Friday, February 11, 2011

Travelling Theatre RPG campaign mind-map

So this is a bunch of ideas I had for how to create a fantasy RPG campaign based around the idea of a travelling theatre. The PCs would be members of the company, initially fairly low ranking. The premise makes it simple to move the PCs, while maintaining a continuity of NPCs, background plot and motivation. Also, there are lots of fairly obvious plot starters involved in being part of a travelling theatre.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Climate v weather

Gerald Warner is obviously a man with an agenda. He is given to sweeping statements, idiotic claims and badly thought out thought experiments. He's the sort of person you don't want to meet at a party, because you'll spend the next 90 minutes listening to some sketchy argument that the ice-cubes in his gin and tonic mean we don't have to worry about climate change.

Thought experiments are not a way to do science, but as I'm writing polemic here, I can meet Gerald on his own ground. I'd like to suggest my own thought experiment to those who claim that bad prediction of local weather undermines the credibility of climate science.

Gerald's claim is:

'The line being taken among climate alchemists now is: “We admit we cannot predict whether a season will be hot or cold; we are lousy at forecasting the weather over a week, a month, a quarter or a year. But when it comes to forecasting conditions in 2030, we are infallible.”'

My response:

Imagine you come into a room on a sunny day and shut the window. How confident would you be of predicting the rise or fall in temperature in any one 1cm² section after 5, 10, 15 ... seconds? Presumably not very. But how confident would you be of the room being generally warmer in 30 minutes?

The idea that the broader a trend is the harder it is to predict is simply asinine. Would you rather bet on the average result of 10 dice or 1000? Would you rather bet on Celtic finishing in the top two of the Scottish Premiership, or on them beating Falkirk? My thought experiment doesn't show a thing about climate-change, but it should demonstrate how stupid Gerald Warner must be. A trend becomes more predictable precisely when it occurs over a longer period of time, not vice versa.

Doubting or disputing the science is all very well, it is what science does and scientists do. Trying to muddy the waters with pissweak drivelling about cold winters is just crap.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Denialism and World AIDS Day

HIV/AIDS denialism seems to be back with a vengeance. The lies that the potion pedlars fed to a scared African continent that was understandably distrustful of the Western establishment are now hitting us in the face like filthy sewer backwash.

Let us be clear, AIDS is caused by HIV solely. The exacerbating factors of poverty, malnutrition and other diseases do not cause the syndrome. Read up on the facts, and when you find someone wavering about denialism, calmly and politely try to help them understand that they are being misled. Public opinion on matters such as this are fundamental to shaping government policy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Let's sing of rats

'I have always been a solitary man, never well liked. It is not that the company of others does not have its appeal, but becoming involved with your fellow man has its risks, and I have never been lucky in such things. School was the usual succession of bullies and failed friendships, university little better. Social activities simply did not pay off for me. Perhaps I might briefly experience a sense of friendship and bonhomie through a night's drinking, but this pleasure was always outweighed by the backlash of shame I felt in the cold grip of the next day's hangover. I imagine that my alternative might have been to turn to religion. Churches are ready made hives of social activity, creatures clinging to gods and each other for comfort. Sadly I have never been a man of a superstitious or supernatural bent, and I am sufficiently honest to imagine that the small drops of communion wine would charge a heavier price in shame than ever did the briefly warming excesses of my youth.

But everyone needs a place in the world. There is no such thing as a genuine misfit, everybody has to fit somewhere. The question is simply how they reach that position. Do they adjust themselves to their discomfort, or adjust the world to them? I imagine that most people would like to say that they took the latter option, but the sheer weight of this world's numbers makes it seem a little unlikely. There is not much room for self-expression. Perhaps it is only the so-called misfits who are even fighting to make the world suit them.

My customers call me Mr Hamley. It's not the name my parents passed down to me, but as I cared very little for it or for them, I feel no regret about the necessity of shedding it. I selected "Hamley" quite calculatedly. It is a solid, dependable name, as I am solid and dependable in my demeanour and duties. However it is not dour, it suggests playfulness. I do not know who the Hamley responsible for the toy emporium was, but I know that I owe him a debt.

One needs to win confidence in my line of work. Rat-catcher is a necessary profession, never more so than in this increasingly urban world, but it lacks glamour. Indeed, there clings to the job a sense of something unsavoury. Perhaps it is the guilt of all those who wish to slaughter the billions of rats, merely for having the temerity to try to live, and the fortune to be good at it. Maybe it is a mere guilt by association, rat-catchers go in the company of the hated rats. Never mind that we are the necessary solution to the problem.

Whatever the cause, if a man wants to be a successful rat-catcher, he must do all that he can to combat the prejudice against his profession. This is the primary reason I adopted my new name. Likewise I keep myself and my clothes spotlessly clean, my van waxed and brightly painted. I smile gently and politely at the customers, and always remember to conceal my revulsion at their eagerness for the slaughter.

During my early career this hypocrisy rankled with me badly. I never joined in with glee, like the fat handed murderers who make up the bulk of my profession, saloon-bar swaggerers compensating for their disgusting job with jokes and rounds of scotches and handfuls of tails. But I nodded and smiled while vermin complained of rats, and took the money to dispose of the problem for them. I am not ashamed to admit that I did kill many rats in those first years. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and I needed capital if ever I were not to be a misfit. But it has been easier for me to swallow my anger these days, now that I am doubly a hypocrite. The two seem to balance each other out nicely.

I still catch rats, you see, but I do not kill them. Not a one now for the past dozen years. Not that I tell the vermin this. They think that the larger van I have taken to driving is filled with the specialist killing equipment that has made me the best man in my field, but it's not. It's just shelves. A little place for the rats to cling while I take them to safety. Some of them, the most beautiful specimens, I invite to come and live with me. They are my muse, my motivation, and they sing to me each night. They teach me new songs to sing to their brothers, and so my practise grows, and the 'rat problem' gets less and less. All the others are on their uppers now, they scratch around for a living, dealing with mice and insects, and the rounds of scotch at the bar are just a memory drowned in cheap beer. I, on the other hand, have been awarded the key to no less than four different London boroughs. I am a hero among the vermin. "That nice, dependable little man Hamley, a bit odd perhaps, a bit of a misfit, but what can you expect?"

Of course, once all the rats have gone away, they will want me to go away too. I have never been well-liked, and once the problem is removed, I shall just be an embarrassing reminder. If I had committed the crimes that I have laid claim to, I should have no alternative but to go, to accept that my place in the world was defined by others, just another failed misfit. It is fortunate, then, that the rats have not gone very far, and that I have been taking care of them. I believe that they will return the favour.'


The cats had been mewing at the door all night, but there had been no thought of letting them in. Now finally, some hours before the dawn, they were silent.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Daily Mail Front Page

Obviously more stuff over at mailwatch, but I'd just like to register my disgust with today's Daily Mail front page. The use of the term "IRA" to identify the killers was misleading, and presumably intentionally so. The Provisional IRA have long been identified as the IRA, and to suggest that they are responsible for these murders is simply shit-stirring. And yes, that is murderS, in the plural. The Daily Mail seem to have entirely forgotten about one of the soldiers. How absent minded of them. I can't think why they would have done that. Ummm, what was his name again? Ohhh yes...

Cengiz Azimkar.

I look forward to the speedy arrest and trial of the murderers of Cengiz Azimkar, Mark Quinsey and Stephen Carroll. I also look forward to the day when each and every Mail hack comes to fully understand the evil that they have done and feels the true bitterness of remorse.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gindrinker on youtube

In which we find Gindrinker in three different moods.

Acoustic loudness:

Acoustic quietness:

Electric loudness:

It's good catch all these nuances. Have fun kids.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Jeni Barnett and Bad Science

So it looks like the Jeni Barnett thing on Bad Science has gone over pretty big. I made my complaint to OFCOM about Barnett's January LBC 97.3 programme on MMR this morning. I felt that LBC "reserving their rights" (their rights to sue him, that is) on requesting Goldacre to take down his clip of their programme was really the last straw.

Possibly LBC are looking to stir this up in an attempt to boost their listenership. Personally, I don't have a problem with this. Their greed may result in some good in this case. Firstly because the available evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of the safety and value of MMR; secondly because Barnett's views are so obviously unsuppported and her means of expression so unpleasant; and thirdly because blasting someone decieved by the MMR hoaxes would work well as a story for all the old MMR hoaxers in the mainstream media. Goldacre taking on LBC sounds like good copy to me.

Hey ho. If the result is a greater uptake of MMR, and maybe a slightly better understanding of evidence based medicine, then Jeni Barnett's broadcasting career is a sacrifice we should all be prepared to make.