An Open Invitation

As a fully paid up member of Geek club I have sunk too much money over the years into trading card games, only to be unable to compete with players who can afford to sink yet more money into the game for those overpowered rare cards. And yet I never learnt my lesson, and whenever a new one that looked interesting came around I’d be right back into the cycle.

Enter Fantasy Flight Gamesliving card games. If you’re not familiar with the format it is essentially a trading card game with an important distinction; all of the ‘boosters’ ‘ contents are already known, and usually supplied at the maximum amount allowed in a deck. No more costly chase for that one rare card that would really make your deck. There are also plenty of places to plan your deck online, meaning you can plan future purchases to gradually improve your deck.

What really pushes the FFG LCG format over the edge for me is the support for the online community and OCTGN. OCTGN is an online tabletop tool which allows you to play your favourite card games against your friends online. The best part is the aforementioned support by FFG. They allow use of all but the latest booster packs on OCTGN.

Which leads me to my open invite.

I know a few of us already play the A Game of Thrones LCG, and I propose an online tournament (or league if we can get enough players) through OCTGN. I am more than happy to teach people to play and use OCTGN. I suggest that we all play each other either best of three as a small tournament or perhaps twice in a league, with the winner taking 1 point and matches taking place once a week over OCTGN, and I will provide a chapter pack of your choice for the player with the most points when it’s all done.

I’m also going to try to live stream / record and narrate some games since it is all done online.

So what do you think?  Why not leave your WWE style call outs in the comments below and lets get this going…

5 Real Life Deus Ex MacGyvers

You all know the scene Hollywood loves to create; The world as we know it is doomed unless one kooky scientist can save the day. I’m looking at you, Independance Day, and you, War of the Worlds, and you, Jurassic Park and you… you get the picture. It’s all so convenient, that would never happen IRL right?

Wrong, here’s my 5 favourite inventions MacGyvered up just in time to (probably) save humanity:

5. Germ Theory

It’s 1918, the world is at war and people are dying at an alarming rate, in part due to the fighting but more so because of the Spanish Influenza outbreak. ‘La Grippe’ was truly a global disaster, and killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. The new sciences of immunology and epidemiology were struggling to come up with a vaccine or therapies quick enough to combat the disease. Mankind looked doomed.

That is until scientists began building on the work of Koch and Lister and began injecting blood plasma of people that had survived the infection into the most severly affected military patients. This reduced the mortality rates by as much as 50%, and a better understanding of the outbreak was gained.

4. The Automobile.

Before the introduction of the automobile, horses were relied upon in the large urban areas responsible for the rise of the modern era. Places like London, Paris and New York would be swamped with horses, and at the turn of the twentieth century there were some 200, 000 horses in New York, the equivalent of 1 for every 17 people.

Horses clogged the transport network of the cities, were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of residents in traffic accidents, A New Yorker would have been almost twice as likely to die from a horse accident than a car accident today, and would produce veritable mountains of dung. The steps leading to doors in many urban areas, whilst looking good today, would have been necessary to rise above the tide of horseshit that would flow after any heavy rains.

The first international urban planning conference was held in 1898 to try to tackle the increasing threat that horses posed to mankind but was cut short since the experts were stumped by the crisis.

Enter the automobile to save us from this equine menace, a much cleaner and more efficient answer to the transport problems of the day!

3. Birdseye Fish-Fingers

Yup, you read it right. Captain Birdseye (probably) saved the world. In the early twenties population growth was reaching extremely high levels, and many leading experts of the time, such as Keynes and Beveridge, were debating the pitfalls of an ever expanding population. Many feared the food supplies would run out.

Luckily for humanity Clarence Birdseye was putting the finishing touches to his technique for flash freezing vegetables, seafood and meats using high pressures, brine, ice and wax cardboard boxes. Birds Eye Frosted Foods went on sale in 1930 and humanity was promised fresh foods all year round and the humble fish finger butty was born.

2. The Convair B-36

Four years after World War II ended with the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet Republic developed their own nuclear weaponry. The world was on the path to annihilation, however neither nation had the ability to quickly respond to a detected launch, a potentially deadly situation for life as we know it. Perverse as it may sound the world needed the Nash Equilibrium of mutually assured destruction to save us from nuclear war.

With the introduction of the Convair B-36, or the Peacekeeper, into service as an intercontinental range bomber it was now much easier to deliver a nuclear weapon into the interior of a country. Mutually assured destruction was now guaranteed and a nuclear peace achieved. You’re welcome world.

1. Sharp Stones

Of course none of this could have come about if humanity never got off the ground in the first place. There were myriad deadly events daily in palelithic man’s life. Man would be an easy target for the predators by day, and easier prey still by night. Most individuals would meet an early death, starvation and predation were very real threats. Technology would save the day in many ways.

Many nuts and seeds were too tough for our ancestors to open with just their teeth, and accordingly, the ingenuity of early man would have led to the observation that any nut could be opened if placed upon one stone and hit with another. Given the propensity we have for hurting ourselves, it’s entirely plausible to imagine, after laughing at other members of  his tribe cutting himself open on sharp stones, a genius of his time observing that it is possible to hurt those other creatures that come and eat us with these sharp stones, and so weaponry was born. Since these early axe heads are found in almost every pre-historic culture in the world, it’s fair to say they were put to good use, and humanity got started/saved.

The Pros and Cons of the Alternative Vote

The 5th May has the potential to be one of the most important days in the political landscape of Britain for many years to come, as a referendum is to be held on whether to stick with the current ‘First Past the Post‘ (FPTP) voting system or switch to the Alternative Vote (AV) system. The sytems in a nutshell work like this:

First Past the Post (FPTP)

An FPTP ballot requires you to mark one box of your ballot paper with an X to indicate your favoured candidate. The ballots are counted and the candidate with the highest number of votes wins.

Alternative Vote (AV)

An AV ballot gives you the option of ranking your preferences in a given election. Instead of indicating your favourite candidate with an X, you would use the number 1. You may then, if you wish, place a 2 against your second favourite candidate, a 3 against your third favourite and so on until your apathy levels reach maximum or you run out of candidates. If a particular candidate has more first preference votes than the other candidates combined then we have a winner, otherwise the second preference of the last placed candidate are used and so on until someone has a majority.

Let’s have a simple example:

Three candidates are vying for 15 votes. Alan gets 4 votes, Brenda gets 5 votes and Charlie gets 6 votes. Under the FTPT system Charlie wins. Let’s say that Charlie’s policies have divided the electorate greatly and Alan and Brenda are running on similar policies to each other. In an FPTP system this doesn’t matter as Charlie doesn’t need a majority to win, however if the ballot was done using AV, and assuming that Alan’s voters would prefer Brenda as a second favourite, then Brenda would have won with 9 votes.

So what are the pros and cons of each system?

FPTP gives a clear winner. This has been attributed to a strong government, and less likely to give a hung parliament, whether this is true is a matter of debate. FPTP is also easier to count and is a well known system. By comparison AV is only used to elect a government in Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, although it is often used for things such as student government elections.

AV will allow more local support for MP’s although it is debatable whether this has anything to do with a government. Fringe votes are also likely to have more effect under the alternative vote, since these are the votes likely to be redistributed, leading to questions about the ‘fairness’ of this and whether the votes from the fringe voters are the ones that a should be determining governmnents.

Since the proposed version of AV allows optional ranking of candidates, an interesting question is whether people would use the rankings, and what are the implications if not.

An important consideration is the wider issue of electoral reform. This has been offered as a compromise between the current system and other systems like proportional representation and single vote transferral. Regardless of whether you vote Yes or No to AV on May 5th will we get to look again at these other options.

New Music Podcast – YNot Festival

Well those four weeks flew by. Be amazed that stuporcollider has kept a deadline! Anyways, here’s another half hour or so of new music, mostly from YNot festival. As always, support the bands and buy their merch and releases:

Darwin Deez
Sparrow and the Workshop
Doll and the Kicks
Alex Blood and the Diggers Free album download available on their website.
Rugosa Nevada
Rooney
The Lovely Eggs

Download the podcast from here.

Disclaimer: I have sought permission from these bands to play this stuff but couldn’t get to ask everyone and the bands retain their copyright. If anyone from the bands wants me to remove their music from here let me know.

Stuporcollider – Now Available IN YOUR EARS…

Cloud 9 to be exact...

Two magpies crossed my path on the way to work this morning. Now I’m not typically superstitious but I had been planning on uploading the first of my new music podcasts today (OK, I had planned to put them up at the weekend too but I love me some procrastination), and I suppose this could be seen as a good omen.

And yet a better omen became apparent through twitter. 6 Music has been saved. Faithful readers (and the people monitoring my web use) will recall a klaxon call from these very pages, rallying music lovers everywhere to fight for the only radio station playing even half-way decent music in the UK.  Well the BBC trust have seen sense and agreed that ‘the case has not been made’ to close the digital station due to “significant public support for the service”.

I can think of no better day to try to launch the first stuporcollider podcast, highlighting new music. So with that in mind…

[Sneaky Neil edit] If you wanna download the mp3 of the podcast, you can do so here. Because we love you.

Saving 6 Music

The BBC and I are no longer as close as we once were. First there was that whole homeopathy thing, and now they’re threatening to kill off 6 Music. Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC and all round twat has been steadily decreasing the cultural value of the once-proud institution, and now he is recommending the closure of 6 music and the Asian Network by the end of 2011.

For the last 6 months or so I have been listening to podcasts of some of the finest new music, and classic, iconic songs from people that actually understand music. Radio 1 is at best an infuriating alternative and at worst a festuring turd polished up and sold to you as popular music. You’re not 3008, I won’t poke your face and it’s definately not Bonkaas, it’s shit. FACT.

The report states: “Given the strength of its popular music radio offering from Radio 1 and 2 and the opportunity to increase the distinctiveness of Radio 2, the BBC has concluded that the most effective and efficient way to deliver popular music on radio is to focus investment on these core networks.” I tend to agree more with Eddie Argos; “The record buying public shouldn’t be voting.”

Surely the whole point in championing new, independant, music is precisely that it isn’t yet popular since the record labels hosting the talent can’t afford the publicity and air time for a radio 1 heavy rotation that seems to go hand in hand with chart success. Some songs I’m not going to like despite how many times you play it, ok. I think the RATM thing over Christmas showed that there IS a musical revolution happening, sick of Scowell’s chokehold on our music, and this is  why 6 music is so important.

Luckily the gallows are not on the horizon (metaphorically and musically) for 6 Music just yet and there is plenty we can do to help save it:

  • Listen to it. Pretty obvious really but some estimates already suggest thet the listening audience has already doubled since the news first broke. If you can listen to it through the iPlayer, even better, as this is one of the key measures of the stations success
  • Sign the petition to BBC Chief Sir Michael Lyons.
  • Use 36 Degrees’ template to contact the BBC trust
  • Email your thoughts to :-

srconsultation@bbc.co.uk
michael.lyons@bbc.co.uk
richard.tait@bbc.co.uk
jeremy.peat@bbc.co.uk
mehmuda.mian@bbc.co.uk
david.liddiment@bbc.co.uk
janet.lewis-jones@bbc.co.uk
rotha.johnston@bbc.co.uk
patricia.hodgson@bbc.co.uk
alison.hastings@bbc.co.uk
anthony.fry@bbc.co.uk
diane.coyle@bbc.co.uk
chitra.bharucha@bbc.co.uk
trust.enquiries@bbc.co.uk

  • Change your twitter avatar using the twibbons.
  • Join the Facebook group

And if none of this works?

Turn off your radio…

Why does the media love homeopathy?

Ok, so I’m sure many of you share my vitriol at homeopathy. I’m not going to go into all that again, many people have done it much more eloquently than I. Besides, it wouldn’t do much anyway, after all the BBC* seem to be undoing all my hard work anyways.

Homeopathy was in the news again today, as the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published their report on the use of NHS funding for homeopathy, concluding that: “Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products.” Not that you’d know from watching said news.

Now I’m all for balanced journalism and there’s certainly enough of a story to warrant opinions from both sides of the camp, however this didn’t seem to happen. Sure the homeopaths were given their chance to bring up studies that cherry pick their data, avoid controls and have, at best, dubious methodologies, but why was there no scientist allowed to chip in on this issue?

Radio 4 seemed to have an MP in rationalities corner, however all the other reports I have watched or read seem to leave it at the homeopaths explanations, making it seem that there is a substantial evidence base for homeopathy. Let me just remind you all of the facts:

Homeopathy has never been reliably shown to out perform placebo” and “ should not be funded on the NHS

If you want to buy sugar pills fine, just don’t use my taxes to pay for them.

Interestingly the Chief Scientist at the Department of Health, Professer David Harper, seems to think that there could be something in the memory theories associated with homeopathy. It’s ok though, he gets the closest thing to a bitch slap that the committee could muster:

“63. We would challenge Professor Harper’s comment that research funding should be directed towards exploring theories that are not scientifically plausible. Research funding is limited and highly competitive. The Government should continue its policy of funding the highest quality applications for important scientific research determined on the basis of peer review.
64. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Beddington, has told us in unequivocal terms that he is of the view that there is no evidence base for homeopathy. We recommend that the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Professor Harper, Chief Scientist at the DH, get together to see if they can reach an agreed position on the question of whether there is any merit in research funding being directed towards the claimed modes of action of homeopathy.”

*Other news channels are available…