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Posted on 2012.08.16 at 15:26
I thought some of you might not yet be entirely aware that there's a new TF2 mode, where RED and BLU get to team up against hordes of monstrous robots. So, there's that.

But there's also this, which is quite sweet, and which seems oddly appropriate as a lovely pet for at least a couple of you. Because you need a dove covered in blood, in both real life and a videogame.

Posted on 2012.06.17 at 16:09
Tonight, I'm off to PunchDrunk's production of Crash Of The Elysium, a live Dr Who interactive play type thing.

Yes, I'm mostly posting this to see if I can make Dr Who fans jealous - or least those fans not able to get to Ipswich. Event details are here, for anyone that's somehow missed it but would like and be able to attend.


Posted on 2012.05.24 at 17:00
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It's been rather a reasonable few days, despite fate's attempted impediments.

Tuesday I managed to take all the skin off my knee and it's only started healing now, which combined with bruises all down one arm it looks like I've been a victim of some sort of abuse. Pavements, especially those pretending to be smooth and safe, are not to be trusted.

Last night was Iron Sky - which clashed with China Mieville's book signing, and if they'd announced a full run in the first bloody place I'd have booked tickets that didn't bloody clash with one of my favourite authors.

I managed to get my copy of Railsea signed anyway, then hobbled as fast as I could down the road to the Prince Charles Cinema, where after extensive ticket dickery I managed to get the tickets I'd already paid for.

The film was excellent fun! Poor Finland, dear silly North Korea, this will make sense when you've seen it. There were so many scenes where the whole audience erupted into laughter and applause! There are distinct elements of satire, little nods all over the place to history and politics, but it's still just *fun*.

Today, the darling Gentleman very kindly took me to lunch at Alain Ducasse, where we enjoyed the limited edition Chelsea Flower Show menu. There's a fixed price lunch menu, with £55 covering two glasses of wine, half a bottle of water, tea or coffee, three delicious courses, and all of the other things they throw at you (choux nibbles, seasonal amuse bouche, various artisanal breads, and extremely generous petit fours). That would be good value almost anywhere, but it's a bargain for a restaurant with three michelin stars and such attentive service. You must all go and try it when you have a long lunchtime to spare in Central London, I insist.

... no, really, you should go and make a booking and try it. The dessert was a little flower in a pot. The pot was a wafer-thin chocolate shape filled with a creamy mousse which contained little gems of passionfruit coulis. The soil was a rich, crunchy dark chocolate crumble. The leaves were marzipan, the petals a jasmine fluff, the pollen a further little dome of passionfruit. So. Good.

And this weekend is MCM Expo down at the Excel Centre, where I'll be GLaDOS in a fetchingly striped dress (if I can get my giant robot head back from Sussex), or a relatively modest interpretation of Poison Ivy (if there's no head and I have enough time to grab a green dress and tights from somewhere).


Posted on 2012.05.19 at 12:29
Gent & I have a guest for the week, we're taking her to the Wellcome Collection tomorrow (Sunday 20th) afternoon. Anyone want to join us for the museum?

Following on from Health Is Not Weight, I thought I'd run a quick comparison of different health metrics. There are tons available, all purporting to tell you if you're healthy or not, how much weight you need to lose/gain/rearrange to be healthy, and they tend to have very varied results. Here's two of the easiest:

Now, BMI says that I'm distinctly overweight and therefore unhealthy and doomed, as we've established.
But I came across the hip-to-waist ratio as another health metric, also put forward by the BBC, and it says that I am likely to be in stunningly excellent health because of my natural extremely-pear shape.

These are both tools available on the BBC's health section, both measuring exactly the same woman, and coming out at wildly different results, one saying that I'm an unhealthy fatty fatpants, and the other applauding me and my supposedly glowing health merely for distribution of that same fat. Neither tool asks about my diet, or my exercise regime (if any), or my sleeping patterns, my medical conditions (if any) or anything else that tends to impact health far more directly than mere weight. BMI doesn't even ask if I'm male or female, and that makes a pretty fucking huge difference.

So, just to reiterate, these tools may be useful for general demographic mapping. For you and me individually? They suck so hard, we may as well just ask Henry for health advice.

Health is not weight, or, why BMI sucks for people

Posted on 2012.04.18 at 17:12
I found a lovely thing that demonstrates just how bad BMI is at indicating individual health, and why it should only be used for general trends - and not used to gauge individual health, as it so often incorrectly is.

Illustrated BMI Categories shows people of all weight categories, from underweight to morbidly obese - and very often, they're plainly not. Those that are, more often than not, are plainly very healthy despite their apparent size. There's a national martial arts champion with a BMI in the 50s, which is supposedly on the verge of death. There's a lady who's just hiked a mountain and is labelled obese. A healthy young man playing with his son is overweight. Three sisters of almost identical proportions are mixed underweight, overweight and normal.

So I know that most of you know better, but for anyone still using BMI as a personal comparison... I wouldn't bother, if I were you. It's for demographic trends only, and the photoset is a great example of why.

And now I'm off to the pub for beer and cake, safe in the scientifically proven knowledge that occasional treats are both delicious and wise.

Why I still don't have an e-reader

Posted on 2012.04.17 at 10:45
I keep hearing that books are going to die and e-readers are the future and so on. And I'm just not convinced.

This is because there will always be people like me. I need my books to -
- survive a fall onto a hard surface, because I often read at pubs and train stations and other crowded areas. Readers are more fragile than books, and may smash when that twat rushing to get the 8.25 attempts to run directly through your book-holding arm. The book would be dented, scratched, but fine unless you've dropped it on the tracks.
- survive a fall into liquid, because I read in the bath and at bus stops in the rain and I'm damn clumsy. I can grab and rescue a book fairly sharpish, and it'll be fine after an hour near a radiator. Will a reader be okay? Even if it's not dropped in the water, will the reader be able to survive such prolonged exposure to high humidity? And will the reader be just as cheap as my paperback to replace if it's not?
- be easily and immediately lendable, without having to set up lending lists and expiry dates and friends lists and so on. I keep separate accounts on almost everything vaguely internetty to keep my SFW and my NSFW things separate, but I often lend my NSFW friends some of the SFW books I like. I'm not going to add Jimmy The Gimp to my Family Friendly Friends list just so I can lend them the Codex Alera, when I can hand it over at a party instead of logging into separate accounts and all that dicking about. Just about everywhere online seems to want to be some kind of social networking, and paper books offer far greater discretion.
- be available second hand, if they're out of print or the author's had a spat with the publisher or distributor. Many things I like aren't out as ebooks, and if they were could be withdrawn as soon as Amazon has a bitchfit with someone - in a second hand store, the book cannot be withdrawn. Also, sometimes I run low on cash and it's more economical for me to buy 30 books for £1 each than a small handful at £7-8 each.
- be complete and untouchable - ebooks have been edited on the fly by publishers, and I am just not okay with someone editing my reading material while I'm reading it. I'm even less okay with having an online library that the seller or publisher could remove things from at a whim. A paper book is an instance in time, a finished item, and impossible to take away or edit short of breaking into my home.
For all these reasons, books will never die. Even if they risk becoming niche, or the shops are fewer, there will always be hardcopy books and there will always be a place in any city that you can buy them. Plus books don't have a battery, so they still work even if you forget to bring your charger on holiday.

Second long ranty post, different topic

Posted on 2012.04.03 at 13:27
Tags: ,
Oh do fuck off, you anti-choice douchewranglers. And you, the journalist - have the decency to call lies out as such, instead of using "claim" for both hateful fictions and actual fact.
The claims being made by Abort 67 are not merely things that "BPAS claim are misleading information", they are outright lies. BPAS is disputing A67's claims, because those claims are lies. There is a big fat difference between a claim and a statement of fact. I can claim that the sky is filled with pink unicorns, but it is a fact that the sky is not filled with those things.

So, Abort 67, here are reasons why you are telling lies to vulnerable women - 
 - There is no link between abortion and breast cancer. The initial claims actually relate to the fact that a pregnancy carried all the way through appears to lower the chance of breast cancer - aborting it does not raise the risk any more than being abstinent or using contraception.

 - There is greater danger to the mother with birth than with abortion, not the other way round as Abort 67 claim. Birth is far more dangerous to any woman than abortion ever will be, with a much greater range of potentially lethal medical mishaps and life-threatening conditions attached to it.

 - There is no mental health link. No suicidal tendencies linked to abortion. The "study" that made this claim used total lifetime incidences of mental health problems, including those that existed prior to the pregnancy and those with no link to the abortion, and this "study" has been pretty thoroughly debunked by anyone who's actually read it. In contrast, it *has* been shown that women who are already suffering some mental health issues who give birth and then give the baby away have greater issues directly stemming from the pregnancy than those who have abortions. If you don't want the baby, being forced to carry it and then hand it over to a stranger will make your problems worse, not better.

 - The pictures on the signs used by the aforementioned cretinous slime-spewers are almost exclusively of late-term (after 24 weeks) abortions, which are very uncommon and only allowed for serious medical reasons such as the fetus not being able to survive outside the womb anyway, or fetus killing the mother. Those pictures are not pictures of early and mid-term abortions, which look like a bad period at best. The women who are going in without a really quite obvious third trimester pregnancy are not going to have the Bits Of Baby special, they are going to have a very heavy period with possible chunks.

 - And no, an early-term abortion is not killing a human. It is killing cells which contain human DNA and which will eventually develop into more complex human tissue if nothing goes wrong at any point, but which at that early stage is about as human as a cancerous tumor. Sure, it contains your DNA and is being made and fed by your body and even starting to develop bone mass and blood vessels - well, so's the fetus.

Now stop making shit up, you gibbering shitwaffles.

(more creative swearing than usual per people trying to take away my actual sodding right to my personal bloody autonomy and medical cocking safety)

Race and Fiction

Posted on 2012.04.03 at 12:01
Tags: ,
Saladin Ahmed, author of the not-in-Fantasy-Medieval-Europe debut novel "Throne Of The Crescent Moon", has written an interesting piece about the depiction of race and racial stereotypes in fantasy, contrasting Tolkein's Middle Earth with George R R Martin's Game Of Thrones world.

Naturally, most of the comments are white people yelling "How dare you call the stuff I like out for using occasional lazy shortcuts when picking races for characters! You're racist against white people! It's Europe anyway so of course there are no people who aren't totally white! And even if the non-white ones that turn up are all whores or savages, you're just refusing to acknowledge that they are enlightened whores and are better then the white people because of their magical enlightened whoredom!"

Leaving aside the fact that Medieval Europe was quite a lot more diverse than it's expy version tends to be in fantasy novels, thanks to things like trade routes existing (and thanks to quite a lot of Europe being Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, with all those non-blond types, and thanks to the Roman Empire for facilitating the fast and efficient movement of humans, whether they liked it or not)....
Leaving that bit aside, these commenters are fucking desperate to cling to their white fantasy worlds, and insist that any writer who made it non-white would be ruining their immersion. In a fantasy novel. Where, just as writers often ignore the bits of reality that don't suit (such as needing to pee, which only happens at plot-appropriate moments, or periods, which don't exist, or horses, which never tire or get stones in their hooves, or literacy, which was apparently widespread), writers have the opportunity to give us a world with more than one civilised culture. Or a world where the civilised city dwellers aren't white and maybe the savage hordes are instead. Or... anything, really, but they just keep defaulting back to our vaguely Anglo-Teutonic knights and farmers. Aversions exist, but they're in the really quite tiny minority.

These people are so, so panicked about just being asked to consider that there might be something problematic with always having a white protagonist and non-white barbarians, that their reaction is to claim the problem doesn't even exist at all, and that if it did it wouldn't be a problem anyway.

This sort of shit is why I'm constantly, actively seeking fantasy that doesn't fit the Quasi-Medieval Northern European mold, because I want to support fantasy worlds that are not the Aryan fucking ideal of the 1500s. I want to support fantasy that gives me a world I've not read ten thousand times before. And also, I don't want to be like the fucking commenters on Salon articles.

Do pardon the swearing. I seem to have gotten myself agitated by idiots again.

Oooh, cartoons

Posted on 2012.03.27 at 14:32
Tags: ,
This year looks to be a good year for cartoons.
Not only do we get the American heavy metal gem, Metalocalypse, back for a fourth season, but there are some great anime series coming up as well!

Shinchiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno are collaborating again for a jazz-driven anime series set in the 1960s. You might remember that pairing from Cowboy Bebop and its lush, kinetic visuals/awesome soundtrack.

Infamous master thief Lupin The Third is back, too, with "A Woman Called Fujiko Mine" and a suitably James Bond looking teaser trailer.

And there's the Mass Effect anime due this summer if you're into that.

I'm sure there are others I've temporary forgotten to mention, which are also coming up and will also hopefully be amazing. In the meantime, I'm gonna go watch Mushi-shi and luxuriate in its gentle atmosphere, Ghibli-esque scenery and strange magics. You can watch it all on youtube and it's enchanting and beautiful.

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