Five Things Make A Post

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First, my Father’s Day was pretty great. I asked to get no gifts and didn’t receive any but the cards were wonderful. We also went out to brunch. My wife is pretty cool on the idea of going to a restaurant for breakfast–and my son actively hates it–so this is something I sorta love but get to do only once a year. And yeah, I ate more than I should have.

We went some distance to a little place called Mulleady’s, mainly on the rule that we could get things we never make at home, like blood pudding, boxty, scotch eggs, and other things we didn’t order. Sadly, marrow wasn’t on the bfast menu, but maybe another time. One downside of going there is that it really doesn’t many people before it becomes uncomfortably loud.

Second, you may have seen news articles everywhere recently claiming that bike share programs increase head injuries. They’re wrong. Head injuries fell after bike share programs were introduced, but they didn’t fall as fast as other kinds of injuries. Therefore, according to the media, head injuries rose because, among those injured, a greater percentage of them had head injuries.

It’s statistical fuckery. To quote the linked article: “A more critical view would be that the researchers went looking for evidence that bikeshare programs are dangerous, and upon failing to find any, cherry-picked a relatively unimportant sub-trend and trumpeted it as decisive finding.”

My wife rides almost every day and she always wears her helmet. When I rode (back in my office job days) I wore a helmet all the time, too. We also have lights, reflective vests, and all the safety gear that people make fun of. But it’s important to remember that nothing makes the streets safer for cyclists than having a whole lot of cyclists on the streets.

Third, I’ve sent out copies of The Great Way in hopes of getting blurbs for them, and the first two have come back. Both are wonderful and make me feel like dancing around my apartment singing “I Feel Pretty.”

Fourth, I’m currently at work revising my pacifist urban fantasy, and never in my life have I had so much trouble making headway. My revisions are creeping along at a pace barely better than my first draft days. Stuff is difficult, you guys.

Fifth, I bought the first edition of CHILL (by Pacesetter) way back when it first came out. I bought the second edition enthusiastically, and when I made that six-figure deal for Child of Fire, I rewarded myself by buying up all the Chill books I didn’t already own.

Even though the game is pretty much unplayable.

Pacesetter’s first ed. was fun and had simple game mechanics. Mayfair’s second edition improved on things, but still couldn’t deal with Fear checks. You could prep a haunted house, prep the monster that would be there, arrange the clues the players needed to find or the person they needed to save, but what you couldn’t do was predict who would pass a Fear check. If all the players made it, the monster would not be able to stand against them. If only one made it, that player would have to face a villain designed to challenge a party while his compatriots ran screaming into the streets.

It was impossible to create a balanced confrontation, because you could never tell how many players would make that Fear check (the first thing to happen in every encounter), so you didn’t know which would stay in the scene.

And let’s be honest, any time a GM takes control of a player it sort of sucks, especially if you make the run in terror.

So, none of the games I tried to get off the ground ever went anywhere. My friends had no interest in horror games, since they’re pretty much the opposite of jokey power fantasies, and the only truly successful Chill game I ever ran was with my six-year-old son, and it was one session.

Still, it was great fun to read, and now I’m foolishly excited to see that, after a couple of false starts, there’s a third edition on the way. The previous attempt at a third edition got as far as informal play tests, which I took part in until assholes drove me away, but I’m hopeful for this. I don’t even know anything about the game, but I’m foolishly hopeful.

Not everyone celebrates Father’s Day, nor should they.

Link

C.C. Finlay talks about terrible fathers.

Let’s not make everyone celebrate. And let’s not ever talk about “all dads.” That’s a category without meaning. To everyone who doesn’t celebrate Father’s Day, to everyone who avoids it because it brings up too many painful memories, this post is for you.

Get Together for Seattle-Area Folk, 6/14, 3pm

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Hey, if you’re in Seattle, why not join me at the UW Bookstore on Saturday, 6/14, for a 3pm reading by Greg Van Eekhout. Greg’s new book is called California Bones. Here’s the description:

When Daniel Blackland was six, he ingested his first bone fragment, a bit of kraken spine plucked out of the sand during a visit with his demanding, brilliant, and powerful magician father, Sebastian. When Daniel was twelve, he watched Sebastian die at the hands of the Hierarch of Southern California, devoured for the heightened magic layered deep within his bones.

Now, years later, Daniel is a petty thief with a forged identity. Hiding amid the crowds in Los Angeles—the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California—Daniel is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist he wants Daniel to perform: break into the Hierarch’s storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian’s sword, an object of untold power.

For this dangerous mission, Daniel will need a team he can rely on, so he brings in his closest friends from his years in the criminal world. There’s Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Alverado, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel’s ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.

You can read an excerpt, too.

Anyway, it sounds great. I’m going to be there. I plan to be at the Big Time Brewery at 1pm, resolutely not getting drunk. Depending on how well Greg’s travel arrangements go, he might be there, too. Maybe I’ll bring some galley copies of the paper edition of Twenty Palaces to give away. Or something.

With luck, traffic arriving for the UW Commencement ceremony will end before 1pm and Greg’s event will end before the outflow traffic resumes.

Randomness for 6/12

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1) 20 Terrible Real Estate Photos. It’s hard to believe some of these are real. via Beth Pearson

2) Man Builds DIY ‘Hidden Pool’ In His Backyard That Disappears Under a Grass-Covered Top When Not in Use.

3) Man trolls Craigslist ad searching for “disguisable” weapons.

4) The Holy Taco Church. It’s funny, but I just sold a story to John Joseph Adams about a (mobile) taco church for his anthology of sff kickstarters. You think you’re being outlandish….

5) Tracking Detroit’s Decay Through Google Time Machine.

6) A review of Ancient Germanic Warriors: Warrior Styles from Trajan’s Column to Icelandic Sagas.

7) Know your double. <– Funny

Both hilarious and important

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Maybe other people are talking about this all over the web and I’m not seeing it, but LAST WEEK TONIGHT has been really great right from the first episode.

Net Neutrality is an incredibly important principle and Oliver drives that point home while being 100% hilarious. He really is great.

Vox.com has a series of their explainer cards laying out the subject, and I’ve been waiting for an excuse to post these two links:

Yes, Your Internet Is Getting Slower: Your provider likes it that way. And the government doesn’t care.

Why The Government Should Provide Internet Access.

But even if you don’t agree that the internet should be treated as a public utility, you should watch the video. It’s damn funny.

I’ve already shared my opinion with the FCC right here.

Randomness for 5/27

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1) A comparison of Zulu and Filipino stick fighting. Video.

2) The Oatmeal on the wonderfulness of the Tesla Model S electric car.

3) Five Details They Cut From My Season Of The Biggest Loser. We all knew this show was complete shit, but it’s even worse than I thought.

4) What happens when engineers own dogs. Video.

5) The 10 Commandments of Typography.

6) San Francisco “real estate magnate” hides $100 bills around city and leaves clues to their location via twitter account.

7) “In my view, the parties do not need a judge; what they need is a rather stern kindergarten teacher” Spiteful upper-class twits drive each other wild.

A note to my readers re: Amazon

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I haven’t been online all that much (and shouldn’t be right now, either–I have books to finish) but apparently Amazon has stepped up its pressure on Hachette by yanking buy links for all their books. Beyond that, they’re also screwing with search results, messing with book categorizations, and pushing readers who want to buy Hachette books toward Hachette’s competitors. And the reason they can do this is you.

Now, if your response to all this is to say “Amazon is an independent company and they can legally do whatever best serves their interests,” let me assure you that I agree. They can legally do all these things, just as Wal-Mart can legally include information on sighing up for food stamps during their new employee orientations. There are a lot of things powerful people and corporations can do that are both legal and deeply, deeply shitty.

And why is Amazon doing this? Because Hachette won’t accept a new, lower rate on their ebooks.

But the thing is, this wouldn’t matter so much without you.

It’s the readers who give Amazon all this power. It’s people who click through Amazon links but never do for any other bookstore, and who impulse buy like crazy online but no where else.

Some years ago, I tried an experiment: For a full month, I wrote about books constantly and all the buy links I put in my posts went to indiebound. Not one person bought a book.

The next month, the only buy links I posted went to Mysterious Galaxy, a terrific store in San Diego that ships books just like any other seller. Not one person bought a book.

Which isn’t to say that no one clicked those links. They did. But those clicks didn’t translate into sales.

More recently, I posted links for the new paperback POD edition of Twenty Palaces. The link pointing to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The link to Amazon got more sales than the link to B&N got clicks. When I’m talking about sales ebook sales for the same book, B&N provide about a fifth what Amazon does, with all the rest in negligible numbers.

Now, this is what the general public has chosen. When people go looking to buy something online, they turn to Amazon. Hell, when I want to send a purchase request to my local library, I use the Amazon page to dig up the publication date and the ISBN.

But at this point it’s hurting authors. (Here’s the website listing Hachette’s authors, highlighting bestsellers, of course, but like most publishers they have a mob of midlisters.) Anyone could be next. Small presses are already being squeezed. Self-published authors have been so happy with their “70% royalties” (which is really a 30% sales commission for hosting/delivering a file and processing payments) but as soon as Wall St decides the company needs to start turning profits, I’ll bet that’s the first place they start to squeeze.

But this raises questions for me: Do I remove the links to Amazon for all my books, as other authors have done? Like Fred Hicks, I’ve already emptied my Amazon cart of the obscure crap I was planning to buy when The Great Way was finished.

What’s the point of doing all that, of linking to other book sellers large and small, if readers won’t buy from them, even for paper editions?

What if the government provided your vehicle?

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I saw this tweet from Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) a few days ago, then read the linked blog:

Recommended. The LA Times follows up here, pointing out that we’ve reached “Peak Freakonomics” where our two authors seem to have run out of innovative ways at looking at subjects and should probably try to find a new niche to market.

But I was thinking about Yglesias’s proposition: What if the government bought your cars for you? How would that work? So here’s a thought experiment for that:

First, no frills. No leather seats, no iPhone dock, no super-quiet engine. There’s nothing wrong with those sorts of luxuries, but taxpayers won’t swing for them, so they’re out. If you want a DVD player for your kids to watch a movie, you have to spring for that yourself.

Second, how much will you be using your vehicle? Look, the government will be happy to give you a car to transport you places, but does it need to be idle all night while you sleep? Do you need to have it sit on your corporate campus for nine hours while you’re at work?

It would probably be cheaper for the government to pay for a chauffeur who would drive you to work, then go drive other people who needed rides, then pick you up after your shift. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be the same chauffeur!

Third, what if it’s not a one-person vehicle? Why should the chauffeur drive you and you alone to your destination when there are probably quite a few people who work where you work, or who would like to shop at that mall? Single-occupancy vehicles are wasteful and cause traffic jams. The government could streamline things by carrying several people at once.

Larger vehicles would be called for, ones with the capacity to move lots of people around. Perhaps some sort of schedule could be devised (and routes established) to maximize the movement of users.

Fourth, what about free-loaders? Obviously, there are those who want a car just for the thrill of driving. Would the American taxpayer be willing to subsidize that sort of purely-pleasurable but unproductive pastime? Considering how they act when food-stamp recipients buy soda, I doubt it.

Perhaps some sort of small co-pay could be required to discourage joy riding. We could call it a “fare.”

And you know where that takes us? To public transportation, which is certainly not perfect but is still used by millions of people every day. How would the Freakonomics guys feel if we increased its funding? I wish my transit system had more dollars.

Because the government is never going to allow people to walk into a car dealership and pick out any car they like. It’s ridiculous to even offer that as a thought experiment. But if the government thinks it’s important for people to have access to a minimum standard of health care, they will work that out. And if the government thinks people should be able to move around a community without driving a car of their own, they’ll work that out, too.

It won’t be extravagant, but it might make your society run better.

The Full Trailer for DARK DUNGEONS!!!

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It’s not a satire of the original Jack Chick comic! It IS the Jack Chick comic brought to life!

Debbie and Marcie arrive at college unaware of the dangers of RPGing. They are soon indoctrinated into this dangerous lifestyle where they face the threat of learning real life magical powers, being invited to join a witches’ coven, and resisting the lure of Ms. Frost, a vile temptress of a GM. But what peril must the two friends face when they stumble across the Necronomicon and their fantasy game becomes a reality game? Find out in Dark Dungeons!

From the FAQ on their website:

Have people committed suicide due to RPGs?

No cases of RPG-related suicides have been proven in court. However, that does not mean that it doesn’t happen. For all we know, BIG-GAMING may just be very good at covering them up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_%26_Dragons_controversies

BIG GAMING! Click through to learn more.