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»  May 31, 2007


Ted Koppel Is a Moron: Ted Koppel claims that opposition to the war based on 3,500 deaths -- "the number of those killed" -- is a misguided when compared to the deaths by vehicular accident in the US.

Aside from the fact that 100 deaths in 150,000 soldiers per month (we had 122 in May) translates to a death rate more than 55 times the chance of an American dying on the road in any given month, he seems to have neglected the number of Iraqis dead as a result of the US invasion on completely unjustified grounds. Numbers of the dead there -- in a country which was no threat to the US -- range up to well over a half a million. More than the dead in Darfur. And the US is responsible for that.

Then, of course, there's nearly 10% of the population that has been turned into refugees. Koppel claims to worry that the conflict might bleed into neighboring countries. But if he'd been paying attention, he'd know that Syria, Jordan, and other neighbors are already straining with the flood of Iraqis driven from their country by conflict.

I opposed the war not because I thought a lot of American soldiers would get killed but because the reasons the administration gave were so transparently false, and I didn't want to see tens of thousands of innocent people killed because of a war carried out under false pretenses. Apparently, Ted Koppel doesn't have a problem with that, so long as the death toll -- of Americans -- isn't too high.

Where Koppel goes even further off the rails is here:

So, the level of outrage and the growing opposition to the Iraq war has to be connected to something other than simply the number of those killed. After all, we lose that many people in traffic accidents every month, with barely a murmur of protest.

Where the Bush administration has failed, tragically and repeatedly, is in explaining to the American public why U.S. forces were sent into Iraq in the first place, and why they must remain there now.

Has the administration failed to tell us that they thought Iraq under Saddam was a threat? Koppel claims that "chaos and anarchy" were "at least partially, unleashed by the U.S. invasion of Iraq". At least? It's as if the last four years have made no impact on Koppel. US forces were sent to Iraq under the false pretense of a threat to the region from a dictator who didn't even control his own airspace. Troops were sent into Iraq to look for WMDs that didn't exist, drone planes that couldn't have existed, and Ted Koppel even now manages to pretend that Iraq posed some sort of threat to "stability in the Persian Gulf".

Ted Koppel is a moron.


»  May 29, 2007


The Good News About Prostitution: Today, while listening to a "Morning Edition" interview by host Steve Inskeep with correspondent Rob Gifford about a book Gifford has written on China, I had to wonder if I was hearing a contender for the post of the next Tom "Mustache of Understanding" Friedman. While he was describing the types of economic changes China's undergoing -- even in its more remote places -- Inskeep prompted him to recount the story of meeting a particular entrepreneur (my transcript, from 1:53 into the interview):

ROB GIFFORD: That's right, that's right, he was one of my favorites. And he was in the middle of the Gobi Desert. I was just walking along the street and he came up to me -- two of them, actually -- and showed me their bag, and it said "Amway" on it. And we just got to talking and they took me to their, sort of, sales event that evening. Everyone brought a friend to try and get them to be involved in Amway. Really, to take part in this Chinese Dream.

STEVE INSKEEP: May I just mention, Rob, since you're talking about the Chinese Dream: Isn't Amway, a company that sells all kinds of products, but the name is actually supposedly short for "American Way"?

GIFFORD: That's a very good point, Steve. When they translate it into Chinese it doesn't actually...they don't actually translate the "American" bit of it, but I think everybody knows it's an American company. And I think that says a lot about where China's going. It's going toward -- it's already reached, in many instances -- borderline capitalism. And communism, nobody believes in communism any more. People don't want to work for Marx and Lenin. They want to work for Amway and other Western companies that are there.

Amway. Apparently Amway's doing more than a billion dollars of business in China a year. But if Inskeep and Gifford think that multi-level marketing operations lift a significant number of the people involved out of their current tax bracket, they're deluded. Even in the US 99% of the people who get involved in MLMs either lose money or make nothing. (At least the Chinese aren't the Albanians, who had a pyramid scheme -- MLM without the product -- suck in one-sixth of their population and collapse the economy after the fall of communism.)

Just after that, they discuss Gifford's interview with a prostitute who tells him of the "hopelessness" she feels as a 19-year-old woman from a rural area without any prospects or skills, left out of the booming Chinese economy. I have to admit, I felt a little hopelessness myself when I heard this question (at 4:13):

INSKEEP: This woman was quite frustrated with her circumstances. Were there others who saw a house of prostitution like this as an opportunity for themselves?
Then they have a little chuckle about how Gifford expensed the talk with the prostitute.

Seriously. Prostitution and Amway? Does Inskeep or Gifford know anyone who sells Amway at the ground level? Ever met a prostitute they haven't paid? The prospects for either one making it big are pretty grim. They need to put down the "good news" pills every once in a while. Albania's economy nearly collapsed just a few years ago because of a pyramid scheme. Widespread prostitution is not a good thing in a country that has had problems acknowledging outbreaks of disease. Those types of questions might be a bit more important than whether Rob Gifford was reimbursed for his hostess expenses. Not that I expect he'd probably be able to answer them, given the tenor of the conversation this morning.


»  May 24, 2007


Senate Democrats: Actually Going Backwards On Iraq After Five Years: With the votes in the House and Senate today, responsibility for the Iraq war has been successfully transferred from the Republicans and George W. Bush to the Democratically-controlled Congress. Not only that, but the passage of HR 2206 (U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007) actually shows the Democrats with less willingness to stand up to the Bush administration than the 2002 Iraq authorization to use military force.

As I remarked earlier today, despite the Democrats now having a majority in the House of Representatives, more than four years of war in Iraq, and a President with approval ratings in the freezing zone, the numbers show a virtually identical ratio of Democrats voting to halt Bush's insane Iraq fantasies, with just a 1% increase to 62%.

What's worse, in the Senate, the numbers have gone backwards. There were 50 Democrats in the Senate when the AUMF passed in 2002 (sure, they could have stopped it then, too). There are 49 Democrats in the Senate now, with a couple of Independents caucusing with them (or, in the case of Joe Lieberman, spying on them). 21 Democrats (42%) voted against the Iraq war resolution in 2002. Today, just 10 (20%) voted against the supplemental appropriation bill.

The Democrats have bought the war now: a lemon car that's leaking blood from the crankcase. They've bought it without a warranty or the ability to return it. The dealer's "Everything Must Go!" sign is already up on the White House lot.

Just before the Iraq war began, Sen. George McGovern quoted President Lyndon Johnson as saying: "It's awfully easy to get into war. It's awfully tough to get out."



House Democrats: No Change on Iraq After Nearly Five Years: The Iraq supplemental appropriation passed in the House today on a vote of 280-142, with only two Republicans joining the 140 Democrats who don't believe George W. Bush should be given carte blanche for four more months.

That's only nine more "nay" votes (and only 14 more Democrats) than voted against the initial decision to give the President the authority to go into Iraq in October 2002, back when the Republicans still had the majority.

In five years, the percentage of Democrats voting against the Iraq war in the House has gone all the way from 60.8% to 61.9%.


»  May 23, 2007


Oregonians for Fake Recycling:

Oregonians for Real Recycling email

I don't know at this point in the day what -- if any -- decision has been made by the Oregon House on SB 707, which would add water bottles to the deposit system currently in place for beer and soda cans and bottles, but I hope it passes. I have to admit I'm appalled at the tactics of a group calling itself "Oregonians for Real Recycling", which is casting the deposit proposal as "a tax on products like bottled water!" (their exclamation point) and calling it the "water bottle tax" bill. It's not a tax. And any attempt to portray it as such is likely a first step in an attempt to roll back the Bottle Bill by claiming it, too, is a tax.

Really, this is just blatantly deceptive advertising. And I've gotten four of their emails in the past day.

And as for the "Oregonians", the supporters include Anheuser-Busch, Coors Brewing Company, 7-Eleven, Albertson's, Safeway, Winco, and the American Beverage Association.



Reflecting on Flash CS3:

Reflection Class from pixelfumes

I'm woefully behind the curve on the newest Flash demos, so I haven't seen the previous versions of this Reflection Class at Ben Pritchard's pixelfumes blog site, but it is definitely worth checking out. Live video reflection effects with alpha transparency? I can dig that.


»  May 22, 2007


Question for John Edwards: John Edwards did a town hall here in Portland a couple of weeks back. I tried to get there to ask a question but got held up in a traffic jam on I84 and didn't make it. But this is what I would have asked him if I'd made it and been lucky enough to get the opportunity:

A January 2007 New Yorker article reported you saying: "I was on the Intelligence committee so I got direct information from the intelligence community. And then I had a series of meetings with former Clinton Administration people. And they were all saying the same thing." How does that square with Sen. Durbin's statement last week? Who were the people who gave you incorrect information about the threat Iraq posed? Finally, do you have any idea who those people are currently advising and would they have any role in your administration's decisions on national security and foreign policy?
I've tried getting answers from the Edwards campaign on that topic for four months now with no response.



Follow the Money! Whoops!:

Stacks of Cash

Image from Guardian Unlimited

The Los Angeles Times reports that while the CIA can't find Osama bin Laden, they have somehow been able to figure out that Al Qaeda is "increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq."

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that in a country where economic life has been ruled by a despot for the past thirty years and with an increasingly violent multi-party conflict taking a toll on the current state of affairs so that the per capita GDP is less than $3,000, large sums of cash might not exactly be in great supply. Then again, if you think about the fact that the US managed to lose $9,000,000,000 that it knows about, just between October 2003 and June 2004 when Paul Bremer was in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority, part of 281 palettes -- 363 tons -- of cash shipped on C-130 cargo planes from the Federal Reserve Bank in NYC, it doesn't seem hard to believe that some of that made its way to Pakistan.

I have to admit, at first I was suspicious of the "money from Iraq" story, because it seemed a little too pat that all of a sudden there was some sort of proof of a money link to Al Qaeda from Iraq, but then I realized that there's probably some sort of record of the serial numbers on the cash we shipped to Iraq. If the CIA or the Pakistani security services have picked up people with cash, they're sure to have tried to track it back. And I wouldn't be surprised if it leads to the CPA.


»  May 20, 2007


Directorstar Galactica:

Cylon: Replaced by CGI

Image via Greenfield Games, original from Kropserkel.com

Ever get the feeling that you're part of a ragtag group of beaten-down survivors constantly on the run from the unending hordes of Flashlons? That the ship you're on is constantly blowing gaskets and leaking air and the engineers are doing their best to keep things running but they sure as hell aren't making major improvements? That not only is everyone around you getting old but that there aren't many new faces showing up?

How many Director users are left? Who knows? The Macromedia management was so secretive about sales figures that I never heard anything about how many users there were even at the peak of its popularity late in the last millenium.

This was always an issue in the matter of Director book sales estimates. The size of the market of Director users had a direct bearing on the number of copies you could expect to sell and the quantity of books that could be published. Books have an inherent overhead: it takes the same amount of time to write and edit a book that gets read by one person as it does if 20,000 people read it. But the author and the publisher make a lot more money in the latter case.

Specialty books, on advanced programming topics, never really made an inroad into the Diredctor market. One of the first of the few was Peter Small's Lingo Sorcery, which came out for Director 4 and was the introduction to the concept of object-oriented programming for many users who had no formal programming training. But Director never had the number of books on topics like data-driven applications, multi-user applications, or even programmatic animation that Flash has had (apart from a few books that tried to capitalize on the 3D capabilities of Director 8.5). The Flash user base is simply large and robust enough to support multiple books on non-general topics. Not that all Flash books do well, you can glut any market. See my Special Edition Using Flash 5 for an example of that.

I recently came across some information about the once-upon-a-time size of the Director market. Now it probably helps to know that as an author, if you sold 20,000 Director books, you were doing pretty well. That's not a lot of books in absolute terms, given the amount of work it takes to produce a book six hundred to a thousand pages long, but in Director numbers, it meant you'd done OK. Neither of my Director books ever sold that many copies.

Anyway, the number I saw for Macromedia's Director revenue was from the late 1990s, around the period of Director 7 and 8, which were products I worked on as a contractor, writing Lingo for the Behavior Library (along with James Newton). The figure was in the range of $55-$65 million annually for Director. At the time, Director was sold as Director Shockwave Studio (which included Fireworks and a sound editor). The retail price for the full Studio was $999, upgrades to the Studio were $499, and you could upgrade to Director 7 alone for $449. So let's run some numbers.

First, assumptions. Let's use $60 million dollars of revenue as a base since that's in the middle of the range. Director was sold both directly by Macromedia in bundle prices and through resellers, where Macromedia wouldn't get the entire price as revenue, so let's discount all retail prices by a generous 20%.

Using those figures, if every Director sale was for a new Studio, that would be 75,000 copies. That would be the low end. On the other end, if all sales had were for upgrades to the Studio, the number would be 150,000. Some people, of course, wouldn't have upgraded. The real number of Director 7 sales is likely on the higher end of that range, with more upgrades (at a lower price) weighting the figure to 120,000 or so.

Then, of course, there were a number of Director users who didn't upgrade to version 7. Even if that was half of the user base, that put the total number of Director users worldwide at somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 back in the day. Which would explain why 20,000 copies of a Director book selling would be considered pretty good, what with 8-10% of the user base buying a copy. Even more impressive is the fact that since most of the books were version-specific, that figure would be about twice that compared to the number of new users.

Hey, I don't know for sure that the figure I have to work from is completely correct. I may be misestimating how discounts affected sales figures. It's hard to say, because nobody tells me anything. I doubt we'll see any hard numbers on Director sales, historical or otherwise, but I'm fairly certain that if the size of the Director user base had been such that it was still making $60 million in sales for Macromedia in more recent years, it would have an engineering team the size it used to and there would be enough people to support a few more books, even if $60 million is only about 2% of the Adobe's 2006 revenues.

How many of us are left, I wonder?


»  May 16, 2007


Letter to Romenesko: I should have mentioned in my post on Jim Lehrer's bogus claim of 85% Congressional support for the Iraq war that I'd seen a reference to the Australian interview in which he made the assertion at the Romenesko journalism blog. Because I had, I posted a letter to them, which they published the other day.



Sirota On the Bus:

David Sirota and Amy Ruiz

It was dark and the picture was taken with my cellphone, but the guy on the left is David Sirota, author of Hostile Takeover and countless articles, at Acme Food and Drink in Portland for "Digital Politics", a co-production of the Bus Project, the Portland Mercury, and Loaded Orygun. Sirota's speaking to Amy Ruiz of the Merc, who was one of the panelists.


»  May 13, 2007


Fox and His Friends: I've always thought the title of the FOXNews morning fluff show "Fox & Friends" was a little odd. Something about it was familiar but then again it seemed somehow syntactically off. Then I ran across the 1970 Rainer Werner Fassbinder film "Fox and His Friends" and I realized the image the show is attempting to elicit. Here's the description from NetFlix:

Fox and His FriendsFox is an earnest circus worker who loses his job when his lover is arrested for tax fraud. Needing cash for his weekly lottery ticket, Fox lets himself be picked up by an elegant older man named Max. But when Fox wins big money in the lottery, Max's friends suddenly become Fox's "friends" and before long, a charming man named Eugen seduces Fox and fleeces him of his newfound money.



George or Richard?: A message from my better half that might be applied to some situation today:

The audience will not recoil from this Richard, not at first, not until the body count starts to rise horrifically. And it is much easier to believe that this Richard achieved his royal status by popular acclaim, as other historical monsters have.


And, it is the story of the people who cheered Richard into power, complete with balloons and confetti, and later died for their credulousness.

-- Barbara Moshofsky, reviewing the 1993 production of Oregon Shakespeare Company's Richard III in Willamette Week.


»  May 12, 2007


THE Math: Jim Lehrer Rewrites History On Iraq: Two weeks before the 2006 elections, Karl Rove famously told an interviewer who asked him about polls showing likely Republican losses in Congress that the interviewer was wrong. He claimed that his non-public "polls on the individual races" showed a continued "Republican Senate and Republican House," and that his prediction was accurate because he had "THE math."

As we all know, Karl Rove was incorrect.

A similar mistake in adding up the numbers was made on 10 May by the Public Broadcasting Systems's Jim Lehrer, host of The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Talking to The Media Report's Antony Funnell about Iraq, Lehrer was asked "whether sections of the media suspended their scepticism and their scrutiny prior, during and after the 2003 War." Lehrer responded that the pre-war period "was not filled with the kind of 'on the other hand' information that such a monumental decision should have had with it." The reason for that, he said, was that as a reporter "you've got to interview people, people have got to talk, you've got to have information." Then he said this:

Remember, 85% of the Congress in the United States, including the Democrats, favoured this war. They (sic) were not that many people questioning the validity of this, particularly after that monumental appearance by Secretary of State, Colin Powell, before the United Nations Security Council.
That number is completely wrong. It implies that 15% of Congress (at most) opposed the war in Iraq. Unlike Karl Rove, however, Jim Lehrer was not attempting to predict the future, he was misreporting the past. His "information" on pre-war opposition to the use of force in Iraq is off by a factor of 2.

House Joint Resolution 114 -- "A joint resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq" -- passed in the US House of Representatives on 10 October 2002. The vote was 296 yea, 133 nay, with 3 not voting.

The US Senate voted on the resolution the next day. There, the vote was 77 yea, 23 nay.

296 + 133 + 3 = 432 Representatives (there were also three vacant seats). 432 Representatives + 100 Senators = 532 members of Congress total.

133 Representatives + 23 Senators voted against the Iraq war resolution. That's a total of 156 members of Congress who did not support the war in the only real referendum on the matter.

156 members of Congress who voted nay divided by 532 members of Congress total = 0.293, or 29.3% who did not support the Iraq war resolution. If you try to add that to the 85% of Congress Lehrer claims supported the war, you get 114%. Perhaps Jim Lehrer's uncovered some sort of Congressional voting fraud.

What is more likely, however, is that he's simply stating the facts as he remembers them. Because it would look pretty stupid for a veteran journalist to have ignored nearly 30% of Congress during the run-up to the Iraq war, particularly when many of the concerns of those who voted against the war have been proven correct. Much better to pretend that they were such a minority that they could be dismissed as a few Bush-haters or hardcore pacifists unrepresentative of the people.

Of course, even there, Lehrer would have been grossly mistaken. A Pew Research Center/Council on Foreign Relations poll released on the day of the House vote said 28% of Americans opposed military action to end the rule of Saddam Hussein in Iraq (62% supported it, 10% were undecided).

28% of the public opposed military force. 29% of Congress voted against the use of military force. Yet somehow Jim Lehrer had a hard time finding those 156 members of Congress so that he could talk to people who opposed the war.

Not that I think it should have been that hard if it had been only 15%.

A NOTE: Lehrer mentioned that there wasn't much questioning of the validity of the war, particularly after Colin Powell's appearance at the UN, which some may feel gives him wiggle room here, but no vote was taken in Congress on the war after Powell's speech, which took place just a month before the invasion of Iraq. As for the public, a Pew Research Center poll conducted after Powell's UN speech found that 26% of those polled still opposed any military action in Iraq, and that even 23% of respondents supported an attack only on the condition that our major allies joined us. The number of people who said the US government had enough international support for the Iraq war at the time actually dropped from 41% to 34% after presentations by Powell and UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. 42% of people in the same poll said that they had not heard enough from opponents of the war.


»  May 10, 2007


The Eternal Broder: From Us & Them: How the Press Covered the 1972 Election by James M. Perry (Clarkson N. Potter, New York, 1973):

It was just as bad as we anticipated--McGovern took the District of Columbia and Massachusetts--and David Broder, our most famous political writer, tried to analyze what had happened.

"What Goldwater and McGovern had in common--and what defeated both, so resoundingly--was that in the course of their campaigns, the voters came to the same conclusion that political and journalistic Washington had previously reached: that they were lightweights in the heavyweight division of presidential politics. They were men of good heart and good spirit, open and honorable, whose failing was their tendency to see public questions in one-dimensional, almost simplistic terms."

McGovern read the column and sat down to write Broder a letter in longhand.

"Bullshit," he said.


»  May 6, 2007


The Easy Way Out Was to Vote for That War And Look the Other Way:

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin appeared on WNYC's "On the Media" last week (the title's a quote from Sen. Durbin), talking about how he and others who voted against the Iraq war resolution have repeatedly made statements about the administration's lack of evidence in their case for war, both since the war began and before the vote on the authorization to use military force. He mentioned to host Bob Garfield that it's only his most recent speech on the floor of the Senate that's garnered attention, via The Washington Times in a sleazy attempt to portray him as having kept quiet on the matter, and that when he and the 22 other Senators who voted against the war did speak out contemporaneously, they were "...not greeted as heroes when we went home. Many of us paid a price for it. In fact some may have lost an election over it."

There is no doubt that the (mostly) Democrats who voted against the war have been vilified by Republicans and often marginalized by war hawks in their own party, but as much as it may have felt like the world was against them, as I've pointed out before, the Democrats in the Senate who voted against the Iraq war haven't lost a seat because of an election in the three cycles since the vote. Here's the list of Senators who were smart enough not to be fooled by George Bush.

Daniel Akaka (HI) reelected 2006
Jeff Bingaman (NM) reelected 2006
Barbara Boxer (CA) reelected 2004
Robert Byrd (WV) reelected 2006
Kent Conrad (ND) reelected 2006
Jon Corzine (NJ) elected Governor 2005; succeeded by Robert Menendez (Democrat)
Mark Dayton (MN) retired 2006; succeeded by Amy Klobuchar (Democrat)
Dick Durbin (IL) reelected 2002
Russ Feingold (WI) reelected 2004
Bob Graham (FL) ran for president, did not run for reelection 2004; succeeded by Mel Martinez (Republican)
Daniel Inouye (HI) reelected 2004
Ted Kennedy (MA) reelected 2006
Patrick Leahy (VT) reelected 2004
Carl Levin (MI) reelected 2002
Barbara Mikulski (MD) reelected 2004
Patty Murray (WA) reelected 2004
Jack Reed (RI) reelected 2002
Paul Sarbanes (MD) retired 2006; succeeded by Ben Cardin (Democrat)
Debbie Stabenow (MI) reelected 2006
Paul Wellstone (MN) died in plane accident between vote and 2002 election; succeeded by Norm Coleman (Republican)
Ron Wyden (OR) reelected 2004
Lincoln Chafee (RI) defeated 2006; succeeded by Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat)
Jim Jeffords (VT) retired 2006; succeeded by Bernie Sanders (Independent)

Wellstone did lose an election, but was dead. Since the tragic crash that killed him also killed his wife (and others, including his daughter) there wasn't even the possibility for something like what took place in 2000 when Mel Carnahan posthumously unseated Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, with Carnahan's wife Jean taking over the seat (Sen. Carnahan voted for the Iraq AUMF and was defeated in 2006 by Republican Jim Talent).

The only other case where a Democrat who voted against the Iraq war lost an election was in the Democratic primaries. Bob Graham didn't try to simultaneously run for president and senator. Republican Lincoln Chaffee did lose an election, but not because he opposed the war.

It's a shame none of the Democratic Senators running for president this year are off this list.


What the...?  

My Satanic Majesty: My first real job was working for a bookstore in Eugene called Gandalf's Den Fantasy Gallery that also sold wargames and role-playing games.

Almost exactly a quarter-century ago -- in the summer of 1982 -- the children's librarian at the Springfield Public Library contacted the store to see if they had anyone who might be interested in talking to the kids at the library about Dungeons & Dragons, which was at the time still less than a decade old. The owner and his wife delegated me to do the presentation, which was unsurprising, since I was the only employee at the store.

A few weeks after I'd agreed to make the appearance, I got a call from the librarian. She told me that a "youth pastor" at a local church had an objection to the topic and that they were threatening to picket and make a fuss at the library unless they were given a chance to speak out about the evils of D&D. And they insisted on making their statements before my presentation. The head librarian apparently had acceded to their demands, the only option I had was to not give the talk. I was 20, I was stupid, I decided to go ahead.

When I showed up for the talk, there were a dozen or so ten to thirteen-year-old boys -- the upper age range of just the kind of kids you expect to find at the children's library on a sunny summer afternoon -- and what seemed like a score of members of the church group, including the pastor, a couple of adults, and a number of teenagers (including the only girls in attendence). Not to mention the children's librarian, the head librarian, and some news media.

The pastor gave a very stirring speech about how the D&D led to all sorts of Satanic rituals and how you had to spend thousands of dollars on suits of armor and how it corrupted your soul. He went on for what seemed like a half hour. Much fidgeting took place.

I finally got to speak and gave my little dog and pony show about D&D and role-playing games, and other types of games. The photo shows Champions (superhero RPG), Bushido (feudal Japanese RPG), D&D, The Morrow Project (post-nuclear holocaust RPG), and GANGLORD (my own play-by-mail gang warfare game), as well as a couple of others I can't make out (not to mention my friend and moral support for the event, Tom Stansfield, leaning on the podium). I talked about how there was no way I could have afforded to spend thousands of dollars on armor, how as an athiest I could hardly be a Satanist as well, that I didn't know any nor did I believe in magic, and how I viewed the whole spectrum of games as just a way to enjoy the company of other people. I answered questions about games from the kids, was asked by the church teens if athiesm wasn't just the same as Satanism, and tried to keep myself on an even keel when I felt very much outnumbered.

I don't know if it was planning or sheer dumb luck that made me put on the shirt my folks had brought back from the National Zoo. Despite the wild hair, the beard, and maniacal smile, I think it might have been difficult for some of the kids to seriously consider me as some sort of threat to all that was good with panda bears on my chest.

I have a very nice letter from D&D creator E. Gary Gygax offering his support about the incident.


»  May 5, 2007


Party Like It's 1994: I spent a good portion of the afternoon ripping up old Director manuals for recycling. I've finally come to the conclusion that I just don't need to keep them in boxes in my garage any more. Director MX manuals...gone. Director 8.5 manuals...gone. Director 8 manuals...gone. Same for version 7, 6 (I never bought the 6.5 upgrade), 5 and 4. Plus a bunch of Flash manuals, old books on Perl, UNIX, VBScript, and ActionScript.

What was kind of surprising to me was how thin some of those Lingo Dictionary volumes were. Director 7's LD was about 300 pages. And the dates in them! It's hard to remember, but there was a period in the late 1990s when it seems like versions of Director virtually flew by!

Anyway, one of the boxes held this little treasure, my badge from my very first Macromedia User Conference, in September 1994, held at the San Francisco Marriott.


»  May 3, 2007


The New Republic On Propaganda:

There is a term for this sort of political discourse: propaganda. The word has a bad odor, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Propaganda is often true, and it can be deployed on behalf of a worthy cause (say, the fight against Nazism in World War II). Still, propaganda should not be confused with intellectual inquiry. Propagandists do not follow their logic wherever it may lead them; they are not interested in originality. Propaganda is an attempt to marshal arguments in order to create a specific real-world result--to win a political war.

-- Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, 1 May 2007

As anyone writing for The New Republic should know, you can use propaganda to demonize those you view as the enemy. Literally.


»  May 1, 2007


Remember October 9: In a speech on 9 October 1968, Richard Nixon said something about Hubert Humphrey, his opponent for president that seems appropriate for today, the fourth anniversary of "Mission Accomplished":

Those who have had a chance for four years and could not produce peace should not be given another chance.
In 1972, the McGovern campaign printed signs and bumper stickers that read: "Remember October 9".



Cho Norris: Pam Spaulding at Pandagon points to Chuck Norris's deep thoughts on how the "secular progressive agenda" led to the shootings at Virginia Tech two weeks ago and remarks that it's an odd position to take for a guy whose entire professional career has been about hitting people and shooting people. In fact, Norris's poses for publicity photos are remarkably similar to the pictures Cho Seung-Hui posed for and sent to NBC. I give you Cho Norris:

Cho Norris