Elections are November 2nd. That's one week from today! Please research and vote! This is not a small election. If you've been paying attention at all, you've probably heard a lot of talk about a swing back to the right this time around. Whether your goal is to help or hinder that prediction in coming true, please don't take it for granted. Because of the low turnout expected, it's an opportunity to make your voice count even more than usual, or to let the voices of those with whom you disagree have disproportionate weight. Take part, and do so after having done some research. Here's what I've got toward that end:

If you enter your address at the boston.com elections page, they have a tool that will let you compare the positions of any two candidates side by side (would be nice if you could do more at once, but whatevs) for each of the races relevant to you.

There is also video of the gubernatorial debates on the websites of some of the local TV stations:

10/25 Debate
10/22 Debate

I haven't gotten to watch either yet, but both appear to have all four candidates, including Green Rainbow and Independent.

And then there are some statewide questions with potentially big ramifications. While I'm a little suspicious of this kind of info being on a wiki, ballotpedia has what looks like pretty fair summaries of the arguments for and against each (plus a few that didn't make it to the ballot, like one for instant-runoff voting-- I wish I'd known!):

Question 1: Repealing the sales tax on alcohol
Question 2: Removing exemptions from local zoning laws for contractors who build affordable housing
Question 3: Reduce the state sales tax to 3%

So, there you go. Read, watch, decide, VOTE.

edit Also, of course, if you have other resources, or just want to make the case for an issue about which you're passionate, please share in the comments!
In case you care and haven't heard, signups for games at Intercon, one of the biggest theater-style LARP cons in the country, start on 11/3. There are a lot of great looking games on the schedule, running throughout the weekend.

If you're interested in checking it out, but haven't done Intercon before, be aware that the signups work in such a way that it's best to be proactive. At 7pm on 11/3, everyone who is registered for the con will get to sign up for one game. This is to ensure that everyone gets a fair shot at their top choice, but also means that popular games fill up *fast*. On 11/10, everyone gets to sign up for a second game, and then on 11/17, everyone gets to sign up for as many games as they want.
Intercon is a great opportunity to meet players, writers and GMs from all over the world, and to play in a wide range of games. It's definitely one of my favorite cons of the year. If you've never gone, but you're curious about LARP, it's a good way to dive in!
(reposted from [livejournal.com profile] nyren's journal:

Greetings everyone!

The WPI SFS will be hosting SFS Live Action Weekend (SLAW) this November on the weekend of the 19th to 21st on the WPI campus in scenic Worcester, MA. The event consists of a series of short (1-4 hour) theatrical live action roleplaying games of varying style, flair, and genre.

The website for this event is: http://slaw.wedgegaming.com. The game schedule is up on the site, but game signups do not open until tomorrow (Thursday, October 14th) at 7pm. Crash space can be provided if necessary - there will be a place to sign up for it on the schedule when signups open.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with theatrical live action roleplaying games, they lie somewhere on that overly specific spectrum between audience-less Improv sketches and those games of D&D where people talk more than they roll dice. In the game, you will be playing out a specific role in a specific situation, but how it plays out is entirely up to you. Before the game, you will be given a character sheet detailing the character you are playing. These often tell you things like, who you are, who you know, what you know, what you can do, and what you want to do. No acting or roleplaying experience is required or needed for these games, just an interest in having fun :) The games are all in different styles (serious, silly, bizarre, and so on) and different genres (sci-fi, fantasy, dinner party, mystery, parody, musical, and so on), and we try to make sure there's something for everyone. Costuming is encouraged but by no means required.

For those of you who ARE familiar with theatrical live action roleplaying games, uhh, there will be games! Yay!

On that note, we are (surprisingly) still possibly accepting game bids for SLAW. We should have enough games, but we may be able to fit more in. If you are really interested in running something, please send an email to nyrens@gmail.com.

If you have any questions regarding the event, please email me, and I'll do my best to answer them!

Nyren Knapp
SLAW2010 Event Coordinator
If you have moved, changed your name, etc, recently you don't forget to re-register (just fill out the form that link produces, print and mail) before the deadline TOMORROW, 10/13, or you won't be able to vote in November, which is not cool.

Do eet. Do eet now.
[livejournal.com profile] electricavatar is in a tight spot with her kitty. If anyone who isn't allergic is considering getting a cat and likes giant zomgfluffballs, you could really help them out!
If anyone in the area larps or has considered trying it out but hasn't played in The Last Seder, the game will be running on 7/24, and still needs players.

TLS is very different from your average game in a lot of ways, but I really enjoyed playing in it. It is a re-telling of the story of the last supper, told in a dystopian future setting. This caused me to approach it with some trepidation because, to me, that's sensitive subject matter, but IMO it's handled in a way that is neither disrespectful nor preachy.

I suspect it might actually be a good first game if anyone is curious. It uses the telling of "parables" to periodically break from the main setting by having the cast play out small roles in the sub-story each parable represents, adding some variety to the characters one gets to play, and because it very linear and structured plot-wise. In other words, it's the story of the last supper, and you don't get to change the ending. What's important is the role-play between A and B, so in that sense it could be a relatively straightforward first dive into the genre.

In any case, signup sheet is here, and more information is here.
via [livejournal.com profile] truthspeaker, ITA is hiring QA people
So, about that oil spill.

Don't worry, this isn't going to be a rant about BP, the EPA, or anything else so grandiose. To be honest, I'm trying not to think about it too much, because it's so easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless, not just about the spill, but about less publicized issues like the damage being done to countries like Nigeria, which remain impoverished and polluted despite their oil production (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] faerieboots for the link-- the comments to which, for once, actually add to the article by illustrating some of the complexities of the problem).

But of course, I'm bad at not thinking about things, and so I have. One opinion that I've seen cropping up here and there, but not getting nearly enough attention, IMO, is that this is a lot bigger than BP being too cheap to properly test and secure their oil rigs. Ranting about how evil BP is, even if that's true, is a cop-out because it avoids asking questions that are harder, but more important. Why were they there in the first place? Why the reckless pursuit of this one commodity at all costs? Why does the issue of drilling in ANWR keep coming up? Because they are satisfying demand. Our demand. The demand implicit in our way of life. Maybe what we're seeing here is proof that that way of life is not sustainable, and as demand grows, the companies in the business of (literally) fuelling our lifestyles get more and more desperate to meet those implicit demands. We rant and rave when BP et al screw up, but people would also rant and rave if production went down, causing prices to go up. In short: the system is broken.

So, ok. I'm not pretending to be the first person to make these observations, though I do think they deserve a signal boost. I do, however, think I have a relatively novel proposal for what regular folks can do about it. And by "novel" I mean not related to how fuel efficient one's car is or how often one drives it, though of course I'm all for less driving and more fuel efficiency. No, instead I'd like to talk about packaging.

Try doing an experiment: For a day, a week, or for however long you can stand it, when you open a "disposable" container, wrapper, or any other plastic product you would normally discard, don't. Keep a bag with you and put it in the bag. It's shocking how quickly the stuff piles up. Also kind of gross, but then that's sort of the point. For one thing, of course, this stuff doesn't just disappear. It goes into a landfill where it will stay, out of sight and out of mind for a gazillion years if we're lucky, which we're not, but that's a whole other environmental issue. More relevant to my point than where it goes is where it comes from. Plastic products are derived from petroleum just like like gas. All those wrappers? All that "disposable" stuff? It's part of the problem, too.

So all the attention that the spill has been getting has given me the impetus to kick a personal project I've been doing in bits and pieces for the last year or so into high-gear. I am making a personal goal this year to reduce the amount of waste (recycleables included) that I produce. I'm not a chemist and I haven't done the math, but I'm guessing all that stuff adds up and, in addition to walking and biking more often, maybe I can make my own small bit of difference. Maybe I can set some more sustainable expectations with my lifestyle and still enjoy it as well. I'm finding that when one considers that maybe the things one is "giving up" are things to which one was never entitled in the first place, it's not that hard.

Here are some of the things I'm doing, and which I'd like to challenge others to do, too. Post your own suggestions!

  • No "disposable" water bottles. This is one I've been doing for years. Cheapo rubbermaid bottle + one backpack with side pockets = no need. More water, less expense and less waste. Win. Plus my backpack has a second pocket for my re-usable tea cup :)

  • No "disposable" utensils. Went to the sporting goods store and bought a set of camping utensils. They live in my backpack alongside the water bottle. Any time I'm at a restaurant that uses disposable utensils, I'll use mine instead. A quick trip to the bathroom afterward to rinse them off and they're good as new.

  • Fewer "disposable" dishes. These are tougher to carry with me, but for example, whenever I'm in the office for work, I have a salad for lunch at the cafeteria. About a year ago the number of "disposable" salad bowls this amounted to started to get to me, so I went to the local market and got my own bowl, which now lives at my desk. The people who run the caf were even kind enough to weigh it for me and deduct the appropriate amount from the cost of my salads.

    Another easy one is eating in at restaurants more often than I do takeout or delivery

  • Fewer "disposable" wrappers and containers. This one would be dauntingly hard to fully eliminate, but I want to at least raise the bar for the circumstances under which I use them. Another example from the salad bar: they provide almost all of their dressings in those little Newman's Own packets, so I've switched to using oil and vinnegar for dressing, which they provide in re-fillable glass containers. It helps that oil and vinnegar turns out to be a lot tastier than I'd given it credit for, and I get to use exactly as much or as little as I want.

  • More bulk foods. I really wish more stores had those bulk bins where you take as much as you want, and use a simple bag, or ideally your own container for it (yes, [livejournal.com profile] sandrylene, I know Whole Foods does ;). Hell, there are so many products that could be sold that way (in fact, I can think of very few products that couldn't), but that aren't, even by the places that sell granola, et al in bulk. Looking at all the tiny little plastic bags and boxes we buy things in at the market, only to toss them a few days or weeks later, is starting to really bug me.

  • Fewer plastic bags. Yes they can be re-used, but if you're anything like me, the darn things reached critical mass a long time ago. I've bought the re-usables that pretty much every store has nowadays, but I keep forgetting them. Two things have really saved me on this front:
    First, not using a bag if I don't need it. It has really started to bug me when I buy a single chapstick and the grocer immediately goes to put it in a plastic bag, so "no bag, please" has become almost automatic for any small trip. Even if I have to stuff some pockets, I can get things to and from my car without needing yet another bag.

    The other thing was given to me as a stocking stuffer by my parents, and I don't think they even know that it's the single most useful present I've gotten in years. Whole foods makes these collapsible bags, which fold up into tiny little duffels about the size of two rolls of quarters. I keep two in my backpack and voila: any time I have my backpack, I also have everything I need for even a largeish trip to the store.

  • Make more food from bulk ingredients. This is one I'm not great at now, but I have some ideas. For example, I recently developed a taste for fruit salads, and had been getting them from the grocery store in these flimsy little plastic containers, which weren't even good enough quality to re-use. So this most recent time, instead of getting the pre-made stuff, I got plain-old-fruit and made my own. Portions are a problem, since that makes a lot and it goes bad quickly, but that's where housemates come in handy. :) I'm having similar thoughts about the canned soups that serve as one of my staples. I just need to find a recipe for reasonably healthy, vegetarian soup that is simple enough I won't be too lazy to bother. That last bit is, of course, the really tough part. ;)

  • ...so yeah, you get the idea. I'm sure there's more, and I want to keep adding to my (re-usable) bag of tricks, hence the invitation to share other ideas. I still fall down at this a lot, and I expect that'll continue, so don't think me a complete hypocrite if you ever see me with a take-away container in hand, but every little bit helps... I hope. I also might look a bit silly at first (I have seriously gotten the funniest looks when I've said that I don't want a bag for my shampoo, for some reason), but if enough others do the same, that will change. So, what do y'all think?
    One of my favorite breakfast places is offering a $10 for $20 groupon today. It's 9:30am and they've already sold over 1300, so it's likely to sell out soon! CLICKY if you want it (using that link will get me a nice referral bonus, too).
    Well, not "sold out", exactly, as you can only "reserve" tickets to be purchased at the door. If you haven't already reserved one, then be warned that you may not get in. However, if you are willing to risk a wasted trip to MIT, follow the instructions on the reservations site and if someone who has reserved a ticket doesn't show, which I'm told happens regularly, you can get on the waiting list to pick it up. You'll have to be there at showtime either way, though.

    I am both :D and :( about this.
    If anyone with coding skills is looking for a job, [livejournal.com profile] sandrylene's employer, near Alewife, is hiring. Details here.

    edit Hrmm.. original post is flocked, and the link to the actual job desc is now 403. Not sure what's up, but if you're interested, reply here and I'll put you in touch.
    Posted a couple of months ago about people I know who are doing various charitable fundraisers, and since then that number has only grown, so if you're looking for a good cause to throw some goodies at, please consider the following:

    [livejournal.com profile] how_low_am_i is participating in the Relay For Life

    [livejournal.com profile] ladysprite and [livejournal.com profile] tpau are participating in the Susan G. Komen walk (click either name to donate)

    @TeaAddictedGeek is doing the Avon Walk
    It has been pointed out that my previous post on this subject was lacking in important details like, you know, anything. I have since solicited said details and improved the post as follows:

    A friend of mine is being forced by financial circumstances to move in with a family member, where he sadly cannot take his cat, Snowball. Snowball is a female (fixed) white cat about 12 years old. She is shy but affectionate once she gets to know someone. She likes to sit next to people, rather than on laps, and now she needs someone to take good care of her.

    If you are or know someone who might be interested, please contact me at this username at gmail and I will put you in touch.

    [livejournal.com profile] how_low_am_i, who is swell, is looking to move into a geekhouse kind of arrangement in the Camberville/JP/Boston area (or anywhere between here and Easton). If you are or know someone who has a place or is looking an interested in gathering potential co-seekers, please drop her a line!

    (if her post is locked to you, just let me know and I'll pass it along)



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