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Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

My family went down to Eureka, Utah this past weekend to see what sort of photos we could collect.  It’s an old mining town that still has a small population in it, so it hits a sweet spot between a ghost town and a place that people want to live in, which means some amenities and environmental cleanup (taking care of lead from mining, mostly), but relatively easy access to some excellent old mining machines and sites.

Machinery

So naturally, the weekend we planned to go there, Harley Davidson had an event there, with nearly 2000 bikers in town (more than double the town’s normal population).  I found this would be the case the morning before we went, and I was a little dismayed, since I was looking for a nice quiet photo expedition.  I don’t have anything particularly grievous against bikers (secondhand smoke is annoying, but the bikers I tend to run into here are decent folk), but I was hoping for, well… quiet.  As it happens, though, the event was exactly what we needed.

One, they were doing a poker event.  Heh.  I wound up handing out my whole deck of business card prototypes (really just my deck’s aces with a link to my website Project Khopesh on the back).  Funny how that works out.  (Incidentally, the Project Khopesh site mostly just points back here at the moment, but it’ll be more interesting when I get things rolling.)

Two, because the bikers were in town, Eureka was more open than it typically is, letting us explore their Union Pacific trolley and the Chief mining facility.  Those are almost never open according to the people I talked to, and we were able to get some great photos in both locations.  I also got to talk to an older biker guy (dude? gentleman? whatever) who was also taking photos of the machinery.  He was quite genial and told me about some of the machinery, since his wife’s family was a mining family.  He really knew his stuff, and was happy to share.  His story about the underground mule stables was most interesting; I had no idea they did that, but it makes some sense on reflection.  (They needed the mules to move ore carts, but if they ever brought the animals above ground, they wouldn’t go back down.  So, they lived their whole lives in the mine, complete with underground stables.)

IMG_8539-1024

I did record some video at the Chief mining site to make a promo video for the Kickstarter for the deck I’m now calling the Tinker Deck (still carrying the subtitle “Heroes of the 19th Century”), but there was an almost constant background chatter of Harley motorcycles.  So, once I get it cut together and presentable, just know that such isn’t the normal soundscape of Eureka.  Those bikers were our “angel facilitators” of a sort, though, so I think it’s wholly appropriate that they are part of the campaign, even if it doesn’t sound like a sleepy semi-ghost town.

Anyway, here are some of the photos from the trip over on my Google+ account.

Eureka, Utah

I also got a bunch of photos of the textures of the place, like a lot of really cool shots of rusty metal, and I’m weaving those into the card designs.  So yeah, when I said the art was done, I was right… at the time.  I tell you, it’s possible to tinker endlessly with art if you really let yourself.  At this point, though, I’m polishing it up to make it more appealing to Kickstarter denizens, some of whom have somewhat particular tastes.  It’s subtle things, like making the card back perfectly rotationally symmetrical and making the faces use the same edge; these are big things for magicians and some collectors, and pretty easy to make happen.

Card Poker Back Eureka

Card Poker Back Eureka

The bigger question at this point is whether or not to print via Bicycle or just USPC… or just the best priced Chinese company… or something in between.  I’m still not sure on this, so any input you all might have would be appreciated.  I’m leaning to the cheaper cards because I want to peg the price per deck around $5 instead of $10+, but I’m really not sure how that will sort out.  I’m price sensitive, but the Kickstarter market seems… fickle.  Also, the alpha version of the deck (pre-Eureka upgrades) will be available at The Game Crafter for $9.99 without shipping.  I know, Bicycle makes better cards, so $10-12 for a deck with upgraded art isn’t a bad deal, but that $5 price point is still intriguing.  One of the biggest points of doing a Kickstarter in the first place is to get a better price thanks to the economy of a bulk order.

Anyway, plenty of numbers to grind and research to do yet.  It feels agonizingly slow sometimes, since I want to get the deck released into the wild and move on to other fun projects, but sometimes the gears of progress grind slowly… slowly…

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Guild Wars 2 is out, and apparently awesome.  I’ll get it someday, money and time are tight at the moment, but in the meantime, Syl has some great comments up on the game.  Others do too, I’m sure, I’ve just been out of the loop lately.  GW2 is the sort of game that sounds like something I want to play (I loved the first one), I just… can’t.  Not at the moment.

World of Warcraft‘s latest patch, 5.0.4, came out at the same time (the nefariousness!), and it’s apparently also amazingly awesome.  I’ll play WoW again someday as well.  Probably just by firing up my free account and making a Pandaran, though if I ever revisit my “paid” account, I’ll be happy to see some things like shared mounts and pets.  My daughter will love that she can have her character access the pets I’ve collected on my Tishtoshtesh character.

Oh, and as an aside, I love that Hunters now have no minimum range on their ranged weapons, but the deletion of their melee potential makes me sad.  I wish they had made the Survival tree into a melee-heavy Hunter, sort of like a Warhammer Online White Lion class.  That might spawn a few hundred thousand more Drizzt clones though, I guess.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to share a couple of photos I found that reminded me of WoW.  Y’see, sometimes it’s derided as being “too technicolor” or something of the sort.  Well, so is my home state, sometimes.  And it’s a blasted desert.

A Sea of Purple in the Badlands of Utah

Badlands Bloom by Guy Tal

And then there’s this mini-maelstrom in Hawaii… it’s not quite the size of Darkshore’s sinkhole or The WoW Maelstrom, but I think it looks a lot more impressive for its detail and energy.  And that whole “it’s real” bit.  (Another shot of the area over thisaway, also by Patrick Smith.)

Maelstrom at Kauai, Hawaii

Maelstrom in Hawaii by Patrick Smith

Both of those were featured in this “best photos of 2012” list, which includes some other fantastic photographs.  Go, peruse, enjoy!

When you’re done with that, you could go peruse the archives at the Astronomy Picture of the Day.  There’s a ton of great stuff there.  The shot from this morning even almost fits the theme, looking vaguely like a northern Azerothian badland, complete with some airglow fun.

Airglow over Italy by Tamas Ladanyi

…I wish I had more time for photography, too.  I meant to go to some local ghost towns this summer and look for texture photos and other interesting shots.  Alas, home repair/remodeling and other Stuff ate up my time… and none of those are even done yet.  I probably ought to sleep sometime, too.

…so yeah, I hope you all are having fun in those MMO worlds.  Take some screenshots for me, will you please?

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The Utah GOP rejected Bob Bennett last night, a conservative Republican incumbent senator.  Pundits are suggesting this will have a ripple effect in the upcoming elections, as a strong anti-incumbent sentiment has been festering for a while.  From what I can gather, Bennett’s position on TARP (support) and his championing of a bipartisan health care reform bill (not the one ultimately signed into law) were keys to why people wanted to see him leave.

The anti-TARP position is pretty easy to explain; there’s a natural pull to austerity in any financial crisis, and when the government votes to spend taxpayer money to bail out businesses (especially the ones who caused the crisis), an allergic reaction from said taxpayers is not unexpected.  I won’t belabor my personal objections to TARP, but will instead suggest (once again) Karl Denninger’s The Market Ticker as a good place to prowl around regarding the bill.  Denninger digs into the market implications of the bill (and other political gerrymandering), which tends to make for a fairly nonpartisan critique.

The health care bill issue is a little fuzzier.  It’s worth noting that the bill that did pass isn’t popular among American citizens.  Those who supported it are also in a bit of political hot water, but in Bennett’s case, he supported a different bill proposed as an alternative.  What’s interesting to me is the commentary around this aspect of Bennett’s loss.  Nearly every writer who addresses it in this nice roundup of articles tries to blame Bennett’s loss on partisanship.  They believe that Utah voters considered it a cardinal sin for Bennett to work with a *gasp* Democrat on the proposed bill.  Even Bennett is reported to believe that opposition to him was based on the “toxic” partisan atmosphere of Washington D.C.

Nonsense.

No, reasoned opposition to Bennett’s actions in the proposed bill have nothing to do with his efforts to work “across the aisle”, they are purely objections to what the bill contained.  It mandated that citizens must purchase health insurance.  See, people don’t like Big Brother telling them what to buy.  (A critical component of opposition to the bill that did pass as well, by the way.)  It doesn’t matter whether Big Brother is using his Democrat hand or his Republican hand, it’s the action of the government trying to direct citizens that doesn’t go down well.  (That’s a peculiarly American political thing; the country was formed largely in opposition to an overpowerful government, and established on principles of small central government and self-governing freedom.  Almost everyone rebels when told what to do, we’re just wired that way, but the trend seems to run deeper and broader in America, French guillotines notwithstanding.)

Cooperation across the aisle tends to be a healthy thing.  The problem isn’t cooperation, if there’s a problem, it’s with what that cooperation produces.  When the Democrats and Republicans cooperated on a bill that the people didn’t like, the bill is the problem (and to a degree, the people who supported it), not the principle of cooperation.

It’s amazing to me that the vast majority of commentators don’t see that, and instead, try to frame the discussion in partisan terms.  It’s not a surprise, since that sort of juvenile debate tactic has reigned supreme for a while, ever more acrimonious.  It’s just… an affront to logic, common sense, and rational thought.  It’s also a fine way to dodge the real issues that should be debated, namely the results of the bills in question and why people might be bothered by what they mandate.

It’s not unlike the puerile fanboy arguments that we see in the console wars or the endless debates about WoW vs. MMOoftheMonth.  When the arguments turn more to namecalling and ad hominem attacks, the real issues are lost.  Sometimes, that’s because the real issues aren’t really anything to argue about, since they are merely matters of opinion and taste.  Arguing to try to prove someone else’s opinion is wrong never really accomplishes much.

The more troubling times are when the real issues are decidedly worth discussing, but neither side of the debate wants to address them.  As in Bennett’s bipartisan proposed bill, the discussion should have been about whether or not people wanted to be forced by the government to buy health insurance.  Increasingly, the debate in American politics isn’t so much Republicans vs. Democrats, it’s the People vs. the Government.  The Rs and Ds both want control, and the people want to govern themselves.  The niggling little details about what form that control takes isn’t the issue that should be debated, rather, the existence of that control in the first place is the big question.

It’s like the idiotic debates from the 80s about “Coke” vs. “Pepsi”… as if those were the only drinks that anyone would even consider imbibing.  It’s the nature of any rivalry played to the crowds; Red vs. Blue, F2P vs. Subs, Engineer vs. Soldier, White vs. Black, Boxers vs. Briefs, Sox vs. Cubs, Horde vs. Alliance, Edward vs. Jacob and so on.  The polar argument takes on a life in itself, totally distorting any reasoned critique of surrounding issues.  (Twilight is still atrocious, whichever team you’re on.)

It’s almost as if the Rs and Ds are arguing about how the deck chairs on the Titanic need to be arranged, and anyone arguing with them is demonized, while the citizens just want them to get out of the way so they can board the lifeboats.  It’s no surprise that some of those squabbling power brokers get tossed out of the way when the people start to panic a bit, and the boat lurches seaward.  Suggesting that the people did so because the deck chairs weren’t the right color, or because the arrangers cooperated on one chair is extremely selective interpretation of events, and a gross misunderstanding of the real issues at hand.  Just get out of the way!

So, while this particular article is rooted in a singular political event that may well show hints of voter patterns to come, it’s really that sense of larger issues that I wanted to underline.  We can’t afford to get lost in the trappings of idiotic debate tactics that dodge the real questions.  Bread and circuses can keep people entertained and busy, certainly, and picking sides creates an investment in the show… but more often than not, it’s not the show that’s important.  Remember that magicians want you to be distracted while they work their sleight of hand.  Less benign characters also benefit from such distraction.

tl;dr version?  Learn to read between the lines, ignoring partisanship and fanboy shrieking.  Find the real issues, and don’t be distracted.  Dig deeper than “Paula vs. Simon”.

Edited to add:

The particular case of Bennett also reminds us that the sense of political entitlement and inertia is a fickle thing.  Bennett’s record is fairly conservative, but screwing up on a few big ticket items really can be enough to make people mad… if they are paying attention.  (Not unlike WAR’s recent billing issue; a significant blunder can totally destroy the goodwill banked in the past.)  I think it’s a healthy thing for politicians to be afraid of their constituents, and to realize that their job isn’t assured.  It’s good to know the people are watching, and have the power to change things.  The uneasy truce between the power brokers and the people, fueled by healthy distrust and leeriness about abuse of power, goes a long way to forestall any huge abuses.  That’s what the balance of powers in the U.S. Constitution is all about.

A while ago, the Illinois Senate seat that Ted Kennedy held for a dynastic 48 years (in itself a symptom of entitlement issues) was up for grabs after Kennedy’s death.  It went to an upstart Republican (Kennedy being a Democrat), seen by some as a signal that people are tired of the “same old” politics.  Incumbents tend to enjoy a significant edge in most elections, partly because people fear change, and have gotten used to the gravy train.

Still, it’s not wise to push people too far, and increasingly, American leaders are doing so.  Bennett is, in some ways, a victim of larger societal forces at work, but blaming those on partisan hackery is missing the point.

That’s not to say that there’s no partisan bickering.  There is plenty of that sort of nonsense at play.  It’s just not the real issue, and getting caught up in it doesn’t solve anything.

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