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My partner posted a link to this PC Gamer article: "Telltale's choices aren't about plot, but something more significant". I also happen to be playing through their title The Wolf Among Us at the moment. Reflections thereon:

I sat in on an English course at university a few years ago: ENGL242 - Digital Narrative and Digital Culture. One of the interesting points made about narrative was that there's a couple of levels to it: story and discourse, or what is told and how it is told.

When they talk about branching and funnelling in Telltale's games, that's largely about plot - the structure of the discourse. You've got a bunch of beads on a string, and they can move around a little, but the string is still there and the plot moves forward along it.

What changes, though, is the story. Your actions and dialogue choices move around the emotional tone, characterisation of the relationships between various characters, and occasionally enable or disable particular choices further down the line, but the overall structure of the story remains the same throughout.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my Bigby is a bit softer and less of a jerk to those around him than canon. I am tempted to play through again in full "Frank Miller" mode just to see how the story changes. If I can stomach it.
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Heh, after years of sending me absolutely nothing, LiveJournal now seems to be trying to market itself to me. It's almost like they've just lost a large chunk of their userbase and they're trying to entice them back, or something.
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I find myself wondering if typographical errors are one of the side effects of my medication. I seem to have been making a lot more of them in the last month or two.

On the other hand, at least I'm writing things without having to fight past a paralysing feeling of dread. Here's hoping I can start applying that to my thesis rewrites again soon.
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The traditional song has been listened to, in accordance with the prophecy. 39.
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Over upon the Book of Face, I posted a link to Dr. Michelle Dickinson's excellent open letter on fluoride, science and kindness. It's an excellent informative piece, and it rounds out with the simple and powerful phrase: "We’re all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind." Excellent advice for anyone in academia or science in the broader sense, really.

This ended up being shared around quite a few places, spawning interesting and largely constructive discussions as it went. It also attracted not a small amount of scorn for the person who the letter was addressed to. This got us into a conversation about the social effects of scorn and ridicule, their effects on persuasiveness, and how to invest your energy in arguing well. My comments follow - I'd be interested to hear yours.




It took me a while to get to the point where I realised that making a persuasive argument is about more than laying out facts (as I saw them) and the (i.e. my) line of reasoning that links them. That whole theory-of-minds-of-other-people thing was admittedly slow to develop, in the way it often is for geeks.

I find it helps to think of it in terms of working out where their thinking is at, and trying to lay out a clear path for them that acknowledges their values. You may not be able to bring them all of the way all at once, but you can mark a trail that will be easier to follow in future.

Boiled down into two fancy words: memetic aikido.

The good thing about doing things that way with an audience is that, like the article above, you have the opportunity for collateral education, rather than collateral damage.

A direct, hard push doesn't usually get good results. It just tends to harden opinions on both sides of the argument. The "no, that's ridiculous..." or "well actually..." often makes someone's firmly-seated opinions dig in further. It might make you look strong to any sympathetic onlookers and those who respect a performance of strength, but it's a dead loss to everyone else.

Shame has little constructive potential if someone doesn't already care about what you think of them - and even then, laying it on too thick becomes a burden rather than an encouragement to be better.

That, in essence, is what I think we should be looking for if we're going to invest in arguments: the encouragement to be better. If we're not doing that in some way, isn't everyone better off if we use that energy somewhere else?
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So, I am now also over in this place, should you prefer to converse somewhere other than Виртуальная Москва.
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And there was a great wailing from within the import tool, and greater still from among those yet to migrate.
drcuriosity: (Flat cap.)


I posted this comic to Facebook earlier in the day. While I was work, the comments blew up a bit. Mostly, I think, because the first panel mentions "rape culture", which is like a red rag to a bull for some dudes. For posterity, I'm writing down some of my thoughts about the topic here as well.
  • The term "rape culture" is one that gets a lot of people defensive. It's not new - it's been around since the '70s, though more often used in academic circles. The internet has certainly widened its spread, along with misconceptions about what it means and doesn't mean. Some people - including some feminists - get it totally wrong, and/or use the term in a combative rather than a constructive way.

  • Labels aside, there's evidence from criminology that some significant proportion of convicted male rapists have the belief that their attitudes about women (and sometimes men, especially effeminate ones) are normal. That what they think is what other men think, and what they do is what other men would do "if they had the balls to". It's not a common pathology in female rapists - they tend to have other messed-up reasons. There are also similar attitudes in other kinds of violence as well, gendered or otherwise.

  • The way we talk about each other, the jokes we make, do have an impact on our peers. With people who have difficulty with empathy, interpersonal relationships, romantic expectations, power dynamics... the "jokes" and "locker room talk" are seen through a different lens. They reinforce the idea that their urges are a normal part of society, even if there are laws against taking things too far for the sake of "political correctness". That's a thing we can try to combat by being mindful of the messages we send to each other.

  • My reason for posting this wasn't to say "omg, rape culture is bad, mmkay!", but because it encourages a constructive, positive model of masculinity where connecting with a woman is about connecting with a person, and that empathy isn't something you should shy away from as a form of weakness.

  • That "feelings are for the weak!" attitude just leads to a brittle idea of manliness that can hurt the people around us, yes, but definitely hurts men too. We try to be too hard, and in doing so it only makes us easier to break. Hardness isn't resilience, which is what we really need to be good at being functional humans.

  • This isn't just about being nicer to women for women's sake. It's about being a man in a healthy way, encouraging healthy relationships that will in turn be more supportive for us when we're having a challenging time of things. I feel that kind of cultural change also allows men to have better quality relationships with each other, too.

  • Women can support this as well by being supportive and encouraging of men who're trying to break that brittle model of masculinity. Acknowledging that it is a struggle to step away from that hardness when you've been raised into it, and broadening their expectations for men's behaviour accordingly too.

  • Individuals having more focus on men's rights and women's rights is fine, as long as it's not oppositional. Rights are not a zero sum game. Respect is not a zero sum game; we all benefit if everyone has more of it. Privilege imbalances happen, sometimes in both directions at the same time. But then, it shouldn't be a race to see who gets the most or even who's the most hard done by, either.

  • It's going to be bloody hard reach a fair, equitable society if we keep treating 50% of the population as an enemy that we have to fight to win power from. We all need to be on the same side of this - supporting men and women and healthy relationships between the two - if our society is going to be a better place to live in.

  • (And yes, also for people who don't have binary genders and sexualities too, even if that's a little off-topic for this particular conversation.)
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Don Trump is a guy that thinks he's fly
He's also known for going bust and
Always saying what he wants to build
And just sits on his broke ass

So no, I don't want your endorsement
No, I don't want to give you mine and
No, I don't want to "make it great" again
No, I don't want none of your time and

[chorus]
I don't want no Trump
Trump is the guy who can't
Get no vote from me
Sitting in the passenger side
Of the President's ride
Trying to holla at me
I don't want no Trump
Trump is the guy who can't
Get no vote from me
Sitting in the passenger side
Of the President's ride
Trying to holla at me
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Someone on a Facebook group asked me about PTSD, and for my opinions on the oft-maligned "trigger warning". For posterity, some thoughts on the matter.



It hits different people in different ways, and often the strength of reaction can vary depending on your current mental state, particular specifics of the stimulus, how long ago the trauma occurred.

Specific trigger stimuli used to hit me a lot harder when I was younger, but I've had twenty-odd years to process things now. It still makes me feel deeply uncomfortable to have things close around my neck or face, or around large groups of aggressive guys.

I feel content warnings on difficult subjects can help. Most of the time, I'd be fine with reading about things that related to my particular traumas if I knew what I was getting myself in for - it's the times when it blindsides you and you don't have time to gird yourself mentally when it really kicks you. Also, some days if you're feeling fragile already, knowing to avoid it for today and maybe come back another day when you're feeling better able to handle it. For me at least, it's not so that I never suffer damage by being exposed to triggering things, but so that I can be on guard because I know it's there.

I think it definitely helps to think of post-traumatic stress as an injury - kind of like the mental equivalent of a broken limb. It can heal over time, but it may not set correctly and even if it does, there's still a structural weakness there. It does make you more susceptible to further damage.

The healing process can also be set back if you're continually knocking it against things, so it makes sense to guard it against damage. At the same time, though, putting it in an isolated bubble where it can't get damaged makes it incredibly difficult to use, too.

You need to find a risk balance that allows you to heal the injury, but also live your life. Having friends around who understand the injury is there and can avoid accidentally hurting you moves that balance further in the direction of living your life. But sometimes, you just need to armour up regardless of the restrictions it puts on you.
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Happy would-have-been-69th-birthday, Mum. Thinking of you today.
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Two years today.

Castamere

Jul. 22nd, 2016 12:59 am
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I hear the drums echoing tonight,
But she hears only whispers of some wedding celebration
No Stark in here expects a fight
In the wings reflects the steel that gives them no salvation
"And who are you," the proud lord said,
"That I must bow so low to one like you..?"

It's gonna take a lot to take them away from you
But that's something that a hundred men or more are gonna do
I sing the Reynes down in Castamere
Gonna take some time to take the throne we never had

The direwolves cry out in the night...

Okay, yes, it's bedtime and I've already done quite enough damage :-P
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In a sudden shift sideways from my ongoing newspaper website development work, much of today was spent diving into the world of digital repositories.

We have some discovery work going at the moment, looking at upgrading a local digital humanities archive. For me, this meant a crash course in Dublin Core metadata (which I hadn't touched since 2001), Fedora Commons (digital content management), Islandora, MODS and MAPS and FOAF and other fun acronyms. Hanging out with librarians and archivists and such must have been rubbing off, because I seemed to be able to pick up a lot of concepts and use cases very quickly. By the end of the day my head felt FULL of new things - both exhausting and satisfying. We'll see how much of it has percolated through and bedded down during the night, and how much needs to be re-examined in the morning :-)

Last night I also signed up for GovHack: a weekend-long event where they release a bunch of data sources to the public, and groups of us attempt to build new things to explore and build on that data, for a variety of public sector uses. I'm not really so fussed on the "compete and win valuable prizes" side of things, but I'm hoping that I get to meet interesting people, collaborate on good things, and make a positive difference somewhere along the line. It's going to start the day after my PhD thesis defence, so I don't know quite how frazzled I'll be for it, but I'm hoping it'll be worth putting in an appearance all the same.

So, as it happens, we ended up talking to a guy from council this evening, too. Sign-up numbers for Christchurch have gone up massively. I get the feeling there's a lot of latent desire to do something to help our local communities, and hope that this event will provide a vehicle for doing it. Fingers crossed for us all.
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Rough night last night. As well as the regular recurring fighting dreams I sometimes have, I had a second dream which involved children being kidnapped from a train somewhere in eastern Europe.

Going through the tunnel there was a long sound, mostly like an old steam train whistle but also a bit like a high-pitched shriek. And then, an unattended child disappearing. By the time I woke up from the dream, I'd discovered that dwarves were responsible - the old kind of dwarves who're cunning smiths and play nasty tricks on miners who don't leave food out for them. I don't know why they wanted children, but a few of the staff on the train were in league with them and being paid off to look the other way. They might have been smuggling other things on the train, too. There were a lot of bags being unloaded on the wrong side of the platform, only some of them struggling.

I have no idea why or how my brain came to this idea. It sounds a bit like something from the same kind of modern folklore storyworld as Ночной дозор (Night Watch), The Dresden Files or possibly Hellboy à la Del Toro. I don't know. Maybe someone can work the idea into a modern horror story or game, somewhere.

It'll be a hot shower and an early night tonight, I think.
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  • Modern Javascript training at work.
  • Clients not screaming about website performance, which I am hoping means they're happy I Fixed the Things. (Things that were only a problem when they finally decided to set aggressive performance targets a couple of weeks out from launch.)
  • Definite Potential Intern has now turned into Actual Intern, and she seems to be taking to the place well.
  • New tenants moving into my ex-girlfriend's ex-flat earlier than expected, which means we're finally out of the lease and I'm not paying $340/wk for a mouldy shithole in Shirley she can't live in with a compromised immune system.
  • Full 4-month bond return incoming, without contest from the landlord who was always "too busy" to fix anything and too cheap to get it fixed.
  • Meridian Energy closed the account there as of my last bill, so nothing further to pay.
  • On the horizon, a potential scholarship / bucket of research funding to write up the last couple of chapters of my thesis as a conference paper or journal entry.
  • Interesting conversations, and being inspired to write Interesting things again.
Despite plenty of stressors, many positive outcomes this week. Now comes two days of sleeping and computer games.
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This is what happens when you're looking for a short writing exercise and someone suggests love poems.

Romance novel love
With candles lit and a simmering said
A petalled path to the foot of your bed
Falls cool with the white winter's season

But age holds no fear
With cardigans on and early to bed
Each other held long in the heart and the head
When your lives never lacked for a reason
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"Yeah nah, it was a play of three acts, all credit to the director and the choreographer... the coaching's been paying off with a strong start out of the interval and tight blocking throughout. We've been putting in the hard yards, and it's really starting to show in our performance."

"The cast definitely seemed to be moving through and engaging the crowd well going into Act Three."

"Thanks. Yeah, we're trying to incorporate some more Brechtian V-effekt work going into the end of this season, and de-familiarising the traditional notions of the theatre-going experience."

"With the scene change from the apartment to a protest rally, do you think the audience are going to feel a bit confused by this part of the play?"

"Definitely. And that's part of the game plan. Obviously Tom and Scotty's characters are the focal point of the narrative, but this helps the audience to defocalise and engage with the other minor roles, feeling as if they are participating in a broader, interconnected story-world rather than just a single isolated line of discourse. In the end, art was the winner on the day, eh..."

"Cheers, Erin! And here's Sam with the weather."
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