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Comment Re:Slow it down - what's wrong with that? (Score 1) 125

You're right, to an extent, which is why I pointed it out. There IS justification for increasing taxes at a time when the economy is strong, for all the reasons you outlined.

The issue is that the GST (+10% tax on all goods and services, as its name might imply) isn't the fairest way to tax a population. As I mentioned, it's a stealth tax on low income earners, assuming that the other (higher) taxes are removed and the GST put in their place.

Now, I don't think for a moment that'll happen. That promise was made decades ago. Might as well have been made by cavemen with stones, in the political landscape.

But it's worth pointing out.

Comment Great news! (Score 3, Informative) 125

Yes! (in theory)

See, the introduction of the GST was to coincide with the bundling of a bunch of other taxes into one. For some goods, most notably electronics and "luxury items", they actually got cheaper. This was because it's truly a stealth tax on the poor, by taxing commodities like bread and orange juice (which previously would have been taxed at lower rates or even subsidized), and lowering the tax on luxury goods to only 10% (where they would have previously commanded much higher taxes).

So, of course, it's possible that Steam games and Netflix and other such things are about to get a whole lot cheaper. After all, most software is more expensive here; in some cases this is simply because "it's what the market will pay" (read: foreign companies gouging us for our high quality of life), but in some others, it's because of taxes. So in theory, prices could actually drop.

In theory.

It won't actually happen, because our economy is roaring along thanks to the mining boom, and the powers-that-be want to slow it down a bit and rake in some of the dough while the going's good.

Besides. That election promise is so many governments ago nobody gives a fuck anymore, but it's nice to dream. Dream the fevered dream of a madman; that taxes will even once go down, and that Australia might, one day, pay "only" as much +10% of digital products as the US, UK, and other places.

One day...

One day.

Comment As an Australian rights holder, how do I opt-out? (Score 3, Insightful) 78

I'm an Australian author. I recently published my 10th novel. I make my living from selling books, primarily on Google Play, but also Amazon and Apple.

How do I opt out of this scheme? How do I request that even if someone downloads a copy of a book I normally request payment for without doing so, that they face no legal harm from anyone? The article mentions "rights holders" can get in contact with potential "infringers"; how would they notify me? I work from home, is my street address on file somewhere?

I found that when I ask these kinds of questions it leads to conclusions that should embarrass the people trying to implement them. The truth is; invariably, these kinds of schemes do absolutely nothing "for me" as downloads of my books would not even be detected by whatever system they want to put in place, even if I was stomping and shouting and demanding all the evil pirates ceased immediately.

This is, and always is, solely an effort to protect a foreign industry, Hollywood. An industry which gives the common Australian absolutely no consideration at all. Digital downloads are often more expensive here than the US, simply because "that's what the market will pay", which is code for, "Australia's high standard of living means we can gouge the shit out of them". Shows arrive late, miss our holidays, are screened out of order or are incomplete.

Why is this good for Australia and Australians in any way? If nothing else, and setting aside my own personal objections: why are we actively protecting a foreign industry and doing absolutely nothing to protect our domestic productions?

Comment Re:If you dare... (Score 1) 216

Please list examples in Western societies today where there is a power imbalance between the genders. Including ones where women are given preferential treatment.

Well, there are a few places. For example: I write in speculative fiction, especially sci-fi, and it's hard for female sci-fi authors to be taken seriously in that field. The reverse is true in other fields (I write paranormal romance under a female pen-name, because nobody will buy romance written by a man), but that is one example of where men and women are given preferential treatment based on their gender, where I've observed the difference first hand and been affected by it. In this case, based on potential revenue, it's probably better to be a best selling romance author than a sci-fi author, but romance is a heavily crowded market and it's hard to stand out whereas sci-fi is a lot more niche-y.

There's a fair number of other instances, too. For example: women in the military must face challenges that men in the military just don't have to worry about to the same extent. That's not to say that male servicemen aren't sexually assaulted, both by their own side, by allies, and by opposing forces, but it happens to a lesser degree. Female soldiers, sailors and airmen are much more likely to experience violence, sexual violence, and harassment simply because of who they are. However, that said, reporting structures for male victims tend to be a lot thinner on the ground, there's a social stigma against male victims that isn't present for female victims, and because it happens more rarely is less likely to be taken as truthful. Again, it's not a situation where it's always 100% bad to be a woman, but as an overall trend, it's less advantageous.

The role of women and men in our society is a complex, nuanced one where we can't just simply boil things down to a soundbite, where there's no consistent narrative and the only thing that is known for certain is that "problems exist".

Comment Re:If you dare... (Score 5, Interesting) 216

I can't say I disagree, and I have a few opinions about that (some of which are fairly popular and well received, others not so much). Recently I've been trying to understand more about Feminism and it's been a fairly rough learning process which has probably cost me some friends, but I'm still pushing on with it. I see a lot of good there, but I'm also seeing a lot of bad, too.

I think the main problem is... there is no Pope of Feminism, so anyone can adopt that label and claim to represent it. This makes it hard to judge the intentions of that person because while most Feminists are genuinely committed to reaching true equality, some are not, and those happen to be the loudest, most confrontational, most aggressive ones who also tend to be the ones most vocally claiming to represent Feminism.

And some of those people are remarkably bigoted.

As a movement, in general Feminism makes some really excellent points, some of which have caused me to rethink a fair few important parts of my life and my own behaviour -- and that's good. Some self-reflection and introspection is an important part of living a healthy life and I really recommend it for everyone.

The problem is, it just seems like no matter how much we agree, whenever I speak to anyone who describes themselves as a "radical feminist" (the self-described part is important) it inevitably becomes a negative experience for me. This is surprising for me because of how much we agree on.

For example, I acknowledge there is a power imbalance between women and men, favouring men. It's hard for me because, as a man, I can't control how other people act, only myself. So I do my part and treat women equal to men. I have a female gym trainer, female IT head, female editors for my books and I have both female superiors and subordinates in almost all aspects of my life, as well as a large number of female friends. I treat them as I would men in their respective positions -- as cool people to hang out with, as people to follow my instructions or give me instructions respectively, or people who fix the errors in my books. Women are worthy of praise and criticism equally, and when I develop a negative opinion of someone, it's because they're incompetent, or rude, or any other attribute that's not related to their gender.

That just doesn't seem enough for the self-described "radical feminists" I meet. Whenever gender issues come up, we can usually have a great discussion -- up to the point I bring up anything that might be described as favouring men over women, even when women aren't the "cause" of it (such as the male suicide rate being twice that of women, and the suicide rate amongst trans* people twice that again). When this happens, even raising the point immediately puts them on the defensive. Suddenly I'm trying to deny that there's problems for women. Suddenly I'm the 'straight white cis guy with an opinion'; which seems to be the enemy. There's an expectation of bad faith there that means that anything I say that's not overtly stating that women are an oppressed slave-like underclass with no rights is seen as a misogynistic attack.

Ultimately, this kind of behaviour undermines the often good, legitimate points that feminism makes, making it easy to dismiss the whole movement. For feminists (male and female) who don't self-apply the "radical" term, I can almost always have a good, positive, helpful discussion with them about a broad range of issues and I usually come out feeling that there's a genuine move towards acknowledging that life is sometimes shitty for a lot of people irrespective of gender, colour or creed and that we should all work towards fixing the inequalities in our society together, as a species, and that makes me really happy.

Discussions with self-described radical feminists, though, usually end with me getting angry that my (smaller, less critical problems) are dismissed quite casually, and then as the anger fades, unable to shake the nagging feeling that the "quest for equality" is a sham and that instead the people involved with that ideology simply want to be in charge; to be on the giving end of injustices rather than the receiving end.

And I really don't like that feeling.

Fortunately, though, most Feminists I talk to aren't like this; it tends to be the label-wearing, flag flying, dogmatic, ideologically motivated ones where things end poorly. And those are the minority. Reading things like this ( tend to really help bring me up whenever I get into one of these arguments and, despite my best intentions, start thinking ugly thoughts about Feminism and the movement as a whole.

It's a slow process, but no movement or ideology should be free from criticism. It just seems like Feminism is one that takes it extremely poorly.

Comment Re:Like DRM? (Score 1) 448

Do you think that if the Republicans (or any other political party) were in power, this mess would have never happened?

If your answer is an affirmative, unconditional yes, you're probably not thinking rationally. The Republicans started this whole mess after all. The Democrats continued it. Both are bad, neither is blameless. To believe otherwise is to be an unthinking automaton.

Comment Re:Can a little guy publish successful PNP RPG tod (Score 4, Informative) 203

Are you kidding? Today is the absolutely best time to be an indie game system developer, ever.

Back in the day, the only way you could get your stuff into the hands of the players was brick-and-mortar stores, word of mouth, or occasionally mail-order systems in magazines and stuff. That was it.

These days, there's so many online distribution points like DriveThruRPG, Amazon's KDP, iTunes, Google Play, etc that getting your game out there is easy. Just write your game system, publish it on any/all of the above, and bam. There you have it -- distribution, complete. Almost all these retailers allow discounting, promotions, bundling, etc. The amount of promotion tools available is staggering.

You can set your price, including as low as $0.99 for most retailers. If your idea is really good (and you're good at marketing) you can use Kickstarter or Indie GoGo or any other service to bootstrap a little funding. You can create and publish video promotions for free on YouTube. You can get a website for free, or very minimal cost, and run ads on it to bring in a little extra income.

You have total control over the distribution process. You might choose, for example, to make your core rules set available for free, and then charge for supplements. You can make it OGL if you want, or licence it how you want. You can write and publish electronic tools to help run games. You can even create your own game worlds, adventures, or whatever.

And the best thing is? All the tools you need are available for free or for staggeringly low cost. LibreOffice is your free word processing suite, although I recommend you drop $40 on Scrivener (it's like sex, except I'm having it). GIMP can do covers and basic image work well enough, but again, I'd suggest dropping $40 on Photoshop Elements. On DriveThruRPG you can get gaming stock art, templates, images and all kinds of art beautification your heart could desire, all extremely cheaply. When that fails you, there's ShutterStock, iStockphoto, or any number of stock image websites. Failing that: ask artists on DeviantArt to draw exactly what you want. $200-$500 will get you a sweet digital painting from an awesome artist, which is a good investment for something like your Core Rule Book.

We are living in the publishing future.

Comment It all comes down to the OGL (Score 5, Interesting) 203

Long time d20 (and variants) player here. Not as long as some, but long enough to have played 2nd Edition when it was still current.

IMHO, 5th Edition's success will come down to their acceptance of the OGL (Open Gaming Licence), which we will discover in the coming days. All signs point to no, but Wizards might surprise us yet.

For those who don't know, the OGL was introduced in the 3rd edition (and continued its minor update, v3.5) of D&D. It was truly revolutionary. The OGL not only permitted players to redistribute the base rule system as they wished, including publishing it online for free almost in its entirety, but empowered players, writers, and campaign masters to edit, change and adapt the rules as they saw fit -- and publish those changes, as long as they too were under the OGL. It's open source for gaming systems.

One of the leading benefits of this was the publication of "Adventure Paths". As the OGL did not cover game worlds, only the mechanics and rules of the game, any writer or publishing company with a solid working knowledge of the game could create, publish, and distribute (freely or for profit) their own adventures, rules variations, optional mechanics, and thousands of various changes. One of the leading companies was Paizo, who specialized in publishing these so-called Adventure Paths. They were not the only ones. For example, I personally published a Pathfinder flavoured novel about a kobold, "Ren of Atikala", set in the original world of Drathari (oblig. plug: Using the OGL, I am able to legally use, alter, and draw inspiration from the rules and mechanics of OGL-licensed publications and create original works.

As I said earlier, it's open-source for gaming systems.

Between 3rd edition and v3.5, this was the state of D&D for almost 8 years, until June of 2008, when D&D 4th Edition was released. Unfortunately, D&D 4th Edition used a different version of the OGL, which was much more restrictive in what it permitted players, authors, and creators to edit, change, and redistribute (IIRC, it was essentially, "you may only reprint the *name* of the rule, and then reference the Player's Handbook", which meant if you were playing Star Wars you had to look up Power Attack in the D&D Player's Handbook... ugh).

Because of this change, and the simplifications made to the rules system which were often disfavourably compared to a video game, many players took a distinct, sight-unseen dislike to 4th Edition.

This restrictive change to the OGL also strongly disinsentivised Paizo from publishing Adventure Paths. After some internal discussion, it was decided that 4th Edition was not for them, and released a revised version of v3.5 of Dungeons and Dragons, known as the Pathfinder RPG (sometimes informally referred to by the player base as D&D v3.75), specifically intended to be backwards compatible with v3.5 of Dungeons and Dragons material. It was published shortly after 4th Edition's debut.

For many reasons -- a feeling that v3.5 was "good enough", Paizo's open-beta policy and staunch support of the OGL even for expansion books, and for viewing companies such as Green Ronin as allies rather than competitors -- Pathfinder has flourished in the wake of the relatively-poorly received 4th edition and is now a common staple at Roleplaying conventions and tabletop gaming communities, where previously only Dungeons and Dragons was played.

D&D Next seems, to me, to be squarely aimed directly at bringing Pathfinder converts back into the fold, promising to address some of the issues in both 4th Edition and Pathfinder, by providing a linearly scaling advancement, reducing preparation time for Game Masters, and simplifying many poorly thought out and complicated legacy rules which most players will admit probably need to go.

For me, though, D&D Next will live or die the same death 4th Edition did, based on its acceptance of OGL. Gamers typically play the most popular gaming system, even if it's not necessarily the best. If 5th Edition doesn't have a full OGL, then irrespective of what it does wrong or what it does right, Pathfinder (and the huge-mongous amount of compatible 3rd party expansions, modifications, and adventures) will just crush it.

Paizo knows this, though, and I think they're afraid. They recently announced Pathfinder Unchained, a variant (but still, in many ways, compatible and familiar) reworking of many base classes to free them of "legacy cruft". Clearly, this change is a counter-point to 5th Edition, and Paizo's platform of "small, incremental change" has worked well for them in the past... but the first OGL version of Dungeons and Dragons is now 14 years old and there is a feeling, in some corners, that a true revolution is needed.

It is clear that the future is currently in flux, and on the year of Dungeons and Dragons's 40th birthday I can't help but shake a distinct feeling that, for Wizards of the Coast, D&D Next will either be the product that restores Dungeons and Dragons to its former glory as the undisputed champion of tabletop roleplaying systems, or the anchor that drags the brand down to a final, well earned resting place in the annals of roleplaying history.

The 5th Edition organised play campaign seems interesting, though.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"