Archive for October, 2007

Andrew Meyer Apologizes

23:03 30 Oct 2007

I wanted to write a satirical version of this report, but the report itself, and the direct quotes in it, read like satire to me already.

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Presidential Propaganda

22:42 29 Oct 2007

ThinkProgress notes that Fox’s promotion of “great moments in World Series history” included Bush throwing the first pitch in the 2001 Words Series. Kept to merely that, it might not have been that bad. But they added in a dramatization of firefighters watching Bush throw the first pitch on television, and admiring the strike he threw… So ridiculous. Such pure propaganda, identifying The Leader not merely with the national pastime, but as someone who is admired by right-thinking (or heroic) folks everywhere.

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More Feinstein Fun

23:57 28 Oct 2007. Updated: 01:30 29 Oct 2007

My reactions are probably out of proportion at this stage, but Senator Dianne Feinstein drives me crazy. Her actions on the Southwick nomination were terrible, she’s way further to the right than her constituency, and then there’s stuff like this:

After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage and French toast, Bush popped back for what [Feinstein] described as a frank two-hour conversation, mostly about foreign policy.

“I found the discussion extraordinarily positive,” Feinstein said. “I came away with a very different view about him.”

As for the president’s performance on the ground?

“It was a wonderful thing to see, to be candid,” Feinstein said. “I saw a warm, caring human being.”
Matier & Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Oct 2007


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Arbitration and Regulation

23:58 26 Oct 2007

Americans reading this blog may or may not be aware that many companies they do business with, especially credit card companies, have binding mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts. This means that in disputes, the consumer cannot take legal action through the courts and must instead go through an arbitrator—one selected by the company.

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Europe and America

21:00 25 Oct 2007. Updated: 08:31 09 Jun 2009

Perry Anderson’s ‘Depicting Europe’in the London Review of Books is an excellent overview of Europe’s current political condition, its recent past, and its near-term direction. Anderson makes clear the widening democratic deficit in the European Union, an unsurprising outcome of having elites create new layers of separation between them and those they rule. He also argues forcefully against the idea that the EU and the US are at loggerheads, or that they represent two markedly different political philosophies, and that despite surface appearances, Europe is politically more a US pawn than it has been for decades.

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Pete Stark’s Apology

23:56 23 Oct 2007. Updated: 01:27 24 Oct 2007

Last week the Democratic Congressman for Fremont, Pete Stark, angrily reacted to the veto of the S-CHIP children’s health insurance bill by saying:

“You don’t have money to fund the war or children, but you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement”


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Profound Argumentation

23:40 22 Oct 2007

Or maybe not… This evening I found myself perusing the WP:LAME page on Wikipedia, home to what the editors have chosen as the “lamest edit wars”. And wow, people do get very, very involved in long-running disputes over amazing things.

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The Daily Show Online

23:39 21 Oct 2007. Updated: 02:40 22 Oct 2007

Viacom’s new site for The Daily Show is quite good. I love the show, but didn’t watch it that often even when I had a television feed. And now, all its archives are available online in one massive time sink.

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Sesame Street Pinball Cartoon

23:38 19 Oct 2007. Updated: 02:39 20 Oct 2007

This video is the “one to twelve” pinball cartoon that used to be on Sesame Street. I recall it as being my favorite thing on the show, apart perhaps from some of Kermit the Frog’s reporting (I always loved Kermit). I remember watching the show and hoping for the pinball cartoon, and not being sure why.

Watching it now reminds me of that feeling, reminds me of the Bronx, and makes me consider the state of consciousness I had as a child. It must have been quite different to have been so fascinated by the shows I was fascinated by, and yet there’s a very strong common thread of thought from that child to who I am now. And it’s still fun to watch the cartoon…

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Blog Reading

22:54 18 Oct 2007

This is a list of the blogs and sites I read on a regular basis, not including those of friends.

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What Can’t They Get Away With?

23:49 16 Oct 2007. Updated: 01:52 17 Oct 2007

“They” refers to the people who run this country, the political establishment—not just politicians but the various big shots who control most of the wealth and power. They’re getting away with what seems like an awful lot these days, what with continuing an unpopular and illegal war that they started on false pretenses, torturing people, imprisoning people without charge, brazenly running a surveillance state, presiding over a continuing massive transfer of wealth to the rich, stifling (and in some cases attempting to effectively criminalize) dissent… it goes on and on.

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It’s Just That Simple

23:55 15 Oct 2007. Updated: 02:37 16 Oct 2007

Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. …Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
—Hermann Goering

Contemptible as he was, it’s hard to argue that Goering didn’t know what he was talking about here. Sadly those aren’t the words of a cynical theoretician, but rather those of a man who was part of a warmongering cabal who successfully manipulated an entire population into atrocities.

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Joining Facebook

23:52 14 Oct 2007. Updated: 00:55 15 Oct 2007

After years of ignoring social networking sites, starting in 2002 with Friendster, I finally joined Facebook yesterday.

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Al Gore Winning the Nobel Peace Prize

23:52 12 Oct 2007. Updated: 02:23 13 Oct 2007

I’m not particularly impressed by this award. While I think that global warming is a hugely important issue, and can see why they want to call it out with a prize, I don’t think it’s really related to “peace” as such. Furthermore, I’m not convinced Al Gore has done all that much. [more...]

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23:30 11 Oct 2007. Updated: 23:13 28 Jul 2009

A colleague gave a presentation at work today on Pylons, a web framework for python. I was curious about the slides he was using, because they looked like they could be in S5, which I like. So afterwards I asked him, and he said that he wrote them in “rest”, which confused me at first because I thought of the REST approach to Web architecture. He was in fact talking about reStructuredText, a plaintext markup system that I’d never encountered before.

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High School Students should have Freedom of Speech

23:43 09 Oct 2007. Updated: 00:45 10 Oct 2007

Recently a Marietta, Georgia school has come under fire for allowing a student to publish, in the school newspaper, an opinion piece comparing homosexuality to Down’s Syndrome. School officials are standing by the decision despite the furor (and some national media attention) the piece has caused.

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Yankees Out of Playoffs

21:32 08 Oct 2007

Cleveland eliminated the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this evening, defeating them 6-4 in the Bronx, ending their season and perhaps the managerial tenure (and career) of Joe Torre, who’s managed them since just after the 1995 season.

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Larry Craig Sticking Around

23:37 07 Oct 2007. Updated: 00:38 08 Oct 2007

So apparently even if you plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of “disorderly conduct” for trying to solicit sex in a men’s room, you can stay in the Republican party… and remain a Senator.

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Medal Inflation

23:51 05 Oct 2007. Updated: 01:12 06 Oct 2007

It appears that the amount of medals worn by generals in the US military, and possibly in many other military organizations as well, may be negatively correlated with real military success. That is, the more medals worn, the less actual military success. Most of these examples are from this TomDispatch article.

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The Red Door Closes

23:52 04 Oct 2007. Updated: 01:24 05 Oct 2007

The Red Door closed last weekend. I was there for the (sniff!) last time on Saturday, and had typically excellent food. Including the legendary French Toast, which was fantastic. But that’s it, no more Red Door.

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Lorwyn First Impressions

23:07 02 Oct 2007. Updated: 14:11 27 Jun 2013

I went to the Lorwyn Prerelease on Sunday, down in Santa Clara. I don’t think it was as much fun as other Prereleases I’ve been to, but I’m not sure that’s down to the set itself.

I went on Day Two, which I don’t normally do, and the atmosphere is always different on the second day. Many of the players there have already played with the cards, having been there on Day One, and that sharply reduces the sense of anticipation.

I only played in one flight, the first individual flight of the day. I normally play both individual and team, and that also made a difference to how much I got into it. That, and the fact that Seth was out of town, and we usually go to these events together. Again, because I went on Day Two, fewer of the sfmagic crew were there, another negative.

So I should have gone on Saturday like usual, I suppose.

The set itself is heavily “tribal”, with the tribes being Merfolk, Faeries, Elves, Treefolk, Elementals, Goblins, Kithkin, and (kind of) Changelings. With new rules meaning that non-creature cards can also be tribal, card interactions have another bit of complexity. It also means that there’s another axis besides color that determines the best makeup of decks.

The last major tribal block was Onslaught, from 2002. That was just before I started played seriously again, so I don’t have much experience with that kind of block. Kamigawa block had a number of tribal interactions (Samurai, Spirits, Ninjas, etc.) but that was a subtheme in comparison to how important tribal is in Lorwyn.

My card pool didn’t seem fantastic to me, and I don’t think any of my rares were really amazing. I ended up playing Blue/White, with splashes for removal in Red and Black, with Merfolk being my major Tribe. I had some good interactions there, for example Summon the School, a sorcery that puts 2 Merfolk tokens into play and can be returned from graveyard to hand by tapping 4 untapped Merfolk—plus a lot of Merfolk creatures, including one that draws you a card every time it’s tapped. That was probably the best combo my deck had. I had some good small flying creatures, giving me one of my two win conditions. The other win condition was the quite strange Forced Fruition—a 6-mana Blue Enchantment that reads “Whenever an opponent plays a spell, that player draws seven cards.” I’m not at all convinced by it, but in a stable board position, it’s definitely a shot at winning. The problem is that if your opponent has bombs, or answers to whatever is holding off their creatures, they will draw them, and kill you well before they have zero cards left in their library.

My first match in the format was a terrible, terrible beating. I really had no chance against the deck I played. In both games, I played a few small creatures while my opponent played a couple of small creatures, a card that lets him take the best card in my hand, a bunch of removal to eliminate my creatures, and then a 6/6 monstrosity that I couldn’t block at all. He did that in both games, and later revealed that he had two copies of that monstrosity. Except for the small creatures he played early, which weren’t that good, I felt like I was playing against a highly consistent Constructed deck—not a good feeling when you’re playing Limited.

My next two matches were better. In round two, I got the Merfolk combo going, and overwhelmed my opponent in one game, and then he got horribly mana-screwed. In round three, I had board parity when I played Forced Fruition, and my opponent just couldn’t kill me before running out of cards, in either game.

In round four, my opponent and I drew to guarantee ourselves 2-1-1 records and three packs of Lorwyn. We then played out the match, and he had the better deck. He overwhelmed me with removal and fat creatures in game one, although it was really Final Revels, which lets him kill all creatures with 2 or lower toughness, that did it—hardly any of my creatures had more than 2 toughness, and I think he killed something like five of them with it in game one. Hard to come back from that.

Game two was more interesting, and highlighted how both tribal interactions and paying close attention to the cards are critically important. I had a creature that tapped to either remove all creature types or add all creature types to a creature for a turn. He had a small Elemental that was attacking me, and had fetched a much larger Elemental (10/2 trample…) that used the new “Champion” ability—when you play it, you have to remove an Elemental from the game (or your new Elemental goes bye-bye). I thought he was playing around the trap, but he didn’t see it, and when he eventually tried to add pressure by playing the 10/2 Trampler, I tapped my creature to remove all creature types from the lone Elemental he had in play… bye-bye 10/2 creature. That was good. Then I played Forced Fruition, and things were looking reasonable except for the fact that I was on nine life and all of his creatures appeared to be quite large. Then I missed a chance to win. He still had that small Elemental out, and had the Equipment Deathrender on it. The key here is that if the creature equipped with Deathrender dies, he can put whatever creature he wants from his hand into play. I tried to bounce that creature to his hand (to force him to play it again and draw another seven cards), and in response he targeted it with an instant that kills target non-Elf creature. Really, the play should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t, and he kills his creature, puts a huge Treefolk into play for free, uses Final Revels again to wipe my board, and kills me with very few cards left in his library. The right play? I still had my creature that manipulated creature types. All I had to do was give his Elemental all creature types in response to his “kill non-elf” card, and it would have been countered, his creature would have been bounced, and he would have had to play a bunch more spells to win—spells that would have decked him due to Forced Fruition. But I missed that interaction, even though it was extremely similar to the play that killed the 10/2 Trampler.

We’d already agreed to draw, but it’s just another reminder that paying attention to all the details is critical in MTG, and that the little things can matter a lot.

I’m not sure how I feel about the set yet. I like the intricacy exemplified by my last game, and I feel as if that kind of thing will be important. On the other hand, I’m not sure how balanced the set is for Sealed, because bomb rares really seemed to matter a lot, in the games I played and the games around me. That does tend to be the impression people have early in a set’s lifespan, though, and perhaps in a few months it will be clear that many solid builds are possible even without bomb rares. Another friend suggested that the imbalance in this set is not the bomb rares, it’s the runs of tribal cards that work together—it’s very hard to control print runs for that, and people who get pools with tons of synergy are going to have considerable advantages.

Then again, that might make it great to draft. Our first draft is tomorrow night, and hopefully we’ll manage to draft both this week and next, as we usually do (but we didn’t do quite as well as usual as a group this time, so it might be a struggle to do both weeks). In any case, a new draft format is always fun—I’ll be sad to see Time Spiral go, since it was an excellent block in just about every way, but that’s how the MTG commercial juggernaut rolls…

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LibraryThing Unread Book Meme

21:48 01 Oct 2007

Radegund recently posted a “book meme”, listing the 106 (no idea why that number, but hey) books most listed as “unread” by users on LibraryThing (a kind of book version of Last.fm). I hadn’t known about LibraryThing before, and it looks interesting. In any case the idea is to list how many of the 106 you’ve read, so I did that.

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