Thursday, April 18, 2013
Friday, March 8, 2013
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
I've looked a couple of end-of-year-meme things, but I'm not sure I can actually fill them in.
It seems weird that the Occupy London camp happened over a year ago now.
In 2012 everything changed and nothing changed.
I got 'promoted' to project manager (although everyone still keeps falling over themselves to tell me that project manager is totally a sideways move from technical, not an upwards one).
I did a lot of arguing on the internet about politics, but everything has just steadily got worse to the point where it's depressing to even touch the subject; especially as everyone seems to want to blame the people who are trying to make it better for not succeeding in making it better _enough_.
(I guess at least the US managed to choose the lesser of two evils, but I can understand the position expressed by the World Can't Wait newsletter, when they said that in some ways it's a pity the US is just going to stumble on being awful rather than go over the edge into truly dystopian, at which point people might have mobilised and done something about it.)
The global economy staggered on rather than collapsing. Greece is still in the Euro and still hasn't officially defaulted. Egypt still doesn't have a functioning democratic government but hasn't collapsed into apathy under a new dictator or military rule. Syria is still tearing itself apart.
Maelstrom's over; I've stuck up my battle reports on a webpage; we still haven't got the rest of the data available sensibly; I'm less upset about this than I expected to be. I guess this is why those other games I wanted to know about also had a frustrating lack of final revelations available for public consumption. Maybe I'll get around to it when PD Towers is less impenetrably busy with the Empire release.
I am still not sure if anyone will ask me to be Empire crew or not, but to be honest I've pretty much made my peace with 'not' by now. Maybe I'll change my mind if I'm offered something really awesome to do, but I'm just not sure I want to invest that much energy in a game again.
Especially as I'm not sure whether I will be up to the running around bit of LARP at all. I seem to have developed some kind of exciting jointfail in the last months of 2012, and tomorrow I finally get to phone the secretary that can apparently chase the appointment I should have got some time in the last month about seeing a specialist about it. Meanwhile, moving hurts and I've been trying to do it as little as possible.
And the person whose leaving on maternity meant that I ended up as a project manager is due back Sometime Soon - the latest update looks like 'early March'.
I still have no idea what happens then.
So, that's my life at the moment - for the first time in some years, I'm really not sure what the next year is going to look like.
I wrote, um, quite a few things this Yuletide:
Endless Duty, my actual assignment, which ended up shorter than I would have liked, but I kind of ran out of things to say. It's essentially some fluff based on a quirky little SF / Romance crossover book called Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair, which I don't expect many people have read...
On the Field of Ingarn, my first pinch hit, which is possibly my personal favourite out of the things I wrote this time round. It won't mean much to you unless you've read Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis, on which it is based, and the style of which I tried to copy pretty exactly - but if you have, it goes into some detail on the whole Orual-rides-to-battle thing that CS Lewis basically skipped straight over.
And Stamp On The Pieces, my second pinch hit, which is the first piece of fanfiction I've done actual research (rather than just re-reading canon a lot) for! It's set post-canon in the Millennium Trilogy (the one that starts with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) - I basically took the tiny handful of things we knew about the supposed next book and started writing something based on the location we know is featured.
The Angel Of Compassion is a treat for a Leonard Cohen song (this time it's 'Closing Time'), given that the one I did last year worked well I thought I'd give it another go :-). This one is, uh, slightly weirder and more plotty than the last.
Guest of Honour is a treat modern-language retelling of the deuterocanonical Book of Judith with, uh, a few slightly divergent elements :-).
Tracks; River; Hope is a rather odd little treat that I did for a music video (Bronte by Gotye). It's a bit stylised and possibly disturbing in places, but I couldn't resist writing something after watching the video.
Wind In Her Hair; Blood On Her Claws is blatantly about my one-session Changeling: The Lost LARP character. I'm sorry, okay :-) I couldn't resist after I saw that it fit the prompt pretty much exactly.
Unthinkable is a depressing little Dragonriders of Pern story that appears to have become my runaway success story this Yuletide (well, it got recced a couple of times and got up to two pages of comments before replies, anwyay). Extra bonus trigger warning in additional tags.
And, not written for Yuletide but another holiday exchange, Blasters and Wands:
It's Never Over, about Finnick Odair's life and death in the Hunger Games trilogy.
I also wrote something for the 3 Ships exchange, but reveals on that are later :-).
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Have you read Snow Crash? Do you like Y.T.?
If so, you should read this:
I am incoherent with squee about how excellent a coda this is to a book which really finished rather abruptly - and somehow my mystery writer also managed to add a trip around abandoned stations in an underground transit system, which is one of my favourite things :-).
Sunday, November 11, 2012
I've been doing a lot of discussing and a lot of thinking on the political divide lately (mostly in the US, but it applies to a lot of other places too).
As far as I can tell, the fundamental question of left vs right is:
Is it more important to ensure a good level of everything for the lowest member of your society, or is it more important to ensure that nothing is holding back members of your society from achieving as much as possible?
(There's also a second fundamental question, which is 'Do you trust the government with the power to achieve this, even though that means they can turn around and do terrible things if the political wind changes, or do you think all government is essentially untrustworthy and should be minimised, even at the cost of important things not getting done?', but that's a separate axis, as much as they're often conflated.)
Because you basically can't have both. If you insist on providing a certain basic level of provision for everyone - or even just for the 'deserving' poor, if you think you can identify them - you necessarily put at least a bit of drag on your society's highest fliers. After all, as many people are very fond of pointing out, someone's got to pay for it. And it also puts drag on your ordinary everyday person - if they know things won't go that badly if they don't work at anything, it can stop them putting in the effort, especially if they know that some of the fruits of that effort will be taken away to support people who _did_ just do nothing.
I think it's obvious to people who know me that I am still firmly on the side of decent provision for even the least deserving of those who are in need, but I do understand the argument that actually this leads to stagnation - that if you put drag on the people who can achieve in your society, then you get out-competed, you don't get the scientific and technological progress and business success you would otherwise benefit from. And eventually your entire nation falls behind those who didn't let the plight of a small fraction of their population cause them to insist that the rest of the population contribute to help them.
I think, like everything, in practice this is something that the middle ground is the correct place to stand on - not confiscating everything from the rich to bring the less rich up to the highest level that everyone can be sustained at, and not leaving everyone who has a temporary setback to starve and die if they can't support themselves or find other private individuals or civil-society organisations willing to support them - but there is a _lot_ of middle ground and it is very hard to come to any agreement as to which bits are the middle and which bits are unacceptably extreme in either direction.
I'm not convinced there are any answers - but I know people on both sides have trouble seeing the other one, and so I thought I'd share my observations while I'd spent the time gathering and expressing them.
Friday, November 2, 2012
I might have accidentally slipped and attempted NaNoWriMo. If you want to watch my pathetic attempts, I'm posting over at http://storyness.livejournal.com/ :-)
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Today I read in a LARP post-action report that they did some scenes in a chapel, which the writer pointed out was 'not real-life consecrated'.
This caused some cognitive dissonance, because I realise I've never really got the whole 'consecrating space' thing (in the real world). My upbringing contained churches meeting in pubs and school halls (as well as the more conventional variety), and in most cases the ones that met in the pubs and the school halls seemed at least just as, if not more, 'real' and attended by the real presence of God as the ones that I suppose must have been in 'consecrated' spaces. I've always been pretty attached to the whole 'where two or three gather' thing, with a pretty big dose of 'always with you' to go with it.
I'm especially not sure why it would be particularly Not Okay to play pretend in a consecrated space as opposed to a non-consecrated space usually used for approximately the same things...
I can understand the decor and the history making a place feel / be particularly 'holy', but I've never really given much thought to the 'mechanics' of consecrating places. I'm not even really sure what that _means_, in physical terms, for - say - a standard Anglican parish church; what do they _do_ that makes it 'consecrated'? I mean, I imagine like basically everything else it is the intent that is the most important part? But I just don't know :).
Thursday, March 8, 2012
More questions, this time from dbsurfeit. If you want your own seven questions I am still gradually handing them out when inspiration strikes...
( Read more...Collapse )
So, for those playing along at home - what do you think I'm most picky about?
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Actually got to church this morning for once, to discover that they're running a new-years 'basics' series, which started with one of those 'historical proof that Jesus rose from the dead' sermons. If you haven't heard one, the first page of Google results for 'historical resurrection' provides plenty; I could go into it if anyone was interested, but I'm not a historian and I'm sure other people have put it a lot better than me.
I was thinking, on the way home, of reasons why people hear what seems superficially like very compelling historical evidence (on the level with or better than most historical 'facts' they would cheerfully accept) but quite reasonably go away not believing a word of it - mostly as an exercise in 'how can these kind of sermons be improved', but also as an interesting question of what actually motivates human beings and makes them believe one thing or another.
So, in no particular order, some reasons I came up with - and if you have any further information or are generally thinking 'but that's not why _I_ don't believe it', please comment and tell me where I am full of shit :).
Note that I don't believe most of these statements; I do believe in the physical Resurrection, but not really because of the 'historical evidence'. This is what I think other people are thinking - if I'm wrong, which I quite likely am, please tell me!
( 1) The supposedly compelling historical evidence isn't actually very compelling if you look at it closely.Collapse )( 2) I don't accept the 'historical' standard of evidence for things that I might actually have to care about if they were true.Collapse )( 3) I don't actually care whether Jesus was resurrected historically or not. Unexplained stuff happens all the time. It doesn't affect my life or mean the rest of Christianity is true.Collapse )( 4) I don't actually care if it is true - I live in my own truth / I would have to change too much / it's just not relevant to me.Collapse )( Conclusion / Coda: Why _do_ people believe what they believe, then?Collapse )
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Inspired by the latest #obscenitytrial craziness, here are some under-informed thoughts on the different trade-off positions you can consistantly take on personal liberty. I notice that they line up quite well with the major UK political parties (at least in principle; the practice is much murkier, of cousre), so it's possible my views have been shaped by the political landscape in which I find myself.
There's the 'state-socialist' approach, typified by Labour. The state promises to keep you safe and healthy, but dictates how you should live your life, for your own good. This keeps down the amount the state has to spend on keeping you safe and healthy, because you are mandated to undertake preventative measures and avoid risks. At its extreme, this approach involves state-mandated exercise routines and a complete ban on any sex without condoms outside a carefully monitored breeding program.
There's the 'libertarian' approach, typified by the Conservatives (economically, anyway - social conservatism holds them back in this regard) and the Liberal wing of the Liberal Democrats. The state doesn't necessarily promise to keep you safe and healthy, but in return it doesn't place any restrictions on your behaviour; you can have as much risky sex or extreme sports or couch potato behaviour as you like, but you are also at liberty to die of starvation or preventable diseases if you can't pay for the consequences.
Then there's the 'universal welfare' approach, typified by the Social wing of the Liberal Democrats and the Green party. The state promises to keep you safe and healthy, and keeps out of dictating the terms of your life as far as it possibly can. However, it does require that you hand over a large percentage of your productivity to pay for the continued safety and health of all those people undertaking risky behaviours, even if you are personally very responsible in your life choices. Obviously you can see how this can be very unfair in practice!
Personally I support the 'universal welfare' approach, but I can see why it would require extremely careful management and education to avoid it completely wiping out productivity (why should I work at anything when all my money / reward for the work is just going to go to people who didn't bother?).
Sunday, January 1, 2012
This is the bit where I shamelessly self-promote the fic I wrote for Yuletide this year, or something.
If you like The Culture (as in, the Iain M Banks novels) you might want to check out my actual assignment, Faster, which caused one commenter to accuse me of being Banks trolling Yuletide by writing a story for it!
The other two stories I wrote are:
Snow White and Red Riding Hood, attempting to win the Most Unoriginal Title Award with an urban retelling of Red Riding Hood mashed together with Snow White and Rose Red (a completely different tale to the standard Snow White!). It additionally showcases my completely ignorance of inner-city areas and may also contain henious failure at portraying a non-white character...
Dance Until Sunset is practically original fiction, as its 'fandom' is the song Suzanne by Leonard Cohen. Particularly observant types might noticed that I totally ripped off elements of a holiday I had in Paris once and grafted them onto the side of that interview with Suzanne that's floating around the interwebs.
I actually think all three are quite good, but I suspect if you read my writing you'll have gone to read them anyway and if you don't then I'm not going to convince you with decent advertising blurb ;).
but mostly it's two in the first morning of 2012, and everything has been moving too fast for me to catch my breath for the last three months, and I don't really know what to say
my life is pretty much perfect, on paper, and I quite liked the future, too
but there's still part of me that is convinced we'll all be living in mud huts by the end of the year, and if I am still alive it will only be on the sufferance of people who ought to know better...
I feel like I should be doing more, but I'm so tired of being the voice in the desert and I am acutely aware that I'm not particularly qualified for this shit and I'm not always right.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Here are some more underinformed thoughts :) Please tell me where I'm being wrong/stupid, previous corrections have been very useful to me in thinking about this stuff!
The purpose of an economy, as far as I can see, is to produce things that people want, without producing too many things people don't want.
There is also a second-order effect here - economies should also produce 'the ability to produce more things people want in the future' and avoid producing 'a reduction in the ability to produce more things people want in the future'.
(I am using a very wide definition of 'things people want' here. People want iphones, food, world peace, novelty, countryside, etc etc. People don't want zunes (or insert your favourite failed gadget here), hunger, suffering, ugly architecture, hopelessness, etc etc.)
We haven't found a better way of measuring 'want' except in money (i.e. we model 'how much people want stuff' as 'how much money people are willing to pay for stuff'). I haven't been able to come up with a better measure either!
The present economy, up until the current blip at least, seems to be pretty good at producing things people want - at least for people in this country / 'the Western world'.
It seems to be pretty awful at not producing things people don't want ('minimising negative externalities', I believe, if we want to get techincal) and is starting to show signs of failing at 'ensuring people have the ability to produce more things people want in the future'.
So far, governments have been able to shore up the edges of this (regulation on pollution etc tamping down the negative externalities, public service education and healthcare and infrastructure keeping the productivity rising), but this is also breaking down - partially because the 'produce stuff people want - manufacturing the 'want' too if necessary' part of the system has gone into hyperdrive and become bigger than any governmental co-ordination acna handle.
Some key problems seem to be:
1) Money concentrates and gets inherited; there's not a complete relationship between 'what is good' and 'what people will spend money on'. So far, not enough people can agree on a better way to measure 'what is good'. There are ways to make money a 'better' model (for certain people's definition of 'better') like redistributive taxation and basic income guarantees, but they start to pretty obviously become awkward patches on the system only undertaken at the sufferance of those who could get ahead by breaking the system - and when the way to get ahead is to break the system rather than work within it, the system traditionally doesn't do well (see: various attempted implementations of communism).
2) There might not actually be enough stuff to go round, especially with the damage we've been doing to future productive capacity by ignoring that part of the equation. This makes people even more reluctant to try new models than the general human reluctance to change things - it might turn out that a model that maximises e.g. human happiness does it by markedly reducing the happiness of the people who are currently sitting on the levers of power, and also all of the people they are directly related to / care about personally...
3) We've even been messing 'make stuff people want' up lately.
I blame this partially on 'manufacture the 'want' if necessary' - there has been a lot of advancement in the ability of people to make people want stuff that isn't actually 'good' in any objective sense (if there is even an objective sense for it to be good in! this stuff is tricky) and that means there's a lot of wasted potential that doesn't necessarily immediatley look like waste.
And the other major part is lack of transparancy - especially lack of transparancy of negative externalities. When people buy things, they are pointed very firmly at the good ('this iphone makes my life better and makes me feel like I am living in the future') and away from the bad ('this iphone is manufactured in terrible conditions and uses a lot of irreplacable resources that we aren't doing enough to find alternatives for - it contains a lot of Suffering and Making My Future Suck').
The negative externalities build up and build up until they start making it harder to produce 'good' stuff - stuff people want - and that's why we're suddenly noticing them now...
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
The gold standard keeps being advocated to me by all corners of the internet. I still think it is useless for a modern economy, and this is why:
Money Supply needs to be controlled to determine the level of risk that should be taken in investments - too much money in the system and bad investments are constantly made (leading to wasted actual resources, like abandoned factories); too little money in the system and good investments are not made (leading to unemployment).
In a gold standard or other commodity standard, money supply is entirely linked to how much of that commodity people are producing and how much gets lost/destroyed/decayed/used up.
The gold standard relies on constant supplies of gold being found and dug up out of the ground.
This works very well when there is a small constant supply of new gold strikes and mining productivity improvements such that more gold constantly enters the market - you get a small but positive inflation value, which encourages people to invest but not too much and makes them happy that their numbers are going up and 'progress' is being made.
(Even when it's working fairly well, you still get occasional abberations like a Gold Rush, where the money supply goes too high as a big supply is found, but not too many of them to cope with and they tend to be local.)
It does not work at all well when the supply of the commodity / gold begins to run out, and suddenly vastly un-environmental behaviour like tearing up rainforests to mine the gold under them is heavily incentivised to keep the good times rolling...
And eventually even that doesn't work, and you are left with a deflationary currency, as gold supplies go out of the system (through being milled into tiny pieces and lost, or hidden by savers who know it will just grow and grow in value).
A deflationary currency means that it's always worth keeping hold of the money you have - so nobody invests in anything, nobody buys anything, and the economy grinds to a halt.
Edit: I got the last paragraph entirely wrong, sorry! I have now fixed it so it says what I meant, which is the exact opposite of what I said before!
Thursday, November 3, 2011
As with all of these posts I may well be very wrong about most of this stuff ;).
These, as far as I can tell, are the issues the Occupy movement (and its precursor the 15M / Indignados) is attempting to address - which most of the movement has conflated into one mega-issue for which 'the bankers' are to blame:
1) Broken / nonexistant regulatory systems have led to a lack of transparancy in the financial sector resulting in the ongoing bank crisis seeded by the 2008 crash. This is very important to campaign on especially in the US as it appears that currently nobody is doing anything effective to fix it, and it is a clear and present danger.
2) Rising inequality, caused (at least in part) by taxation cuts (taxes are definitely down since e.g. the 1950s) reducing redistribution, and hence the measures the government is taking to reduce spending rather than increase taxes to pay down the deficit.
This is exacerbated by 1) because 1) has resulted in / further empowered a highly mobile financial elite who can go and sit in tax havens or a more welcoming country if unilateral taxation increases make one country more expensive for them to be based in, taking the extensive tax revenues they were already paying with them. Also it has been highlighted by the crash caused by 1) as governments are no longer able to borrow their way out of their spending/taxation gaps as easily as they have been doing.
This is again worse in the US because they don't seem to believe in giving people second chances or feeding, housing and clothing the people at the bottom of the pile even in the patchy and inadequate fashion our government do - which means rising inequality that includes people going down as well as up hits more people harder.
Also in this category is rising awareness of global inequality (and probably rising actual global inequality too, but that's harder to prove / could be said to be a good thing if you assume some people will always have nothing / next to nothing as it just means that the world as a whole is improving!), with some advocating much more widespread redistribution. Which I think is an excellent idea (...just as soon as we solve the problem of selfish human nature...), but would probably suffer greatly from if it happened because I have _way_ too many toys, globally speaking.
3) Environmental degradation and exponential growth patterns becoming unsustainable, causing the end of the assumption of continual economic growth in real terms
It's not clear we can or should do anything about this until we've got 1) and a bit of 2) under control, and it's even less of 'my field' than speculative economics, but due to exponential growth curves it's creeping up on us pretty fast so it's not surprising that people who are generically concerned about The World Being Broken and the onrushing New Dark Ages are also pretty concerned about this.
The Inflation / Money Sink Thing:
Crash Course (http://www.chrismartenson.com/crashcourse) is very interesting, but seems to have a massive anti-inflation, pro-savings, pro-commodity-backed-money standard thing. (I thought economists worth their salt were meant to be laughing at the gold standard, not idolising it?)
Then there's a rather old text on Stamp Scrip http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~roehrigw/fisher/ which neatly demonstrates that a money sink is good to kick-start an economy.
Edit: This theory is now a bit out of date since ilanin poked a big hole in the side of my uncritical 'buying stuff / investment is always good, right?' axiom. The people-backed money one below is still mostly current to my thinking, apart from 'how to control inflation here', though.
My thoughts are:
* Money is primarily a medium of exchange. If you want a commodity-backed store of value then buy some assets - that way your risks due to the commodity properties are more transparent and you have to take on the burden of storage etc etc.
* As a medium of exchange, money is no use in the bank. Savings encourage people to work less. People working less is bad :) that's what kills most socialist systems, after all.
* If you're going to destroy the desirability of long-term saving you also have to guarantee at least one of a minimum standard of living or a constant supply of money to each person. Fortunately there are many systems that can do this in various ways; see below for one...
* Pensions / retirement are an interesting special case - you do want people to be able to save money to have whatever advanced standard of living their productivity has sustained throughout retirement as well (and let people save in order to compete for scarce end-of-life medical interventions, quite possibly - it's a great motivator). But there are ways to deal with this too. You can exempt money that's being locked away in saving accounts that only let you take money out at 70 or so or for direct life-saving medical expenditure from your money sink, for instance.
You also need a wealth tax for this whole thing to work, because otherwise the rich mostly ignore your monetary system and trade in commodities, which they have the wherewithal to do - which does erode the 'save in commodities' thing a bit, but hopefully not too much.
To go with this, I am very interested in the idea of 'people-backed money'.
Instead of controlling the money supply by buying government bonds / interests in insurance and pension schemes / interests in businesses, you control the money supply by giving every individual a certain sum of money every (week/month/year) directly into their account. You can vary the sum of money to control inflation - but you also control inflation by some kind of stamp scrip like method, basically an explicit tax on holding money, so that people are motivated to spend their money instead.
You might say 'everyone would fly to foreign exchange, which they could hold onto' - but you can tax that too, or you can say 'well, yes, some economies are going to be forex-standard whatever you do, it's not a bad idea for a developing economy, but someone has to be the root economy and they need something like gold-backed or debt-backed or people-backed money.'
You don't get the weird thing of debt-backed money where you can massively benefit financial institutions and corps by printing money especially for them, because the money you're printing has to be distributed across the whole population. You don't get the constant-growth-requiring interest treadmill of debt-backed money, because the only 'paying it back' that happens is the anti-inflationary taxation, not an obligation to keep paying it back with interest.
You probably still do fractional reserve banking and end up in the situation where you have more debt than money, but because the liquidity of the system is so insanely high the government can easily fix a round of defaults on debt which threaten to fuck the system up by injecting money which spreads evenly across the economy and bolsters the reserves of all the banks directly (as it goes into the accounts of people some of whom won't withdraw it right away).
I know that this is undoubtedly a stupid idea for many reasons because I haven't seen anyone who isn't crazy advocating anything even similar - so can people enlighten me? :)
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