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Brian Bloom
'Tis but moi.
'Tis but moi.

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So I took the following article ( ), as posted by +Eric Stepp and decided to run some additional numbers on it, to see if party affiliation of the people in control (governor, senate, and house) in those states correlated to the GDP numbers at all. And yes, they do:
GDP growth in 2015Q2:
states with...
Democratic Governors: 4.05% avg
Republican Governors: 3.22% avg
Independent Governor (Alaska): 0.4%

states with...
Democratic Senate Majority: 4.03% avg
Republican Senate Majority: 3.24% avg

states with...
Democratic House Majority: 4.45% avg
Republican House Majority: 2.98% avg
Non-Partisan House (Nebraska): 4.3%

Cumulative 2014 + 2015 Q1, Q2:
states with...
Democratic Governors: 1.9% avg
Republican Governors: 1.6% avg
Independent Governor (Alaska): 0.0%

states with...
Democratic Senate Majority: 1.7% avg
Republican Senate Majority: 1.7% avg

states with...
Democratic House Majority: 1.9% avg
Republican House Majority: 1.6% avg
Non-Partisan House (Nebraska): 0.8%

So, other than the one tie for 6 quarters of growth in the Senate, in every other case, having a Democratic governor, a Democratic senate, or a Democratic house all correlated to higher GDP growth.

I'll leave it up for debate which is the dependent variable and which is the independent one...


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How to create a de facto beer monopoly (based on this article:

1. Start with a popular brand (and AB Inbev and MillerCoors together already own about 80% of the US market)
2. Require your distributors contractually to market your beer along with selling/delivering it, at their expense.
3. Then turn around and offer to refund some of the marketing cost if they agree to not carry any of the craft beers you compete with.

The distributors have almost no choice but to comply unless they want to bear the full cost of the marketing the breweries contractually make them do. This falls somewhere between bribery and blackmail. "You have to market us to sell us, and that's expensive, but if you promise not to sell any actual good beer, we'll reduce the amount of the 'protection money' you gotta pay."

Deschutes Brewing has already been dropped by Grey Eagle of St Louis (who on their website call themselves "the exclusive distributor of Anheuser-Busch beers and other premium beverages including Budweiser, Michelob, Busch, Shock Top, Natural Light, Goose Island, and O’Fallon in St. Louis County, Franklin County and Gasconade County")

Anheuser-Busch "aims to double participation in three years behind the new rewards plan", meaning they are going to start leaning on all the distributors out there to comply with this "optional" program.

Screw 'em. I will continue to support craft brewers, which is thankfully a growing market still.

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While strolling through the park one day,
In the merry merry month of ... October...

In Lauralhurst Park playing with our new XC 50-230 and my #fujifilm #xt1
Photo Walk - Laurelhurst Park
5 Photos - View album

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4 Photos - View album

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~ falling into a kaleidoscope at enchanted forest ~

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#RPGaDay: Day 18 (belated) : Favourite Game System

A decade ago my unequivocal answer would have been D&D (probably version 3.5 at the time).  I appreciated that 3.0 and 3.5 got me back into role playing after a 15+ year hiatus (1985-2000 or so).  But the more I played it, the more it frustrated me.  It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I traced it to the core d20 mechanic itself.

I won't go into my full soapbox rant here, but the highly condensed version of it is that a flat d20 system is simply too random.  Yes, it has a nice average around 10.5, so the casual player thinks it's a perfectly reasonable and balanced mechanic.  It's only when you figure out that your highly twitchy monk with a maxed out 18 DEX and Improved Initiative will still lose the jump on a droopy zombie 15% of the time that the arbitrariness of the mechanic starts to emerge. (Yes that exact scenario happened to me and it was the moment when I began to question the game).

I think this imbalance is part of the reason that "mix-maxing" is so common - you feel an urge to do anything you can to your character to prevent those weird anomalous rolls from throwing you at a disadvantage.

So my quest for a suitable replacement began.  How do you find a system that doesn't dispel your suspension of disbelief every time a roll comes up funny?  Unfortunately the d20 mechanic is the backbone of the two largest platforms out there, D&D and Pathfinder.  I had earnestly hoped that the new "D&D Next" that was being developed would find a better mechanic - something with a more "realistic" Gaussian distribution (read: bell curve), but alas, they decided to just fiddle with other stuff and leave the d20 underpinnings unchanged.

I found several candidates that eschewed the flat d20 for something more "natural".  These included:
Novus[], which was interesting but had very little fan base
Burning Wheel[] which is quite inventive, but has some quirks like making Dwarves all hopelessly consumed by Greed, and Elves immersed in Grief, etc.
Runequest 6th edition[] which came very close for me, but found it strange that most of the rule book seems to be considerations about how to build a gaming world, without actually giving you a game world to play in.
and finally, Dungeon Crawl Classics[], which preserves some of the grittiness (in facts maybe even takes it to new levels) of the original D&D game.

But I knew I was on to something when I ran across #DungeonWorld. It used a rather simple 2d6 mechanic which, while not quite a bell curve, at least isn't flat like the d20 world.  But more interestingly, unlike many games it doesn't try to hardcode every outcome for every scenario.  A 10+ result is a success, but what that means is up to the GM and the players.  Similarly, a 6 or less is a failure, but it too is left wide open as to what actually happens then.  Even the 7-9 "partial success" means you accomplished what you intended but with a complication or unexpected consequence.

...Which makes this game awesome.  Now, rather than being an exercise in stacking the odds and then hoping you always roll high, now almost any dice roll involves some rich fiction being created regardless of a success or failure!  And it's not just the mechanic that is based on this either.  It's the ethos of the whole system.  Both the GM and the players are invited to tell the story of what happens and that leads to more vesting in the role playing itself.  The rules (and the rolls) are there to provide some uncertainty and some risk, but really, serve more to provide a framework for creating the story rather than arbitrating success or failure.

I just GMed my first session 2 days ago, after having played in 3 in 4 sessions, and everyone universally seemed to enjoy it.  The fact that you can play the whole thing with a $10 PDF (or a $25 book) makes it that much more accessible... I think I found my new favourite RPG.. :)

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#RPGaDay Day13: Most Memorable Character Death

Many years ago, in the era of AD&D in the mid 80s,  I was planning an adventure for some of my players.  I had gotten the rather insidious Grimtooth's Traps book and was flipping through it when one of my players, Herb, spotted me reading this one shown in the picture.

The gist of the trap is it looks like a normal pit trap, that the characters would of course carefully skirt around.  But in this case, the pit is actually an illusion, and the real trap is along the edges the characters will probably travel.

So Herb sees me reading this (I didn't try to hide it from it from him) and gets a smug look on his face, suspecting that I'm likely to throw this trap at them in our upcoming game.

Which I did.  Sorta.

So shortly after, during our next gaming session, the group is forging through the dungeon and comes upon a room with a very obvious spiked pit in the middle.  Herb lights up, excitedly: 'Guys! Wait!  This is a trap!  But I know how to get past it!"

So he turns to me:  "I am going to slowly walk straight forward, chanting 'I disbelieve' as I try to dispel the illusion".

Herb's character begins to move forward: "I disbelieve... I disbelieve... I disbelieve .. I disbeliiiieeeeEEEEVVVVVEEEE!" and falls to his death into a perfectly normal spiked pit.

He was right.  It was a trap.

And we all laughed for hours about that one... ;)

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#RPGaDay #11: Weirdest RPG owned

[I'm skipping day 10 because I honestly can't name a tie-in novel or game fiction for any of the systems I've played]

What is DragonRaid and why have you never heard of it?  Surprisingly it's still in print, despite the fact that my copy you see below is close to 30 years old.  Here, I let the blurb from their website explain it:
"DragonRaid is a professionally produced Boxed Set that is a complete discipleship game/program that involves its players in a creative learning simulation of Biblical priciples. Complete with high quality printed manuals and materials, DragonRaid is perfect for breathing new life into your walk with Christ. God has used DragonRaid to bring many to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to disciple young and old into courageous Christians!"

Yep, Christian D&D.  The reason I ever heard of it is that as a young teen I entered a pretty religious phase.  I struggled to reconcile my desire to continue playing D&D with the fact that I was now getting the message that D&D was off limits.  The book "Playing with Fire" talked about how D&D  and related games was a risky behavior and as an impressionable teen, I went along with it, and forswore D&D entirely and sadly sold off a lot of my stuff. (So many of my original TSR modules lost in that process. :P )

But the itch to play was still there, so that's when I ran across DragonRaid.  They tried to take the adventure aspect of D&D but camouflage it in the lingo of Christianity.  The characters are part of a group called the TwiceBorn. (yes, really.) The stats are like "Love", "Joy", "Peace", "Faithfulness", etc.  The armor is the reference right out of the Bible ("Belt of Truth", "Breastplate of Righteousness", "Shield of Faith" and so on).  Even the spells are just biblical verses with some numerical effects added onto them:
"Right On Wordrune"
Psalm 119:160
"All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal"
All who say the Right On Wordrune successfully will add 3 points to the LightRaider's Belt of Truth rating for one dragon encounter.  May be used only once per day.

Honestly, I never really got to play the game (many of the pieces in my set are still unpunched) mostly because it was hard enough finding people into role playing games - but Christian role playing games? That was a niche within a niche.  So the set got boxed up and has sat on my game shelf ever since.

So there ya go -- one heck of a weird RPG, no? (Perhaps RPG means "Religious Propaganda Game" in this case? ;) )

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#RPGaDay Day 9 (belated)

Favorite Die / Dice Set

As per the trend I've been setting, I'm going to hedge my answers for this one too. ;)  Here are the the favorite dice from my collection:

The pair on the left are probably older than many of you reading this.  They are the original percentile/d20 dice from my very first D&D set.  You know, the kind that were only single digits (0-9 twice) with underscores on half?  They are probably about 34 or 35 years old now.

The middle set were the ones that defined my years of playing in highschool.  The clear green d6s were used to roll up likely hundreds of sets of stats, of which maybe 1 in 20 actually made it into characters. (C'mon - I can't be the only person with notebook pages that have dozens of columns of 6 numbers ranging from 3-18, am I?)
The accompanying polyhedrals were the original TSR dice that you had to color in with a crayon (which I also still have)

The rightmost set is what I have used for the last 10 or 15 years, the Chessex "Water Speckled" dice set ( ) .  I've really liked Chessex dice and got a spare set as backup ("Sea Speckled").  Both colors of course fail me in every moment of dire need, but that has been proven to happen with pretty much every other dice I've owned too, so I settle for enjoying the zen of rolling the dice.

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#RPGaDay Day 7: Favourite Character

Behold the fearsome and capricious Flip-Flop!  This diminutive halfling, (a mere 30" tall), apparently of the Stoutish persuasion, was memorable for his persistent grin, floppy-brimmed hat, and unfortunately lisp.

You'll notice that the poor fella is only 1st level.  This is mostly due to the fact that I DMed far more than I played as a teen.  After lovingly creating this mischievous rascal he mostly languished after that.  I did have him reappear as a cameo NPC for a number of campaigns I DMed so I still got to "play" him some, but it was never quite the same.

I laugh now looking at his stats, ranging from a high of 19 to a "dump stat" that was still a 13.  Ridiculous for a 1st level character, but typical of the pre-teen powergaming mentality I had back then.  Man that feels like forever ago...
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