Thursday, December 11, 2014

Politician - Nenshi on Bill 10

Politician - Nenshi on Bill 10

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had the following, oustanding piece of oratory to say on the much derided Bill 10 of late:

“I pitch this city across Canada, and when I make that pitch, it may surprise you to know, I always get the same question. And I bet that question is going to surprise you, because you live here and you wouldn’t think this is a question.

“And the question I always get is: ‘Is Calgary welcoming? Is it homophobic? Is it racist? Is it diverse? Will not only I be accepted, but will my friends be accepted?’

“And, of course, I always say: ‘Look at me. I’m the mayor. We’re very welcoming, and for the vast majority of us, this place – our home – is the absolute epitome of meritocracy, of multiculturalism, of pluralism, of support, and of success.’

“But, I’ve got to tell you, the last couple of weeks in the provincial legislature have not made my job any easier.

“This damaging and hateful debate that we’ve been having in the provincial legislature around Bill 202 and Bill 10 does nothing but reinforce negative stereotypes.

“Two weeks ago, a member of the legislative assembly got up and proposed a bill that said any kid in school can set up a club and suddenly our provincial legislators – in a time when the price of oil is dropping, in a time when our infrastructure needs are extraordinary, in a time when we have urban and regional issues that we’ve got to get more done on – spent two weeks talking about what club a kid in school can join or not.
“How ridiculous is that?

“How additionally ridiculous is it that we know that these clubs help kids stay safe?
“We know that these clubs prevent suicide, among a group where one third of the kids attempt suicide, and we have the gall to say: ‘We have to balance off your rights.’ That your rights don’t include the right to be safe? To have support to prevent you from attempting suicide?

“What kind of a world do we live in here?

“So thank you very much to the premier – who is a good guy – for putting the brakes on this thing, and putting this thing on pause, because what was happening was dangerous. By saying not all rights are absolute, the government seemed to be saying that our children don’t have the right to be safe. That’s not right. That’s not fair.

“I could go on. OK, I will.

“If we say that we live in a city where we were thinking it would be OK for a 15-year-old to appear before a judge to ask the judge if the 15-year-old can start a club in his school that no one would be forced to belong to, well folks, that would the Scopes Monkey Trial of Alberta.

“We would end up having international attention toward what kinds of hillbillies we are. None of us need that.

“Today is the day for us to say, straight out, that we are indeed welcoming, that we are indeed working hard to make sure that every single person can succeed here, because that is the core of our strength.

“And I’m going to say something else to you, and I’m going to get political for a second, and I rarely get political, as you know. And, by the way, I hate it when the province talks about municipal issues, and so I’ve been holding my tongue on this for a while, but in the end we have to talk about humanity, and we have to talk about human-rights issues and what makes our place successful.

“We often hear people talk about why they vote, and sometimes we vote because we don’t believe or we do believe in a certain tax. Sometimes we vote to protect our narrow self-interests.

“But this conversation that we’ve had over the last couple of weeks gives us a very interesting reason to vote, because sometimes, we’ve got to vote just for what’s right. We’ve got to vote for the kind of community we want. We’ve got to vote for our dreams.

“And this would be a wonderful opportunity for you to let your MLAs know that your vote is available, that your vote is available for people who are committed to making Calgary and Alberta welcoming to everyone, to make sure that everyone – no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from, no matter whom they worship, no matter how they love – has the opportunity to live a great life right here.

“And that we will vote for that community. And that we will vote for that community that we want. And tell your MLA to do the right thing by these kids.”

Sunday, December 7, 2014

For Better or For Worse - The Writer

For Better or For Worse - The Writer

How wild your imagination becomes if someone you love is late coming home. You’re sure they’re safe, but…what if? What if your family is one of those about whom the headlines are written? After all, it’s the luck of the draw. Nobody is absolutely secure. Bad things can happen to any of us. In your mind, you go from imagining fatal accidents to acts of violence to kidnapping — all the stuff you see in the movies. Perhaps what we do is prepare ourselves for the worst. Maybe this is a good exercise, but it’s often far too stressful and far too frightening.

When folks ask how writers come up with so many weird ideas, I use the "missing at night" scenario to explain: Give yourself a situation in which you have no control, something that could go in any direction — this is when your writer’s hat goes on. You want to resolve the situation now; you want to be able to handle whatever happens, and so you let your imagination loose. The next thing you know, you are in the mind of a writer. One small idea bubbles into another. Could there have been an accident?

You visualize this awful possibility: the car, the people inside. Are they on a roadside? In the water? Soon, you’re bringing in sirens — an ambulance and police to the scene. You go from imagining the accident to living through the aftermath: the hospital, the anguish, the lives on the line. You argue with nurses, you fight for the right to know. You call relatives and tell them the news. You wait for the recovery, or you plan for the wake. This is how a writer works; even though you’re telling a story, you feel as though it’s real.

For a writer, imagination is a gift. For someone who is waiting and wondering, it’s a nuisance. The good thing is, by the time you reach the most agonizing chapter in your imaginary scenario, your missing person shows up and you have nothing to show for your night of woe but relief. And…isn’t that a great way for this all to end?

-Lynn Johnston

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Incognita - Iceheart

Incognita - Iceheart

Flip was working late into the night. Which was not unusual in any sense. His Alchemy lab was bustling with activity, even as the moon rose towards midnight. Borico the transmuter mulled over a trio of bubbling cauldrons, the contents of which should have been unpleasant, but somehow gave off the scent of warm mulled wine. Hafiz was studying the bone totems on a workbench, and Mikaela the cleric was scribing scrolls, sitting at a desk surrounded by open tomes.

For himself, Flip had taken over a pair of workbenches, tomes were neatly arrayed out wards and a small magical circle had been painted in flowing ink on a silken roll of parchment. A glittering sliver of ice floated a handful of inches above the circle, sending a dancing cascade of light in all directions while he worked.

While he had never been much of one for assistants or peers, Flip was somewhat fond of the feeling of magics going on around him. It reminded him of the time he spent in the army, amongst other artillery mages. It had been a kind of school, or camp in the training days. Mages swapping stories, reading and researching, trying to one up each other with new and strange trappings into arcane power.

There was a certain hierarchy to magedom that outsiders did not appreciate. The trappings of being learned imbued them with a strict sense of deference amongst peerage, and the three casters often deferred to him in matters of magical study. Not that he cared overmuch for what they sought to do, but it was reassuring.

Flip and the others were given only the barest of warnings from Manor, “Sir, Kelwyn the Cleric appr-” before the Lab door swung open and a chill breeze invaded their workroom. The serenity of the room and its work was shattered by the chatty human.

“I’m back! You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get ice at this time of night, Flip!”

The cleric’s arms were laden with a pair of wooden crates, dressed heavily with chill linen and what the mage knew were massive blocks of ice.

“I suppose I would not, but you will tell me I am sure.” commented Flip dryly.

“I went to a tavern first to see if they would part with any, but they wouldn’t, so they recommended I try an Inn, and I couldn’t just go, so I had a drink first, and then met these men who had dice…”

Mikaela looked up then. “Are you...drunk Kelwyn?”

The cleric had the good sense to look at least a little sheepish. “No! Well, no. I had a drink or two, but then I said to myself...Flip is waiting for that ice! I had better get going! So I went off-”

Flip cut in without looking up. “Put the change on my workbench, and the ice in the holding container.”

Now the cleric went a bit red. “There...uhh there wasn’t any change sir.”

Now Flip turned his head from studying his tome. “There...was no change?”

The cleric looked anywhere except at the Mage. Hafiz intently ducked his head down at the totem, and both Mikaela and Borico attempted to look very busy right then. “Uhh. No. *Ahem. Sir.”

Flip stood upright, still balanced evenly on his stool before the workbench, he crossed his arms. “You took five gold pieces, and returned with four litres of ice wrapped in linen?”

“Uh. Yes."

“So that would make it almost thirteen silver pieces a litre for water?”

This time, the cleric kept his mouth shut.

“That water, was it blessed by a priest then? Maybe by the archdeacon himself? Maybe it came from an elvish-sanctuary stream? Or from the old world, kept in a cask of ivory?”

“Uh, no….Flip. It was hard to get at this time of night...though.” The cleric mustered.

“Ah of course. The one single inn, in the whole city that has ice. Of course, how foolish of me. Well here is what we will do…”

Now everyone tried to look extremely busy.

“We are going to keep this ice, carefully keep it. And I am going to go to that inn, and burn it into the ground, right down to the very stones. And we shall have a monopoly on ice in this entire city and can sell it for a hundred gold pieces a litre. Yes? Does that sound like a good plan? This is an excellent plan if I do say so myself.”

Then the halfling hopped off his stool, a swirl of latent fiery magic cascaded around him as he made for the door. Finally Kelwyn snapped out of it, fright painted on his face. “No! Sir I’m sorry I gambled away the change.”

The room went deathly still.

Flip turned, and his face was unreadable.

“Ah. All things are clear now.”

The halfling approached Kelwyn then, it would have been an almost comical sight, the tiny halfling and the human, being led almost genially to the workbench. “Do you know why I asked for more Ice?”

Kelwyn was bewildered at the turn in emotions of the halfling, and could only stammer out, “A new...uh spell you are working on?”

“Yes! A new spell! Excellent. I will demonstrate!”

Then the halfling raised his left hand, his fingers rippled and the swirl of magical weave surrounded him. Everyone watched spellbound, Flip’s mastery over evocation was mesmerizing, a kind of deadly artist at work in ways similar to fire spinners or sword swallowers. With a wave of his hand, the wards surrounding the floating sliver of ice vanished, but before it could tumble, the sliver shimmered once, brightly.

Flip’s magic coaxed the shard, there could be no other word for it. As though the mage had but asked politely and touched the points and placements that he wanted. And with a savage suddenness, the shard cascaded outwards, a thousand sharp and jagged points of glistening ice exploded forth, like some form of twisted snowflake it expanded in an eyeblink. The force of it splintered the workbench, a tendril sent a lantern flying, and the room dropped by ten degrees in a moment.

Where there had been that sliver of ice, now was a person sized ball of icy spikes that radiated outwards with wicked intent. Had there been a creature anywhere near the workbench, they would’ve surely been impaled at least a dozen times on the hardened tines.

Flip smiled, “I call it Iceheart”.

Kelwyn shivered.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Drabble - On Humans

Drabble - On Humans

"Where there are men and women with things that others want, there shall be conflict in the pursuit of the taking or copying of those things."

That belief implies that humans are inherently covetous and evil.  What if we change our paradigm of thought and ask an important question.  Can that Envy be turned to Respect?

What would the world look like if it was?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Writing - Incognita: Flip, Interrogation of a Prisoner

Writing - Incognita: Flip, Interrogation of a Prisoner

If anyone noted one more Halfling hedge wizard than usual in the docks of The Maw, it was unlikely they would’ve spoken on it.  After all, the flood of refugees had thrown the usually ordered, rocky harbour into a sense of disarray in the past few months.  Flip was adept at navigating the crowds, utilizing his mage hand and subtle applications of freezing winds around him, he managed to craft a bubble of space which pushed the press of bodies.  Somewhere behind Fyarr had been distracted by giving healing blessings to the rabble, but Flip pushed forward unhindered.

Instructions that had been given to him were clear, and he abruptly turned down an alleyway between buildings.  Another turn and the stone walls pressed ever closer, until he came upon a nondescript wooden door, carefully set.  He approached and rapped once upon the wall alongside it, careful to not trip the magical markings on the step.

“What’s the password?” a muffled voice from within.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Game Design - Tiny Moments

Game Design - Tiny Moments

I've been designing games around singular moments for the last two months.  In the depths of night, completely alone, with only hand crafted assets around single things.  I've been designing small games, tiny, infinitesimally small, unpolished games, usually one a week.  A lot of them are exercises.  To make sure I still know how to code in Game Maker, Flash and Unity.  Sometimes they are about figuring out how to do one little thing, dynamically dealing with specific problems or solving specific ideas.

Sometimes though, I make a tiny little game, because there's an idea that needs to get out.  It encompasses everything I do when I walk home, or to work.  I think about it while I eat lunch, I sketch it in the margins of my notebooks, I recite the lines of text or ideas of the game to myself while I listen to music.  It has to get out.

So I build a tiny little game.

This one is called Crosshair.

It's very simple.  You're a soldier on the back of a jeep, you have a machine gun, a .50 cal mounted to the back.  You're in an urban environment, and you have a spotter.  Your spotter designates possible targets, you swing around your crosshairs and sweep the street to check for the target possibilities.

45 seconds in, between the 4th and 5th target possibility you get a call out on the alley to the left.  The instant you swing over there, your crosshairs fix on a young Iraqi girl of 5.  She freezes.  Her mother appears behind her.  She also freezes.  As long as the crosshairs are pointed at them, they stay frozen.  You get text, and chatter, voice over, information...but as long as you stay pointed at them, they stay frozen.  If you point it away, but where they are going, they stay frozen.  You can only disengage and point it straight up, and you won't see them then, but they'll run across the screen and leave.

The game takes just over a minute.  The 'game'.  It's not really a game.  It's just a moment.

You're in full control.

I needed to make this.  And I'll never release it.  Ever.

I've been making tiny games, about super tiny little moments.

I'm not sure if it's for my sanity, or everyone else's.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Announcement - Desert Bus

Announcement - Desert Bus

It's Desert Bus time again!  Updates will be sparse, but if you want to tune in to an awesome charity that every year raises money to buy games and entertainment for sick children in hospitals, then you should go check out Desert Bus!

Desert Bus!