Sunday, October 23, 2016

My Endorsements for 2016

The media is in a frenzy over the presidential election as usual, but let’s be real: because of the way the Electoral College works, my vote as a Californian will be essentially irrelevant in the race. The same is true for pretty much everyone who doesn’t live in a swing state.
However, let us not forget that we’re voting on a lot of other junk too. My voter information booklet is over 200 pages long, and it doesn’t even cover local measures!
In past elections, I’ve made blog posts offering my opinion on the various issues. I find that this is useful both for educating myself (because of the research I have to do for it) and for extending my own influence (by persuading friends and family to vote the same way as me). So here are my thoughts on this year’s ballot. We’ll start with the headliner, which is the presidential race.


Hillary Clinton is a great candidate. I was happy to vote for her in the primary and I’m happy to vote for her now. Her policies are great, she’s a capable politician, and I expect her to pretty much continue the work of the Obama administration (which I liked). She is by far the best candidate in the race, and it’s not remotely close, so this one is very easy.
For those curious, here are my rankings for the other candidates:
  1. Gary Johnson (Libertarian): Better than any Republican and worse than any Democrat.
  2. Gloria Estela la Riva (Socialist): I literally have no idea who this is and I would still prefer her over Trump.
  3. Donald Trump (Republican): Puke. The Republican Party is dead to me forever.
  4. Jill Stein (Green): Voting Green is even worse than voting Republican, because if a Californian votes for Trump, her vote essentially just doesn’t count, whereas if a Californian votes for Stein, her vote can potentially push the Green Party above the 5% threshold required to attain federal funding in the next election, giving them the ability to steal more votes from the Democrats and potentially swing the 2020 race in favor of the Republicans. Either way, it doesn’t affect this election, but voting Green might adversely affect the next one. Please, if you are looking for a protest vote, vote for Gary Johnson instead. The Libertarian Party steals votes from both sides instead of just the Democrats.


I’m going to be honest. I know very little about these candidates, and since they’re both Democrats, I’m not terribly invested in the outcome. I am voting for Kamala Harris because she has the endorsements of many prominent Democrats whose opinions I respect, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Governor Jerry Brown, as well as both of the current senators for California and my district’s representative in the House. That’s pretty impressive, and I’m willing to trust their judgement.


As previously mentioned, the Republican Party is dead to me. In any race between a Democrat and a Republican, I will always vote for the Democrat. So I’m supporting Jared Huffman, the incumbent, for 2nd District Representative.

State Assembly

In the absence of any particular reason not to, I will be voting for the incumbent, Marc Levine. Because sure, whatever.

5th District County Supervisor

I haven’t been following this race closely. I haven’t been impressed with Lynda Hopkins, so I’m leaning towards Noreen Evans, but I don’t feel strongly.

Proposition 51: Bonds for schools

Yes, yes, I know, schools are great, but look, first off, I’m not convinced that this is the most efficient way to fund them, and second, this is the kind of ballot measure that I really hate. It raises funds and allocates them to a specific program. As admirable as that sounds in theory, the problem with it is, this is not how it should be done! The state budget is crafted by the legislature! Bringing it to the voters directly is extremely inefficient, and it bloats the ballots to the point where no one can keep up with all the stuff we have to vote on. Furthermore, it presents only a tiny slice of a big issue, which causes tunnel vision. Do you want to spend money on schools? Most people will say yes. Do you want to spend money on hospitals? Again, most people will say yes. How about roads? Parks? Firefighters? Homeless shelters? Present each item individually, and you’re going to get a lot of people saying “Of course I support spending money on that!”
Budgets don’t work that way. Every dollar you spend on one program is a dollar you’re not spending somewhere else. Do schools really need new air conditioners more than they need new textbooks? What about teacher salaries or arts programs? I don’t know the answer. It’s a very complicated question. And I don’t think it’s fair to ask every voter in the state to try and answer that question. It’s the legislature’s job to decide, not ours. They should be the ones doing all this work.
Anyway, No on 51. It’s probably going to pass anyway, but whatever.

Proposition 52: Hospital fees

This has basically the same problems as Prop 51, so I’m naturally inclined to vote against it. However, the “Let the legislature decide this crap” argument kind of falls apart when the proposition has a list of endorsements like this (Source: Ballotpedia):
Given that our representatives apparently are fully on-board with this one, I guess I’m willing to go along with them, but I still don’t think this should have been on the ballot.

Proposition 53: Voter approval for revenue bonds

Do you want gridlock? Because this is how you get gridlock. Requiring voter approval in order to issue revenue bonds is a terrible, terrible idea that will hamstring the state’s ability to pass a balanced budget. Let our representatives do their jobs. I strongly urge a No vote on Prop 53.

Proposition 54: Transparency

This is the one that requires state assembly meetings to be recorded and streamed, and bills to be posted online for 72 hours before they can be passed. Look, let’s be real. Voters don’t care about that crap. The only people watching those videos will be politicians and special interests trawling for material to use in attack ads, and the only people reading those bills will be lobbyists.
I understand that transparency is cool and all, but there would be real costs involved in implementing this proposition and I can’t see the benefits being worth it.
Also, the Republican Party of California has endorsed a Yes vote; the Democrats have endorsed a No vote. I am naturally inclined to vote along party lines.

Proposition 55: Tax extension

I said back over on Prop 51 that I generally oppose this sort of spending measure on principle. So what’s the difference? Well, first off, there’s a lot less micromanagement baked into 55. Yes, it allocates money to certain programs, but there appears to be more leeway on exactly how it can be spent, and it’s all stuff we’re (hopefully) spending money on anyway, so it doesn’t tie the state’s hands the way 51 does. Additionally, I’m more inclined to be generous towards an extension of an existing source of revenue than the creation of a new one. And furthermore, I actually happen to like raising income taxes on the wealthy.
I still prefer for these things to be handled by our representatives, but whatever, this one actually sounds fine.

Proposition 56: Cigarette tax

I really could care less about cigarettes, honestly. I’m willing to vote Yes on 56 for two reasons:
  1. California’s current cigarette tax is one of the lowest out of all 50 states (37th in fact) so there’s room to raise it.
  2. Party lines again. My party supports it, the other party opposes it. (See also Prop 54.)
But, you know, whatever.

Proposition 57: Criminal justice reform

This proposition increases leniency on nonviolent and juvenile offenders. I can wholeheartedly support that. Our criminal justice system is currently harsher than I would like and I’m happy to soften it. This proposition also has the stamp of approval from Gov. Jerry Brown, and I have a pretty good amount of trust in him. So, Yes on 57.

Proposition 58: Bilingual education

Slam-dunk yes. Why did we ban bilingual education in the first place? What a dumb move. I am all in favor of making schools more friendly to non-native speakers. You can’t just throw them to the sharks and expect them to learn the material without understanding the language. This is a very easy vote for me.

Proposition 59: Referendum on Citizens United

Why the hell are we even voting on this? It is completely nonbinding, so it does literally nothing. I dislike the Citizens United decision as much as the next girl, but I am definitely opposed to wasting voters’ time and energy on useless crap like this proposition. This is not how ballot initiatives should be used.

Proposition 60: Condoms in adult films

Really? This is on the ballot? Whatever. Look, I don’t watch porn and I don’t particularly care about it. I’m willing to support additional regulation in order to promote the health and safety of the actors because this is clearly an area where the organization cannot be trusted to police itself. So I’m voting Yes, but it’s a weak Yes.

Proposition 61: Prescription drug costs

Prescription drug prices are a problem. However, this is a kludgy, awkward solution with complex economic ramifications that we don’t fully understand. It’s exactly the kind of measure that should not be placed in front of voters. (A recurring theme this election!) As much as I’d like to stick it to pharmaceutical monopolies, I am simply not comfortable voting for this proposition. I’m not convinced it would actually be better than the status quo; there’s a decent chance it causes as many problems as it solves.

Proposition 62: Repeal the death penalty

This is a refreshingly simple initiative, and I think the arguments are well known by now. The death penalty sucks. It’s ineffective as a deterrent, it executes too many innocent people, and it’s wildly expensive and inefficient compared to life imprisonment. It is a terrible policy and it should absolutely be repealed.

Proposition 63: Gun control

Honestly, I just really hate guns, so I’ll vote for pretty much any gun control measure. I’d repeal the Second Amendment if I could. I know it’s not a very nuanced position. Sorry gun lovers.

Proposition 64: Legalize marijuana

Personally, I don’t touch the stuff, but by criminalizing it, we’re wasting law enforcement resources and passing up on gazillions of dollars of potential tax revenue to crack down on a drug that’s basically an order of magnitude less harmful than alcohol.
I’ve heard some people criticize this proposition as detrimental to small growers because it favors large factory farms or something like that or whatever. I don’t care about small growers. Sorry small growers. I’m more concerned with freeing up law enforcement resources, boosting tax revenue, and keeping people from being thrown in jail for marijuana possession.

Proposition 65: Plastic bag revenue allocation

This proposition is in opposition to Prop 67, as they have competing language. They would each allocate funds from grocery bag taxes in different ways. Prop 67 is the better one and it’s not close. Since they’re mutually exclusive, that means a No vote on 65.

Proposition 66: Death penalty (again)

This one is like the opposite of Prop 62. Instead of repealing the death penalty, we keep it, but we speed up the appeals process and make it easier to execute Death Row inmates. This would remove safeguards that prevent us from executing innocent people, and just generally sounds like a terrible idea. Please vote No on 66 and Yes on 62.

Proposition 67: Plastic bag ban

I seriously don’t care about plastic bags. Really, I don’t. I’ll vote Yes on this one because I have some friends and family who do care, and I’m willing to throw them a bone. But I don’t feel strongly about it at all (except that it is way better than 65).

West Sonoma County Union High School District School Board

Ted Walker and Diane Landry.
My teacher friends have urged me very strongly to vote for anyone but Eric Kirchmann. Apparently they’ve worked with him before and he is just awful. I have great respect for their opinions and will happily take their word for it. My vote will go to the incumbents.

Sebastopol City Council and Palm Drive Health Care District Director

I have no idea who any of these people are.

Measure K: Sprawl prevention

This is the one that protects the buffer zones between cities in Sonoma County and prevents development on the land. A lot of people like the buffer zones. I do not. I don’t particularly mind if the suburbs encroach their way into the woods. I happen to like the suburbs, thank you very much, and as a car-impaired individual, giant buffer zones between towns make it hard for me to get around.
You can vote how you like. I assume the measure will probably pass. Whatever.

Measure L: Tourist tax

The transient occupancy tax seems like a fine place to squeeze some extra revenue. No objection here.
For the record, I am much more tolerant of ballot-box budgeting at the local level. It’s only bullshit at the state level. For the counties, it’s fine.

Measure M: GMO ban

I know I have a lot of friends and family who support this measure. I’m going to be blunt. You’re wrong. The GMO ban is based on paranoid nonsense that should hold about as much credibility as that anti-vaccine hogwash, or the theory that wi-fi causes brain cancer. I don’t understand how you can ridicule climate change deniers for refusing to accept science and then turn around and support a blatantly anti-science measure like this one. I’m sorry.
“But GMOs can contaminate neighboring farms and cause them to lose their organic certification!” No they can’t. You can’t lose your organic certification because of accidental contamination. FDA rules don’t work that way.
“But GMOs encourage pesticide use!” So you want to ban all GMOs—current and future—because some of them are used alongside pesticides? If you’re really that concerned about pesticides, has it occurred to you that maybe it might be better to just ban *gasp* pesticides? Banning GMOs to get rid of pesticides is like banning zinc to get rid of pennies. Yes, it would probably reduce the number of pennies in circulation, but you know we use zinc for other things too, right? Why would you not just ban the penny directly? Come on.
“But Monsanto!” A thing is not automatically evil just because Monsanto does it.
TL;DR No on M, and please stop demonizing GMOs.

Measure Y: Sales tax to fund libraries

Libraries are a valuable service. True, their role has evolved as technology has become more widespread, but they are still centers of education, and provide an important resource, especially for the economically disadvantaged, who may not have easy access to books, computers, and other stuff. The extra funding is sorely needed, and I will happily support this measure.


President: Clinton/Kaine
Senate: Kamala Harris
2nd District Representative: Jared Huffman
10th District State Assembly: Marc Levine
5th District County Supervisor: Noreen Evans
51: No
52: Yes
53: No.
54: No.
55: Yes.
56: Yes.
57: Yes.
58: Yes.
59: Blech.
60: Yes.
61: Yes.
62: Yes.
63: Yes.
64: Yes.
65: No.
66: No.
67: Okay.
WCUHSD School Board: Ted Walker and Diane Landry.
K: No.
L: Yes.
M: No.
Y: Yes.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dear Diary, today I Journeyed Into Nyx.

Another undefeated prerelease run for Journey Into Nyx puts me at three for three this block. Man, I love this format.

I played green again, and ended up green-white ramp with two Voyaging Satyrs and some good fives (namely the splashy promo Heroes' Bane and good ol' Nessian Asp) backed up by double Banishing Light and some random on-curve dorks.

The deck, in all its pretty-much-rareless glory:
Lands (16)
9x Forest
7x Plains
Creatures (17)
Akroan Mastiff
Chronicler of Heroes
Eagle of the Watch
Eidolon of Blossoms
Harvestguard Alseids
Heliod's Emissary
Heroes' Bane
Humbler of Mortals
Leafcrown Dryad
Nessian Asp
Oakheart Dryads
2x Satyr Grovedancer
Snake of the Golden Grove
Supply Cranes
2x Voyaging Satyr 
Other (7)
Artisan's Sorrow
2x Banishing Light
Font of Fertility
Nature's Panoply
Ray of Dissolution
I also traded a Hellkite Tyrant for an Oath of Druids and a shockland for a Xenagos, God of Revels, so I expect I'll be giving those a spin in Mayael at some point.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

About Omen Machine

Let's talk for a minute about Omen Machine in the Mayael deck.

Omen Machine

"But Jasper," I hear you cry, "Omen Machine is a terrible card! It's a symmetrical effect and your opponents get to go first and Guthix only knows if you'll get a decent card from it at all!"

Well, you're wrong. Omen Machine is what we in the business call "tech."

See, the Mayael deck's main gameplan revolves around building up some mana and then eventually dropping large creatures onto the board one at a time. There's not a lot of card draw and no real rush to play multiple spells in one turn. Every individual spell in the deck tends to have a high impact on the board, so while it's possible to run out of gas, the deck gets a lot of miles per gallon, so to speak.

If the opponent trades one-for-one with Mayael's fatties, that's okay, because there's another one waiting in the wings to replace it. However, if the opponent is also drawing extra cards and getting 2-for-1s, it's easy to fall behind.

Omen Machine stops that strategy cold by forcing everyone to play on the same terms as Mayael: It brings all of the action out of the hand and onto the battlefield. Mayael is already only drawing one card a turn, so for us it's a strict positive effect: instead of having to wait and tap out to cast the fatty we just drew, we get to play it for free and still have mana up to activate Mayael! Kablam! But for the rest of the table, it's not so optimal. Removal? Use it or lose it, because you won't be able to save it for a better target. Counterspells? Ha! Good luck with that. Card draw? Nice blanks you got there.

When everyone is playing Mayael's game, Mayael is going to win. You don't invade Russia in the winter, you don't start a land war in Asia, and you don't fight a topdeck war against a deck where half the spells are enormous fatties.

Now, it's possible to really abuse it, if something like Sensei's Divining Top or Scroll Rack is in the picture. Really, though, rawdogging it is just fine—and if you're not visibly "abusing" the effect, it's less likely that the other players at the table will rush to destroy it.

So there's my little love song to this little-known piece of tech. It's an awesome card that's great for punishing control and combo decks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I finished Sonic Generations. Honestly, it didn't impress me much. I was hoping it would be, like, nostalgic, but the new versions of the levels from old games weren't very close to the originals at all, and even in the "classic" stages the gameplay felt more like Sonic Rush than Sonic 2. The physics were just a little off for the 2D sections, and the 3D sections were dominated by essentially long racetracks. Meh.

It also bothers me that they only took one level per game. Chemical Plant Zone is awesome and I'm glad it made the cut, but what about Oil Ocean? Casino Night? Mystic Cave? Aquatic Ruin? It's somewhat disappointing that classics like the first three games get knocked down to the same level as whatever the heck game Crisis City and Planet Wisp are from. At least they didn't feel the need to represent Sonic and the Secret Rings, I suppose.

I'm still working on Shining Force II. I just got the caravan (which apparently allows me to cross dry riverbeds) and most of my characters are a level or two above their promotions. My biggest complaint so far is that so many of the enemies are below my characters' levels, making it hard to get experience. I can't remember if the first game was also like that, but it's annoying. Not that I'm not enjoying it, of course. It's more of that Shining Force gameplay that I loved the first time around. And the second time around. And the third time around. You get the idea.

I just started BioShock. I picked it up on the cheap in a trade. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I think I can say now that the word is immersion. The game does a superb job of putting me inside the character's shoes—that is, it makes the player feel the emotions the character feels. Oh, and the other word is atmosphere. Seriously. The audio is great, the environments, just...well, it certainly made me wish I were playing it on an enormous widescreen TV with a massive sound system. It's eerie. Eerie as hell. Safe to say I am suitably impressed.

I'm also still involved in RuneScape. Jagex has promised that the release of the new massive, game-changing, world-shaking quest is imminent, so I'm piqued on that front. I finished off my 450 boss kills in the Dominion Tower to unlock Dreadnips, which are a fine assist when fighting difficult monsters, but mostly I only did it for the achievement—I finished off the hard task set in the desert, and now I get double charges on my Pharaoh's Sceptre and double spines from cactus plants. My goals right now are to get 90 thieving and 90 slayer to help with my port, but I'm not pursuing them very actively. Most of my time is spent managing voyages and durdling with daily challenges and D&Ds.

I tried the new "Old School" 2007 servers, but starting a new character from scratch isn't especially appealing to me, and having to walk everywhere is the dealbreaker. As far as I'm concerned, it's a worse version of the live game; I'm not interested. The main upside is that some old faces have showed up in my chat from back when I first joined my clan. It's nice to see the old crew back together. I hope they stick around.

And that's what my video game time has looked like this week.