[Requiem] An excerpt from a letter

An excerpt taken from a letter written by Charles Morganti to another kindred.

The advance of technology has been immeasurably useful to my trade. Where once providing a musician for a private affair involved earplugs, blindfolds and other such instruments to disguise the truth of affairs, now technology provides an answer. From the gramophones introduced at the turn of the last century, which enabled music to be played at will at the turn of a crank to the modern electric music devices that transcend such basic principles. In modern nights, I can have a favoured musician play in a private room and their art is conveyed through electrics to a room elsewhere providing the unique experience of a personal musician without the dangers of having a kine musician included in a kindred matter.

You might ask why I don’t simply solve two problems at once and make a favoured musician of mine into a ghoul to provide safety and loyalty. The answers are myriad: I provide discrete services, and even a ghoul being present can break that creed; providing a variety of musical talent in this way would be expensive in vitae; and then there is the foremost reason – the lack of creativity in the ghouled. There is no shame in admitting that the mortal mind adapts better to new situations and creates more readily than the minds of the kindred. Our immortal nature bestows a certain slowness in thought, and the ghouled take on some measure of that. A ghoul is less likely to be original, or to create new works. Even the bond is dangerous as it focuses the kine on yourself rather than the creation of new works. In art and music, you want nothing other than the best unsullied by the nature of vitae.

Of course, the problem with using only kine untouched by the blood is that they all too soon wither and lose their talent. At some point, one must ask oneself whether this treasured artist is at the peak of their abilities and whether you wish to retain them as they are, or whether one lets them continue to create and age as a mortal. This is another solution that technology has overcome to a degree. The ability to store the art of a musician’s craft in electrics such that their beauty can be recounted at any point is itself a marvel and one which I offer freely to my clientèle should they desire musical accompaniment to their activities. As previously described, a personal performance can also be arranged through the use of an insulated music room for the performer or performers which also allows for the composition of original or custom pieces for a particular event.

The scale of technological advancement seems to leap exponentially with every passing decade. There seems to be little now that cannot be accomplished through the power of electrics – the cities quite literally thrum with the energy passing through the aether at times.

venn diagram

Beermat Maths

I’ve been doing some beermat maths regarding the recent UK election. It started with my spreadsheet where I mapped out how many seats each party should have won based on proportional representation compared with how many they got (Tories, Labour, and SNP got too many; Greens and UKIP got too little), and has progressed a little more into a armchair political theorist discussion on the effects of proportional representation on the electorate.

My hypothesis is that proportional representation (PR) would not only give a fairer distribution of parliamentary seats, but also radically change the makeup of those seats. Most of this comes from the aforementioned beermat maths.

The first thing to be aware of is that 46.4 million Britons are currently eligible to vote (only about 30.6 million voted), and that there are 650 parliamentary seats at present. That means that in order to get a seat in a PR system, you should only need 71,424 votes. That number is the magic one that makes all of the rest of this slide into place.

Currently, the candidate with the highest proportion of votes in each constituency gets the seat – regardless of how many votes they actually got. This means that there are many seats where the sitting candidate has less than 40% of the votes from their district – but they’re supposed to represent 100% of the people in it. Somehow, that seems unlikely to me. It is my belief that because of this, many voters vote for parties whose policies they do not support fully out of a “better than the alternatives” mindset. So not only are people not getting the people they want in parliament, they’re settling for who they think can win it and do alright by them.

While proponents of the Green Party[1] are decrying the fact that they only got 1 seat (0.15% of the seats) with 3.8% of the votes, others are supporting the current system for ensuring that UKIP only got one seat despite having 12.6% of the vote. The popular belief here is that PR would be good for both parties, but Britain might suffer under more UKIP representation. I believe that the numbers from the current election do not reflect in any way the numbers we would get under a PR system.

It is my belief that a PR system would open the door to a political system that actually invites people to have the representation they want. If your vote is a national vote rather than a local vote, then it doesn’t matter if you’re the only person in a 100 mile radius to vote for CISTA[2] because as long as there are 71,423 other people across the country that want CISTA to have a representative. Being able to vote for a political platform you believe in without having to settle for a party that might win has to mean that people will vote for the parties they actually believe in.

It is my belief that bringing in PR will massively boost the less mainstream parties, and encourage people to vote for groups that get them what they want without going to the extremes of UKIP. I believe that a PR system will actually reduce the number of UKIP votes, not increase them. I also believe that PR will increase voter turnout as every vote will matter – your vote won’t be washed away by 40% of your constituency voting for a bigger party.

It is my belief that all of the smaller parties will benefit from PR and that the larger mainstream parties will suffer and it is because of this that no right-thinking Conservative will allow anything like a bill changing the vote to a PR system to pass before the next election no matter how much the other parties rally behind it. We may get a concession towards a better voting system in the future, but I can’t think that PR would do anything but hurt the Conservative party, and they’re unlikely to support a system that removes them from power in the next election.

The maths on this election is rather fascinating. 36.9% of the voters voted for the Conservatives but they won 50.9% of the seats. 66.1% of the electorate showed up to vote, which means that 24.4% of the electorate determined 50.9% of the seats. Given how the election maths actually works, any Conservative votes in areas that don’t have a Tory seat should be discounted as they didn’t contribute towards the won seats, and that actually makes it worse. I don’t have those figures, but that means that less than 24% of the eligible voters determined over half of the seats – when those are the numbers you’re looking at, can you really support First Past The Post as a valid method of determining who gets to sit in parliament?

All numbers referenced in this post were drawn from the BBC election results webpage and the derived interpretation is my own.

There are already various efforts to change the electoral system, including this Green Party campaign and the Make Seats Match Votes campaign.

Featured graphic from Morag Hannah, a Green Party candidate standing in the  Holyrood 2016 election. She was corrected on Twitter as it is in fact an Euler diagram but I didn’t feel the need to upload the corrected graphic.

UPDATE: This campaign for fairer representation by a teenager too young to vote has now broached 200,000 signatures and momentum is still gaining. There’s a part of the petition that I like that expresses my feelings quite succinctly:

“I don’t want to vote for a party I disagree with to keep out a party that I disagree with even more. I want to vote for a party that I believe in.”


UPDATE: I have been pointed at Martyn Eggleton’s D’Hondt analysis of the election[3] which splits votes by region and works out proportional representation on that basis. It’s interesting to look at, and the figures are interesting. The Conservatives and Labour have more seats under than my nationally based figures suggest, and UKIP and Green both lose seats comparatively. Local parties like Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein, and the Democratic Unionist Party come out ahead in there areas rather than losing seats.

This analysis doesn’t hugely appeal to me as much as my own does purely from the bias that my vote (for the Green Party) wouldn’t matter as only 39,025 people in Scotland voted for the Green Party this election, and that isn’t enough to score a seat in Scotland.[4] However, I still think that under this system you’d see a better representation of what people wanted from their government and that people would be more likely to vote for the party they believed in.


Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Full disclosure: I am not a member of any of the Green Parties, but I support their political viewpoints and voted for the Scottish Greens
2. The Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol Party
3. Credit to Phil Hyde for the link.
4. Interestingly, UKIP got 47,078 votes in Scotland which is more than I thought they would but not actually that much more than the Green Party.

Meme stories

Tonight, another iteration of a meme started going around my friends. This particular meme invites commenters to relate the story of how they met the poster, but to lie in doing so. Outlandish tales are far more fun.

Tell me how we first met.

I decided to take this a step further, though perhaps not intentionally. I like the constraints of six word stories – how the brevity makes each word more important, and how it can convey more of a story than the six words contain in themselves.

Each reply I have made to tonight’s round of the meme has followed the following three rules (created after the fact rather than before): each is six words exactly, each works independently of the others, and each can be brought together to illustrate a much larger story.

What that story was has been developed on the fly from the origins of the idea of writing a horror story featuring mirrors. The story seems to encompass a war with shadows and reflections, fighting our images who have decided to take over. Of course, winning the war doesn’t seem to be on the cards – merely a harsh survival as I relate how I met each of my (temporary) compatriots in the war.

It’s been an entertaining evening. The little excerpts of this tale are available on those posts I’ve commented on.

Huh. I’m a hipster.

Just had a realisation. When it comes to tech, I’m something of a hipster. I can legitimately say things like “I had a smartphone before they were cool” and “I had a smart watch before they were cool”.

Probably because I saw something about an Apple Watch again, and was just kinda going “I’ve had a smart watch for two years”. We had a conversation at work about it and everyone was going on about what it could do and I was going “I’ve had a watch that could do that for two years with a better battery life”.

As I said above, I’ve legitimately had a smartphone since before they were cool as well. Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. I had a Lobster 700TV in 2006. A phone with Windows Mobile on it, that let me watch TV and listen to digital radio wherever I happened to be.

Now kinda wondering what the next trend I’ll get into before Apple does.

[Requiem] Harpy Report, April 2015

“Jessie, fetch paper and pens – there’s work to do…”

Notables of the night, I bring news from Edinburgh.

On the 28th night of April 2015 anno domini, kindred gathered to discuss the formalities of reclaiming the domain of Edinburgh. Those of us with resources and foresight had acquired a building for the purposes of temporary shared have and Elysium. While in some need of maintenance and decoration[1], it is fit for purpose.

Kindred of all the clans and covenants had gathered: a mix of those contacted by House Umbra, The Murder, and those who were resident under the previous Court of Edinburgh. In order to facilitate the smooth reclamation of Edinburgh with a minimum of in-fighting, a document of intent and principle had been composed by Alder Umbra and this document was read out to the room before being analysed by interested parties. After some deliberation and modification, a ratified version of the document was agreed upon by all parties present. Alder Hawkwood is acting as notary for the final document and the associated Oath, and can be contacted for a copy of the final text.

While discussion of the wording of the Oath was ongoing, the combined knowledge of the status of the City, members of the previous Court, and those kindred who had attempted to reclaim the domain before was gathered, collated, and plotted on a map of the city where relevant. Madam Connie of the Circle of the Crone is particularly recognised for the depth and utility of the information she possessed.

Once available information was collated, and the Oath agreed upon by the kindred present, the determination of Primogen and Prisci (to represent the kindred involved in the reclamation effort as noted in the Oath) occurred in the fashions inimitable to each Covenant and Clan. Regarding Primogen, Alder Umbra now represents the Invictus, with Mr Mitchell representing the Carthian Movement, Mr Gregor[2]  representing the Circle of the Crone, Alder Dragosesti representing the Lancea et Sanctum, and Mr MacGregor representing the Ordo Dracul. Regarding Prisci, Alder du Montfort represents the Daeva, with Alder Mahon Stormcrow representing the Gangrel (not to be confused with Madam Alder Stormcrow), Mr Swift representing the Mekhet, Mr Darroch representing the Nosferatu, and Mr Levin representing the Ventrue.

Having chosen representatives, a concerted effort was then put into the investigation of previous domain locations and the retrieval of documents within. Despite complications, the Notary’s records were retrieved but the records of boons from the previous domain had already been removed by parties unknown.

Upon the return of the adventuring party, the meetings of the Primogen and Prisci Councils were held, the outcome of which was an initial set of proclamations and positions for the kindred resident in Edinburgh. The Primogen have appointed myself to act as their Harpy, Madam Gregor to act as Sheriff, and Alder Mahon Stormcrow to act as Hound. The positions of Seneschal, Master of the Elysium, and Herald were left vacant at this time, though it was noted that Alder Umbra’s ghoul would act as primary caretaker for the Elysium of Donaldson School for the interim period. The Prisci have currently declined to appoint a Harpy.

A brief summary of the Primogen Council’s proclamations follows. Donaldson School is declared to be an Elysium and feeding in the surrounding area is strictly forbidden[3]. All of the previous Court’s locations are considered off-limits without permission of the Primogen Council. Local hunters are to be avoided where at all possible, except under mandate of the Primogen Council; violating kindred will receive no aid from the domain. Should a kindred unavoidably encounter hunters, the course of action decreed by the Primogen Council is elimination of the hunters rather than retreat; any such engagements should be reported to the Primogen Council at the earliest possible opportunity. All feeding is to be invisible, and any evidence to be disposed of without notice by any; any breach of this must be reported to the Primogen Council at the earliest possible opportunity. The Three Traditions are in full force. Breach of any of these proclamations will have dire consequences. Revelation of the location of Elysium to hunters or other enemies of the domain will result in one’s unlife being considered forfeit.

In addition, the sole representative of the Carthian Movement present was seen to be having a debate with himself regarding who should be Primogen for the Movement. Mr Mitchell also provided a note of levity to proceedings with a discussion on the taxation of recorded boons. Mr Byron of the Ordo Dracul is seeking assistance in the reclamation of his father’s estate from its current owners. Mr Levin has been most gracious in offering his assistance to his elders, and has distinguished himself in securing the position of Ventrue Priscus.

Amat victoria curam.

Charles Morganti
Harpy of the Thorns and First Estate

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. “Jessie, arrange with Theresa a plan for decorating the place – an Elysium should look like one.”
2. “What sort of name is ‘Tabs’?
3. “Set some of the dolls up in a hotel or something – somewhere convenient but out of sight.”

Hiding from Big Brother

I got pointed at CV Dazzle today. It’s fascinating how a bit of makeup or a hairstyle can make your face unrecognisable for computers.

Of course, LARPers already knew that – Facebook can rarely tell when someone in heavy makeup is a person, and the nose on some helmets functions in much the same way as a hairstyle in breaking up the face.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard of things like this. The common one I’ve seen is using a particular type of LED mounted around the face (in the brow of a cap or on glasses) to blind cameras by putting out light on a frequency that they’ll detect but other people won’t. I find the entire concept fascinating, and keep meaning to try some experiments with it.

My original thought about the makeup is that all they need to do is get a relatively clear shot and PhotoShop the annoying bits out. Of course the point isn’t to avoid that, but to avoid the automatic logging of your face and take control of your own privacy and when you get picked up by cameras – not to stop cameras seeing you at all.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have criminal potential. Blinding cameras so they can’t see your face (just a white blur where your face should be) certainly has criminal applications, but it also requires a degree of electronics knowledge, and is ultimately little more effective than a balaclava as people will look for the person who’s blinding cameras instead of the one in a mask.

Perhaps I should spend less time thinking about criminal opportunities, but I find it an interesting field to hypothesise in. As a thought exercise, there’s something compelling about finding ways around the Big Brother attitudes towards modern security from how to bypass airport security to how to stop computers recognising our faces. I’m not alone in this as both conversations with friends and the CV Dazzle and similar projects show.

Invisible was one of the other interesting projects that’s come out in recent years. It seemed to start off as an art project – something which worked but wasn’t meant to go commercial in any way despite the labelling like a product, but more recently it’s gone up for sale [1] and DIY guides have been published so you can make your own versions of the products. I was never that interested in it (interested enough to sign up for more information) but the concept of a product designed to erase your DNA samples was again something that intrigued me from the perspective of what can you do with it?

From a certain perspective, the idea that I’m in the public eye and being observed constantly has never bothered me. The idea that someone might monitor my emails (or this blog) for dangerous content and thus put me on some list bothers me a little more, but machine analysis of my life doesn’t intrinsically bother me or send me into fits of paranoia. I’m careful with what I do and what information I share but not to the extent of desiring these products as anything more than a curiosity. I am not a fantastic proponent of paranoid security, really, but I do see the advantages even if I don’t necessarily see the value in adding such to my own life.

This post has become rather more serious than I intended. Suffice to say that I enjoy finding out new ways to manipulate forensics and security systems, but I don’t particularly have a need for them outside of a hypothetical situation (except where it comes to LARPing, as my characters may be far more paranoid than I am).

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. limited run of 100, which reinforces the art project feel especially as it’s being sold by a museum

[Awakening] All My Life

All my life, I’ve been searching for something.

Something never came, never led to nothing.

Nothing satisfies but I’m getting close, closer to the prize at the end of the rope.

That’s when I found her. She wasn’t the nebulous truth I’d been searching for, she was real and she became my world. I put aside the quest I’d never been able to explain and entered a new life with her. I’d found something real and I wasn’t letting go.

All night long, I dream of the day. When it comes around, then it’s taken away.

Until the accident. Highlands back road, middle of the night, all blind summits and sharp corners on thin country tracks. We were looking at wedding venues that weekend and we were on our way back to the hotel. I still don’t know what hit us or where it came from – there wasn’t anything there when I woke up again. But somehow I survived and she was… I couldn’t let it happen, wouldn’t let it happen, and something broke that night. I found what I’d been searching for, the nebulous truth, and it didn’t help. I made a working that night by instinct, desperately trying to bring her back, to make her whole. All I succeeded in doing was binding her soul here, connected to my own.

Leaves me with the feeling that I feel the most, feel I come to life when I see your ghost.

Ever since that night all I’ve done, all I’ve cared about was finding a way to restore her to life. No matter what it takes, no matter what secrets I must learn, I will find a way.

And I’m done, done, onto the next one.

Done, I’m done and I’m onto the next…