Friday, November 30, 2012

Things Matt Links, Nov. 30

I am in the final leg of NaNoWriMo. By necessity, that means your links are less linktastic.

Cool things to find.

Games in World War II.

Hope for the future.

Want it. Now.

Go forth and write.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Final Fantasy 1: Complete

 Between down time in Delaware and the train up, I've completed reading Redshirts and finished FF1. Tomorrow/later today, I'll be starting up on FF2. This is one I don't even think I started. But first, let's reflect on what we've learned from FF1. Why the delay? NaNoWriMo has done a number on my pushing through Final Fantasy.

First, the game did not age well, even with a graphics update. The dungeons start off incredibly harsh, but by late game, you can trivialize them all with usable equipment. The only resets I was forced to make were in the ice caves in random encounters against multiple dark wizards who spammed Fire 2. The actual figuring things out part was fun, but I wonder if anyone who didn't have the where-with-all to talk to everyone would be able to do it. I finished the game, on Normal, at average party level 31. A bit high, but there were too many encounters that, even with a thief, attempting to flee ended up costing too many resources if we failed.

For when it came out, the game was innovative, fun, and it gave people a chance to dabble in party creation and minor customization. The amount of character customization is going to go up (then ratchet back down later in the series), but for an NES-era game, the initial four-man choice gives it some potential. There was a time when the purist in me would want to suggest people start with FF1 for learning the series; that part of me died when I realized that, while I liked the novel challenge of managing resources and juggling potions and antidote supplies, most players will not.

Oh well, let's see what FF2 brings. Oh? Red Shirts? I approve (even if at some points it is written in present tense.)



Hopefully everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving! Now that the festivities are over, if you plan on going out into the wild during Black Friday, have fun. If you can. It just seems unnecessarily hectic and crowded. Two things I do not like.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Free Speech

"After the Citizens United decision on free speech and political spending, he found a way 'to save the court's credibility.'"

Here's a question: Why was the court's credibility in any danger? Citizen's United, at the most basic level, says people are free to associate together and spend their personal money as a collective enterprise to engage in Free Speech. Why, exactly, is that bad thing? I'm big on free speech, and if we restrict people's ability to work as a group to attain political speech, then we don't have free speech.

That is the fundamental misunderstanding: That we can restrict political speech because more than one person contributed to it. Private citizens should have the ability to coordinate together and put out political messages. The answer to bad speech is more speech. If you don't like the political movie, don't pay to see it, or kickstart a counter-documentary. In today's connected world, there is no excuse for quashing unpopular political speech just because it is unpopular.

Right, back to not blogging as I head home for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Blogging Sabbatical

Thanksgiving is this week. That means, on Thursday, you should be with family, even if it is just e-with family. Skype'em if you can. Odds are that there won't be any blogging done until sometime next week. So, consider this your formal heads up.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When the Law Is Broken, Fix It

"Although Montgomery's conviction was thrown out, he was not freed because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli blocked the decision, saying the Hampton judge did not have proper jurisdiction to make the decision that falls under the Virginia Court of Appeals."

There are times when following the law to the letter makes sense. There are other times when our elected officials should find and exploit the loopholes required to do the right thing. Since Cuccinelli has clearly demonstrated he's a screw up on this simple case, I think that when Virginia's next Attorney General election comes up, we find a replacement that is not going to idiotically leave an innocent man in jail.

Despite whatever other service he's done for Virginia, this is a screw up that is big enough that I will go on record: If Cuccinelli seeks and gets the Virginia governor nomination for 2013, I will not vote for him. There are plenty of good politicians in Virginia who have not decided that we should jail innocent people for stupid reasons.

If our AG continues to be stubborn over this, then this is one of the rare cases that I think an executive can rightly issue an absolute pardon. There are often people in our justice system who claim that they are wrongly imprisoned; we very rarely get such a clear cut case presented to us. Gov. McDonnell: Screw the appeals process, issue an absolute pardon and get this guy home for what will probably be the best Thanksgiving of his life.

I am generally a law and order type of person. But, part of having law and order is that, for people to be willing to submit to it, it has to be a just law and order. This action on Cuccinelli's part makes it clear that he is unable to deliver that. In addition, every state -- especially Virginia -- needs to get a law on the books that declares when a conviction is thrown out, the person is immediately free to be released (provided they are not serving any time for other crimes.) This is probably a small problem, but it is a discrete, easy to solve problem. So, let's solve it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mice and NaNoWriMo

35k, so my goal for today is reached. My personal writing goal has been modified to take into account missing some days while I am in Delaware; if you are shooting for an average words/day rate to hit 50k, by the end of today you should have 28,322 (roughly 1,666*17). Spoilers below, so avoid reading this if you want to be able to read the mouse story when it is done without being spoiled.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Things Matt Links, Nov. 16

Now that that is out of the way, click below for the rest of the links. Following that up is a lot of relatively light-hearted fare. You also don't know how happy I am I was linked to this before I posted this blog. Maybe we can change Big Brother, one random act of kindness at a time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Like Lawful Good Heroes

“You were supposed to stop them,” Uzzah said, almost hissing as he drew nose to nose with Thomas.

“No. I enforce the council’s ruling. You’ll find I have done so. To the letter.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birds!; Mice and Mystics; NaNoWriMo

I apologize for lack of blogging, especially for the next few weeks. Here is my one-paragraph review of Mice and Mystics. First, the minis, rulebook and physical stuff is pretty awesome looking. The cards and map tiles aren't extremely durable feeling, but they held up to a day of play just fine. The rules are crisp, easy to pick up and relatively intuitive. Having only played through the first two scenarios (and only partially through the third), one thing I thought was odd was not letting everyone have access to all six heroes in the first scenario to pick from. Splitting the party in the second scenario also was awkward feeling because the player who played Lilly had a pretty boring experience until we got there. Overall, I approve. Next time I play, I'll try and take some pictures of the board and give you some more important thoughts. Below the fold is my NaNoWriMo update.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On People Not Being Suckers

If it looks like it is fake, it is probably fake. A lesson someone in Denver is probably learning right now. Painfully so, in fact. On the bright side, if you live in the Denver area, I have a sneaking suspicion a position or two may be opening at this ABC News affiliate.

Journalists: Get it fast, but get it right.

I'm going back to NaNoWriMo, where the mice at least do their due diligence.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day, 2012

“At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month! A simple telegram of three lines brought us the great news: ‘At eleven o’clock today in accordance with the terms of the armistice, firing ceased on the American front.’ It meant five words to us ‘The War is Over!’ and ‘Home.’ We knew it was true and for days we knew it was bound to come, but still it didn’t seem real. Could the world really be freed of the curse that has infected it for fifty-two months, could the end really have come to the organized efforts of men to kill, could we look forward to tomorrow without wondering what horror it might hold in store for us and those for whom we cared!”  -- Hermann Moyse, Sr., letter to his fiancee

"I have today signed a proclamation calling upon all of our citizens to observe Thursday, November 11, 1954 as Veterans Day. It is my earnest hope that all veterans, their organizations, and the entire citizenry will join hands to insure proper and widespread observance of this day. " -- Pres. Eisenhower, on signing the bill that changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. (Photo here)


Today is Veterans Day. It was originally Armistice Day, which marked the end of what is now known as World War I, but is now known as Veterans Day. Remember that; it's important.This link has a photo of the post-armistice signing. Here is the official homepage for Veterans Day.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mice and Mystics

I finally got to open my box of Mice and Mystics. From the rule book and the training video, it looks like a nice cross between Super Dungeon Explore and Warhammer Quest. This is a thing I can get behind. Pictures are below.

Civil War Lecture Series at the Smithsonian

Hey, you know what is happening tomorrow? An amazingly cool sounding lecture in DC. The one I'm talking about is "Astride Two Ages: Technology and the Civil War Symposium." Right now, there is a U-Stream where they're discussing intelligence and the telegraph system in the Civil War and how it was used for command and control by the Union and Confederacy. Did you know that the Confederacy lost loads of experienced telegraph operators, which hindered their capabilities?

Also, the guy giving the speech just said: "The Yankee Juggernaut." PhotoShoppers: Make it happen.



On Twitter, Lee Stranahan said: I'd like a world where Harry Reid and John Boehner are both co-manging a Denny's in Butte.

I replied: Let's write a Web TV Series. He's an ex-boxer from Nevada; he was raised in a saloon. Together: They Fight Crime.

Things Matt Links, Nov. 10

I'm technically late; these things normally go live on Friday. I'd apologize, but I doubt anyone noticed.

I was going to make a joke about Petraeus' affair. Then I learned his mistress was his biographer and the title of her book was "All In," and I gave up trying to parody reality. ... should affairs get the Romance tag? I guess so. Here's a question: Why do people say that his wife must be embarrassed? Hint: She didn't mess up or break a sacred trust. The only person who should be ashamed is the one who cheated.

First up, Lee Stranahan has a newsletter. I like Stranahan, so here's a shameless plug for Stranahan.

Here are two clips from Penny Arcade. Well, there's one. Here's two.

Thinking about math is painful. No, really.

Mice are helping to save the world. No, really. What do you mean that link is a year old?

Have you helped to Kickstart Rogue to Redemption yet? If not, and you would like to, here's the spot to click. The Coles have always done right by me; I expect they will continue to do so.

And, finally, some feel good pictures from the archives. Smoosh the Cat!

Now, to get to doing my actual writing I'm supposed to be doing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Last Politics Post for Awhile

Standard politics disclaimer. Below the fold is politics. Do not go there if you don't want to deal with politics. Frankly, I didn't either. But, judging by the Internet, some last few things need to be said.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Random People, Random Places

I have a weird compulsion to say "hello" to total strangers when I walk past them. I feel this makes me non-threatening and friendly. Today, I said hello and asked how a gentleman was doing while we were on the elevator. He responded "Totally crappy." I told him that I was sorry and that I hoped things turned around. We spoke for a bit, general stuff like; "Things will get better." At his floor he said "I think you're right. This'll blow over. Thank you, bro, have a good night" and we went on our separate ways. I will probably never know what, exactly, had him down. And it did not matter.

Just a little story to reinforce that politics is a thing, but it is not the biggest thing.

I'm also a day behind on NaNoWriMo for electoral reasons. Yet another reason that politics is terrible. Time to play write up.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted

I voted today. While I was there, I saw a deer. I tried to take a picture of the deer, but my camera is not very good in the darkness, and I was afraid getting too close or the flash might spook the deer. So please accept my impressionistic deer photo as a new kind of art. Which probably exists elsewhere on the Web, and you are sure to mock me for not knowing this.

I named it Mosby.

Go vote, then go watch the returns come in. Or do something constructive, like write. Also, my boss did a voting sticker check. That's pretty awesome.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Remember to Vote Tomorrow

No matter which person you are voting for (even if it is a third party, or if you are taking a powder on the presidential level and only filling in things down ticket), remember to vote tomorrow if you have not already voted. If you Google "find my polling place," you should find any number of online tools to help you do exactly that. Plus, you get a neat-o sticker. Who does not like neat-o stickers?

But, after you vote is when the important part happens. Even though we might vote for different people, that doesn't make us mortal enemies. Politics, particularly since the Internet moved into its more recent incarnations, has become a poisonous cesspool of tribalism and angst, like a bad high school revenge antics movie without the heart warming redemption at the end. Err, assuming it isn't one of the murder-revenge movies. We're not that bad yet.

I can almost guarantee that probably anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of the people I know will vote for differently than me tomorrow (of the subset of people I know who will vote tomorrow.) Likewise, I'm willing to bet many of the people who vote the same way as I do will do it for different reasons of varying levels of in synchness with my own political philosophy and ideology.

Ultimately, no matter who you vote for, things will not get better unless you do something. Cut a check to a cause you support. Give blood. Maybe just write a nice letter to someone you know who likes to get handwritten letters. Your reach may not be long enough to impact the world; most people's reach is limited. You're going to spend most days interacting with a few dozen people at most, so make that count. Who you voted for will, after tomorrow, be merely a data point in your life. A rather insignificant one, at that.

This is not to denigrate anyone's political theories or opinions. It is simply the fact that when it is time to decide whether to give to charity, help your family or assist a stranger on the side of the road -- Romney and Obama become minor figures that do not deserve much (if any) screentime in the drama of our lives. They've unfairly monopolized our thoughts for the last several months. Our time could be productively used doing other things that make us (and those we love/exist within the same world as us) happy or more comfortable. This is a necessary evil of our as-close-as-we-feel-comfortable to democratic process. After tomorrow, it's over. Let's wash oour hands of it, move on with our lives and go back to ignoring whether the country is red, blue or purple.



I still hate people; but this is about how you treat persons. A fundamental difference I don't think I know how to explain better than that.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Day 4 Update

Day 4: 7,400~ words. That puts me slightly ahead of the day to day words-to-day curve to hit 50,000. So far, I'm taking it slow and steady. I'm also keeping in mind that people publish Stephen King, so I don't need to worry too much about quality.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Things Matt Links: Nov. 2, 2012

Have you paid your start of the month bills? If not, hop to and be depressed. Welcome to Day 2 of NaNoWriMo, though I haven't done my writing for today yet, so no major updates like yesterday. It is still early enough you can recover if you haven't started yet!

First things first, writing this much can be painful. Luckily, science is here to help. Hopefully, no one takes this advice seriously and beats themselves up to make writing easier.

I don't know how I was never exposed to this before. Not sure you want to read it? Here's a quote: "When I was at school, I was taught that 'good manners are contagious' but this is clearly bullshit." Clearly, you should read it.

More science marching forward, a nanotube chip breakthrough. I'll be totally on the level with you all, I'm only vaguely aware of what this could possibly mean. Most high-tech breakthroughs for me are put in two categories: Will bring Matt closer to a robot car and Not important. This, tentatively, is in the first category. Let me know if I should put it in the second.

Here, though, is something that will potentially bring us closer to a robot car. Imagine if we could teach robots to drive by having them watch people drive. Well, good drivers drive. Also: How do I not have a robots tag yet?

Here's a quick note on Sandy photos. Remember people: Don't be suckers.

Speaking of Sandy, the Red Cross could use your help.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Day 1

Today has been slow on the writing front. Namely, we're about 1,700 words after the first spurt of writing. There's still some more to get done today (namely, my goal is to get to the point where our hero and his trusty companion make it to the giants' lair, so probably another thousand words or so.) One thing I've found is that I actually like this story. I've decided that instead of giants and regular sized people, the story is going to be about mice and human scientists. I'm going to avoid spoilers, but I also like the ending. The mystical artifacts are actually things that have gone missing from the laboratory that the scientist wants back, which he enters into a pact with the mouse: If the mouse finds his missing items and returns them, the scientist will agree to stop his testing on animals and free the ones he has in captivity.

Now, since simply writing such a cheesy story (see what I did there?) was going to be too easy, I've added a layer of challenge. That is this: Since the main of the story is told from the point of view of the mice, who live in a small community in the sewers of any city, U.S.A., with everything above ground simply being The Sky (sort of like Fraggles and Outer Space, I realized after writing these first few pages), they should never call themselves mice. They also really shouldn't take much special notice of their mousey features. Having a tail or whiskers is normal to them. Like I explained to someone, we wouldn't have people say: "My brother, the human, said," so the mice are just mice. They'll not refer to rats as rats; their rather large, wild predators that hunt in packs through the sewers. Birds and stray cats on the surface are sky creatures; people are giants.

I don't know why the mice all have Biblical names (including minor ones), but I do like it. I also like that I've decided our hero mouse is not the most competent of the scouts; the story begins with him being caught trying to sneak out after curfew and being chewed out for his incompetent nightly excursions that have cost the community two of their other scouts. There are some obvious influences that you can see right away on the story (see the reference to Fraggle Rock above), but I also see obvious Red Wall type allusions. Probably Mouse Guard too, if I had read more than the Free Comic Book Day Mouse Guard story. Even though I haven't received my copy of Mice and Mystics, that's probably nestled somewhere in my subconscious and driving the plot and characterization. So, despite initially not being too in love with this topic, I am actually falling in love with the story potential and the characters.

National Novel Writing Month Tip 01: Write. No matter how bad or clunky the words feel: Write. You cannot edit an empty page. I think I should make that a quote for the blog and on my Facebook page, since it is probably the cornerstone of my developing writing philosophy.



Do you want updates of the Mouse Story as I write it? Contact me, and if there's enough interest, I'll transfer the file to Google docs and post updates with my NaNoWriMo blog updates.