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Terrorists on Twitter [Apr. 28th, 2013|02:57 pm]

Let's compare the Twitter output of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston bombers, with Paul Chambers, a UK man who was arrested by anti-terror police for having supposedly made a terrorist threat against a local airport.

Slightly creepily, Tsarnaev's twitter account is still available for viewing. And you know what? His tweets sound... normal. Indistinguishable from the tweets of thousands, millions of other people. He tweets about pop culture, about what he's eating. He uses slang like "dawg" and "da bomb". There is nothing on there that suggests he's planning to blow up a whole bunch of people.

Now take Paul Chambers, who posted "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" This led to him being arrested, charged, and found guilty of making threats. This ruling was only finally overturned on the third appeal. The conviction lost him his job. He had no intent of actually blowing up that airport. He was making a joke because he was worried that he was not going to be able to fly out to visit his girlfriend.

A lot of people, especially non-Twitter-users, thought that he'd been very foolish to make that kind of joke publicly.

But was it done publicly? If he had made the same joke in private, let's say at the dinner table, no one would have thought it was a serious threat. On the other hand, if he had written a letter to the local newspaper, or stood on a soapbox in the town square and shouted it, it would come as no surprise if the police took at least some interest.

But is Twitter public? The assumption the law made, and the assumption a lot of non-users make, is that it is public, because everyone can read the tweets.

Now let's say Chambers had been walking down the road with some friends, and had made this comment to them. Not in a voice loud enough to be heard far outside the group it was intended for. Still, a passerby might have heard it. Would this have qualified Chambers for a visit from the police? Of course not. He would have been saying this to his friends. He would have been in public, but his joke wasn't for the public.

This isn't a distinction really recognized by the law, but it's one that is - or at least used to be - quite well-understood. There's a difference between saying something and announcing it to the world.

And I think this is how most of us use Twitter - as this in-public thing not intended for public consumption. We just use it to talk and joke to each other. But the powers that be don't understand this. They want to treat every tweet as if it were a letter to the editor, as if it were shouted from a soapbox on the street corner. They want to do this because they think that if they just snoop on our conversations thoroughly enough, they'll catch the bad guys.

But, listen: They didn't catch Tsarnaev in time, because if you plan to blow something up, you don't idly tweet about it. All they caught was poor Paul Chambers, and they put him through the wringer.

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Magic from Bargains [Apr. 28th, 2013|02:51 pm]

I just read a pretty neat Escapist article that argues for more interesting forms of magic in computer games. One idea I really like (because I'm horrible) is having to pay a permanent price for each spell cast. (The spells, in exchange, being very powerful and useful.)

Here's some ideas for what each spell cast could cost you:

  • Your field of vision contracts by 1%.
  • Your vision loses 1% saturation.
  • You lose 5% of your HP.
  • Tooltips display one fewer piece of information on enemies. Example: you no longer know enemy HP.
  • Your attack rate becomes more variable.
  • Your minimap becomes less exact (as your memory worsens).
  • You become exhausted more quickly.
  • Your ability to carry and use heavy equipment decreases.
  • Your shots are more likely to go wide. (Not a decrease in accuracy as much as an increase in shots that are seriously off, by like 15 degrees.)
  • The delay between pressing the attack button and the attack happening becomes longer. (But remains consistent.)
  • Enemies' attack telegraph animations become faster. (So you have less time to react.)
  • You develop an increasingly loud wheeze that alerts enemies even when they're not in view.
  • You become sallow and develop an unpleasant smell. Shopkeepers' prices rise. Wild animals start attacking you.
  • You have to stand still for an increasingly long time before you can use ranged weapons.
  • Drinking a potion causes you to stand still, unable to attack, for an increasingly long time. (No more quick uncorking and gulping. Your trembling fingers have to fumble open the cork and slowly raise the bottle to your mouth.)
  • Popping open the inventory or menus no longer pauses the game.
  • Your target reticle becomes smaller and fainter, and acquires a delay and wobble. You have to keep your mouse steady for a small fraction of a second if you want to aim precisely.
  • (Assuming this is a top-down game.) The view begins following around the target reticle instead of being centered on you, making it hard to see what's behind you.
  • Useful sounds like the noises of monsters around corners become fainter. Useless sounds like dripping water, creaking, buzzing flies, and your own heartbeat begin dominating the soundscape.
  • Your knowledge of ancient languages becomes fuzzy, keeping you from reading inscriptions on walls and doorways and labels on potions you find.
  • Your abilities are greatly reduced in the first thirty seconds of fighting, which means you have to keep going and plow through your enemies without pause.

Not all of these may be a good idea, or applicable, but it's food for thought. What kind of magical side-effects would you find cool in a game?

Addendum: Come to think of it, this really doesn't work as stated. Making you worse off each time you cast will just make the player play in a really conservative style to avoid having to cast spells - which makes the game really boring.

Instead, it might be better that you gain new spells or improvement to existing spells as part of a bargain with some dark gods. Want to be able to cast Blinding Flash? Well, the Eyeless One is happy to oblige, but it'll cost you a third of your vision range.

There could also be bargains which don't take anything away but constrain your actions:

  • You are put under a geas that makes certain conversation choices unavailable. (You can choose them, but that permanently breaks the bargain, and you lose the powers.)
  • The god of reckless courage requires you to never run away from a fight. (The UI will give you plenty of warning.)
  • The god of idiotic pacifism requires you to never shoot first: you may only attack enemies that have attacked you first. (You can just not target enemies that haven't. Again, you can choose to break the pact at any time.)
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Glory to Arstotzka! [Apr. 28th, 2013|02:50 pm]

Papers Please is an upcoming indie game where you play an immigration inspector at a recently re-opened border checkpoint.

You have to check paperwork and look for fakes and smugglers and terrorists. You have to support your family, so if you move too slowly or get it wrong and have your pay docked, they have to starve and freeze.

But is following your job description always the right thing? Do you let in vile traffickers and deny entry to refugees? The human cost of your decisions is shown subtly but clearly.

The gameplay controls are awkward: you need to drag around paperwork on the too-small desk, align stamps on visas, manually compare information. But the awkwardness works: you are an untrained cog in the machine madly shuffling paper, under pressure, and trying to do your job.

The unusual nature of the gameplay also means that there's a level playing field. This is a game non-gamers can and should play. So often, you hear about some amazing new indie game with some really amazing story, only to have that story locked away behind some twitch gaming or platforming that might seem easy to frequent players of the genre, but stand as a brick wall for others. (For example, I'm sure that Braid has a lovely story, but I got stuck a few levels in because I just cannot do timed jumps. That's what happens when you grow up without a game console.)

I absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend you play the alpha version of the game. Yes, the gameplay is unpolished and sometimes awkward. But it manages to do one thing better than any other game I've played: it makes you feel, and then it makes you think.

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Cis Het Cantab [Apr. 25th, 2013|09:22 pm]
So I'd ask you to read this carefully, and not assume that I am implying something other than what I'm writing.
This isn't meant to be any of the following classics: "Women are the real oppressors!", "Silenced All My Life", "You must always speak in measured tones (so we can better ignore you)", or some sort of oppression olympics or false equivalence.

Something recently surfaced on my twitter feed that I want to comment on. This isn't the first kind of thing like this, and I'm not aiming this specifically at the person involved, but it makes a good, simple example.

The something in question was a picture of a placard that said:

"I need feminism because… common ideas of gender are poisonous, heteronormativity is a disease ruining lives, and I can't snip all cishet men's bollocks myself."

So I pretty much agree with the first two points, but the third one was upsetting. Because I am. You know. Cis, and het. And I don't find the suggestion that that alone makes me a villain, even if it's a joking suggestion, very funny. In fact, it just produces an upwelling of despair at the world.

Another such event was the suggestion that everyone who studied at Cambridge is scum. Which would include me and a fair proportion of my close friends.

In both cases, people I know and like put me into a bucket of villains. I'm now going to go over the set of excuses I have heard or anticipated:

1. It's just an in-joke.
It's not an in-joke between you and me, so why are you broadcasting it to me? I share some absolutely tasteless in-jokes with, for example, my girlfriend, and we do not speak of them in mixed company.

2. That word has a special, more narrow meaning that excludes you.
How am I meant to know that? I can only see the words on the screen, not the complex backstory. I'm going to have to go by the mainstream definition.

3. That insult isn't actually mean.
It is. If it were part of some lighthearted bantering session, it perhaps wouldn't be, but with no context, it's pretty damn mean.

4. Now you know how it feels to have people make casual jokes about harming you because of who you are.
Yes. And so do you, so why are you doing it?

5. Because someone more oppressed than you said it, it's not part of the system of oppression, and hence OK.
I don't claim to be oppressed here. I am being casually flamed by people I like and respect, and who I thought respected me. That's still not OK, even if it's not oppression.

6. "All horses have four legs. You are a horse. Hence, you have two legs."
That is to say that wanting to "snip all cishet men's bollocks" does not include wanting to "snip David's bollocks" despite me being a "cishet man". This makes my head hurt because of set theory.

In conclusion, it's not a big thing, but please don't do this. I would like to feel that people I like and respect haven't lumped me in with the bad guys. I'm happy to read and listen, I'm happy to discuss when I feel I actually have something useful to contribute, I very much want to be a useful and supportive ally - but I'd like not to be periodically flamed.
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Something I've been working on... [Mar. 1st, 2013|08:50 pm]
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Well-behaved Games: A rant-slash-manifesto [Feb. 5th, 2013|11:40 am]
  • Don't max out the CPU if you don't have to. In the olden days, when people mostly gamed on desktop machines, it was perfectly fine to just have your game claim all spare CPU cycles. Especially on slower systems with bad multitasking and only one core, this could be the only way to have the game run smoothly. However, these days, most people have laptops with more than one core. And if you use up 100% of a core on a laptop, the machine is liable to get very hot, and the fans are liable to get very loud, and the battery life is liable to drop precipitously. I have a burn on my left leg from playing Civilization 5, a turn-based strategy game that somehow still maxed out my CPU and GPU. So, please, use sleep(). Give the CPU a rest. Save my legs, and my battery life.
  • The game must run smoothly in critical moments. Let's say I'm fighting some demons, the game's running smoothly, and I'm doing well. Then, suddenly, lots more demons appear, and things get really dangerous. But now there's too many demons on the screen, so the game starts skipping frames - most of them, in fact. The game becomes a slideshow: in one slide, I'm alive, and well away from the demons. In the next, they are next to me and tearing at my flesh. In the next, I'm dead. Or perhaps the game just skips enough frames that I can no longer aim. So at the precise moment when I need full awareness and reflexes, the game takes them away from me. What could have been a glorious fight - win or lose - becomes utter frustration. I'm looking at you, Diablo III. Seriously: your game needs to run smoothly in moments of danger. And it needs to do so on the minimum spec. Otherwise all the best bits don't work.
  • If the install is X GB, don't require 2X GB during installation. If I buy a game with system requirements of 10 GB of free hard drive space, I may not have 20 GB available. You have to add the size of the installer to the size of the game in the system requirements. They both have to be on my drive at the same time.
  • Don't assume I can download 10 GB in my lunch break. No one using dial-up expects to be able to download a modern game. But we don't all have Google Fibre. We might putter along at a modest 400 kB/s. A while ago, I downloaded the demo for XCOM, played it, and enjoyed it a lot. So I decided to buy the full game through Steam. Steam proceeded to immediately delete the demo and start downloading a dozen gigabytes of installer for the new game. This meant that in the exact moment I wanted to play XCOM - even just the demo - I couldn't. It took more than a day for the download to complete. And how much of that dozen gigs of game data had already been in the demo? About half. So please - you may have a very fast connection, but your customers may not. If you can do something to prevent them having to download an extra six gigs - such as offering the full game as a patch on your massive demo - do it.
  • Don't force me to update, just disable multiplayer. In a similar vein, I decided I wanted to play some Starcraft 2 a while ago. So I started up the game, and was immediately greeted with a message that I needed to update the game so I could play. Obviously, this was necessary if I wanted to play multiplayer, but all I wanted to do was spend half an hour blowing up AI-controlled space marines. Instead, I had to go through a nightmarish update cycle, which, thanks to the above two issues of "not enough spare drive space" and "slow connection", became a full reinstall of the game that took more than a day to complete.
  • On a Mac, ctrl-click or cmd-click is a right click. My MacBook only has one mouse button. I can do a right click by carefully placing two fingers on the pad, and then clicking - but this is not very fast or reliable. Instead, if I want to right-click (to open a popup menu, say) I control-click. Your game should let me do the same.
  • Save your random seed and keep the loot the same. A while ago, I was playing a CRPG. My character was in a swamp somewhere, and had just found a hidden chest. I opened it and found an enchanted leather armour much better than anything I was wearing at the time. Then the game crashed. I reloaded, went back to the swamp, fought the swamp monsters, found the chest, and opened it. It contained a torch. I felt cheated and frustrated. The illusion that my character was in a real place broke down. I reloaded, fought the monsters, opened the chest. It contained a pair of tattered leather trousers. I stopped playing.
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Dune, the ideal film version [Jan. 31st, 2013|05:51 pm]

Katzenfabrik and I recently watched the 1984 film version of Dune, and attempted to follow this up with watching the 2000 miniseries. Neither of them is an entirely satisfying attempt at putting the book onto the screen, and we spent a lot of time discussing what our ideal Dune film would look like.

Dune, the book, is a giant in the science fiction canon. It's one of the books traditionally recommended by aficionados to introduce others to the genre. Though much shorter, it's arguably science fiction's Lord of the Rings - a masterful exercise in world building.

Now that the success of the Lord of the Rings films has shown it's possible to do well with a giant trilogy of films, one can imagine some kind of giant high-budget version of Dune. But what would it look like? What changes would it have to make to the source material? Who would be cast in it?

The David Lynch version is a very mixed bag - a lot of the visuals are stunning, and have firmly defined what certain aspects of the universe, such as sandworms, look like. On the other hand, there are some regrettable Lynch-isms such as the antidote scene with the taped-together cat and rat, or the heart-plug thing - or frankly most things associated with the Harkonnens.

The film also dumbs down some aspects of the story. Especially egregious is replacing with "sound modules" the more subtle idea that the Atreides pose a threat due to their popularity and martial training. To me, this runs counter to the way the setting works - it's people who you have to watch out for, not machines. Even with this dumbing-down, Lynch thought it necessary to include a spoken prologue and a lot of the characters' thoughts, doing a lot of damage to the pacing.

The casting, too, is of widely varied quality. I like Jürgen Prochnow as Leto Atreides, and Max von Sydow as Kynes. Sting is surprisingly good as Feyd-Rautha, and is clearly having the most fun in the film. Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck is a very odd choice. He does a fine job, but looks out of place. Paul and Lady Jessica are fairly forgettable, and a lot of the others run the gamut from wooden to hammy.

A few days after watching the Lynch version, we decided to give the miniseries a try. We didn't last very long. Perhaps it becomes better over time, but the first half-hour was no better than the film in any way, and a lot worse in many: The minimalism of the sets, no doubt stemming from a relatively small budget, is completely at odds with the feudal setting. And the characters are dreadful. Paul acts like a surly American teenager - which is perhaps meant to let audiences identify with him, but just put my teeth on edge. Leto is played by a plank of wood. Jessica doesn't as much act as just stand there and say the words of the script. The CGI would have looked dated at the time and now looks like something any first-year student could whip up in their spare time. On the whole, for a story where a lot of the draw is in the world, it all looks disappointingly generic.

What would an ideal film version of Dune look like? I'm not sure in detail, but I have some ideas:

Split the story into two films. The first part starts out with something interesting: Paul sparring on Caladan. Right away, we see that this is the future, they have energy shields that mean they fight with swords, and they have some sort of feudal system. As we follow the preparations for the departure to Arrakis, the situation can be revealed quite naturally. The first film tells the story until the sacking of Arrakeen - a low point, but with some hope left over. The second film could start with Paul dueling the Fremen - a nice echo of the first - and would obviously conclude with the retaking of Arrakeen and the ascension of Paul.

As for the casting, that's rather more difficult. The Atreides family are described as Hawk-like and of Greek heritage, which gives me quite a vivid picture, but no concrete idea for who would play them in this ideal interpretation.

The two castings Katzenfabrik and I readily agreed on were Judy Dench as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, and Jessica Chastain as Lady Jessica. The former because of her formidableness and willingness to play genre roles, the latter because we simply both agreed that she looked the part.

The Harkonnens are also an interesting conundrum. In the Lynch version, they're profoundly disgusting halfwits, which does not quite make sense given their clear competence and ability to make plots. Still, the source material doesn't give us too much leeway - they're clearly loathsome, and the Baron is clearly sadistic and fat - though Feyd-Rautha is only the former. There needs to be some family resemblance connecting the fat, scheming baron with Feyd-Rautha the dangerous fighter and Rabban the tyrant. My solution would be to recast the Baron as looking something like Henry VIII in his later years - once quite handsome and athletic, now gone to fat, and dangerous.

Of course, there was a recent attempt to make a big Dune movie, but that appears to have floundered - and perhaps it's more fun to think about what the book looks like in our heads anyway. What are your thoughts? Who stars in your perfect version of Dune? Which bits of the plot are trimmed or rearranged? What does everything look like?

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Das Update [Dec. 29th, 2012|11:43 am]

What have I been up to?

  • Working on the new SE:SS. Frankly, it's increasingly looking like only the graphics and sound will survive from the old version, and I might also ditch the combat mode as an overcomplication. On the plus side, it's really coming together.
  • Working on Selenium Builder for Sauce Labs. Nearly done with version 2.0.4, which will work a lot better than 2.0.2!
  • Finally, after years of saying we would, Rachel and I have started a webcomic called Kittens All The Way Down. We're... not very good at the whole art thing yet, and our sense of humour is kind of terrible, but maybe you'll enjoy it anyway. Some of my favourites are embedded below.

We also had a guest comic from our friend Jenny, who draws the really cool online graphic novel Intrasection.

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How often do you want to win? [Sep. 24th, 2012|06:24 pm]

I've been working on pinning down the encounter mechanics for SE:SS. (Yes, I'm working on it, but it's all stealthy-like.) I wasn't very satisfied by them until I tried blanket-reducing the chances of success by one third. Challenges that were previously near certain to be overcome became fifty-fifty propositions and those, in turn, became big gambles. And all of a sudden, I was really enjoying the game!

That got me to thinking about adjustable game difficulty and what range of difficulties should be available. My theory is that different people require a varying amount of challenge to feel satisfied with a victory. Of course, everyone wants to win, but if the game makes it too easy for you, victory feels hollow. 'Too easy', though, varies greatly between players. One person might prefer almost always winning but still want to feel that they would lose if they played really badly. At the other extreme, someone might be happy with losing 99 out of a hundred games in exchange for the sheer rush of beating that one playthrough.

People are also differently good at actually playing games. For example, I am reasonably good at strategy games but surprisingly terrible at anything that involves timed jumps. Unlike most gamers of my approximate age, I didn't grow up with consoles that would have instilled these reflexes in me.

So, the question is: how often do you want to win? Defeats might loom larger in my mind than victories, but I think I like winning about half of the time. If I find myself winning 80% of the time, I will adjust the difficulty up a notch, and put it down a notch when losing 80% of the time. You might have quite different preferences. *

Adjusting game difficulty generally can't be done holistically. Only some game mechanics are amenable to being made more or less hard by adjusting, e.g., probabilities, accuracy, reaction time, number of steps thought ahead, et cetera. You will have designed your game mechanics to work together at the difficulty level you consider normal. Changing some mechanics to be balanced in a radically different way may stop them interacting properly with the rest of the game.

For example, if you are making a first person shooter, it's easy enough to make the computer enemies weaker: make them slow to react, give them bad aim, have them deal less damage or die more easily, reduce their numbers. But if you push this too far, the game becomes farcical: dull-witted monsters line up patiently to be shot, carefully aiming to miss the player. Even when it's more or less impossible to lose a fight, some players may still find the game too difficult. Why? Perhaps the real problem lies with the movement controls. Using WASD and the mouse to look at the same time may be something they don't have the coordination (or limbs) for, so the game just breaks down.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have a recurring pet peeve with turn-based strategy games. Picture this: it's late in the game and there are only three serious contenders left. The Republic of Me, the Empire of Computer and the People's Republic of Computer are locked in some sort of military, economic or scientific struggle. There is a fourth player, the Principality of Computer, whose territory borders on mine. The Principality lags far behind the three main players and has no chance of actually winning any more. Throughout the game I have enjoyed peaceful relations with them, perhaps a spot of trading. Then, suddenly, they send their armies to attack. The cities near the border are only lightly defended, because I did not expect the Principality to attack in such a foolhardy way. They take a few cities; I groan and aim the vast war machine of my country at their incursion. I spend emergency funds shoring up the defences and bring their advance to a halt. A few turns later, my army arrives, pushes them back and, since they're already there, wipes the Principality off the map. Shortly thereafter I lose the game, because this pointless war has caused me to fall irreversibly behind the other players.</p>

There are two general approaches to strategy game AI. It should either play to win or be a 'realistic' simulation of a government. The former would gleefully attack an ally if it saw the slightest advantage but the latter would not. The Principality's actions make no sense either way, because it can't win the war and our relations have always been friendly. What's going on? I'm playing the game on a high difficulty level. At this point, the only way to make the game hard enough is to make the computers irrationally hate the player—but this collapses a varied game about building, researching, diplomacy and war down into an inferior war game. I play war games. When I do, I don't mind that everyone is trying to kill everyone else, because the game has been built and balanced for this.

Outside the range in which gameplay elements have been designed to intermesh well, a game structurally changes and may no longer work. Getting the game to still function outside this range might require significant changes to its mechanics.

In conclusion, be aware that the range of difficulties where your game will work properly will probably be centred on the challenge-per-victory level at which you yourself play and enjoy the game. Your players will want to play at higher or lower difficulty settings, but providing the full range is not simply a matter of scaling up or down.

*It's easy to sit upon the perch of your own game skill and tolerance for losing, and sneer at anyone who wants their game to be easier than you do. This is stupid. Games are meant to be enjoyed. Someone might keep playing a game they have already mastered, because they enjoy the motions of playing it or because they want a dependable source of victories in their life. Games are (usually) fantasies of agency and it's pointless telling somebody they don't deserve that sense of agency because they're not skilled enough at playing.

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Fernanda Milan [Sep. 10th, 2012|05:08 pm]

(Warning: the following is all about violence against trans people and rape. Short version: Demo tonight at 5:30 at the Danish embassy in London against the deportation of a trans activist to Guatemala, where she'll likely end up dead.)

Fernanda Milan is transgender. She used to live in Guatemala, where she was an activist for trans rights. This made her a target for all sorts of nasty people: vigilante groups, corrupt parts of the police. It's estimated that around sixty trans people have been murdered there over the last decade, and dozens more have been disappeared. Being known as trans, and as an activist, put her into a lot of danger.

Eventually, she had to leave Guatemala and went to Denmark to ask for asylum. Now you might think that Denmark is a modern European country with a decent human rights record. Unfortunately, her experiences ran very much counter to that. Her hormone treatment was suspended and she was placed in a male dormitory, where she was raped repeatedly. She was then trafficked into a brothel in Jutland. She was eventually freed and is now staying with Reden International, an anti-trafficking organisation.

But: her request for asylum has been denied. She will be deported back to Guatemala in a week's time, on September 17. There, she faces a high likelyhood of becoming yet another victim of murder or disappearance.

Now, you might not believe, or not want to believe her story. You might even insist that there is no such thing as "real" transgender people. (Though you would be wrong.) The point is that here is a human being who will be placed in mortal danger back in Guatemala. She can't "recant" or "lie low" or "stay away from the bad parts of town". Based alone on what she has said and done already, she is marked for death.

And the Danish government are going to ship her there.

What can you do? Well, there's a demo tonight at 5:30, at the Danish embassy in London. If you are in London this evening, I urge you to go. And if I can find more than like two people in Zurich to join me I will organise a demo at the embassy there, time permitting.

And you can also write letters, but you have to write them right. Amnesty International's guidelines will serve you well there. (In short: be polite, don't go into politics, and make a concrete request - halting the deportation.)

Who to send it to? Based on my own research, I would suggest the following four recipients:

1. The Danish ambassador to your country. In the UK, this is:

Ms Anne Hedensted Steffensen
Embassy of Denmark
55 Sloane Street
London SW1X 9SR

In Switzerland, it's:

Mr Hans Klingenberg
Royal Danish Embassy
Thunstrasse 95
3006 Bern - Switzerland

2. The prime minister of Denmark:
Ms Helle Thorning-Schmidt
Prins Jørgens Gård 11
1218 København K

3. The Danish minister of justice:
Mr. Morten Bødskov
Slotsholmsgade 10
1216 København K

4. The Danish refugee council:
Danish Refugee Council
Borgergade 10, 3rd floor
1300 Copenhagen K.

I wrote the following letter, which you can use as a template. (Though I make no claim of it being especially amazing.) This letter by Natacha Kennedy is very good, if long.

Dear X,

I have recently become aware of the situation of Fernanda Milan, a human rights activist and asylum seeker. She is currently in Denmark, but is due to be deported back to Guatemala, where she faces threats to her life.

In Guatemala, Fernanda worked as a human rights activist for trans people, which made her a target for vigilante groups. More than sixty transgender people have been killed or disappeared there in the last decade.

I was shocked to discover that Denmark, an EU country with a good record on human rights, plans to deport Fernanda.

I understand that Denmark does not recognize being transgender as a criterion for asylum. However, the fact remains that due to being transgender, and due to her public engagement for human rights, Fernanda will be the target of vigilante groups and at great risk of being murdered or disappeared.

Fernanda is a human being who needs your help, and I ask you to give it. Please put a stop to her deportation.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

David Stark

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