marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Whenever I get overwhelmed by life people suggest I should cut my ties to Antonio Hall. I'm not sure why this is the first thing that comes to mind for them, over say gaming or work both of which often come with similar proportions of frustration to reward.

I am well aware that at some point the decision is going to be taken out of my hands. The Hall will be sold or the owners will decide to develop the site themselves or some other condition will arise which puts and end to the work we are doing there. (Here actually,as I type this between groups of photographers on a beautiful warm autumny day in the middle of winter.) At that time I will grieve then move on to some other project. But for now it does fulfill several important needs in my life.

Enforced down/quiet/me time
Away from the computer and stream of internet where I can let my brain just settle, or read, or write, or prep for games. With advance warning I have my laptop and phone charged, one for writing (one of those things I mean to do more of) and the other for reading through the backlog of email newsletters a few at a time (and still being reachable and checking FB every 30 minutes or so for that sense of connection). This is good for me on multiple levels.

Meeting new and interesting people and building something together
- I enjoy witnessing the amazement at and enjoyment of the Hall. Even for those who simply come through once on a tour (number beyond count now) I know I have played a small part in bringing some amount of wonder into their lives, and that's a good feeling.
- Breaking out of my social limits and meeting new people was one of the reasons I got myself involved in organising more than just a few visits for my friends in the first place, and it still stands. Some of these people have gone on to become valued friends in their own rights.
- Another good feeling is at the end of a working bee day (or other fix-up session) when we look and see what a difference has been made. Nowhere else in my life do I get this feeling of actual physical achievement as part of a team. Work - independent projects. Gaming success (RPG but also team board/card games) are great, but they lack the sense of having made a (short but) lasting impact on the real world. Which brings us to ...

The opportunity to make a real difference
Much as I enjoy the activity, "work" rarely presents me with the opportunity to really make things better for people. Many of my "good deeds" are very much stop-gap measures backed by the belief that things can and will get (or be made) better for people in the medium/long term. House projects will have benefits for people after me, but that's a very long term payoff which I will probably not see in person.

The people whom we enable to come to the Hall - many of them take away something lasting. More than just memories and amazing photos but /experiences/ ... often experience and progress towards an assessment or goal of theirs. And just maybe a little more inspiration to step up somewhere and make some other part of the world better.

And if not me, then who? (Not entirely a rhetorical question, perfectly willing to share responsibility :) )
It's hard to explain how important that fundamental idea of making a positive difference is in my approach to the world. I can usually only make very small differences now-and-again, but here and now with the Hall it is possible to make a whole lot of them. The benefits as I see them almost always outweigh the cost to me. (It's just that the bill sometimes comes due unexpectedly).
marsden_online: (write)
Today I added my body to a Women's March here in Christchurch, a sister and supporting event to one focused on Washington, DC. Because,
- as their manifesto says, Women's Rights are Human Rights and I support that. Both in the specific and in the general sense that improving women's rights will by extension improve the lot of (at least) every other marginalised group containing women
- and I feel it is important for progress that men are seen to be supporting that, because sadly many men are still more likely to listen only to other men
- but also on another level because I feel it's also important for the well-being of men that women are seen and treated as equal.

Here I just want to pull together a few threads from around the internet on why I think there is still a long way to go in western, particularly New Zealand society.

1. From an early age boys have been told to "don't be a girl", teased for being "girly" or put down for "hitting like a girl" in response to failure, asking for help, or expressing any "negative" emotion except anger. As well as indoctrinating the idea that women are somehow less than men in both boys and girls from an early age this negative approach to dealing with emotions also contributes to New Zealand having one of the highest rates of youth suicide (especially among young men) in the developed world.

Things are getting better on this front (I believe) but there are generations of us still alive who need to challenge those ideas within ourselves and strive to do and teach better.

2. If a little boy pulls a little girl's hair "it means he likes you". Not only is the reverse not held to be true, this normalises attack (physical or emotional) as a form of showing affection. Follow the chain and you get coercion seen as a valid form of obtaining affection in the form of sex, women criticised for not responding positively to catcalls or unwanted advances, and "he only hits me because he cares".

Again, NZ has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world.

3. There's this thing about queer/gay being used as a slur. Why is it that being romantically/sexually attracted to men is percieved as a bad thing by other men?. I'm theorising here, but coming back to my first point could it be that being attracted to men is something women do, so it is another accusation of girliness? Or could it be, as beautifully laid out here that a lot of men are afraid that a man attracted to them will subject them to the same form of unwanted attention they know they give the "objects" (women) of their affection (or even passing interest)?

I believe that in our hearts we men (most of us anyway) know that this behaviour is wrong because we become uneasy at the idea of it being turned on us. Knowing that it is our responsibility to try and
- firstly face up to the discomfort and accept when we are called out on it, then try and do better.
- secondly publicly represent and model for that better behaviour
- the hardest of all (and I fail at this often myself; pick your battles): call our friends and family out on it and support others - whatever their gender, orientation or colour - when they call others out on it in our presence.

If men can step up and do this instead of passively supporting the status quo, then fairness for women (and intermediate/null genders) will come a lot faster than if they have to keep wading through us every step of the way.

~~~
With all that off my chest, here is the gallery from todays march.

Victoria Square to Cathedral Square
The leading banner
marsden_online: (BlueDragon)
Most people are probably aware that over the past going on 24 hours NZ has been hit by another series of major earthquakes starting at very just after midnight Sunday/Monday. I had not long gone to bed when it hit so after about 10 seconds of "aftershock" and then ~ 1:20 minutes of "nope, crap, that's a BIG quake inland just getting here" and some minutes on FB checking that no-one in Christchurch itself was reporting major issues I went off to sleep, thus not seeing the tsunami warning and evacuation notices (which didn't affect me anyway) until checking again during a wake around 4am. I figured if anyone needed transport or to shelter at my place I would get a message or txt directly so I slept for another few hours, starting the day feeling not significantly tireder than usual. That wasn't to last.

Fortunately I had already booked the day off work to recover from attending a 48 hour charity event over the weekend (more on that below). The first hour or so I spent touching base with various people by FB and phone before starting on my pre-existing chores list. I didn't get through as much of this as hoped - a somewhat overdue cleaning of the bathroom leaving me physically exhausted and attempting to set the ball rolling on a safety inspection of the Hall further soaked up energy. I eventually spent 2-3 hours napping - in part to shut down some nervous energy and generalised anxiety - before setting out to help a friend with transport and hugs, do the grocery shopping and after a simple dinner deliver some care packages. (One of which had already been on my to-do list but which under the circumstances I bulked up a bit more ;) ) I could tell that I probably shouldn't be driving well before I got home, and if I wasn't waiting for a better time to take my meds I would be back in bed already.

~~~
Friday / Saturday I spent about 24 hours total at SAGA's now-annual 48-hour gaming event to raise money for charity (this year AVIVA). I'll just copy and paste from my FB statuses here ...

---
Saturday 4:30pm
Plays so far:
Colony Wars (obliterated by Daniel Starky's base spam strategy)
Thurn & Taxis (resounding win)
Dominion w. Prosperity (barely last but a long way from the winner)
Broken Eagle the Learned Nano who Combines Words of Power is about to set out into the world of Numenera in search of greater knowledge.

Saturday 10:50pm
After Numenera finished off for the day with a game of Tiny Kingdoms. Didn't do particularly well but probably OK for a first time.
I'd liked to have stayed longer but it is patently obvious that it would be a very bad Idea. If I can get a good sleep tonight I may be able to stay later tomorrow night.

Sunday 3:20am
Didn't get to games until after 2pm but then stayed somewhat longer than expected. Still 3am is no later than I get home from a good party. Cat seems unimpressed by my long absence.
Plays today (pretty sure I have forgotten something)
Tiny Epic Kingdoms
Settlers of Catan
DC Heroes
Colony Wars
Zombie Dice
Biblios
Kingsburg
Seven Wonders
Istanbul (new)
---

... preliminary reports are that we raised well over $1000 if everyone comes through on their pledges. I enjoyed myself - overly much so without really realising it, on the Friday in particular which left me stuck in bed until much later than I had planned on Saturday. I did spend more time and energy than I had hoped taking the lead in deciding on and teaching games; the teaching not so much of a problem (I was actually recommended, to my face, and later even messaged thanks for the fun time someone had as a result). I also made sure one person who probably otherwise would not have made it but I knew would benefit greatly from getting out of the house got both there and home.

As always I experienced more downtime between games than I would have liked, but I had gone prepared for that also with things to do.

Sunday afternoon (you noticed the status update at 3:20AM above?) was spent on a few chores and Sunday evening instead of my usual game we chilled and watched Guardians of the Galaxy which a couple of our members had missed at the theatre. (I am really enjoying the new projector.) I actually went to bed feeling uncommonly relaxed and happy ... and then the quake hit.

~~~
That has filled in the time nicely; shortly I will be abed and hopefully will feel much better in the morning. Because otherwise I am /not/ looking forward to work tomorrow.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Giving is a major part of my life. Probably the greater part of it is invisible; charities I regularly support, flybys on givealittle and so forth but to be honest I find these less satisfying than what I can do directly for those around me. Making someone's life immediately better even if only for a short time kicks off one of the few emotional highs remaining to me. You can argue about whether than makes it altruistic giving or not elsewhere, I don't care. What is important to me is that there is less stress in a persons' life at frankly, little substantial cost to me.
- pad your groceries? People who have full stomachs are happier, healthier and think better.
- top up your bus card? Represents pocket change to me, to you might represent the freedom to leave the house and get to where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.
- covered an unexpected shortfall? Luck comes in good and bad, I have plenty of the former so please let me share it with you.

Life does not treat everyone equally, but it is within our power as people to redress the balance. Especially those of us to whom it has been more than fair; and I think compassion demands that we do so. Some people prefer to argue from a position of self interest - make sure other have (just) enough and they won't be motivated to try and take what you have to redress the balance. That's better than building fortresses ("gated communities") and hiring guards to keep the mob from the door I suppose.

I can understand how a person who has had to struggle, work and fight their whole life to get above the line and stay there might not be able to let go of that mindset, no matter how much success they achieve it may be that in their own mind they will always be poor and one unexpected bill away from disaster. But I also know that there are many who do not fall into that trap and having made their way to a comfortable position do a great deal to try and help others do the same. That makes much more sense to me - having been there how would not want to get other people out of the situation once you have means?

I am not one of of these; the metaphorical spoon in my mouth may not have been silver but it is less through my own efforts that I am where I am today than the gifts afforded from from my parents' hard labours. And so I can understand how, up to a certain age, a person can be raised simply not cognizant of the harsh realities of life for many. In the modern world my sympathy for that mindset runs out a year or two after they have reached university and should have had the opportunity to start taking a critical look at the world around them.

As always grateful that again, life has been more than fair to me and my sympathy for the struggles of others is born of intellect and a sense of fairness than hard personal experience.

So we come back to the position where I have- more than enough and so I endeavour to share my good fortune. I give this less than I would like; for two reasons
- Rationally I do need to keep putting some aside for my own future. How much is arguable, but I am not at the position where I can absolutely soak a large expense (such as the one about to be incurred for drain replacement) just yet, and I have no certainty that NZ's welfare state will be in a condition to look after me in my old age.
- it occupies not just the physical resources but also time and energy.

On this latter we have as a society theoretically harnessed the specialisation of labour to handle this. We pay takes to a central organisation (government) and one of the things they are supposed to do with them is make sure that if life treats us poorly we are looked after to a not-uncomfortable standard. In the meantime our money is (supposed to be) used to look after those who life is currently treating poorly. This should free us from the greater part of a need to worry about the circumstances of our families, friends, acquaintances / strangers.

Our current government is rejecting that part of it's duties (granted it is not the first to do so). Instead of going directly - in cash or in kind - to people who need food and shelter significant amounts of "our" money are shown to be being spent propping up companies that by National's own market ethos should probably be allowed to fail / take their business elsewhere, or paid in bribes to already wealthy individuals in countries where corruption is blatant, or siphoned off as indirect subsidies to private accommodation providers and old-boys-network businesspeople who are already "above the line".

One result of this is that I - multiplied by who-knows-how-many-others - have to spend more of my time and energy personally directing resource to the people I can see in need, and relying on the voids which are charities to be doing the right thing just to help regular people when they should be able to focus on those who positions are truly dire. And in some ways that /waste/ pisses me off just as much as seeing people around me living in poverty and the mis-appropriation of public money.

I am one person of good but still moderate means. I cannot do enough to even scrape the surface. I can feed a few people but I cannot house them. Organisations which have been set up explicitly to address the issues and channel the contributions of people like myself are barely scraping the surface. Central government is actively and deliberately following policies guaranteed to make the situation worse while benefiting those who already have more than enough.

My local council is one of the largest providers of social housing in the country (an operation which is currently being strong-armed to privatisation by central government). I occasionally encounter people who state vehemently how they are against their rates being used for such a purpose. I have no time for this attitude. Homelessness and poverty have both local and regional aspects and I absolutely expect our elected representatives at all levels to work together at the task of redirecting a sufficient portion of our taxes to those in need (rates being pretty much the closest we have in NZ to a formal tax on land even if they are not particularly responsive to capital gains).

Taking care of those who do not have the means to take care of themselves I consider the first duty of a supposedly democratic government. All else follows from or supports that. In doing so, for those of a more right-wing bent, people are freed to be more productive and contribute their best to society and the future rather than burning our all - and in the case of those who turn to crime, others all as well - just to survive.

[deep calming breaths]

The point I was getting around to is actually about the visibility of giving. This morning I posted quickly in my FB and Tumblr

When we talk about “give and take” why is the implication always that the giving and the taking are between the same two entities?

If I am in a position to give freely what someone needs why is it expected that I am expecting something in return? If you are in want of something why should it have to come from someone that already owes you or that you are then expected to owe?

Much better that we all give what we can when we see a need, and try to make out own desires visible without guilt or suspicion for others seeking to fulfil them - or be it necessarily with the the acceptance that there may not be anyone who feels they are in a position to do so.

I know a lot of people above and below the line, and plenty of those have moved from one side to the other and sometimes multiple times over the years. I am fairly public about much of the personal giving I do, not because I desire the plaudits (although they are nice) but in an endeavour to set an example to others above the line who may meander across my trail. To make giving freely visible and accepted, because I alone cannot make a lasting difference.

~~~
Related reading: that came through my Facebook feed while I was typing this up: How we got Here
marsden_online: (camera2)
On the weekend before the Paris Climate talks in December, climate marches took place in hundreds of major cities.

This was one of them.
Victoria Square
marsden_online: (Evil GM)
From Friday 10am to Sunday 10am (a couple of hours ago) SAGA ran a 48 hour gaming event to raise money for charity. Although I didn't intend to do an all-nighter myself between running a mini-campaign over Friday evening - Saturday wee hours, a Hall alarm and then getting sucked into just one more game (until after sunrise) I actually spent ~39 hours straight a mostly-awake; the longest I have ever.

The mini-campaign was also, (despite all my years of gaming)
- the first time I have run such a thing (D&D levels 1-3 in one sitting and we probably would have gone another couple of hours had the Hall alarm not come in - luckily while the players were taking a break after their characters had returned from the dungeon a bit beaten up after gong "a room too far")
- the first time I have run a session that long (6-7 hours including breaks)
- the first time I have run a game which ran after midnight

I didn't actually get to play in any RPGs myself (was hoping for a Dungeon World game) but I did keep track of the board games (on FB)
- Seven Wonders win 86 points. Seven players leaders and cities.
- Lords of Waterdeep + expansions third 164 points
- Biblios last with 4 points
- King of New York - not a winner is me.
- Sentinels of the Multiverse - eventual win against Baron Blade on Mars. (Legacy, Tempest, Visionary)
- Cards against humanity : not last.
- Stone Age 3rd 139 points
- Kingsburg narrow win with 43 points.
- Shipwrights of the North Sea win 16 points
- Race for the Galaxy 3rd 26 points.
- Last hour with some not-very-awake people; cleanup then Dixit and a round of Love Letter.

Not quite as many as I hoped, and I would have liked another round of Seven Wonders and to play DC Heroes but Sentinels has taken over as /the/ superhero card game of the moment.

There were also not as many casual attendees as I expected - the number of people present was pretty stable and mostly the same people. I had expected larger swells of people only attending for a few hours and a few games in the afternoons and evenings - thus my pledge of $1 per attendee playing at least one game fell a bit flat. (I handed over closer to what I had expected anyway.) Probably I should have gone with "per game played" after all.

Nevertheless I had a mostly good time, with occasional lapses into boredom and fending off sleep-deprivation enabled moments of emotional collapse. As successful weekend.

Some of the games which were played
Lords of Waterdeep
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life
via FB: an in depth look at the life of an 11 year old girl and her family in New York - how they got there, what the future might bring. Very long, 5 parts of mostly heartache and the occasional faint glimmer of hope.
Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.

It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.

Nearly a quarter of Dasani’s childhood has unfolded at Auburn, where she shares a 520-square-foot room with her parents and seven siblings. As they begin to stir on this frigid January day, Dasani sets about her chores.

~~~~
One could be grateful that this is on the far side of the world, clearly someone else's problem. Could say that America does not have even the (increasingly holey) social security net that New Zealand boasts. Share it on Facebook as if to say "how bad the world is, how well we have it" and move along.

The NZ media does occasionally deign to pick up on these same issues in New Zealand - it was the topic du jour for a little while in 2010-11 but it seems unlikely little has changed.
- Entire families living in a relative's garage or multiple families crammed together in one home while they wait for state housing to become available. (2010)
- People's needs for accommodation deliberately not even recorded by Housing New Zealand leaving them with no option but to camp in the worst of private accommodation with no tenants rights (Both 2011 - I think WINZ has taking over determining accommodation eligibility but I have little confidence that anything has changed in practice).
- Garage life for two years (2013)

And I don't need a link for anyone reading this to know what the accommodation situation in Christchurch has been like for the past few years. "Temporary" must be starting to look like "childhood" for many.

The numbers may be debatable - perhaps things have improved in NZ since the first of these articles was written. But in the modern, caring, wealthy society which we supposedly aspire to be one person - especially one child - without even the option of a basic, clean, place to live in should be one too many.

And I am certain that the scope of the problem is still actually far wider than I can glimpse from my comfortable middle-class life. I sense a fear in me, that if I actually go looking I will be overwhelmed at the scale and feel unable to make any real difference - thus I "bide my time" and passively watch for opportunities to help within my means and not detrimental to my own (middle class) goals. Would I open my home to strangers? I've seriously considered it post-quake but decided against for mental health's sake (mine and my flatmate's (even if he agreed to the idea)).

Still we are losing bright children (truth be most if not all children are bright); now more than ever we as a society are throwing away their futures through our own inaction when we have the capacity to do better. A week ago I shared on FB an article about Variety looking for sponsors to help families pay back-to-school costs.
A charity is crying out for donors as poverty-stricken parents seek sponsorship for the back-to-school costs of their children.

More than 170 applications have been made for Kiwi Kid sponsorship so far this year, including 21 from Christchurch, and Variety - The Children's Charity needs more sponsors.

There were already 705 children - 116 from Christchurch - receiving financial support nationwide in its first year, much like that offered to children in Third World countries through World Vision.
.
At the time I said
This presses *many* of my buttons - children, local poverty, education...
I'm fighting a 3-way battle between reflexively signing up; knowing that I'm supposed to be keeping a tighter reign on my spending this year (and so far have been failing miserably); and feeling I could probably find someone in need that I could give the full $35+ per month to directly.
and at the time inertia won. Now I'm making a commitment to reassess my budget for the year, do some research and commit something regular on top of the irregular amounts I give the phone collectors and occasional worthy givealittle/pledgeme/etc call that comes across my radar - whether through Variety or some other avenue (I wonder if Adopt a Christchurch Family is still actually going).

~~~
This topic also conveniently leads into my next post - thoughts on the just-announced Labour party policy of an extra $60/week entitlement for families with newborns possibly following up to the age of 3 years.
marsden_online: (camera)
Yesterday a bunch of us headed out to Rangiora to attend Gooncon - a board-gaming day to raise money for the Chch and Japan earthquakes.

I played Puerto Rico (win), Ticket to Ride (convincing loss), and half a game of Space Truckers (?) (was starting to get the hang of, but it was time to go). My passengers and I also took an extended lunch break at a nice bakery/cafe one of us knew.

I estimated there were 20-30 people there, the organisers have reported making $188 for the cause so that's about the right number. (Entry was $7 but I'm sure I wasn't the only one who handed over a $10 note and said "keep the change".)

Gooncon
Gooncon
marsden_online: (bomb)
Haitian Relief
In case you haven't seen it already, there's a spectacular deal on RPG PDFs available in aid of Haiti Relief: about $1500 worth of PDFs for only $20. Some real gems in there too.

Details here.


via [livejournal.com profile] morbid_curious

~~~
0-cost-to-reproduce* items like pdfs are a great way to raise money for causes. It's amazing how much more likely people (myself included) are to donate when they are getting something besides good feelings out of it. (I also took advantage of Sitepoint's bundle of web development pdfs when they were fundraising for the Australian bushfire appeal last year.)

*well, except for the hammering DriveThruRPG's servers are taking
marsden_online: (Maniac)
I feel alerter, bouncier, happier. Things are starting to get done - even if I still sometimes have trouble remembering what I've done [today] and spend a bit of time just staring at the computer. My muse seems to have woken up a bit - I'm blogging relatively prolifically (and on serious topics compared to my usual drivel) and I have an OoC article percolating.

I'm not 100% convinced though. Somewhere along the line I seem to have just stopped stressing about money - something may just have really broken there and be letting the energy spill elsewhere.

But it feels good.

~~~
Crazy idea of yesterday while I was mowing the lawns - a mix of Pay it Forward and BookCrossing where cards travel with the favour chain and there's a website people can go to to publicly acknowledge favours that have been done for them. Not actually tracking the cards (too much trouble with splitting) just a little physical reminder.

Lo, it's already been done-ish [unsurprised :) ]. The Pay It Forward Movement .

Following links from there I also found this interesting UK youth movement - Battlefront

~~~
Today just seems to be evaporating.
Time for another list through Saturday )
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
http://blogactionday.org/
It might still be the 15th somewhere in the world ... I got a number of these through catching up with my feeds from the past few days, otherwise I'd never have remembered.

As I posted a while ago, the KidsCan charitable trust in partnership with TV3 is planning to bring back the NZ Telethon to benefit for Kiwi kids living in poverty. I've been following up my idea of organising some sort of a gameathon for the event, and although promotion and pimpage proper won't start for some time yet (next year I expect) now seems as good a time as any to post the website outside of friends-lock.


If people think it's a good idea, I'd love to see some more profiles and useful suggestions on there :)

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