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Robust McManlyPants on Average Display » 2004 » August

August 2004


This is the strangest thing I’ll read all week:  an analysis of Gilligan’s Island as an illustration of the economics of fiat currencies.

The article itself comes from the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a
Libertarian group, so gods only know what you’ll think of them, but
there you have it.  Gilligan’s Island can be taken
seriously.  In light of this, I ask that you please run screaming
from the room in an orderly fashion, and good night. (more…)

Wondering what the agenda for the Republican National Convention will include?  I submit the following:

(Blatantly stolen from Media Mantic, where you can read the whole thing.)

2004 Republican National Convention Schedule

6:00pm – Opening Prayer led by the Reverend Jerry Falwell
6:30pm – Pledge of Allegiance
6:35pm – Burning of Bill of Rights (excluding 2nd amendment)
6:45pm – Salute to the Coalition of the Willing
6:46pm – Seminar #1: Iraq Strategeries? Voodoo/DooDoo WMD
7:30pm – First Presidential Beer Bong (more…)

Those who know me know that I am obsessed with zombies – not so much
with their eradication, though I am glad to know that Kath has
volunteered to lead us to safety in case of a large-scale outbreak of
undead, but more with their place in sociopolitical commentary
masquerading as mass-media entertainment.  I love zombie movies.

That said, I’m glad to know there are people in the world asking important questions like how long the lights will stay on when the dead rise.  It’s a little insightful planning that goes a long, long way when we head for the hills. (more…)

I can’t help but link, yet again, to MSNBC.com.  There I found a
story about scientists beginning to suggest that we’ve entered a new geological age:  the Anthropocene
What’s that mean?  That “climate change [is] the most obvious of a
complex range of man-made
effects that is rapidly changing the physics, chemistry and biology of
the planet.”  In other words, humanity and its various endeavors
are the primary catalyst for change on a planetary scale.  We’re
screwing up the planet.

I noted the survey included in the story, and answered it to see what
others who’d gone before me had to say.  Though it’s as
unscientific as can be, out of about 11,000 respondents so far, the
winning answer to “Do you think the rise of human environmental
influence marks a new era in Earth’s history?” is, far and away, “Yes,
and that’s scary.”  Out of four answers, that one is getting 70%
of the vote.

Pair that with the White House’s admission that, er, there might be something to this global warming thing,
but that’s not necessarily true, and even if it is by no means does
that make us flip-floppers and it certainly doesn’t change policy, and
you’ve got reason 80 bajillion to vote for Kerry in November.  If
nothing else, he acknowledges the work of scientists and other wizards.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought it, but today I really wish Bush
Sr. would just sit his son down and yell at him for a while.  His
kid has managed to reverse, disagree with or fuck over every single,
rare upside of Bush Sr.’s administration – such as taking pride in
signing the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change. (more…)

Sadists, start your engines.

An aside:  On my 21st birthday, I was tee-rashed at an early hour
and partying with friends.  There were probably forty or so people
in my tiny apartment, and the phone rang.  My friend Marcus picked
it up and said, “Michael’s House Of Pain & Pleasure, how may we serve?

After a few seconds, Marcus held the phone in my direction and pointed at it with his other hand and mouthed, IT’S YOUR MOM.

I took a deep breath, composed myself, and took the phone to my bedroom
to have a quick, quiet conversation with her.  When I got back
there and said hello, my mother was giggling.  “Who was
that?”  she asked.  I told her Marcus’ name and she giggled
again.  “Well, don’t tell him I said this, but he answered the
phone in the silliest little voice!”

We’ve never spoken of it since. (more…)

MSNBC.com carries a Reuters report that a pipe bomb was set off early this AM at a stem-cell research lab in Massacheusetts,
hurting no one but doing what sounds like a bit of property
damage.  The lab in question focuses on finding treatments for
diabetes and liver disorders.

I hope the asshole who made the bomb dies of cirrhosis. (more…)

Securityfocus.com is running another top-notch story – this one about the CEO of a web-based satellite TV equipment retailer
hiring out the buddy who ran his webhosting to launch distributed
denial-of-service attacks against the competition.  What I find
funniest about the whole deal is how quickly corporate it became, as
the CEO first hired one gun to take care of it, who then hired other
guns, one of whom in turn further sub-sub-contracted out the work to
another guy entirely.  Eventually, the CEO bought the webhosting
company outright so that everyone allegedly worked for him on paper as
well as in spirit – and there you have it, corporate culture overtakes
an electronic crime and the whole thing falls apart.  Imagine Lumbergh from “Office Space” asking for a report on that DDoS attack, and you’ve got exactly what the atmosphere must have been like.

From the CEO’s “welcome message” page linked above, I take the following true – almost visionary – statement:

Technology is changing rapidly. Even as you read this message, breakthroughs are being
made every day that will make life easier for us all.

(more…)

Tuesday night we settled in to watch a show and Bruce obligingly got in
our way so we would look at him but not the TV.  He’s a diva.

Mr. Saturday, on seeing this behavior, said to The Boyf and myself that he had figured out Bruce’s attitude towards him.

“Last night I sat down on the couch and he very carefully walked over
me and onto the couch without touching me,” he said.  “I think he
sees me as a big brother.  He doesn’t want to touch me, but he
does want me in the back yard with him in case a squirrel beats him up.” (more…)

After much fiddling, I at least got the colors adjusted.  Sort
of.  It’s a start.  If it makes your eyes bleed, let me know. (more…)

Read up a bit on the production of “Global Frequency” for the WB. 
It’s apparently slated as a midseason replacement, and thirteen
episodes have been ordered.  Warren Ellis hasn’t said this in his blog, as far as I can tell, but according to TV Tome
he personally wrote the script to at least one episode, and the other
writers that have been brought on have some good shows in their c.v.’s (Buffy and Angel, for example). 

If you haven’t read GF, it’s a one-book trade paperback
collection.  The basic story is that a wealthy woman has 1,001
agents at her disposal in times of crisis – be that a natural disaster,
a terrorist incident or an alien invasion of a two-block area in
Brooklyn.  They come from a variety of professions, etc.,
etc.  Insert run-and-gun storyline here, I know, but it’s Warren
Ellis so the dialogue is snappy and although the artist varies each
issue it’s always, always good.  Don’t think of it as X-Files in black pleather, think of it as The Twilight Zone
with one fewer bullet in the clip than it needs to make it out
alive.  Very high-testosterone, high-adreneline, completely
escapist.  But very, very snappy.  I’m definitely going to
catch the premiere if it gets picked up, and then go from there. 
Warren Ellis of course has an obvious financial incentive to see it do
well, but for a man who is generally scathing in his criticisms he’s
said some very, very flattering things about the production of the
pilot so far and that gives me real hope.  There’s a
snappy-dialogue-escapism-sized hole in my life since Buffy went away. (more…)

So, I got the new World of Darkness and Vampire: the Requiem rulebooks on Saturday.  I’ve had my face buried in WoD ever since, and here’s my immediate reaction:  yum.

The WoD book, the “core” book for all of the various games
playable in the World of Darkness, isn’t about supernaturals at
all.  It’s about mortals.  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.  It’s
very much about the slow, creeping horror of being a normal, everyday
person in a world where monsters are real and the shadows are a bit
deeper, and finding out about these secret terrors bit by bit. 
Whereas Vampire: the Masquerade was very much about trying to
overcome the character’s vampiric nature and moping over the damnation
of one’s soul, etc., this is a game about being a monster and still
getting the shit scared out of you.  None of this mopey-dopey
poet-shirt shit for them, no m’am.  This is about how horrifying
the world is, the struggle to keep from letting the secrets of that
world spin you out of control and the futility of fighting back against
that burden of knowledge.  It still has high angst potential, but
it’s much more Call of Cthulhu than Interview With the Vampire.  In fact, it has sanity checks.  (Well, sort of.)

I finished the WoD book yesterday, satisifed that although there
are slight changes to the dice system, overall I approve
wholeheartedly.  Started reading the V:tR book last night but got about 30 pages in before passing out on top of the book, so my impressions are worthless.

Overall, in gaming terms, I think this iteration of things will be much
better than the last.  Gone are the days of the Sabbat &
Camarilla duking it out like neighboring, rival frats.  The dice
system is smoother.  The stat system is more flexible.  It’ll
take some getting used to, but I think combat in the new version will
go much faster (though it’s generally harder to kill someone) than in
the last version.  Characters are somewhat more limited in their
choices, but their expression of those stat choices and the whole
being-undead thing are much more flexible than they were.  It’s
much more in the hands of the player to make a character they’ll enjoy
than it used to be, when folks were more or less shunted into one or
another of plentiful but frequently predetermined molds.  Sure,
one could always play a character that went against the grain of their
clan/bloodline, but given the weight and reinforcement of the common
stereotypes, it could require some real backstory acrobatics to explain
why their character would have been Embraced as a member of Clan X or Y
in the first place.  Now, given easy access to bloodlines and
various sects, I think it’s much easier to give one’s character a more
organic backstory and really develop over the course of play.

I like it.

I like it very much.

My favorite thing about the WoD book, though?  It still, thirteen years later, lists the Twin Peaks soundtrack as recommended listening.

Aw yeah. (more…)

OK, so I can’t take this color scheme or this font or anything
anymore.  I’m really proud of my pants icon, but I cannot suss out
how to make Pivot look presentable.  Please, if you use Pivot,
help me do this.  Also, if you have usable eyes, give me color
suggestions.  At first the colors & such were just temporary
in the one-or-two-days sense, then I thought maybe I’d get used to
them, then I got lazy and now I’m driven mad by them.

Help me, Blogistan. (more…)

On Monday I did something I once thought I would never do:  I
bought a weedeater.  It’s electric, it’s small (hell, it weighs
all of four pounds), but it makes all the right noises and it chops
through spider grass, and that was my goal for the day upon getting it
home.  I assembled it with help from Mr. Saturday and then off I went to the front yard to get rid of the foot-high spider grass clogging up the front steps and lawn. 

This might be the best toy I’ve ever bought.

A couple of hours later, my left arm was killing me from swinging the
thing around, but the yard was even, the mulch in the front returned to
view, the side yard reclaimed to be a wide, flat surface rather than a
mountain of tangled greenery.  I edged the lawn out by the street,
cut back the grass around the mailbox, and when done I was (a)
extremely satisfied with myself, almost to the point of swaggering and
(b) coated in grass. I mean, coated.  I was picking grass
clippings out of my hair.

The best part of all of this was my remembrance, standing there in the
hardware store, that I would need safety goggles.  I saw the
standard plastic brick-style glasses my father always wears, and next
to them were big, black-with-reflective-blue-lens safety goggles marked
“Stylish Snow Blue.”  The lenses were of course huge, given they were safety goggles, and they were this sort of wrap-around design.  They were goth safety goggles
I had to have them.  They were the only ones I could possibly ever
buy, once I knew they existed.  I got them home, put them on, and
then said to Mr. Saturday, “I’m…I’m in the Eurythmics!”

It was a banner day. (more…)

Securityfocus.com has a great column
up by a security consultant and former Air Force officer discussing the
ease with which one’s personal data gets released into commercial fora,
and the exploited but largely unknown value of personal data, both to
businesses and governments.  His analysis is of a pretty everyday
example:  a Virginian renting a car from Hertz and using an AmEx
card to do it.  We’re all pretty savvy folks, but I for one had no
idea how valuable personal data could be, in a very tangible way, to
someone like, say, the DMV.  It’s a good illustration of how
little we really know about how much others know about us.

He very importantly makes clear that it’s not about conspiracies to
manipulate us by our information – it’s about who’s going to get rich
(or merely fair compensation) off that information: the people who buy
& sell the information, or the subjects of that information.

I think I’m most intrigued by his comparison of the transition to the
Information Age with the transitions to the Agrarian or Industrial
ages:  things change, new things become valuable, and someone is going to make a truckload of money in the process – probably running over several other someones in the process. (more…)

Another late night – what can I say?

Tonight, after some misadventures of the “what town has my boyfriend in it” sort, I ended up at home talking Deadlands
with Pants Wilder and working on my character.  Prior to this,
however, there was a lengthy session of play with the kitty-whip, as we
call it:  a long strand of colorful felt on a slightly bendy
plastic wand.  The cat loves and hates the whip, for it must be
destroyed yet it cannot be destroyed.  The cocktail made from the sorrow of
its potential absence from his life and the joy of its potential,
eternal defeat produces something akin to a murderous schizophrenia in
my cat.  He plays with it and plays with it and plays with it, and
then, suddenly, he stops.  And when he stops, he means we’re all
stopping playing with it.

So we played with the kitty whip for a nice, long while, and he slew it
satisfyingly if not permanently, and then he flopped down on the floor
to bathe.  While he did so, I finally wrote down the stats for my
Deadlands character (a mad scientist named Max von Frank). 
Halfway through, Bruce leapt onto the coffee table as though something
shiny itself hung in the balance, and batted away my pen.  Then he
sat down.  On the character sheet

I tried moving him, cajoling him, petting him, cooing at him, and
instead he took a bath.  He was still eight kinds of on my
character sheet twenty minutes later.

At that point, I figured I was done, and it was time to cat-blog. (more…)

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