“Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper? Of course it is.”

— Daniel Okrent, Public Editor, New York Times, 7/25/2004

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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Robert Green Ingersoll


Goodness he talks purty. I must remember to look up his writings to see what else he had to say.

Copied from the always-useful James Randi:

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Boyfriend syndrome


It’s a familiar sight for anyone who shoots at a public pistol range: a man and a woman come in together so he can teach her to shoot, and he gives her a loud, hard-kicking gun and incompetent instruction. Usually he’s a terrible shot himself, and sometimes he’s a danger to himself and others. His real goal, conscious or not, is to convince her that guns are a “guy thing,” and she should let him be her protector and champion.

I got tired of watching this a long time ago, and usually I try to sneak in when he’s left the room and give her a few quick pointers, including the all-important “rent a .22 next time.” When he comes back and she’s shooting better than he is with his favorite gun, the session usually comes to a quick halt.

Today was a bit different.

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Platinum is out


Got three pieces of mail today.

  1. offer for a Platinum Visa card from Fleet,
  2. letter from MBNA upgrading my existing Platinum Visa card to the new Quantum Visa,
  3. offer for CitiBank's new Diamond Preferred MasterCard.

I kinda felt sorry for the guys at Fleet. “You’re still selling Platinum?!? Got any eight-track tapes to go with that?”

Could be worse, I suppose. Last year they replaced all my credit cards with new ones that had American flags on them. I think they were trying to tell me that I had money to burn.

Vacation’s End


Brian Tiemann went on a computer-free vacation right before the latest virus hit, and came home to more than 21,000 pieces of email. This has somewhat reduced his affection for Microsoft.

My first thought was to reply to his article via email, but fortunately I came to my senses.

Zapper Stinger Moderator Velocitor Thunderbolt Yellow Jacket


Is it just me, or are the people marketing .22LR ammo getting a little silly in their product names?

[and yes, I know some of these have been around for a while, but it was seeing them neatly lined up in a row that got to me]

“If I could get in there…”


While watching yet another Slashdot thread dissolve into a poor imitation of a Usenet flame-war, the smug arrogance of people who think that running Linux means they’re smarter than Windows users reminded me of something that happened when I was at Synopsys.

A widely-used Unix server had crashed, and the engineers were hanging out near the data center, waiting for us to bring it back up.

“What’s taking them so long? We’ve got work to do! Dammit, if I could get in there, I’d fix it myself!”

“I’m pretty sure that’s why you can’t get in there.”

“Gee, what are you going to do with these?”


One of my pet peeves is the store clerk who examines your purchases and tries to figure out how they’re related to each other. There’s one at the local Borders who’s done this to me twice recently, first when I bought a pair of O’Reilly books with Schneier’s Practical Cryptography, and again when I went in looking for the new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style and ended up grabbing a new dictionary/thesaurus and a bunch of gun magazines. I keep picturing him working at a grocery store:

"Cool-whip, bananas, and toilet paper? Big plans for tonight, eh?"

I understand that he’s trying to be friendly and start conversations with the customers, which is certainly not the worst behavior I’ve experienced in a bookstore, but if I wanted to chat about the books I was buying, I’d have said something first. Take my money, give me my change, and let me get the hell out of your store, okay?

Maybe it’s part of the transformation of bookstores into social hangouts, aided and abetted by built-in coffee shops and comfy chairs. Fine in their place, but I think they change people’s behavior in all parts of the store. A ten-minute conversation by the magazine rack that can be heard clearly from more than twenty feet away? A business call on your cell-phone that a dozen people are forced to listen to if they want to keep shopping?

Mother taught me a word for this sort of behavior: rude.

She did not consider it a compliment.

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