Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 14:48 on 19-09-2013, Cheriola
Yeah, from what little I understand of the issue, the problem is more that there are people who are poor and unemployed in Germany, and they don't like public funds going abroad instead of using it to raise pension levels here to a point where you wouldn't have some elderly people needing to collect bottles from street wastebins for the return deposit anymore, for example. It's misdirected frustration, because most of the major print publications (especially the tabloids) are owned by big corporations with other arms in heavy industry and banking (the German private banks did get huge bailouts, too). It's the same with the discussion of the "too high" electricity prices for consumers right now - industry trying to distract the public from the fact that they're getting a free lunch right now due to the rapidly falling wholesale prices and the widespread industry exeptions from the surcharge.

I don't think Greece ever had much of an export economy, at least to Germany, except for a few select expensive foodstuffs (olives, wine, cheese etc.) and labourers. From what I can tell, the country's economy is mostly dependent on tourism (85% of their economy is in the service sector), which of course isn't happening as much as long as they are in turmoil. But I believe what we're seeing now is not just the result of irresponsible banking speculation and possibly government corruption, but also the first signs of the economic impact of climate change, which will turn the Mediterranean if not uninhabitable, then certainly not able to produce their own food supplies anymore, never mind for export. (The problem is less the heat, more the ever increasing droughts.) And the country doesn't have much heavy industry or natural resources to exploit. (Unlike for example Morocco, which is hot and dry, but also has most of the world's supply of rock phosphorate, which worldwide agriculture is completely dependent upon. Hence why the country was kept stable throughout the Arab Spring.) Well, Wikipedia tells me Greece owns the world's biggest merchantile shipping fleet. But that source of income will dry up, too, unless the oil price goes down considerably. So I don't think the area will ever return to the level of prosperity that they once had.

However, I think Merkel is mainly trying to help the country not out of the kindness of her heart, but because if Greece, mother of democracy, breaks away from the EU, then others will follow. And Germany needs the EU to survive, not just for economic reasons, but for emotional reasons as well.
And, well, at the end of the day, most Germans are still well enough off that some solidarity doesn't hurt. And we do morally owe the world, even if maybe not Greece in particular.
at 13:35 on 19-09-2013, Cheriola
... And "Hastur Lord", even more so, though I'm not sure I ever read that one.
at 13:05 on 19-09-2013, Cheriola
Oh, and regarding possible Harry Potter spinoff movies: I would certainly watch this. (Though I would change the casting a bit. But fan-made mock-trailers are always limited by what footage is available.)

... And between this and the queer/poly relationship discussion, I am now having Darkover-related flashbacks to my teenage years. "The Forbidden Tower" and "The World Wreckers", in particular.
at 12:35 on 19-09-2013, Cheriola
Since I was talking about the influence of the Pirates and the NPD on the next generation of voters: Apparently the under-18 mock election was already done last week (190000 participants), and the results are:

CDU: 27.1%
SPD: 20.4%
Greens: 17.0%
Pirates: 12.1%
Left: 7.7%
FDP: 4.6%
NPD: 3.2%

So that looks promising for the future.
But in my state, the NPD got 5.9% - considerably more than in the adult polls. D:

Also, now I see what you meant about the Greens having problems, Janne. Oh, for fuck's sake. Apparently a couple of days ago some big newspaper published a story about how the current leader of the Greens (whom I personally don't like, because he's been courted by big industry lately, but I don't think he's evil) was "legally responsible" for the publishing of a campaign pamphlet calling for the decriminalisation of some forms of pedophilia during a municipal level election, 32 years ago (when he was 27 years old). Note, he didn't write the thing, he just didn't stop it from being published and he was the one who held the responsibility for the pamphlet according to our publishing law. (The Greens were generally antiauthoritarian at the time, and just incorporated all the demands of a gay activist group into their campaign program without making any changes, because they thought they didn't have any right to censor them. I've had a look at the wording of the West German laws they wanted to reform, and it was probably a "15-year-olds having sex with 13-year-olds shouldn't be treated as sex-offenders, and 17-year-olds should be allowed to have consensual sex with their teacher if they want to" kind of thing. Which ignores the whole problem of emotional coersion, grooming and power-abuse, of course. But I can see why a group of overzealous young activists in the middle of the movement to acknowledge the existence of kids' sexuality would overshoot the mark by a mile, and why their straight allies were overly careful about judging or silencing them.) Not that the press headlines are presenting it that way, of course. The man himself said he regrets letting that slip through and thinks it was very wrong of his party to support that call for reform. This is the guy who was minister of the environment when the nuclear phase-out was first put into law, by the way. The Greens have dropped to 8% in the polls, thus giving the CDU a slight majority over the centre-left block again, even without the FDP.
My God, those big energy assholes are fighting dirty. (Yeah, the original news article was written by the professor who was contracted by the Greens themselves to investigate the handling of this particular issue during their chaotic early years. But you can't tell me they would be so suicidal to make these findings public a few days before the election if they weren't forced to head off their enemies doing the same.)

@Robinson: Sorry for taking my time to answer you - I caught a nasty bug that's going around and wasn't feeling up to being coherent in a foreign language.

I don't know anything about foreign elections either. Well, apart from the US, of course. If the US sneezes, the whole world gets a cold, after all. But I don't even know which side is in power in the UK right now, for example. (I just know they're anti-EU. Why is that, by the way? Is it some kind of "We were an empire, we're not going to play second fiddle from the right in a group now" thing, or because the central European powers (Germany and France) were traditional enemies of Britain, or what?)

I must say though, the US two-parties-and-never-the-two-shall-meet system, for all its bombastic campaigns, seems at the same time depressing (in that almost 50% of the population don't get a say in politics no matter who wins, and that new parties have little chance of getting a foot in the door), and a bit boring. Only two possible outcomes, you know?

About your story:

Yeah, I know what you mean about not having all the ingredients yet. I've had a complex Doctor Who fanfic in the planning stages for a few years now, and not just because of low self-esteem and lacking literary English skills.

The thing is, if the baby-carrier in question (I'm not using the word "woman" here, because she could be genderqueer and transmen have given birth, too, even post-hormones.) doesn't want the kids herself for at least some good reason, I would question why they are doing it. I mean, pregnancy does take a heavy toll on the body and does have serious health risks, even in this day and age (pre-enclampsia, diabetes, etc.) And birth is a painful, disgusting, and highly vulnerable process which involves several strangers touching your genitals and leaves the vagina permanently changed. (You're very lucky if you don't tear / get your taint cut in advance to avoid a more ragged scar.) And a cesarean is even more scarring and dangerous, because all major surgery is. So just "Yeah, I'm okay with it as long as I don't have to raise them" isn't really good enough. It would be, if it was an accidental pregnancy, but personally, I wouldn't intentionally take the pain, risks and indignities just because my best friend wants kids. I'd tell him to adopt instead. It would be on the level of donating a kidney - something you go through to save a life, but not just on a whim.

What I meant was that the woman shouldn't be the only one who wants the kids, and it shouldn't be presented as an inherently feminine trait - i.e. because "all women want babies". A more cynical/practical reason would be fine, though. Wanting to groom a lab assistant / mini-me would be okay from a feminist standpoint, I think, even if it's creepy on the characterisation level. In that case, I'd really be in favour of an artificial womb or other Frankenstein-esque method, though, because someone that selfish wouldn't want to risk her health for the project, I think. Well, unless she's the kind of 'scientist' who tests stuff on herself, like Walter on "Fringe".

If you don't go the sci-fi route, do remember that people have gotten pregnant with the help of sperm donors and turkey basters long before the invention of IVF. Also, IVF is expensive and rather invasive, too. (You've got to have one ore even several doctors get up and personal with your genitals. And putting an instrument through the cervix is probably going to be painful. And I don't even know what they do to extract several eggs from the ovaries at once. Huge needle through the stomach?) Though it does make twins more likely, because they usually implant several fertilised eggs at once. From what I understand, it's mostly done if the sperm cells don't have enough motility to reach the egg the natural way or if the combination rarely results in conception and you have to increase the odds, not as a way to avoid sex.

And besides, gay men have had sex with women for the purpose of having kids as long as human civilisation existed. Unless he's actively gynephobic or she's phallophobic or really sex-repulsed (which even most asexual people aren't), I don't see a problem with conception taking place the conventional way. Maybe with the help of another male partner and a blindfold, if that's what it takes, and the gay man really has to be the genetic father for some reason. (In the Harry Potter scenario I was thinking of the Salamander family as originally from the Ottoman Empire, so Luna would have some trouble finding another wizard among their friends with a suitable skin tone to make the kids look like they could be Salamander's, to satisfy his grandfather's wish for a blood-related heir. Of course, in a sci-fi scenario, he could just insist on a paternity test.) Unlike pregnancy, the sex part actually is on the level of "Yeah, whatever, just get it over with", even for most asexual people in relationships with verisexuals. (Granted, sometimes it's barely endured because of emotional blackmail, social pressuring and the fear of being left alone, and not just something freely given as a gift to the partner or specifically engaged in to make a baby. But as long as you make clear this isn't the case in your story, it would be okay. I know "enthusiastic consent" is a big issue in feminist thought, but people can consent for other legitimate reasons than enthusiasm for sex or physical attraction to the partner. Denying that means infantilising asexuals by default.)
at 12:31 on 19-09-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi

It's great to get this kind of information from the inside, especially as my German reading skills require a dictionary and that's too slow for newspapers. It's great that the neo-liberals are having a downturn, as their rise in contemporary discussion has been a bit of a mystery. Hopefully if their fortunes wane in general, we can avoid the more extreme incarnations here in the perifery.

The Euro issue is interesting, as Germany's economy in general benefits from the stronger euro, it also means that the economies in trouble probably need more help as well because of it, at least in part. So the disgruntledness of some germans(or Europeans) is caused by the crisis, and everybody prefers to blame it on the greeks and others(which of course carries a grain of truth), but as I understand it, the economical troubles of some Germans are not necessarily because of support for Greec, but rather that because of hevay support to the export industry, the domestic market in Germany has dwindled, because the wages are not rising. So the public economy is doing ok and the export industry benefits hugely, which of course is important, but the segments of society which are dependent on domestic markets are actually faring well, as they are supporting the export industry. And because the demand in German domestic markets is weak, countries potential importers to Germany, of which Greece and is one, subsequently have lesser demand for their exports, making recovery slower.

But if German economy keeps on growing, the thing to hope for is that wages start to rise a little and the domestic economy revives as well. But I do agree that Merkel has been doing okay as Europe's unofficial leader and it's good that she will continue doing so. Hopefully we can all start fixing stuff again soon, when the dust settles a little.
at 10:36 on 19-09-2013, Robinson L
So, as a going-away present from London, a friend recently gave me a copy of the British Fantasy Society Journal, August 2013 issue. In it is a reprint of Lavie Tidhar's Lexicon of Steam Literature of the Third Reich, a steampunk satire which I'm sure was linked before somewhere, though I can't find the original anymore.

Also included was another short essay which sadly does not appear to be available online, but which captured my attention just from the title: Heart of Grimdarkness, by Jared Shurin. Then the first paragraph sold me with this description of the grimdark debate:

Proponents of the genre say it is exploring more realistic emotional territory than traditional fantasy (through rape and torture), all while committing itself to a greater degree of historical accuracy (with rape and torture). Critics say it is prurient and nihilistic - tarnishing the genre of Tolkien (reactionary politics), Howard (racism) and Lovecraft (all around bastardy).

The rest of the article is Shurin plumbing the depths of depravity to which grimdark literature has presently sunk, touching on such themes as "Atheism," "Truancy," and "Books that treat Twilight with respect." All pretty amusing, even though I'm sure I don't get the joke.

Another example Shurin provides is Newsflesh, a series which features "Bloggers as heroes." After deploring the characters' focus on "traffic counting, story re-posting, social media spamming tactics"; he concludes "At least they don't write book reviews."
at 20:03 on 18-09-2013, Sonia Mitchell
Aside from the ape-man super soldiers that sounds exactly like every other Matt Reilly book.

Well, 'slim volume' threw me off a bit. Usually his books have to be massive in order to fit in all the exclamation marks. Google suggests it was his novella Hell Island.

Which I now want to read.
at 14:25 on 17-09-2013, Cheriola

"If the FDP fares badly" - Heh, that's not really an "if" anymore. They had 14,6% in the last federal election which is why they are part of the government coalition. In the polls right now, they're at barely 5%. It was the banking crisis that broke them. Well, that and their inherent incompetence and penchance to put their foot in their mouth as publically as possible. (They're not evil/racist/science-denying the way the US Republicans present themselves. They used to be the party of small business owners and the middle class. Their long-time leader until recently even was the highest-profile outed gay politician we have, and their current leader is a Vietnamese-born guy who was adopted as a baby (which makes him by far the most high level POC in the very white German politics). But they've turned into complete corporate shills over the last decade or two, and the younger generation of politicians - who are in positions of power now - mostly studied 'prestige' stuff like business law or management, so they don't really have a clue about economics or social issues or international politics or modern technology. And the last few years have seen these people in high-profile positions where they could make their incompetence abundantly clear - like our current foreign minister, who didn't get the job for his skills or personality (he famously refused to answer press questions posed in English) but because the position always goes to the leader of the junior partner in the government coalition.) I don't think they'll really drop out of parliament entirely. The CDU will send their own party members to vote for the FDP to keep them around, if push comes to shove. Because even if they collectively don't get enough votes to make a majority and keep the current government coalition going, the FDP will vote with the CDU on most issues, so if they get only 4% and don't get any seats at all as a result, that's 4% wasted for the CDU's side.

At the moment, the polls look really close. SPD (labour - at least in theory...) and the Greens together will get about the same amount of seats as the CDU, maybe slightly less (depending on which polling institute you ask). If the FDP makes the cut, the centre-right parties will have about 44-45% total (they have 48,4% now). The centre-left parties (SPD and Greens) will get about 35%, so no chance of an actual switch in who's chancellor. (Well, if the FDP doesn't make it, and the polls didn't catch a lot of the young Green voters, it might happen, but it's unlikely.) BUT there's also the extreme left-wing "The Left" to recon with - they've lost a bit from last time, but they'll still get about 9-10%. Last time, this didn't matter, because the whole left block had only 45,6% taken together. They'll probably get that result again (it's just some vote-reshuffling from the Left to the SPD), but since the right block doesn't get much more than that either, a right-block government might actually not have a majority in parliament. But even if the whole left block gets a slight majority, they won't form a government coalition, because the SPD refuses to form a coalition with the Left, due to old grievances. (The older,most powerful generation of the Left are still partly made up of people who were with the GDR monopoly party. They were the only party who refused to endorse our current non-party-member president, who was a member of the resistance in the GDR and, after the Reunification, head of the agency prosecuting Stasi members for crimes against humanity... And also, a few years back, a whole contingent of leftist hardliners split off from the SPD in disgust at their anti-labour actions while in government, and merged with the East German PDS to form the Left.)

What I want to see is a coalition made up of CDU and the Greens (the former because they are the only ones with a clue about the economy, the latter to keep the former in check about ecological and social issues). But it's probably not going to happen. The Greens may have 'sold out' quite a lot, but their base still sees the CDU as the traditional "big business" enemy. Still, Merkel personally seems to sympathise with some Green issues. (It's really weird. Nobody really knows why she did such a sudden 180° on the issue of nuclear energy in 2011, switching off half the plants in a matter of weeks after wanting to lengthen their allowed running time before the Fukishima disaster. She has a PhD in quantum physics, but that could really go both ways. And even if it was a cynical decisions to follow the public mood, she just had to go back and reestablish the original running times, not switch the plants off completely. So the only explanation I can come up with is that she personally doesn't want nuclear energy, and used the crisis to push her personal opinion through in a hurry against the general opinion of her party.) And the Greens have gone against their base before. (Agreeing to send troops to Afghanistan (or Kosovo - I don't remember right now) the last time they were in the government, which led to a mass exodus of party members, because they were originally founded on a anti-Nazi/anti-nuclear/pacifist hippie-like movement in the late 1960s. Sending troops into battle is connected to anti-Nazi movements in Germany, because using our army to engage in a war in other countries is technically unconstitutional unless it's in self-defense - I always laugh when US politicians complain about the fact that the German government refuses to take part in their wars, because it was US politicians who gave us that constitution in the first place.) So they might swallow their pride and sleep with the enemy, if it means they'll get out of the opposition and into power. I don't see what you mean about the Greens having problems, by the way. Granted, I don't watch the news (to avoid propaganda), so might have missed some personal scandal or smear campaign, but their poll numbers these last few days have been basically the same as during the last federal election. Maybe they'll even get 1% more. But even just keeping their 10-11% would be a success, because last election was the first time ever they made it into the double digits. They used to have a few points more in the polls when the FDP crashed, but that was mainly just people making their displeasure clear in the polls to give a warning to the CDU, same as with the Pirates. (Basically, the poll votes and some local state election seats back in 2011/2012 got redistributed from the FDP to the Greens and the Pirates, but now the actual federal election votes will be distributed more between the CDU and the SPD.) Also, the Greens had a big temporary boost because of Fukushima, but Merkel took the wind from their sails by throwing her own weight behind the anti-nuclear agenda.

But other than black-green, a grand coalition (CDU and SPD) is really the only viable option. Sadly that would mean my percentage-vote will be completely inconsequential. Giving it to the Pirates wouldn't do anything at the moment (they have enough votes to get tax-payed campaign funding for next time, but not nearly enough to make the 5% cut), so I want to give it to the Greens, because the energy transition is one topic I actually understand and can make an informed decision about (as opposed to labour issues, for example). And while no serious party is suicidal enough to actually say out loud that they want to go back on that renewable energy transition (No matter what the international press and the big industry propaganda on the English website of "Der Spiegel" might tell you, the transition is working and the population by and large stands behind it.), the CDU and FDP have been whittling at the edges. (Their decision to exempt 250% more of the industry from the renewables surcharge than was originally planned is what really drove up the electricity prices for private consumers, not the surcharge in itself. (Well, that and rapidly rising fossil fuel prices, so the renewables have actually prevented worse.) Despite that, the CDU minister of environment wanted to lower the surcharge this year and therefore the payments to people who put solar on their roofs. He didn't get that through parliament / past the chancellor - but that he had the nerve to float that idea at all, that the government would be willing to just break those 20-year-contracts, probably discouraged some people.) So, a strong Green party would be good, even in the opposition. If the CDU needs them to vote on their side on other issues in order to get a secure majority, they could bargain for concessions in the environmental area. However, if a grand coalition is formed, they would have an absolute majority (over 60%) and wouldn't need to listen to the Greens or Left at all for the next 4 years. The SPD was the senior partner in the government that introduced the laws the whole renewable transition is based on, but they're not what you'd call hardliners on any ecological issue. And if the SPD decides to shill for big business again like the last time they were in power (they're the ones who cut welfare and unemployment insurance) or send troops to Syria the way they did to Afghanistan, there would be no-one to stop them.

As for the Hartz reforms (which were the idea of an SPD government, not by the CDU), I really can't talk about that in any detail, because I was too young to really pay attention at the time. My mother says they were a bad idea. And yes, we only have such low unemployment numbers right now because a lot of people were forced into undignified part-time jobs (the pay is undignified - as low as 1 Euro per hour - not necessarily the work, though that is often depressingly pointless) and have to be supported by the state anyway, and because companies were allowed to shift more to hiring temp workers and part time workers, thereby lowering the overall money available for social security payments. (And those part time jobs often don't pay a living wage - which is why the more extreme left-wing parties like the Pirates are calling for a guaranteed basic income for everybody, or at least a minimum wage.) Also, the wages here haven't risen in over a decade, so most people have got effectively poorer (because of price inflation) and the wealth-gap is widening. But on the other hand, I've read articles by analysts stating that this painful cut was necessary, and that we're only weathering the current economic crisis comperatively well because we had our crisis back when those changes were made. So I really don't know. I just know that there's no chance of getting a government who would do a major change in direction in this regard anytime soon, because both the big centre parties stand behind these social security cuts.

The Pirates in Germany are chaotic, too. They're majorly young, idealistic people with a lot of big ideas and no real clue how politics work. And group consensus and contributions from the base are what their whole world view is based around, so no decision is ever made quickly. But, you know, the Greens started that way, too, and eventually they got a lot of what they wanted. Every generation needs its party and you've got to start somewhere. The Greens may still be not the party you'd want to make decisions about the economy or pensions or whatever, but they're great to have as a force to recon with in the opposition with just enough seats to tip the scales, so they can force the ruling party to make a deal with them. Similar with the Left - I agree with a lot of their grass-roots base, but I wouldn't vote for the people at the top. The Pirates seem to pool the technocrats, the people who got frustrated with the Greens becoming more conservative as their major players age, the people who want to vote more left than the SPD but refuse to vote for the Left on historic grounds, and the young formerly unpolitical people who now see a chance of getting actual representation. (Some of the Pirates candidates are still in their mid-20s, and as a party, they want things like a mechanism to make it easier for ordinary people to introduce law proposals into parliament.) They started their campaigning on internet issues and copyright law some years ago, and that's still their most public issue because they don't have the funding to do big campaigns and don't get invited to important interviews, but by now they seem to have agreed on an opinion on most basic issues. (I just looked up with which block they would vote on energy issues - with the Greens - and their social issues platform basically looks like "if Tumblr activists were a political party". It's completely idealist and unfeasible, of course, but they clearly mean well and I admire the guts to publically take such an extremely progressive position.) A year or two ago, when they surprisingly went from no seats to 12 seats in the Berlin city state election (even the Pirates themselves hadn't expected that - they didn't actually have more than 12 people to fill those seats), they were criticised on the basis that almost all those representatives were male. Right now, most of their federal MP candidates in Berlin are female, and about 70% of their campaign posters have female faces, too. So they are trying to get their shit together. (Though they're still seriously lacking in racial diversity, so their pro-immigration attitude is just that of well-meaning allies.) They certainly seem to have struck a chord with the youngest generation. In under-18 polls, they get over 10%. So if they can keep that base until the next election, when those teenagers will be allowed to vote, they might really have a chance. Until then, I hope they can keep the internal squabbling down enough to get into a few more local governments, so that they can get some experience under their belt and gain more publicity and funding.

As for the NPD - they are more an embarrassment than anything else on the federal level. But they do occasionally get a seat in local municipal elections, especially in my Eastern state of Brandenburg. I hope that most of that is just a combination of frustration (we still have much higher unemployment levels than the West) and general ignorance. (For example the Euro issue - people see that tax money goes to Greece and get angry, but they don't understand that our whole economy is based on export so we need to prop up our potential markets. Also, if we still had the 'harder' Deutsche Mark, the currency conversion would be way to expensive for most of the world to afford our goods. So, against intuitive reasoning, our economy depends on keeping the comparatively weak Euro.)
But still, even if open racism would scare off those voters, I don't think these kinds of slogans should be displayed in the streets where impressionable kids can read and internalise them. That's the point of propaganda, after all: These things sink in if repeated often enough, even if they are blatant lies. Because a lot of people are too young or ignorant or lazy to check their veracity. (I'm sure many teenagers here don't even know what "Sinti and Roma" means, never mind knowing anyone from those groups personally. And it's been nearly 20 years since the last big wave of hate crimes - burning down asylum's seeker hostels - so young voters wouldn't remember why that sort of thing has to be nipped in the bud.) They just think that "they've got a point" on some issues that piss them off with the major parties, and ignore the more disturbing parts of the party platform. I think that's why the constitutional court still tries to outlaw the Party every other year, even though they never managed to do it. It's probably mostly just to keep them in the newspapers and remind everyone "these guys are basically Nazis, not a respectable option to make your grievances known". I mean, that's how the NSDAP started, too - with undereducated workers frustrated and scared because of the Depression and hyperinflation. (The name means "National-Socialist German Party of Workers", and remember that these guys turned out to be extremely anti-communist, too. So it was about co-opting the anger of the working class.)

@Robinson: I'll answer you later. Gotta make a grocery run before the shops close or it starts raining again.
at 13:17 on 17-09-2013, Arthur B
Aside from the ape-man super soldiers that sounds exactly like every other Matt Reilly book.
at 05:00 on 17-09-2013, Michal
I thumbed through a book by Matthew Reilly at the Whitehorse Public Library today! It had something to do with an island of ape-man super soldiers. There were also lots of pictures, frequent, unnecessary and often random uses of italics, and approximately 1/5 of this already slim volume was an excerpt from his next book, God bless him.
at 02:05 on 17-09-2013, Fin
That fact does little to assuage my fears about the potential zomcoon apocalypse. D=
at 01:55 on 17-09-2013, Fishing in the Mud
I see proof just about every day that there are dead raccoons.
at 01:46 on 17-09-2013, Fin
Are you certain it wasn't a reanimated corpse?
at 01:28 on 17-09-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I know Ferretbrain's more a place for army guys than pilots, but there's a good article in this month's Vanity Fair talking about the development troubles of the F-35, the hot-shit next-generation fighter plane that's supposed to replace about four planes currently in the American inventory, but which is turning out to be a gigantic money pit. And yes, the UK is going to be buying them.

Also, I saw a raccoon this evening. I now have proof that there is such a thing as a living raccoon.
at 18:06 on 16-09-2013, Robinson L
Arthur: The Escapist appears in my dictionary to illustrate "hit and miss", but ahahahaha, they're going to get so much complaining and crying about this.

Well, that was ... something. I was laughing (and wincing) along with it until they got to "Zimmerman Mode" and then ... hmm; it's certainly dark, but I can't tell if it's in a mostly good or a kind of not-okay way.

@Cheriola: I think one advantage I have over Clare is never having been all that much of a Potter fan to begin with, let alone now. But I do find the framework helps me think out some of this stuff, even if I'd have to ditch it when writing the actual story.

On which note, at this point I have probably about half of what I would need to go from the scenario you've put forward to an actual story I can write. I don't know what the other half is, but it could take me years to find (and at current rate, more years to write and re-write once I've got it); just so you know.

Consequently, it's hard to know what genre the story would go in. Perhaps secondary world fantasy, perhaps contemporary fantasy, perhaps sci-fi. With sci-fi, I could have the twins implanted by IVF, which would smooth out one issue - and if I push the timeline forward just enough, I could have them grown in an artificial womb, which would allow me to dial down the Luna character's enthusiasm for the project without getting into any messy issues of "why is she going through with it then?" (which I don't want to get into unless I have something specific I want to say on the topic); and that way I wouldn't have to dream up a whole different societal framework to explain people's attitudes towards, say, homosexuality, asexuality, poly romance, and all the rest.

Failing the artificial womb, I'm imagining the conversation going something like this:

Salamander character: Hey, you know, I was thinking. Y'see, I'd kinda like to have kids ...
Luna character: Oh, yeah, sure, I'd be up for that. Kids are okay, so long as you don't feed them carrots before the age of three - if you do, they'll turn into greflings. Say, now that I think about it *goes off into extended daydream about growing the perfect lab assistant*

And since I've been listening to the TeXt Factor Season 2 recently, I'm growing increasingly enamored of the idea that she wouldn't be that good of a mother, on account of viewing them more as future assistants than as autonomous human beings in general and children specifically, and also on account of being generally a bit balmy.

As for the other stuff, I'm sure I can work something out (I do want to work with genderqueer characters at some point, though the issues surrounding trans people in the comic you linked are also firmly in my area of interest). Mostly, I think it'll be an issue of finding a good selection of variously queer, ace, aro, whatever other marginalized subjecthoods I'm dealing with, people to give the story a look over once written and make sure I didn't inadvertently fill it with fail.

But as I said, that's probably still a couple of years down the line. Should make for a good story at some point, though.

Fascinating political discussion as well. I admit I'm horribly ignorant of the political situation in most countries apart from the US (where I'm from) and the UK (where I lived for most of the past year) - in both of which places the electoral politics are so bad that I haven't got the heart to check out what's going on anywhere else.

That said, I have voted even in federal and national elections back home, for whatever measly good harm reduction it does, and if it looks like you may have an opportunity to do some genuine good by voting in this election, then I fully support you in doing so, and I wish you guys the best out there.

(And for the record, I do find the inter- and intra-party wrangling a fun spectator sport, even if I generally deplore the results.)
at 14:59 on 16-09-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
That's very interesting! Do you think that Merkel and CDU will form a new coalition with SDP if the FDP fares badly in the election? Also, I've read that the Green party seems to be in a bit of trouble at the moment, so do you think they have any chances of getting into the government? Hereabouts there has been lots of talk about looking to Germany for a model for our own structural reforms and lately the labour and employees unions made a deal that effectively freezes salaries for a few years. Also, some have raised the idea that something like the Hartz reforms would be a model to reform the unemployment situation, which seems like it is too forceful and doesn't really correct any underlying problems in the labour market, merely pushes the unemployed to low-paying jobs. The thing with parties like NPD is that while they are obviously racistic, this might in the end limit their influence by default. Instead, if such dissent would be able to rally support through concealed racism through "immigration critique" and vague promises to get the power back to the real people, they might actually be able to actually get real political power, as has happened in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria and the Netherlands.

I feel that the problem here (in Finland, that is) with the Pirate party and in part with the Greens is that they have been unable to broaden their politics out of the few issues they are associated with and that quite often they might gather people of quite differing political beliefs in for example the economy under the same umbrella, which down the road leads to issues of vagueness and contradictions in party policy.

Like here the Greens are formed of anti-authority activists(the young ones that are not entirely apathetic or not with the pirates) a portion of the old communists(those that aren't in the Left Alliance) some old school hard line ecological activists(Pentti Linkola is not a member, but his influence is clear) and then technocrats, who tend to be more of a moderate middle in the political spectrum. Obviously this has been a problem at times, with the right claiming they are red-green and the left claiming that they are a support party for the right. I don't really know what I'm trying to argue here, but I thought I'd share...
at 13:29 on 16-09-2013, Cheriola
Uh... Sorry if actual politics is not an acceptable topic for this forum.
It's just that the election is next weekend, and I'm planning to participate for the first time, so I'm a little excited and up to my neck in long-overdue self-education.

No, I'm not so young that I wasn't allowed to vote before. But as there's really not that much difference between the two big centre parties anymore, and all the established parties tend to break their election promises with impunity, I just didn't see the point. But this time, there's a real chance to kick the neo-liberals (ultra capitalist libertarians) out of the government coalition and maybe even out of parliament entirely, so I want to do my thing to increase the overall vote count, so their percentage will be lowered. Also, the Pirate party (young socialists concerned with government transparency, internet laws and information privacy of citizens) really made a splash in 2011 because people protest-voted them into several local state governments after the threat of ACTA (which is why our conservative/capitalist government didn't sign - they didn't want people to protest-vote for them again now). And while their numbers in the polls have sadly dwindled again to a point where they most likely won't make the 5% cut-off for the federal election, I do want to show some moral support. The MP candidate they put forth in my area is a very enthusiastic professional feminist (she has a company that gives advice to women in management trying to break the glass ceiling) who originally was with the Greens and who is married to one of the more prominent guys involved in WikiLeaks. She has no chance in hell of ever becoming direct-voted MP while being with the Pirates, but I'm thinking that if she gets more support from her area than other people in her unfortunately still rather male-dominated party, she might have a better chance to get bumped up to the first spot on the list of people to fill percentage seats if they make it into parliament the next time. (She tried to get that spot this time, too, but is only listed as number 2.)
at 12:31 on 16-09-2013, Cheriola
*sigh* Maybe I'm just rubbed a little raw about this whole topic because I've just seen a few NPD (National Democratic Party) campaign posters for our federal election the other day. They've got no chance of actually getting any seats in parliament, of course (last time they got less than 2% of the votes and you need 5% minimum to get seats), but they're getting more brazen. It wasn't just the usual "We want to get rid of the Euro" nonsense anymore. One of the posters had the line "Money for Oma (granny), not for Sinti and Roma." It avoids outright racist terminology, but the sentiment is obvious. It's disturbing that they get away with something like that. The constitutional court tries to outlaw them every couple of years, but our current conservative chancellor said she's not supporting the latest push for prosecution of the group as a whole.
at 12:00 on 16-09-2013, Cheriola
Honestly, I'm seriously side-eyeing anyone who thinks the Nazi regime is a suitable topic for light entertainment. (In fact, Wikipedia tells me this particular game is illegal in Germany, because there's a law against using Nazi imagery in anything but an educational context.) Or people who think that simple, drafted German soldiers (who were hanged in the tens of thousands for deserting, and often did their best to dodge the draft by hiding or act as incompetent with a gun as possible, so they wouldn't be put in a position where they'd have to shoot anybody - open conscientious objection was punished even more harshly than desertion) are acceptable targets for merciless slaughter just because the government that forced them to fight was rotten and evil. My paternal grandfather hid in the hayloft and risked being executed if he was found, because he had a farm and three little kids to look after and no interest in this whole damn war. This only worked because he lived in a tiny rural village, though. My more urban maternal grandmother begged, bribed and prostituted herself to the local administrative officer to get her drafted husband back home from the western front before he got killed or had to kill anyone else. (Thankfully he needed very strong glasses and had a higher education, so they'd believed him when he pretended not to be able to shoot straight and put him in charge of some supply depot.) She later got gang-raped by Soviet soldiers for her trouble.

So, sorry if I'm a bit touchy about the way the anglophone world treats the world wars, particularly in FPS games. (TV shows about the French Resistance or something like that at least mostly have the decency to make the villains the more volunteering and ideologically war-supporting SS troops.)
at 06:24 on 16-09-2013, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Hmm, they're somehow making a new Wolfenstein game. Well, I do enjoy a little bit of Weird War II, so let's look at some videos.

Here's the E3 trailer, and we've got Hitler mysteriously regaining is youthful good looks after nuking Manhattan, mechs, Abteistrasse, and what appears to be Nazi Margaret Thatcher. Looks like fun!

What's this, a bit of gameplay? Well, looks like we'll get...bloody mutilation...execution of the mentally handicapped...graphic allusions to the extermination camps and to experimentation on prisoners.

Jesus Christ.

Well, looks my my decision to stop caring about gaming as a medium has proven to be the correct one yet again.
at 18:53 on 15-09-2013, Arthur B
The Escapist appears in my dictionary to illustrate "hit and miss", but ahahahaha, they're going to get so much complaining and crying about this.
at 23:35 on 14-09-2013, Cheriola
Well, I was just thinking that the gay character in that queerplatonic relationship should still have the option of having a sexual relationship with other people, despite being married. Especially if it's just a paper marriage, and since aromantic people generally don't get jealous. (Just anxious that their zucchini will start prioritising their new romantic partner, because that's how our culture works.)

And then I thought: Who's available who'd be about the right age? And Teddy Lupin's metamorphmagus talent makes him ideal for a genderqueer interpretation.

Bryn might help you with a genderqueer-maab character. Or alternatively, it could be a trans guy, which probably would make the research a bit easier (there are plenty of people like that on tumblr). And you could adress this kind of issue.

Of course you'd have to change quite a lot to avoid having the same transparent expy character roster as Cassandra Clare... I was just spinning my interpretation out for Fin's benefit.

Hm... The ages of the characters aren't really important. I guess "aspy research student meets other, ace research student during an expedition, and then the gay son/grandson of their very traditionally-minded professor" is vague enough to work in various settings and genres. Though some of the heir/inheritance issues and upper class values (nannies, boarding school) kind of require at least a remnant of aristocracy. And the need for a justifying reason why the woman thinks she should reproduce even if she's not really interested in a traditional relationship does call for a rare supernatural talent or something like that. (Please don't make the woman the only one in this arrangement who really wants the kids, or make her 'give' the kids to one of the men just because he wants/needs them. Agreeing to give birth solely in return for financial support is kind of problematic, too.) Then again, alternative family structures and queer issues are always easier in scifi, where you can pretend that social backlash isn't so much of an issue anymore and that people will be left to live their lives as they see fit. Though I've seen high fantasy settings with a very LGB-accepting society, too. ("Sing the Four Quarters", the Nightrunner series)
What genre were you thinking of?
at 22:00 on 14-09-2013, Robinson L
Cheriola: I've got one more

I can try to work in most of that stuff too, though if trying to write an aro-ace character doesn't tax my abilities enough, I'm going to have to work really hard to depict a genderless character in a way that doesn't stray into serious fail territory. Then again, I take all that as part of my responsibility as a writer anyway, so there you are.

Of course, it'll also lose something by stripping off all the Potter-related backstory, but even then I think the scenario has a lot of promise to it.
at 20:31 on 14-09-2013, Cheriola
Though Luna totally would be the person to come up with the term "zucchini" in the Potter universe. XD