September 2003

Arcana Unreadable


Picked up a copy of Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed over the weekend, in case our group wanted to try it out sometime (D&D 3.5 went over like a lead balloon), and discovered that, while Monte may have learned a great deal from the rules mistakes in 3rd edition D&D, he has definitely not learned from the layout mistakes.

  1. the font is smaller, with a small x-height.
  2. the headers stand out less from the body text.
  3. the body font uses lower-case numbers (similar to web font Georgia, for those who aren't up on type jargon) so they blend in with the surrounding words.
  4. new sections still start in the middle of a column, so you have to hunt for things like character types.
  5. the index, while comprehensive, is set in italic sans-serif, so it's extremely hard to read.
  6. the index is also set with negative leading, so the page numbers in multi-line entries overlap slightly.

The only nice thing I can say compared to the WotC D&D books is that the page backgrounds aren’t crufted up with “spiffy” graphics, so you have black text on a white page. That high contrast, along with the generous leading, are all that saves it from complete unreadability. 3M Post-It Flags are all that can save it as a reference manual; you’ll never find anything quickly without them.

He does offer it as a PDF, which would be great if it weren’t for the tinyfonts. I suspect it would be quite readable blown up to fill a 20” widescreen display, but not on anything smaller. Blech.

Updates: I’ve found some more layout errors to be annoyed by.

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iTMS takes me back


Okay, my iTunes Music Store purchases are getting a bit silly now:

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A hard-on for queers


I like Clayton Cramer. We disagree on almost everything except guns, but since we first corresponded eleven years ago, I’ve respected his scholarship and reasoned thinking. I stop by his site every few days, and learn something about as often as I find something to argue about.

When it comes to The Pink Menace, though, I can’t follow him. Reason and reference are replaced by anecdote and Coulterish “lumping”. A German cannibal self-identifies as gay, and this is taken as evidence that gays are a danger to society?

Or try this one on for size:

"Now, I can understand why the left is so interested in doing so. Once these ideas are no longer relevant, the left thinks that one of the big obstacles to the leftist agenda---bestiality, child molestation, same sex marriage---will be out of the way."

I like Clayton, but I won’t reference any of his excellent gun-law articles in debate, because his rabid anti-gay rhetoric seriously undermines his credibility with the sort of people who most need persuading on the subject of gun control.

Queers and Lefties are welcome to join me at the range any time. I promise, all the bullets will be going downrange. Friendly, safe, fun.

Update: After a few thoughtful emails, I thought I’d clarify my position a bit. Currently, I think the moderate position in American politics is “slightly pro-gay, slightly anti-gun”; that is, they view gays as ordinary people who are unfairly discriminated against because of their choice of partners, and private gun ownership as a contributing factor in violent crime. My goal is to convince them that the latter view is not supported by the evidence, while not getting sidetracked by potential conflict on the former.

In fact, I’m probably more pro-gay than the average moderate, but Clayton, a useful source of information on the gun debate, is so strongly opposed that there’s a real risk of guilt-by-association. Gun control supporters are for the most part using emotional rather than statistical, legal, or historical arguments, and are often quick to judge their opponents by what else they believe.

So, if Clayton is strongly pro-gun and strongly anti-gay, and I point them to one of his pro-gun articles, they may assume that gun owners as a group are prone to be anti-gay, which ain’t so.

“Pull!”


I’m a pretty good shot with a pistol, particularly when I’ve been practicing regularly. I’m not entirely awful with a rifle, and could be a decent shot if I had more opportunities to practice. Until today, however, I could honestly say that I knew absolutely nothing about shooting shotguns.

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Yeah, what he said


Lileks.

Not the bits about Sony, although I agree on that as well. I haven’t much liked them since they discontinued my favorite portable CD player (the one that had every function clearly separated onto different buttons).

No, skip down about halfway. Look for the word “Metafilter”. I grovel in praise of his ability to sum up what it is that I hate about that site. I visit often to find amusing links, but the moment I spot one of their typically rabid Leftie front-pagers, MEGO. There’s no point in replying, because it’s crystal clear that they simply wouldn’t comprehend that a reasonable person could legitimately disagree. You must be a troll, a freeper, or some other convenient label; you can’t actually be serious.

Notes:

  1. MEGO - My Eyes Glaze Over
  2. Freeper - as far as I can tell, this means "anyone to the Right of Michael Moore"

I love this kind of bug…


People often wonder what sysadmins do for a living. It’s a mostly-invisible profession, where you’re only noticed when things aren’t working. Mostly we solve problems, but often we first have to figure out what the problem really is.

I don’t want to know how long it took someone to get from “my password doesn’t work” to this:

If you used Open Firmware Password utility to create a password that contains the capital letter "U", your password will not be recognized during the startup process (when you try to access Startup Manager, for example).

Note that it applies to Mac models going back several years, but wasn’t posted on the support site until this week. No doubt there’s a small pile of bug reports that have been sitting around for all this time, with their status field set to “WTF?”.

Keep the day job, Hilary


Just in case anyone was wondering, her debut album provides no evidence that Hilary Duff can sing, or even that she has a voice to sing with. Generically slick production combines with blandly stupid lyrics and the most obvious electronic voice modification since Cher’s last hit, resulting in an album so forgettable that you’ll wonder what you’ve just thrown into the trash.

Fortunately she’s one of the most beautiful young women I’ve ever seen, because I think she’s the least convincing pop-tart in the business. And I like pop-tart music.

Curiously, the album photos, like many recent pictures of her, play down the fresh-faced beauty and open charm that made her a Disney Princess. I suppose they’re trying to separate Hilary-the-singer from Hilary-the-actress.

Makes sense, since only one of them has a future.

False alarm (whew!)


Bad: checking your server logs in the morning and finding 6000 refers from Fark.

Good: discovering it’s because someone in their forums deep-linked to a picture of a pretty girl, not because your entire photo library has just been Farked.

[it wouldn’t increase my hosting bill, but it would certainly slow things down for people; my bandwidth throttling is already holding the traffic at one-eighth of its old average]

Big food


A relatively constant factor in my life is the weekend gaming/cooking session with friends. We have a large stable of entertaining games from companies like Cheapass, Steve Jackson, and (pre-Hasbro) Wizards of the Coast, and an Xbox or two. The recipes come from a variety of sources, including my still-under-construction online cookbook, built from assorted MasterCook-format archives.

This weekend was at my place, which gave me an excuse to do some massive house-cleaning and show off my newly-completed landscaping. Since I had so much cleaning work to do, I insisted that the meal should be relatively simple, which meant steaks.

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Meaningless life


Is it just my copy, or is the new Meaning of Life DVD horribly choppy on most DVD players? I suspect that it will work fine on the one that supports progressive output, but all the others fall apart any time there’s any significant movement on screen. Deeply disappointing, since they all play other discs fine.

Update: I have four DVD players — seven if you count the computers — and only one can show this disc without serious tearing in almost every scene. That is, of course, the one that has progressive output, so there’s no interlacing. This is the only DVD I own that looks this bad with standard interlaced video; I don’t know what they did in the mastering process, but it sucks.

The Devil In Rachel Lucas


Psssst. Rachel’s making deviled eggs. Go thou and do likewise.

Mine are almost ready. Wish me luck.

Update: …and I saw that they were good.

I went with Alton Brown’s painless steaming method to prep the eggs, and then mixed the yolks with mayo, dry mustard, and Lone Star Steak Rub. Could have used a tad more spice rub, but they were still quite tasty. Of course, now I have to spend an hour on the cross-trainer to compensate for the calories.

iTMS weekly reports


No, I didn’t buy another big batch of music from the iTunes Music Store yet, although I probably will soon, to stock up the iPod for my next road trip to Las Vegas. I have been keeping an eye on the store, though, and after corresponding with Brian Tiemann, I decided to investigate an oddity we’d both noticed: the week-by-week “Just Added” report ain’t no such thing.

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Would we get off so easily?


(Via Instapundit). Florida State Attorney John Tanner tried to fly with an undeclared handgun in his luggage. He was required to buy a lock-box for the gun and take a later flight. I don’t believe for one moment that an ordinary citizen would have been treated so gently.

His excuse is that it was “his first hunting trip since security was increased at airports,” but that doesn’t wash, because it’s been a long time since you could just toss a firearm into your luggage and not mention it at check-in. Long before 9/11, you were required to put the unloaded gun into a locked case and declare it. They then attached a brightly-colored tag to the case, to make sure that baggage inspectors knew it had been declared and inspected.

Of course, as one of the Special People, it’s quite possible that he never had to obey the old regulations due to “professional courtesy,” but I’d like to think that a State Attorney would have at least a basic grasp of the law.

Nothing about 9/11


Although you have to admit, as reasons to hate the West go, half-naked pop-tarts are a more plausible explanation than most. Beats blaming it all on Bush.

Low-hanging chads


A while back, the folks at Making Light recoiled in horror when I casually commented that I thought Bush had been legitimately elected. Several of them hijacked the discussion to focus on what was, to me, much smaller than the issue being discussed. Because they seemed to be otherwise reasonable people, I promised to give a fair hearing to any comprehensive references they were willing to point me to on the subject.

It was like pulling teeth to get those references, and the ones I got needed to be filtered for obvious bias, but heat eventually gave way to light. Sadly, I suspect that when they hear I have not embraced their position 100%, they will conclude that I never took their arguments seriously, and write me off as some sort of Bush-loving “freeper”, “looter”, or “theocrat”. I guess they’d rather be righteous and wrong than accept that someone can be a reasonable human being without passionately despising the President.

What do I think now about the 2000 elections, particularly in Florida?

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Today is a good day


New PowerBooks are out. Must wet pants with joy. They all look good, but I’m leaning slightly toward a 15” model with an 80GB disk and 1GB of RAM; not sure I’m ready for a 17” boat anchor.

Yesterday, on the other hand, was definitely not a good day. For some time now, I’ve been installing Panther betas on my iBook with the Archive & Install option, which preserves almost all of my applications and customizations while completely replacing the OS. I’ve always backed up my home directory first, but haven’t bothered with an extra full backup. Cuts the total upgrade time down to about an hour, most of which is spent watching the disks spin.

On another day, I’d consider including a comparison to my last Windows upgrade horror story. Unfortunately, things went terribly wrong this time. Twelve hours later, my iBook is almost back to normal.

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iObey


Okay, most of them are lame, and many will grate on the nerves of anyone who has two brain cells to rub together, but this one was worth it.

Courting Davis


The Democrats of the “selected, not elected” crowd were extremely unhappy about the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. Democrat Gray Davis has just been saved (temporarily) from those nasty election-stealing Republicans (not to mention the rest of us) by the 9th Circuit Court, who cited Bush v. Gore as precedent.

Apparently, the best way to protect voters from the heartbreak of hanging chads is to stop them from voting at all…

“Only Democrats and Dictators are afraid of elections.” — James D. Hudnall

Please, Mr. Darwin, take them away


I think this guy has demonstrated his lack of fitness for membership in the gene pool; he just failed the IQ test. His girlfriend should be put on probation for five years as well.

  1. become a youth pastor.
  2. acquire a sixteen-year-old girlfriend (you're thirty).
  3. videotape yourself having sex with her.
  4. put sex tapes in trunk of car.
  5. put girlfriend in trunk of car.
  6. drive across international border, failing to declare smuggled underage girlfriend.

Under other circumstances, I might be willing to believe that a sixteen-year-old is mature enough to be dating a much older man. Our laws on the subject are pretty arbitrary, after all, using date of birth as a convenient proxy for physical and emotional maturity. Many sixteen-year-olds are adults, and should be treated as such. Many people over eighteen, on the other hand, shouldn’t be trusted with wet matches.

These two? Not a chance. “Hey, sweetheart, now that we’ve been dating for a while, let’s take a road trip from Illinois to Alaska, and I’ll hide you in the trunk of the car to keep the Canadian border guards from getting suspicious.” “Gosh, Michael, what a swell idea. You’re sure the rest of the youth group won’t miss us?”

Still, nothing can top the bass player from Phish coaxing the 9-year-old daughter of a Hell’s Angel out to a deserted boathouse at 1am for “art photos”. Now that’s stupid.

Bits, bytes, platters, and drives, how many were going to St. Ives?


Four complete and total morons in Los Angeles (redundant, I know) are suing computer manufacturers for reporting hard disk capacity using international standard prefixes. Even better, they are not suing the companies who actually make and label the disks with these capacities.

“Your Honor, I’d like to submit as evidence this disk drive, taken from a Dell computer. Note the name M-a-x-t-o-r on the label, right above the advertised capacity in gigabytes.”

“Right. Bailiff, take these four clowns out back and sterilize them for the good of humanity.”

What a country


Yesterday, a man sliced open my eyeballs, fried them with a laser, and took $3,700 out of my wallet.

And I am immensely grateful.

Courtesy of CustomVue LASIK and the Friedman Eye Center, my vision is the best it’s ever been, and it’s supposed to get even better over the next few weeks. I’m temporarily a bit farsighted, and I’ve got a touch of spherical aberration that makes it look like I’m viewing the world through an old portrait lens, but it’s still pretty darn amazing.

Twenty-two years of glasses, fixed with five minutes of surgery.

Vegas road trip overview


So, two days after my LASIK surgery, my friend Dave and I headed off to Vegas for stress reduction and general amusement. Many people questioned the wisdom of mixing eye surgery with a seven-hour drive to a desert town filled with bright lights and cigarette smoke, but it wasn’t a problem. Eye drops and good sunglasses proved sufficient to the task (with occasional help from Aleve).

Dave will probably write a more detailed trip report than I will, but here’s the quick, relatively short form.

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“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”