected to the same harsh punishments, until they’re treated with the same dehumanization as their suppliers, nothing will change. Not with undocumented workers, not with sex work (which should be legal), and not with drugs.

Suppliers will always take the risk of not getting caught to feed their families or just–unthinkably–themselves.

It’s just supply and demand.

Conundrum

Derek and I pick up where “17 to 01” leaves off as we start watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. TNG isn’t as baffling to us as TOS. But all the same, we’re still confused by the bathing suits, blush, and laptop computers of 1991.

I chose to skip forward to “Conundrum” for a lot of reasons. One of them is Commander MacDuff. His character is clearly a fizzle, but I remember him fondly. If anyone wants to share their fond MacDuff recollections, please do so in the comments.

We’re covering TNG’s proper pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint, Part 1” next week.

The Beige and The Bold is not yet available on iTunes. It updates Monday mornings at 2:00 AM ET / 1:00 CT.

Whom Gods Destroy

Spock is this world’s greatest detective, but the competition isn’t that stiff. Admittedly, this is one of my favorite episodes based solely on its comic book credentials.

Batman ’66, as it’s come to be called, was so popular it could demand consecutive Wednesday and Thursday night timeslots. Those back-to-back episodes were why there are so man two-part cliffhangers in the series. Like Star Trek, it also only enjoyed three seasons before cancellation.

This is why I hate Burn Notice.

17 to 01 is available on iTunes. It updates Thursday mornings at 2:00 AM ET / 1:00 CT. We’re also amazingly on Stitcher.

That Which Survives

There’s so much more to this episode than there is to this episode. The Sulu stuff needs to be better. The McCoy stuff needs to be better. The Spock/Scotty stuff needs to be better. I would’ve supported Scotty if he’d launched a coup here.

What is the deal with Spock’s hand…button…pressulator? And how are we just now talking about jeffries tubes?!

17 to 01 is available on iTunes. It updates Thursday mornings at 2:00 AM ET / 1:00 CT. We’re also amazingly on Stitcher.

Sully

I sometimes watch movies. When I do, I make notes of them. These are my notes for Sully, starring Tom Hanks.

Previews

The Accountant – Ben, buby, if you’re Batman, you never get to be in a movie where someone asks “who are you?” because the answer is always “I’m Batman.” You didn’t realize it. The Accountant director Gavin O’Connor didn’t realize it, but that’s what thousands of moviegoers will see on the screen.

Denial – A movie about Holocaust denial. Ok. Wow.

Inferno – Boy, sitting here waiting for Sully to start makes Inferno look pretty good.

The Dressmaker – Is there something wrong with me that two of these look watchable?

The Hollars – So John Krazinski’s headstone is gonna read “Jim from The Office.”

Sully

Okay. No fucking around here. Cool. Go for it.

Were they really that close to–

Oh. Cool.

Great. No reason to rehash what we already know.

All these accolades in the news; this movie is all about being on Sully’s dick and Sully being a bit uncomfortable with it. I can relate, Sully. I can relate.

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