grumble grumble

Some people will give you a screwdriver, and tell you to use it like a hammer. Then later they'll stumble across a real hammer, and they'll act like they invented it.

quick unrelated game idea

Merry Christmas everyone! Especially you Dave. Merry Oppressive Christmas.

I've been having the frustrating, complicated dreams that come with working late while sick, but this game idea popped out last night and I think it's cute.

Movie Plot Dominoes.

We're all directors, working on the same movie. We each specialize in a particular genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Romance. We each have a deck of cards that references our genre, full of locations, characters, plot points, etc..  The goal is to contribute the most to the film and bring the movie mainly into your genre. Play works like dominoes - the movie's central plot develops linearly, scene by scene location by location, with offshoots for character development and subplots.

Players take turns laying down cards, but most cards must be matched, dominoes style, using a number of continuity symbols (probably less than 6, maybe just 4). Score by contributing cards to the main plot, resolving plot lines, and resolving characters. In addition to their mechanical symbols each card has flavor, version 1 rips all the cards straight from*

I'm trying to figure out if it demands any make-believe work, or "pitching" or auctioning, or if it's mechanically mostly just dominoes. I think with enough flavor on the cards it could work fine as dominoes, but that seems like a cop-out. On the other hand story telling games like happily ever after limit their audience by requiring high levels of creativity from everyone, and also it tends not to work so well for competitive play (when the correct competitive move is to claim that someone's story is bad and their turn is over).

Maybe each next scene is chosen randomly or something.

Anyway yeah that's my idea.

*Kill Dr. Lucky is an example of a game that lives on flavor. Or, hangs onto flavor by its fingernails as flavor leaps the Gap of Angry Making.


I love the (locus? nexus? I'll settle for 'cognitive connection') between pagan true-name magic and modern computer systems.

The idea behind name magic is that if you know a thing's true name, it confers a measure of power over that thing. It's an idea similar how a voodoo doll is supposed to work, the name is a proxy for the thing, and by using the name you can control the thing*.

Computer architecture falls very easily into this metaphor. Every piece of information in a computer has an address, whether it's in memory or on a hard drive. This address can be thought of as a name. And if you have the true name of a piece of data, you can literally do whatever you want to it.

If we are all living in the matrix**, it's an easy leap to think that the developers put in a developer's console, that's intended to let players access the inner workings under certain circumstances. So if you have access to the console (magic), and if you have someone's True Name, you may be able to affect their life in any number of ways.

Actually, if you look at identity theft, it's pretty much the same story; and identity theft only gets more powerful, the more of our identity is represented remotely, by numbers and systems instead of face-to-face.

*I honestly don't know the first thing about name magic so maybe I'm grossly misrepresenting its origins or metaphysics. But anyway I enjoy the idea so much that I'm going to run with it. There are lots of examples of the importance of naming, going back hundreds or thousands of years in the cultures that I'm aware of, so I figure I can always fall back on those if I have to.

abstraction layers that hurt

Hibernate is this tool that you can use, that means that you don't have to write any SQL in order to use a database. It's like a compiler for SQL: you write your code in java, and it compiles the SQL for you automatically.

The problem with Hibernate is that you have to be an expert in data storage theory in order to use it well. So at that point you may as well write the SQL, because let me tell you Hibernate is not a very good compiler. You have to spoon feed it your data structures, and in order to get it to work cleanly you have to give up a lot of speed and efficiency in your database design.

It does have some good data portability and regularity benefits, but I'm betting we'll never take advantage of them for our game. Abstraction Layers that don't reduce complexity, don't increase performance, and don't grant extra flexibility that you will actually use, should be avoided.

a sortof for profit company

Publicly held companies have a fiduciary obligation to maximize shareholder profits. This can lead to all sorts of pathological activity.

Non-profit companies are prohibited from rendering an investment profit. This leads to some classes of inefficiency and drives away a lot of people who might otherwise like to participate.

I think we need a designation in between, a company that is bound to follow a well defined mission of some kind, but also wouldn't mind making some money at the same time. Not obliged to be evil, not beholden to shareholders, but not divorced from the market.

By the way, Google sees itself this way, if you believe their mission statement and their founders, and I do. Over the years I expect that Google will come to see itself as just another profit driven machine, but I think that as of now it still has some idealism left.

Craigslist is another place that seems to be operating this way, and I think their idealism may survive even longer.

It's the company everyone wants, but there's no place for it in the regulatory or investment schema. Maybe there should be?

clean design: software vs real life

We all love elegant simple solutions. We appreciate good clean design and we strive towards it. But I write code all day, and then I try to apply the same principles to mechanical systems in the real world, and I find that it's just a different design space. In the real world, you cannot stuff an infinite amount of functionality into a black box. You can't keep adding abstraction layers (or pipe fittings, adapters?) Inheritance is a meaningless concept. And you have to make compromises with euclidean geometry and existing structures. You cannot just put your house in a box and move it somewhere else. Or you can but it's not a best practice.

Just something to remember I guess.

basic gardening lore

Row covers, keep your plants warm and pest-free. This is the kind of basic shit that I never learned. ;-)

I'm thinking about setting up a greenhouse/aquaponics system, I guess that's the same principle. I can't decide where to put it around the yard, since I'd like to have the koi pond in front and the greenhouse in back. I mean I can just pipe the water back and forth and not worry about it.


Ok fine I just read about it at Wired, but One Block Off the Grid looks pretty interesting. They collect a bunch of people in a city who want to get solar installed, and then negotiate a sweet deal on solar installations with all that collective buying power.

Their rates for their current campaign in Los Angeles look pretty attractive: about $6 a watt before government rebates and tax credits, and about $3.15 a watt after. So a 3 kilowatt system comes out about $10,000, though you may need to be able to front 18,000, I'm not sure.

Solar increases home resale value by a lot, too, so in addition to making it back in your electric bill, you make it back when you sell the house. I don't think we really use a ton of electricity, so a 3kW system should be plenty for us.  Just interesting. Though I think before we do something like this, we'd want to make other efficiency improvements like replacing our windows and blowing insulation into our walls. Then we can talk solar.

flash hack high five

to this guy

for this hack (my version):

static private function construct(type:Class, args:Array):*
    //OK SO we can't dynamically pass an array in 
    //since this is a constructor and not a Function object...
    //SO instead we're just going to hardwire it for up to N arguments
    //I am so so sorry
    if(!args || args.length == 0)
        return new type();                
            case 1:
                return new type(args[0]);
            case 2:
                return new type(args[0],args[1]);
            case 3:
                return new type(args[0],args[1],args[2]);
            case 4:
                return new type(args[0],args[1],args[2],args[3]);
            case 5:
                return new type(args[0],args[1],args[2],args[3],args[4]);
                throw new Error("Too many Dao Constructor Arguments: if you need more, expand the switch statement I guess. Sigh.");
    return null;

Silent partners in suffering.

dear science, please clone this

Cold blooded, slow moving, tiny goats.

I think they would make excellent pets, especially for apartments, where they could laze out on the balcony all day. Their slow metabolism would mean that you wouldn't have to feed them much, but since they're mammals they might be more friendly and cuddly than most reptiles. You might have to spend a few generations domesticating them first, but it's gotta be worth a try, right?

a cornucopia of entertainment

Really? Assassin's Creed 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 come out on the same day and they both get amazing reviews? I still haven't had time to plow through Torchlight yet, and I'm neglecting my WoW characters and my Rock Bands. It's so hard being a game consumer sometimes.

The sad truth is that my eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to games; I just don't have anywhere near the time to play these things. And that's not even counting the fourm mafia game, the play by wave zombie campaign, game night, or Descent. But I guess the good news is that I never have to be bored, ever again.

I'm literally embarrassed by this situation.

the 405

They finally finished their epic construction work on the 405, in between where I live and where I work. It had been going on since 2004.

I think it finished on Friday or over the weekend. This is the only news item I could find that mentions it, which surprises me because it seems like it would be kind of a big deal. Maybe Caltrans just hasn't put out a press release yet.

My commute is so, so much better now. Here's hoping it stays like this.

my zombie rpg let me show you it

Fresh Brains: Zombie Pickup RPG
Version 0.1
by Nate


The Concept: a fast paced pulp pickup zombie survival game where you can expect to play multiple PCs, because they'll probably get bitten a lot.

The world: Your standard Zombie apocalypse, a combination of Max brooks, Left 4 Dead, etc.

The System: is adapted from the Snakes on a Plane RPG, and Descent, with some differences 

Character Creation

You have five stats, ranked from 1 to 9.
GUTS: How tough and strong you are. Also indicates how slowly you'll turn if bitten by a zombie.
NERVE: How quickly you react; reflexes and coordination. You'll use this to dodge zombies.
WITS: How smart you are on your feet, and how likely your traps and fortifications are to work.
CHARM: How attractive and charismatic you are. Works better on people than it does on zombies.
GEAR: How many weapons, how much food and ammo, etc have you got with you? You can spend GEAR to gain other stats at 2 for 1.

Distribute 25 points among these stats; minimum of 1, maximum of 9.

In addition, your character gets a 1 line story and 2 tropes from tvtropes.orgThis page is a good place to start - find 2 tropes you like and link to them from your character sheet.


Each scenario involves the GM and 1 or more PCs. Link your character sheet at the start of the scenario. For each scenario, we keep track of the number of nearby zombies, (THREAT) and the time. As time passes, more zombies arrive. Zombies can be ONSTAGE or OFFSTAGE. ONSTAGE means that the zombies have line of sight to the PCs and are not impeded by fortifications. If there are zombies onstage, the game is HECTIC. Otherwise it is CALM.

The game is played with a map on a grid that can be updated by any player or the GM. The map can include FORTIFICATIONS that are found, maintained, or destroyed by the players.

During Hectic time, play proceeds in rounds. Once each PC has taken an action the next round starts. After each PC's action, all zombies move 1 square. After a player takes an action, all zombies adjacent to that PC attack that PC. A player may always pass instead of making a roll, but this still counts as taking an action as far as the zombies care.

Scenario End Conditions: If the THREAT drops to 0, the players are considered SAFE and the scenario ends. The scenario also ends if the players reach a safe location, are rescued, or if they all die.

Task Resolution

Rolling Dice
When you roll a stat, roll as many d6 as points in that stat. Every 5 or 6 you roll is a SUCCESS. (When attacking zombies, each success means one dead zombie.) Each 1 you roll is a point of NOISE. For every point of NOISE the GM may either take 1 THREAT, or may move 2 zombies ONSTAGE. If your roll more NOISE than SUCCESS, that's called a BLUNDER. When you roll a BLUNDER, the GM rolls on the Zombie Attack Table.

Being Quiet
If you don't blunder, you may spend 2 SUCCESSES to cancel 1 NOISE, as long as this doesn't turn the roll into a blunder.

Arbitrary tasks
When things are CALM, you can do whatever you want. Some actions may require action rolls; if so they can grant NOISE normally. BLUNDERS when it's CALM double the NOISE, but do not merit a roll on the zombie attack table.

When things are HECTIC, everything you want to do, other than talk, requires a roll of 1 of the 5 stats.

Killing Zombies
You can make an attack against any nearby zombies with any of your stats, as long as you can describe it in a way that justifies the use of that stat. Every Success you roll is one dead zombie, but you can't kill more zombies than you can reach with the attack.

When you describe what you want to do, be awesome. Use the environment, use other PCs tropes, all that jazz. You get extra dice for doing so. A good description of using your basic stats gets you 1 extra die. Using the environment or another PC's trope gets you 2 dice. But each aspect can only be used once in this way per scenario per player. Assigning bonuses: PCs may assign themselves bonuses. The GM or other players will let you know if you're not being reasonable.

Using Your Tropes:
You may invoke each of your tropes once per scenario, for a bonus 3 dice. Your description must justify the use. Stunts stack with Tropes.

If I'm using a bloody axe to chop zombie head off, I attack with GUTS. If my GUTS is 5, I roll [5d6 = 56 36 36 26 16] In this case I kill 1 zombie but I also make 1 NOISE.

If instead of just attacking, I duck under the table at the last second, causing the three nearby zombies to lunge onto the table when I pop back up on the other side and casually chop their heads off as they lie prone, then I can attack with Nerve, and I get a +2 bonus for a stunt. If my Nerve is 6, then that's [6d6+2d6 = 66 66 56 46 46 36 16 16] Since I got 3 successes I kill all three zombies.

Zombie actions:
After each PC action, in order:
1. Every Zombie adjacent to that PC makes an attack by rolling on the Zombie table
2. All zombies move 1 square towards the nearest PC.

The Zombie Attack Table
1: The zombie tries to bite you. Lose 1 point of Guts as you shove it away.

2: The zombie grabs at you. Lose 1 point of Nerve as you wrench yourself away.
3: The zombie surprises you and you freak out and scream. Lose 1 point of Wits for not being able to focus.
4: The zombie claws at your face. Lose 1 point of Charm for your mussed hair and bloody nose.
5: The zombie rips at your clothing. Lose 1 point of Gear for the gadget that fell off.
6: Reroll and double all point values lost; you stumbled onto a lot of motherfucking zombies. Reroll and double every time the die comes up 6.

Once you subtract the point or points from your relevant trait, you have killed the zombie. If a trait is at 0 and you are asked to subtract points from it, the zombie kills you.

Passage of Time:
During HECTIC time, Every round takes 1 minute. During CALM time, passage of time is adjudicated by the GM depending on the actions. Depending on the scenario, THREAT increases linearly with time. (e.g. 1 THREAT per 5 minutes.)

Spending THREAT and NOISE
At any time, the GM can spend 2 THREAT to move 1 zombie ONSTAGE at an UNEXPLORED or EXTERIOR point.

When NOISE is generated, the GM may spend 1 NOISE to move up to N zombies ONSTAGE, where N is the number of players (PCs + GM), spending just 1 THREAT each to do so. (if there are 3 PCs, the GM may spend 1 NOISE to spawn in up to 4 zombies for 1 THREAT each. OR the GM can convert the NOISE into THREAT (1 to 1) instead of bringing zombies ONSTAGE.

All DOORS and FORTIFICATIONS have a THREAT cost. The GM may spend 1 THREAT per action (or N per round, or N per minute, where N is the total number of players) to destroy that fortification. FORTIFICATIONS typically hide EXTERIOR areas, which means that the GM will be able to easily move zombies ONSTAGE at this point.

Maybe there are other ways for the GM to spend THREAT. Special Zombies, environmental hazards, WHO EVEN KNOWS. If the GM is spending threat, look out.

Making Noise
A PC can spend an action to lure nearby zombies. Use a stat roll, but instead of rolling, just count the total dice. The GM must move that many zombies onstage at a cost of 1 THREAT each. If the GM runs out of THREAT the PCs win.

Other things

Unexplored Areas
Might contain zombies! The GM may spawn in zombies anywhere the PCs have never seen (for interior areas), or anywhere they can't see right now, if there's an exterior area there.

Exterior Areas
Areas the PCs cannot access may contain zombies. The GM may spawn zombies there at the normal price.

The PCs can move through doors, but zombies must bash them down. An average door takes 3-5 THREAT to break down.

The PCs can find, repair, and destroy fortifications. Repairing a fortification requires roll, even when it's CALM. Every 2 successes repairing a fortification increases its THREAT cost by 1. Every success spent dismantling a fortification reduces its THREAT cost by 1. When it's worth 0 THREAT it's considered destroyed and the players can move through it.

Finding stuff
The PCs may increase their stats by finding GEAR lying around places. When they find a piece of GEAR players may either take the GEAR, or trade 2 points of GEAR for 1 point in another stat.

Equipment mostly exists to give you flavor and let you use it in stunts. You can play the game without specifying your equipment, but if you specify it you can stunt with it. Your GEAR stat loosely governs what equipment you can have.

Weapons mostly affect the flavor of the attack you can make, and it's range, and what is considered reasonable or justifiable. Your maximum weapon level depends on your GEAR stat:
0-1: simple/improvised melee (chair, shovel)
2-3: appropriate melee (axe, pitchfork, prop sword)
4-5: small handgun or superior melee
6: shotgun, samurai sword, chainsaw, rifle.
7-8: assault rifle, auto shotgun, sniper rifle
9: man whatever the heck you want.

If your GEAR level drops below the level of your current weapon, consider it either out of ammo, or wrenched from your grasp and lost, or jammed by zombie tendons, as appropriate.

Armor and clothing:
Your gear might include armor. This will help you stunt the use of GUTS instead of NERVE to move across a
HECTIC room, but has no special effect for reducing damage.

Environmental Hazards
There will be some times when the only way forward is going to be either noisy or time consuming, or both. The GM should let you know approximately how much NOISE you can expect to make for a given set piece. 

my guacamole recipe

My guacamole has been called many things, most of them positive, but I've resisted writing down any kind of recipe. Not because I fear imitators, but mostly because I didn't want to bother to measure all the stuff I put into it. That and also, it's going to take a long time to explain. But I've finally gotten around to it, so here you go.

(The recipe is down at the bottom because I want you to have to scroll past my pontification to get to it.)

Avocado Selection
Avocado selection is important and non-obvious. Ripe avocados are black and soft, but not mushy. Perfect guacamole avocados are not quite ripe. They are slightly firmer than avocados that you might select for eating out of the shell, or in a salad, for example. You can get away with this because the first thing you're going to do is mash them up. The reason to pick less-ripe avocados is that they have less of the oxidized brown parts. (Don't try to make guacamole with green or hard avocados: your avocados should still be soft when you slice into them.)

5 small avocados from our local mecixan market - serves 4

After you've opened your avocados, spoon them into your mashing bowl. I like to pick out the obvious brown parts and discard them, but you don't have to be too vigilant, it will generally all come out in the wash (i.e. mash). On occasion though, I will discard an entire avocado if it's too brown and mushy when I open it up.

On Spices
All spices are to taste, but the spice balance is really what makes or breaks the guac in my opinion. My greatest lesson, and the most important piece of advice I can bestow upon you, is that you need more salt than you think you do. And more garlic. A lot more garlic. The first step after opening the avocados is to salt them. You should salt the guacamole until just before it tastes like salt. Don't be afraid of overshooting; go slow and get it right. If you go too far, that's why you have tomatoes and garlic on hand. Garlic is fantastic for balancing salt: adding a lot of garlic will allow you to add more salt, and you should do so.

The other spices I use are black pepper and cayenne. The cayenne especially adds a little bit of a slow burn to your guacamole that will give it a subtly addictive quality. It should be noticeable on reflection, but you don't have to make it hot for it to have an effect. If your guests are spice-intolerant (ahem), you may omit. Do not bother with Paprika or Chili Powder, you will not taste it and it will turn your green brown.

This is what I use.

Lime Juice
Acid prevents avocados from browning too soon (it works on apples too.) Lime juice is delicious in guacamole, and I feel that it's really necessary for a truly sanctioned mix, but of course sometimes we have to make sacrifices.

For mine I only used half a lime.

Optional Ingredients
Include tomatoes if you have them on hand, and especially for large party bowls. They taste good, add some festive color, and they're a lot cheaper than avocados. Select ripe, red tomatoes and dice them fine enough that they blend in. Do not add them until after you get your spice mix just about right, as too much mixing will cause them to disintegrate.

If I have cilantro on hand for some other part of the meal I will often include it. Chop it very fine so it doesn't interfere with your texture. It's optional.

Some people are wrong.

Garlic or Garlic Salt?
Real garlic is too sharp and screws up your texture. Garlic powder dissolves beautifully and gives you an even texture and taste. Sometimes easier is also better.

Don't like 'em. Their taste overpowers the avocados, and their texture gets in the way too. They're great on tacos or whatever but with guacamole they're a bull in a china shop.

Sour Cream?
It really affects the texture and color. I've had some good guacamole that was made this way but I won't do it myself... It just doesn't seem necessary since the avocados give you plenty of creamy goodness already.

Cutting the Guac
If I'm making a large batch for a party, I will use about one (small roma) tomato per (large haas) avocado. It's just cheaper. Nobody ever complains about it. It means that people who are late might actually get some.

The reference batch was made used 5 rather small avocados for 4 people, but I wrote up the recipe for what I estimate to be an equivalent number of the large avocados that you usually find at supermarkets. If you try out the recipe let me know how it came out.

Nate's Guacamole

it will vanish

3 large avocados (or equivalent)
1 tomato
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic
2 dashes of cayenne (to taste)
half a lime or 2 squirts from or a bottle of lime juice
1 bag tortilla chips (salted, non-flavored)

Open up 3 ripe-but-firm avocados and spoon them into a bowl, discarding any dark brown portions. Add salt and mash. Test salt level and add more if it doesn't taste too salty yet. Add garlic, pepper, and cayenne, and mix. Taste. Continue to tweak, mix, and taste until it is delicious and a bit salty. Dice tomato and add. Add lime juice. Mix, taste, adjust, serve with tortilla chips.


on self awareness

Yesterday I spent a few minutes browsing through Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. It's a fantastic book and I like to review it every once in a while as a way of taking my own social temperature. This morning I was sitting in a meeting when it occurred to me that I was feeling defensive, adversarial, and stressed out. I wrote down the words "reduce stress" on my pad and spent the rest of the meeting doodling around them.

Later on I started looking up meditation techniques. Wikipedia has a good general review, and I thought that maybe I would find one of the listed secular techniques helpful. Autogenic training and a couple other things looked interesting. That reminded me of Yoga, which I have enjoyed when I've tried it, but it's difficult and I don't think I can find time to attend a class. (And also I find working out in public stressful.) I was thinking of getting a beginner's Yoga DVD, and that reminded me that there might be a Wii yoga game. Wii Fit Plus seems to be the one at the moment, although there's another yoga game coming soon. I don't know if it will be good or not. And then that reminded me that there are probably yoga courses online that might be even more appropriate, and cheaper, or free (but probably worse).

Does anyone have advice on either meditation or yoga?

Sometimes I see my life as a series of overlapping and interconnecting obsessions, kind of like the way story arcs come and go in a grand epic piece of fiction.

my thoughts on torchlight

So I tried out Torchlight, mostly on the advice of Tycho and Metacritic. Here are my thoughts so far.

Diablo I was a great game--it broke a lot of ground. It was mentally light, but very addicting, and very replayable. In many ways Diablo II was a different game. It got a lot more complex, a lot longer, and a lot more involved. It has a much larger complexity profile. It also made some big improvements on the first game in terms of usability, balance, etc., but for the purposes of this review, consider that Diablo I and Diablo II are two different games.

Think of Torchlight as Diablo I, with every rough corner removed. When you launch the game you can pick up your progress within 10 seconds. Everything is streamlined. Anything that was annoying about Diablo I has been removed, and some modern tropes like WoW-style skill trees have been added.

Torchlight is a fantastic single player hack-and-slash dungeon crawl. It is 60% loot, 35% character progression, 5% story, and 0% bullshit. The graphics are simple but really well done. The gameplay feels really good. It doesn't break a lot of new ground, it just does what it does perfectly. Torchlight is the new reference Diablo I experience. And it's a great place to park your brain for a few minutes (hours) when you don't feel up to a more complex or social game.

video card fan update

It turns out you can replace your video card fan. The downside is that it's fiddly, nervous-making work. I saved about a hundred dollars over replacing it. Not sure what it would have cost to get it repaired at Fry's or Best Buy, but I'm glad I didn't find out.

And what's up with RAM heat sinks on video cards? Do they actually do something, or is it just feature-itis? Well I installed them anyway, sigh.

The silence that came out of my PC case last night was music to my ears. I feel better already.

a couple of cheap single player pc games maybe

I haven't played either of these but that might change.

Time Gentlemen, Please! is apparently a time travelling adventure game. Maybe in the vein of Maniac Mansion Day of the Tentacle? Idunno.

Torchlight is a single player low profile streamlined Diablo clone.

more pc blues - graphics card fan

I've never had a graphics card fan break on me before, but I'm finding it really distressing. The fan makes this horrible clicking, buzzing sound that's impossible to ignore, especially when gaming. Apparently you can replace the entire cooling unit on video cards? That sounds better than replacing the video card, since it's not more than a few months old.

...Stepping back, for me it's another reminder that our sense of self extends well beyond our physical bodies. My mood and sense of well-being can be heavily influenced by the status of my car, my computer, and my bank account. I suspect that the house will join that list in short order.

I heard that cats get more attached to places than they do to people. It makes you wonder if a cat's territory is an extension of itself in the same way.

audio research

I'm trying to put together another media temple in the living room, for consoles and movie watching and whatnot. Eventually we'll have to buy a TV I think, but until then my widescreen monitor will serve. But the audio solution really had me stumped. I have a pretty great setup for my PC, a pair of klipsch bookshelf speakers that I got from Ralph seven years ago, and they've spoiled me for PC speakers. (Basically, every PC speaker I've ever heard sucks in comparison to even a modest home theater setup.)

So, I'm unwilling to permanently downgrade my PC, and I'm going to have similar standards for the eventual setup in the living room. Long story short I need another set of speakers, either temporarily or permanently. I don't really want to go with a temporary solution (cheap PC speakers,) because I already have enough junk around the house. But I also don't want to break the bank. But I ALSO don't want to chase down a good home theater system on craigslist--my time is more valuable than it used to be, especially this month.

Anyway, after some research rejected logitech and I ended up ordering these M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 Powered Speakers speakers from amazon. I have high hopes that they will be a solid addition to my noisemaking capacity for years to come. Even if they don't have a place in whatever system I eventually set up in the living room, they should make great auxiliary speakers for either the garage or the bedroom.

the internet is a public good

Internet access will be regulated the same way that gas, electric, water, and phone service are regulated: as a public good. Next up: cell phones, and the wireless carriers.

The FCC approved new openness rules for the broadband and mobile wireless connections to the internet, gratifying President Obama;s grassroots supporters and internet services like Google, while drawing the wrath of large telecoms such as AT&T and the wireless industry.
Back in the 1990s, I was afraid that government regulation of the internet would squash innovation and end the "wild west" era. But the down side of frontier life is that because it's lawless, you're prone to exploitation by bandits and robber barons and such. So then you have to choose whether to put up with it, petition the governor to send the sheriff around, move back east, or move even further west.

(In this extended metatphor bloggers are farmers, ecommerce merchants are general store owners, web programmers are cowboys, prospectors are .com startups. The bandits are spammers, the Indians are the old media companies (music, journalism, print)*, and the oil and railroad barons are the tech companies that move in, take over, and sell access.)

The fat cats won, the infrastructure has been build and it's very profitable. The Indians have been marginalized and their attacks have subsided, they're heading for the reservations. A flood of homesteaders and regular folk is on its way. Now, for the sake of all the families that are trying to settle in, it's time for the fed to move in and civilize the place. That means busting the trusts and taking down the big monopolies.

Civilization means equality of opportunity. That's what these rules are about. The frontiersmen are just going to have to find a new frontier.

*So yeah I feel guilty about what the US did to the Native Americans and I apologize if the metaphor is offensive, but I don't think it's inaccurate. In the story of the wild west this is how it went. The natives were outcompeted, fairly and unfairly. I think it's tragic when progress steamrolls human beings.

the kitchen is packed

Last night we put all (most) of the kitchen stuff in boxes. I think most of the rest of the stuff that has to get packed is going in bags. (Also we're almost out of the 25 boxes we bought.)

But I think there's something about the kitchen gear in particular that gets you excited... This is the practical stuff, the stuff you use every day, and the next time you use it will be in your own kitchen, on your own stove.

I guess we'll be eating out until then ;-)

tired is relative, also unemployment economics

It's a funny feeling, this feeling I have now. When I'm at my desk, or at home at my computer, I'm utterly exhausted. When I'm at the new house working on stuff, I can stay on my feet for hours at a time. Well also there aren't many chairs over there right now so it's hard to sit down. But really I do feel very energized about it all.

I think the word 'tired' is a lot less informative than it should be... It doesn't communicate the subtleties of emotion that govern how we manage our time, or how we would prefer to manage it. Maybe it's an artifact of the English language. Or perhaps what I'm getting at is the same thing I've been chasing mentally for a long time, which is simply that I want to own my time, myself.

On the subject of time management. The idea of unemployment checks is interesting. What would look like if instead of paying people a percentage of their former income for a fixed amount of time, you just put them to work on some public good. Probably it would look like a human resources debacle of epic proportions, trying to find useful public sector work for a shifting population of millions... People who now complain about welfare would instead complain about the centrally planned economy taking over the private sector.

But on the other hand I always loved the idea of the CCC, the civilian conservation corps... The idea is you take a bunch of unemployed dudes and you give them something useful to do. Most of their pay is in free food, housing, and medical care, and they get a small stipend on top. It helps the unemployment problem, stimulates the economy, provides job training, and keeps said dudes off the street, all while providing some public good (infrastructure, conservation) on top.

Maybe as network technologies improve, the thousands and millions of local projects that need doing can be hooked up more efficiently to the people who are suddenly out of work but who have the skills to complete those projects. If the HR problem could be eased, then this sort of work might be a good replacement for unemployment for a lot of people. It might be especially good for young folk right out of college or whatnot. A good way to build connections in a community, to learn practical skills, all that good stuff.

oh yeah also we bought a house

So we got the keys on Monday. We'll be painting this weekend and moving next weekend (If you want to help out with either let me know.)

And I started a new blog just for house stuff, where Annie and I will (maybe) be recording our adventures in experimental homeownership.

That will be the spot to watch for house pictures too.

another busted water main

Our showers have been weak (too cold) for a few days now. (still at the old place, 11th St.) It's been getting so bad that I've been dreading every shower, because I have to get in and out in 5 minutes or it'll lose all warmth. This morning Annie found a new naturally occurring* hot spring in our backyard, near one of our garden planters.


*Warm water just coming right up out of the ground in Manhattan Beach! I didn't know we were a geothermal hot spot! I should probably call the USGS or something.**

**Or you know, a plumber.

the future soon

I heard a story on NPR a few days ago (it turns out I actually read it on boing boing but for some reason I remember it as NPR audio...weird) about a boy from Malawi who read in a book about using windmills to provide energy, and who set out to build one for his family/village farm.

So, awesome, great job*. And it makes you wonder what might be in a book from the future, if you could find one, that would represent a similarly daunting, yet achievable leap. Imagine finding instructions for making petroleum out of algae, or for spinning carbon nanotubes. Or imagine reading about the network protocols and wireless power strategies that will be the foundation of the pervasive wireless internet: the outernet. If you were a determined dude or lady, you could change the world with that kind of technosauce.

But we don't have those books, so we go on scratching around, trying to figure it out on our own, without the benefit of the knowledge that "this idea changed the world." I find it staggering how much easier it is to learn something that it is to discover or invent that same thing. But when you think about humans as clever monkeys instead of rational beings, it makes more sense... Our imaginations, as amazing as they are, are only just barely good enough to lift us out of the dirt, because that's exactly how good they had to be to get us this far. (Or, if they were better, we'd surely have flying cars by now)

AND it raises the question, is there a complexity frontier beyond which we can make no progress? Where it takes so long to get up to speed that no forward progress can be made? Or will we simply continue to build more sophisticated tools and sweep the details under the rug?

...In conclusion, humans are so great.

*This sounds like both an incredibly sad and an incredibly hopeful story, doesn't it?

kung fu panda

I can now announce that I am working on Kung Fu Panda World, a flash MMO based on Kung Fu Panda.


regarding pc hardware, I feel old

So my desktop's busted. Random restarts, if I leave it powered down all day it'll run for a couple of minutes first, before it starts spam restarting.

Usually when something like this happens it's the power supply, I tend to run those into the ground pretty regularly. That did not seem to be the case this time, unfortunately. Didn't seem to be a cooling issue either. Next on the list is motherboard and cpu....

It turns out that while I wasn't looking a lot of things have changed in PC hardware. Intel has a terrible, confusing brand tangle* of processors to choose from. I bought a Core i7 920 processor and a motherboard that supports Core i7 chips. But the chip didn't fit. Core i7 is split into two socket types, LGA1156 and LGA1366. WHO KNEW. (I didn't. These concerns are completely absent from the "[how to select your awesome new intel processor]" marketing posters.) Anyway I went back and got the right motherboard.

Oh the motherboard doesn't fit into the case. I'm not sure if this is because my old Dell is just Dell, or if the case standard actually changed (AGP to ATX?) and frankly I don't really care. I bought a new case.

So I was finally all set to put it all together. Oh the ram doesn't fit either. DDR3 is not DDR2.

On we go. I mean it's not a disaster, the good thing about being an old man is that I have lots of money to throw at these things. Still, burnsauce.


I actually still kindof like working with PC hardware... the form factors, the interface design decisions, it all speaks to a very specific design aesthetic, a funny split between engineering and show business, between high-tech and consumer concerns.

I love that you can build a PC mostly by trying to plug things into eachother until everything is plugged in, and then turning it on. That's pretty much what I do. It's sortof similar to the old PC Adventure game ethos of "[pull every lever and pick up everything that isn't nailed down,]" and I find it amusing that those problem solving skills actually turn out to be useful in some situations. Which is to say, in environments where every possible/sensible physical interaction has been planned out ahead of time, and made to work or not work as appropriate. So that if you can plug it in, it probably works. There's a certain nostalgic beauty to the process.


augmented reality game ideas

So the overwhelming problem for an augmented reality game is content creation, amirite? I mean, the real world is big. Way, way bigger than any virtual world I'm aware of. To reach a national or international audience, an augmented reality game can't rely on traditional video-game content creation pipelines. You need to either crowdsource content creation, restrict yourself to a small locality, or auto-generate content somehow. Or some combination.

So here's how I think you solve it, I'll put it in the familiar frame of an MMO, because I don't have a strong theme idea yet...

Your baseline game takes some huge local dataset like Yelp or whatevs, crunches it, and turns each node into a spawn point for critters based on the node. So a Chinese restaurant creates Chinese Food creeps that wander around the vicinity. You may or may not want to make a sophisticated thematic mapping algorithm so that all your creeps aren't ethnic food? I guess it depends on the game...

So anyway one dataset/layer gives you mobs for any populated area. Make your second layer something more explicit like the geocaching dataset. May as well include all this free content in your game, right? Caches become boss monsters or quests.

Next, give your players input into the game. As they do stuff they go up levels. The average level of players in the vicinity affects the average difficulty of the area. So if a bunch of high level bozos live in a town, then the newbs need to be careful when visiting, for example. Which means that your dedicated players will create your high level content. And the developer's office naturally becomes the highest level content in the game.

From there you might as well keep layering in every dataset you can think of, crime statistics, UPA pickup games, movie times, house prices, really anything.

What's the central activity of this game? Killing creeps? Collecting shiny stuff? Damned if I know. What kinds of things do people even do outside? What kind of augmented reality game would you like to play?


Tacos Mexico, on Van Nuys south of Sherman Way. It's no Salsa and Beer, so I wouldn't really take anyone else there, but they have great truck-style tacos for 1.05 each. Three or four makes a meal.

Also I tried putting butterscotch in my coffee, but it didn't work out as well as the chocolate syrup did. Lesson learned I guess.

missing music

I caved in and bought The Beatles Rock Band on Saturday. We visited my parents and set it up and had a great time with all my siblings, singing and playing through the songs. There are 2 key features to the game. One is singing harmony, which was pretty fun. The other is that everyone already knows all the songs, which is fantastic.

Between that and the jam session with Mick at PAX, I've been really wanting to get back into making music. The problem is, somewhere along the way I seem to have convinced myself that I'm not dedicated enough to learn an instrument. So I'm not sure what to do about that. Maybe get myself hypnotized into thinking that I love to practice the guitar. I'm not sure if I'm susceptible to hypnosis or not. I've always suspected that I'm not, but that might just be hubris.

The solution that my imagination keeps drifting towards is for me to invent my own musical instrument/interface, that takes the drudgery and dexterity out of the equation. But that almost sounds harder (and definitely a lot more pompous) than just learning an existing instrument...


So in conclusion, any way I slice it, my big ego seems to be getting in the way of my making music. Probably time to knock it down a few pegs, I guess. Sometimes I wish I had a work ethic instead of a dream ethic. What can you do eh? :-)

I was kinda looking forward to it

My Driver's License finally came in the mail, so unfortunately I won't need witnesses to swear that I am me. Thanks everyone who offered. :-)

bonus drama - notaries and identification

So, I lost my Driver's License some time ago. I went to the DMV to get a replacement. They took my picture and all that. I waited 60 days, but it never came. I called, they said the picture didn't make it into the database. I went back to the DMV. They took my picture again. Now I'm on the waiting phase again. Hopefully it arrives soon, but in the meantime, I get to learn about Notaries Public.

There's a couple of documents we need to get notarized in order to buy this house. There's a disclosure for the Loan, and then, most crucially, there's the purchase contract itself. The thing is, a notary's main job is to confirm that you are who you say you are. I currently do not possess sufficient documentation to satisfy the requirements. We were able to get away with just Anne signing this loan disclosure, but for the purchase that's definitely not gonna fly.

So I looked up the California Notary Public guidelines, to see what my options are. On page 8 it talks about identification, and the long and short of it is that I need to have 2 credible witnesses present, with their identification, who will swear that I am really me.

We're gonna do it old-school.

I actually found it really interesting reading about notaries, because they are literally responsible for the fabric of trust that our common/civil law relies on... And it's all based on the idea that either the notary knows you personally, or can establish trust through other community members. Having ID cards is basically a shortcut for that mechanism, and frankly ID cards work way better in large cities where nobody knows eachother. But I do like that we have this old trust mechanism to fall back on.

house negotitations

So, let me tell you about this house. When we first saw it, it was listed at 550. We loved it-- it was two separate houses one a lot, with 2 garages. The lot is huge, 8,700 square feet, the second unit has 2 bedrooms, a great kitchen and its own yard. Both houses are in great shape. Great, this is exactly what we want, and it's out of our range.

We talked to the agent, the agent said, "she'll let it go for 460." We said, ok wow we can actually do that. We put in an offer at 460, our offer had an appraisal contingency, so that if the property appraises for less they have to drop the price to the appraisal.

Endless paperwork later, we're finally approved for the loan, and the appraisal comes back at 405. We're very excited, she has to drop the price, right? We offer 405. Well actually she has a backup offer at 435, so she counters at 435.

Now here's the thing, the bank is only going to lend us money against the appraised value of 405k, so if we want to buy the house for more than that we need to make up the difference up-front with cash. We were a bit lean in the down-payment department to begin with*, so this represents significant pain for us. We review our finances and counter 420, and it's as high as we're willing to go. We think we've lost the house to the other buyers at this point.

Radio silence for a few days, then we get a call saying she'll take it for 425, she just wants 5k more and we can seal the deal. Now, it's not the 5k in purchase price that's a problem, it's the fact that it's up-front that makes it a deal breaker. We can't give her more than 422 and feel like we're not being totally reckless. We already feel pretty reckless frankly.

More radio silence, then we get a call saying that our agent and the seller's agent have both agreed to take a 1.5k pay cut in order to make up the difference between us and the seller. The deal is on. So that's where we are right now. The seller has the football, we expect them to sign and pass it back to us any minute now.

I'm not totally sure how I feel about all this yet. I think it's gonna be good, but I don't want to hear your second-guessing until after we've finished the whole thing and moved in and made our first mortgage payment. Then we can talk about how irresponsible we are. ;-)

*For all you's out there wagging your finger right now, please remember that we will be renting out the front unit to cover more than half of our mortgage payment; some things are not as irresponsible as they look.

updated! is back up, my shirts are on sale for 16$ a piece, 3$ flat shipping. I let this go for way, way too long.

Ultimately I decided it was not worth it to rescue the old ruby on rails site, and I decided to use an off-the-shelf store (Magento). There are pros and cons to it... inventory management is really smooth, and I had to do relatively little work to get it working, but it means tweaking everything, a lot, and I still don't get quite exactly what I want. My biggest gripe is with the checkout process; it has like 3 too many steps, and some bad defaults. I'd like to try to streamline it if I get the chance, but who am I kidding? The only way this store is ever gonna see more work is if I actually sell all the shirts I already have in stock and decide to do another run.

But anyway now you can vote for which food-on-shirt related flash game I should make! You''ll see the poll if you go to one of the shirt pages, e.g. here and scroll down and check out the sidebar.

friday night at the office

I probably won't be here too much longer but,

1. Nobody in my rss list makes posts on friday evenings.
2. Actually I'd like to make a graph of when news (or at least posts) are produced throughout the week.
3. Weekend! Yay!

dwarf fortress update

I haven't been playing but I have been following the development blog:

I'm back to combat text, which still involves some retooling of things as the text illuminates further problems, but I'm closer to being done with the combat revision, anyway. I found a lot of things wrong with the groundhog bite today. First, a groundhog ripped a lion in half and bit off a dwarf's arms... and it was using every part of its head (eyes, nose, etc.), not just its teeth, for the biting. After I fixed that up, it was still using its teeth like little needles and piercing brains and so on. I eventually got that sorted out.

I had a dragon fight some lions, and after a little bit of dragonfire and close combat, I ended up with a dragon covered with the gramatically-in-progress "lion melted fat spatter".

I love you Tarn go there so no-one else has to. You take it to the limit and beyond, so that no-one else is burdened by the burning lack of a fully detailed, fully simulated fantasy-mashup pocket universe. Thank you for all you do.

more signs of stress - avoidance and creativity

Today I read the google wave draft protocol spec. It was amazingly concise.

2.4. Operations

Operations are mutations on wavelets. The state of a wavelet is entirely defined by a sequence of operations on that wavelet.

Clients and servers exchange operations in order to communicate modifications to a wavelet. Operations propagate through the system to all clients and servers interested in that wavelet. They each apply the operation to their own copy of the wavelet. The use of operational transformation (OT) guarantees all copies of the wavelet will eventually converge to the same state. In order for the guarantees made by OT to hold, all communication participants must use the same operational transformation and composition algorithms (i.e. all OT implementations must be functionally equivalent).

Reading specs has become a weird kind of guilty pleasure for me... or at least, I never thought I'd enjoy it, but I find that I kinda do. Maybe because it lets me be smug, if only in my own head: "oh yeah if you just read the spec you'd see how they handle that..." And since like nobody reads specs, (because theyr'e written in math,) reading and understanding a spec is a recipe for instant self-esteem!


I also applied for access to the google wave developer sandbox. Because I don't have enough to do with my spare time?

my daily nih - virtual rpg systems

nih - not invented here - a bad habit many engineers (certainly this one!) will cop to; if it was designed by someone else, it's crap and we should build our own.

I've recently been preoccupied with the idea of running a traditional rpg online. I was in one game a few months ago that was a lot of fun before it ran out of steam. We used a traditional forum setup and that worked alright, but there are some things about the way a forum is set up that make it less than optimal. Forums are good about maintaining a timeline, but bad at conveying game information efficiently. Things like maps, side conversations, character attributes, and ancillary characters are at best awkward hacks. That won't stop you from having a good time. Here is a site with a large community of play by forum games.

But to me an online rpg session is more similar to a game than a forum; I'd build it from the ground up around maps, characters, statuses, events, and attributes. Other people have approached this problem before. Here is a chart of some existing virtual battle mats that take a virtual map plus chatroom approach to online RPGs.

The thing is, most of these applications seem to have been designed for the world of 15 years ago. Most of them are downloadable clients, where the GM sets up a server on his local machine and gives his IP to his friends, who run their own native clients and connect to it. This is how online games worked in the 1990s. Nobody does this anymore in real life - games in this decade are centrally hosted. In fact I'd get rid of the native client entirely and use a web client instead. There are so many advantages to the web client! Compatibility, ease of use, accessibility from anywhere (including at work), centralization, and serialization. If your game is hosted on a web server with a database back end, you can have some confidence that you won't lose your campaign history if your GM has a power outage. Most of all, this model forces players to be online concurrently, which is often a deal breaker. There's a reason we're playing online in the firstplace, instead of meeting up at someone's house.

I also don't love the chat paradigm; it's good for letting people talk quickly, but I think there's something to be said for the more considered pace of a forum; players are encouraged to edit and embellish their posts, and the result is a higher quality, more readable and re-readable game.

I want to take the best of both approaches.

Forums are
-centrally hosted - GM needs no special software
-persistent - game data is never lost
-availabie- game can be accessed at any time from anywhere
-higher post quality - rich editors and the ability to edit posts after posting means better prose.
-multi-channel communication - secret threads for certain GM/player purposes.

The multiplayer computer game approach gives us
-built in character concepts
-object status and attributes
-fog of war
-dice rolling and other rpg tropes (initiative, turn order) built into the interface
-rich game appropriate GM controls

The system I would build would focus on creating the timeline of a story. The GM would have full access to edit anything anywhere in the timeline, and can assign out permissions to the other players to edit their own actions in the present and some subset of the past, or larger subsets as appropriate. The maps, the objects with their statuses and attributes, are all a part of the timeline. As you browse through the game log, you see how the map evolved with the actions, and you can see how the characters' attributes change over the course of the session/chapter/game.

The whole thing is stored forever in a database, and accessible from (almost) any browser. Like wikipedia, every edit is stored and is reversible. The default view of the game shows the final state of the timeline (or you can view the edits in strictly linear fashion if you want to see how it looked before someone retconned it.)

Also, sounds similar to google wave.

thanks shai

filed under: Nate hates Eclipse:

So I have had many problems with eclipse breaking and not loading after a lot of use.

I know this problem happens to other people as well.

If you delete

...\ workspace\.metadata\.plugins\org.eclipse.core.resources

And then force sync it (just that folder!)

You should get your eclipse working again, with all your settings in place.


godwin's law meets health care debate

Representative Barney Frank FTW - also, note the crowd's reaction - these are not the angry mobs we have/had heard so much about, though certainly the crazy is in attendance.

winscp - better than putty

If you're frustrated by ssh/putty, use WinSCP instead. I don't think I'll ever go back.

game idea: wind

You are the daughter of the bird god. (For whom I'm going to temporarily borrow your flavor, thanks Tim.) This is a Wii game, mostly a flight simulator. You fly by tilting the controller, you flap your wings by tipping the controller up quickly. Blah blah something's wrong you have to go on a quest, probably involving stolen eggs or something. At the start of the game you don't really know any of this though. You start out in crow(?) form, and as the game progresses you earn more and more bird forms. Also you can see the wind.

Each form has some unique properties, hummingbirds slow down time, sparrows fly through trees, eagles dive and snatch prey, and have enhanced sight, Geese speed up time to travel long distances, penguins swim, ostriches, parrots can talk to people, etc.. All the birds you meet along the way will bow to you.

Flight details are massaged to make sure that your character seems competent: obstacle avoidance is built in to some extent, hawks won't smash into the ground, etc.. Of course if you "die" you just disappear in a puff of magical feathers and reappear as a seagull soaring out of the clouds above where you died. As you progress you gain spiritual strength, which you spend to transform and use other divine tricks, but your physical body must also be maintained by eating and drinking periodically. If you're a good girl we'll eventually let you turn into a terror bird or a velociraptor or a phoenix or roc.

There's a loose story but the game is mostly a sandbox, where you can fly around and find things to do in most directions. We'll use some American Gods tricks and some others to make sure that wherever you go, that's where you need to be. As you progress and solve more problems and earn more forms you learn what your real goal is, but throughout we want to keep the focus on the joy of flight.

game idea: jaguar ninja

You're a ninja in feudal Japan, in say the early 1500s. You're on a boat on a secret mission. You end up (intentionally or not) swept across the Pacific to the Aztec empire. You are captured by a bunch of Aztec cultists and thrown in a pit with a bunch of Jaguars, without your weapons. As the beasts circle you, you go into the stance that is the start of the flowing water unarmed kata. The noonday sun shines directly down onto you. There's a total solar eclipse.

You wake up. You are a jaguar with all the memories and skills of a ninja. Your old clothes are shredded and scattered around the den. There's a little bit of blood. Using a combination of your ninja tricks and jaguar advantages, you scale the pit in the dead of night. Time to complete your mission.

From here the plot might tak you anywhere, probably do some jungle training, some aztec temple cultist hunting, and ultimately sneaking back on the boat to Japan for the second half (?) of the game.

Gameplay: stealth action, ala Assasin's creed, with less stand-up fighting, but more intimidation. A lot of stalking prey, frightening gardeners, revealing yourself at just the right moment, and biting people in the neck. Probably ideal for Xbox 360, you have a growl button, a pounce trigger, a swat/bite trigger, and a climb/freerun button, and a stealth button. Or stealth is your default mode, more likely.

The final missions involve assassinating Japanese nobles inside their home, sneaking along rafters, killing rival ninjas. Important components include managing your prey's fear level, tracking via scent (colored trails ala Twilight Princess), and following your master's teachings in your new form. You never revert to your human form, but you do see your daughter off to a safe and happy life.

What is up

I've been pretty stressed out the past few weeks. We've been trying to buy a duplex in Hawthorne, my car broke down, we've had a rough milestone at work, my driver's license has not arrived, and I had to see a doctor. I've retreated somewhat into some bad habits of eating, thinking, and acting. But overall things are great, and they'll be even better in a few months when it calms down a bit. It's nice to step back, internally, and put your worries in perspective.

Cheers! :-)

very no

I just can't believe someone would design it this way on purpose. This is a one line task.
DocumentBuilderFactory docBuilderFactory = DocumentBuilderFactory.newInstance();
DocumentBuilder docBuilder = null;
try {
docBuilder = docBuilderFactory.newDocumentBuilder();
} catch (ParserConfigurationException e) {

Document doc = null;
try {
doc = docBuilder.parse (new File(fileName));
} catch (SAXException e) {
} catch (IOException e) {
Seriously? DocumentBuilderFactory.newInstance()?

more "the family" news

And today we have news of yet another C Streeter falling off the fidelity wagon.

Now it's the turn of former Rep. Chip Pickering (R) or Mississippi, who appeared to be in line to grab Trent Lott's Senate seat and was allegedly offered the gig by Gov. Haley Barbour (his office denied this to TPMmuckraker), but decided instead to leave Congress altogether.

Pickering and his wife divorced soon afterward and now she is suing the novelistically named Elizabeth Creekmore-Byrd for "alienation of affection," i.e., for stealing her husband. What's more, according to legal papers filed by Leisha Pickering, some of the "wrongful conduct" between Pickering and Creekmore-Byrd (I guess that's what they call it down there?) took place at ... you guessed, the C Street group home up on Capitol Hill.

I mean, I don't know about their politics. But these dudes know how to party. I don't see how you get around that.

my contribution to wikipediaéndez&diff=302536030&oldid=298996974

* Juan Mendez, alleged inventor of the [[burrito]], Ciudad Juárez, Mexico (circa 1910)

wait no really

self-serious downloadable board games

Unfortunately, 3mm is too thick for the Ellison, and 2mm is too thin for InterSpace hex tiles. So you will need to cut 216 hexes (42 cuts of 6 hexes each) from 2mm foam and glue hexes together in pairs to produce 108 4mm hex bases.

InterSpace hex tiles TM demand that you manufacture them from the highest quality materials. Do not attempt to use inferior materials or processes.

my god it's full of stars

People are great. The internet is great. I wanted to put these links here, most of them are board game / evil geniuses related.

print on demand custom board games
pre-cut hex tiles
more game parts
custom steel rule dies
scrapbooking is a real hobby!
OMG Chart!

and the quote of the day:

craft robo paper cutterCraftRobo might be Japanese. Seems to be listed on overseas shops more than USA ones. , for UK, in Japanese

epic wtf

I'm just gonna quote the whole post.

Ensign's Weirdest Moment

Yes, I know that's pretty bold billing given the recent news out about Sen. Ensign (R-NV). But beyond all the salacious detail there's a picture emerging of the man -- who, remember, is a high-profile senator and had been considered a serious presidential candidate -- that combines deeply manipulative traits with an almost childlike approach to those in authority around him.

Ensign is a member of something called the C Street group, which is part of a highly secretive religious outfit called 'The Family'. It's a combo religious fellowship and Capitol Hill group home where a number of Republican members of Congress live. And it's run by a guy named Doug Coe. (Because the comedy never stops, remember that Gov. Sanford too is a member of the C Street group/Family.) In one of the more surreal episodes in this whole drama, while folks from 'The Family', including Sen. Coburn (R-OK), were trying to get Ensign to end his relationship with the girlfriend and write her and her husband a big check.

So Ensign agrees to do this. But the members of his fellowship had so little trust he could follow through that they had him write out a letter to the mistress that he was ending the relationship and then drove him to the local Fedex office to make sure he actually dropped the letter in the box. So he does that. But then after he shakes them loos he calls the mistress to tell her his friends made him write the letter and to ignore it.

It makes having his parents pay the couple off sound far less out of character.

And this was a man who was going to run for president.

I heard a piece on 'The Family' and this Doug Coe character a while back on NPR. They're pretty good conspiracy theory fodder; one of their key beliefs is that greatness is not a matter of morality or faith, it is a matter of being chosen by Jesus Christ. I'm probably misrepresenting them, but...meh!