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Month: July 2003

Two year window

The Red Sox picked up a pitcher at the trade deadline, to nobody’s surprise. But it’s a really interesting trade — I’m coming to the conclusion that Theo Epstein has some kind of a mind control ray. Follow this one with me:

A couple of weeks ago, the Red Sox traded Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez to the Pirates for Scott Sauerbeck and Mike Gonzalez. Sauerbeck and Lyon were the meat of the trade. Sauerbeck is a very good lefthanded reliever, and Lyon is a young guy with promise but a tendency to be wild. Good trade for the Sox.

The Pirates soon reported that Lyon was injured, and complained that the trade should be redone. The Red Sox held firm.

Then, today, the Red Sox traded Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez to the Pirates for Jeff Suppan, Anastacio Martinez, and Brandon Lyon. Yes, that’s the same Martinez, Gonzalez, and Lyon. So — for those of us keeping score — that comes down to trading Freddy Sanchez for a really good lefthanded reliever and a guy who’s won five in a row including three complete games and two shutouts. Suppan led the Pirates in innings pitched, ERA, wins, and was second in strikeouts.

Now, Freddy Sanchez is a good prospect, but I believe the Red Sox just traded him for two of the three best pitchers on the Pirates. That’s what you call a steal. It’s incredible that Epstein managed to pick up three quality pitchers over the course of the season without really touching the deadly Boston offense.

I don’t think you can count on Suppan to keep on reeling off five game winning streaks, but when you’re pitching for a team that’s averaging over 6 runs per game, you get a little more leeway. I’d be really surprised if the Sox don’t make the playoffs. How’re their chances against Oakland’s starting rotation? Frankly, I’d rather they get the Yankees bullpen.

The other cool thing about the trades this year is that they aren’t just about this year. Everyone’s contract expires in 2005 — so there’s another year of opportunity before (probably) Pedro moves on, and maybe Nomar.


Tonight was the first Boston flash mob. (The mailing list isn’t hard to find, but I think I won’t link to it; email me if you want to know.) It went OK. I showed up and got instructions around 6:50, and hit the designated spot at the designated time. People were kind of quiet, as per instructions, but not really. Then someone hushed the crowd, and the crowd obeyed. Cool.

A minute passed.

I started whistling Happy Birthday, since we were all there to buy a card for Bill. People picked it up.

I made as if to sing a bit of Happy Birthday, but a woman caught my eye and shook her head. I stopped. We whistled a few more bars of the song.

She caught my eye again and mimed clapping. I nodded back at her. We got the applause started; the entire mob caught it.

We stopped, and the crowd dispersed.

Good mob. Needs more interesting things to do; this one was really a repeat of the rug mob from NYC without quite as much focus. But it’s a nice start.

Larry Niven, you were right.


Not so big on free speech in Iraq.

During a patrol in Tikrit early Wednesday, U.S. forces came across a black flag strung up in front of a local government building. The writing mourned the passing of Odai and Qusai.

After asking his translator to read the gold and white lettering to him, U.S. Lt. Col. Steve Russell, whose 4th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion is leading the raids in Tikrit, took out his pocket knife and cut it down, crumpling it in his hands before taking it away.

Also of note: Mahdi Obeidi, the helpful scientist who handed over the centrifuge parts over to the CIA, says those infamous aluminum tubes really were for rocket launchers. Of course, it’s all a plot to distract us from the truth. Whatever that is.

Back in April, I did some numbers on Bush’s pre-war speeches. I had a feeling back then that people would start pretending the WMD claims didn’t matter. I was right. Den beste has forgotten his own words, apparently. The State of the Union speech convinced him that the purpose of the war on Iraq was disarmament. Well, as I said in April:

“When my President tells me we’re going to war for a purpose, I expect that purpose to be fulfilled. I expect his rationale to be justified… I really want to know if our President’s claims about threats can be relied upon or not. Is that so much to ask?”

Those who don’t care about Presidents misleading them say the war is justified anyhow, and it’s not like anyone cares. Sure. That’s why India and Germany are refusing to send troops to help out. That’s why Bush is seeking European help in Iran. Get with the program: trust matters.

And that’s where we link back to the beginning of this post. We need to carry out our promises in Iraq. One soldier restricting free speech — not really a big deal, and you can’t take it as indicative. But you can keep an eye on that sort of thing. It must not be allowed to be a trend.

China syndrome

The DoD just published its annual report on the state of China’s military (PDF). It’s fascinating reading. The issue of Taiwanese independence continues to be of paramount importance to China and drives much of their military effort. This, in combination with their concern over a remilitarized Japan (which is very understandable), throws interesting light on the Korean Peninsula semi-crisis. It’s clearly important to take China into account when considering Japan’s response to North Korean saber-rattling.

There’s also the question of how quickly China would move on Taiwan if the US was ever unable to defend Taiwan. Answer: very quickly. Getting caught up in a war on the Korean Peninsula could be very damaging to Taiwanese sovereignty.

Overall, China’s military is fairly backwards, although large. However, they seem to have a fairly solid idea of where the problems are and are very interested in fixing those problems. Read at least the executive summary.

Gen conclusion

Let’s wrap this puppy up, shall we?

In my frenzy of Gen Con recapping, I missed two purchases. First off was Mechanical Dream, a product of my lust for weird French RPGs. Alas, Steam Logic Editions is actually from Quebec. However, that minor flaw doesn’t seem to have kept them from producing the sort of surrealistic dream of a roleplaying game that I expect from the French. It’s a bizarre industrial fantasy world without any humans at all; the social structure of the world is predicated on a specific kind of fruit. If you don’t eat one every week, you die. I have not yet penetrated deeper into the system than that.

Also, like everyone else at the show, I got Arcana Unearthed. It’s got a lot of really solid rules innovations, unsurprisingly. I like what he’s done with spells, and I like what he’s done with templates (extending them to weapons and spells). I really like his approach towards non-human PCs, as well; it’s a lot like Savage Species but a little more relaxed. Most of these mechanical tweaks could be imported into an existing campaign easily.

On the other hand, the book as a whole is tied very tightly to a given setting. Cook’s work on reimagining the classes is great, but it makes Arcana Unearthed almost useless for implementing an existing setting in D20 terms. You can simulate the Grey Mouser pretty well with fighter and rogue levels; you can’t do a damned thing with him under Arcana Unearthed rules. In a weird sort of a way, it reminds me of Talislanta and Jorune — the setting is not quite as baroque, but it’s certainly a deeply variant take on the whole fantasy concept. This is not a bad thing per se, it’s just going to be interesting to watch how it does in the market.


This time, it’s stuff I did at Gen Con.

Showed up Thursday afternoon. It’s really nice to have Gen Con within a reasonable distance from where I live; much better than when I lived in California. Not losing two days to travel greatly increases the chances that I’ll go back next year. The cab from the airport to the hotel was quick, checkin was easy, etc.

I hit the dealer’s room first. Assume that filled in a lot of the excess time throughout the con, and you’ll be right. Much hellos, hiyas, good to meet you face to face, and so on. The dealer’s room was enormous, but poorly laid out. Upper Deck had a huge chunk of the room, in which they erected some kind of a mini-mountain. Absolutely nobody visited it and they cut off a third of the room, dramatically reducing traffic in that neck of the woods. Ooops.

Thursday night I played Fulminata with a very good group, including the semi-legendary Lisa Padol and Nick Wedig, who I just remembered I recognized from the UA group. In the first big coincidence of the show, Jess Banks (who I’d never met face to face) showed up to take the last slot. As always, the secret to good gaming at Gen Con is to play obscure games; the only people who show up are dedicated. Mike Miller, who wrote Fulminata, GMed an excellent humorous game. I had a blast.

Friday morning I played Buffy with Mike Grasso GMing. The plot was tres cool; 80s girl band crisscrosses the country and fights vampires. Some really nice roleplaying, a good group, and a fun time was had by all. The second big coincidence was sitting down at the Buffy table next to Jeff Wilder.

That was it for formal roleplaying, although I also got into a pickup game of D20 Modern that Mike also ran. Very Shadowrunesque, and amusing as all getout. I ran a drow who was fond of collecting family pictures from the desks of companies he, um, visited. I like quirky characters; what can I say?

I played a ton of Shadowfist. I still suck. My weekend record in tournament games was 1-6.

The recommended Indianapolis bar is the Claddagh. They treated a fairly inebriated group of gamers very well indeed. It takes a strong man not to blink when someone orders a Guinness with a shot of butterscotch schnapps. (I would also be remiss not to mention Nicky Blaine’s if you want a pricy martini bar.) The Alcatraz brewpub was merely OK.

Finally, the White Wolf end of the world party was about what it was. While waiting to get in, I did get a cynical laugh out of the guy behind me who was whining that he shouldn’t have to wait in line because he knew Steve Weick. “Dude, that’s Stewart Weick up there keeping you from getting in; why don’t you complain to him?” No coherent reply ensued.

Blairing inconsistencies

Adam Tinworth brought me up to date on the David Kelly story, and rather than just rephrase his words I thought I’d simply quote his comment:

You might want to note that Dr Kelly has turned out to be much more senior than the Government tried to make out. You might also want to note that one of journalists Kelly spoke with has a tape of the conversation. The story moves on, and it’s swinging back in the BBC’s favour.

The indications are that David Kelly was in fact somewhat of a guru on the subject of WMD, and that the BBC is going to be able to back up its claims. In related news, more Britons trust the BBC than trust the government. The Guardian also informs us that Geoff Hoon (the Defence Secretary) has been caught lying about whether he’d ever met David Kelly.

Edit: Tinworth, not Tinsworth. Ten lashs with a wet noodle for me.

Taking stock

Various and sundry commentators have been making alarmed noises about the new DARPA-organized political stock market.

There are a few rational objections. Someone over at CalPundit noted that the system may be very gamable by people who want to conceal the possibility of their own terrorist activity. Kevin Drum notes that there’s the possibility of pissing off allies who would prefer that we not enable a market for futures based on negative events occurring in their country.

On the other hand, I’ve got to look askance at the people who are complaining about the immorality of betting on tragedy. You may not have noticed, but the New York Stock Exchange trades stock in real companies. Those companies employ real people. Every time someone sells a stock short, they’re betting that something bad will happen to those people — something that may cause salary reductions or layoffs.

“Oh, but that’s not a matter of life or death.”

No. Not usually. But sometimes it is. And any way you cut it, it’s still bad things happening to good people.

Stuff I got

I always spend too much money at Gen Con.

Dark Inheritance totally tweaked my fondness for Christian mythos modern fantasy. It’s also a very nice piece of work; I concur with the reviews linked to on the Mythic Dreams Studios site. Probably useful for all kinds of D20 Modern games. I think the coolest aspect of the game is that it’s a D20 Modern fantasy game that blows off the D&D tropes. It goes way beyond the suddenly limited-seeming settings that come with D20 Modern.

I picked up a lot of Dying Earth books. I was quite pleased to have done so. Pelgrane was also repping the new Hogshead Publishing. Somewhat to my surprise, Hogshead’s D20 Modern Crime Scene books were really good; I’d have bought them if I hadn’t been buying so much Vancian goodness. They’re professional-looking and the material inside is good law enforcement reference material. Considering that Mark Ricketts only bought the company in February, I am deeply impressed that he got quality product out so quickly.

Time of Crisis has a superhero team made up of simians, so you know that’s good. Also in the simian category: Gorilla Warfare, which on brief readthrough is one of the better Feng Shui supplements I’ve read in a while. John Seavey is moving onto my list of RPG writers to watch.

I preordered Phil Brucato’s new game, Deliria. I may come to regret it, but it looks kind of like what I wanted Changeling to be.