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Month: February 2004

Another primary thing

Wisconsin is voting today. Kerry was polling way high. Figure in the Edwards surge, and Kerry wins with Edwards coming in second by a decent margin (I’d say he beats Dean by around 5 percentage points).

Edwards sticks in the race till Super Tuesday to see if he can beat Kerry head to head. It wouldn’t surprise me if Edwards wins Georgia, but that’s the only Southern state on March 2nd. If Edwards wins Georgia and still has money flowing, he may keep it going till March 9th to take advantage of a Southern slate of primaries. If Edwards surprises everyone, which is possible, he could catch fire.

Dean is set up to make a long term political difference if he can keep his organization in motion. I’ll be watching closely. I don’t think he’s going to stay in the race after today, however.

Monday Mashup #28: The Waste Land

Today, being a holiday, did not feel much like a Monday. Ooops.

Anyhow, I’m going to steal a mashup from Jere today. He says he’s seen a lot of campaigns that draw from T.S. Eliot’s "The Waste Land." I’ve never been lucky enough for that, although I did once play a paladin who drew religious inspiration from an old battered copy of Selected Poems. (Eric Hargan’s Catholicworld campaign. Eric is now writing policy studies for the Federalist Society, among other lawyerly pursuits.)

But I risk digressing into the treacherous political waters so evident in my previous post. Ladies and gentlemen, it is not yet April; it is not yet the cruellest month. Still, we may still breed lilacs before their time is come.

Limits of disobedience

Warning: the post ahead touches upon devil’s advocacy regarding recent gay rights events in San Francisco.

Dan Gillmor wonders whether the Mayor of San Francisco should be ordering city clerks to disobey the law. Larry Lessig chimes in. His argument is that the executive branch has a duty to disobey unconstitutional laws. I find myself pensive. Ashcroft and Bush no doubt feel that it is unconstitutional to force them to provide counsel to Jose Padillo.

I am also not convinced by the McCain-Feingold argument. There is a distinct difference between vetoing an unconstitutional law and refusing to obey one after it has become law.

Perhaps the last paragraph saves the argument:

“One critical caveat: The rule of law requires some coordination. So if a court decides that a law is constitutional, while an executive has the right to disagree, and even push to have the decision changed, it is important that the executive follow the law at least with respect to that case.”

But we do not say “Well, Bush is wrong, but it’s all right for him to make that decision until the courts overrule him.” We say “He should never have done that.”

Elsewhere, there’s the obvious comparison to Roy Moore:

“The fact is, Newsom has a duty to uphold the law, as Moore did as a judge. If he is not willing to do that, he can resign in protest. That would have been the truly principled thing to do. He could have also issued a proclamation that he thinks gay marriage would be a good thing, and his office could even issue a proclamation that he considers all those couples to be married, even if the law doesn’t allow it, and give all those couples copies to put on their walls.”

And yes, Newsom is violating his oath of office. No less so than Roy Moore, unless you think Newsom’s oath is less meaningful than Justice Moore’s. Of course, most of the people using this line of argument didn’t disapprove of what Roy Moore did.

It’s not that I disapprove of what Newsom did, because I don’t. I’m glad he did it. It’s that my approval for Newsom’s actions forces me to reconsider my disapproval for Roy Moore’s actions. I do not have a dispassionate argument for approving of the one while disapproving of the other. Neither does the guy quoted above, unless he was saying that Moore should have resigned.

Schoolhouse Rock had best never return to the airwaves. It would be far too complicated.

Dire predictions

Vernor Vinge was right. Again.

There is a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 5 that can be triggered by loading a bitmap image. No Javascript, no ActiveX, nothing fancy. You load the bitmap, and arbitrary code runs on your system. Or you load a page with the bitmap embedded in it. And it’s not a particular bitmap, it’s a general technique.

If you are currently browsing the Internet with Internet Explorer 5, you can be owned at any moment.

Reminder to self: code is data is code is bits. It’s all binary at the bottom.

In all fairness

Adriaan Tijsseling posted a comment about an hour after I bitched about ecto and offered to help. So kudos; that’s good support. If I’d read the help files, I’d have found the support email address, albeit it doesn’t appear on the ecto home page.

Good things about ecto: Textile preview support. Customizable HTML tag insertion. Per-blog default settings. Debug console.

Things I don’t like as much: Can’t see the continuation and the main entry in the same window. Still somewhat confused about the local copies vs. posted copies of any given entry. Current blog should be displayed somewhere so I don’t have to guess/remember. No free beer.

Few software packages provide that last, however.

Misty memories

The Fog of War blew me away. Unexpected, revelatory, all that good stuff. Mostly just plain compelling. Errol Morris got Robert McNamara to open up about a lot of his life, albeit not as much as one might like about Vietnam, and it’s really just a gripping picture of a man who was under immense pressure and who made mistakes.

I can’t say it answered many questions. MacNamara comes about this close to saying he screwed up Vietnam, but he doesn’t really get deeply into the matter — which is interesting, considering that he flat out says he acted immorally in World War II. Vietnam is closer to him, for some reason. It framed some questions for me: was MacNamara a man with a finely developed ethical sense who acted against that sense out of loyalty to Johnson and Kennedy? Was he a man with a finely developed ethical sense who had an easy time ignoring that ethical sense in order to achieve the desired goals?

He’s not really giving us many clues. He may be lying, or not.

Still, it’s a portrait of regret whether or not it’s a portrait of mendacity. How often do you hear a former Secretary of Defense say he may have been a war criminal?

Charmed, I'm sure

The second Wednesday Weird invokes the Charm Other spell:

This spell shows up in several roleplaying games by many different names. Leaving the target charmed by the spellcaster, it can turn an enemy into a friend. Generally, the target will be susceptible to suggestion by the caster and will completely believe anything the caster says.

This effect is not restrained to the fantasy genre. A telepath might gain the same effect through mental powers and one of the most famous examples of this “spell” was in a certain film by George Lucas. “These are not the droids you are looking for.”

Now your job: How does this spell get weird?

This wouldn’t work in the straight D&D sense, but…

The Livid Dragon is a little tavern along one of the main trade routes in the region: gets a lot of merchants, a fair number of adventurers, plenty of problems but plenty of fun. And it’s very profitable for the owner.

It’s also where you spilled a Charm Person potion a couple of weeks ago. An honest mistake on your part; you were going to slip it into that suspected assassin’s drink, but someone bumped your elbow and you wound up wasting the thing. No great loss, since they aren’t that expensive.

Ever since then, your luck has been astounding — in the Livid Dragon. Nowhere else. In the Livid Dragon, there’s always a serving boy when you need one. You generally draw the card you need when you’re playing poker. You’re pretty sure you’re more charming there, judging by the number of people who make amorous advances. The owner forgets to charge you for dinner more often than not.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except that other taverns are getting jealous, and the good fortune you get in the Livid Dragon is balanced by bad fortune everywhere else.

WISHes for games

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes:

WISH 84 asks:

What five games would you love to run/play if you had a willing group and a weekly time slot?

I’m going to leave out games I’m in or running now, of course (yay, Champions and Buffy), and also games I expect to be able to play in soon — I’m looking at you, Star Wars and Charnel Gods and espionage game! You can also assume that I wish I could go back and play in Carl’s games again. Those disposed of:

  • Over the Edge, preferably with the dark edgy gritty aspects in full swing.
  • Vampire, and stop laughing. I haven’t played enough of this to be burned out on it. I’m thinking straight up Vampire Revised here, without all the various escalation bits. Or maybe the new version, if it resonates with me.
  • Dark Inheritance, which I will never ever get to play, but a guy can dream. I find the D20 Modern system to be fairly elegant and I really like the Dark Inheritance mythos. Also, it’s the best example of modular setting design ever.
  • The Dying Earth, so that I might properly indulge my inner Oscar Wilde.
  • Trinity, the best SF game ever, not that I’m biased or anything. Yeah, I know the political history is a bit wonky but you can fix most of that if you aren’t hampered by the need to shoehorn Aberrant in there.

Nobilis is a very strong runner-up.

Ecto disappointment

It would be great if Ecto was actually working, instead of getting caught in some messed up state where it can’t remember my accounts. And losing data.

Seriously: it seems like the worst thing you can do when transitioning from shareware to commercial product is to make the commercial product less stable than the old version. I’m looking forward to Zempt for the Mac.