Exploring the wasteland in a red dress

I’m just finishing a playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas, which I bought when it came on sale as a bundle with all the DLC — none of which I’d played my first time through. In this playthrough, I’m playing a female Courier (I’ve long said that if I always choose playing a woman in the games I get that give me the choice, I might come close to 40% female representation!). I have just completed Dead Money, during which playthrough I obtained Dean Domino’s tuxedo — on him, it’s a three piece with bowtie and albeit dirty, still looks damn dapper after two hundred years of consecutive use by its previous ghoul owner.

I put it on my Courier, and like the formal wear the tuxedo is based on, it becomes a pink dress. It’s still CALLED “Dean’s Tuxedo”, mind. But nothing in this game is more jarring than taking a piece of armour off of someone and having it appear completely different when you try to wear it yourself. Something similar would happen if I was playing a male Courier and I tried to wear Vera’s rose-adorned dress. Suddenly, it’s a red and black tuxedo, looking nothing like the piece of fabric I picked off that skeleton.

Today, I saw rumblings that apparently that sort of clothing metamorphosis will no longer happen in Fallout 4, which should have been a happy improvement in the series. That news was incidental, though, obvious only in a segment of trailer displaying a burly male protagonist playing dress-up for his dog through a series of bad-ass and silly outfits then suddenly the outfit is “red dress with a sledgehammer over one shoulder”. (At 9 seconds in, so you don’t have to wait long.)


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Sally Strange and Burning Bridges: Why You Should Support a New Blog Network

ETA: The fundraiser is actually over. Here’s their Patreon page instead, so you can be a recurring contributor if you’d like.

I’m sure you all know Sally Strange, who frequents these parts and is a staple of the commentariat even here. She and a number of other bloggers are building a blog network to represent some classes of voice that don’t often get heard, and asked me to throw in what meagre support I have to offer. And they have already — before launching — met with an overt attempt at scuttling their plans.

8chan, where the nastiest parts of chan culture re-settled after even 4chan started turning their noses up at their inhumane doxxing, SWATting and harassment, got wind and are already in the process of attacking the Indiegogo campaign and the bloggers for whom it would benefit.

They deserve our support and a shot at making their voices heard. They deserve the chance to speak, rather than to be silenced by this hate mob who attack them “for the lulz”.

Here’s Sally’s plea.
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Secular Students Week: Ferris State

Guest by Corrine Staten of Secular Student Alliance, raising funds for the organization from June 10th through 17th.

I’m Corrine Staten, the Vice President of the Secular Student Alliance of Ferris State University in Michigan. Last semester, our group held an Interfaith Panel at the end of the semester that featured representatives from Christianity, Islam, and atheism. These sorts of interfaith events are so important to destigmatize secular people.

It was our flagship event for the semester, with multiple speakers, so we were prepared for it to be awesome, but it blew away our expectations. We had over 250 people show up! It lasted over two hours, which was as long as we had the room for, and would have gone longer but we were forced to leave.

Not only was it an excellent opportunity for our group in terms of exposure, but it also let us form bonds with the Muslim Student Organization and Real Life, both religious groups on campus. In fact, after the event, we were able to take all the panel members, our group members, and the Muslim Student Organization to dinner, where we spent over two hours chatting. We are now on great terms and are planning to keep working together on events in the future.

Without the national Secular Student Alliance, we wouldn’t be an organization on campus. The services and resources they have available are crucial for our group’s successes, especially their Mideast Regional Campus Organizer, Jessika Griffin. I am so proud to be a part of such a great organization!

But the SSA needs your help, too. Almost all of these great resources, from the Speakers Bureau to their Campus Organizing team, are provided to students like me for free. They need you help so groups just like mine can be successful secular advocates on their campuses. In fact, until June 17 it is Secular Students Week, and if the SSA gets 500 donations it will unlock a challenge grant for $20,000! That money could have a huge impact on groups like mine.

Give today as part of Secular Students Week and help students like me!

CONvergence 2015: my Skepchickcon schedule

So I am on some panels at CONvergence / Skepchickcon, July 2-5th!

Can you guess the theme of CONvergence this year without looking at their site?

I will also, as always, be helping out at the FtB party room, adjacent as always to the Skepchick party room. There will be snacks, there will be glow in the dark booze for those of age after 8pm, and there will be plenty of good conversations to be had.

Technology Won’t Destroy Us – Thu 5:00pm – Plaza 1
Renate Fiora, PZ Myers, Heina Dadabhoy, Dan Berliner, Jason Thibeault

Paranoid predictions about the technological downfall of mankind abound in media, but technology has also made human lives immeasurably better. We’ll talk about more realistic portrayals of tech, science, and human improvement.

Sci-Fail Returns – Thu 7:00pm – Edina
Christopher Hunter, Rebecca Watson, Jason Thibeault, Raychelle Burks, Ryan Consell (mod)

We’ll review the most egregious examples of Hollywood mangling science over the past year. Watch experts pass from denial, to rage, to sobbing as they are reminded that the budget for each film exceeds the global research budget of their field.

So You Want to Rule Dystopia – Sat 8:30pm – Plaza 1
Jennifer Cross, Jamie Bernstein, Jason Thibeault (mod), Heina Dadabhoy, Steph Montgomery

From 1984 to the Hunger Games, dystopian worlds are defined by their evil governments. We’ll discuss the different flavors of political systems that rule dystopian worlds and advise you on ruling your own dystopia.

Dystopian Video Games – Sun 9:30am
Donavon Indovino Cawley, Michael Black, Dani Price, Michael Carus, Jason Thibeault

Wasteland, Bioshock, Fallout, and more. What makes them fun and interesting?

Actually, let’s talk about ethics in Watch_Dogs

Let’s all say it: Ayden Pearce is morally repugnant. Errant Signal does an excellent and thorough job itemizing exactly why.

I had been interested in this game, and in the concept of hacking-as-superpower, but when it turned into yet another white-guy-does-whatever-he-wants story, where every moral decision boils down to “shoot the guy or blow up the guy”, where you’re given tidbits of information about the lives and dreams and desires of each person you’re systematically murdering, where you’re essentially obligated to spy on and not intervene in situations where you could actually legitimately make a difference because they’re just cut-scenes inserted for flavour, I couldn’t bring myself to play.

It’s like all the power they give you is misdirected, where you can’t fix the system but you can take advantage of it for your own gain. Where you become judge, jury and executioner for crimes that haven’t yet been committed, and you let other grievous crimes go entirely unpunished because you, omniscient privileged douchebag, cannot be moved to actually do anything. And when you DO do something about an injustice, it’s the wrong thing entirely, against the wishes of everyone around you. Where you’re both the cause and the violent solution to the problems in your life. Where your actions are supposed to be good but your opponents’ actions are bad, despite the fact that you’re doing a thousand times objectively eviller things as a matter of course.

If we’re going to talk about ethics in video games, this is ultimately a Douchebag Hacker Empowerment Fantasy simulator, and it doesn’t remotely touch on any of the things that need to be discussed with regard to the disturbing surveillance culture we’re in. I can get empowerment fantasies in far less problematic worlds than this, without feeling like I’m railroaded into the Evil playthrough of a game like Infamous where the moral choices are approximately “save the box of kittens, or stuff them with grenades and throw them off a building indiscriminately”.

The bad logic of “Good People Can’t Be Sexists”

One of the things that makes me averse to getting into deep conversation lately about morality and about people’s sexist and racist behaviour is that we appear to be hard-wired to think the whole conversation is binary — you did a bad, objectionable thing, therefore you’re Evil. You are criticized for doing a bad, objectionable thing, but are generally good, therefore you’re being hounded by Feminazis and Thought Police. Any nuance in the conversation is smashed out by our resorting to binary thinking again and again.

In mathematical terms, the problem is that good and bad, sexist and not sexist, are absolutes. When we render them into pure two-valued logic, we’re taking shades of gray, and turning them into black and white.

There are people who are profoundly sexist or racist, and that makes them bad people. Just look at the MRAs involved in Gamergate: they’re utterly disgusting human beings, and the thing that makes them so despicably awful is the awfulness of their sexism. Look at a KKKer, and you find a terrible person, and the thing that makes them so terrible is their racism.

But most people aren’t that extreme. We’ve just absorbed a whole lot of racism and sexism from the world we’ve lived our lives in, and that influences us. We’re a little bit racist, and that makes us a little bit bad – we have room for improvement. But we’re still, mostly, good people. The two-valued logic creates an apparent conflict where none really exists.

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Mock The Movie: God’s Not Dead transcript

Superman and Hercules square off in a battle of who can be the biggest asshole straw-atheist in this blockbuster that likely resulted in no appreciable increase in text messages despite the imploring at the end to text all your friends.

We watched this on April Fool’s Day. Yes, that was intentional.

Oh yeah, and dude from Duck Dynasty is in it because… uh… JEEEEZUS
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