•  Once More Unto the Breach •  I Surrender •  Just a Box of Games, Box 3 •  Just a Box of Games, Box 2 •  Just a Box of Games, Box 1 •  Gun Belt •  A Man, A Man, A Plan, Not Approved •  Come Home, George McGovern •  Break a Leg: Twelve Ten Twelve •  Callback to the Blog Motto •  Hueydan •  Essential Truths •  Syrian Chaos •  Don't Cross the Beams! •  Go Right Ahead •  Slide •  Five Years •  Overflight •  Save Us From the Grasping Capitalists! •  Getting the Story Straight

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»  October 25, 2013

Books  

Once More Unto the Breach: And Crispine Crispian shall ne're goe by,
From this day to the ending of the World,
But we in it shall be remembred;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers:
For he to day that sheds his blood with me,
Shall be my brother: be he ne're so vile,
This day shall gentle his Condition.
And Gentlemen in England, now a bed,
Shall thinke themselues accurst they were not here;
And hold their Manhoods cheape, whiles any speakes,
That fought with vs vpon Saint Crispines day.

    Henry V, William Shakespeare

 


»  April 23, 2013

Politics  

I Surrender:

"Behold, the Underminer! I'm always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me!"

—The Incredibles, Pixar

"The key question is whether workers who have been unemployed for a long time eventually come to be seen as unemployable, tainted goods that nobody will buy. This could happen because their work skills atrophy, but a more likely reason is that potential employers assume that something must be wrong with people who can’t find a job, even if the real reason is simply the terrible economy. And there is, unfortunately, growing evidence that the tainting of the long-term unemployed is happening as we speak.

"...

"So we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans."

—Paul Krugman, "The Jobless Trap," The New York Times, April 21, 2013

Hey, I'm still here. Is this thing on?

It's not the longest period of time I haven't posted anything—a whole two months went by just between posts in mid-November and mid-January—but it's felt like a long time.

It's been a crazy six months, and the last month hasn't even been the craziest part, although it's been rough in a way all its own. Most of it's not germane to the quotes above, so I won't bore anyone with every detail, but Krugman—as he often does—speaks the gospel.

I got my official State of Oregon Private Security Provider (Unarmed Professional) card yesterday, a little over a month after going through a two day training course with some folks who, frankly, had a lot of trouble reading aloud the simple questions we were prepped for on the exam. They passed, too. So forty hours a week—mostly in the middle of the night—I'm a security guard. The card is comically cheesy-looking, on the thinnest of white card stock, chunky in form because it's a quarter-inch shorter on the long dimension than a business card, just black type over a blue-green state seal, and unequal margins between the type and the edges of the card as little as 1/16" on one side.

It was seven-and-a-half years ago that I was hired for The Last Director Job in Portland (although there was one other), and it's been almost six years since I was laid off from it. Over the intervening period, I've applied to literally hundreds of positions—even applied for the same position when whoever took it moved on. Very few of those resulted in even a rejection letter. Even fewer got to the interview stage. Seriously, less than ten in nearly six years. And I wasn't holding out for a job with the salary I'd been getting. I had a little bit of freelance work, so I was more than willing to take something for less money just to smooth out the valleys: I applied to delivery jobs and convenience stores (something I'd actually done). But no takers.

It was twenty years ago, in the flush of the first year publishing my book review magazine, that a columnist from the Oregonian put me on his list of "the most interesting people in Portland." I was preceded (alphabetically) by discount furniture salesman Tom Peterson and then-senior VP of operations for the Trailblazers Geoff Petrie, and followed by Oregon wine-making pioneer Nanci Ponzi, and Medical Teams International founder Ron Post. The review got me a front-page photo on the cover of the Portland Business Journal in September.

That was twenty years ago, though, and now I'm watching electronic monitors on doors in Hyderabad (rather, one of the Indian Hyderabads, I'm not sure which one), Noida (an Indian city with a population greater than Portland I'd never heard of until a month ago), Grenoble, Munich, and other places—countries if not the actual cities—where I once though we might visit. When I'm not watching the monitors, I'm walking through literally two miles of empty corridors of software engineering offices (plus some assorted other buildings) thinking about poor life choices. I was making a security badge for a woman shortly after the bombing in Boston, and she mentioned that she'd graduated from electrical engineering school there in 1983, which was the same year I would have graduated EE from Oregon State if I hadn't lost my job, moved back to Eugene, quit school when the '82 recession hit, yadda, yadda....

It's not as if I was resting on my laurels after the book review died. I went out on my own as a freelance multimedia developer the next year. I started off renting a cubicle from one of my clients; moved into a (cheap) downtown office with Brad Hicks, a designer I'd met working in the printing industry; then eventually moved with Brad and Peter Sylwester to a space on Hawthorne Boulevard. I taught at Portland State University's Professional Development Program. I wrote a book, then a few more books. I gave a presentation at Macromedia's User Conference in 1997 on time-based animation—a topic that's old hat sixteen years after the fact, but one that was relatively new to a lot of multimedia developers at the time. I also talked about using Bézier curves for animation paths so long ago that my primitive page on the subject is still on the first page of Google searches for "bezier curve."

My office partner, Brad, came out of a design and marketing firm catering to high-tech clients. One of the clients who stuck with him when he went solo was acquired a couple years later. I used to do the print production on brochures for both companies. A dozen years later, I'm working there as a security guard.

Sometime correspondent Dennis Perrin (author of Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donahue and Red State Son) went from being a New York writer, comedian, and activist to being a janitor in Michigan. He's back on the circuit again, in DC and NYC, but it took seven years and getting his hours cut and in the process his marriage broke up. And he had more success prior to his fall than I did (my email tag: "I was never enough of a been to be a has-been"). My resume's a lot more technical; time erodes those accomplishments a bit more quickly.

Lots of people have suggested re-training. I did plunge into Xcode and iOS development several years back, with the hope that I'd build up enough of a skillset to make myself palatable to the numerous mobile developers in the Portland area, but for whatever reason that hasn't happened. My ambitions for personal projects always seem to outstrip my knowledge, though, and I run into obstacles somewhere beyond the simplest tasks. My game sold about 40 copies. I've tried to train up in a couple other disciplines, but whatever I chose, I'm not going to have the expertise for the jobs I see. Unless one of those disciplines is time travel engine building and I can find three-to-five years of on-the-job experience.

Tried to sell a book on politics about post-Vietnam foreign policy, going so far as to meet the late George McGovern. Wrote a graphic novel series proposal based on an idea that's been kicking around in my head for thirty years. Shopped some of the work that Barbara's written over the years. Blogged—a lot—on politics and headed to Philadelphia to meet up with Atrios and the gang to see if I could get some ideas. But it's been 0 for whatever.

At the end of February, I submitted an application for a Flash job in Seattle. Now, I've been working in Flash as a programmer for over sixteen years. I know I'm not a Flash superhero and frankly, as a freelancer, most of my work's pretty pedestrian: kiosks and the like, done on small budgets. If I was working on big-budget jobs, there wouldn't be an issue. But it was sort of a gut-punch when, after being asked to submit some code samples, it took less time to be rejected than it took for me to put the samples together. If I can't get even an interview for a Flash programming job, I have a hard time imagining why anyone would look at my resume and think I was qualified for anything else.

Then, a week later, I got the call. The very first job offer I've had in five years and nine months. And I took it with the sinking feeling that it meant the end of whatever chance I had of regaining a professional career.

It's a different lifestyle at the bottom end of the pay scale. In inflation-adjusted dollars, I'm making less than I was when I left the bookselling job I had during my second college stint. And I gave notice at that job on April Fool's Day, 1991. I work four graveyard shifts, then a day shift, so I don't actually have two "days" off. Monday and Tuesday, I'm getting off work right at the morning commute; I spend close to a full shift in transit each week. And I'm actually one of the lucky ones, I get paid more than most of the folks I went through training with because we use computers.

The sleep schedule thing has had me cat-napping on the couch a lot; I don't think I've spent more than two or three nights a week in bed. That, in turn, has affected my functionality on the freelance projects I have. Working long hours isn't a problem. Programming when your sleep cycles are messed up might be.

And that's a definite concern going forward. I took the job because I haven't had enough freelance work to support my end of the household expenses. But if I lose the freelance work (each of the small jobs I've had in the past couple months pays roughly a month's wages), I'm back in the same financial bind, but with no chance that I'll get a bigger project. Neither revenue stream by itself is enough, my time is more restricted, both in terms of flexibility (take off for Adobe MAX for the chance of learning something new? I'll get a week of vacation starting April 2014) and volume (difficult to learn something new when you're working two—or one-and-a-half—jobs). I live in constant fear of my computer dying (my iPad screen kicked the bucket yesterday) or an OS update that forces a software update cascade. That portfolio's not getting any fresher.

The thing is, we're still better off than most. The house is probably going to be paid off soon—one good decision I did make was to push to get us something permanent back in 1990 while the neighborhood was still full of skinheads and junkies. My small retirement account is gone, but Barbara has hers. We've got health insurance. But the downward pressure feels awfully strong.

 


»  March 13, 2013

What the...?  

Just a Box of Games, Box 3:

The third box is mostly boxed games and includes some titles from the earliest days of my collection.



Richthofen's War
Avalon Hill, 1972
One of the games from this collection that belongs to the era when I was playing mostly against my brother at home, and one of the first games we had that was more complex (much more so) than the standard kids' board games. A true "wargame."



B-17: Queen of the Skies
Avalon Hill, 1983
A fantastic solitare game that could keep you busy for hours. B-17 was originally published by On Target a couple years earlier, but the AH release gave it much wider exposure. It got great reviews at the time and was the perfect way to while away those pre-computer game afternoons, picking through charts and rolling dice. You're trying to get your bomber crew through their 20 required missions. I remember a computer version coming out at one point, long after I'd played around with writing one for myself.



RAF
West End Games, 1986
Continuing on with the aviation theme, this was another attempt at a solitare game system, but I found it more of a hassle to set up than B-17: the map required a lot more room, there were more counters, etc. The larger scope of RAF lessened the appeal, as well.

Civilization, Civilization: Trade Card Expansion, and Civilization: Western Extension Map
Avalon Hill, 1981, 1982, 1988
Synonymous now with the name of Sid Maier, he had nothing to do with the board game version of Civilization. AH picked the game up from the British company Hartland Trefoil and its original designer, Francis Tresham, after it hit the European market in 1980. A great game with four or five players, but it last seven or eight hours. The Trade Card Expansion added some of the, well, trade cards used to move your civilization up the ladder. The Extension map added Iberia and Northwest Africa. Never got a chance to play it.




Diplomacy

Avalon Hill, 1976 & 1982
Two different editions, with the earlier wooden fleet and army markers and the later plastic markers. Time and color-blindness have made the Italian and English wooden markers virtually indistinguishable to me.



Star Fleet Battles: Task Force Game #4,
Star Fleet Battles: Designer's Edition,
Star Fleet Battles Expansion #1,
Star Fleet Battles Expansion #2
Task Force Games, 1979-1982
SFB first appeared as a shrink-wrapped game in digest size and quickly proved popular enough that it came out in a full-sized boxed edition. Not that the artwork got particularly better. SFB walked the line between a boardgame and miniatures simulation (see the previous box for examples of some of the ships). The expansions had new ships and new scenarios.



Luftwaffe
Avalon Hill, 1971
Another early acquisition that I played with my brother. I have to admit, I played a lot of games of Luftwaffe against myself, as well. Very well-constructed markers that can be re-inserted into the original card. This wraps up the third box, with a final aerial combat boardgame (and the third from Avalon Hill alone).

 


»  February 28, 2013

What the...?  

Just a Box of Games, Box 2:

This second box of games took a little longer than the first. Lots of little things, stuff mixed together, well, you'll see.



Traveller 15mm lead miniatures
Martian Metals, 1980-82
Obviously, I never did much of anything with these. Too small, for one, and our Traveller games never really seemed to need them.
(left to right, bottom to top)

2002 Adventurers #2, 12 assorted fig.
2005 Imperial Marines (Tech Level 13-15)
2007 Troopers (Tech Level 8-10)
2003 Thugs & Ruffians, 12 assorted fig.

2005 Imperial Marines (Tech Level 13-15)
2001 Adventurers #1, 12 assorted fig.
2009 Vargyr (Tech Level 8-10)
2013 Zhodani (Military TL 12-13) (circa 1040)

2011 Mercenaries, 12 assorted fig.
2014 Aslan (Military TL 9-12)
2012 Patrons, 12 assorted fig.
2017 K'kree (Military TL 12)

2020 Sword Worlds (Military TL 9-12)
2018 K'kree (Military TL 10-12) Vacc Suit
2019 Zhodani (Military TL 12-14)
2017 K'kree (Military TL 12)



Starline 2000 Miniatures for Starfleet Battles
Task Force Games, 1982
I always thought it would be cool to do spaceship battles with miniatures, but we never really got around to it. RPGs and board games sort of stole our time.
(left to right, bottom to top)

7013 Federation CL (light cruiser, lead)
7043 Klingon D-7 Battle Cruiser (lead,
mislabeled as 7200 Small Freighter)

7081 Gorn CA (heavy cruiser, lead)
7141 Hydran Ranger (lead)
7011 Federation CA (heavy cruiser, plastic)



Gunslinger
Avalon Hill, 1982
This game was pretty enjoyable, if a little slow for a gun duel/battle. An innovative card-based action system and quality components (including counters that could snap back into the sheet for storage) make me want to drag it out to a game night somewhere.

James Bond 007 Basic Set
Victory Games, 1983
An attempt to cash in on the RPG fad with a non-fantastic (well, a little fantastic) plotline set in the current day. Victory Games was a division of Avalon Hill. TSR had a spy system, as well: TOP SECRET. Not sure how successful either of them were; I know this one didn't get much use.



Call of Cthulhu
, Cthulhu Companion,
and Shadows of Yog-Sothoth
Chaosium, 1981-1983
You had me at evil creatures from the Nameless Beyond.
Cthulhu came around as most of my RPG friends were trailing off into other pursuits, or I'd have spent more time with this series.



Elric: Battle at the End of Time
Chaosium, 1981
An Elric board game! It must have seemed like an exciting idea when I bought it.



Oh-Wah-Ree
3M, 1966
I don't know when this edition was published, but it was an entertaining little board game that included actual rocks in one of the bags. Supposedly based on an old Egyptian game, it has a number of variants, but the basic idea (if I remember it correctly)is that you drop rocks in the pits one-by-one, capturing the stones in the last pit. Or something like that.



Ace of Aces, Handy Rotary Series and
Ace of Aces, Flying Machines

Aldred Leonardi, 1980 and Nova Games, 1982
The things we had to do in the pre-computer gaming era. It's not that there weren't computers (and computer games have been around from about minute 1 of the computer age) but as your grandparents will tell you over and over, they were nowhere near as prevalent. Ace of Aces was a revolutionary concept that was the closest thing to a PSP2 flying game as you could get at the time. Each player had a book (books in the Handy Rotary Series were the Sopwith Camel and Fokker DR1; Flying Machines were the Airco DH2 and Fokker E III), they started on a pre-determined page, then made maneuvers on a maneuver chart at the bottom of the page. The books were cross-indexed so that an intermediate step would put each player on the same page number in their respective books, with views of their relative positions. A pretty fast, fun play. Nova Games went on to do some hand-to-hand fantasy combat books with the same sort of structure.



Pig Mania
David Moffat, 1977
They're like dice, only they're pigs. Various points awarded for particular configurations of touching pig dice.



Starship Duel II: USS Reliant v Klingon L-9
FASA, 1984
A rather blatant attempt to turn the success of Ace of Aces into a Star Trek-inspired spaceship battle. They couldn't copy the patented system of AofA, and their attempt to solve the problem with technology (just get a computer, already!) just made it clunkier.



Bushido
Phoenix Games, 1980
I was fascinated by all things Japanese in the late '70s. In fact, the whole country seemed to be a little Japan-crazy. I don't know if it was James Clavell's book Shogun that started it (the movie starring Richard Chamberlain was released in 1980) or if it just rode a wave of Japan awareness that washed across the country like a fleet of import cars, but I wasn't alone in my interest and Bushido made some inroads into our game world. You can just about see the box for one edition of the game in the photo accompanying this article.



Autoduel Quarterly
Steve Jackson Games, 1983-87
I owe a huge debt to Steve Jackson, whose games were both entertainment and inspiration to me. We played a lot of Car Wars, which hit right around the time of the Road Warrior film (though it had plenty of other antecedents). I was enough of a fan that the letters page of the very first issue of the Car Wars magazine Autoduel Quarterly was kicked off by yours truly.



Vol. 1, No. 1
Vol. 1, No. 2
Vol. 1, No. 3
Vol. 1, No. 4
Vol. 2, No. 1
Vol. 2, No. 2
Vol. 2, No. 3
Vol. 2, No. 4
Vol. 3, No. 1
Vol. 3, No. 2
Vol. 3, No. 3
Vol. 5, No. 2



Go
Taincraft, 1980 (board and counters),
Wm. F. Drueke & Sons, Inc., 1951 (rulebook)
Despite the interest in Japanese culture, go just never took off in our little circle.



Autoduel Champions
and
Autoduel Champions Cardboard Heroes

Steve Jackson Games, 1983
Crossover rules between Car Wars and Hero Games' Champions RPG, the Cardboard Heroes counters for the game were twice the dimensions of the regular counters for Car Wars.



Illuminati Expansion Set #1
and
Illuminati Expansion Set #2
Steve Jackson Games, 1983
More about these later.

The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society

Game Designers' Workshop, 1979, 1983
No. 2, No. 3, No. 15
The official magazine of GDW's
Traveller RPG.

Uncle Albert's Auto Stop & Gunnery Shop, 2035 Catalog
Steve Jackson Games, 1985
Issues of Autoduel Quarterly had fake ads for Uncle Albert's, featuring new weapons and accessories you could add to your vehicles. The Catalog collected a lot of them into one place and added some more.

The AADA Vehicle Guide
Steve Jackson Games, 1984
A catalog of vehicle designs for people who didn't want to go through the trouble of designing their own, and inspirations for those who did.



Car Wars Expansion Set #4, Armadillo Autoduel Arena
Steve Jackson Games, 1983
Maps only. There's more coming up.

Car Wars Reference Screen

Steve Jackson Games, 1983
Classic Dungeonmaster screen.

Car Wars Expansion Set #7, Off-Road Duelling

Steve Jackson Games, 1985
Big color maps and rules for the mud.

Sunday Drivers

Steve Jackson Games, 1982
The first of the Car Wars expansions, before they began numbering them, this was a set of maps covering part of the town of Midville.



Car Wars
Steve Jackson Games, 1981-83
This represents several of the first editions of Car Wars, which originally appeared as a thin, stapled rulebook and a slick fold-out sheet, along with some cardboard counters which had to be cut apart, all in a ziplock baggie. One panel of the sheet served as the "cover" image for the game. Road sections and charts were printed on other sheet panels, which led to them being cut apart. There are two early plastic boxed versions: the first with tabs for the closure mechanism and the second with a simpler (less prone to fatigue) snap mechanism, which also bears a sticker for awards from Origins and OMNI (1982) and GAMES (1983).



Car Wars Expansion Set #1
Steve Jackson Games, 1983
Road sections and counter sheets. Shown are one of the road section foldouts and the display card.

Car Wars Expansion Set #2

Steve Jackson Games, 1983
More counters and a turning key. Display card shown.

Car Wars Expansion Set #3, East Midville,
Steve Jackson Games, 1983
Maps, counters, and scenarios to expand the Sunday Drivers expansion. Is your mind expanded yet? Display card shown.

Car Wars Expansion Set #4, Armadillo Autoduel Arena
Steve Jackson Games, 1983
Maps and counters for a stadium. Display card shown.

Sunday Drivers
Steve Jackson Games, 1982
Rulebook for the original expansion.

Truck Stop

Steve Jackson Games, 1983
Counters and map for big-wheelers. Rulebook shown.



Car Wars Expansion Set #6, The AADA Vehicle Guide Counters

Steve Jackson Games, 1984
Cardboard counters to accompany the AADA Vehicle Guide.

Cardboard Heroes, Traveller Set 3: Zhodani

Steve Jackson Games, 1983
15mm cardboard characters.

assorted Car Wars counters
Steve Jackson Games, 1981-1985

Car Wars Expansion Set #2
Steve Jackson Games, 1983
turning keys

Cardboard Heroes, Cops, Crooks & Civilians
Steve Jackson Games, 1982

Cardboard Heroes, Traveller Set 2: Imperial Marines
Steve Jackson Games, 1982



assorted miniatures

including Ral Partha, Steve Jackson Games, and Martian Metals, various dates

6207 Cycles, Steve Jackson Games, 1983
6209 Sidecars & Turrets, Steve Jackson Games, 1983
2200 Air/Raft, Martian Metals, year unknown
Among the items in there are a mounted figure inspired by a Frazetta painting, a Balrog, a bunch of 'John Carter of Mars' figures including a couple Tharks, some wizards, hobbits, and 'Lord of the Rings' Guard of the Citadel.



assorted miniatures

including Ral Partha, Steve Jackson Games, and Martian Metals, various dates

Dragonslayer dragon, Martian Metals, 1981
tie-in with the movie (missing foil provided for wing membrane)

 


»  February 20, 2013

What the...?  

Just a Box of Games, Box 1:

I've got a lot of games. More specifically, I've got a lot of old games. Mostly not ones you've likely heard of, unless you were hanging around game shops that sold something a little beyond Monopoly and backgammon sets back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of this stuff has been sitting in boxes or containers of one sort or another for nearly thirty years. I had to root around in them a little for some research on my (disastrous) Ignite presentation back in the early fall, and I realized there was some personal stuff—both game-related and not—mixed up in there that I wanted to sort through. In the process, I figured I might as well catalog some of the material. So here's the first box.



Boots & Saddles: Air Cavalry in the 80's
(sic)
Game Designers' Wordshop, 1984
Lots of these ‘Russian-tanks-pouring-through-the-Fulda-Gap’ scenarios made it to wargames back in the Reagan years.



Tunnels & Trolls, 5th ed.
Flying Buffalo Inc., 1979
Nearly pristine copy because my friends and I were already D&D players and the last thing we needed was another fantasy RPG. They did helpfully provide a pencil for players without one.



Twilight: 2000 and The Free City of Krakow
Game Designers' Workshop, 1985
A world where RPG also means ordnance and "twilight" has nothing to do with vampires. More post-apocalyptic scenarios from the '80s. Krakow is a scenario for TW:2000; the box is full of computer-generatednon-player characters and some competing Morrow Project stuff, the manuals appear to be elsewhere.



Federation Space
Task ForceGames, 1981
How down and out was the Star Trek franchise in the late 1970s? So far down that a minor company like TFG could get the rights to the license for board games, most notablyStar Fleet Battles, which has been revived under a different publisher.



Western Desert: The Campaign in Egypt and Libya, 1940-43
Game Designers' Workshop, 1983
Number seven in GDW's Europa series of WWII games, it featured huge foldout maps and never really got played.



Duell
Lakeside Games, 1978
More of a mass-market game than most of the others here, Duell is a sort of chess/dice hybrid.



Triplanetary (2nd ed.)
Game Designers' Workshop, 1981
Apparently based on one of GDW's first designs from the early '70s, it was wildly optimistic about when we'd get done kicking Soviet patootie in Germany (Booth & Saddles) and start the space wars (see also, Twilight: 2000). You get to draw to draw on the map!



Imperium
Game Designers' Workshop, 1977
Once we've moved on from war in Europe and the solar system, on to the galaxy! This came out the same year as Star Wars, not sure whether the cruiser in the box art indicates before or after the movie.



Fifth Frontier War: Battles for the Spinward Marches

Game Designers' Workshop, 1981
A tie-in with the Traveller RPG universe, I don't remember specifics about this game, and the only thing in the box was the map.


Bloodtree Rebellion
Game Designers' Workshop, 1979
One of those games that sat on the shelves of the game shop (along with Triplanetary and Imperium) for years without anyone buying them. I've got copies, though.



Azhanti High Lightning
Game Designers' Workshop, 1980
A major adventure package for Traveller, with a stack of big multi-colored maps for each level of an enormous ship (some levels were identical, natch). Dungeons in Space!



Snapshot
Game Designers' Workshop, 1979
Close combat rules for Traveller that included a small spaceship map. Missing box; inside Azhanti High Lighting (which used the same basic combat system).



Double Star

Game Designers' Workshop, 1979
Another space game from GDW that tried to capitalize on the Star Wars buzz of the late '70s and the early success of their Traveller RPG (without actually being a part of the same universe). Also sat on the shelf.



Submarine

Avalon Hill, 1977
The three hard-board foldout maps are completely featureless, it's just ocean, ocean, ocean in a game much more complex (and slower) than Battleship.

That's it for the first box. Believe me, I do have something other than GDW games in the others. And there are quite a few of them.

 


»  January 21, 2013

Politics  

Gun Belt: So, some Oregon sheriffs in what I'm going to dub the state's "Gun Belt" have decided that they're not going to enforce whatever laws they think infringe on the rights of gun owners, come the Obama/Biden/Hitler/Stalin clampdown on assault weapons and big-ass magazines. They've managed to get a lot of national press,papers are full of letterssupporting and denouncing them. Everyone's happy with the controversy.

You can kind of see the wheels set in motion, though, for the following scenario in the counties where these guys and their ilk across the country take their stand. Some bozo (B) with a bunch of guns gets a pass from Sheriff X. B's cousin D takes one of the items X should have xonfiscated from B (according to federal law, aw least) and kills or maims citizen Y. Y's family sues X and the county government he works for for failure to enforce the law.

The courts haven't looked kindly in the past on suits of failure to enforce laws. Drunk drivers have been stopped by police, let go, and been involved in fatal crashes, and legal action against the departments involved have been fruitless. There are gaps in the enforcement of restraining orders that have been the bane of domestic abuse cases for years. But a creative legal mind might be able to piece together a winning strategy that would circumvent the courts' customary reluctance to hold officers accountable for their lack of action.

 


»  November 22, 2012

Politics  

A Man, A Man, A Plan, Not Approved: In a profile of Democratic US Representative Kurt Schrader in yesterday's Oregonian, reporter Charles Pope inserts these two explanatory paragraphs after a mention of the Simpson-Bowles National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform:

Simpson-Bowles is a reference to Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who co-chaired a committee appointed by President Barack Obama charged with writing a blueprint for reducing the deficit. They did, producing a work that cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years through a combination of spending cuts, tax hikes and changes in Medicare and other entitlements.  

It was ignored.

As anyone who's followed the history of the commission is well aware, it was established with a requirement that the "final report will require the approval of at least 14 of the Commission's 18 members." The report that came out of the committee received only 11 votes, however, and was therefore unapproved.

Yet Pope's article—like much reporting about Simpson-Bowles—elides that part of the story, through unfamiliarity with the subject or willful ignorance.

There are two particular points in the quotes paragraphs that I thought were particularly misleading. "They did" in the second sentence clearly—to me, at least—refers to the committee and its appointed task of writing a deficit-reduction plan. While it's technically true that a plan was written, it was never approved by the committee (under the committee's own rules) so it seems a shade untrue to claim that they accomplished their task.

The three-word paragraph "It was ignored.", set apart for obvious emphasis, further implies that the committee's plan was one that had been agreed to. If the plan wasn't approved, there's really nothing to be ignored. What you have instead is a plan that didn't meet the criteria for implementation.

I pointed out the fact that the plan hadn't been passed by the committee in emails to the Oregonian Letters page and to the reporter, then received this note back from Therese Bottomly, the managing editor.

Thanks for your note. The story said they wrote the blueprint. It doesn't say anything about the committee approving it.
My response added that reasoning was further clouded by the paragraph about the plan being ignored, to which Ms. Bottomly reiterated:
Hi, I think it is clear that when we say "they did" we mean they did write a blueprint. Thanks for reading.
I pointed out that this ignored the part about the unapproved plan being ignored. Her last response:
Hi, it might have been better to include that it did not clear the committee, but the overall point is there was a lot in there that could have been worked on. There is a lot of history to that plan the story did not go into.
I guess that's good enough for the Oregonian. It doesn't matter if the story's facts are accurate so long as it feels right. Truthiness will out. My last note to the editor:
The history that it does go into is flat-out wrong, though, which is the reason I wrote. Merits or detractions of the plan aside, saying the plan was "ignored"—the longest of three words in a paragraph clearly meant to emphasize the point that no action was taken—itself ignores why the plan wasn't implemented.

It was never approved. In order to be implemented, it had to get approval of the committee. Without an approved plan, there was no official committee report and there was nothing to ignore.

These are basic facts that were wrong in the story. You're not doing the public a service by pretending it was accurate or that more explanation would have cleared things up. It's simply inaccurate to claim that a plan was produced by the committee and then ignored—which is the gist of the two paragraphs I referenced in the article—when, if fact, no plan was released by the committee.

 


»  October 16, 2012

Politics  

Come Home, George McGovern: Today's news of former South Dakota Senator George McGovern's move into hospice care came as no major surprise, given that he'd been hospitalized a couple of times already this year, but there's an added poignancy that it's taking place so close to the 40th anniversary of his attempt to defeat the criminal administration of President Richard Nixon.

McGovern's name will be forever linked (as it is in the Washington Post headline) with an "historic landslide" by Nixon. That's been the take-away for most people about McGovern for four decades, it's the one thing people learn about him now—if they learn anything at all—and it's been a story that the folks in the party who brought you the Vietnam War and its legacy have been more than happy to peddle. 520 electoral votes for Nixon, 17 for McGovern; just Massachussets and the District of Columbia, lost his home state, blah, blah, blah....

Sure, McGovern lost an election to the only man in American history to have to actually resign the presidency. A man whose administration was so corrupt his closest advisors went to jail. Whose vice presdent had to resign—less than a year after Nixon's "landslide"—because of bribery charges. Whose former attorney general/re-election campaign manager went to prison for conspiracy, perjury, and obstruction of justice. The guy whose replacement attorney general was also convicted of perjury. No problem running a campaign against a bunch of crooks, right?

Hopefully, we won't know for a while what will be at the top of the Post obituary for former Vice President Walter Mondale, but it probably won't be that he was beaten in a landslide by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, despite the fact that Mondale got fewer electoral votes (14) than McGovern. Mondale won his home state (and DC), but that was the only state he won, and even though he got 40.6% of the popular vote compared to McGovern's 37.5%, it's a fair bet that the shellacking he took isn't going to lead the story.

How can we tell? Well let's take a look at Barry Goldwater. When he died in 1998, The Post story on him was "Barry Goldwater, GOP Hero, Dies". His loss to President Lyndon Johnson is mentioned in the third paragraph as preparing the way for Reagan. Goldwater carried 6 states in 1964 (Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina) for 52 electoral votes but received just 1% more of the popular vote than McGovern.

What's most annoying about the McGovern headline is that it was the Post that was a major player in the exposure of Nixon's abuse of power. "Ex-Sen. George McGovern, who tried to defeat the criminal Nixon syndicate, enters hospice care" would have been a more appropriate headline, if the 1972 election was the lens they wanted to view this through.

Anyone who's bothered to read this blog over time knows that I've had a bug for McGovern for some time now. I had some hopes about writing a book on the Democratic reaction to the 1972 campaign that sparked a couple years of research and my trip to South Dakota, but never managed to get any interest from a publisher and then other things intervened. But I'll leave you with a little math.

As we know from the 2000 election, the Electoral College system is a screwed up way to run a democracy. But it could have worked to McGovern's advantage, if just a few more people had known about Nixon's crimes a little bit sooner.

McGovern carried Massachusetts and DC with 54% and 78% of the vote, respectively. But there were a number of key states he lost by margins of 10% or less. In fact, McGovern could have carried the election in the electoral college with a change of just 6% of the popular vote.

To win in the Electoral College, a candidate needs the majority of 537 votes, or 269 EV. In 1972, George McGovern got 14 for Massachusetts and 3 for DC.

In Rhode Island (4 EV), McGovern took 46.8% of the popular vote; a change of just over 3% would have given him a victory there. Around 4% of the vote switching from Nixon to McGovern in Minnesota (46.1%) could have garnered 14 EV. Another 4 EV from his home state of South Dakota would have been his if he'd gone from 45.5% to 50.5%. Changes of between 7% and 9% of the popular vote would have landed McGovern California (45 EV), Michigan (21 EV), Oregon (6 EV), and Wisconsin (11 EV). That's 122 EV with less than 10% of the vote changing in seven states.

Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, and New York all switch with 10% of the vote, for another 83 EV: a total of 205 EV. Changes of between 11% and 13% bring in Maine, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. 65 EV and a total of 270 electoral votes. If McGovern could have won 17 states and the District of Columbia (the ones where he had the highest percentage of voters), he would have won the race.

The number of voters needed to effect that change: 3,424,000, or 4.5% of the 76,341,970 voters in the 1972 election. McGovern would still have gotten less than 43% of the popular vote, but he would have won the Electoral College. Even if I would have cheered results like that, that's one screwed-up system.

State Pop. Vote (Actual) % Pop Vote (Actual) % Change % Pop Vote (Changed) Pop Vote (Changed) EV
MT 120,197 37.9 13 50.9 154,824 4
ME 160,584 38.5 12 50.5 210,606 4
WA 568,334 38.6 12 50.6 711,167 9
OH 1,558,889 38.1 12 50.1 2,004,358 25
PA 1,759,951 39.1 11 50.1 2,260,247 27
CT 555,498 40.1 10 50.1 684,496 8
IA 496,206 40.5 10 50.5 607,218 8
IL 1,913,472 40.5 10 50.5 2,374,333 26
NY 2,951,084 40.3 10 50.3 3,593,362 41
MI 1,459,435 41.8 9 50.8 1,737,947 21
CA 3,475,847 41.5 9 50.5 4,079,361 45
OR 392,760 42.3 8 50.3 442,361 6
WI 810,174 43.7 7 50.7 912,399 11
SD 139,945 45.5 5 50.5 154,742 4
RI 194,645 46.8 4 50.8 210,834 4
MN 802,346 46.1 4 50.1 249,362 10
DC 127,627 78.1       3
MA 1,332,540 54.2       14
TOTAL 29,171,791       32,595,881 270

 


»  October 12, 2012

What the...?  

Break a Leg: Twelve Ten Twelve:

We'd just had the house and garage painted in the summer of 2002 after uncovering the wood siding on the house for the first time in decades, and I was getting ready on a clear, October Saturday afternoon to put gutters back on the garage. It's not a tall structure, and I could reach the gutters from the ground without even stretching, but I couldn't quite get the angle on the screws for the brackets without some help, so I grabbed a stepladder and started work.

I did the back side of the garage where it was tight against our fence first, and was just about finished with the brackets on the garden side, when I was suddenly on the ground and in a lot of pain. I yelled for Barbara, extricated my leg from the remains of the stepladder, and remember feeling kind of weird as my foot dangled from my leg when I raised it out of the wreckage.

An accomplished klutz, I of course had a pair of crutches in the house. Barbara grabbed them, sped me to the Kaiser Sunnyside Emergency Room, and I hobbled from the car to wait in line while she parked. I thought I was doing pretty well, considering, but flubbed and said "compound" when I meant "multiple" fracture as I was describing my injury to the woman at the check-in; she wasted no time in correcting the guy standing on crutches with a floppy foot.

Anyway, the end result looked like this:

Not the end of the story, but the end for now.

Meanwhile, in the annals of failure, I was really looking forward to presenting a piece on the early years of Dungeons & Dragons at Ignite Portland 11 last month. Back in the day—twelve or fifteen years ago—I gave a number of presentations at Macromedia UCON and other venues, I used to teach at Portland State, etc. What I didn't realize until after I'd signed up and done a bunch of work on my presentation is Ignite doesn't allow the use of notes.

I can speak extemporaneously about a lot of subjects. I can compete in trivia competitions (another crutches-related story). I can answer audience and student questions. I can cold-read a script and put emphasis into most of the right spots. But I can't memorize material verbatim, even if I've written and re-written it all myself. I wasn't willing (or prepared) to, uh, cheat, as it appeared one presenter before me did. So this is what happens. It goes off the rails even before the first slide has cleared the screen:

And this is more or less how it should have gone:

 


»  September 28, 2012

Politics  

Callback to the Blog Motto:

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.
Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.
Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.
Those who do not know history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

—George Santayana

Forward

—2012 Barack Obama campaign slogan

 


»  September 8, 2012

Politics  

Hueydan: It was twenty years ago this fall that I published the first issue of my long-gone book review magazine. The main feature in that premiere—which came out just before the 1992 Bill Clinton/George H. W. Bush election—was a paired review of eponymous political books: Doug Rennie's on the newly-published David McCullough biography of Harry Truman and my own of Huey Long by T. Harry Williams (a book published in 1969). Up until just a few years ago, the online version of the Long review was on the top page of a Google search for his name; since the 75th observance of his assassination, it's been moved down a bit, largely by the establishment of hueylong.com.

I've tried to observe the date of Long's death on this blog since its second year in 2005 in one way or another since 1995, when the 70th anniversary coincided with the aftermath of the flooding of New Orleans and the devastation of the Gulf Coast.

This year, however, I promise to kick it up a notch for 2013. Inspired by Zappadan, the festival that takes place between the anniversaries of Frank Zappa's death (December 4, 1993) and birth (December 21, 1940), next year, I'll be figuring out something to do for Hueydan, between Long's birth (August 30, 1893) and death (September 10, 1935).

September 8 is the date Huey Long was shot in the rotunda of the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. He died two days later.

 


»  September 2, 2012

What the...?  

Essential Truths: How could I have missed this song all these years? I tuned into some Harvey Danger through Pandora (it truly is like opening a box of evil) after hearing the snippet of "Flagpole Sitta'" used for the theme of the truly brilliant "Peep Show" series and heard this song for the first time.

People who could buy and sell you
Sharing a joke that they will never tell you
You think you're dialed in, someone has to win
And you know what that means,
Well then someone's got to lose
It's probably you, it's probably you.

—Harvey Danger, "Only Cream and Bastards Rise"

 


»  July 20, 2012

Politics  

Syrian Chaos: Meanwhile, on NPR yesterday, they were breathlessly implying that Israeli intelligence officials were claiming the government had linked up with al Qaeda, just before an al Qaeda-style bombing that may have killed two of the government's top defense officials. Meanwhile, back in the spring, SoS Clinton was warning that arming the rebels could aid al Qaeda. The written report on NPR's web site said Israeli intelligence was concerned terrorists might use the Syrian state's lack of control to stage attacks on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

Then, of course, there are still something like a million Iraqi refugees in the country who fled our last goodwill mission in the region.

 


»  July 18, 2012

Politics  

Don't Cross the Beams!: Mostly, the streams of my news feeds don't intersect much: multimedia programming, politics, poker. Not to much crossover between them. But this morning, two news stories were right next to each other. The first was about how gambling revenues have slowed in the Chinese city of Macau, which has been given a certain amount of creative license by the normally conservative Chinese government because it's been a money-maker.

When the junket business gets ugly in Macau, it can get gang war ugly. Last month, junket and casino operator Ng Man-sun was beaten by six men with sticks and hammers — at his own casino. Authorities are hoping it was an isolated incident and not the start of a gang war like those that plagued Macau in the 1990s.
The very next story in my news feed was about Newt Gingrich backer Sheldon Adelson (who's since moved on to Mitt Romney). Adelson's a major foreign investor in—among other places—Macau:
Where competitors saw obstacles, including Macau's hostility to outsiders and historic links to Chinese organized crime, Adelson envisaged a chance to make billions.

Adelson pushed his chips to the center of the table, keeping his nerve even as his company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in late 2008.

The Macau bet paid off, propelling Adelson into the ranks of the mega-rich and underwriting his role as the largest Republican donor in the 2012 campaign, providing tens of millions of dollars to Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other GOP causes.

Now, some of the methods Adelson used in Macau to save his company and help build a personal fortune estimated at $25 billion have come under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators, according to people familiar with both inquiries.

Now, if only the next story is about some new touchscreen technology in Macau casinos, I'll have hit the trifecta.

 


»  July 17, 2012

Flash  

Go Right Ahead:

Go Right Ahead

So I'm watching and (obsessively) re-watching "Go Right Ahead", the premiere video from The Hives' new Lex Hives album, and behind Howlin' Pelle Almqvist on the drum kit is a distracting graphic that keeps reminding me of one version of the old Macromedia Flash logos:

Macromedia Flash 5 logo

Nothing to do with the song.

 


»  June 12, 2012

What the...?  

Slide:

You'll never live like common people,
you'll never do what common people do,
you'll never fail like common people,
you'll never watch your life slide out of view,
and dance and drink and screw,
because there's nothing else to do.

—"Common People", Different Class, Pulp

 


»  May 30, 2012

What the...?  

Five Years: Friday marks the beginning of my fifth year of unemployment. This time, I mean.

I was laid off from my job at the end of May 2007, just before most of the rest of the people at the company I was working for, and I went back into the freelance market with some trepidation, because I'd taken the job eighteen months earlier due to a couple of rocky years. A lot of my clients had disappeared in the tech bust between 2000 and 2001, I'd had a little brush with mortality the next year that kept me out of circulation for a couple of months, and I'd been actively looking for something more substantial for a while. Then it was gone and I was back on the market, having spent my time in a sort of Director eddy while the rest of the multimedia stream moved on.

And here I am five years out, still in the same situation I was back in 2005 before I took the job, but fifty and with a portfolio of work that gets increasingly creaky with the passing months. I can't really recommend it.

I still get to work with great people like Duc Le of Duc Designed, Dino Citraro of Periscopic, and Chris Williams at Formations. Folks I've known for a decade or more, for the most part.

Reed classmate and magazine editor Chris Lydgate took me on to write a profile for the latest issue of the alumni magazine.

And, of course, Tomer Berda, a colleague from our Director days, continues to inspire the poker playing side of my business.

So there's that.

 


»  April 14, 2012

Politics  

Overflight:

Something that's barely mentioned (and usually not at all) in all the talk in recent months about how the Israelis ought to whack the Iranian nuclear facilities, just in case they've got a nuclear weapons program cooking, ought to be obvious in the map (via Wikipedia) above.

The Atlantic ran a number of maps showing target areas, on the heels of a New York Times article about possible strike scenarios. The Atlantic only reprints a quote that any Israeli aircraft would need to cross "more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace."

The Times article mentions that the "most direct" route would need to overfly both Jordan and Iraq, stating that after the December withdrawal, the US "no longer has the obligation to defend Iraqi skies." Of course, the US has effectively controlled most of Iraqi airspace since the Gulf War more than twenty years ago and it's had total control for nearly a decade. The US would need to turn a blind eye to any Israeli overflight in a way they surely would not if, say Syrian or Iranian jets flew into Iraqi airspace. Particularly if the operations would require "at least 100 planes" for bombing and refuel tanker protection. US air defenses in Iraq would look pretty incompetent if they claimed they didn't notice something like that going on overhead.

Thirty years ago, the Israelis were able to pull off a strike on a nuclear reactor near Baghdad, overflying Saudi Arabia just south of the Jordanian border. As the map shows, though, even if they were able to get away with the same type of southern route, they'd still need to cross part of Iraq or the Persian Gulf, again fairly well-surveilled by US air patrols and radar.

To the north, of course, there's Syria and (again) Iraq or Turkey.

The real question would be, I think, would anyone try to take on Israeli planes crossing their territory? At the very least, in addition to the US ignoring their attack, Israel would need to be sure that Jordan and/or Saudi Arabia had no plans to hinder operations. Saudi Arabia doesn't exactly have any love for the Iranians but o massive overflight of Israeli planes might not be a particularly popular political move. People might start to wonder what all the jets and other military hardware the Saudis keep buying are for if not to enforce the soverignty of their soil. It seems unlikely that Syria would let Israeli planes fly unharassed, even if it was unable to completely prevent them from doing so.

Which puts things back in the US camp. All of the foaming at the mouth about how Israel is champing at the bit to launch an attack on Iranian sites comes down to whether the US is going to go along with it. There's no way the US armed services can maintain credibility that they would have no knowledge of a sizable strike through most of the possible attack corridor. Everything south of the Turkish border to the Straits of Hormuz has been watched over by US land-, air-, or sea-based radar systems for two decades. The US isn't likely to attack Israeli jets flying over Baghdad on their way to strike zones in Iran, but not telling them to back off in the same manner they would another country's planes. Failure to do so will undoubtedly lead to charges of co-ordination between the US and Israel in any attack and extend any retribution to American-related targets.

Iranians are likely to remember that the USS Vincennes managed to shoot down an Iranian airliner—thinking it was an Iranian F-14—even though it was in Iranian airspace when it was supposedly acting aggressively.

 


»  March 10, 2012

What the...?  

Save Us From the Grasping Capitalists!: I have to admit a certain amount of schadenfreude at the protestations of the libertarian free marketeers of the Cato Institute bleating about the visible hands of the conservative Koch brothers attempting to make the outfit a more blatantly partisan political operation by packing the board of directors.

Cato president Ed Crane said in a statement:

Mr. Koch's actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda. We view Mr. Koch's actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization, advocating for Individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.

 


»  February 27, 2012

Politics  

Getting the Story Straight: From the moment The New York Times first published a story on 21 February that Korans had been burned in a garbage pit at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, there's been a dichotomy in the narrative:

The holy books and texts came from the library in the detention center in Parwan, where Americans house suspected insurgents, including many of those captured during night raids. A military official said detainees had been using the books to communicate with each other and potentially incite extremist activity.

In his apology, General [John R.] Allen confirmed the burnings, but portrayed them as absolutely unintentional.

So the Korans were taken from detainees because they were suspected as being used for passing messages between prisoners, but they didn't mean to burn them? Does this even make sense? I mean, if I thought there were messages being passed between prisoners via books in the detention center library, I might keep the books to see if someone could figure out what the messages were, rather than just lighting them on fire. But that's just me.

A number of the stories on this topic mention that the story of a Koran being thrown in a toilet at Guantanamo Bay was determined to be unfounded, but nobody else seems to remember the "inadvertant" splashing of urine on a Koran by a guard there, as verified by a military inquiry in 2005. Here's how I imagined that might have gone down at the time (click on the image to open a large version of the graphic):

Koran Abuse at Guantanamo Bay