Archive for March, 2007


23:59 31 Mar 2007

So the good guys in this movie are the ones who kill off newborn males if they’re “defective” in any way? Hmm…

Despite being a Frank Miller fan, I’ve never read the 300 comic. It just didn’t seem as if it would have enough to hold my interest (plot is rather important to me). Seeing the movie version hasn’t changed my mind.

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Photo Management

23:53 30 Mar 2007. Updated: 14:26 31 Mar 2007

I’ve been using iPhoto since I got my Powershot G2 years back, and it’s never struck me as anything more than “okay”. Sure, it’s simple, and does the simple things well, but when you have thousands of photos, you need something else.

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Checking for position:fixed Support

23:57 29 Mar 2007. Updated: 07:13 30 Mar 2007

The CSS fixed value for the position property is extremely useful, particularly in allowing for persistent navigation on long pages. Naturally, versions of IE before 7 don’t support it. I’ve been getting around that using JavaScript.

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Partisan Abuse of Power

00:15 29 Mar 2007. Updated: 09:49 30 Mar 2007

A classic example of trying to deny the obvious can be found in this clip on the allegations of partisan misuse of government resources. The woman being interviewed is the head of the General Services Administration, which is supposed to deal with logistical support like supplying the government and finding/managing office space—and which, as a publicly-funded agency, is prohibited from using its funds, facilities, or employee time for partisan purposes.

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Comics: Planetary and Others

23:51 27 Mar 2007

I’m still waiting for Powers 10 to come out—it may be out, but the local comic store I go to (Comix Experience on Divisadero) hasn’t gotten it in yet. So I got some other things instead.

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Any Justification Will Do

23:04 26 Mar 2007. Updated: 07:21 27 Mar 2007

It should be apparent that a combination of power and secrecy is an invitation to abuse. I’m not sure why that would ever be controversial. It’s not a guarantee of abuse, but it certainly makes it more likely.

And yet significant numbers of people seem sympathetic to arguments otherwise—arguments that such-and-such an authority should be allowed to operate in secret, and should simply be trusted. Such a susceptibility must exist, I think, in order for authorities to consistently trot out the obviously inane reasons that they concoct to defend their secret practices—these excuses must take hold, or at least confuse, some people, or they’d try something else. I wonder if the main target they aim to confuse is the press, who will fall over themselves to give equal (or more than equal) time to these claims.

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Choosing Copyright Terms

23:44 25 Mar 2007

It’s worth spending the time to consider what licensing/copyright/usage terms to apply to one’s output, whether creative or otherwise. The default is copyright, which applies (at least in the US and the EU) as soon as one creates something. This means that the work is given the full range of legal copyright protections—regardless of whether they’re wanted or not.

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DOM ‘Live’ Iteration Gotchas

23:17 24 Mar 2007. Updated: 23:45 25 Mar 2007

When you’re manipulating the DOM and are working with elements through list or array iterators, it’s important to remember that the arrays/lists are “live”—otherwise you’ll end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out why your code is, for example, skipping nodes.

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AutoHotkey Script for Last.fm

23:54 23 Mar 2007. Updated: 09:20 03 Apr 2007

My site is down at the moment, but the blog posting goes on…

I’ve been playing with AutoHotkey (which I highly recommend), and automating some things that I should have had working a long time ago, like a hotkey for pausing WinAmp (someone else has written a WinAmp script for AutoHotkey). After getting used to that, I decided I wanted one for the Last.fm player, so I wrote it.

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‘A Pointed Visit’

23:33 22 Mar 2007. Updated: 00:36 23 Mar 2007

The viscous remains oozed between my fingers. Already, it was beginning to disappear, passably similar to rapid evaporation.

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Web Development Tools

23:37 21 Mar 2007. Updated: 00:39 22 Mar 2007

These are the tools I use when doing web development.

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Some JavaScript Thoughts

23:47 20 Mar 2007

I’ve had a heavy JavaScript workload for a while, and these are some thoughts/observations.

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Document Conversion

03:08 19 Mar 2007. Updated: 23:18 19 Mar 2007

I spent a significant chunk of the weekend getting files into my Subversion repository. As I was trying to recreate historical versioning from a a bunch of files that weren’t in version control, it took rather a lot of time to do this. I’m rather happy to finally have all my personal stuff under version control. However, there’s a lot of cleaning up left to do.

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The Allure of End Times

23:56 18 Mar 2007. Updated: 03:08 19 Mar 2007

What is the allure of believing that we’re in the last days of the world? (For “world”, you can substitute “civilization as we know it”, “era”, “good times”, and so on.) The allure of thinking that our times are the end times is powerful indeed, and has been throughout history.

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Finally, a Direct Flight

23:32 17 Mar 2007. Updated: 01:51 19 Mar 2007

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for over eight years, and over that span I’ve travelled to Ireland many times, probably making more than thirty trips—each one of those being more than one flight. Now it looks like direct flights are on their way.

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MTG Posts">Writing Better MTG Posts

23:30 16 Mar 2007. Updated: 23:34 26 Jun 2013

I’m not very happy with my post from yesterday. I think it was uninspired, didn’t have any great insight in it, and lacked any stylistic qualities to make up for these shortcomings. In addition, I think it would be hard for someone who doesn’t play MTG to get much out of it, while simultaneously lacking detail or analysis that would interest an MTG player. Okay, so it was bad—how can I do better?

I’m talking specifically about MTG posts. I don’t write many, but I am considering writing about my Wednesday night draft each week. Partly because I think it might have a positive impact on my play, and partly because MTG is a big enough part of my life that I think I should write about it. (This holds true even though right now it’s a smaller part of my life than it has been in over five years, and I’m just not playing that much.) Another reason is that I think it’s a good challenge to try to write about it so that it’s interesting—without losing the plot altogether and writing something like Jonny Magic and the Card-Shark Kids (which you’ll note I’m not linking to).

Beyond all that, I’m going to write about just because I want to write about it.

But posts like yesterday’s are far too poor to be repeated weekly (or ever), and the first step towards improvement here is structure. Creating a structure that I’ll write in means that’s time and effort I don’t have to spend planning, and it should also push me to make sure that individual sections are interesting.

What’s important in a draft report?

Expression of my experience and feelings. The idea isn’t to have some kind of pseudo-objective transcript of the games, but rather to be a vehicle for self-expression. If I’m frustrated and whiny after a loss, either that should come through in the writing, or how I got past that should come through in the writing.

Analysis of the draft and games as empirical data about certain approaches. MTG is a very complicated game to play well, and theories about how to do so, particularly within specific card sets, vary significantly. Each theory is just that, a hypothesis awaiting testing. The testing is imperfect, and provides far too small a sample size, but it nevertheless represents more or less the only data available. At the very least I should have a theory which I am able to describe, and analysis of how that theory performed that night.

People and personality. These are the things that make descriptions of the game interesting in a non-technical sense. Players have distinct and interesting personalities, and who they are as people—or at least some part of that—should come across in my writing. This was conspicuously absent from my post last night, and all the players mentioned might as well have been ciphers. (Even as ciphers, they could have been a lot better, improved immeasurably just by linking to their statistical profiles on http://sfmagic.org/. ) Reading yesterday’s post did not inform the reader, for example, that Jim is a critical mainstay in our group and that he is one of the reasons for the group’s longevity; nor did it even hint at the fact that Seth is at heart a filthy combo player who offsets his thirst for lethal Rube Goldberg card interaction devices with an earnest eschewing of tournament-style play.

Accessibility. I would like people who are not MTG players to be able to understand and enjoy the posts. At the same time, I don’t want to clog up the narratives with explication that will bore those who have a firm grasp of the game.

Joie de jouer. I want to communicate not merely that I love the game, but at least some inkling of why I love the game, and what about it keeps bringing me back.

So, a structure to support that:

  • Introduction/Scene Setting. A brief overview of the atmosphere that evening, any notable changes inside or outside the game, my state of mind, and so on.
  • Overview of drafting. This will be marked out as distinct from the article, and I’ll probably incorporate ways for experienced players to hide it.
  • Discussion of my plan for the draft. (This does assume that I have a plan.)
  • Overview of the draft pod, complete with who was where, who played what, brief notes on each of the players (including stats links), and my feelings on the overall skill level.
  • Overview of my draft, with focus on any difficult decisions and on where things went right/wrong. This will be accompanied by longer explanations for non-players, that will be marked as distinct from the rest.
  • My decklist. Duh. With links to card descriptions, which will also be present when I mention cards in the rest of the post.
  • A discussion of each of my matches, possibly with photographs of tricky board positions, and definitely with at least some information about my opponents.
  • The overall results, possibly with some commentary on season standings, races, etc.

That seems like a structure that should work significantly better. It won’t guarantee good posts on the topic, but had I had it last night the post would have been better.

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sfmagic Draft Report, Wed 14 Mar 2007

23:50 15 Mar 2007. Updated: 22:00 26 Jun 2013

I drafted Red/Blue (again) last night, and managed to place 2nd out of 7 (losing to Seth in what was effectively the “final”).

In the pack I opened, I took Sulfurous Blast out of a pack that was spread across most of the colors. For my second pick I took Pardic Dragon over Crookclaw Transmuter and Riftwing Cloudskate. Red looked open… but it wasn’t really, with my upstream neighbor being James—Red was one of his four colors. Still, a fair amount of it showed up. I picked Blue as my second color mainly on the strength of some Fathom Seers, which are rather strong in my opinion. I also got a Wildfire Emissary, which I think is a rather strong card.

After two packs I was solidly in Blue/Red, with two Snapbacks for bounce, two Fathom Seers, and a couple of other morphs, plus the Sulfurous Blast and the Dragon and a single Empty the Warrens. For pack three, I wanted some Shaper Parasites, Stingscourgers, and Dead/Gone. Of those, I only saw Stingscourgers—but I picked up three of those. I also took some Aquamorph Entities, which didn’t turn out to be great. I thought I’d be able to use them as my main attack while bouncing things, but that didn’t work out.

Overall the deck was solid, with good tempo, reasonable card drawing, but not enough evasion.

My first round was against Quyen playing Black/White. I managed to win this despite playing terribly, completely spacing on the fact that Spirit and Vampiric Link do not protect players from lethal damage, and thereby leaving the win on the board for several turns against him. But I’ll take whatever wins I can get.

My second round was against Jim, playing Green/Red. He had some excellent green fat, including Timbermare, and I thought he was going to win those games. Timbermare is pretty damn good against me, especially since bouncing it just makes it a guaranteed hit the next turn. The critical mistake in this match might have been his forgetting to activate the Protection from Red on his Thick-Skinned Goblin, and losing the card to Wildfire Emissary for no gain. I think he might have recovered otherwise.

The final round against Seth was extremely close. He squeaked by in the first game, helped by Aven Riftwatcher, which gained him enough life to stay out of my range. He also needed to draw land, I’m pretty sure, to cast Ivory Giant to get in for one more than my life total… I think I could have survived by being more aggressive. In game two, he had a lot of 1-toughness creatures, and I had Flowstone Channeler. I also had lots of Stingscourgers, so it was rapid beatdown followed by game three.

Game three went to extra turns, and again Seth was able to gain ridiculous amounts of life with the Riftwatcher, life that kept him just out of range. I drew far too much land in this game, at one point in the midgame seven of my eight cards were land. That didn’t help. Nor did drawing Sulfurous Blast the turn after he dropped me to three life—a turn before and I would have wiped his board. In the end, I got him down to four—one away from the lethal Sulfurous Blast that would have made the game a draw. He won the group, and I placed second. Sadly, the difference in value between his first pick (Damnation, $16.30) and mine (Torchling, $2.97) was rather significant.

I’m pretty sure I could have won that match had I played better. I’m not really playing enough, and too many mistakes are creeping in. On the other hand, it’s still fun, and I don’t really have the time or inclination to make a big push towards improvement. So I’ll have to accept the mistakes (and losses) as they come.

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Monitor Covetousness

23:22 14 Mar 2007. Updated: 00:23 15 Mar 2007

When I first started looking at the Dell 2407WFP monitor, it cost something over $1100. Which is obviously a ton of money to consider spending on a monitor. So I’ve waited a while, hoping that it would drop in price. And it has.

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23:55 13 Mar 2007. Updated: 09:27 14 Mar 2007

For years I’ve had no coherent backup strategy. For someone who does so much on computers, that’s rather insane. It’s been a project of mine to have a comprehensive and regularly-executed backup plan for about a decade. I’m not quite there, but I think that it’s finally within my grasp…

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Vocabulary from Sartre

23:47 12 Mar 2007

Reading Sartre (specifically Essays in Existentialism) tends to be fairly frustrating, primarily because comprehending what he’s talking about isn’t easy (at least for me). One of the reasons that it’s not easy is vocabulary. I’m not even counting explicitly foreign words like ebschattungen, or explicit (foreign) neologisms like négatité.

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Document Formats and Authoring Tools

23:56 11 Mar 2007. Updated: 13:35 08 Apr 2007

I usually write documents in one of three formats: text/blog/wiki (yes, that’s one format), HTML, or RTF. What I write in each is different, and I’m mainly happy with them. But I’m least happy with RTF, and I keep trying to find a replacement for it.

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The Old ‘My Dog Ate Your Evidence’ Excuse

18:36 10 Mar 2007

The US government claims to have lost interrogation video footage of Jose Padilla, in a case where such footage is critical to Padilla’s claim that he was tortured while in custody. Padilla’s imprisonment was already a disgrace, but this appears to bring it into the realm of the truly ludicrous.

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23:43 09 Mar 2007. Updated: 01:44 10 Mar 2007

I started using Last.fm quite a while back because they support tracking what my music player plays, and I like to show that info on the front of my blog. But I didn’t use their other features until recently.

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