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Aaron McLin
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I'm Nobody In Particular. Just Another Random American.
I'm Nobody In Particular. Just Another Random American.

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I was checking out +Aristotle Bancale's stream, and was suddenly reminded of one of those bizarre things that happened in my life, more than half a lifetime ago that had a much greater effect on me that I would have thought at the time, mainly because it "inspired" my parents to teach me to not take myself so seriously.

Anyway, if you know me reasonably well, you've likely heard "the Bonnie Story," before. But there are a number people in my circles who haven't ever met me face to face, and they'll be completely unaware of it. It's a long story, so if you decide to read it, make sure you have a bit of time to spare.

I'm posting this publicly, so that anyone who happens to come by my profile page can see this particular post, and hopefully, have a laugh out of it. But rest assured that you'll be laughing with me if you do.
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Today I found out that there was an International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005. Who knew?

But honestly, I found this video fairly interesting, even though I already knew the answer to the question from the outset. Back in the days before the internet, mail-order-bride outfits used to advertise in singles newsletters. The "Call or write for free sample!" episode from my 20s was the result of one such advertisement.

I will admit that I always thought of the practice as sketchy, at best, despite knowing a couple of guys who were using such services to hunt up partners for themselves. But it turns out that it's not as dubious as one might expect.
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I was wondering when we'd see someone effectively invoke what was once known as "the one drop rule" (the technical term for this is "hypodescent") to "prove" themselves non-White for the purpose of attacking affirmative-action programs that failed to admit them.

When reached by phone this week, Taylor readily admitted he didn’t think DNA was an objective standard either. “If you’ve got to be 50 percent, what if somebody is 49?” he asked. Ultimately, he just wants to expose the DBE (“disadvantaged business enterprise”) program as unfair. He believes it should be race-blind. The Washington State Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises, which runs the state’s DBE-certification program, did not respond to a request for comment.

While I find Ralph Taylor's method of attempting to prove himself Black (by virtue of a dodgy genetic test showing him 4% sub-Saharan African) in order to dismantle the program to be entertainingly cynical, it does raise the interesting question of just how does one go about taking what had been an intentionally "unfair" society and making it into a "fair" one.

President Johnson noted: ''You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.''

Some people quibble with LBJ's logic. They believe that once the chains are off, everything is completely fair. But I think that a more common understanding might be that a person may not understand how many years it takes for a person to gain the ability to walk through those gates, but it's certainly happened by now.

I think that this is due, in part to how we understand the problems surrounding race in America. If a person understands that only active racists are discriminatory, and their mental picture of a racist is a mash up of a Nazi, a Klansman and Richard Spencer, then there aren't that many of them around these days. To hear a good many people tell it, most them magically dropped dead the day LBJ signed Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, and from that moment on, everything was fair. (Because in the United States, the day before yesterday and prehistory are equally relevant when viewed from today.)

On the other hand, if you view somewhere between two and four generations as merely the blink of an eye, when viewed against all that came before (especially when you consider that a good number of people who were adults in 1964 are still around), the ability to walk may still be in development for a decent number of people, and active supports are still called for.

I never really made up my mind what I thought of the whole thing. I'm of the opinion that "fair" is where livestock goes to earn prizes, rather than anything remotely applicable to the human condition. I tend to think that for most people fairness = winning, and that's about where it ends. No system that results in them attaining less than they feel they "deserve" (another word I find to be amusingly meaningless) can possibly be fair.

And so the problem will likely be what it always as been. The sum of what everyone thinks is rightfully theirs is greater than the sum of what actually is. And so people spend their time scheming ways, like reparations demands or proving themselves Black, to get their hands on what's been set aside for someone else. All in the name of "principle," of course.
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So there's this shtick from some of the Assassin's Creed games, where you can maneuver the protagonist into a group of people, and walk along with them, and he perfectly "blends in." Opponents who are looking for him won't see him.

I would love to be able to do that. As I've grown older, I've become more sensitive to the fact that I'm noticeably different from everyone around me, and I always feel that people can see me. It's not that I want to be invisible. It would be nice, though, to not always stand out so much. To not be the one person on the team who everyone knows on sight, even if they've never met me in person before that moment. To not be the one obviously single person eating alone in a nice restaurant.

I don't know why I notice it more, now that I'm older, than I did before. It's not like the circles that I move in, or the job that I hold, are all that different than 20 years ago. But now I'm acutely aware when other people are aware of me. I'm much more in tune with how different I am from my environment. And it's less comfortable than it was even 10 years ago.

C'est la vie, I suppose. There's nothing to be done for it.
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So, I started this project about a year ago, and I really have no idea how far along I am. Every so often I crack open the binder, pull out an illustration and trace it out. I guess I'll continue to do that until I've gotten all of the ones that strike me as having something approaching merit out of my system.

Swords in Dungeons and Dragons are pretty cheap, all things considered. Sure, by modern standards, they're fairly pricey, given that they run somewhere in the range of a pound and a half of gold in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. But that's less than the living expenses for a first-level character for a week; or what a fifteenth-level character would spend per day. (You wonder how anyone in the world had a Strength of less than 15, given the workout that simply paying your bills every month imposed.) But still, I tended to not have every Tom, Dick and Harry carry a sword around. So this half-orc brigand has a club.

Looking back on him, it would have been better had I made his torso the right length. I would like to have done more with his armor, which was an interpretation of studded leather (rigid cuirboulli with plates). But, c'est la vie.
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When I first started playing Dungeons and Dragons Humans and Halflings were my go-tos. Knights and Hobbits for days. You can tell what my 12-year-old self was into as far as fantasy literature was concerned. But I was never big on Dwarves for some reason. But they did pop up now and again. If I remember the late 1980s correctly, this guy was a Dwarf I played in a Warhammer Fantasy campaign. I never did get into the late Renaissance aesthetic of the game, and so he doesn't look anything like a Warhammer Dwarf.

I also had a heck of time deciding if I was going to give this guy an axe or a warhammer. I'd already done the "Dwarf with a longsword" shtick and wasn't going to repeat it. Anyway, as you might be able to guess, I dithered for some time before finally deciding on "hammer."
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Every so often, I would mess with my players by giving them some random tidbit of explanatory information that wasn't as useful as one might think. I'd found out that horned helmets were not really that useful, because the horns gave an opponent something to hold on to, and then they could wrench the wearer's head around, break their neck, et cetera. And for this reason, I explained, horns had gone out of style in the game world some time ago.

Well, when the party met these armored ghouls in archaic armor, they though they had a nice advantage in the form of those lovely handles horns on their helmets. And so it didn't take long for an enterprising player character to make a grab for one.

Which promptly came away in their hand.

"It's just like the crests you see on tournament helms," I explained. "It's made of light papier-maché and leather, painted to look like the real thing and only held on by a light mount."

"I hate you."

"Heeheeheeheehee..."
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The "reasonable armor" debate has been going on for decades now, and I was first drawn into it after I finally saw Heavy Metal after college. (Talk about a movie that couldn't have lived up to the hype...) In any event, I thought that the outfit that the character of Taarna wore was patently ridiculous. But it raised an interesting question: Can armor be bother reasonably protective and "sexy" simultaneously?

It turns out to be an unanswerable question - "sexy" is most definitely subjective, and reasonable protective only somewhat less so. Now, in cultures where effective armor was prohibitively expensive, people often did without, and sometimes even decided to go into combat completely naked. So any clothing (or lack thereof) that wasn't encumbering to the point of being dangerous could be passed off as workable.

So I started with the general idea of gladiator armor. Something that would protect the wearer well enough, but didn't cover the whole body. In the end, "The Taarna Project" ended up with a bunch of pictures, none of which I found satisfying from an armor standpoint (although a good scutum or aspis would fix most of them). But it was an interesting exercise.
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There are some seriously indie games at PAX every year. Like this one. Boyfriend Dungeon is a dungeon-crawler/dating sim (yes, you read that right) with the amusing twist that the objects of your affections are your weapons.

There are these people who turn into weapons, like talwars, daggers, epées or glaives, like Sawyer here. So in the dungeon, you use them as the tools to wipe out monsters, and out of the dungeon, you strive to win their affections. And if you'd rather just have a pet, instead, there's a cat that turns into brass knuckles.

I thought that it would make for some interesting tactical options if the player character could also turn into a weapon (after all, the dagger thinks that you might be an ax murderer; or just an ax); swapping between characters and weapons on the fly sounds like it could be fun.

(P.S.: I know that this group is dedicated to tabletop games. But I nearly laughed myself silly when I saw this, and figured that you lot might get a kick out of it.)
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So I spent the holiday weekend at Penny Arcade Expo in downtown Seattle, and during my wanders came across these three cosplayers.

Apparently post-apocalyptic robot hunting has become so dangerous that they now travel in PAX.

...

I'll show myself out.
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