Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts

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Archive for the ‘Posts by Amelia’ Category

[Review] Amnesia: The Dark Descent

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Amneisa: The Dark Descent is a notoriously scary game, so allow me to begin by listing all the things it has given me phobias of:

  • purple liquid
  • blood
  • orbs
  • bulls
  • naked people
  • water
  • piano music
  • being in the dark
  • being brightly lit
  • pyramids
  • cockroaches
  • drills
  • syringes
  • mushrooms
  • wheels
  • strawberry jam

(Minor spoilers under the cut)

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Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

July 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

DURRby: N00bs to Roller Derby Learn The Basics, Pt 1

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So you’ve probably heard of this great new sport called “roller derby.” You may even know a little bit about it; people often describe it as “a moshpit on wheels” or, less succinctly, “hot chicks in fishnets and skates beating the crap out of each other.” But do you actually know what the sport is about, and how it’s played?

The History

The original incarnation of roller derby was essentially an endurance race on skates, popular from the 1880s onwards, and especially throughout the Great Depression. It wasn’t until the 50s that it started to resemble the moshpit on wheels we know and love today, when the endurance aspect was abandoned and a point-scoring system was put in place. Over time, roller derby veered away from sports and towards sports entertainment. Competition from Roller Game and Roller Jam, declining ratings, the increasingly screwed-up economic situation through the 70s, and a run of really bad luck combined to bring an end to roller derby as it was. Fortunately for us all, in 2001 a group of girls in Texas got together to found the very first roller derby league. In 2003, some of those girls formed the first flat track league, and from there roller derby has spread like a virus. In 2011, the first roller derby world cup will be hosted by Toronto Roller Derby in Canada, with teams coming from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Argentina, Brazil, and France to compete. Isn’t that insane?

The Basics

Modern roller derby only has a very little in common with its previous incarnations. For the sake of simplicity, this guide will be dealing strictly with flat track roller derby, compliant with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association rules (v 4.0). A game of derby, also referred to as a bout, runs for two half-hour periods, with ten to fifteen minutes of half time. Each period is divided up into jams. Each team can have a maximum of fourteen players, five of which will be on the track at any given time. There are three types of players on each team; blockers, pivots, and jammers. The blockers and pivots skate in a big group called a pack, and the jammers must work their way through. The jammers’ first pass through the pack does not score any points—it is simply to determine lead jammer status. Jammers begin scoring on their second pass, earning points for every opposition player they pass, as well as opposition players in the penalty bin or opposition players.

The Pack

A more complicated concept than you’d think, with some fairly strict rules governing exactly what it is and is not. The pack must consist of blockers/pivots from both teams, be that one of each or all four of each or four of one and one of the other or any other combination. It is defined as the largest group of blockers within ten feet of each other, and any blocker who does not make up part of the pack must be within 20 feet of the pack if they want to actually block someone. The 20-foot-rule is also referred to as “the zone of engagement,” and many derby strategies involve creative ways of exploiting it. The pack lines up behind the pivot line, and takes off at the first whistle.

The Pivot

Often referred to as the brain of the pack, the pivot is basically a blocker with more responsibilities. Each team gets one. They can be recognised by the stripe running down the centre of their helmet The pivot’s job is to control the pack. They speed it up, slow it down, and control the formation of the blockers within it. They’re also the last line of defence against opposing jammers, and the point off which teams will rally. Pivots tend to be skaters with loud voices and owl-like necks, who are happy to skate while staring over their shoulder; they also need to have the best grasp of strategy of the team, and the ability to react and adapt quickly to any situation that might come up. Pivots also get some special moves—holding the pivot line, and passing the star, though more on this later.

The Blockers

Blockers are the muscle of the pack, and are demarcated by having no special adornments on their helmet. There are three on each team. Their jobs are twofold; offence, in which they help their jammer get through, and defence, in which they stop the other jammer. Blockers can also be split into two subtypes—striking and stalling. Striking blockers, as the name suggests, specialise in the big dramatic hits that are considered the hallmark of roller derby. When playing defensively, they might take up a position at the back of the pack as a sweeper, moving back and forth across the track with the intention of taking out the opposing jammer as she comes up. Alternately, they might move to the inside line, near to the front of the pack, where it’s very easy to swing out and hit a jammer as she approaches on the outside. Offensively, they can be placed anywhere in the pack and will usually man on—more on exactly what that later. Stalling blockers are blockers who specialise in positional or obstructive blocking. As roller derby leagues evolve more nuanced and complex game play and tactics, stalling blockers have become instrumental to dozens of different strategies. Even a single stalling blocker is a force to be reckoned with; the good ones can stop even the most determined jammer dead in her tracks. When used defensively, they will often team up to make the pack tighter, or get in the jammer’s way and make it hard for her to get through; playing offensively, they might occupy particularly troublesome blockers, or they might take control of the front of the pack and stop it dead to let their jammer keep on scoring. Blockers come in all shapes and sizes. While you’d think striking blockers would all be huge muscly powerhouses, some tiny girls can perform amazing blocks simply by being low enough to take everyone else’s legs out from under them. Long legs are a bonus for stalling blockers, but not even close to being required.

The Jammer

Jammers wear panties with stars on, and they score the points. They start out 30 feet behind everyone else on the jammer line, and take off at the second whistle from the refs. They’re traditionally the fastest players on the team, because they have to lap the pack—the jammer who manages to get through the pack first without taking any penalties gets awarded lead jammer status—and once they’ve done that, they can start scoring points. They get one point every time they pass an opposing player’s hip, and if there are opposing players in the penalty box, they also get a point for them once they’ve scored on someone else on the opposition team. Jams either last for two minutes, or until the lead jammer calls it off, so having lead jammer is a great tactical advantage–but more on that in a later part.

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

May 11, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Living Lazily Guide

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Both of us are afflicted with a certain degree of, well, how shall I put this?

Terminal laziness.

Delilah has long-since perfected the art of “making my boyfriend do absolutely everything short of wiping my arse”, but even in the dark days pre-partner had mastered the delicate science of doing as little as possible, and Amelia is single.

There are several domestic areas which take up far too much time, effort, and unexpected monetary expenditure, and you will recognise them by this: they are the ones which students almost invariably neglect first.

Washing up

Pots, pans, plates, palaver. With good cooking comes ten thousand things to wash up, especially if you’re operating under mis-en-scene for the sake of ease and speed; this, however, needn’t be the case. There are myriad dishes which only really require one pan in which to cook them – you can, after all, fry mince-meat in the same pot you just boiled the pasta that is now draining over the sink – and this business of eating off a plate is sorely over-rated. Eating out of a pan is entirely preferrable, and if you can do it standing next to the sink or the cooker you don’t have to walk as far to put it in to soak.

[Note, as environmentally conscious lazy people we’re not recommending that you use paper plates or eat disposable dinners. That would just be crass.]

The other trick to doing as little as possible when it comes to washing up is not to leave your dishes for as long as humanly possible – laziness is not equal to procrastination, because putting things off makes for more work, not less. The smart indolent person rinses regularly; whether it’s your coffee cup or the saucepan you just made spag-bol in, if you sluice it immediately after finishing there’s a good chance you won’t have to scrub it at all. And voila, no soaking, no elbow-grease, and no expensive detergent required.

Cleaning your house

A clean house is a sign of an empty mind. It’s also a signal that you intend to have people over to visit, which is not compatible with laziness. Take it from us, it’s far better for your reserves of effort to live in relative squalor and head out to be entertained in style elsewhere than it is to maintain a perfect home but save yourself the trip; apart from anything else, hosts have to cook, clean, put off the washing up until everyone’s gone home, and deal with the stress of wondering if people are fornicating in your watercloset. Meanwhile, as a guest all you have to do is show up looking presentable and with whatever bottle of cheap plonk you salvaged from the bargain bin at Morrisson’s, and try not to get too hopelessly lost on the way to the bog. Advantage: visitor.

For optimum cleanliness there are really only a couple of things to remember:

  1. Mice and cockroaches can’t get at things in metal containers. Army surplus stores sell fantastically stable footlockers in which to stash non-fridge foods, and they stack well. No, your kitchen will not look like a magazine showhome, but that takes effort, and effort is what we’re trying to avoid, here.
  2. Keep the lid of your kitchen waste bin closed at all times and both the stench and the likelihood of insect life taking up residence in there is greatly diminished. Also, while it may seem tempting to wait as long as possible before emptying the bin, if it’s summer and you live below the arctic circle your garbage can produce a thriving population of maggots in two days flat. Empty it frequently.
  3. The less stuff you have sitting out in the open, the easier it is to vacuum the accumulated dust out of your house every six months (or every six years, if you’re Delilah and don’t have any dust mite-related allergies); keep things in boxes. Those army surplus footlockers we mentioned, or nice big clear plastic boxes. [NB: If you sort out a system for what goes in which box at the start, it will save you a tonne of effort later on].
  4. It’s easier to wash slippers than carpets – go with wood laminate flooring and you can pretty much just kick dirt around instead of grinding it into the carpet.
  5. There is no shame in having to wear Doc Martens to safely walk through your own kitchen.

Washing Clothes

Not only is washing your clothes annoying, it’s also expensive and a waste of water. Oftentimes, you can avert doing the washing for weeks at a time with nothing more than some floorspace or a towel rack (or, for particularly stubborn cases, Febreeze.) All you need to do is make sure that your clothes are aired out, preferably over night. In the morning, if they pass the sniff test, they’re good to go–if not, hit them with the Febreeze and leave them for another night. You can extend the wearability of your clothes for weeks just like that. With undergarments (bras, knickers, boxers, singlets, etc.) washing can be slightly more important; bras and undershirts can be aired out, but will usually need washing before the rest of your clothes, and for the sake of hygeine underpants should be washed more regularly.

On the plus side, regular washing of your undergarments means your clothes can go even longer before they need a wash. If you’re lucky enough to be female, pantyliners can be an invaluable resource; if you’re lucky you can make your knickers last an extra week or more.

When neither airing nor Febreeze will stop the stink, or when you spill something on them, you will have to wash your clothes. There’s really nothing to be done to simplify this part of the process; just suck it up, follow the instructions on the machine, and above all remember to seperate the darks and the lights. Trying to fix clothes affected by running dye is annoying, and the antithesis of laziness.

The whole process of reusing clothes also becomes simpler if your wardrobe has a tendancy towards the nondescript. People tend not to notice if you wear the same pair of plain blue jeans for several days; jeans with artful rips, sparkles, or excessive embroidery are much harder to rewear without arousing suspicion. Plain black shirts work in much the same way, with the additional bonus of stains showing up less on dark materials.

Entertainment

Now the TV is the friend of the lazy person, but sometimes it is a lot of effort to turn the wretched box on. Fortunately, there are even more indolent alternatives for the truly idle. People-watching, for example, or people-listening (also known as “spying on the neighbours”) can provide one with hours of drama, comedy, and occasionally accidental pornography. And, naturally, there is the joy of self-love; masturbation is not only sex with someone you love, but cheap, entertaining, and not even something you have to get out of bed for.

We do not advise combining the two suggestions in this section: masturbation while people-watching is creepy and ultimately leads to either restraining orders or blisters.

Transport

The lazy man gets around the sun as quickly as the busy one.
R.T. Wombat

Driving is filled with effort and rage. Walking involves moving your legs too much; public transport requires organisational skills which require thinking, and hitch-hiking both calls for perky conversation with strangers and carries the risk of dying in the back of a Ford transit at the hands of someone who has unresolved mummy issues. Fortunately the internet, or “Satan’s own plaything”, has the answer; you don’t need to transport yourself when you can let the world come to you. With the except of friends’ parties, which a simple “I can’t drive” will avail you of lifts to, there are few things that people cannot deliver to your door, often within twenty-four hours. Most of them seem to come from Amazon these days, and we are eagerly awaiting the launch of their “order Alexander Skarsgard for free next-day delivery” service (customers who bought this also bought Peter Skarsgard: 2%. Sorry, Pete).

Shopping

As mentioned, the internet is a wonderful resource. There are even websites that will deliver food to your door. Unfortunately, these websites are often limited in their range of delivery, and the meals themselves can be expensive, so the occasional trip out of the house can be valuable.

The key thing is to shop in the same way teenage boys have sex; in and out in two minutes flat. When shopping for food, stick to things that are both cheap and filling. Pretty much anything with excessive amounts of starch gets a thumbs-up here–bread, pasta, ramen, and rice are good places to start, and can easily be augmented with things like peanut butter, frozen vegetables, and sauce in a jar, if scurvey isn’t your thing. Buying in bulk is also a must; carrying a ten kilo bag of rice home may be annoying, but it cuts down the number of times you have to leave the house drastically. If you’re shopping for something other than groceries, take a moment to plan your attack carefully. Try to figure out where the thing you want is in the store, and go straight there. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the bright lights and vivid colours,  and do not let yourself be suckered in by signs that say things like On Sale or Reduced. After all, the less time you spend in the outside world, the more time you have to entertain yourself.

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

April 7, 2011 at 12:38 am

it has been a week of shameless self-indulgence

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Quick updates: I am very excited about this, and also this. Pokemon: Black was very good but is it just me or does each generation get progressively easier?

And also I suppose I should tell you, since Del mentioned it… the first ever Roller Derby World Cup is happening in Toronto this year. Fourteen countries are fielding teams. I am going to be there in my capacity as… the manager of Team Australia. 

Yes.

Someone saw fit to give me a position of responsibility.

I’m shocked too.

We’re working on getting Team Australia corporate sponsorship (and a better name,) and we hope to hold tryouts throughout May in various state capitals. So if anyone’s reading this and interested, keep an eye out–I’ll be posting details here at some point, even if it’s just to bitch about how many flights I have to take (my fellow team staff are based in NSW.)

So, err, yeah, that’s my big news xD If anyone has suggestions for a title that’s somewhat cooler than “manager/bench coach” then please do pass them along!

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

March 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Posts by Amelia

UNIVERSAL TRUTHS YOU ARE UNLIKELY TO PICK UP AS A RESULT OF WATCHING FILMS OR TELEVISION

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With thanks to Amelia & Liza G.

1. Not all cancer is fatal.
2. AIDS can be managed with extensive medication and lifestyle adjustments and is no longer an instant death sentence.
3. Countries that do not speak English as a first or official language exist!
4. Lawyers spend a lot of time reading.
5. Learning, class-planning, and exams are part of life in schools as well as rampant romance, sports, and rallies.
6. Regardless of someone’s moral status, a gunshot wound can be a) instantly fatal, b) fatal after a long time, or c) not be fatal at all. C) applies even to gunshot wounds to the head. Yes, really.
7. A defibrilator is not a magical death-reversal machine.
8. Sharks don’t growl.
9. Nor do snakes.
10. Most women would really prefer it if you didn’t talk them. NB: It is still stalking if poetry, chocolates, and flowers are included. Even if the guy is “really good-looking”. Still stalking! Still don’t like it!
11. People lie, good guys included. Sometimes you will not actually know they’re lying. Sometimes they don’t even lie out of spite!
12. Alcoholism does not magically produce stubble.
13. People can become homeless for a number of reasons, and “being crazy” is not always number one.
14. Not every gay man is there to be some white chick’s sassy best friend. Nor is every black woman.
15. People who aren’t white go to colleges, work in law firms, and make important scientific discoveries. Also, there are black nerds and Asian gangstas.
16. Trans men exist.
17. Sex does not automatically result in love, nor vice versa.
18. Fat women have sex lives. So do disabled women. So do butch women.
19. There are women in this world who do not want to have babies.
20. Sometimes nice people are bitchy. Sometimes nice people are promiscuous. Sometimes nice people are violent. The inverse also applies.
21. Having perfect hair and nice shoes doesn’t automatically make you a good person, male or female.
22. Not everyone is attracted to slenderness and white teeth.
23. Some disabled people are assholes, just like some able-bodied people are assholes.
24. Serial killers are actually pretty rare.
25. Some women don’t cry much. Some men cry a lot.
26. Being an abuse victim does not automatically make someone an abuser.
27. Paedophiles do not wear a uniform.
28. One in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. Of those, approximately 85% occur before the woman knows she’s pregnant. Miscarriage is not an easy moral alternative to abortion.
29. Plenty of women have abortions without it destroying their lives or their bodies.
30. Not all athletes are dumb and not all nerds are unfit.
31. It is possible for someone to love Star Trek and get laid. In fact it is possible for someone to get laid as a result of loving Star Trek.
32. Female nerds exist; two of them write this blog.
33. Scientists spend a lot of time involved in research and testing hypotheses and have to write a lot of peer-reviewed papers; they do not generally leap to untennable conclusions in the space of five minutes – at least, not in their professional lives.
34. Women with martial arts training usually prefer not to fight in skin-tight PVC as it is not the most comfortable or easy to move in of fabrics.
35. Adult men are capable of making decisions even when there is a woman in a short skirt in the room.
36. Women have sexual desires, many of which don’t involve shoes.
37. There are mental illnesses which are neither depression nor schizophrenia.
38. Billionnaire philanthropists are very rare.
39. Most rapists are someone the victim knows; most rapes do not take place in dark alleyways.
40. Mexican intellectuals, academics, scientists, artists, and general non-maids, non-gang-bangers, and non-police officers = also exist!
41. Women have periods. Even outside of RomComs.
42. Loose clothing is easier to move in than form-fitting clothing, more practical for concealing weapons, and more likely to be favoured by professional thieves and assassins.
43. There are people who do not like dogs / are not liked by dogs and who are still not minions of Satan.
44. Food quite often looks like ass and tastes like heaven.
45. People from non-English-speaking communities have this tendency to communicate primarily in not-English rather than talking to other members of their community in accented English.
46. Not all Generals are incompetent.
47. Most crimes are not solved.
48. Removing a woman’s glasses does not automatically transform her into a sex kitten, it usually just means that she can’t see.
49. In emergency situations such as cave-ins and flash floods people’s survival instincts invariably kick in, which means that they will calmly and carefully do their best to preserve the lives of everyone in the group, rather than having histrionics, princess fits, or becoming monstrously selfish.
50. Sometimes, parents abuse their children. Sometimes, the children don’t hug and make up. Sometimes they never forgive their parents. That is their right.

I could, of course, go on… but Cracked.com already exists.

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

January 13, 2011 at 11:36 pm

coming to you live and somewhat soggy

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So as you may have heard, we’ve had some rather serious floods down here in my little corner of the world. I’m fortunate enough to be high and dry, despite being uncomfortably close to Cash’s Crossing when it broke it’s banks, and aside from a few problems with landslides and falling trees there’s been no major property damage.

I realise it’s rather late in the game, but if you know someone in the greater Brisbane area who has been evacuated and can’t take their animals with them, get them in touch with me; we don’t have room for more people, but my neighbours and I are taking pets, and if they’re not in my location I know at least three other people who’ve opened their house to the same purpose. I’m not sure about other evacuation centres, but the RNA Showgrounds are not allowing non-service animals. I can take any cat, dog, bird, or fish on a little notice, and I can take livestock up to the size of a horse if you give me warning and BYO electrical or panel fencing (all our land has is dogwire on stakes, I’m afraid.)

Donations are very much appreciated, and the best place to send them is directly to the official relief effort; the money goes directly to the State Emergency Services, the evacuation centres, the sandbag stations, and (if there’s any left over when the water draws back) to the cleanup/rebuild as required. If you’re located in Australia and can get to an affected region without taking a plane or the Bruce Highway, Volunteering QLD is coordinating volunteer assistance; registering with them first is greatly preferred to just showing up, as they have up-to-the-minute information on where help is needed most. Everything helps, and I do mean everything; I’ve been doing any little job from delivering medicine to filling sandbags on their account, and with a little luck my friends/colleagues and I will have a functional crisis counselling service set up at one of the evacuation centres by tomorrow or the weekend. While the actual efficacy of counselling immediately after a crisis is debateable, it makes people feel better, and since I don’t have the skills required to fix a car or rebuild a house this is pretty much the best I can do.

So far, things have been pretty bad for my state. We had no warning about the flash floods that came down from the Range, and the confirmed death toll is now at 15 and expected to rise. Crocodiles and sharks have been washed up in odd places, and I can personally attest to the vast numbers of very venemous snakes who have fled the waters and taken shelter in my roof. We’ve gone from BrisVegas to BrisVenice quite literally overnight. But as much as I might bitch and moan about my state and its people and its politics, we’re really rather good at pulling together in a crisis. (Please disregard Tony Abbott. If someone could just make him sit down and be quiet until the crisis was averted, that would be lovely…)

Now, my fellow flood victims, some advice the SES have passed along that everyone should hear.

Cleaning Up After A Flood, Step 1: Wait.

No, longer than that.

No, longer than that…

Seriously, keep waiting. Neither Brisbane nor Ipswich nor Toowoomba nor any part of the Lockyer Valley has been declared safe to re-enter. The flood waters are receeding in places, but there’s still a king tide to deal with, and a strong chance that they will rise again this weekend or next week. It is very easy for people to get hurt or killed by returning to their property too early, and if you think cleaning up after a flood is no fun, wait until you’ve cleaned up after a flood twice in under a week. When the SES and Energex declare the all-clear and return power, then you can get started. In the mean time, stay high and dry, try to score some decent clothes and sheets out of the donation pile, and keep waiting.

Here’s hoping we can all stay safe and dry for the rest of the wet season.

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

January 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Review: Black Swan

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This is what how my NYE started out:

I spent time with many different groups of friends, saw the midnight fireworks on the river, and went to seven or eight different bars, pubs, and clubs, woke up at my own house in my own bed with clear memories of how I got there, and had a disproportionately small hangover in the morning. Much better than last NYE, in the end.

In other news, I was lucky enough to be given tickets to an advanced screening of Black Swan and I went and saw that, and OMGWTFBBQ NATALIE.

(Some very minor spoilers, nothing you couldn’t get from the trailers.)

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Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

January 2, 2011 at 1:26 am