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Allen Varney
Works at Freelance
Lives in Ithaca, New York
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Allen Varney

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- Cable
- Stadium food and beer
- College textbooks
- Printer ink
- The US penny
- Bottled water
- Diamonds
- Cat toys
- Giant weddings
- US health care
- TI-89 calculators
- No Man's Sky
- Everything in Australia
- Explaining what you really meant to stupid people on the Internet who have decided they want to argue
- War
- Infidelity

https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/4zi0gi/what_costs_more_than_its_worth/
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"Everything in Australia": I OBJECT!
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Allen Varney

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"Two women in Northwest China fainted from exhaustion after quarrelling with each other for eight hours without eating or drinking, according to local media reports. The two middle-aged women, who were not named, became embroiled in a heated argument on a street in Ankang, Shaanxi province last Tuesday, the Xian-based Chinese Business View reported. Police say the two were arguing over the settlement of a debt." (South China Morning Post):

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2006943/two-chinese-women-collapse-street-after-arguing-non-stop-eight
Neither one ate or drank the entire time on a scorching day before they were taken to hospital
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Allen Varney

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Giant empty plutocrat strongholds. "The Burj Khalifa is emblematic of a new breed of skyscraper, an ultra-high-end residential tower whose singular characteristic is that no one actually lives, or spends much time, inside them. [...] When Ash and I try entering the At.mosphere cigar club, which is empty like most every room we visit, the manager kindly turns us away, explaining that the space is reserved by an absent VIP owner. The only non-building attendant we meet along the way is a young woman in the residential library, reading Zadie Smith’s novel On Beauty and sipping a cappuccino speckled with gold flakes. [...]

"Research from brokerage firm LuxHabitat finds that roughly 25 percent of luxury condos in major cities around the world are empty, including one in five apartments in Dubai, and nearly half of the apartments in Midtown Manhattan. Why are people building elaborate residential towers for no one to live in? Who would want an expensive apartment they never use? [...] As the top of society becomes ever-more stratified from the rest of the world -- physically, socioeconomically, psychologically -- there is an urgent need to demystify the aura that surrounds wealth, exposing its reality as not primarily a measure of power, or ingenuity, or hard work, but rather a function of inherited variables. [...] Man-made towers have always represented our longing to leave this world, or at least rise above it. Their sights inspire our shared sense of wonder, but they also fuel our delusional egos, stirring us to reach higher, work harder, move faster, get richer -- but to what end? The voyage to the top of the world eventually reveals itself to be a mirage: We arrive and find ourselves alone, peering into the empty space above the clouds." (Matt King, Catapult):

https://catapult.co/stories/burj-khalifa-alone-at-the-top-of-the-world
Matt King reflects on high-rise skyscrapers and his visit to the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai.
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I could do without the psychoanalysis. "It's an investment" is justification enough.

I wonder under what circumstances these places could be seized. Could their absentee owners have any sway on Putin if they faced losing them in the face of Russia grabbing a Baltic state?
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Allen Varney

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Four days left to get in on Stewart Wieck's Kickstarter campaign to fund a new full-color edition of Greg Stafford's fine Prince Valiant storytelling game. Along with many new adventures by stretch-goal authors, the campaign now features a new Arthurian-era edition of the classic story card game Once Upon a Time.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1861515217/prince-valiant-storytelling-game-by-greg-stafford
An elegant RPG by Greg Stafford for players both young & old based on the thrilling stories & gorgeous artwork by Hal Foster.
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"This anonymous account is important for what it tells us about a naval legend, immortalised in Felicia Hemans’ poem Casabianca, which begins with the line known to generations of British schoolboys: 'The boy stood on the burning deck / Whence all but he had fled.'

"Hemans’ poem describes the scene on the burning decks of the French flagship, L’Orient, and then describes her destruction before wondering what has happened to the boy: 'The boy -- oh! Where was he?' The account, written by a French officer, provides an answer:

“Commodore Casa-bianca, and his son only 10 years old (who during the action gave proofs of bravery and intelligence far above his age), were not so fortunate. They were in the water upon the wreck of the L’Orient’s masts, not being able to swim, seeking each other till 3⁄4 past 10 when the ship blew up.'

"We now know, therefore, that the boy who stood on the burning deck found himself in the sea. Unable to swim, he clung to the ship’s wrecked masts with his father. It is unclear if either survived, though the ferocity of the explosion makes it extremely unlikely. The fire was so dreadful it melted the tar on the decks of a nearby ship." (BBC History Extra, March 2013):

http://www.historyextra.com/article/premium/tales-nelsons-navy
As historical treasures go, a book containing sailors’ first-hand reports from some of Britain’s greatest naval victories takes some beating. Sam Willis introduces 10 dispatches that offer
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Attention +Shane Ivey
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1. Your job involves little physical contact or manipulation of things
2. It involves answering data-dependent questions
3. It involves quantitative analysis
4. Consistent performance is critical to your role
5. It involves the creation of data-based narratives
6. There are well-defined rules for performing the work
(Fast Company):

http://www.fastcompany.com/3062739/the-future-of-work/six-very-clear-signs-that-your-job-is-due-to-be-automated
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Nutrition and healthcare benefit workers
Inventory managers
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Allen Varney

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voxapocrypha: “ robotlyra: “ Me: *watching* What the hell is the point of th- OH MY GOD ” WOW. ”
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The model rocket nerd in my notes that they probably could have rigged it for electrical ignition without too much trouble.
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Allen Varney

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"Despite often weighing over 300 pounds, manhole covers can be just as fragile as any part of the city’s architecture. If the old granite sidewalk is replaced, it’s often too much trouble to fit in the obsolete coal chute cover. If a manhole cover no longer serves its function, or becomes a hazard, like the Con Edison cover that branded a woman who fell from her skateboard in 2004, it’s unlikely historic preservationists are going to rally around it." (Allison Meier, Hyperallergic):

http://hyperallergic.com/306273/the-well-trodden-art-of-the-manhole-cover-in-new-york-city/
A manhole cover is generally deemed successful if its round shape keeps pedestrians from plummeting into the earth, and communicates the subterranean systems below through its design.
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Allen Varney

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Cambridge (UK) postdoc Caitlin Green investigates the number of Africans in early Britain by analyzing "oxygen isotope evidence drawn from pre-modern archaeological human teeth. [...] Tooth enamel oxygen isotope values reflect those of the water that was drunk by an individual in childhood, with drinking-water values varying markedly with climate and related factors. As such, it should be possible to identify first-generation migrants to Britain in the archaeological record by measuring their tooth enamel oxygen isotope levels, so long as they grew up in a region with significantly different drinking-water values from those found in Britain." The upshot: "In total, 3.7% of the 909 Bronze Age-Medieval individuals surveyed from these 79 sites have results consistent with a childhood spent in Africa."

http://www.caitlingreen.org/2016/05/a-note-on-evidence-for-african-migrants.html
The degree to which pre-modern Britain included people of African origin within its population continues to be a topic of considerable interest and some controversy. Previous posts on this site have discussed a variety of tex...
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Allen Varney

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On the "Overthinking It" blog from February 2011, a sharp analysis of the socioeconomics of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. "The most fantastic element of the show is not that ponies can talk or that dragons exist; it is the illusion that an egalitarian society can be maintained among groups with massive biologically inherent gaps in ability and economic utility. By even the most cursory of sociological and economic analyses, the society in MLP: FiM should be highly stratified along class and racial lines. [...] There is ample evidence Equestria is already highly stratified, and the mantra of 'friendship is magic' is nothing more than a mythic-religious creed designed to perpetuate false consciousness among the ponies. For confirmation, look at the professions of the main cast. The two earth-ponies work in agriculture and the service industry. Of the pegasi, Fluttershy can be classified as a naturalist and Rainbow Dash aspires to be a pro athlete. In contrast, the two unicorns work in the professions that have the most cultural and political cachet. [...]

"As for Twilight Sparkle -- the protégé of the ruling monarch Princess Celestia -- she seems to control the means of knowledge production in Ponyville. She has access to unfettered telecommunications through Spike, her dragon companion. She also lives in the town library; how many books in that library were written by unicorns as opposed to the other pony races? (Not to mention the voices of griffons and dragons and cows, which are most likely also marginalized in the Equestrian narrative?) Whenever a non-magical pony tries to write, the image is comical at best; they must hold their implements awkwardly in their mouths. Unicorns, on the other hand, can easily manipulate and create texts using magical power. Twilight Sparkle drafts documents simply through the power of her mind. With this inherent publishing bias in Equestria, how slanted is the historical narrative towards the unicorns?"

Note also the thoughtful and respectful comments section. "'Friendship' is essentially capital; the bourgoisie Unicorns control and exploit that capital for their own benefit (and in fairness, generally to the benefit of pony society), and the system itself ensures they are the only ones who can do this; but it is essentially the proletarian earth ponies that provide the means of production." (Overthinking It, Feb 2011):

https://www.overthinkingit.com/2011/02/24/my-little-pony-political-economy/
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic propagates the illusion that an egalitarian society can be maintained among groups with massive biologically inherent gaps in ability and economic utility.
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Allen Varney

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I didn't read this incredibly long, painstaking 2013 Slate article about why hotels don't provide toothpaste. I link it just so you can scroll down, screen after endless screen, and marvel at the obsession.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2013/07/toothpaste_in_hotels_why_do_they_provide_shampoo_soap_and_high_end_toiletries.single.html
A few weeks ago, I spent a night at the Kendall Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., a congenial place done up in a firehouse theme with an atrium on the top flo ...
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If they didn't bring any and can't just buy some from the desk, use the soap! 
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Allen Varney

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No matter what you read elsewhere, gerrymandering will keep the US House firmly in Republican control for the rest of this decade. "If the Republicans are heavily favored in 226 districts, and the Democrats look likely in 193, that only leaves a handful of toss-ups. Sabato sees 16 legitimate toss-ups. The problem for Democrats? Fourteen of those 16 seats are currently held by Republicans. In the highly unlikely circumstance that the Democrats manage to take just half of those 16 remaining 'toss-up' seats, the Republicans would come out of 2016 with a 234-201 advantage in Congress.

"If that sounds familiar, it should: 234-201 is the exact majority the Republicans had after 2012, when Barack Obama won re-election in a landslide but failed to take the House despite 1.4 million more votes. That was the first time since 1972 -- 40 years -- that the party with the most votes did not come away with the most seats. It is now likely to happen again in 2016, for the second presidential cycle in a row. This should terrify anyone who cares about representative democracy." (David Daley, BillMoyers.com):

http://billmoyers.com/story/real-way-2016-election-rigged/
Hillary Clinton has put the Electoral College into checkmate. She’s closer to Donald Trump in many red states like Kansas and Texas than he is to her in key swing states. As her lead swells, naturally, fired-up Democrats and a restless media have turned their attention to a more exciting story: Can Democrats retake the House of Representatives? But the outcome there is not really in doubt, either. Continue reading
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Writer and game designer based for many years in Austin, Texas; currently in Ithaca, New York.
Introduction
I've designed three published board games, the PARANOIA roleplaying game (2004 edition), and two dozen tabletop RPG supplements, and have written eight books. I co-wrote (with Warren Spector and Alex Duran) the original 300-page design document for the Nintendo Wii videogame Epic Mickey. Many major companies have commissioned Enspire Learning to run my business leadership simulation Executive Challenge. I wrote and packaged official PARANOIA novels under my own imprint, Ultraviolet Books. Currently I run a small bundle site, the Bundle of Holding.
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Survived as a freelance writer for over 20 years, a nontrivial challenge.
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Currently
Ithaca, New York
Previously
Austin, Texas - Topeka, Kansas - Cupertino, California - Reno, Nevada - Renton, Washington - Stone Town, Zanzibar - Cape Town, South Africa - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
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Allen Varney's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.