Friday, November 30, 2012

D&D Nerdery: Winterthur

The city of Winterthur is the last sign of civilization in the north.  Sure there are some villages further north that house and serve those that live out even closer to the wilderness, but none are very large nor visited by much beyond farmers, soldiers and tax collectors.

The fact that civilization is slowly crumbling is very evident on the roads surrounding Winterthur.  To the more civilized south the roads are evidently still heavily used, but not the strong straight concrete that it once was.  To the north the road is even more heavily ruined, but it still makes it to the villages in what could be generously described as 'one-piece.'  To the east, into the mountains where once trade was handled with the industrious Dwarves, the roads are long neglected and extend not much further than the final village.  And to the west the roads disappear into the ravenous forest, which is encroaching further and further upon lands claimed by the settlement every year.

Soldier patrols are stronger every year to combat the wildness and desperation taking hold.  Of course with increased patrols comes increased taxes, which adds to the desperation.  Bandits along the southern road, wild goblins and orcs hounding the eastern parts of the settlement, raiders pillaging the north and creatures that reek of magic haunting the western.

Inside the high and thick walls that surround the city (Ignoring for the moment the densely-populated Vorstadt which are surrounded by smaller walls and house the trades) things are less desperate, at least they are on the surface.  The Markets are often packed, and the guildhalls are well maintained.  The houses of the noble families form an inner ring that surrounds the center of the city where the hall of government sits.


The ruler of the city is Margrave Zanne of the family Kyburg.  She is a young woman who has been the ceremonial ruler since she was six years old, and actual ruler for the past 4 years.  She is advised by the heads of the guilds, the noble families and occasionally the mayors of the nearby villages.  

The official religion of Winterthur, as in many former imperial cities, is Erathis.  The head of the church is the ruler of the city.  Given Zanne was Margrave at the age of 6 she was given the charge of running the church at that young age.  This has led her to be more pious than many past rulers.


Given the cost of the Linked Portal ritual, only magical items travel via portals, though occasionally higher end artistic craftsmanship will as well.  The trade goods all travel the old fashioned way, either by boat or road, and thus are prey to the bandits to the south and north.

The guildhalls inside the city are a strong part of the city politics, and thus can be truly said to no longer represent their guilds interests properly.  As the power of the Empire waned and finally collapsed, the families of the city saw the guilds as a way to increase their own money.  So most of these guilds are now ran by various noble families and the Guildmaster has become a hereditary one.

The mages guild is the major exception to this rule.  The Mages guild, due to their teleportation circles, is in constant contact with the other Mage guilds throughout the old lands of the empire.  There is a clear structure that runs through the various guilds.


The Vorstadt mostly lies along the southern and western walls, sandwiched between the city and the river.  It is a densely populated area where most of the city’s trades are done, and so the smell is..unpleasant to say the least.  The people of the Vorstadt are of a variety of races (Unlike the mostly human interior of the city).  

The population of the Vorstadt is rapidly increasing.  As raids increase on the farms and villages surrounding Winterthur, not to mention the forest claiming an ever increasing amount of land, people flee to the city of their liege for help.  Most of those people end up in the Vorstadt, some joining an honest trade.  Many others resorting to begging, or worse.

The guildhalls in the interior of the city claim to control their respective trades that are done out in the Vorstadt, but they hold little true control.  All the smiths still pay their ever-increasing dues, they have to of course by city fiat, but many of them have a closer influence they must answer to.  

Crime has always been an issue in the Vorstadt, but it’s gotten increasingly worse as more bodies press inside.  The old Vorstadt ‘Guild’, a mockery on the other guilds, that kept overt crime at a low to prevent the soldiers from intervening has splintered into competing factions.  Now to too many tradesman one does not pay protection money to just one organized guild, but to many different gangs.  And woe to the smith who decides to gamble and only pay to select gangs.  Too often they choose poorly.

Other Lands / Races

Southern Lands

Things up in the north sound dire, but they are no better in the south.  As the empire withdrew into its core lands, petty kings began to pop up in their old lands.  And once the empire finally collapsed, the various cities in its core all declared themselves strong states of their own.  And as is often in a place of many kingdoms and city-states, war is common.


The elves have always been more aloof and distant to the old empire, but they often had ambassadors and traders interacting.  Since the fall they’ve turned more inward and are rather rare to come across.  Though some do live in human lands.


The Dwarves turned inward before the empire collapsed, about the same time as Orcs began to threaten the boundaries.  Traders are rarely seen, though some cities have dwarven enclaves.

Newslinks: November 30th, 2012

Well it's been a slow news day in the past 24 hours.  Some major announcements, yes, but not too much in the way of quantity.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Newslinks: November 29th, 2012

"The conspiracy therefore was not to mislead the American public but to mislead America's enemies. If Rice had gone beyond her unclassified talking points and said that Ansar al-Sharia was suspected to be behind the Benghazi attacks, no doubt she would now be being hounded for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information."
Peter Bergen, CNN

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Newslinks: November 28th, 2012

“A genuine odyssey is not about piling up experiences. It is a deeply felt, risky, unpredictable tour of the soul.” 
Thomas Moore

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Newslinks: November 27th, 2012

My son is wanting to be awake more in mid-day.  Thus newslinks will be posted at 10 am everyday. (Yes it's slowly getting earlier. Eventually they'll be posted in the past before the news happens.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Newslinks: November 26th, 2012

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration"
Abraham Lincoln, 1861

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Responding to my Responders: 'The Corporations Are People, My Friends' Edition.

I would normally not do this but sometimes a reply to a reply gets too long and unwieldy.

Krellen stated:
"Y'know, the Supreme Court actually never ruled that Corporations are people. They ruled that Corporations should be treated as people FOR TAX PURPOSES. Some clerk translated that to "Corporations are people", and the fallacy has stuck with us."

It is sadly a bit more complicated than that.  In 1886 the case 'Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad Company' was brought to the Supreme Court's attention.  In the case, Santa Clara County was trying to levy a property tax against the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.  Because, like most corporations, the SPRC did not wish to pay said tax they argued about it.  One of their arguments was based on the 14th amendments 'Equal Protection' law.  The railroad was simply being held to a different standard than human taxpayers.

This is, of course, ridiculous.  First graders would laugh this out of their classroom.  But law is far more ridiculous than anything else, including quantum mechanics.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice, Morrison Waite, said preceding the proceedings: 
"The Court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."

In their published opinion, however, they did not include that.  Ducking the question, as it were.  So technically that should not have established a precedent.  

Enter the court reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis.  A court reporter is much more esteemed than a simple clerk.  They digest the dense rulings and summarize key findings in published headnotes.  Well, Mr. Davis sent a letter to Mr. Waite asking if he could include the preface in the headnote.  Waite gave an ambivalent response that Davis took as a yes.  And thus was a precedent formed.  Now why would this man push for this?  Well it would not be fair of me to speculate.

But this is a blog, and thus I have no journalistic standing or integrity expected upon me.  While Mr. Davis had a very long and varied career in the public service, he also at one point was the president of the board of directors of Newburgh & New York Railroad Company.  Now when he did this he was not in that position any longer, but one can speculate that he was very obviously a standard 19th century (21st century?  Are we entering a new gilded age?) businessman and wanted to pave the way for businesses to have less government hassle.

This is what I meant in my previous post when I said "Unethical" because it was.  Due to this the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment, designed to help former slaves, was used to strike down regulations placed upon corporations countless times until the New Deal.  In fact, it was used to protect corporations from regulations more often than it was used to protect former slaves. 

And, of course, corporations still love to use the First Amendment to argue certain things.  Like that they can lie freely.  Or that they can give unlimited campaign contributions.  The Supreme Court had a chance to update this ruling and fix things but alas, they decided to be pro business.  And they're so smug in thinking they're right about it.  Yes I'm bitter.

Newslinks: November 25th, 2012

Why is corporate welfare so beloved by this country, but any attempt to help actual people with the government disliked?

Why does everyone insist that charities can do the helping when it's obvious that charities cannot keep up?  For that matter, why do the people who insist that charities should be the sole help rarely donate to charities that do help?

For that matter, how can a corporation legally be a person (And that was decided upon rather unethically by a 19th century Supreme Court) when a corporation is just a piece of paper whose ownership gets transferred?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Newslinks: November 24th, 2012

Yesterday I mentioned I hated the term "Free Thinkers".  In my experience it has been used to describe anyone who is in a "not conventional" religion but not yet a cult.  So it's mostly been used to describe atheists, agnostics and wiccans. Of course, the Wiccan was the only one who had any real religion in that group at all so maybe he was included to not start any fights.

But here is my feeling on this.  While I don't respect someones belief system much if they haven't actually examined it, I have known many religious people who took a route to their religion.  Their life led them to embrace that religion, often upon some studying.  And those people are the ones who know the most about that religion.  Downside, of course, is by coming to religion in your adulthood you tend to embrace it with a passion and zeal.  The Evangelical movement is powered by these "Born Again Christians."

Many of whom, in my experience, embrace it so strongly because deep down they had a hard life in their young adulthood and their religion is their pillar.  Their way to move beyond that past.  And thus why they can be so uncompromising.

This opening has gotten a bit away from its point.  Mainly:  People in a mainstream religion, or religion of any kind, CAN be free thinkers, and many often are.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Newslinks November 23rd, 2012

Alright. It's time to talk entitlement.  No, no, don't go running away screaming! Please! This isn't one of those! (I hope)

It took me a long time to understand the mindset of the Christians who believe this country is being taken from them.  But it's quite simple.  For a long time their's was the dominant view.  What they believed was the law.  Their religion could be everywhere, despite the constitution.  They saw this as a Good thing and it wasn't enforced by a religious police like they have in Saudi Arabia, it just was.

Then free thinkers (I do hate this term, by the way) began to arise.  They saw that the America they were in was actually oppressive to their own belief systems despite the Constitution.  So they began to challenge and win those challenges.  Slowly making this place friendlier to all non-Christians (And some Christian Sects).

Now the Christians don't see it as a balancing act, because there's no way their world view would let them see this.  They see it as the balance is being thrown out of whack. That they are being discriminated against.  They don't see it as everyone becoming equal, they see it as everyone becoming more equal than they.

Of course they are wrong, vastly wrong, but often entitlement is based upon where you stand.  You don't see your own entitlement. So they don't see that they were on Top.  They only see their "rights" being taken away.

So Non Christians just see the Christian Right in this country wishing to oppress them.  But that's not what it is.  The Christian Right honestly believes they are victims now, that their rights are being taken away.  That they are being targeted.  And while they are wrong, it still makes me quite sad.  Because most of them will not ever see the truth of the matter because they cannot.  And this is a tragedy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Newslinks: November 21st, 2012

I recently ran across a public opinion poll on Palestinian attitudes.  It was embedded in an article that stated the best way to defeat Hamas is for Israel to prop up the Palestinian Authority.  This is true if the Right Wing government of Israel truly wanted Hamas gone.  I'm cynical towards that.

But the poll.  It was interesting and it shows why Hamas can still get support amongst Palestinians.  The poll was taken in late September by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.  I have no idea their sample method so I'm posting these numbers rather blind:

66% of Palestinians believe that the Palestinian Authority's long term goal is to recover all or parts of the land occupied in 1967. (Aka Gaza/West Bank).  24% believe the PA's goal is to recover the 1948 lands.  So right there the Palestinians think the PA wants a two state solution.

However 57% of Palestinians believe settlement growth has made a Palestinian state impossible.  I can't blame them.  President George W. Bush's roadmap to peace obligated Israel to freeze settlement growth and remove illegal outposts.  Currently the right wing Netanyahu government has doubled funding for settlements.  And the outposts that are illegal even under Israeli law?  The current government is considering legalizing them.  This leads into....

81% of Palestinians believe that Israel's long term goal is to annex the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967. And this is why Hamas still gets support.  Because when a very large percentage of the Palestinians think Israel just wants to completely annex Gaza and the West Bank than there's no real chance for peace.  And this is a tragedy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Newslinks: November 20th, 2012

I almost had nothing to say then I thought of something!

Why do I refuse to use the name Myanmar?  Well ever since Burma's junta took over, they imposed the name Myanmar and also got rid of many other colonial names.  This does not sound like that big of a deal, India got rid of their colonial names as well.  However many Burmese democratic opposition groups oppose the name change and prefer the Burma one.  The UN has recognized Myanmar, but the US and UK has not.  In international politics it is seen as if you call the country Myanmar, you're soft on the regime.  Now of course I am not in international politics but I do agree.  If they get a fully democratic government and they decide to keep the name, I will probably change as well. But as of now, out of protest, I use Burma.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Newslinks November 19th, 2012

I will say the Hamas experiment has mostly failed.  Their governing arm has done a decent job providing services to the Palestinian people in Gaza and the fact they are in charge has moderated the militant wing...a little.  But it's way too little. The militant wing has too little interest in protecting the Palestinian people so they continue to be a terrorist faction instead of a source of stability and defense.
In all honesty, the way Gaza looks at the moment, if an election was held and Hamas was voted out I doubt they would give it up.  Remember the civil war against Fatah.  But that is just speculation, there'd first have to be an election and second Hamas would have to lose.  And there were supposed to be elections back in May, in an agreement Hamas made (brokered by the Egyptians) with the Palestinian National Authority, but they backed out of the elections stating holding them would be "impossible."  In January it will have been 7 years since elections were held in Palestine.
Also of interest: In 2011 the Independent Commission for Human Rights lambasted the PA, Hamas and Israel for human rights abuses against the Palestinians.  I don't remember hearing much about this, but I think that should be highlighted.
Hamas could have ended up the good guys in this, however improbably and insane that statement seems.  Terrorist organizations can reform, especially if given political power.  But they're clinging to power and abusing the trust of the people they're in charge of.   If there was the 15 years of peace (see newslink below) that Israel wanted, I wonder how long it would take for the Palestinian people to rise up against their own government.  But it won't happen as long as there are attacks in their cities.  No matter how bad their government is, people band together behind it when attacked by an outside force.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Newslinks: November 18th, 2012

"The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.                                                                              Only then will Israel be calm for forty years."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai
"The first and absolute condition for a truce is stopping all fire from Gaza."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Newslinks: November 17th, 2012

So let's talk a little about monopolies.  The US government supposedly has a system in place to stop monopolies, and they do.  And it works (on occasion, ask AT&T).  However their system looks at the whole country as a model.  The true victims of monopolies are people in every city and town.  The companies with the monopolies are not those that have a stranglehold on the country, but one on their community.
For instance, in many places with a fully privatized Electricity Utility have been seeing a constant increase in their bills.  Various fees added on, the electric rate going up.  And so since consumers cannot truly get away from these companies without having to move (Which is not a truly reasonable option), they are in effect a monopoly.
My water bill has tripled since I moved here 3 years ago.  There are MULTIPLE water companies in the area but they each are very regulated in where they service.  So once again I am stuck.
And let us not forget cable internet.  In some areas there is choice.  DSL, while slower than cable, is more preferable to dial up.  And Dial up is nearly always an (ridiculously poor) option.  And of course in Kansas City there is Google Fiber.   Oh Google Fiber how I desire you.  Got a bit off track there, sorry.  But most of the time you have one real option, whether it be Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner (You poor people with Time Warner.  It even drove Patrick Stewart into the sheer depths of despair.)  And no other real competitor will come by due to franchise agreements.  And this monopoly definitely shows how it hurts us.  We are rather far behind in Internet Speed compared to Western Europe, Korea and Japan, because these companies have little need to do better.  Again, except Google.  Oh Google, let me feel your fiber

Friday, November 16, 2012

Israel & Gaza. Please Read the whole thing. Very Stream of Thought and Jumbled.

Alright.  I've been critical on Israel's actions in Gaza.  There are many reasons for this.  However I do want to make something clear...I understand that no country can nor should tolerate their people being aimed at with rockets.  Despite those rockets being unsophisticated and rarely lethal, it still is terrorism and they are dangerous and are disruptive.

Their short term goals are simple:  Assassinate militant leaders, leveling various safe houses and getting rid of weapon depots and military installations.  But what is their long term, for as Janine Zacharia stated:

"In the end, Israel will be no safer, although it will surely be more alone in the world and living in a neighborhood that is less tolerant of its aggressive countermeasures."

Newslinks: November 16th, 2012

Many of you on the Twitter-verse have seen me rage about the energy infrastructure we have and how money should go to invest it.
Roughly 500,000 Americans lose power for at least 2 hours EVERY SINGLE DAY.
The average substation transformer is 42 years old.  The expected life span of them? 40 years.
70% of the largest high-voltage power transformers, those that weigh up to 800,000 pounds, are more than 25 years old and thus subject to increased risk of failure.  Replacing one of these transformers can take up to twenty months.
Our system is so antiquated and overloaded that when there's an issue it spreads beyond the area.  The June Derecho which did quite a bit of wind damage from Indian through the Appalachians to DC saw other areas out of power for longer than others.  Such as suburban Maryland.  It was not hit harder, but the damage it sustained triggered multiple failures down the line.
For a better example, one of which many of you are too young for, was the Ohio Failure of 2003.  Line failures in Northeastern Ohio darkened a 1,900 square mile area.  265 power plants went offline. Cost nearly $6B, nearly 100 people died and 50 million people in the dark for four days.
We need to put serious money into this. It is a National Security AND Human Rights issue.  Yet it's always kicked down the road and every year it gets worse.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Newslinks, November 15th, 2016.

September 29, 2000 - August 31, 2012

At least 6,617 Palestinians and 1,097 Israelis have been killed.
126 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians. 1,476 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis.
10,792 Israeli injuries. 59,575 Palestinian Injuries.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Newslinks: November 14th, 2012

Eric Holder apparently knew about the Petraeus story for months.  I say that qualifies as the DoJ being added to the list, since he didn't let the White House know.  At least he's not accused of stalking Mrs. Kelley....yet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Newslinks November 13, 2012

This Petraeus thing has gone insane.  And now, a new twist.  General John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, is said to have sent 'inappropriate' e-mails to Mrs. Kelley.  So now we have inappropriate CIA, FBI and DoD.  Which Department is next in this thing?

The big thing to me, depending on those inappropriate e-mails, is the FBI Agent.  He pursued a friendship with Mrs. Kelley. He was never a part of the investigation but kept nosing around it.  His superiors finally had to tell him "Back off". Then, due to his worldview, he figured the investigation stalled due to a coverup to protect the President.  Thus a week before the election he figured it would be a good idea to inform the Republicans on the Hill, probably in the vain hopes that A> The girl he fancied would be protected and B> that they would leak this to the media.  Eric Cantor, for once in his life, decided to do the right thing and reached out to the FBI Director and got the story straight.  And of course when Fox heard of this, they started chatting up more conspiracy theories.  But it was the far right wing tendency to go to conspiracy theories that is the story, due to this unnamed FBI agent.  (Yes the far left does do conspiracies too.  So far not relevant to this story.  ... Yet. Give it time.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Newslinks November 12, 2012

So very early Sunday morning there was a large explosion in southern Indianapolis. It destroyed 3 houses, and significantly damaged a couple dozen more. The conspiracy theorists on the internet have gone nuts. Some are trying to link it to supposed explosions and radiation spikes that happened at the Michigan Indiana border. Others are saying it's a US drone strike. Others are saying it's a jet that crash-landed straight down. The most sensible of all these is the "It's a meteorite or satellite and the government is trying to cover it up." Why..the cover up I don't know. That's why I said most sensible, not most likely.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

News Links, November 11th, 2012

So two days ago it was Petraeus resigning that made me angry.  Yesterday, 5 hours after I posted news links (Better than 20 minutes), George Entwistle resigned as Director General of the BBC.  They had a broadcast on child abuse allegations that linked abuse to a Lord.  It was later proven to be false and BBC is in quite a bit of a roil for it.  Worst thing for the Beeb to be in, given the Tories do want to cut it's funding.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Aulayan's News Links: November 10, 2012

I am a little angry at David Petraeus right now.  20 minutes after I posted my newslinks yesterday, he resigned.  Due to an affair.  With his Biographer.  Whom the FBI were investigating because of suspicions she had inappropriate access to classified materials.  Which the White House did not find out about until Wednesday (Sorry Conservative Conspiracy Theorists!).  And there's the summary of that!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Aulayan's News Links: November 9th, 2012

Welcome to my newslinks.  I cannot guarantee I'll do this everyday.  But I may.  If I do I will attempt to have it up by 2 pm.  I gather most of my links in the morning but I wait until 2 due to the major news that usually starts coming out around 11.  Also: Fuck CNN. (You'll see why at the end of this post)

Caverna de las Brujas Part 5

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Caverna de las Brujas Part 4

The building before Henry was impressive for being in the center of London.  Comprised of tan brickwork, it stood three stories high with tall windows gazing out into the street.  Three chimneys rose above the roof, with a steady stream of smoke rising high into the London sky.  The land before the place was impressive tile work with each tile bearing names of what were presumably patrons.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Election Thoughts Ballot Measures edition

I do not have much to say about this election that everyone everywhere has not read somewhere else.  So here are my thoughts and results on a handful of ballot measures.

Caverna de las Brujas Part 3

Fuck it's bright.  That was the first thing registering in Henry Arthur's brain.  His eyes fluttered open and he found himself staring straight up at an electric light, hanging above the bed he was in.  He tilted his head to the left and groaned in pain and once more upon registering what he saw.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Caverna de las Brujas Part 2

Henry's eyes snapped open at the sound of an explosion and within seconds he was up and out of what was laughingly called a bed down here in the trenches.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Caverna de las Brujas Part 1

Visually it was unimpressive.  A dark mouth in gray slate, thrice the width of a man but only slightly taller, flanked by a handful of green bushes.  The rocks and soil in the steep slope up to the cavern were held in place by the intermittent placement of short stubby brown plants.