Categories
food

Gluten Free Honeycakes

I’ve pretty much abandoned the recipe blog these days, so this can go here.

Preheat the oven to about 160c

Grease three loaf tins or theoretically a bundt tin if you’ve got one.

Make the things:

In a small jug, mix: A fresh cup of coffee, 1 teaspoon baking soda

In a medium bowl, mix: 2.5 cups gluten-free flour, 2tsp baking powder if your GF flour isn’t self-raising, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 of each of ginger and nutmeg. The latter will mostly get drowned by the honey, so more if you like nutmeg.

In a large bowl (or your mixer’s bowl if you’ve got one) add: A couple of eggs, a cup and a half of sugar (I use 2:1 ratio of white to brown sugar), 3/4 cup of oil (Fancy tasty oil if you like, or just sunflower oil or something), a cup of honey (and some more for luck), half a lemon of juice. Beat this up until it’s smooth.

A mixer mixing mixily

This bit’s easier if you’ve got a mixer: add some of the coffee mix to the liquid mix, beat it until integrated, then add some of the flour mix, and alternate each until you run out and it’s all one colour. Slowly does it, this doesn’t need airing. It’ll come out as an unattractive sloppy liquid.

Pour into the tin/s, put into the oven for an hour or so, then test every ten minutes until a sharp knife or skewer comes out of the middle clean.

After cooling, dust with some icing sugar to make it look pretty, because the extra sugar’s not going to matter at this stage. If you feel the need to frost or sandwich-cake it, you’ll want a slightly less sweet frosting mix. More carrot-cake style than victoria sponge.

How this works depends a lot on the honey, I find a less sweet honey works really well (it’s got enough sugar that it’s still going to hit the sweetness either way), but it’s quite easy to tilt it towards a more honey-gingerbread which works really well too. It’s not a pedantic recipe, and you can fiddle with the core concepts a lot before you’ll get something that doesn’t work as a cake. My electric fan oven reliably does three loaf tins in an hour, but previous ovens have taken nearly two with juggling of positioning of each loaf tin. Milage will vary.

 

 

Categories
Humour

Twenty times I have posted on Facebook without context

“And we shall go create our *own* Facebook group! With blackjack, and hookers. In fact, forget the Facebook group!”
September 18, 2013 at 09:35PM

Today’s moment of panic bought to you by “No, wait, wrong bank account”.
May 07, 2014 at 09:42AM

I read the comments. I should know better.
May 09, 2014 at 08:11AM

Today I am a poor physrep for a functional person.
May 27, 2014 at 12:05PM

It’s annoying when someone who is supposed to be keeping a secret blabs it in the form of an oh-so-subtle facebook thought experiment. On an unrelated note, I’m trying to track down a complete set of non-legal currency, so if anyone has any of the old “Charles Darwin” 1992 “Series E” ten pound notes, please email me.
August 31, 2014 at 12:47AM

Beware of geeks bearing specifics.
October 16, 2014 at 04:22PM

..and now it’s 2am, and I think I just used the phrase “part of a cultural neglection of non-punk in STEM industries” in a shirtgate argument. Sleep is almost certainly wise.

Today is brought to you by moral absolutism, the number n, the letter 8, and the soft sounds of falling shards after the shattering of peace

Today is mostly filled with a deep and abiding horror that it isn’t even Wednesday yet.

Today is a thousand papercuts. Of a year’s work being sliced and diced into a smooth paste for ease of feeding to the stupid and lazy; of thousands of lines of badly made code; of communities that have to stretch and peer up to see as far as decency; of a wider world intent destruction. Partly, it’s brainweasels turning all lights to grey, I know. Some days are just harder to fight than others.

Could whoever summoned me, with whatever five items they used, please reverse the ritual. It’s dark and cold here, and my batteries are running low.
December 30, 2013 at 11:41PM

Today’s accidental new phrase is from the Guardian, and is “solidarity confinement”
January 17, 2014 at 12:42PM

I swear, if computer geeks were car geeks, “How do I change the oil in my car” would get the response “Have you tried getting a Toyota?”
January 27, 2014 at 05:27PM

Exane statuses are like inane statuses, but more informative.
January 21, 2014 at 05:17PM

Note: You cannot checkbox your privilege.
April 13, 2014 at 09:33PM

Achievement unlocked: fell backwards off of treadmill
July 22, 2014 at 10:08AM

Achievement unlocked: discovered showers in gym are motion activated. While clothed.
July 22, 2014 at 10:34AM

Today’s reading on the “Is general society accepting of mental health issues?”-o-meter is a record “Not even fucking slightly”. I do wonder why I ever bought it, perhaps it’s broken.

Categories
Uncategorized

VLog: Nineworlds 2017

Categories
RPG

The Auspicious Cycle: Part 2: The Leyton Buzzard

In our previous instalment, the party (and me) had gone through the Unknown Armies universe generation process, and come out of it with characters and a world, but not really a direction.

A pack of gold playing cards, a box of index cards, a box of blank business-style cards and envelopes they fit in, two sets of percentile (d%) dice
The GM’s minor stationery habit

Without an Objective, I decided the first session should be a prologue to get everyone (including me, having not GMd this before) used to the mechanics, and lead the players up to something I hoped to lead towards defining their first objective. Building on the pitch document, I created a fairly tropey “I’ll tell you what’s going on, but only after you’ve [Killed ten rats]” quest given by a Sleepers cell leader, involving a non-euclidean house to explore that had some specific targets for character skill sets, then dropped a couple of hints to the larger universe in it. To nobody’s great surprise, my GM style defaults to infocom-style (Well, kind of more Magnetic Scrolls) block-text for locations, some notes on possible outcomes and then winging it from there. I put the house in an area of London I used to live in (Leyton) and then named the quest NPC “James Buzzard” purely for the pun in the title.

The first real session went significantly better than I’d expected. Our final player – who couldn’t make the universe building session – built their character while I ran the first two thirds of the prologue, and then I was able to add them to the party (with a minimum of railroading). There are a couple of skill checks that I’m not sure I got right, and a coercion that I’m fairly sure I fluffed completely, but they hit the finale – the exposition and deciding of one of two no-good-options objectives just as we had planned to end. This means my content planning was slightly short, but as I’d under-budgeted chargen time ended up working out quite well.

I’m not generally going to be posting my GM notes here, but since the prologue was a fairly simple setup they found all of, Session 1 Notes.

A screenshot of Scrivener, my current campaign manager

The GM notes for UA recommends keeping NPC cards as index cards and not needing to look everything up on a computer, which always takes longer than you think; so my canonical reference for the NPCs in the world is some index cards. In the same recommendations set, it suggests adding photos for major NPCs, which I’ve done. This has worked well not only as an aide for me, but a good first-impressions guide for the players. But the contents of the cards, as well as my notes on the PCs, locations and sessions (as well as these GM diary things), are in the novel-writing app Scrivener, because it’s kind of designed for this kind of universe-indexing, and allows me to keep a virtual binder of information that syncs to my various devices.

The session went quite well, we hit the marks. I ended up throwing some hints and minor railroading to get the final character in the group, and then again to the point of exposition, and we ended the session with the decision of what Objective to follow.

The players – in backstory – released a dark miasma upon their borough of London, causing economic and social bleakness, which for various reasons is tied to the borders of Eldwick (the borough). The recently elected council are reworking borough borders, which will break the cage and allow it to spread to the rest of London and perhaps further. The characters were given the option of stopping the borders being broken, or doing something about the Miasma. They chose the latter.

New Objective: Contain the Miasma: 0%

Session 1 ends.

Categories
Apple computing Humour

Hello, Computer?

This is a series zero Apple Watch, charging on my nightstand because I forgot to do so last night. It’ll last a couple of days, but I try to stay in the habit of charging it overnight. Has touch display and voice commands.


This is a Seiko analogue watch, a christmas present from my parents a decade or so ago. It was my daily-wear watch until switched to smart watches.

Notably, it doesn’t respond when you ask it to turn the lights up, or set a timer.


This is Scotty attempting to talk to a PC through a mouse or, as I like to call it, a tableau of my morning.

 

Categories
RPG

Auspicious Cycle Part 1: Starting A New Game

One of the reasons for the slowdown in blogging stuff has been the number of things I’m doing that I don’t really blog about. One of those things is that I’m getting more into Tabletop RPG, especially running games. Recently I read and fell in lust for the new edition of Unknown Armies, a setting and system that runs on the tropes of Urban Fantasy & Horror, vast magics, personal relationships and health. It’s a brand new – and extensive – revision of the game, so there aren’t many existing guides to how it’s “supposed” to work. Some people have expressed interest in the process of creating and running the game, so this exists.

These are being posted some weeks after the session they’re about, because they’ll go into a bit of detail around how I built encounters, and I don’t want to affect the actual game that much. For the same reason, the metaplot will only be revealed as the players find it.

Unknown Armies is a weird setup for a game. There are aspects of an official setting, elements that exist in the world, bits of the metaverse, but the GM book – “Run” of the three book base set “Play”, “Run” and “Reveal” – goes through a detailed method of generating characters and a collaborative setting to put them in. It turns out – to nobody’s great surprise – that I’m a bit too much of a story-teller/control-freak to follow that completely, so I started off with a basic concept for a world with the expectation that if the players ended up circling around something I could either bend it to fit around them or abandon them for something else. These were a couple of ideas about the state of the “Cosmic” level (ie, the metaphysic), and a trigger at the Local level (the city the characters grew up in). The entirety of the local level was caused by seeing some solid-gold playing cards on Amazon, and buying a (cheaper) version. I then wrote a hook microfiction, and asked my Facebook feed if anyone was interested.

I was mildly surprised by how many people were.

Another game I’m involved in got put on hiatus as I was doing this, and I ended up giving the first few players from that who expressed interest first refusal, as well as my primary partner, primarily because I knew they’d have the same evening free. Wanting to keep my first GM attempt in A Long Time to a smaller group, I wasn’t able to invite the whole of the previous game to mine, and then failed to communicate well enough to avoid that looking like an exclusion. Lesson learned there is to either be more transparent or more opaque about finding people for games. A couple of my players had played previous editions, but none had touched 3rd Edition Unknown Armies.

Before the planning session I asked the players to fill out a Google Forms version of Bankeui’s Same Page Tool, to make sure our expectations weren’t vastly out of whack.

The initial list of features of the game that the party were interested in

As I alluded to above, UA’s campaigns are a little more structured than most. The Run guide has a process for generating a world collaboratively with your players, the party then set an Objective. Sessions generally work towards completing that objective in mechanical form (succeeding nets you X% towards the goal, when you hit 100% you do the thing), and the Run guide starts with getting rough concepts for characters and then digging in to details and stats and universe links as the first session goes on. This worked fairly well, although relies a bit on circular knowledge, you need have a solid concept going in for the process to work well. The players settled on a shared backstory – an Incident during a shared sixth-form video project – and some paths for who they’d grown into in the ten years since.

Initial notes on the character party

The UA process brings with it locations and background NPCs, and in the end we got to most characters 4/5 complete, and one mostly in notes form. The universe had some locations and NPCs as defined in character backgrounds, and at the start of the next session we filled in those. We didn’t really get deep enough to define an objective for the group, though.

I’ve put the resulting initial universe (slightly retconned to add the character who joined during the prologue) up on Google Drive.

The collaborative game building system in Run worked well for creating a sketched out universe to go through, but as I say, it kind of needs a paradoxical combination of going in with a strong concept and a balanced party, but without the players having built out those characters at all so you can workshop the details. You also kind of need to know the game to some depth to be able to steer towards a good objective, which makes it hard to bootstrap people new to the game.

So we had a universe, some characters, and a vague idea of what to do next.

Next up: the first actual gameplay session.

(Header Image: A photo of London (from the Shard) tinted a menacing gold, original photo by Henry Be on Unsplash)

Categories
events Larp

Unconventional: A report from Nineworlds

My day bag and nineworlds convention badge

I went into my first Nineworlds with few expectations. Primarily it was an expensive way to see a lot of people I generally only see in fields and scout camps up and down the country while LARPing, secondarily it was a place of interesting information sharing, and thirdly it was investigative, to see how they run and what systems they have in place that I can recommend to other large events I am – or will be – involved with.

I also was planning on doing it as a vidlog thing, and on the journey and up to the convention actually opening shot some footage and monologues towards that end, but once things actually started I didn’t have a lot to say between the sessions, so a vidlog would have been “Aquarion arrives. Aquarion announces intentions. Con happens. Shots of leaving”. So words instead, unpopular as they are.

I am really bad at conventions, it turns out. My major experiences have been Worldcon and early Discworld Cons, and I find them really isolating. Time gets split between talking to my friends and people I know, catching up, swapping stories, hanging out; and going off to see panels or do our own thing, where I find myself surrounded by people I don’t know in a place I’m not familiar with, and my head tends to get eaten by its own demons. My enjoyment of the con, therefore, was only marginally affected by the convention itself, and largely by unrelated or reflected issues and stresses.

Nineworlds is a convention dominated by the liberal edges of the left wing, a place built on personal freedoms of gender, sexuality, social justice, safe spaces and accessibility. It’s a convention where you are encouraged to label your attendance badge with your preferred pronouns, where the cabaret acts declare their hobbies to be smashing the patriarchy and get the expected cheers, and where everyone is generally free to be the best versions of themselves. Anecdotally, it’s also one of the largest gatherings I’ve been in without observable incidents of public exceptional drunkenness (this may be linked to the venue being in a central London hotel, where getting to that level of inebriation would require significant investment). The staff were friendly and helpful (even the hotel staff, who took a lot of weirdness in their stride, and even occasionally joined in), and the ducks appeared to glide through the water, no matter how frantically the invisible paddling was going.

It’s still a fairly hard community to be a part of, personally. Because I look and sound like a large percentage of everything most hated, it’s hard to accept the generalisations as not being aimed, it’s hard to hear the non-optional identities I hold being held to account for the predominant problems of the world. Even if I don’t wish anyone to moderate their language – the words are still broadly true, and I do not need the reassurance of the personal exception every time – it interacts with the least pleasant bits of my subconscious to reduce my calm. Since this is my problem and not anyone elses’, I didn’t end up going to a lot of the panels on social issues, because it didn’t seem comfortable. It led to missing a few sessions I was interested in.

I didn’t have a great experience with the panels, really. A number that didn’t get anywhere need specific issues due to everyone wanting to personally comment on the wider – and generally accepted as bad – more general issues led to an experience of being preached to as a choir. Polemics on institutional issues, rather than discussion around solutions for local instances. Partly, that’s a sign of the current political climate, but it made some panels feel like a series of small audio-visual blog posts rather than a discussion panel.

That said, I enjoyed immensely a lot of the talks and workshops that I attended.

(If you are a content creator and have found this blog post, this isn’t detailed feedback, and I apologise if it reads harsh, it’s 5am as I write)

Friday

Penn’s Access: Larp workshop – Writing Accessible Plot for LARP – kicked off my Nineworlds experience, as a group of us worked through how stories can be told in LARP without sidelining or erasing characters whose players have difficulties with access, movement or comprehension. Not only solving it on a plot by plot basis, but institutionally setting different ways of interacting with the major events of the game into the foundations of how you tell the stories, to allow everyone a chance to have their spotlight time.

I’ll admit that I went into “What is the “Hacker Mindset”? An Illustrated Example Using Watch_Dogs.” with a … hearty level of scepticism, it turned out to be not what I expected, a rapid talk about “Hacker” culture in the 2660 – and movie – sense of accessing data you shouldn’t be allowed to, delivered by an experienced penetration tester (someone employed to find the weaknesses in corporate infrastructure;  technical, architectural and social). Towards the end it lent on its central metaphor a bit hard – becoming less “How Hackers use lateral thinking to find holes in structure” to the more specific “I am awesome at Watch_Dogs because I found a way to clip through this wall”.

Who’s That Audience? – The Audience and Creator Relationship I went into because I recognised a couple of the names on the panel, and while it did occasionally drift from the topic into the less solvable “Isn’t twitter awful” it was interesting to hear different strategies on how to keep private and public opinions, how to avoid (or encourage) your audience from swinging at targets at your behalf, and that kind of thing.

Then I had lunch and went to the Steven Universe Singalong. Because the songs are good and I like it, so there.

Questing Time is basically live Dungeons and Dragons (a rules-light implementation of D&D 5), in this case an adventure where the party were working at a fantasy convention called DragonCon (not that one), and had to rescue the newly announced 13th Proctor (who was the first female to take the role) from being sacrificed by Tonald Drumph to Baaaaal. There was a bear called Ben. Watching funny people play D&D was more fun than I thought it would be, especially with a light-hearted but heavily referential adventure (it ended with Drumph being killed by with his own hair). Apparently it’s a show they’re also running at Edinburgh Fringe this year. If you get a chance to see it, I’d recommend it.

Doctor Magnethands is apparently a staple of nineworlds, a more improv-based storytelling system where the heroes (the panel) attempt to defeat Doctor Magnethands (the lead) who has summoned minions to defeat them (The audience) who are randomly named by some kind of crazy satirical concept generator (also the audience), who are rewarded for their efforts (the vodka). At its heights, it was like a good episode of the goon show.

Saturday

I went to a panel on Access in entertainment, fandom and LARP. I learnt about access problems in music gigs, front and back stage, for people with mobility issues (and wheelchairs in specific).

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? was a panel by the Tech crew about tech-ing nineworlds. It was funny and informative, but I think the best bit were the Skippy’s List slides, which I got shots of all but one of. Presented below

Then I missed a few things I wanted to go to because they were full, and then instead of going to the thing I was planning on I followed some friends into the Original Poetry Open Mic session, where I proceeded to read a thing I wrote into a microphone in front of live actual people, something I’ve not done in.. possibly a decade. It was terrifying. Nobody killed me. I’m still not good at poetry.

After that I spent the evening hanging out with friends. There was a disco on in the background.

Sunday

Starting my morning with a light and fluffy panel, I went to The Future of Nineworlds, a panel with the director and show-runner about how the convention happens and where it might happen yet. Apparently last year’s expansion was a bit expensive and they didn’t recoup it back, so future cons may be in cheaper places.

To close out my Nineworlds experience, I went to things on the other topic I came for, How To Do The Writing Thing.

AC Macklin‘s talk on Different Techniques of POV and the effect they have on the reader was really interesting, mostly as a light-bulb of doing things deliberately and specifically rather than “what seems right”, which is my usual POV technique. I didn’t take enough notes, so I’m now stalking her blog for the promised copies of the slides…

Last, Edit As You Go v Blast Through to The End: Finishing Your First Novel was probably the best panel I attended all event. Each of the four authors had a different approach to creating and editing, from “Edit as I go” through “Outline the everliving fuck out of it, then write” to “Give yourself permission to be bad, and just write it” and edit later. All of these were for how to write novels in general, but they rounded back often to the specific topic – get to the end of your first novel – with a rough consensus of “Barrel through it to then end”. It made me want to write more things.

The End

The sheer number of my friends that I saw at this event was staggering. People I haven’t seen since I move out of London, or Hackney; people who I basically only ever see while playing someone else; people I’ve met in passing recently and only really got to know this last weekend. The convention items were good, the general ambience and sense of doing things was fun, but the best part of the weekend for me was spending hour on hour talking to people I like and care about, who I don’t see often enough. That alone makes me consider pre-booking my ticket to Nineworlds 2018 next year on spec.

It even makes me tempted to help run things at Nineworlds next year.

So stop me from doing that, I think.