Kitty cuddles

Last Sunday, I dropped klik off at her sesshin. As usual, I’ve taken the week off work too, so I’m mostly home doing my own thing (and leaving the house for the occasional Pokemon Go raid…)
This means I get to spend much more time with the kitties than usual, so I get more kitty cuddles than usual!

Yuzu climbed up on my desk (it was at standing height) for an intensive cuddle session, insisting on licking my fingers and forehead…
(Also, I wish I could take better pictures of her, because she’s so pretty. But her fur is too dark in most circumstances, and she can’t sit still at all other times…)

Late-night cuddles with Mikan on the couch.

These two kitties turned seven years old a month ago! I think that means they’re middle-aged now — at least, there is special food for cats of 7+ of age, so I think that means they’ve crossed some kind of ‘milestone’. But apart from Mikan (the one in the back) having had some dental work done, they still don’t show any signs of slowing down!

(I took this photo when I came back from a Pokemon Go raid on the gym behind our house.)

Almost all mecha games are stat/skill-based and have a single skill for something like mecha piloting. Which means that every pilot character will have the same stats to maximise their performance in combat. After all, if Agility is the most important stat for piloting a mech, and you play a mecha pilot, of course Agility will have to be your highest stat. I have the same beef with PbtA games. Yes, there is niche protection from the playbooks, but every playbook tends to operate on one or maybe two stats — so every character for that playbook has maximised those two stats and it’s always the same.

Perrin’s Mecha had a way to break through that: linking pilot stats with mecha ratings. It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

My theory is that there are no more than four things you do in a mech: manoevering, shooting, defending and scanning. And every type of mech has their own features that help with that, like Power, Weapons, Armour and System — a mech with more powerful engines will make it easier to manoever, a mech with more powerful telemetry systems is better at scanning, etc. So every mech will have a rating for each of these four things.
Pilots have four stats too — like Brawn, Agility, Intellect and Willpower. (Not sure that these four will be it, still need to think about that.) And when a pilot enters a type of mech for the first time, they choose which stat to link with which rating for that mech. The idea being that if the pilot links their Brawn with Power, they have a forceful mode of movement in their mech, powering through to get somewhere. Linking Intellect with Power would mean their quick analysis of the battlefield allows them to avoid obstacles and thus move around more quickly. Linking Agility with Power would mean their movement would be fluid, smoothly avoiding obstacles.
This would allow the pilot to use the mech ratings to compensate their weaknesses — but more importantly, it would allow the players to differentiate their pilots stats and skill-wise without sacrificing their performance during missions. And since the game I’ll be writing will also put emphasis on the pilots’ lives outside of the mecha cockpit, that’s important to me.

The Project

In just over one week, klik is going on a zen retreat — from Sunday afternoon until Saturday morning. I always take those weeks off work too, because I don’t fancy working all day and then coming home to a house filled with grumpy cats. And most times, I set myself a goal, or a project to work on, so that I have something to show for my week off — instead of simply vegetating behind my computer.
For some time now, I have been looking for an RPG that captures the feel and themes of the Macross anime series — and failing to find one. The recent Robotech/Macross RPG just wasn’t good overall. I have quite a few other mecha RPGs in my library, but most of those are rather one-dimensional and lack the background structure of mecha pilots being part of both the military and society.

So my Project for that week will be to write a Macross-inspired RPG. I have been doing research for a bit, and I have some design goals and ideas on how to hit those. The end goal would be to be able to playtest a skirmish on Friday.

Casual raid trains

Today in Pokemon Go, from 16:00 for three hours, the Legendary Pokemon Raikou was in raids in every Gym. This is not new — it’s been in raids and even in the weekly field research breakthroughs, but from today it can actually be shiny! Shiny Pokemon have a variant colour scheme and are extra-rare, but it doesn’t have any game effects. And since it was a special Raid Day, you’d get five free raid passes today, instead of the usual one. With a pass you could have saved from yesterday, that would mean you could do six raids for free.
What with the release of a new shiny Pokemon, the raid fever was running high with the usual suspects. Plans were made to visit all the gyms in the neighbourhood and far and wide outside of that, going by car and bicycle. I’ve done a few of those raids, and I don’t like the high pace: there’s no time to properly catch the Pokemon after the raid because you have to go to the next, resulting in irresponsible driving and a general feeling of stress.
I don’t need more stress in my life, so I wanted to do a raid train with the other ‘casuals’: just six raids (or maybe more if people wanted to invest the paid raid passes), and we’d simply walk from gym to gym. There are four EX raid gyms in our neighbourhood, and we’d visit three of them on the route that I designed. We got enough casuals to make it viable, so at 16:00 we set off.

At our second gym, just as we were finishing up, a boy of 14 years old comes ambling up and asks us if we were playing Pokemon Go, and whether he could tag along with us? Of course, that wasn’t a problem, and our little raid group gained a member. Two raids later, a friend of his turns up, and we gained a second member. And just as we were walking towards the sixth gym, we passed a boy helping his mother unloading groceries from the car. Apparently he knew our two new members, and when they told him they were going to do another Raikou raid, he got really excited and wanted to come too. A minute later, he turns up with his mothers’ phone (because his own phone apparently didn’t have “outside internet”). Second raid he did (our seventh and last), he even got a shiny!
We didn’t get any shinies this time, but it was a lot of fun to see the enthusiasm of these boys as they got to raid with us — something they otherwise would not have been able to do. It was a lot of fun, and we ended up at the gym behind our house, so we said goodbye and went home. An afternoon well spent.

Friday Five

1. How do you beat the summer heat?
Here in the Netherlands, what qualifies as “summer heat” is something different than what it is in, say, Australia. Our living room faces the north, so our extension is in the shade of the house during the hottest hours, so that helps. And when it cools off in the evening, we open the hatch in the extension and open the windows in the attic, creating a ‘chimney’ through which hot air is expelled at the top and cool air taken in below.

2. Do you have air conditioning?
At the office and in my car, but not in the house.

3. What’s your idea of the perfect summer day?
Sunny, about 25 degrees Celcius, with a light breeze. To make it even more ideal would be if I have the day off and can go somewhere fun with klik.

4. What’s one thing you always seem to do every summer whether you want to or not?
I’m not sure I have specific summer activities that are always on the menu?

5. Are you ready for the summer?
I don’t have a set of preparations for summer, so… I guess?

I got these three from ashmedai:

1. Homeopathy
I do have an opinion on homeopathy: it’s unscientific quackery that doesn’t work. In the Netherlands, it is in fact illegal now to suggest that a homeopathic ointment is a cure for something specific, prompting some really interesting text on the packaging. I won’t miss homeopathy when it disappears, and nobody should.

2. GMO’s
I also have an opinion on Genetically Modified Organisms. I’m a big fan of GMOs that help improve the quality of our food supply. Sadly, the EU has an irrational fear of GMOs and blocks their deployment in our food supply, which pretty much means that they’re (mostly) blocked worldwide. And that’s a bloody shame: because of this irrational fear, people are dying that could otherwise have been saved by Golden Rice.
And let’s not kid ourselves: the glucose syrup that’s in your candy bar is produced from sugar by molds that has been genetically engineered to be more efficient at converting sugar into glucose. The technique is understood very well, and so the risks can be managed.
(Normal disclaimers against food crop monoculture apply to GMOs too, obviously.)
What I am not a fan of, is the strain of GMOs that have been engineered to be resistant to a weed killer — that stuff is poisoning our planet, and the fact that some crops are resistant to it does not diminish that. And of course it’s the same company selling the weed killer and selling the resistant seeds, all tightly wound with patents and lawsuits — the worst kind of extractive capitalism.

3. The American Midwest
I… don’t really have an opinion on this. I actually had to look up what the Midwest is. I’ve never been even near it.

Unexpected Topics meme

Let’s do a curious unexpected topics meme.
Those who wish to participate will say so, and I will give them three topics, or spheres of interests, which I think they are not interested in, or maybe I would be even surprised to learn that they have an affinity with.
It would be curious to learn who will be more surprised, those who hear what people think they are not interested in or cannot do, or those who learn that their expectations of people are either incorrect or spot on.

I got my topics from tabular_rasa:

I’ve read a bit of fanfiction, but I can’t say it’s much of a factor in my life. Unless you consider the ‘fiction’ that emerges from a roleplaying game in a setting that existed before the RPG as fanfiction — then I’m a huge fanfiction (co-)author! I’ve played in Star Wars, Star Trek and a really large number of Middle-Earth games. I’ve preserved some of it in the form of session reports, which are kind-of like fanfiction — though written more with the intent to record what happened rather than make a story that is pleasing to read.

Opera (the music/performance genre)
I’m not a big fan, because I have trouble following the narrative. I’m apparently big on narrative, and if I have to read a book that explains it to me before I go see the opera itself, then there is not really a point in me going to see it.
We visited a lot of castles in Bavaria in 2016, and some of the most memorable ones were built by King Ludwig II. Ludwig was a big fan of the operas of Wagner, and it shows. Most impressive was the ‘reproduction’ (for lack of a better word) of the Venus Grotto from the opera Tannhauser at Linderhof castle. I find it fascinating that someone can be so inspired by something that does not really factor for me.

From the road, the area where we live in seems like mostly concrete and stone, but in between the houses is a lot of park-land, with a lot of ponds that are all connected. There’s quite a few people fishing there, some with gear that looks pretty ‘professional’ to me. I know there are quite big fish in the ponds: once I saw a guy posing with a huge carp next to the edge of the pond — presumably just caught.
I don’t like fishing, but I do see the appeal of being quiet and sitting still, alone with your thoughts. Some of the fishers that I see around the ponds are in groups, drinking beers, and I kinda see the appeal there too — but that has little to do with fishing itself.

New bank

Last week, the news broke that my bank (ING) is going to scan through your statements to give you personalised advertisements. (Link is in Dutch, since this is a Dutch bank.)
I am vehemently opposed to this: not only should a bank stay out of my business if they are not explicitly invited to do so, but the very concept of personalised advertisements is exactly the vector that is used to erode our privacy and to deliver fascism to the world. To put it mildly: I am not a fan.
Yes, you can turn it off (the idiots even made it opt-out instead of opt-in!), but I’ve had enough. I’m going to switch banks. Switching banks could be a hassle, but there is a handy switching service that almost all banks are a part of, so that should be relatively painless.

In the Netherlands, we have two banks that profile themselves as ‘good’ banks, with respect for people and the environment. Banks that, for instance, do not invest in weapons manufacturers. One of those is Triodos, which is an independent bank — which I like, because the profits do not go to a larger banking conglomerate that does not share the values of the ‘good’ bank. So I took a peek at the “Fair Money Guide” (again, in Dutch) which is a cooperation between organisations promoting human rights, the environment and workers’ rights to rank the banks operating in the Netherlands against several criteria.
I took a look at the scores of Triodos, and it all looked quite decent. So I announced my intention to move to Triodos on Twitter and started the process to apply for an account.

And then a colleague pointed out that the ASN Bank scored slightly better than Triodos on many things. But the ASN is part of a larger bank (de Volksbank, which is state-owned after the government had to bail them out during the banking crisis), so I had my concerns. The ASN Twitter account actually replied to this conversation to point out that all three labels of de Volksbank follow the same principles — so the conglomerate as a whole is ‘good’.
Digging a bit deeper, there was all kinds of strange stuff coming up about Triodos. For instance, they’re based on anthroposophic principles. I love the accompanying architecture (I’ve did some work for a client who were housed in an office built on anthroposophic principles and I loved it there), but the mysticism I like… decidedly less. And it turns out that Triodos finances things like “Homeopaths without Borders” (like Docters without Borders, but then bringing quackery to those in need instead of actual medicine), or a homophobic evangelical group.

That’s not my definition of ‘good’, to say the least.

So I’m in the process of applying for an ASN account. I will literally put my money where my mouth is.