Monday, October 31, 2016

Watts Bar 2

The first US nuclear reactor to come online in the last 20 years is in the Tennessee Valley Authority. Watts Bar 2 came in 6.5 Billion dollars over budget, allegedly due to nuclear regulation.

Of course, no one from CNN to the LA Times to Forbes backs that up. Everyone seems hung up on the 20-year construction delay.  Watts Bar 1, a sister reactor, went online in 1996 and it took almost nine years to build Watts Bar 2. You’ll find a lot of sprawling think-pieces which provide these basic facts, generously padded with timeline of nuclear disasters from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl and ending in Fukushima.

News articles on the subject seem authoritative until they describe the iconic cooling towers used to remove excess heat as “reactors.” Everyone is quick to bemoan the cultural insecurity which caused nuclear decline, whether it’s coded as regulatory smothering, environmental hyperactivism, or investment cowardice.

Really though, the focus should be the loss of technical literacy which makes supporters and opponents of nuclear power incapable of speaking intelligently on the subject at all.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Disco Comics: Nailbiter #5

Nailbiter #5 (Sept 2014)
I’m seriously intrigued, whatever this is.

Writing: Joshua Williamson
Art: Mike Henderson

My local comic book store is selling very old comics that no one wants for 50c each. I’m a cheap bastard and I love hating things so these are my Discount Comics.

The deal with Nailbiter is that it’s an ongoing mystery story set in a small, Pacific Northwest town where federal agents and local law enforcement try to find out why so many of its residents become serial killers. Its visuals are wasted on the excessive dialog and this issue had a plug for a tie-in book. Those Issue 1 sales numbers must’ve been encouraging.

Nailbiter shows why things like this should be released as graphic novels. Why place a mystery at the center of an ongoing story? Mysteries do not work that way. Either you have an indefinite deferred mystery story or end up running plot threads of multiple plot threads all over the book and it becomes possible for the reader to engage or suspend disbelief. Nailbiter could lean on intricate characterization, but it’s just a dump truck of stock characters who are distinguished visually and by their hidden motivations.

By the way, Nailbiter went with “indefinite deferment.” In this one issue, a new FBI agent appears, a lead character is is accused of murder, a third serial killer appears—there were two before—a kid goes missing, someone central to the conspiracy is murdered, the only suspect is released because law enforcement couldn’t move the story forward any better than Joshua fucking Williams, and that suspect saves the protagonist which sets Mystery Number One back to zero. Also the previous investigator is still in a coma and an exhausting heterosexual romance between two white people in their twenties is hinted at.

I have zero investment in this story and I was still frustrated at how busily it marked time.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


I was in my favorite gaming store the other day. From one of their rental rooms I heard a loud woman talking about how "they" were taking our hotel jobs.

Absurd as it was, she seemed serious. Now, I think that anyone I can hear from an adjoining room has waived their right to not have me join their conversation, but ugh, how awkward would that be?

The issue with folks who've traveled to the US illegally for work is similar to issues with sex workers and drug dealers. WE believe we don't like them doing it for principled reasons; we don't like drug use, STD spread, or underpricing US labor.

But attempts to stop these activities are always-irrationally-directed at the stereotypical images of the suppliers: Hispanics, women, and black Americans. This is because the people who provide these services for money don't have money and that lack of power makes them easier to prosecute. Even the most rudimentary understanding of free market capitalism will tell you how ineffective this is.

The persecution of (relatively) low power suppliers of these--technically--crimes might push prosecution numbers up high and make police and prosecutors look like they're improving their communities, but they're not.

As long as demand exists--as long as companies, middle-class johns, and high-end drug users are given a pass, those high-minded purposes of those laws will not be fulfilled because capitalism ensures that another desperate person will fill supply-side gaps.

Undocumented workers, sex workers, and folks in the drug trade do what they do because there is demand.


Playing whack-a-mole with dealers is bullshit. The power behind these forces is the folks buying their wares. Until they're subjected to the same harsh punishments, until they're treated with the same dehumanization as their suppliers, nothing will change. Not with undocumented workers, not with sex work (which should be legal), and not with drugs.

Suppliers will always take the risk of not getting caught to feed their families or just--unthinkably--themselves.

It's just supply and demand.

17 to 01: To Serve All My Days

Let's be nice about this: we all love Walter Koenig and D.C. Fontana. On the other hand, what the hell, Walter Koenig and D.C. Fontana?

Star Trek: New Voyages, "To Serve All My Days" can be found at

17 to 01 is available on iTunes. It updates Thursday mornings at 2:00 AM ET / 1:00 CT. We're also amazingly on Stitcher.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

TRO: 3087 - Ghost of Blake

3087 is a Battletech alternate universe where The Jihad never happened. Instead, political fracturing continues in the wake of the technological and military upheavals of the 3050's. Its history is told through the pages and designs of TRO: 3087. This entry is the last of 3087. 3087 has been fun and educational, but muted interest has directed my time towards more fruitful projects.

See ya, Rabbi Martinez.

GOB-111 Ghost of Blake
Like other new designs fielded by The Word of Blake, we know little about the Ghost of Blake. We assume it’s produced on Terra or on some hidden-away corner of the Inner Sphere. Information we have gleaned has come from battlefield encounters and rare battle ROMs of captured units.

The Ghost of Blake is designed as a covert operations platform deployed in standard Comstar Level I’s of six battlemechs, usually comprised of five -111 models and one -112 model, though recovered records indicate units with two -112 models have been tested.

During the brief existence of the Terran Protectorate, Ghost of Blake units were deployed for testing on Protectorate-aligned worlds to probe defense forces.

Records of operations on other worlds are hard to come by. The ‘Mech’s stealth armor kept it from being positively identified, and ROM efforts to cover its production and operations seem have been amongst The Word’s highest priorities. Until the late seventies, rumors of a ghost ‘mech which appears and disappears by magic were written off as exaggerations by backwoods garrison forces and small time mercenaries rumor-mongering for higher pay.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My shot at the holy grail of gaming: Magic the Gathering RPG

So I ran a Magic roleplaying game by straight-up tacking Magic: the Gathering onto FATE. We had a good time. 

I should've stopped at bridging the gap between FATE and Magic: the Gathering, but I didn't. This thing is a sprawling, 32-page document that creates a new set of Magic concepts and systems which absolutely do work as roleplaying background, but are fucking impenetrable. But hey, it's 17k pages so I'm gonna share it with folks.

The real conflict in creating a Magic RPG is making the cards work in a roleplaying setting. I did that by instituting a set of power tiers--called moxes--which allow spells to scale in power with the planeswalker (or creature) casting them. In the lowest mox--Mox Alpha--most spells take on a benign form. Tapping down a creature can make them drowsy, a burn spell can provide light, and a creature might become confused or addled if you make it discard a card. At Mox Unlimited, a planeswalker can cast spells which annihilate whole armies.

The FATE integration isn't that strong, but one of the options is non-combat casting. Five skills (Will, Investigation, Deceive, Rapport, and Athletics) are aligned with each of the five colors. Players may discard a card to invoke an aspect for a skill check instead of spending a Fate point. One of the colors in the card's color identity has to correspond to that skill.
The Tempest is basically a way to rationalize the randomness of a player's deck. 

Planeswalkers channel their Tempest which provides them with a channel of aether which they can shape into spells. When a planeswalker runs out of ways to turn their Tempest into spells, they must revert to Mox Alpha or die by decking out. The Primer focuses a lot on reconciling these things.

Planeswalkers have fetters, which exist to explain some planeswalkers having higher "starting life" and to give players a potential ways to connect to planes. As is, fetters are just a way for powerful NPCs to be even more powerful. It's a bit much, but it's not like anyone has to use it.

I'm especially proud of the three-page "Life, the Multiverse, and Everything" appendix at the end which conjectures on how planes are formed.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

17 to 01: The Playlist

In retrospect, a forty-minute YouTube playlist of Star Trek references seems a bit self-indulgent.

On the other hand...tough Beeps.

Special thanks to Skiltao for acquainting me with "Banned from Argo."

For sites that don't let ads insert malware into your system, ad blockers are generally bad. I give you permission to use one on YouTube just this time. 


Embed (Blogspot version only):

17 to 01 is available on iTunes. It updates Thursday mornings at 2:00 AM ET / 1:00 CT. We're also amazingly on Stitcher.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

17 to 01: The Magicks of Megas Tu

*sigh* So this is Daddy Satan, Earth otaku.

There's not much to say that we haven't already said in the process of making fun of this episode. Puritans. Magic. The Adversary. It's honestly like the dream a kid has at a gay conversion camp.

You're welcome to Robert Oppenheimer references. Anytime folks. Anytime.

17 to 01 is available on iTunes. It updates Thursday mornings at 2:00 AM ET / 1:00 CT. We're also amazingly on Stitcher.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

17 to 01: Albatross

Space Pug Monkeys or Bat-Eared Pugs? You decide. here's another episode where McCoy is a terrible doctor and an okay spy. Or maybe a terrible spy.

Also it turns out we're watching one more episode of The Animated Series than we originally expected.

The monkeys Derek was referencing were Capuchins. Wikipedia confirms they're all thieves.

17 to 01 is available on iTunes. It updates Thursday mornings at 2:00 AM ET / 1:00 CT. We're also amazingly on Stitcher.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

TRO: 3087 - Longbow

3087 is a Battletech alternate universe where The Jihad never happened. Instead, political fracturing continues in the wake of the technological and military upheavals of the 3050's. Its history is told through the pages and designs of TRO: 3087. With any luck this series will be the last anyone hears about 3087.

LGB-OA Longbow
With debate growing over Resolution 288  and spreading rumors about the possibility that the Captain-General had been replaced with a double, powers within Andurien began preparing for secession again during the late sixties. While it took over a decade for the opportunity to arise, the Duchy made the most of that time.
When Brooks Incorporated stumbled upon a wireless omnitechnology interface for vehicles, Andurien secessionists immediately moved in to keep the development a secret. The system was adapted for use on OmniMechs and the Duchy began to acquire reliable BattleMechs for loyal militias as part of a covert upgrade program. 
By far the most troublesome target of these acquisitions were Longbows. The secessionists underestimated the popularity and versatility of the design, and it was eventually more economical to quietly license the Longbow and create a similar ‘Mech domestically. When the Duchy shrugged off their neutrality three years into the Free Worlds League Civil War, those Longbows became the backbone of the new First Andurien Rangers.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016