“… time, Doctor Freeman?”
While we’re not in Big Brother -ville yet, it’s a slippery slope, as the recent censorship idiocy here in Finland shows. Ah, the good old “won’t anyone think of the children!” argument, where silly little things like freedom of speech and due process get trampled by the obvious demons of “child pornography!”. Of course, if you’re against this censorship, you’re a supporter of child pornography! Sigh. The fact that this is a secret list, which apparently contains lots of non-child pornography pages too, seems not matter too much to some people. History has shown us where things like this tend to lead – but knowledge of history doesn’t feature very high on the list of these people, either. “We have to save the children!!!”
I could write lots about this, but better writers than me have already done so. It should not come as a suprise that so many people are ignorant of the real implications of all this – but the fact that one of those (willfully) ignorant people is our Minister of Communications, Suvi Lindén, is sad. I get some little satisfaction from the fact that as of now, over 10,000 people have signed an address asking for her resignation, while only about 4500 people voted for her originally. The sad fact of democracy is that now and then, utter morons get elected into office. Usually they do no harm there. Usually.
In an alternate reality we’d have a Gordon Freeman clone with a huge arsenal storming the senate and kicking ass. Here and now, we’ll have to do without gravity guns and general mayhem. Maybe that’s for the best.
Speaking of dystopias and firepower…
…yes, I finished Half-Life 2 this weekend. Quite a ride, and the end cliffhanger was nicely done. Now all I have to do is resist the temptation to buy the Orange Box until I have time to actually play Episodes 1 & 2. Not this week, at least – I have an Exalted game to prep and some other stuff to do. Next week, maybe. I can resist. Yup. No problem. Sure.
That took care of Sunday. Saturday we had a VTES tournament run by Teemu; was a lot of fun, and even though my Anarch Daughters voter failed in the first two rounds (in first because of bad table seating, in second because of abysmally bad card draws), it did manage to get me a game win in the third round. Not enough for the finals, but still, a game win is a game win. I have some small tweak ideas for that deck, but nothing major; I suspect it’s close to as good as I can make it, without totally changing some major focus.
After the game I shambled to a friend’s place where a blini party was in full swing. Blinis plus bubbly wine, wonderful combo.
Added a bit later: this post cuts right down to the heart of the censorship debate, tongue-in-cheek as it may be (in Finnish).
Ever since we moved to the new house, we’ve had intermittent problems with our ADSL connection. The connection is a “ServerLink” 8/1M connection from Netsonic (includes static IP, the critical component), with the actual connection being provided by Elisa. In the beginning what happened was that every now and then, the line would drop and stay down until the ADSL box was rebooted – really nasty if you’re running a server. We switched the old ADSL box for a Telewell one, and that one is able to recover from the drops; now all that happens is that the line drops every now and then, and then recovers some 30 sec - 1 min later. For a lot of uses this is quite ok, but since it usually kills ssh connections and (most critically :) kills Eve connections, it’s still a headache.
I’ve tried looking over the ADSL connection settings, and while I don’t understand all the switches there everything seems ok. The logs just say “carrier dropped” or something like that. Hmph.
I finally emailed the other people who life at our house company (“taloyhtiö”, whatever that is in English). As a reply I was told that another guy had also had problems a year ago, he had contacted Elisa and had been told that since our switching center is in Hämeenkylä (quite a distance away), they cannot guarantee an error-free 8M transfer rate. They had reduced the max bandwidth for that guy to 3.5M and the problems had gone away. I’ll have to ask Elisa about this, and if the above is still true then do the same for us. We don’t need the max download rate all that often anyway, and we’d much rather have a steady, slower link than a slightly flaky faster one. A bit annoying, in any case – why do they sell an 8M connection to an area they apparently know can’t handle it?
Serves us right, of course, for living in the middle of the forest…
In other news: spent Sunday playing VTES at a friend’s place along with lots of other people, was fun. My Lasombra combat deck sucked on all too many levels, it’s going back into the redesign pile. The Samedi deck is doing ok-ish, but is having flow problems – have some ideas about that. Daughters of Cacophony anarch voter is starting to work nicely, but is suffering from master jam (understandable, since it had a ton of them). Will have to figure out what to cut.
Oh, and I have to note that even though the recent Superbowl left me cold (I’m not much into watching organized sports, and have no idea how football rules even work), I’m finding another sports event very entertaining: the US presidential race. He’s running for the finish line! But no, she has him tackled, there’s only a pile of flailing hands and feet visible! Who’s that mystery man, sprinting past the defense line? And now for a word from our sponsors!
I’m personally rooting for Barack Obama. He’s smart, has lots of views I can agree with (not all, of course), and is an excellent public speaker. For example, check out this speech about religion and atheism (40min video stream). Besides the fact that it takes balls to talk about religion’s role in politics at all in the current climate, the fact that he talks about atheists and evangelists both in a non-confrontational manner (barring some pointed and deserved digs) is a big plus. Something about his measured call for discourse, reason and moderation on all sides strikes a chord with me. As an atheist, this is a sensibly religious person I feel I could have a real talk with. Which is something.
This is all from the sidelines, of course, since I can’t vote in the U.S. elections. To be honest, all three of the current main candidates (Obama, Clinton and McCain) seem to have something to recommend them, none of them feels like an idiot. So for the first time in 8 years, there’s a real chance the U.S. might get a reasonably good president. Whoever that ends up being.
In any case, most of the world is watching.
So… Christmas and New Year. We had a nice, peaceful and sort-of-traditional home Christmas, together with my dear cute wife (artist’s depiction on right, thanks to Girl Genius), Niksu, and the girl-who-lives-in-his-bedroom-at-times. “Traditional” due to us having metric tons of traditional Finnish Christmas food, with some stuff borrowed from the Russian kitchen, and “not quite traditional” due to the glow-in-the-dark demon & pentagram we had as Christmas window decorations – and also due to us listening to “A Very Scary Solstice” and “An Even Scarier Solstice” as holiday theme music.
Everyone (including the cats) got lots of goodies to eat, and presents are always fun. I got a two Imogen Heap albums (nice!), a copy of the classic Dr. Seuss “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, (whee!) and a 100mm macro lens (wow!). I’d complain that it was way too much and too expensive, but of course Santa is above normal everyday economic concerns. Apparently Wife had tipped off Santa about what I’d like, since I got things I very much appreciated. Seems that Santa had been busy in other ways also, since everyone got lots of fun and appropriate packages. One does wonder how Santa knows what lurks in the heart of man. Is he actually The Shadow, the other 355 days?
During the inbetween days before New Year, I ran a VTES tournament with a “munch/cheese” theme, “Temptation of Greater Power I”. Went well, and a tournament report is now available.
Then it was suddenly New Year, which we spent at Jari’s. Lots of people (some just visiting Finland for a short while), lots of bubbly, lots of snacks, sauna… was a fun party. The weather was (still) dismal, but bubbly drinks cure that to a large extent.
So, now it’s 2008, first full year in our new home starting up. Lots of stuff to do, things to improve and fix… and that’s good. There’s no real rush with anything, and there’s the luxury of being able to plan for long term.
I separated the VTES wiki into a subdomain (vtes.orava.org) and set up a new wiki there. I’m in the process of moving things over, will probably take a bit until it’s all there – I have an Exalted game to run on Sunday and need to prep for that, and various things (including a Porcupine Tree concert) eat up most of Saturday.
Anyway, registration is free for all and you’re welcome to add VTES-related content there. Spammers and vandals will be deal with appropriately.
Ok, the 2008 tournament rules for VTES just came out, and contained some (welcome) surprises. The changes contained two significant items:
The cards Edge Explosion, Memories of Mortality and Protect Thine Own are now banned in tournament play.
The way finals results are tallied has changed, now the top scorer of the final round (only) is the winner, all other finalists share second place. In addition, prize splitting is forbidden.
Now, this has already spawned a lot of talk both on the newsgroup and on a local mailing list. The overall reception has been very positive, with of course some dissent here and there.
So, what does this mean, and why was this done? Here are my views, in a nutshell.
First off, the banned cards.
Edge Explosion - I think the rules team correctly identified this as the problem card, causing the problems with overpowered Imbued decks. It let them largely ignore Conviction costs, and also let you largely ignore Virtues, letting you build optimal cryps mostly based on special abilities. Without this, Imbued decks will actually have to pay attention to Conviction as a resource, and also make a lot more (hard) choices in crypt construction. This is good. This would have been a hard card to errata without rewriting it completely, so I think a ban is justified.
Memories of Mortality - this has always been a stupidly powerful card, but with the Imbued it became a problem card. Total shutdown for combat decks, and near-impossible to get rid of (especially since most Imbued decks used Anthelios to cycle it back). I would have personally preferred an errata to this card, making it a lot less powerful, since this ban also hit some otherwise ok ally decks hard… but I’m ok with a ban, too. This card is too strong, whichever way you look at it.
Protect Thine Own - well, what can I say, except “goddamit, finally!”. This card has been a problem since forever, the effect is simply too strong, no easy way to rewrite it to reasonable levels without totally changing it. Ban is fine.
So, in effect: the Imbued get a (deserved) nerf, while still being totally playable and competitive. IMHO, of course, some people disagree on this. Also, an old problem card has finally been buried for good.
Then, for the tournament finals rules: the reason here is that lately, tournament finals have tended to be… well, not that fun. Too much careful table talk and wrangling, and weird deals made just so someone could become 3rd instead of 2nd. This change will hopefully force people to play to win in the finals, disregarding everything else. What will probably happen is lots of careful table talk and wrangling, but the moment anyone gets a VP everyone else goes all-out. We’ll see.
All in all, I’m very happy, these changes should result in better games all around. An overpowered deck type has been toned down a bit, and players in finals have been given new priorities.
My “hate list” is growing short, here, it now only contains Anthelios and Direct Intervention.
On a VTES-related note, Monger is still down, but Jussi Hattara’s excellent Secret Library provides a good replacement. I haven’t played around much with it yet, but what I’ve seen looks very cool and well-designed.
The weather is starting to hit freezing at night, and there are small patches of snow here and there in the morning – methinks summer is starting to be over. Our yard is finally clear of crud used by the workmen doing our roof insulation & wall paneling makeover, so there’s some hope of getting things into winter shape. I managed to scrounge up energy to rake up leaves into nice piles a few days ago, but by the time I finished it was so dark I didn’t feel like carting them off – and then it started to rain the next day. Oh well, at least they don’t form a soggy matress over everything, just a few soggy piles. Better than nothing.
Life’s been pretty quiet; work, some EVE Online and reading, nothing too hectic. I did attend a knife fighting workshop in Turku last weekend, though, so it hasn’t all been wombat mode. Said workshop was a lot of fun, learned quite a bit (more) about how to carry, draw and use sharps. I’m really liking my new toy.
The new VTES expansion looks solid, the “post-release” tournament was a lot of fun, with Antti Horelli claiming victory for Clan Assamite. I haven’t made any decks based on the new cards yet, but have a lot of ideas. Maybe this weekend I’ll sit down and put together a deck or two.
My four-wheel-transport situation is changing a bit, I’m getting my sister’s old Peugeot 306 convertible, which is 5 years and 100k km newer than my current car. It needs some fixing in the retractable roof department, but should otherwise be in good shape. Doing the papers on that on Monday. This leaves my trusty old ‘89 205 automatic a bit useless to me, so I’m giving it away if I can find someone who needs a car (for free). Details here (in Finnish). It’s old and has lots of “features”, but it still works.
My pile of 400+ USA/BM pictures are sitting on my hard drive, eyeing me balefully. Should do something about getting them processed and published.
Ok, the tournament report for Ropecon is now finally available. Sorry it took so long, but better late than never.
It’s still missing deck lists from Juha Nyholm and Tommi Hakumaa, I’ll add them if I get them.
Let me know if you spot any errors there.
Boys, now the times are changing
The going could get rough
Boys, would that ever cross your mind?
Boys, are you contemplating moving out somewhere?
Boys, will you ever find the time?
Here we are stranded
Somehow it seems the same
Beware, here comes the quiet life again
– Japan, “Quiet Life”
We’re back. Actually, we landed on Saturday evening, with myself feeling like a stranger in a strange land. I guess it’s a sign that the trip was a good one, I feel like I’ve been gone much longer than the 2,5 weeks. Playa time.
Jetlag struck back on Sunday, we woke at 3.30pm thinking it was morning. Heh. I’m now more or less back in the normal Finnish sleep-wake cycle, and actually doing some of this “work” thing again. Strange stuff.
Burning Man was the same as ever, and also different. I guess that’s one of the points of the thing, and one that people complaining that “it’s not like it was in the early days!” tend to miss. Our camp was fun, and we met some new wonderful people and met up with some old friends (some in a really serendipitous manner).
I’ll write more about the trip later. I also have a ton of pictures, which I’ll publish when I process them – that’ll take a while, though.
I think it’ll be quiet life for us for some while now, if for no other reason than that our credit cards are feeling the strain of all this travel (and other things). Quiet life good, in moderation.
As a quick side note: the “post-release” tournament for the new VTES expansion, “Lords of the Night”, will be held on Sunday Sept 30th (12:00, Fantsu). I’ll add info about it on the VTES page, also ,soonish.
Well, even though I’m on vacation somehow I haven’t had much rest or idle time. Part of that is due to my decision to start each day off with a 2km swim at the stadium, and then see what else I need to do… that cuts out a large chunk of the day. The weather had been great, so swimming outdoors is wonderful. No complaints.
Anyway, seems I haven’t gotten around to writing my EC impressions yet, and they will have to wait till after Ropecon (which starts today, with the big VTES tournament I’m running kicking off at 18:00). I’m starting to have everything ready now, but I continually have a feeling that I’ve forgotten something.
I do intend to write about EC, too. Until that point in time, Marko Saari has some pictures available from the trip.
Now off for a swim, then back home to do a last check on email and then off to Ropecon. I don’t expect to sleep much during the weekend, since I have the 03-07 (yes, AM) info shifts on both days, and the VTES tournament will run until 1-2am. Sleep is for the weak.
Back from the EC tournament long weekend in Gothenburg, Sweden. Great trip, huge amount of fun. Not all that much sleep, though. More reports when I manage to rest and unwind.