January 30, 2014

Scott Olson Obituary and Memorial Information


Scott Daniel Olson
On January 26, 2014, Scott Daniel Olson , age 47 of Marion Iowa, left this Earth for a better place after a fierce battle with influenza and pneumonia.

Born on April 3, 1966 to Dan K. and Jeanne Field Olson in DeQueen, AR. His family moved to many places while his father worked on Heavy Construction Projects. Scott attended schools in Colorado, Georgia, Montana and Minnesota, graduating from Darlington Academy in Rome Georgia. Some of his happiest years were at Darllington where he captained their Scholar Bowl team and won a National Merit Scholarship.

Scott graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota with a dual major in History and Computer Science. He remained in the Twin Cities Area for most of the rest of his life working as a Software Engineer usually on Aircraft or Defense projects. He moved to Marion in 2010 to take a job with Rockwell Collins.

On December 30, 1998 Scott married the love of his life, Felicia Elizabeth Knight in St. Paul, MN. He took on a wonderful step-son, Damion Paul Schroeder and in October of 2003 they added their beloved daughter Danielle Marissa, making their family complete.

Scott loved airplanes, bird watching, games of strategy, traveling to National Parks and cooking for family and friends. Even as a small boy he enjoyed hunting and fishing especially with his father and brother James.

Scott is survived by his loving wife of 15 years Felicia Olson and his daughter Danielle both of Marion, IA, his step-son Damion Paul Schroeder of Birmingham, AL, his parents, Dan K and Jeanne F. Olson of Kalispell, MT, his brother James (Laurie) Olson and nephews Alexander and Zachary of Bellevue, WA.

There will be a celebration of Scott's life later in the year.

In lieu of flowers, a Memorial for Scott D. Olson account has been set up at Collins Community Credit Union in Cedar Rapids to help the family with expenses.
You can mail donations to:
PO Box 10500
Cedar Rapids Iowa 52410-0500
Memorial Fund for Scott D. Olson

Or if you have an account with the Credit Union you can call:
319-393-9000 and transfer funds.

Alternatively, you can use Paypal:

Posted by Jvstin at 6:15 PM

January 28, 2014

Rest in Peace, Scott Olson

One of my two best friends, Scott Olson, passed away on Sunday after a long and hard bout with double pneumonia.

Friend, Husband, father. Roleplayer. Wargamer. Traveler. He taught me so much, it will be hard to explicate what he has meant to me.

And in a very real way, Scott Olson (along with his wife, Felicia) saved my life. Seriously.

Rest in Peace, Scott.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:53 AM

October 28, 2013

Ten things I have done that you probably haven't

I live a boring life compared to,say, John Scalzi, and I've done this before but here goes:

1. Had my photography featured on their website by a local National Public Radio affiliate.
2. Been to the Headwaters of both the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers.
3. Stood on a Glacier (Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park)
4. Had a Professor whose experiment (in aquaculture) wound up on a space shuttle mission
5. Ridden every line of the NYC Subway at least one stop, and many to full length.
6. Worn a kilt at a Scottish Renaissance Faire
7. Played laser tag in a cemetery
8. Hit a tombstone with a car
9. Been to a *triple* Continental Divide (at a spot on US 53 near Hibbing, Minnesota)
10. Been tuckerized into a book (The Exiled Blade by Jon C. Grimwood features a "Captain Weimer")

Posted by Jvstin at 7:46 AM

May 21, 2013

Gone Photographing--Vacation

Hi all.

AS some of you know, I am taking a long trip, starting on 5/24, that will take me to Colorado for the better part of two weeks.

As a result, I've been shy in taking requests for book reviews and interviews (yes, you in the back, people do approach me for such things).

When I get back, the second week of June, my usual schedule will resume--and I will hopefully have a boatload of pictures to share!

Posted by Jvstin at 8:13 AM

September 5, 2012

Update on Car, Camera and Catastrophes

Hi all.

Well, my Labor Day visit to Iowa went pear-shaped 5 miles from my friends' house, when the car started to act wonky and the check engine light came on.

Labor Day weekend is not the best weekend for this to occur. Initial codes from the car suggested transmission (eek!), but the final diagnosis and repair on Tuesday was a Engine Crankshaft sensor. So, hundreds of dollars instead of thousands. Plus, a lost day at work, and a very moody weekend.

So I missed SF Signal's Hugo win, and a lot of other things.

This outlay, though, has pushed back my camera replacement, and has bollixed my hopes for a vacation in Colorado this October.

Bad Luck seems to follow me everywhere, huh?

Posted by Jvstin at 9:05 AM

August 12, 2012


On August 11,2012, in the fortieth year of my life, I fired a gun for
the first time. A 20 gauge shotgun.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:54 PM

July 17, 2012

The Story of my camera--and you can help

Well, the news on my broken camera is bad.

Very bad.

I had thought it was a loose wire, or something that caused my camera several weeks ago to simply stop working. Sending it in for warranty, I received notice from Canon yesterday that the failure was non warrantable. According to them, the failure was due to "liquid damage to internal parts".

Their estimate to repair the camera is practically the cost of just buying a new camera. $900.00

Unfortunately, I cannot afford to do either. I scrimped and saved for the last one, so I am looking at months and months
to do it again.

In talking with some fine folks, it has been suggested I put out a shingle and ask for donations, and perhaps sell prints and photo albums of my work in a fundraising capacity via something like Indiegogo.

Part of me wants nothing to do with this idea. There are far more worthy causes out there worth your money than giving me money so that I can take photographs again. But, then, again, if I do not ask...


If you wanted to donate money directly to me via, say, Paypal, my email address is jvstin [at] gmail.com

But if I were to do a "sell prints and photo albums fundraiser", that would require me to have a pool of images to choose from. I have thousands of pictures on Flickr, and many of you have seen what I share.

What do you like? What sorts of pictures (or if you have bookmarked a favorite, even better) would interest you in buying a print or a photo album of? Send me email at jvstin [at] gmail.com and let me know.

Best Regards,

Paul Weimer

Posted by Jvstin at 5:20 AM

December 31, 2011

The end of 2011 is nigh

2011 is just about done, and is indeed done in some places as I write this.

Here's to a better 2012 for everyone, okay?

Posted by Jvstin at 8:19 AM

July 19, 2011

Sic Transit Borders

I've always liked Borders.

One of my favorite bookstores, before it was destroyed, was the Borders at the base of the World Trade Center in NYC. I remember back in the 80's when I wanted my cousin, who was taking us to the top of the WTC at the time, to let me buy a book there...

When I lived in California, the nearest bookstore to me was the Borders at a shopping mall a short bus ride away. With a movie theater and restaurants there, going to that mall for book shopping, movie watching and a meal was a lot of fun...

In Minnesota, I began to watch the slide and fall of Borders with sadness. I slowly transferred my affections to B&N as the Borders visibly and irrevocably lost their quality. I resisted for a long time, because of the goodwill that Borders had built up over the years.

And now it is all gone. And we will all be poorer for it.

Rest in Peace, Borders. You will be missed.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:37 AM

June 1, 2011

Psychology of the day.

No matter how nice you think you are, or even are, there are going to be people who won't like you and would rather not have you around. This is true, whether or not you are talking about a personal face to face relationship, a job, or even participating in a role playing game.

My problem, and it is MY problem and not the problem of the people who dislike me is this. Faced with that, my reaction is to immediately conclude that I am a piece of sh!t. It's my fault, its my shortcoming, its my failure. My failure at the cave. An psychologically underdeveloped part of me thinks that if I just fix something, those people will like me. I'm not a bad person, I'm a good person. If only they will see.

Its rubbish, of course. People are not guaranteed to like you, no matter how good of a person you are. It's not because you aren't a good person, and its not because you are a piece of sh!t. It just is.

I wish I could internalize this. It would save me a lot of internal psychological tsuris.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:21 AM

January 17, 2011

Dream: The Magical Family

In this dream, I was not the family friend of My Friends the Olsons™, but instead a magically talented family who lived in a large Victorian house. The dream started in medias res ,with us trying to get to the nursery. Queen Mab (from Faerie) was trying to steal their baby, and had warded the usual routes to the nursery while she worked on the abduction. The patriarch of the family, his wife and I managed to get there by cutting holes in a window (which was magically locked by Mab) and crawling along a ledge to get into the Nursery and save the baby.

Once that was done, I headed downstairs to meet a Harold Bloom/Daniel Pinkwater sort of character. He was cooling his heels waiting for an interview, and wanted "3 books" to read while he waited. I finally took him into the depths of the house to interview my friends, and we passed by a bookcase. Inside that bookcase were all manner of (to our world) imaginary books, which stunned and surprised the literary expert. "The Complete Magical works of Shakespeare" was but one of the volumes that he lusted after, in the locked glass case. We also noticed that somehow, inside of the sealed case, water was dripping on the books, suggesting yet another attack, and so I was off again to warn my friends...

And then I woke up.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:24 AM

December 31, 2010

Travels in 2010

My travels in 2010.

I didn't go very far in 2010, mainly because of the Olsons financial situation, and a lack of personal time off in my new job.

Where I laid my head to sleep:

Blaine, Minnesota
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Two Harbors, Minnesota
A campground near Ely, Minnesota

From Home...
Furthest North traveled: Grand Portage State Park, on the Canadian Border
Furthest South traveled: Solon, Iowa
Furthest East traveled: Copper Falls State Park, Wisconsin
Furthest West traveled: Jordan, Minnesota

In 2011, I've already promised to visit the Olsons often when they move away down to Iowa, and I owe a visit to the East Coast.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:24 AM

November 22, 2010

Fringe like Dream

An intriguing dream last night.

Fringe style, I found myself in an unfamiliar alternate world. Bereft of a car, much to my chagrin, I managed to ride bus lines until I reached home. My extended family's home, that is. Everyone had been waiting for me, since we were all going somewhere in several cars (Where that was was not clear). It was also clear that in this alternate universe, my mother's side of the family, including me, all lived together in one large house.

Feigning the need to go to the bathroom, and grabbing a couple of roleplaying games left outside (was the alternate me donating them?), I wandered through this house. I was looking for my own room, but only found a kitchen, a small sitting room, and a bathroom with two cats. One cat was an ordinary black and white, the other though looked like she was made entirely of yarn! Both were friendly and seemed to know me, or the alternate me. I sensed my mother's impatience and returned outside. My mother made a comment that suggested that the alternate me from this universe could not drive of course, so my mother would.

And then I awoke.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:05 AM

September 1, 2010

Dream: Blue and White Heroes

This was a fun dream

Premise: In this dream, the New York Giants football team, its support staff and associated people had a secret dual role. Not only were they an NFL franchise, but they secretly were devoted to fighting supervillains and terrorists. Think of it as sort of a Gi-Joe esque franchise. Playing football was just part of their portfolio. But they keep it secret.

And in this dream, I was part of the NY Giants "team". For some reason, I, along with some of the other NY Giants staff, were flying over South America. Ostensibly, we were on tour promoting the franchise. We landed on a deserted strip, looking for a Cobra-like organization.

We found them, all right, a bunch of men and women with heavy weapons who quickly captured us. The older members of the organization kept saying that we would be ransomed by the Mara family, while others like myself kept looking around for chances to turn the tables on the enemy. They didn't consider *me* a threat, but they considered one of my partners, a man who resembled one of my co-workers at Horton, dangerous, and kept an eye on him. I had not yet managed to get myself and the others free before I woke up...

Posted by Jvstin at 5:06 AM

April 9, 2010

Choose your own Tentacles

Via my brother, a link to a tentacular small Choose your Own Adventure story on Posted by Jvstin at 5:26 AM

December 30, 2009


Via my friend Kevin Brady, here is a blog entry on English Russia on the "Seven Wonders of Russia"

It's a mixture of human and natural wonders. Beautiful photographs of all of them. My favorite has to be the Geysers. Did you know that while Yellowstone has most of the Geysers in the world, many of the rest are in Far Eastern Russia?

Anyway, go and see the Seven Wonders. You could probably do a "Seven Wonders" meme for any sort of polity, countries, states, even cities.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:37 AM

August 27, 2009

I am guilty of Racefail


I did not know, until today, the origin of the phrase "Great White Hope". I did not know it was a racially charged term. After all, I named my car the Great White Hope. I ignorantly may have offended friends, acquaintances and any other POC.

I no longer will refer to my car, or any future cars of a white color, by that name.

I am guilty of Racefail.


Posted by Jvstin at 3:08 PM

August 13, 2009

Experience the Planets Project

Experience the Planets

"Experience the Planets(ETP) is an ongoing project...Developed by Greg Martin along with a collaborative group of like-minded artists, ETP breaks away from fanciful notions of space and embraces the more challenging task of creating scenes informed by science factor hypothesis."

But, really, words can't convey the beauty of the artwork. Go see them for yourself.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:18 AM

July 1, 2009

Hint to Microsoft regarding their IE marketing campaign

Featuring projective vomiting in an ad for IE 8 is not a winning strategy!

Oh, and alas, how far has poor Superman (ie, Dean Cain) has fallen in taking this gig.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:28 AM

Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!
I've only been to Canada three times:

The first time was with my family on a trip to Niagara Falls. This trip was noteworthy for the Station Wagon we rented with the weird mushroom smell and my older brother dangerously speeding (so much that the speedometer went "beneath the dashboard"). While in Niagara Falls, US, we decided to briefly jump over to the Canadian side and see the falls from that side too.

The second time was my 2007 visit to Jasper, Banff and Waterton Parks in Canada with My Friends The Olsons™.

The third time was just this past April on my own personal trip that led me to Thunder Bay.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:00 AM

May 20, 2009

The Bookstore in the Manure Tank

The Bookstore in the Manure Tank

Via the Newscut blog, a unique bookstore complex on a farm in east-central Wisconsin.

I need to make a trip to see this thing. It's a 5 hour drive one way, though, so what I am thinking is maybe a visit is in order when I finally make a trip to Chicago...

(I suppose my Chicago-area friends might find it easier to get to than me. Its in Princeton, Wisconsin).

Posted by Jvstin at 8:44 PM

April 15, 2009

My NPR Name

My NPR name is Pajul Fallis.

What would your name be if you were the kind of person who would be a National Public Radio correspondent? You don't hear any Mike Wilsons or Heather Browns on that network. If you want to speak in the same rarefied air as Korva Coleman or Renita Jablonski, you need a name that combines exotica and whimsy. Your first name is your real first name with your middle initial inserted into it wherever you choose. Your last name is the smallest town you've ever visited in a foreign country.

What's your NPR Name?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:07 PM

December 24, 2008

Twas the Night

Twas the Night Before Christmas
And in the Olsons' House
Paul Weimer was housesitting
Two dogs, but no mouse

I had no stockings,
no chimney to spare
With sprained ankle
I tread with due care

Christmas presents would wait till the morn
So movies and blogging I did forlorn
All was quiet in the deepening night
Myself soon bound to bed tonight

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and everyone take care of yourselves.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:45 PM

October 5, 2008

Birthdays today

It's the birthday of the Czech dramatist and president Vaclav Havel, born in Prague (1936). In the 1960s, he wrote a series of absurdist plays that attacked the Communist Party, including The Garden Party (1964) and The Memorandum (1965). He said, "If you want to see your plays performed the way you wrote them, become President."

It's the birthday of the architect Maya Lin, born in Athens, Ohio (1959), who was an architecture student at Yale when she entered the national competition for the design of a Vietnam Memorial, and won it. She beat out her own professor, who gave her a B- in his class. Today, more than a million people travel from across the country to see it each year.

Today is the birthday of actress Kate Winslet. Forget Titanic, she has done much better work in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Quills

Today is also the birthday of my friend Kris Keegan. Happy Birthday, Kriz! Mazel tov!

Today was the birthday of my late father.

(And yes, today is,um, my birthday, too.)

Posted by Jvstin at 7:51 AM

September 27, 2008

Vacation Photos Day 1: Badlands

Originally uploaded by Jvstin
I am slowly choosing and uploading pictures from my vacation.

This is a picture from day one, when I took the Badlands Loop on the way to Wall.
Posted by Jvstin at 10:40 AM

September 26, 2008

Vacation to South Dakota: Stats and Facts

Stats and Facts from my Vacation:

Total Mileage: 2975 miles
Amount of Gas bought: 98.098 Gallons
Average MPG: 30.32
Number of Batteries changed in my car: 1
Number of Engine Overheats: 4 (all homeward bound)
Number of Wind Turbine Trucks Passed on the Highway: 4
Number of States Visited: 3 (South Dakota; Wyoming, Iowa)
Number of Interstates Clinched: 1 (I-90 in South Dakota, drove its entire length)
Number of National Parks Visited: 7 (Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Minuteman Missile Site, Pipestone)
Number of Scenic Byways Driven:3 (Spearfish Canyon, Needles Highway, Badlands Loop)
Number of State Parks Visited: 1 (Custer State Park)
Number of City Parks Visited: 2 (Memorial Park, Rapid City; Falls Park, Sioux Falls)
Number of Cabela's Passed: 3 (Owatonna, MN; Mitchell, SD, Rapid City, SD)
Number of State Capitols Visited: 1 (Pierre, SD)
Number of Museums Visited: 2 (SD Air and Space; Museum of Geology on campus of SD School of Mines)
Highest City Reached: Custer, SD (Elevation 5300 feet).
Highest Elevation Reached: Not sure, some of the points on the Highway were higher than Custer. It's less than 6300, I never got a chance to go up to a driveable peak because the gravel road looked poor after the storm...
Number of Hailstorms Witnessed: 1 (it left deposited hail that looked like snow in the morning!)

Posted by Jvstin at 7:27 PM

September 19, 2008

Off on Vacation...

Okay, off to South Dakota. See you all at the end of the month.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:44 AM

December 17, 2007

Happy Holidays

Hubble Card

Posted by Jvstin at 7:49 PM

July 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

Posted by Jvstin at 8:24 AM

June 10, 2007

Pictures from my Vacation

Pictures from my Vacation are now available:

Paul's Canadian Adventure

Lake Louise
Originally uploaded by Jvstin
This is one of the most photographed lakes in the world, Lake Louise, in Banff National Park. As you can see, it was still partially frozen when we arrived. Victoria Glacier is in the background providing a beautiful backframe for the lake.
Posted by Jvstin at 8:10 AM

June 9, 2007

Home again, Safe

Home again, safe and sound.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:03 AM

May 26, 2007

Off on vacation...

Hopefully we'll get off on time. And I'll see you all on June 11th...

Posted by Jvstin at 4:50 AM

March 6, 2007

The city where you can change countries 5 times in a walk

52 - The Enclaves and Counter-enclaves of Baarle (B/NL) strange maps

Via the blog Strange Maps, the strange town of Baarle, on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. Its not what you would call a *smooth* border by any means...

Posted by Jvstin at 4:45 AM

February 2, 2007

Weekend Assignment: Super Bowl

Weekend Assignment:

Share your memories of the first Super Bowl game you remember seeing

John Scalzi, cool SF author, does a few memes on his AOL journal. I've decided to start to participate, here and on my LJ.

Anyway, here goes.

The first Super Bowl I remember watching start to finish is, ironically, the last Super Bowl the NFC Champion Bears were involved in, Super Bowl XX.

I had started watching football a few years before, and remember seeing bits of a couple of the previous Super Bowls, but Super Bowl XX, Bears versus Patriots, was the first time I really made it into a "watching event".

Of course I was rewarded with mostly non competitive Super Bowls for years as a result, Super Bowl XX itself being an egregious example (Bears 46 Patriots 10)...although there were a couple of NY Giants wins early in that stretch, too.

However, it all reinforced my love of the game.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:30 PM

December 10, 2006

Happy Holidays

Readers of Blog Jvstin Style
Originally uploaded by Jvstin.
Posted by Jvstin at 1:23 PM

September 4, 2006

September 4, 476 AD

On September 4, 476 AD, the barbarian Odoacer, former mercenary leader for the Western Roman Empire, deposed the last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, and proclaimed himself King of Italy.

The (Western) Roman Empire was at an end. The Eastern Roman Empire, of course, would last nearly 1000 years longer.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:24 AM

August 14, 2006

The Maquis

Maquis (World War II) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fun Fact of the Day. The Maquis from the Star Trek Universe were not sui generis, but in fact were named after the French resistance forces during WW II.

I had no idea until today that the two groups shared the same name.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:02 AM

July 27, 2006

Minor Fame

The Washington Monthly

Kevin Drum mentions some ideas for "minor fame".

I know that I wouldn't mind being tuckerized, even under a pseudonym of some sort, into someone's novel or short story. I know that if I actually ever did write a novel (with all of those ideas running through my head), I'd be strongly tempted to do it to other people.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:50 PM

July 21, 2006

Augustus' birthplace found?

Augustus' birthplace believed found - Yahoo! News


A team of archaeologists announced they have uncovered part of what they believe is the birthplace of Rome's first emperor Augustus, up on the Palatine hill.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:45 AM

July 11, 2006

Shine on you Crazy Diamond

Pharyngula: Shine on, you crazy diamond

Seminal founding member of Pink Floyd Syd Barrett has passed away.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:56 PM

May 21, 2006

Coal Miner's Grandson

Liz has an excellent entryon Coal Mining, OSHA, and how it ties into her own family history.

My grandfather was a coal miner, too, in Wilkes Barre, Pa. My mother IS a coal miner's daughter.

Now, in the somber light of a day where I am down and depressed, I realize just how, if things had turned out different, my grandfather might have been claimed by a tragedy much like the horrible ones in coal mines recently.

And with that...its possible that my mother, and thus myself, would not even exist today.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:33 AM

December 14, 2005


MPR: Launch of advertainment assailed by Twin Cities critics

This spring KARE-11 will be the first in the nation to convert its long-running morning news show into a long-running commercial, called "Showcase Minnesota." You'll see anchor hosts sitting in comfy chairs, with guests snuggled next to them, to talk up the latest in food, fashion and gadgets.

They are doing a sort of preliminary version, called "Holiday Showcase Minnesota" now.

It's really a return to the first days of TV, writ large, when advertised products were worked into the shows in a blatant manner. Everything old is new again...

Posted by Jvstin at 9:25 PM

December 11, 2005

R.I.P. Richard Pryor and Eugene McCarthy

The controversial, convention-breaking comedian Richard Pryor died yesterday, at the age of 65.

In addition, former Minnesota senator and presidential candidate, the anti-war, convention breaking Eugene McCarthy also died yesterday. His run for President, against fellow democrat Lyndon Johnson was widely thought as a major reason why Johnson in the end did not seek re-election.

Rest in Peace, the both of them.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:14 AM

November 10, 2005

Rest in Peace, my Father

WW II veteran worked at Bayley Seton for 45 years

Lifelong Staten Islander Frederick (Freddy) Weimer, 80, a retired hospital employee, died Monday at his Oakwood home, following a long illness.

Born in Tompkinsville, he was brought to Rosebank as a child and lived there for 35 years. He also lived in several other Island communities before moving to Oakwood 11 years ago.

Mr. Weimer graduated from St. Mary's High School in 1942, just before entering the U.S. Navy. He served as a seaman second class aboard the USS Block Island, the only American aircraft carrier sunk by the Germans during World War II.

Six sailors perished in the torpedo attack on the Block Island by a U-boat patrolling the Atlantic Ocean near the Canary Islands on May 29, 1944. But the remaining 951 Navy personnel, including Mr. Weimer, were evacuated safely to other vessels. He was discharged in 1946.

When he was younger, Mr. Weimer loved riding and kept a horse named Domino at stables on the South Shore.

"Horses were his love before we fell in love," said his wife of 42 years, the former Maryann Hrywniak.

Mr. Weimer was a longtime support staff employee at Bayley Seton Hospital, Clifton, working in building security, housekeeping, and the hospital kitchen. He retired in 1985 after about 45 years with the hospital.

He enjoyed watching television and the company of his family, including a nephew and niece, and his grandson, Gavin.

In addition to his wife, Maryann, and his grandson, Mr. Weimer is survived by his sons, Michael and Paul.

The arrangements, including cremation, are being handled by the Bedell-Pizzo Funeral Home, Tottenville.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:40 PM

November 5, 2005

Shades of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Photo Gallery (Grand Canyon Skywalk)

Via my friend Bridgette, a Grand Canyon Skywalk is planned to be opened in 2006 in the Hualapai Indian Reservation.

It will have glass bottom and sides...and that so reminds me of the glass bridge in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I am not sure, with vertigo, that I could manage walking this thing.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:35 AM

September 6, 2005

Amazon Phishers

Perverse Access Memory: It Was Only a Matter of Time

Just like Ginger did not long ago, this morning I received an amazon version of a phishing email.

I hate thieves. Its scary that I am becoming nostalgic for the days when spam was just annoying, not a potential route to identity theft, viruses and trojans.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:51 AM

August 21, 2005

Ruins to be flooded

NPR : Dam Project Threatens Roman Ruins in Turkey

A Dam project in Turkey, although behind, threatens to submerge the ruins of the Roman city of Allianoi forever. Unlike the removal of lots of buildings and stuff when the Aswan Dam flooded areas in Egypt, here, the Archaeologists aren't so fortunate or funded.

Thus, they are racing to finish excavating and getting "snapshots" of what the ancient town looked like before it disappears beneath the water, forever.

It's a shame, really, because what we know already suggests that this was a hub of commerce, trade and activity in the Eastern Roman Empire.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:11 AM

July 17, 2005

Disneyland and Wrong Way Corrigan

Today is a fine, fine day in history.

In 1955, Disneyland, in Anaheim California opened, to disastrous results. Rides broke down, concession stands ran out of food, and Walt Disney must have briefly regretted the gamble to open a theme park.

In 1938, Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan, took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, ostensibly to fly back to Long Beach, California. However, claiming fog and navigational troubles, he managed to land in Dublin, Ireland. Although he never admitted it, it is widely believed that Corrigan flew to Ireland on purpose, since he was unable to get official permission to do so.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:06 AM

July 10, 2005

Songs of Guernsey

NPR : Songs of Guernsey, Ancient and Authentic

A fascinating story on NPR about the Island of Guernsey, and the music derived from this unique English Channel island.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:57 AM

June 19, 2005


EPIC 2014

A creepy multimedia presentation of a possible future of our media industry.

I recall, vaguely, an SF story, whose name and author I cannot recall, where a time traveller from our time goes to the future, only to find a future somewhat like EPIC's. Most people's media content is filled with conjectures, trivia, gossip and no one pays attention to hard news anymore.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:32 PM

May 30, 2005

Oh, I wish I could see these...

NPR : Yosemite Cliffs Put on a Water Show

According to NPR, the waterfalls this year at Yosemite National Park are particularly spectacular.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:37 AM

April 29, 2005

Mongolian Anti-Bankruptcy Law

Horseman of the apocalypse - Weekend Review - Times Online

It emerges that Genghis Khan prescribed the death penalty for merchants who declared bankruptcy for the third time.

As bad as the recent bankruptcy bill was, at least we haven't descended to *that* standard!

Posted by Jvstin at 11:07 PM

March 15, 2005

Ides of March

Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Set him before me; let me see his face.

Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.

Beware the ides of March.

He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

Julius Ceasar, Act I Scene II

Posted by Jvstin at 6:56 AM

March 11, 2005

Disturbing credit card scam

MSNBC - Feds probe mysterious credit card charges

Via MSNBC, a disquieting report about how one company used small charges to people's cards in an effort to leverage and allow larger charges, with less possibility of detection by fraud agencies.

I'm going to have to check my statements and cards carefully.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:55 AM

March 1, 2005

Ad Blast from the Past

Whatever: Asimov and the Cleti

John Scalzi has a blog entry with a picture of an old ad from the early 1980's where Issac Asimov shills for a TRS-80.

It reminds me of a television commercial I recall from the same era, where Arthur C. Clarke was shilling for a new and exciting science/science fiction magazine called Omni.

As I recall, the production values for the commercial were pretty low, just like the ad that John has put up. And of course, Omni is long gone and I don't foresee Greg Bear doing a TV commercial anytime soon.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:19 PM

February 19, 2005

Oh, no, he invented Rover!

NPR : The Orb, Keeping a Robotic Eye Out for Trouble

Heard on NPR this weekend, a swedish company has invented a robotic ball. What I immediately thought of, as did Scott Simon, the NPR host, was the deadly globular ball Rover, from the Prisoner series by Patrick McGoohan.

Funny enough, Nils Hulth, the CEO of Rotundus, had never seen the show and had no idea what the NPR host was talking about. Still, it was cute to hear NPR play a few seconds of the Prisoner theme at the end of the story.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:26 AM

December 27, 2004

Thirteen things I miss about NYC

Inspired by Ginger's post about missing Houston, I will provide thirteen things that I miss about New York City.

1. Food
Real New York bagels, crispy on the outside, soft inside. Brueggers is all right, but its not quite the same. Nathan's hot dogs. Gyro from a cart on the street (although Holy Land is VERY good...). Sicilian style Pizza. Good rye bread.
2. Museums
The Twin cities have some good ones, but they can't compare to the Museum of Natural History or the MET. There's nothing like the Cloisters or the Tibetian Art Museum or the S.I. Chinese Scholar's Garden, either.
Yes, I miss subways. The light rail here is...ok, its better than Los Angeles' one at any rate. But I miss the ability to cross town easily and comfortably with a book. Even with the smells and the unusual denizens of the underground
4.The Strand used bookstore in the Village.
5.The Angelika. I saw the weirdest independent films there, and there doesn't seem to be a Minneapolis equivalent.
6 The Compleat Strategist game store
--Although the Source is a damn good substitute for it, though. But then, again, there is nothing like Jim Henley's here, either.
7.The Staten Island Ferry
I've not ridden a water vehicle since leaving New York. I'd love it if they had a water taxi from Minneapolis to St. Paul. I'd ride it.
8. Coney Island
Yeah, its dorky, but still, its a rite of passage to visit Coney Island, have a Nathan's hot dog, ride the dangerously unrepaired rides.
9. Skyscrapers
There are no such tall buildings here. If you transplanted the Empire State Building here, it would dwarf everything.
10.Times Square (not on New Year's Eve).
The people, the stuff. It's come a long way from its seedy past.
They call it "Pop" here and give me strange looks when I don't.
12. The Ocean
Lake Superior looks like an ocean...but the smell isn't right. No salt in the air.
13.The friends I left behind, and the friends I've discovered and become better friends which live or have moved to the "tri-state area".

Posted by Jvstin at 2:49 PM

December 18, 2004

Transit Map of the NYC Area

Homemade New York Subway Map - The Map Room: A Weblog About Maps

The Map Room points us to a Although I l now live a kilomile away, it was still nostaglic, and its a very well done map.

December 7, 2004

In Memoriam

December 7, 1941.

A Day that will live in Infamy.

I really want to go and see the Arizona memorial. Someday.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:35 PM

December 5, 2004

But does he live in a condo made of stone-a?

Everyone has heard the song: "King Tut"

Ginger references the song in her entry about the King Tut exhibit that will be touring the U.S. next year.

But who wrote the song?

Hint: He's written books, and a wonderful novella called Shopgirl.


Okay, he's also been in such movies ranging from The Man with Two Brains to The Spanish Prisoner to Looney Tunes Back In Action

He's hosted the Oscars.

He's written screenplays (including working on one right now for an adaptation of Shopgirl).

The answer...

Steve Martin. He has an humorous opinion piece in the NY Times today talking about the song and the forthcoming exhibit.

Steve Martin. Far more talented than any of us knew, eh? Not just a comedy actor or an actor, period, eh?

Posted by Jvstin at 9:29 AM

December 3, 2004

Least Successful Holiday Specials of all time

Whatever: The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

Via Crooked Timber, author John Scalzi lists the least successful Christmas Holiday specials of all time.

The scary thing is, compared to this fictional list, the actually-aired animated Star Wars Christmas Special fits right in with it...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:09 AM

December 2, 2004

King Tut Redux

Perverse Access Memory: Born in Arizona, Moved to Babylonia

Ginger informs us about the forthcoming tour of the Egyptian King Tut exhibit that will come to the US next year, and the debate over where to hold it in the NYC area.

From what I read of the NY Times article that she links to, the nearest stop for me on the tour is going to be way over in Chicago.

It might prove incentive enough for me to visit the Windy City at last. I missed it when I was young, I don't want to miss it again, especially since I do miss the wonderful Egyptian stuff available in the two museums in NY.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:24 PM

November 22, 2004

Three Deaths on 11/22/63

In the Agora: The Deaths of '63

Trivia Question.

What two other famous people died on Nov 22, 1963, the date of Kennedy's Assassination?

I didn't know it either before reading the linked page, but apparently C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley, along with JFK, died on that fateful November day.

I also found out this weekend that Dr. Strangelove, which debuted that winter, had contextual changes to the movie in light of the asssassination--the line about the personnel kit and "a pretty good time in Vegas" on the plane originally was a "pretty good time in Dallas".

And, there was apparently a pratfall of the President, whereupon one of the Generals comments. "Our young president has fallen". That scene, understandably, was snipped.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:21 PM

November 21, 2004

Verrazano Narrows Bridge

Verrazano Bridge Opened to Traffic

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the opening of the longest suspension bridge in the US, the Verrazano Narrows.

Old timers in Staten Island will tell you that it was the date that Staten Island started to go wrong because it made immigration to the forgotten borough practical and easy, since you no longer needed to use the ferry, or cut through Jersey, to get to "the city".

Posted by Jvstin at 9:00 AM

October 23, 2004

Happy Birthday to the Earth(?)

Today, October 23rd, is theoretically the birthday of the Earth, if you follow the calculations of 17th century Bishop James Ussher.

According to him, the Earth was created on October 23rd, 4004 BC..

I have to admit that, for a wrongheaded approach, he certainly put a lot of thought and reasoning into getting this figure. And it was in the ballpark, at the time, that other biblical scholars accepted.

Of course, not long thereafter, the new science of Geology soon made hay of Ussher's patient but highly incorrect diligent work.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:59 AM

August 19, 2004

The Car Bug

I must be hit by the car ownership bug after all.

Because, I look at a picture of a car like this one mentioned at Sadly No and I look at the car with unfeigned lust.

Mind you, I still appreciate the reading time on the express bus ;) This car, though, would be absolutely cool to own.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:23 AM

June 20, 2004


Ginger talks about a Texas-specific Civil War holiday called Juneteenth, and remarks about its relative obscurity in that weird new state of residence of hers called New Jersey.

It's briefly mentioned in papers and the radio and I remember mentions of it in NY, CA and here in Minnesota, but its not a real celebration per se. You have to admit that it IS Texas specific as far as the date itself. June 19, 1865 doesn't really register on the national consciousness.

What it represents, though, is universal: Freedom, and the end of Slavery. On those grounds, I wouldn't mind its observance spreading outward from Texas.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:35 AM

June 14, 2004

World Connections Map

Via Uggabugga, a "Mud-like" Map of the World, showing how countries are connected with each other.

World Connection Map

These people have other diagrams on their site, including (Hey, Ginger!) a War of the Roses diagram.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:51 AM

June 2, 2004

Soda versus Pop versus Coke

Via the Gamer's Nook and Neil Gaiman, a map that breaks down the percentage of people who call soft drinks by various slang terms.

I myself have started to convert to the local slang. I called soft drinks "soda" for years, since I lived in NY, which is nearly universally "Soda" country, and then in California, which is mostly "Soda country".

Now, though, everyone here calls it pop, as shown on the map. I've noticed that I have started "slipping" and doing the same, just so I can be understood better.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:04 AM

April 15, 2004

The Titanic


Today, April 15, in 1912, the Titanic sank off of Newfoundland, after striking an iceberg. The idea of the "unsinkable" ship being felled is a powerful one, wrapping up ambition, hubris and many other powerful themes. It's almost ironic that the hugely popular movie about the ship nearly avoids these entirely in favor of a love story.

It would also make a really good Monday Mashup, IMO.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:39 AM

March 30, 2004

Free Giant Shrimp

Via Apostropher
That promotion Long John Silver's was going to do involving oceans on Mars and giant shrimp is going to happen, after all.

On May 10th, you can get a piece of giant shrimp, free, at Long John Silver's.

Gimmick aside, I do support the spirit of the promotion. Trying to excite more interest in science, via the Mars Probes, is a good thing.

(Okay, so I am weird. My first blog entry upon returning back from ACUS is about shrimp...)

Posted by Jvstin at 8:55 AM

March 2, 2004

Californian view of geography

While surfing, I came across this very funny Californian's Conception of the United States

Having lived there for 10 months, I can say its true. It's all true.

California is, topographically, a beautiful place. But the people, by and large, have a benighted view of the rest of the country, especially when it comes to weather.

Or in the words of my former girlfriend:

"Snow is something you visit"

Posted by Jvstin at 8:58 AM

February 11, 2004

FCC takes a look at indecency on cable channels

Congress, FCC, Focus on pay channel indecency

"When any government, or any person for that matter, undertakes to say to you: This you may not read, this you may not see, this you are forbidden to know, then the end result no matter how holy the motives, is tyranny."

(Emphasis mine)

--"If this goes On", Robert Heinlein

Posted by Jvstin at 5:00 PM

Mouse trap!

Apparently, Comcast has launched a hostile takeover bid of a company you might have heard of. Its entirely possible you will have heard of the target.


Posted by Jvstin at 4:41 PM

February 9, 2004

End of a musical era

According to one of the contributors on Volokh, Tower Records is filing for bankruptcy.

I bought many, many CDs and other things from them, mainly their store in Greenwich Village, but also the uptown one, and even the one in Washington, D.C.


"Mp3s killed the CD Star"

Posted by Jvstin at 11:06 AM

February 6, 2004

Amusing Blog post title of the day

Although its a couple of days old, it goes to Brad Delong and "The Sindarin word for AWOL"

Dorothea? David? How did he do, anyway, on the translation? (He makes it out to be GED, gwarth ego dagor)

Posted by Jvstin at 11:09 AM

February 5, 2004

Learn Sindarin

David, the "better half" of Dorothea from Caveat Lector, is going to be teaching a mini course in Sindarin.
I don't think that anyone who reads this is unaware of his work in that little trio of movies that have come out, yes?

Wow. If only I lived in Madison (and met the other requirements, apparently these things are only open to U of W alumni and such).

Posted by Jvstin at 1:28 PM

Ginger and Michael's time together

For those who have not seen it as yet, Michael has put up a summary of what he and Ginger did when she went up to visit him.

I do miss the Met.

Maybe I can con Ginger and Michael to go with me the next (first!) time I visit NYC again.

I am so very glad they had a good time. I like it when my friends are happy.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:17 PM

January 29, 2004

Ctrl-Alt-Delete Inventor Retires

The programmer who came up with the three fingered salute, Ctrl-Alt-Delete, is retiring from his IBM job.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:01 AM

January 27, 2004

Virus Alert

I don't normally shout out about this sort of thing, but since I read a news article about it this morning, I thought I'd share.

Someone sent me a copy of this nasty one last night, but
fortunately my paranoia just made me delete it.

Be careful, friends.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:19 AM

December 31, 2003

Friends Moving Northeast

As highlighted on one of their fellow Houstonians, what is Houston's loss will be New Jersey's gain, as Ginger and Michael will be moving from the Gulf Coast...to the East Coast.

I have lots of friends and acquaintances up in the ol' Northeast and I am sure Ginger and Michael will get a real welcome.

Note to self: Come up with lists of things for Ginger and Michael to learn about, see and do in their soon to be new stomping grounds.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:49 AM

December 8, 2003

Depressing Faculty Politics at CUNY BC

Depressing faculty politics at my alma mater:

Brooklyn College's death wish

Sure I know colleges can be vipers nest of politics and agendas, but this sounds even worse than usual.

How low my alma mater has fallen. College should be the last place where conformity to opinion, subservience to authority and a lack of critical thinking are encouraged, in faculty OR students.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:06 PM

November 27, 2003

A thought for the day

I was talking with Jim about myself. And he explained some stuff that makes sense and has, well, stunned me by self-realization.

I won't quote him directly, but I will share the money quote of my summary of what he said, that I said back to him:

"So you are saying my propensity for self-flagellation hurts my relationships by making people feel guilty about it."

Posted by Jvstin at 10:15 PM


Well, on this turkey day, I've learned that I have something in common with George W. Bush, President of the United States

We both mispronounce Nevada, at least according to the way the natives pronounce it.

I read on one of the news sites that in a visit Tuesday to Las Vegas, Bush repeatedly mispronounced the name of the state. Smugly, I continued to read on, until I discovered the horror.

Bush mispronounces the state's name as "Nev-ahh-da".

I had thought that WAS the way you pronounced the State's name. I did a little research, and it seems that the official pronounciation among residents of the state is "Nev-aa-da"

Now, if I do visit the state, I'll know better.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:36 PM

November 12, 2003


Enough is enough...

Posted by Jvstin at 5:37 PM

November 6, 2003

Shoot. Me. Now

I'm sick of this.

My posts don't post properly (that idiotic 500 error), comments are flaky, my categories are hosed.

I'm tempted just to do a bloody clean install...but I still think half of this is powweb, at least half.


Posted by Jvstin at 1:45 PM


Yes, one of those. I have a bad suspicion...

Posted by Jvstin at 9:12 AM

November 4, 2003


an infamous test post

Posted by Jvstin at 8:24 PM

October 31, 2003

Anatomy of a Depressive Mood

Although its Halloween, the unofficial holiday for Roleplayers (and a real holiday for at least one of my friends...), I am not in the best of spirits today.

I can feel it trying to creep on the borders of my waking mind.

Depressive mood.

I've mentioned once, on my blog, that at least I can recognize when these things are happening. I'm not completely defenseless.

Think of the Country of the Mind (my mind). It's a concept I've made good use of in my RPGs. Anyway, think of my mental landscape.

There is a gray and iron fortress-prison there in one part of my mind. Multilayered, imposing, evil. That's where the dark thoughts are, bottled up.

Every so often, something happens that opens up a crack in the walls, or the door, and one of these dark thoughts escapes. Around my landscape this dark thought will go, trying to infect every thought I have with darkness, depression and thinking the worst.

Fighting this is hard. Losing is even worse...because once I start that road, the deeper, even more vile things in the fortress then try to and sometimes escape. You know the ones. The ones that whisper of nihilism and despair, of hopelessness.

The strongest and most dangerous one is in the center of that place, chained like Fernis Wolf. He is the last one, the last of the dark thoughts.

He is the one who desires my extinction. He's only been truly out a very few times. Thankfully, or else I would not be here now.

But today, right now? One of the lesser, the earlier dark thoughts is in my head, using its poisons on me. Thinking about my loneliness, in an SOA post, was the earthquake which moved the stones of the fortress enough to let it escape. The dreary weather is not helping me any.

But the stronger dark things are still chained up.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:01 PM

October 28, 2003


You have no doubt heard and seen pictures of the fires in Southern California. And I am personally glad not to be there. But I can tell you what its like, mentally, to be in the cities, away from the fires, and having them dominate the news.

It's a siege mentality. In my experience, Californians are blase about Earthquakes, but Wildfires scare the piss out of everyone. Worse, the air of Southern California, especially when the Santa Anas pick up, is conducive to bringing the burning smell for 40, 50 miles away from the fires. That is to say, straight into the downtown, urbanized areas.

I can imagine what the air must smell and taste like right now. For asthmatics and the like, So Cal is not the place to be, even far away from the fires.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:31 AM

October 22, 2003

Digital Latin Database

Now this is cool...The Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum.

A digital database of Latin texts, some are translated, others are not.

Doubtless Dorothea at Caveat Lector (she of the latin dates for her Blog entries) has long since known about it.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:06 AM

October 16, 2003

Ferry Crash

You've probably seen the news of the S.I. Ferry crash on your local news.

I'm just stunned and in shock, myself. I rode this several times a week when I was going to College, and at least once a week otherwise. That 5 mile, 25 minute ride is something with which I am all too familiar.

To hear of this disaster just strikes me to the core. No, neither Michael nor anyone else of my family was on the boat, it was too early in the afternoon.


Posted by Jvstin at 7:30 AM

October 8, 2003

Birthday Thank-you

Thanks to the well-wishes of those who have wished me a happy birthday via this blog, emails, and other forms.

And I don't know who it is, or what it is (since I didn't peek that much) but a big thank you (and "why did you spend the money" nag!) to whoever bought me something off of my amazon wishlist. I've crossed off the usual suspects--my family gave me money already as a gift(for a *real* winter coat), the Olsons gave me a microwave for my new apartment (yes, that means the Olsons are now responsible for the two major kitchen appliances I own--a microwave and a slow cooker)...so I might guess or at least theorize that the secret birthday santa was one of my friends here.

In any case, whoever you are, and whatever shows up at my doorstep (even one of the paperbacks listed on my seemingly infinite wish list), I thank you.

What I really want for my birthday though, more than anything is a stable full-time job...

Posted by Jvstin at 11:36 AM

October 5, 2003

A busy weekend

Yesterday was the first day that I haven't put a blog entry up for over a month, and with good reason.

First things first, Scott and I went over to what is going to soon be my new apartment. A tiny matchbox sized studio over in Circle Pines will shortly become home sweet home, since the whole baby thing is coming closer and closer. The downstairs bedroom (where I am now) will become the office (which it once was), and the office will turn into a nursery. So even with a temp job (although a fairly stable one) its time for me to risk a place of my own, and it was high time I left from being underfoot at the Olsons anyway.

Scott and I also mapped out and drove the route to a place that I have a job interview for on Monday. Yes, a real life job interview, finally. The job market has been tighter than, well, something better mentioned in A Grand Affair. So I realize that I have a fair amount of competition, so I am neither overconfident, nor am I "counting" on getting this job. It would be a fair commute, too, about 30 miles each way in a car.

But for a real, full time job, is it worth it? As they say here in Minnesota...you betcha. I got some badly needed driving practice on Interstates, even if I don't get the job.

On the way back, we stopped in the high-end grocery store Byerly's, which looked a lot like Zabar's back in NYC. Unable to find them elsewhere, it was here that I finally found good old Nathan's hot dogs, and I bought a package, naturally.

Scott and I also went to Big Bowl, even if save for the appetizer we didn't stray from our favorites. Scott went for a Thai inspired dish, I went for the equally spicy "Blazing flat noodles". As an appetizer, since I had not had them in quite some time, we had lettuce wraps (ground beef, scallions, rice noodles to which you add sauce and put in bibb lettuce, fold and eat).

And today, well, on Oct 5, 1971 at 1:35 PM EST, I was born.

No major plans for today...maybe buy stuff for the apartment, a few other minor chores and things. Last year I spent hours on a bus, bus, train, bus trip from my apartment in Anaheim all the way to the Getty Center and back. It was a long and exhausting trip but a lot of fun.

Well, if I were to be so lucky as to get this job, I probably will "celebrate"...otherwise I will be relatively frugal about the matter.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:21 AM

October 3, 2003

Temp jobs and the economy

Slate has an interesting article detailing how a flux in temp jobs can be a bellweather for the economy, both in good and bad times.

Naturally this is an issue near and dear to me, considering my own situation.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:20 PM

October 1, 2003


And now we reach the threshold of October. A month of many things to many people. Fall starts to come into its own, although this morning it feels more like a Minnesota November, with morning temperatures below freezing.

Still, there is much to commend to October... Leaves change, Halloween sits perched at the end of the month, on the brink of November. My birthday. Columbus Day. The winter constellations begin to wheel into view. Apples become ripe and ready for picking. (Recall that a couple of years ago, my former Boss took me apple picking in upstate New York--yum!).

It's my favorite month of the year.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:04 AM

September 26, 2003

No longer "GOLD"en

George Plimpton has passed away.

Although he was an author and a man of letters, I know and remember him for something relatively small, but important to me.

In the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, in its Gem and Mineral Room is a tiny theater which has been showing the same short movie for (assuming its still playing) for over 15 years. That movie is "GOLD", and tells the story of Gold, from its origins in the earth to its modern-day uses.

Nearly every time I went to the Museum, be it by myself, with my family, or with friends, I insisted on seeing the movie. I probably can to this day recite the movie from start to finish, since I've seen it well over a hundred times.

The voice of the narration for this short subject is...was George Plimpton.

Rest in Peace.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:08 PM

September 21, 2003

Driving sucks

Well, I am not going to be picking up Scott from the airport today, as planned. And in fact my weekend plans are shot to pieces.

Why? I managed to destroy the driver-side side-view mirror coming out of the garage yesterday. A classic case of not watching what I was doing, and not seeing that my angle exiting the garage was askew, and *crunch*. What's worse is that this is the second time in a month that the side-view mirror has taken a bullet (Scott did it in August).

Needless to say, though, Scott is not going to be a very happy camper when he gets in tonight, and without Felicia here as a buffer...I think I am going to be in a modern-day Ice Age...and that's if I am LUCKY.

Felicia was a bit concilatory on the phone today, but today sounded perfunctory and brief. Hopefully the rest of her drive down to Florida will be without incident.

I hate driving. And driving hates me.

Of course I am going to pay for this, and I am going to also pay for the cab ride that Scott by necessity now needs to take to get home.

Shoot. Me. Now.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:41 PM

September 19, 2003

Posted by Jvstin at 7:39 PM

September 18, 2003

Another song for the soundtrack of my life

I was listening to my Yahoo Launchcast at work today, and it picked for me a song that I never really listened to before...

Matchbox 20's "Last Beautiful Girl"

It gave me eerie flashbacks to my relationship with Bonnie.

I put the lyrics in the extended entry, if you're not familiar with the song.

Anyway, I've been playing with my Launchcast at work today. It's nice to have some music to listen.

Last Beautiful Girl
matchbox twenty

This will all fall down
Like everything else that was
This too shall pass
And all of the words we said
We can't take back

Now every fool in town
Would've left by now
I can't replace
All the wasted days
The memory of your face - I can't help thinkin'

Maybe if we ever coulda kept it all together
Where would we be
A thousand lost forevers
And the promises you never were giving me
Here's what I'm thinking

It won't be the first - heart that you break
It won't be the last - beautiful girl
The one that you wrecked - won't take you back
If you were the last beautiful girl in the world

So tell me one more time
How you're sorry about the way
This all went down
You needed to find your space
You needed to still be friends

You needed me to
Call you if I ever couldn't keep it all together
You'd comfort me
Tell me bout forever
And the promises I never should have believed in
Here's what I'm thinking

It won't be the first - heart that you break
It won't be the last - beautiful girl
The one that you wrecked - won't take you back
If you were the last beautiful girl in the world
Last beautiful girl in the world

It's over now - And I've gone without
Cuz you're everybody else's girl
And it seems to me - you'll always be
Everyone else's girl
Everyone else's girl

This will all fall down
Like everything in the world
This too must end
And all of the words we said
We can't take back

It won't be the first - heart that you break
It won't be the last - beautiful girl
The one that you wrecked - won't take you back
If you were the last beautiful girl

It won't be the first - heart that you break
It won't be the last - beautiful girl
The one that you wrecked - won't take you back
If you were the last beautiful girl in the world
Last beautiful girl in the world
If you are the last beautiful girl in the world

Beautiful girl

Posted by Jvstin at 4:07 PM

The Edifice of Non Confidence

One of my achilles' heels, perhaps one of the root ones in my psyche...

Non Confidence.

Even with a track record of success, I can be terribly insecure about my own abilities. It's a poison that I've not managed to leech out of my bloodstream.

I'm always thinking that I don't measure up. At work or at play, its one of those things which make up who and what I am. And I do it entirely to myself.

Consider, when I was recruited to join A Grand Affair...my first reaction was: Why would you ask me?

Or more recently, the business of Chaos interpretations. Ginger's points on the non-alienness of Chaos were not meant in derision to what Arref, Chris and I came up with...and yet a portion in me immediately thought. "Of course, its logical that my Chaos isn't good enough, it doesn't measure up to what other people have done." That was hardly the point Ginger was trying to make.

Even if, as Meera pointed out in a comment, its patently NOT true. Logically and intellectually, I know its utter bullshit, pardon my Aramaic. And yet my emotions want to run with the "Nothing you do is worth anything" meme.

At least I recognize some of my own psychological problems these days. It's an improvement that I am, after 31 years, beginning to see the traps I set for myself. Now I need to stop stepping in quite so many.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:11 AM

September 12, 2003

Yes Minister

Crooked Timber, a blog that has rapidly reached "daily read" status, has a post about the old British TV series Yes, Minister.

I've watched the show recently, since it turns out Scott is a fan of the series. He bought the complete DVD collection of Yes, Minister some time ago, and more recently, Yes, Prime Minister, its shorter-lived sequel.

I find it quite funny. But then, that is no surprise. I love another British series, The Prisoner, too, and I do have the complete collection of that on DVD. To say nothing of Clockwise, or Monty Python...

UPDATE: Fixed broken link. Thanks Mike!

Posted by Jvstin at 7:57 AM

September 11, 2003

David Letterman's Monologue 9-17-2003

I'm not sure if it was copyrighted, and I am sure that no one really cares too much...but Crooked Timber has the text of the speech Letterman gave a few days after Nine-Eleven.

Two years, and now a thousand miles away, it still moves me.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:22 AM

In Memorial 9-11-2001

Posted by Jvstin at 5:43 AM

September 9, 2003

Birth Announcement

I am proud to announce that Bridgette Ruggles, well known in Amber circles as Egwenna (and my RPG partner here at All-Roads-Lead), has given birth to a bouncing baby boy.

Baby name is forthcoming, as Bridgette and her husband Brian did not elect to even know the gender of the baby in advance. Mother and baby are said to be doing just fine.

UPDATE: The baby has been named Issac Luis Ruggles Altman.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:56 PM

September 4, 2003

September the Fourth

Today is not exactly a red letter day in the calendar of my life.

Besides it being the birthday of my brother (sometimes seen commenting on this blog. Happy Birthday, brother), its also the birthday of the first real love of my life, one Lisa Shandler.

It is, also, the day that she passed away.

I'm all right. Last year, now, was no picnic, the breakup of my relationship with Bonnie was another stone on the pile. And I will try and keep in mind the happy memories of the short time I was able to spend with her. It's the best thing I can do.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:56 AM

August 29, 2003

We truly do love our cars...

Since there is a new report that states that there now are more cars than licensed drivers in the United States...

Posted by Jvstin at 4:25 PM

August 24, 2003

To be noted without further recognition

Today, August 24th, is Bonnie Roe's birthday.

I will not speak ill of her today.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:30 PM

August 21, 2003

A hard candy's journey into night

Remember the original 5-flavor Life Savers? Around since the 30's, Kraft foods has decided to retire three of the five flavors. Gone from the roll are Orange, Lemon and Lime (Pineapple and Cherry are staying put). Replacing them are the "breathtaking" flavors of Watermelon, Raspberry and Blackberry.

Personally, I think this is as stupid as "New Coke" was, even if I prefer things like Spree to Life Savers. And even if hard candies are losing market share to mints and sours, which are in these days.

Read all about it.

I discovered this from one of the new AOL Journals.. (And found that via Calpundit) One of the most annoying things, right off, as a visitor to one of these things is that you have to sign in with an AOL screen name to leave comments.
Once again, AOL seems to be trying to put a moat around itself and its users.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:33 PM

August 18, 2003

Insomnia and other unpleasantries

People who know me know that I can often sleep through everything. I've joked that if there is the End of the World or something, someone had better wake me up, or else I will miss it.

When I am upset, though, my usually sound sleeping goes right out the window. I don't consider this unusual, I expect that every reader of this blog has had a bad night's tossing and turning like I did last night.

However, one peculiarity of nights like last night is one that I haven't heard people admit to--panic attacks.

When I am emotionally upset and go to sleep, I will sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in an absolute panic. Usually, this is due to a (false) sense that I am late for work, overslept, etc. One time, in California, I managed to wake up, grab my clothes and make it into the bathroom to turn the water on before I realized it was 1 am. Last night, I woke up in a false panic that I didn't know what time it was and that my clock was wrong. I looked on my arm for my watch and got upset that it wasn't there--even though I broke the band some time before and haven't yet replaced it.

These sorts of nocturnal things are just--odd. But I thought that I would share. I'm exhausted, working slowly at work, my appetite is shot, but I am still here.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:32 PM

August 17, 2003

The Stress of her Car

(Yes, a pun on the title of a book).

Seriously, I'm stressed today.

During the BJS blackout last year, at one point, some of you are aware that I caused damage to Bonnie's car (those damned poles in parking places). I told her that I would make it right, and I was soon out of her house and in my own apartment anyway.

The matter has been quiescent until today, when she has emailed me with what happened. Instead of repairing the car, she decided to trade it in. According to her email, she received $1500 less than the trade in value she thought she was going to get ($500 versus $2000).

She never did repair the car, she just decided to get a new one. She expects me to pay half of the reduction in trade-in cost.

Is this fair?

I had thought to pay the deductible (or even a little more) for repair of the car...this is much higher. Worse, $750 isn't something I can throw around with impunity.

Any thoughts on the matter would be appreciated. Email me privately, if you wish. Naturally, my first reaction was to simply scrape the money together and pay her, but I think that's born of a fear of confrontation, and a desire to "wash my hands" of her.

UPDATE: This is starting to turn ugly. And thus a public discussion of this is not such a good idea.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:01 PM

August 16, 2003

One last thing for now on Fair and Balanced

Weblog Entry - 08/12/2003: "Fair & Balanced! Fair & Balanced!!"

The above link, to blah3, is a list of all the blogs which became part of the F&B approach. Far from being political blogs only, the blogs range from Eschaton (politics) through Ginger's, to mine.

Stupid lawsuits designed to chill speech can't get enough attention and disdain.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:37 AM

August 15, 2003

A not so Fair and Balanced editorial

(Yes, if you don't get it already, I am part of Fair and Balanced Friday).

Anyway, this Washington Post editorial about the heat wave in Europe is anything about fair and balanced. It seems to be telling the Europeans to "suck it up" when it comes to their climate woes.

Of course, the Post forgets to mention that most places in Europe do not have air-conditioning, nor the fact that Paris and a lot of the inland cities don't even have a nice sea breeze like, say, Washington, to moderate matters.

And there is something to be said for acclimatization. After all, in California, people thought it was the end of the world if the temperature dipped into the 40's. And they didn't like any humidity at all.

It would be snarky of me to have the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (or even better yet, a Berlin or Moscow paper) snap similarly at Washington if they get hit with a cold snap this winter and plunge down toward 0 degrees or lower (on the farenheit scale)

Posted by Jvstin at 10:56 AM

August 14, 2003

Power Outage in the East

Wow! Major power outages in the East and Northeast, and not on the coolest of days, either.

Hopefully everyone I know within the area will be safe and all right. Blackouts are fun when you are child...but only out of ignorance.

UPDATE: My Mom, Dad and brother are all right (although Michael was caught in Manhattan when this hit). My nephew and his family are out of the zone of outage...up in the NE of Pennsylvania, some of my relatives have power, others do not.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:27 PM

August 12, 2003

Blog, Jvstin Style: Fair and Balanced

Just to annoy Fox News, who is suing Al Franken for the title of his new book:
"Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."

I don't get how Fox News can trademark a phrase like "Fair and Balanced."...and Al Franken doesn't even use the phrase by itself, its imbedded in the title. And its probably a parody.

So much for "tort reform", eh? This is as frivolous a lawsuit as they come.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:46 AM

August 2, 2003

Aerial photos on Mapquest

Kathryn Cramer: Habitats: Compare & Contrast

Kathryn Cramer points out something I never really noticed before. Mapquest now provides the ability to see aerial photos of the location that you are mapping.

Very very cool!

Posted by Jvstin at 6:05 PM

July 31, 2003

Another Quiet Weekend

Yep, yet another "House Alone" for me this weekend is in the cards...since the Olsons leave early this afternoon to drive Damion back to his biological father in Alabama.

Which means, of course, more driving of Scott's truck, as distasteful as it is to maneuver the kludgy vehicle. It could be worse, though--it coulda been a stick shift.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:06 AM

July 28, 2003

Thanks for the Memories

Bob Hope has passed on.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:18 AM

July 26, 2003

Spammer in Russia gets his

Don't Spam This Deputy Minister

Got this via Jerry Pournelle's not-called-one-but-really-a-blog.

A deputy minister in Russia did what many of us would like to do--took matters into his own hands from being overly spammed...

Posted by Jvstin at 9:46 AM

July 25, 2003

Getting into the Country

Ginger points us to an excellent Newsweek International article online about the new frustrations that foreigners are facing entering the country. New rules on visas and passports has made an obstacle course for people to get into the US, and there are horror stories out there.

And I will point to my post about the Canada trip for the Olsons. Yes, a passport is not *necessary* for US Citizens to get back into the US from Canada, but it seems to be getting that way.

I just hope that the idea of internal passports does not get floated anytime soon.
"Quo Vadis"

Posted by Jvstin at 1:52 PM

July 20, 2003

Hoax...or are things this bad?


I've seen this linked to from a number of disparate places now. I have no idea of its veracity. I'd like to think this is either a hoax, mistake or deliberate obfuscation of some sort.

To paraphrase one of Heinlein's protagonists:

"If any government, or any one for that matter, undertakes to say to you: This you may not read, this you may not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result no matter how holy the motives is tyranny."

Posted by Jvstin at 8:12 PM

July 19, 2003


One of the advantages (such as it is) to having the house to myself is that I can watch anything I want, to my own taste.

A few weeks ago, in Wally World, aka Walmart, I picked up, cheaply, a copy of the original TV miniseries V . I've watched it over the last couple of days.

If you are older than, say, 28, you'll remember V. Aliens arrive in miles-wide flying saucers, ostensibly coming in peace, and looking very much like ourselves (except for odd vocal patterns). But of course, underneath the facade...

...of the series is a parable of fascism. I saw V for the first time when I was twelve, and I quite frankly didn't get much of the subtext, but this time it was crystal clear what the story was really about. From the Holocaust survivor recognizing very well what the Visitors are doing, to the artistic parallels between the opening scenes in El Salvador and the climatic battle at the mountain camp, its a cautionary tale, about the dangers of ostracism, anti-intellectualism, and wielding too much power.

Oh, sure, the scientific howlers in the series are legion. Aliens seeking water? Why not mine the Kuiper belt, moons of the Gas Giants or other places in the solar system, where Humans can't blow up your spacecraft. The screw-up on their explanation of the effects of the K-T extinction event meteorite impact. The fact that reptiles would go torpid and die in -300 degrees farenheit conditions. Not to mention the implication of cross-species physical attraction, and implied cross-species pregnancy,

Still, the story of V is not about alien invasion, that's just a facade for the real story. The dangers of corrupting power, and singling out those perceived to be different than us, and the dangers of standing by and doing nothing as this occurs. Sure, the second series of V and the TV series went downhill. But the original series message still holds.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:19 PM

July 17, 2003

Quiet Weekend on the Ranch II

Once again, I am alone this weekend. The Olsons three have decided to go visit our neighbor to the North, Canada, for the next 3-4 days.

Why have I not accompanied them? Several reasons:

1. Still working on the job thing and money is tightening

2. This is an Olson family vacation.

3. My passport is expired. Yes, I can hear your protestations, but Scott has rightly pointed out that its not a matter of going into Canada, but (in the sadly more paranoid post 9-11 environment), getting back into the US which a passport makes less of a hassle.

Oh well. Now that I live not only in a Canadian Border State but within spitting distance, I am sure I will have opportunities in the future--but I do need to renew my passport.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:57 PM

July 16, 2003

More questions than answers

Blog :: Gary Hart :: Restoring the American Republic

I've cut way back on political opinions and observations as of late, but I decided to link here to a piece that former Senator Gary Hart wrote on his own blog the other day.

Yes,*that* Gary Hart--the Hart that got in trouble so many years ago, but more recently, produced a report on terrorism that eerily preceded the events of 9/11/2001.

Anyway, this entry talks about the ever growing mess in Iraq, and the obfuscation around the reasons for our war against Hussein in the first place.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:27 AM

July 14, 2003

AOL getting into the Weblog act.

AOL 9 to include Weblog tools

Most tellingly, the Blogs are going to be called AOL Journals because AOL claims its users are confused by the term blog.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:45 PM

July 10, 2003

Moving Comments and other things

I am still quite in turmoil and roiled by things, which is why I've not commented on Djinn's comment. I left that entry uncommentable because it was more exhortation, than anything else. I do appreciate your words, Djinn, and am still thinking about a response. I may not have any at this time.

I couldn't find a way to move comments, perhaps its not possible in this build of MT. But I am not sure, either way.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:28 PM

July 9, 2003

Keyword of the day

Emotional Immaturity

I am less than I should be, weaker than I need to be, and exasperating to all of those around me and in my life.

It's all coming clear, now. A clarity that I will try to hold and keep, a vision of what has gone wrong, a rubric for explaining the deficiencies, the failures of my life.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:19 AM

July 5, 2003

Just one of those days

My apologies to Djinn and to Ginger for my callousness, stupidity and short-sightedness.

Makes you wonder how I can even run a game and keep it going.

Sorry to all


Posted by Jvstin at 4:01 PM

July 4, 2003

Happy Fourth of July

I wanted to wish everyone a happy and healthy Fourth of July. It is actually something of a big deal here, since Scott DOES do work for the Department of Defense. In point of fact, the four of us have patriotic t-shirts on as we speak.

And to quote our founding fathers:

�We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness�That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.�
(Congress, July 4, 1776)

Posted by Jvstin at 10:10 AM

July 1, 2003

Yes, yes I've been quiet

I know, I know, its been pretty quiet here for a few days. Not that it was a hugely busy weekend, but we did do some things--including visiting Como Park and its charming, small zoo down in St. Paul.

My Amazon order came in, and one of the books is going to be the subject of the next entry...

Posted by Jvstin at 10:31 AM

June 26, 2003

Trackbacks are now Follow-ups

Taking Ginger's good idea, I've delved into the templates here and renamed Trackbacks into Follow-ups.

I don't get many, if any trackbacks to BJS, but I think that's more a function of the fact that people who would have a propensity to do so, have blogger blogs.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:45 PM

June 25, 2003

So who DOES read my blog?

In a comment, Ginger posited:

You might be surprised to find out who reads your blog if you asked the same question. (I'm surprised and interested by some of the entries so far, and expect I will continue to be.)

So, let me ask, then. Who are you people, who read my Blog, and why? I can bet just about no one reads the football entries, but what do you read my Blog for, anyhow? (considering its a veritable trail mix of things). And what do you think about me, Paul "Jvstin" Weimer, based on this thing that I call Blog, Jvstin Style?

Posted by Jvstin at 9:13 PM

June 19, 2003

Just a couple of thoughts

A pretty busy day here at my office; there was not a lot of time between things to hop on and blog, or even surf blogs.

The weather has been extraordinarily and uncannily good here thus far in June...a fact not lost on the meteorologist in the newspaper.

I didn't mention that the TIVO did indeed die two weekends ago when I was "home alone", and the Olsons have not had the opportunity to repair it. Consequently, we've been without TV for that long, relying on our computers, the Xbox (with the DVD attachment) and the antics of Damion to keep us entertained in the evenings.

Days are really long here at this latitude. The only time I dealt with more extreme day lengths was during my trip to England (as referenced by my brother in a comment). The day is 15 hours 36 minutes long today, a half hour longer than NYC and an hour longer than Los Angeles.

Of course these will be reversed come the Winter solstice.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:28 PM

June 18, 2003

Top public high schools in the country

Newsweek in one of their recent issues has rated the top public high schools in the country, or at least according to their criteria. The criterion is based on a formula that uses the number of graduating seniors, and the number of those who took advanced placement courses. They have a web page with an expanded list of top schools.

Fair? Probably not, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a all-around "Best".

Anyway, my alma mater, Susan E. Wagner makes the list at #711. I was a bit surprised, though, that Port Richmond High School was far higher ranked, at #493. In my day, Port Richmond was considered one of the lesser public high schools on Staten Island, with Wagner and Tottenville (not even on the list) competing with each other. How times change!

Posted by Jvstin at 11:45 AM

June 14, 2003

Traveling, Jvstin Style

Perverse Access Memory: Planeblogging

Ginger talks about Planes and her thoughts on air flight, I thought that I would talk about travel and me.

It's no secret to many readers of this Blog (ranging from Black Sheep on down) that motion sickness is one of my eternal enemies.

I like to travel far more than I actually manage to do so. Planes and automobiles are my two worst, followed by long distance ferries. (The short Staten Island Ferry never bothered me). Buses aren't bad, thankfully, and Trains I seem to survive without incident.

But low-lights of my battles with transportation include getting sick on the way down from Idyllwild with TGFKAB, getting sick 30 minutes after getting off of the plane when visiting Minnesota for the first time, getting sick on the Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, NJ Ferry and other less spectacular times too many to count.

I like to see new places, visit them, and so forth. My body, however, usually has other ideas.

I feel inordinately proud of the fact that, save for the beginning (and I blame that on the plane ride), I did *not* get sick on the "Super Trip" I took with Felicia and Daimon from the twin cities to Louisiana.

But speaking of air travel, I know its a pipedream, I think that a Zeppelin might be more tolerable than a plane ride for me. And the food *has* to be better, plane food (and the lack thereof) can't possibly be worse.
The novel Harry Turtledove wrote with Richard Dreyfuss (yes, the actor) features a British dominated America where Dirigibles are the principal means of air transport. It's just...civilized.

But, then again, they would be slow and easy targets for some terrorist or nut with a SAM.

Oh well.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:41 AM

June 11, 2003

Crosswalk to Nowhere


Talking Heads fans will remember the song "Road to Nowhere". Here, we have a Crosswalk to Nowhere, in Rhode Island...

Posted by Jvstin at 1:55 PM

June 8, 2003

Upgraded version of MT

I decided to take the time and upgrade my version of Movable Type this weekend. I should be up to 2.64 now, although I got a bit confused on the whole thing with the Database (I had forgotten what type of DB I originally went with).

Problems and such, please do let me know via email.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:37 PM

June 7, 2003

Quiet Weekend on the Ranch

It's a rather quiet weekend in store for me. I have the entire house to myself, because this weekend, the Olsons are driving down and back to retrieve her son Daimon for the summer.

An upshot of this was that, rather than getting the customary ride to the Park-and-Ride for the Express Bus, I needed to drive myself to it (and back) on Friday.

...In Scott's Truck (Dodge 4x4) . Now, mind you, my driving experience is still thin, and until yesterday, I never had driven a truck before (aside from a little practice run last weekend at Scott's suggestion). It was a rather unnerving experience handling such a big vehicle. A further complication was that they closed half of the parking lot to repave it. It wasn't bad finding a spot in the morning, but when I got off the bus yesterday evening, I was aghast to find myself rather boxed in. It took a fair amount of work and a lot of care not to hit anything to escape my automotive prison.

One additional factor, though, making things quiet here is that it seems the Tivo/Satellite Dish is on the fritz. Even a call to their cell phone this morning did not clear up the problems. So, I have no TV, no one to talk to, and only the dogs for company, and only a clumsy, unfamiliar truck if I did dare go somewhere.

Oh well, time to do turns, or play some more Rise of Nations. I'm doing rather well, I'm slowly trying all of the Civs to see which I like best.
The Spanish definitely have a nice advantage with their exploration capability, but nothing really else going for them. The Egyptian can build Wonders like no one's buisness. The Roman legions are pretty potent, and even in later tech Ages, they get bonuses for forts, and extra troops too. The Koreans get extra builders when you build new cities--instant workforce!

Posted by Jvstin at 11:53 AM

June 5, 2003

The perishability of electronic communication

History's paperless trail

Interesting article on MSNBC this morning on how email, powerpoint and the like are removing the "paper trail" from military (and other!) decisions. All of those little documents which historians today use to decipher the past are gradually being replaced with electronic, more perishable versions.

I recall that in the Star Trek Universe that records were "Fragmentary" around the "Third World War". I never understood, at the time, how that could be when we have records dating back so far in history, but now it makes a kind of sense. There is little history to be written if there are no witnesses, and few documents to be had.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:53 AM

June 4, 2003

Just a quick ping from work

I've been reticent in blogging the last few days, so I decided to post a quick hi during my lunch hour.

Go read Shadowthriller today. Thanks for the mention, Arref. I still get creeped out thinking about that nightmare!

Oh, and Rise of Nations came in the mail yesterday, although I haven't had time to install it. I owe people turns for SB...

Posted by Jvstin at 12:28 PM

May 28, 2003

Scrupulous Honesty

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been closing out my California based checking and savings account, in favor of a bank closer to my new home. I had thought that I had removed all of the money, so that Washington Mutual would not need to bother with any remitter checks.

It turns out that I was wrong. I received a remitter check yesterday for the balance of my closed out W.A. Account...

...it was a grand total of $0.01.

I wouldn't have missed it. Talk about scrupulous honesty!

Posted by Jvstin at 3:54 AM

May 22, 2003

It's all about me

in the Shadow of Greatness

Inspired by Arref Mak's entry, who was himself inspired by Dave, I present a short "all about me". I understand that I can be opaque to those who have never met me, or clear as glass...

I am not quite sure if I like me. This is progress, I used to not like me at all

I'm older than I look, and older than I sometimes realize.

I have no significant other; my last and greatest attempt at the same went down in flames.

One day I will really detail the tragic loss of yet another significant other

My degree is Biology, although I have not yet made use of it

I've now lived in three very different states...of the union, that is.

I read voraciously. In fiction, its 95% SF and Fantasy, in nonfiction, science with strong infusions of history.

I like to go watch movies. I trend toward SFish films, but have watched everything from horror to romantic comedy.

My brother got me into Role playing games when I was in my teens, and I haven't stopped. I began GMing early, and some might argue I GM better than I play.

I love to watch the nighttime sky. Thank Carl Sagan for that.

I don't cook well, but I am trying to learn.

I want to see a Glacier up close and personal.

I am a strong believer in the rights to free speech and thought.

I am shy with strangers, and gregarious with people that I know well.

The most common words I say are "I'm sorry"

I never give myself enough credit. Everyone that knows me well tells me so.

I wish that I could write well.

I love to explain things to you. Get me started, and getting me to shut up is the trick.

Somewhere, in some bizarre alternate distant universe, this is all a television show. Not that it makes any difference.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:13 PM

A punny joke

At Heathrow Airport today, an individual, later discovered to be a public
school teacher, was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession
of a compass, a protractor, and a graphic calculator. Authorities believe
he is a member of the notorious al-Gebra movement.

He is being charged with carrying weapons of math instruction.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:44 PM

May 21, 2003

Rube Goldberg/Mousetrap Honda Commercial


Well worth the time it takes to load, this is a Honda commercial that employs a seemingly endless Rube Goldberg set of contraptions. Or, for those who don't know who that is, think of the old board game Mousetrap...

Posted by Jvstin at 5:01 PM

May 20, 2003



Posted by Jvstin at 11:51 AM

May 14, 2003

A new reason to Visit Seattle for me...

Locus Online: News Log, April 2003, p3

Seattle is high on the places I want to visit list, not the least because of the proximity of Mt. Rainier, which I do wish to see. Now, however, Paul Allen (the co-founder of Microsoft) and Greg Bear (whom I've mentioned on my blog as one of my five favorite current SF writers) are going to create an Science Fiction museum in Seattle, to open next year.

A convergence of museums and SF. Good grief, this place sounds like heaven.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:17 PM

A little fun with Latin

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I picked up a bargain book at B&N a little while ago that is an introduction to Latin. Called Learn Latin, by Peter Jones, it purports to be a lively introduction to reading the language.

Languages are one of those things I wish I was better at doing. Its not a failure at scholarship, but I've never picked up languages well at all, even while simultaneously tackling what I would consider to be much harder subjects. So I've been slowly working on this book, assimilating the first few chapters until I get them right. I've made progress, though, I've found my years of Spanish have helped somewhat, although Latin is an language with quirks of its own.

What do I mean? Well, for example, word order does not determine the subject or object noun in a sentence...the ending does.


Felicia Scottum amat
Felicia loves Scott

On the other hand, change the endings but keep the word order:

Feliciam Scottus amat
Scott loves Felicia

Felicia et Scottus coquere amant
Felicia and Scott love to cook

And not to leave me out...

Paulus lunam videt
Paul sees the Moon

Paulum serva ducit
The slave-girl leads Paul

(note for the latin experts--I've assumed Felicia is a first declension noun, and Scott and myself are second declension. I'm not up to third declension yet)

Posted by Jvstin at 2:20 PM

May 13, 2003

New $20 bill

U.S. adds a little color to $20 bills

Doubtless many of you have heard this, or seen them, but I thought that I would give a link to a news article. I think that probably I'd have to see the bills for myself before passing judgement. I do recognize, though, that the US was one of the few major nations with monochromatic currency. This will break that.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:27 PM

May 11, 2003

Happy Mother's Day

To all of my friends and readers who are, a happy Mother's Day to all of you.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:13 AM

May 7, 2003

Books Vs Blogs

Weblog central

I just saw this article linked above on MSNBC. It's a few days old and it discusses blogging and the blogging world...

...and our very own Ginger is quoted in the article. Way to go, Ginger!

Posted by Jvstin at 12:39 PM

May 2, 2003

One year ago today

One year ago today, at roughly this moment in time (adjusted for West Coast time) began my great failure--my attempt at a life in California, with Bonnie.

One year ago today I uprooted myself from New York for California.

One year ago today I eschewed my usual pessimism for optimism

For all the good it did, one year ago I began my great attempt.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:12 PM

May 1, 2003

Spam Hell

This makes me mad, and part of the reason why I am migrating away from AOL.

Today, I did a flashsession (for those who have never entered AOL, its basically where you log on, download your email automatically and log off).

Among the other things I had were more than two dozen copies of the exact same piece of spam, from a dozen AOL screen names. So most of those screen names sent me multiple copies of the exact same piece of trash.

What was it? Basically an advertisement for "free prescriptions". Even if I was interested in this nonsense, sending it to me 26 times is not going to make me more likely to respond.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:23 PM

Dante's Inferno Test

Dante's Inferno Test - Impurity, Sin, and Damnation

Came across this first thanks to Arref...and I wound up in the Seventh Hell, the Violent? (Just like Arref). And just like Arref, I am confused. Very odd.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:02 AM

April 29, 2003


Bridgette, copied this out of her SCUBA course. It's just funny how this is described, and I had to share it with you all. It will give you a chuckle.

Section 5: Basic Navigation
the intro --

"Navigation can seem pretty overwhelming when you consider that you're trying to keep up with where the rest of the world is. And that's without mentioning how it feels to get lost and realize you just lost track of an entire planet. By learning to navigate underwater you'll minimize how often you get disoriented, and if it does happen, you'll more quickly figure out where you mislaid the whole of existence. ..... "

Posted by Jvstin at 5:23 PM

The old Nigerian Bank scam

Well, I've gotten a variation of the Nigerian Bank Scam in my email today, one that threatens that, if I do not help, the sizeable sum of money will instead wind up causing more War in Africa.

A nasty play on people's sympathies. I have put the entire text of the email in the extended entry just for fun.


It is my humble pleasure to write this letter
irrespective of the fact that you do not know me my
name is Robert Owode, a staff in the private banking
sector of the bank in Nigeria. I am writing in respect of a
foreign customer of my bank who died mysteriously.
Though I know that a transaction of this magnitude
will make any one apprehensive and worried, but I am
assuring you that all will be well at the end of the

Since the demise of this our customer I personally have
watched with keen interest to see the next of kin but
all has proved abortive as no one has come to claim
his funds of USD$15M, (Fifteen Million United States Dollars) which has been
with my branch for a very long time, now
unquestionably expects to be claimed by any of his
available foreign next of kin or alternatively be
donated to a discredited trust fund for arms and
ammunition at a military war college here in Nigeria.

Fervent valuable efforts made by the Bank to get in
touch with any of the deceased's next of kin (he had
no known wife and children) has been unsuccessful. The
management under the influence of our chairman and
board of directors are making arrangement for the fund
to be declared "UNCLAIMABLE" and then be subsequently
donated to the trust fund for Arms and Ammunition,
which will further enhance the course of war in Africa
and the world in general.

On this note I decided to seek for a capable person
that his name shall be used as the next of kin, as no
one has come up to be the next of kin. The banking
ethics here does not also allow such money to stay
more than six years, because the money will be
recalled to the banks' treasury unclaimed after this
period, I will give you 30% of the total.

Upon the receipt of your response, I will send you by
fax or e-mail the application, bank's fax number and
the next step to take. I will not fail to bring to
your notice that this business is hitch free and that
you should not entertain any fear as all modalities
for fund transfer can be finalized within five banking
days, after you apply to the bank as a relation to the

When you receive this letter, kindly send me an e-mail
signifying your decision including your private
Tel/fax numbers for quick communication.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Owode (Mr.)
Private Banking

Posted by Jvstin at 4:49 PM

April 26, 2003

A-R-L has a title page now

All Roads Lead...

The graphic and layout of the title page is all Bridgette. We had debated stuff so much, I guess she just went ahead and did it. But I like it, it works.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:05 PM

Subway signs in Latin?

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Latin lessons for Tyneside travellers

In England, that is. It's tied to the fact that this metro stop is adjacent to the site of the ancient Hadrian's Wall.

Very very cool. The article doesn't show the signs themselves, alas.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:20 AM

April 23, 2003

The eyes have it

I bit the bullet yesterday and went in for an eye exam.

It has been a few years since I have done it, and when I tried to change my license in California, I noticed how much my eyes had changed. I had trouble passing the eye exam, and sort of did it with and without the glasses.

So now that I moved to Minnesota, I decided I was far overdue and went in for an exam. Today the glasses were ready and now I am in that dreaded (to anyone who has worn glasses) adjustment period.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:54 AM

April 11, 2003

Donnie Darko

I've been feeling sick the last day and a half, and still am. But I am well enough to be vertical for a little while...
While reading Locus Online, I came across a review/dissection of a movie that I haven't seen yet, but looks interesting in a turgid and confused way:

Locus Online: Lawrence Person reviews Donnie Darko

Posted by Jvstin at 10:02 AM

April 9, 2003

Stars in the sky

One advantage to living here in Anoka county is the night sky. Aside from trips to the mountains to see my Aunt and Uncle, or driving along lonely Route 99 in California between Bakersfield and Fresno with the late Lisa, I've never had such a good view of the night sky at my disposal. It's not that its overwhelming like those two, but the skies are definitely better than Staten Island, and definitely better than Anaheim.

Now once the nighttime temperatures rise a little bit...and I eventually get my binoculars...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:42 AM

Picture hunting

My latest craze, so to speak, has been inspired by Ginger and Arref's "Casting call" pages.

Pictures for SB protgaonists and antagonists.

My charming host Felicia has a phethora of bridal and other magazines that she uses for picture scavenging. We've lately been looking through them for visions of various people in my game.

I admit, though that it has not been easy for me to "commit" to a vision of a personage. After so long with mental descriptions of the various people, actually saying person a looks like this picture x is hard.

We've also been working a bit on getting the family tree updated. With the help of a geneology program, we should have a family book of the royal families created. I've discovered lacunae in my tree, that need to be fixed.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:38 AM

April 7, 2003

Just to make it clear

Just to make it clear and certain to anyone coming here by accident...I have closed this blog, and now am on a MT installation
at http://www.all-roads-lead.net/jvstin/blog.

Please update your bookmarks, and keep your tables locked and your seats in the upright position...

Posted by Jvstin at 11:29 AM

March 27, 2003

I'm alive

Here I am with a few minutes before flying to detroit with the kindly OLsons, just giving a "shout out" so to speak. I'd do email but without my computer, I don't have my address book...

Hope everyone is doing well. I feel...funny but then, I have radically changed my situation, hopefully for the better.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:24 AM

March 24, 2003

Signing off

MY blog entry while in the state of California, I will likely be silent until at least a week from Tuesday, when I come back from the con and start to integrate myself into the new life that awaits me...in Minnesota.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:00 AM

March 22, 2003

Goodbye DBS

Well, yesterday was my last day at work, at Drawer Box Specialties.

Bittersweet? Yes, hell yes. Many of the people who read this blog me know my personality, either by experience or otherwise. I tend to be introverted, but to strangers. When I get to know people, and become comfortable with them, I open up. I become garrulous. I post "words of the week" on the ersatz bulletin board. I chat about mutual (and sometimes not so mutual) interests.

I opened up during my time at DBS. It was a uniformly positive experience, with the inescapable bumps and bruises, but nothing really that was unlike any other job. All jobs have a few lumps.

My co-workers were amicable and friendly, the administration (thankfully) was nothing like some of the people that I've dealt with in previous lives of mine, so to speak. Some of you have heard the tales. Heck, I think many of you know I missed an Ambercon one year thanks to one of those winners' capricious and spiteful nature. I am certain that this would not have happened at DBS.

I will miss the DBS crew. I've given my address here to them, to provide one way for them to know I am still alive and functioning halfway across the country.

And although I don't think there are any woodworkers of any stripe who read this blog, I'll plug DBS anyway. I had no clue, until I came to work for them, that there WERE companies which made nothing but drawers for cabinets, dressers, computer desks, etc. If you know a furniture maker who is interested in outsourcing drawer construction, then I do recommend contacting DBS. That's ALL they do, and they do it well. They're not designed to sell to individuals, they can't and don't design drawers...but given the specifications, they can build it.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:33 AM

March 18, 2003

Still standing

Work has been busy as of late, training my replacement, Nguyen. But here I am with a few minutes before work taking the opportunity to check in so, to speak.

Highlights of other things

--finished and sent my character for Chris Kindred's games. My character for Texorami, one Jonas Asherton, will likely have a link to Bridgette's PC. My character for Wolves is going to be a son of Benedict. I lamented elsewhere, once that I didn't have grandchildren of Cymnea (ie children of Benedict and his siblings) in my repertoire. Arkantos is designed to fill in that lacunae.

Thanks to Arref for his publication of his latest SB turn. This truly is SB at its best, and a good illustration of the best in the game. SB has a number of interesting developments as of late, the "Assassins at the Docks" is but one of them. People like Deb, and Mike Levay, and Jim, and Bridgette all know what I mean.

This entry was also to test multiple category items. I see that its worked. I had some problems over the weekend trying to get categories to work right--I could assign things, fine, but I couldn't seem to get the category archives to work. Happily, they are working now.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:03 AM

March 16, 2003

Template fun and games

I've been looking at other people's MT templates, trying to adapt this one to take some of the features that I've seen and liked. And I am still trying to puzzle out Trackbacking properly.

I see why now Blogger is popular--its EASIER. But then, MT is far more flexible and customizable. All I have to do is learn its idiosyncracies. I think I can handle that.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:35 PM

March 15, 2003

Testing a trackback

Blog, Jvstin Style

Just fooling around...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:09 PM



Posted by Jvstin at 5:56 PM

CAESAR Set on; and leave

CAESAR Set on; and leave no ceremony out.
CAESAR Ha! who calls?
CASCA Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
CAESAR Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.
SOOTHSAYER Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR What man is that?
BRUTUS A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.
SOOTHSAYER Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR He is a dreamer; let us leave him:


Posted by Jvstin at 5:52 PM

Welcome to the new BJS

With Blogger crapping out for the nth time, I finally decided to open up the Blog here at All-Roads-Lead to buisness. Although Bridgette and I still have stalled on getting an opening screen, I've copied over my Amber stuff to here. The mundane stuff at Weimer world is going to stay put. ARL will, with the exception of non-Amber entries on this Blog, be devoted to roleplaying and the like.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:34 PM

March 14, 2003

"Building my own guillotine" I

"Building my own guillotine"

I haven't blogged much from work the last couple of days because I have been building my own guillotine so to speak.

Oddly, uncharacteristically of my Type A personality Boss, she has delegated something rather important to me

--the training of my possible replacement. Naturally, as a result, I have not had the opportunity to do any extracurricular activity at work, and thus the blogging has flagged.

Just so you know I am still alive and well.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:35 PM

March 12, 2003

A vocabulary test via Ginger

A vocabulary test via Ginger (and Jenn)

I got 153 out of 200. Most of the people in our circle, though, did better, and sometimes much better. Maybe I would have done a little better if not at work. Still, though, shows just how much I have to learn

Posted by Jvstin at 2:03 PM

March 11, 2003

Welcome to the Donutverse?

Welcome to the Donutverse?

That analysis of the cosmic background radiation has lent credence to a strange theory about the shape of the universe. Our 28 billion light year diameter universe might actually be a torus.

That is to say, in the shape of a doughnut.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:24 PM

Maybe I should run for

Maybe I should run for Congress?

No, seriously. I would try to stop such inanity and insanity as this change in the House cafeteria menu.

I know that during WWI sauerkraut became "liberty cabbage" and hamburger became "salisbury steak" (the latter still exists, as a distinct item from Hamburgers, though). But no one changed Russian dressing during the Cold War...

And besides, French Fries are literally as American as Apple pie! And French Toast isn't French, either.

"Congressman Weimer from Minnesota would like to speak about the changes in the House cafeteria menu..."

Posted by Jvstin at 1:36 PM

March 10, 2003

Role Call 9: Dream on!

Role Call 9: Dream on!
If profit wasn't an issue, what sort of products would your dream roleplaying game company publish?

Ah, this is more cheery than the death of roleplaying one that was the last Role Call.

All-Roads-Lead Press would publish, perforce, supplements and products that I, myself, want to see. So this question, I feel, really is asking what sort of gaming products I would most want to see out there. The products I would want to see would have, in common, to be relatively stat-free and multi-platform. I'd love something that I could run for a D20 game...or an Amber game, given some guidelines in the text to make it happen. Given that in mind, I'd have ARL Press publish:

1. License and publish well written guidebooks to author's universes.
Of course the author herself has to agree to this, but we are imagining, right? Who wouldn't want to explore the Confederation of Peter F. Hamilton? Or visit Pern? Or a myriad of universes from authors. While certainly, as a GM, I think that the best universe is the one you create yourself for your players, having the flexibility to have a session set in Sanctuary or on Tschai or Urth is something many people would clamor for.

2. Jvstin's guides to building a world, A series
This would be a series of books that, taken together, could help anyone of any skill level and experience in GMing come up with a fantasy world of their own. Book topics would cover all sorts of things--rational cartography and geography, religions, political structures, systems of magic and technology. Examples would be given throughout, which would be ready to plop into a world if the players want to test the waters with pre-conceived creations. You don't HAVE to play in the Forgotten Realms or Kalamar or any other published fantasy world, if you can make your very own. And these books would show you how.

3.People, Places, Portents.
This is similar to Ginger's idea. These would be books which the GM could use to place new NPCs, locales and events into the game as game ideas, across a wide variety of genres and tastes. Sample spaceports for you Traveller fans. Taverns, Inns and other places adventurers are almost bound to go before or after looting the Ogre's dungeon. Cities in worlds that would attract scheming Amberites. It would be more of a guiding hand than full adventures, enough to give the Gm ideas. "Okay, so Taziz is shady, he could be spying in the pay of a Chaosian House given his affinity for Serpents, yeah..." "That library in the old harborside city is perfect to hold the dark book that the Deep ones and the PCs are going to fight for..."

Posted by Jvstin at 2:12 PM

WISH 37: Schedules and Circumstances

WISH 37: Schedules and Circumstances

How do you prioritize gaming in your life to make sure it happens on an ongoing basis? Are there circumstances or scheduling issues that make it more or less likely for you to participate in a gaming session or a campaign? How do you work around these issues, or can you?

Time indeed is a precious resource. Every second you spend doing something is a second you don't do something else, even if you are multi-tasking.

I am unlucker than many in the WISH circle in that I do not have any FTF games, either Gming or playing. This is of course due to geography. It should be noted that, before the severing, TGFKAB and I did game, both with her friend Sandie (who moved to Florida not long after I arrived) and between ourselves. It came naturally to us, we set up a one-person Amber game that I Gmed for her. An experiment in a dual PBEM, When it rains it pours, proved that Bonnie is good at ideas but doesn't really have a desire or a taste to actually manage a world. I, on the other hand, do. So it was natural that in gaming between us, I would take the GM role.

In any event, aside from a couple of irregular games back East, I haven't Gmed a campaign or regularly FTF in quite a long time, actually. Its part of the reason for the rust and lack of polish sometimes when it comes to the con. My Gming skills have been in the crucible of PBEMs (with doing occassional stuff in IMs) for a long time. So, when it comes to prioritizing gaming in my life, its almost always in that context.

Its a matter of discipline and not letting oneself get too far behind when it comes to managing a PBEM. Arref rightly notes that many PBEMS die quickly for various reasons. Two games that I co-Gmed in PBEM, Oaths of the Unicorn and When It rains it Pours died because of time limitations on the part of myself and my co-conspirators, rather than anything else. I thus don't foresee GMing in PBEM anything new until and if SB concludes. On the other hand, I did manage a slow PBEM scenario for a few players, Gywddbwyll, and managed that while still doing SB. The pace of Gwyddbwyll, however, was more on the pace of Bete Noire than a regular PBEM, and it must be said that with a 5-7 day "return time" on turns, SB is slower than many PBEMs.

My pace, however, usually seems to suit the players. This return time does allow me freedom to respond to turns at less than a breakneck pace. There are days when I can't wait to plow through turns and continue the game, and others when other interests dominate. I am not a fan, as I have said elsewhere, of the "one line" turn. I much prefer meat on the bones of turns I give players, and vice versa. Of course, sometimes, especially in conversations, when it isn't possible to do otherwise.

I do realize, of course, that when I move to Minn., Jeff, and Dawn, and Scott and Felicia might all try and get me to run a FTF game, or join one as a player. We'll see what happens and how it integrates into my new life.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:33 PM

March 9, 2003

A pretty interesting weekend, with

A pretty interesting weekend, with not a lot of free time to Blog...other things held my attention and interest

--Mailed a box of my stuff to Minn.

--Watched a couple of movies thanks to Netflix (and I have to cancel the subscription too):

One of the Avengers Discs. (one of the 1966 ones)
The Fifth Element (big bada boom!)
Big Trouble in Little China (Lots of fun, underappreciated in its time)

Posted by Jvstin at 10:03 PM

March 7, 2003

ACUS notes A variety of

ACUS notes

A variety of popularity in my offerings this time around

--Ghosts of the Past has a full slate
--AAPA has a nice balance of old and new people (4 of each as far as I can recall from work)
--WITA has a mere 5 people.

And then there is Its a Mad Mad Mad Chaos, the game I am running slot one with Felicia.

--Just two people signed up for it...one of those is Mike (Levay)--who has signed up for ALL of my games for reasons not clear to me. So, Felicia and I are deciding what to do. The game as we have it in our minds really needs at least 4 people for balance. We might run something else, or Mike and the other player might find better pastures. So that is a bit of a downer.

As far as games I am in...I managed to get into Bridgette and Deb's game, and yes, I got into both of the Sunday Chris Kindred games. All of this does remind me that I should do some emails myself to my players.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:02 PM

Science Time! Beautiful enhanced

Science Time!

Beautiful enhanced pictures of dwarf galaxy NGC 1705, thanks to the Hubble.
And this article about ice cores and measuring climate change in the past.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:46 AM

Great Krugman column today. And

Great Krugman column today.

And it does seem I was right about that latin phrase in the letter of resignation of the diplomat I mentioned a little while ago, 'oderint dum metuant' does mean "Let them hate so long as they fear."

Last night's news conference did not alter that perception, I think.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:41 AM

March 6, 2003

Okay, I'll reveal myself the

Okay, I'll reveal myself the 14 novels I didn't read on the list. Ones in bold...I want to read someday
5.A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
14.Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
19.The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20.Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
28.I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29.Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
35 More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
40.Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
43.Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
48.The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

My memory got jarred a bit. I originally counted Dragonflight and Mission of Gravity...but I realized upon reflection that I have read both (I'd really love a copy of the latter, I had to read it in the library since it was OOP at the time).

Posted by Jvstin at 1:08 PM

Arref talks about the books

Arref talks about the books on the list that he hasn't read. Because the comments have been acting up lately, I decided to mention a couple of those books here.

11. The Book of the New Sun, Wolfe
Rich, involving, deep but not for sissies. Wolfe throws an interesting world at us, strange and arcane words, and a convoluted story with digressions and other surprises. Jim Groves got me into this set. Highly recommended.

16. The Colour of Magic, Pratchett
It IS silly, but its satire of the excesses of the fantasy genre is of a pretty good order. I've only read the first in the books, someday I will read more of them.

25. Gateway: Pohl
Not bad, but not especially "superb", either

27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Adams:
Adams is to SF as Pratchett is to Fantasy. Do read it, and Don't Panic.

31. Little, Big, Crowley
I just recently read this myself. It was slow and ponderous, interesting but not perfectly to my taste in the end.

33. The Man in the High Castle, Dick
IMO, Dick's best novel.

39. Ringworld, Niven
My first Niven novel, as it so happens. The sequels grow lamer and lamer as they progress but the original is still a classic

49. Timescape, Benford
Before I got turned off on Benford on his antics with his Foundation novel, he wrote some good stuff. This one involves communication through time, and attempts to change a horrible future by communicating with the past. It's a story more about scientists than the actual science.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:56 PM

Which Price is Right?

Which Price is Right?

An absolutely fascinating article on pricing items, ranging from airline seats to clothes.

The article had special interest to me, of course, because of my background working in the computer department of a grocery store. I already knew one of the truths of this article--not everyone pays the same price for the same exact goods. And this is, I think, a trend which will only increase in the future.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:53 AM

March 5, 2003

Some Significant (to me) SF/Fantasy

Some Significant (to me) SF/Fantasy Books that I have read

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury and I, Robot by Issac Asimov
First two SF books I have ever read.

The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, by Tolkien
As above, for Fantasy. I read this entire set over a few days before the showing of the execrable animated version on television
one weekend when I was 11 or 12. Of course I didn't know how bad it would be before I saw it.

Expanded Universe, by Robert Heinlein
Oddly enough, my first Heinlein, although I read Time Enough for Love and The Past Through Tomorrow at about the same time. Not the usual choices to begin his oeuvre, admittedly. I later caught up with his other books and novels.

The First Amber series, by Roger Zelazny
The second fantasy I ever read, which eventually got me into the ADRPG and its wonderful community. Is it any wonder that after reading Tolkien and Zelazny, that a lot of the fantasy of the 1980's seemed weak to me? (eg. Terry Brooks or Goodkind or even Robert Jordan)

The Planet of Adventure novels, by Jack Vance
My first exposure to the Master. I am very happy to report that the GURPS supplement covering the books will be out this summer.

The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove
The work that got me into his Alternate history novels.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:43 PM

Wow. Mongoose Publishing is doing

Mongoose Publishing is doing a D20 take on Babylon 5, due early summer.


Via Roll the Bones

Posted by Jvstin at 10:52 AM

AS a postscript...I've only read

AS a postscript...I've only read 34 of these 50.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:47 AM

The 50 most significant SF

The 50 most significant SF Books of the last fifty years, 1953-2002

As chosen by the SF Book Club. I won't present the entire list here, go read it for yourselves, but I do want to comment on a few of the entries.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

No real argument here, the seminal fantasy work.
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov

I might have switched this with the # 3 entry, mainly because it is read more and Dune is, I feel, far more an obvious influence on Space Opera.
3. Dune, Frank Herbert

See above.
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

Influential? I am not sure. Controversial, definitely.
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin

I disagree. I think The Left Hand of Darkness (which comes in at #30) should be here instead

6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
No argument, even if pure cyberpunk was and isn't really my style.

7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
Again, I would have picked one of his other works. 2001, for example. Or Rendevous with Rama.

8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

Yes, because it brought Dick to the attention of Hollywood, and Blade Runner has influenced a raft of SF books and movies alike.

9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Not a bad choice here either, its helped spark a sub-section of Fantasy. "Celtic Fantasy Trilogies" often with a strong
female element.

10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

Especially important work these days. (Hint: John Ashcroft)

Some of the choices in the 50 are odd, or unfamiliar or just plain weird:
#13 Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras ??? I might be nyeh kulturni, I've never heard of this.

Sword of Shannara?!? Why is that there at all?
Is Cordwainer Smith's The Rediscovery of Man really more significant than
a raft of other choices--Hyperion by Dan Simmons, mayhap? And where is Stapledon in the list? (They do have
Cities in Flight by Blish, that's something). None of the Heinlein juveniles? (the other Heinlein is Starship Troopers).

But I guess everyone has their own "list" of SF books (or just plain books) significant to THEM. Perhaps today, given time,
I will post mine (and maybe start another meme, hey?)

Posted by Jvstin at 10:42 AM

March 4, 2003

Hmm, can you hear me

Hmm, can you hear me now?

Posted by Jvstin at 1:00 PM

Terminus Est and Jacta

Terminus Est and Jacta Alea Est

It's latin for "This is the line of division" and "The Die is cast"

After soul-searching and a Hamletian lethargy, I have finally, officially decided to take the offer made to me, and leave Southern California.

I have given notice to my landlord, and notice to work (just a few minutes ago). It's real, and I have crossed the line of no return. California shall shortly no longer be my home.

Where am I going and who are my benefactors? Now that its official---My benefactors are the Olsons, and thus I will be moving to the land of 10,000 lakes and 10,000,000,000 mosquitos. Yes, the state of Minnesota.

It's not such a stretch. It might have well been one of the finalists (Pittsburgh, PA being the other) of places I might have gone to escape my family and poor home life. And being 2000 miles away from the wreckage of the disaster of my relationship with Bonnie and simultaneously being closer to many of you (although not too close to my meddling family) suits me well.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:05 PM

March 3, 2003

Revised my entry below a

Revised my entry below a bit. I guess I hit a pessimistic patch there. I don't think SF and Fantasy and RPGs are "doomed to die" but on the other hand, I keep going back to a thought experiment--if I was twelve today, what would get my allowance (or paper route money or whatever).

Perhaps when I do get into the educational system, I will have first-hand rather than statistical knowledge of the situation, and see for myself what is really going on...and even influence matters a bit. Reading and imagination are valuable things. Harold Bloom might be a pompous ass, but he has a point. Reading is hard work, but its good work. Anything which keeps a child from being a mindless, soulless drone is a good thing. The printed word, I feel, has a greater capacity for this than, say, Movies or other graphic media at this time because it does require an engagement between the writer and the reader.

It's far easier to "turn off your brain" for a movie than it is for a book.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:06 PM

The graying of science fiction

The graying of science fiction fandom

More Speculative Fiction novels are being produced than ever. Fantasy novels are especially popular, and prevalent, as are the ever-growing number of "media tie-in" novels. I looked at my latest copy of Locus and was amazed at how many novels there were out there that looked interesting. I probably could reserve myself to only a couple of authors and just barely keep up with their work.

There is just one problem though. Reading, especially speculative fiction reading, is skewing older and older. The fans are, as a demographic, aging and graying. Simple statistics tells you that if you don't "replace" your numbers, the average age of SF fans is going to go up. And that is precisely what is happening. Worldcons and other cons are increasingly dominated by older attendees.

But why?

It's similar to the reasons I gave on my previous entry on Gaming. Reading takes work, speculative fiction even more so. Every genre has its jargon, its methodology, its "standard" set of practices. Speculative fiction requires more than most. Science Fiction is often the worst at this, since an entire world often has to be created, even if its only a few short years in the future. To say nothing of a huge, space-opera universe a la Peter Hamilton or Frank Herbert. By contrast, a basic horror novel, or mystery is a much easier genre in which to learn the conventions.

Then there is the gender factor. I am not condoning it, but it seems that out of the two headed hydra of fantasy and science fiction, there is a tendency for women to prefer the former and men the latter. I see this on the bus all of the time. If a woman is reading a novel, its far more likely to be Laurell Hamilton than Peter F. Hamilton. According to Locus, the ratio of female readers of Spec-fic to male readers is rising. This is not solely or even primarily due to an influx of female readers although that is the case.

The number of readers, especially male SF readers is decreasing as the population ages. The Golden Age of SF is 12, or so Asimov said, certainly by the time I was 12, I was "into" SF. Today, a creative and precocious 12 year old is more likely to play their Playstation than read an SF novel, or play RP games. The fumbling attempts to re-capture the spirit of the Heinlein juveniles lately is just that...fumbling.

I can hear you saying now. "But what about Harry Potter?"

Harry Potter is a good thing for fantasy and SF alike, but there is a lack of evidence that kids who finish reading those novels are trying any others of either sub-genre. Publishers are trying hard to capitalize on the HP phenomenon, but so far, such attempts are not working. Novels like Artemis Fowl or the Magickers are not being snatched up as quickly as HP. The kids simply want more HP, not more Spec-fic.

I don't think that SF will "wither away" necessarily, but perhaps its just pessimism, but I look at the myriad other things available to a twelve year old and wonder how the printed SF word will, in the end, survive among the thousand other, more flashy delights available today, to say nothing of what is to come in the future. As Arref pointed out in one of the comments, with the myriad delights available, there are less dollars for each one.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:37 PM

A not so cheery Role

A not so cheery Role Call #8this week

Is roleplaying a dying hobby?

I'm a pessimist at heart, and by experience. Things that I hope will go right inevitably fall apart, by tragedy or my design, cosmic or otherwise. So my feelings about such matters are usually discolored by such emotions and it takes real effort to be objective. Forgive any unwarranted bias, heretofore.

I really have to do a post today about a tangential issue: Is Speculative fiction dying? since many of the same principles apply.

Let's face it. Gamers are not a common lot. Gaming is a creative activity which requires work. There is something to it, though, the exercise of imagination, one might say it is old as Man, to imagine, to dream of different places and being there, doing different things. As Arref points out there was roleplaying long before Gygax.

With that said, however, role playing games in their current form were in a decline until the revision of Dungeons and Dragons into their "D20" aspect, and its clear a lot of games are melding into that format. It might be that this second renaissance is doomed to be short lived, since the number of new gamers is steadily falling. The people roleplaying now, by and large, have been doing so for some time. Its not absolute, of course, as witness Arref's experience, as linked above.


Greater Competition from various sources. Its a much more diverse world than when I was 12. (Following the Golden Age philosophy, it seems to work for RPGs as well as SF). When I was 12, the compeitition for my creativity wasn't as intense as it was today. Cable had just started (and I didn't have it). Computers were primitive and the Atari 2600 was still a pretty new idea. There was no blistering barrage of cable television shows, advanced consoles of a thousand stripes, collectible card games on the Pokemon or Magic model...it was easy for me to fall into SF, and into roleplaying.

I'm not sure that a hypothetical version of me, aged 12, would necessarily follow that path today. I would like to think I would, but its certainly harder to find the "signal" of roleplaying amongst the "noise" of other entertainments. This is not to say that I don't watch television or play computer games...I do both. But would I have been hooked on roleplaying today? I am not sure. And the "graying" of roleplayers as a general rule is an indication of that, I think.

That said, however, as a general rule, roleplaying will never die. Its forms might change, its medium might be altered, but the general exercise of the imagination will live on as long as humans are not soulless automatons. However, pen and paper "Tabletop" roleplaying. Yes, I think its in a decline. It may go out entirely, only to be "resurrected" someday in a new form, in a new medium. The consolidation of a lot of RPG stuff into D20 is not a good sign--just as the loss of biodiversity in an area is a sign of ecological trouble. The quantity of RPG stuff may even increase for a while, but if they are all branches of the same root system, its not healthy at all--it suggests a basic lack of support for other ideas.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:25 AM

February 28, 2003

After a couple of weeks

After a couple of weeks off, I couldn't resist doing this Friday Five

1. What is your favorite type of literature to read (magazine, newspaper, novels, nonfiction, poetry, etc.)?

Science fiction, of course. Having grown up early on Bradbury, Asimov, Vance and friends, there was little chance I wouldn't love it. I currently read (books that is) 45% SF, 45% Fantasy, 10% Non fiction or other.

2. What is your favorite novel?

Arrrgh. A very tough question. It might be Silverlock by John Myers Myers. But other choices come to mind as well. Dune. Foundation. The Dying Earth, and of course, Nine Princes in Amber

3. Do you have a favorite poem? (Share it!)


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

--Percy Bysshe Shelley

4. What is one thing you've always wanted to read, or wish you had more time to read?

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Gibbon

5. What are you currently reading?

(I've got to update my list at right, this reminds me!)

The Incompleat Nifft, by Michael Shea

Posted by Jvstin at 10:46 AM

February 27, 2003

U.S.Diplomat's letter of resignation. The

U.S.Diplomat's letter of resignation.

The latin phrase, by the way, translates (as much as I know latin) to "Let them hate so long as they fear"

Posted by Jvstin at 6:10 PM

What makes a planet

What makes a planet a planet?

Its not as easy a question as you might think.

Here's a UC Berkeley online article which helps illustrate the variance in opinion. Heck, not everyone thinks poor little Pluto is a planet. At the American Museum of Natural History in NY...Pluto's been demoted, and does NOT have a model in the new Planetarium as the other planets do. Instead, it is lumped with the Kuiper Belt objects. Those are, for the uninitiated, a sort of "asteroid belt" beyond Neptune, mainly made of ice-dominated bodies. Some of them are quite large, Astronomers recently found one, named Quaoar, which is about 800 miles in diameter. That's larger than any of the traditional asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, and about 4/7th the size of Pluto. So if Pluto is a planet, is Quaoar? And if not, why not? If you consider planets to have a "rocky" core, Pluto gets demoted. But Pluto has a moon, shouldn't that count for something? And maybe we should consider a "Grandfather" clause for Pluto, and exclude bodies like it from planet-hood?

So does the solar system have 9 planets? Or 8 (if you exclude Pluto)? Or more if you count objects like Quaoar?
Perhaps we can have "major planets" and "minor planets"...but where do you draw that line (one possibility I think are between Major Gas Giants and Minor "Ice/rock planets". Of course, that means Earth is a "minor" planet under that definition.

Yes, this is the sort of thing which does float my boat. I've liked thinking about this stuff ever since good old Carl Sagan put together a little series called Cosmos.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:10 AM

Now he is a neighbor

Now he is a neighbor to those in the Great Beyond

Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers fame, has passed on.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:47 AM

February 26, 2003

Jenn has posted what she

Jenn has posted what she has entered for games. I finally did it this past weekend, thanks to that nasty depression. And yes, Jenn, I have to get back to you on your AAPA character. I promise.

So, for the interested:

Slot 1: It's a Mad Mad Mad Chaos, co-gming with Felicia Olson
Slot 2: Ad Amber per Astra
Slot 3: Rites of Passage (campaign). Will Cadmus figure out his parentage? Or at least what Fi and Brand have to do with it?
Slot 4: My primary choices are Deb and Bridgette's To 'Scape the Serpent's Tongue and Felicia's Revelations in Amber
Slot 5: Ghosts of the Past
Slot 6: Wizard in the Attic, the 2003 Edition
Slot 7: I signed up for Chris Kindred's A Night Amidst Wolves. With his popularity, its a crapshoot if I will get in
Slot 8 I signed up for (again) Chris Kindred's To Live and Die in Texorami. See Slot 7

I'm hoping, and dreading for the diversity to be in the people who come to my games. I think its going to primarily be in WITA, because most of my friends who could, DID play in the original edition. (Bridgette is an exception, and she will not be able to make it this time, either). So I could wind up for the first time with a room full of strangers without a single person I know.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:50 PM

Here is the question that

Here is the question that is bothering me right now.

"If I had not re-engaged my relationship with Bonnie in 2001, and moved out here to be with her in 2002, would I, in the course of my attempts to branch away from my domestic situation at home in New York, have considered Southern California as an attractive destination?"

The answer to this question is the answer to whether I stay here, and how soon do I leave if the answer is no.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:29 PM

February 25, 2003

Think all the craters on

Think all the craters on the Moon are older than dirt (with the exception of the big event documented by English monks and Chinese astronomers in the 12th century AD)?

Think again.NASA Solves Half-Century Old Moon Mystery

Posted by Jvstin at 2:04 PM

Claire gives some notes on

Claire gives some notes on a "unrun" scenario of her own, featuring a Chaos city divided between Amber and Chaos a la Cold War Berlin, or modern Nicosia (on Cyprus)

I'd play in such a scenario, absolutely. Scipio would flourish in such a climate.

Update: I see I have much more editing to do on my pages. Scipio's is a bit out of date.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:26 PM

February 24, 2003

Punning joke of the day:

Punning joke of the day:

What did the space alien say to the store clerk, when she walked into the soda (pop) aisle?

--Take me to your liters.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:57 PM

Let's try it again, perhaps

Let's try it again, perhaps a little less rambling.

I like to customize my scenarios to the players. I do not feel that a con game is ready for prime-time until I have the characters in hand, so that I can meld them into the universe. While this does not mean that I can't run a con game again (I am doing it with Wizard in the Attic after all), it means that each experience is going to be unique.

Last year, in AAPA, I couldn't wait to get a hold of the characters (and even penalized same-day characters) because I wanted to seamlessly put them into the context of the game, and I like to have time to do that. Oh sure, you can do it on the run, and I have (in FTF one shots) but I like to have it somewhat smoother. In AAPA, having the characters in advance allowed me to create their "dopplegangers" in the space-opera shadow much easier, and allowed me to get the characters more organically tied to the game at large.

When I ran Wizard in the Attic for the first time, I did the same thing. Oh, Anne's Rebman works in the forges of Amber, eh? We can use that. Another character has a clockwork chess set? There's an idea. A character who is Brand's daughter (as it so happens, TGFKAB). Oh, that is too perfect for my plans.

It will be the same this year, no doubt. I am eager to see what players I will have and what characters they are bringing to the table, so plotlines can be formed around them seamlessly. For characters who I know are going to be in the games already, I've begun this process already.

What this means of course is that while this weekend I did some talking plot points for AAPA and GHOP, I really need the players to make them complete. Similarly, I have WITA's stuff already--but it needs the players to make it come to life.

I'm not a perfect GM. I've made mistakes and miscalculations. For instance, I had far too much plot for too little time last year with AAPA and it was rushed, badly. It really needed a 6 hour slot and I tried to do it in four hours. Hopefully this year I will do better and learn from those mistakes--and that all of my players, both old friends, new friends who have not gamed with me before (yes, you, Jenn)_and strangers will have a fun time.

One can hope, anyway

Posted by Jvstin at 1:45 PM

Arrgh! A long post on

Arrgh! A long post on con games and such ruined because IE crashed before I saved the post.


Posted by Jvstin at 1:32 PM

Other games to run, someday

Other games to run, someday

I want to run a FTF game. Or another game, although SB does fill the online niche more than adequately.

It's not a need to run a game, per se, the large and diverse canvas of my magnum opus is almost more than I can handle, sometimes, and its when I get depressed that the game suffers badly.

But I have lots of ideas, though, to run, or at least play in, other games. I'd love a copy of Nobilis because I'd want to try that system, player and GM, for instance. But its not the only thing I could do. Ideas are like seeds, and in the Amber system alone I have a bunch that wait the right climate to germinate. They are larger than single con-slot games, which is why I am reluctant to bring them into a forum like ACUS unless I was explicitly trying for a campaign...AAPA I sort of stumbled into doing a sequel more than anything else. There are so many campaign slots (too many I think) in ACUS that it certainly doesn't need more from me. So these ideas are not likely to wind up at your local Con, I prefer ideas with tighter focus and smaller scope than these.

Borders of Eternity
Inspired at first by Arref's successful creation of the Empire of the Gleaming Banner, the opening image is what drew me to this and its stayed with me since. One of the player characters, on a private secluded beach in shadow, a shadow no one else in their family knows about, finds a set of footprints where none should be. Not Amberian, not Chaosian...someone else.
In its most epic and ambitious form, this would be a three sided game with characters from the three poles of the universe...Amber, Chaos and the third pole, hitherto unknown, in a direction perpendicular to Amber and Chaos both. My mental modeling of this third world is a quartet of shadows influenced heavily by Elizabeth Willey's books. They have a quartet of elemental powers, scions of them able to travel shadow, and an even match for Pattern and Logrus masters and mistresses. They are just as real.
What happens in the contacts between these worlds? Intrigue, adventure, conflict, and exploring new worlds and lands. Expanding one's vision of just how large the universe is. Finding the borders of Eternity.

Status Quo Ante Bellum
I'm a little less inclined to do this game at a con, considering the success and the prevalence of Rebma-based games lately,but it could work in a long term campaign format.
It's an alternate Amber, where the War turned out somewhat differently. During the attack on Chaos, when Amber's forces were at the Courts, a expeditionary force from one of the aquaphilic Chaosian Houses made a bold strike on Amber...specifically on Rebma. Moire was killed, LLewella has fled, and these Chaosians now rule Rebma.
The War has ended, and Amber has demanded, as part of the peace treaty, a status quo ante bellum...a return to the way things were, before the War. However, the Chaosians in Rebma refuse to leave. What's more, not everyone in Rebma is unhappy at the change in administration either, especially the males, since the new Chaosian overlords do not like the matriarchial system of Rebma and have begun making moves toward more egalitarianism. Plus, Rebma was very much the dependency of Amber before the War, and the new rulers want Rebma to be a free and independent power of its own.
So...Amber is unhappy at this state of affairs, LLewella herself hosting a "Rebman government in exile", Chaos is unhappy at these renegades, and Rebma itself is fractured between those who like the new Rebma and its promises of becoming an independent state, and those who want things to return to the way they were. A game heavy on intrigue, spying, and diplomacy, the player characters could be from one of any number of factions, or pretending to be with their own hidden agendas.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:30 AM

Wish #35: Music Ginger's latest

Wish #35: Music

Ginger's latest WISH is from Meera:

How does music influence your campaigns? As a GM, do you feel there are �soundtracks� for scenes, and as a player, do you perhaps have �songs� for characters? Name three songs that relate to favourite characters or situations.

I'm not that musically inclined, despite the occasional posting of lyrics here.

I don't for instance, have theme songs for characters. I've never quite had that capacity, nor do I really have theme songs for campaigns. That piece of music you hear on the SB main page is from Microsoft Music Producer, which basically lets you tinker with some pre-set sounds to create compositions. And I do like fractal music composers.

But I've never been able to say. "Oh yes, Marcus' theme song is "xxx" or Ad Amber per Astra has a theme of "zzz".

On the other hand, though, I do think of situational music on occasion, and that bleeds over into PBEM turns. As a very recent example, Deb's character in SB, Leigh, recently learned of a mess that was occurring in her ways, or otherwise. So, I titled her turn "Welcome to River City"...I'm sure if you've seen The Music Man, you know what song i am talking about.

But other than those situations, music rarely enters into my games at all. I'm not just inclined competently, that way. It's not that I don't like music (although that is a story in itself), I'm not good at integrating it into the mise-en-scene of my games.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:59 AM

February 23, 2003

A movie idea. I'm not

A movie idea.

I'm not sure where this came from, it erupted in my head as I was watching Ebert and Roeper's review show this weekend. It's not a happy movie, but I would watch this movie. Maybe you would, too.

The key event of the movie starts with a couple, unmarried. We see them in their apartment discussing going to some event or place. They flip a coin to decide who drives. We see it come down heads, and a cheer from the guy, and then we see it come down tails, and a smile from the girl.

It's then a bit of alternating scenes. We see the guy get in the driver's seat, we then see the woman do the same. This continues for a short while, until the tragedy strikes. The volkswagen beetle that the two are in is blindsided by a speeding SUV. And there the split becomes bigger. We see the car crash twice, with the two drivers and occupants.

In both cases the driver is killed, the non-driver survives. And the movie shows bifurcating scenes since then, showing the reactions to the death, the meaning of why the other feels they were spared, how the people react to the death of one or the other in the horrible crash. So, the movie would explore the nature of what happens when tragedy strikes a relationship and the people around it, and taking the "Sliding Doors" approach to see it from both sides.

Then again, since its not "It's exactly like fill in name of movie xxx", It wouldn't get greenlighted in a thousand years.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:57 PM

Roll Call 7: Mix n'

Roll Call 7: Mix n' Match'

I know I skipped number six (the Sex one) but I wasn't in a "place" to do that one when it came out and I've decided just to let it lie. This newest one, however is much easier for me to answer:

Do you enjoy genre-mixing in your games, and if not, why not?


Genre-mixing makes for a nice change of pace from the standard change of pace, and allows explorations of genres without necessarily having to switch systems. Not everyone likes to genre-mix, and so I have always thought it should be done judiciously. Its simply not fair for players to be baited and switched into a genre mix. Not everyone likes all genres.

There is an old AD&D module, S4 I think, the one with the crashed spaceship in the mountains, the robots and everything else. This is exactly the kind of module which can cause trouble, if the players are not in the mood to deal with a technological environment. Its a jarring experience for the players to be upset because the GM is mixing genres without any fore-warning that a fantasy game is going to have a science fiction element this time around, or vice versa. Horror is so often subsumed, I think, under dark fantasy that Horror can be considered a branch of fantasy in this regard. Robots and Rakashas do not always mix.

On the other hand, genre mixing can be a lot of fun and I do like to do it.

My best example is the original Ad Amber Per Astra. I made it very clear in the ACUS gamebook last year that the player characters were going to wind up in a technological, space-opera shadow. There were spacecraft, space stations, and other staples of the science fiction genre. For the most part, I think the players had fun.

I've done the reverse, too. In a game of Traveller I Gmed a long, long time ago, I used a motif of an abandoned, haunted space station on a moon of a gas giant. The base was actually infested with an alien intelligence which could place "shards" of itself to animate corpses.

Having the players sweat as the Zombies slowly cut them off, and their terroras they fought to get out of the trap, and escape back to their shuttlecraft, was great gaming. And they didn't mind at all the "genre-swap" since I told them there was going to be Horror this time around.

So, genre-mixing can definitely work for me, and I enjoy it as a player as well as doing it as a GM.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:22 AM

February 22, 2003

A little while ago, Arref

A little while ago, Arref talks about the D&D Product: Book of Vile Darkness

Today, I happened to be at the Block, which is the outdoor mall up here in Northern Orange County.
I was looking through the 25% off table, since if I didn't mention it before, the Wizard of the Coast stores are paring back, severely, their RPG sections,
paring them back to only their own products.

Anyway, I went from there to the actual rack they have now for their core books...and there was no sign of the Book of Vile Darkness...I had wanted to flip through the book myself, as Arref had.

I asked the clerk...and he said that this WOTC branch "didn't carry it"

Given the conservative nature of Orange County, I should not have been surprised. I'll have to visit the independent local gaming store and see if they have a copy.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:45 PM

February 21, 2003

Found this while surfing today.

Found this while surfing today. It wouldn't work well on my dial up at home, but here at work it is sweet to play around with:

Visual Thesaurus

Posted by Jvstin at 12:47 PM

A small victory. The "program"

A small victory.

The "program" that i use here at work to enter information on the drawer boxes is actually an old Lotus spreadsheet. Why they don't upgrade to something more modern...I have no clue, but they are consistent, after all, they are still running Windows NT and a copy of a order program (Syteline) which has gone through 3 iterations after the one they have.

Anyway, at one point in this massive spreadsheet are the cells to input the freight charges. We charge according to the rates and add on a surcharge per box. I suggested the other day that having the total count of the boxes displayed in this area of the spreadsheet would be a good thing, rather than having to navigate back to the totals area to get that info.

In the latest update to the master spreadsheet, Cathy took my small piece of advice. It wasn't hard to do (just a simple cell referent from the totals screen to a cell in this area of the spreadsheet), it was just no one thought of the idea until I did.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:56 AM

Other things I read. (as

Other things I read.
(as a take off from Djinn)

Orange County Register (newspaper, its about as conservative as the NY Post is back home, but better written.)

Friday edition of the USA Today (I know its the cotton candy of newspapers.)
Sunday Edition of the OC Register
(Sometimes) Sunday Edition of the LA Times

Locus Magazine. (Semipro magazine about news and such in the SF world.)
Scientific American

Posted by Jvstin at 11:16 AM

AD&D Stats from Real Life

AD&D Stats from Real Life

Via Arref

This is what I got:

Str: 7
Int: 12
Wis: 13
Dex: 9
Con: 9
Chr: 10

I'm not sure how valid these values are. Strength, Dex, Con and Charisma seem about right, Wisdom seems high, and if I might be modest, Intelligence a bit low.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:01 AM

If you are a fan

If you are a fan of the movie "The Princess Bride"
you have to .see this picture.

It's clearly photoshopped, but its funny.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:34 AM

February 20, 2003

I've got to get the

I've got to get the amazon links in place, but you'll note I've progressed ahead in my reading.

Ring of Five Dragons was a disappointment. Maybe its because I've read some really good fantasy lately, or perhaps my mood, but I had no patience with some aspects of the novel. Sure, the triple letter imaginary words were fine, and the alien societies depicted were all right.

But things just gnawed at me. Sudden changes in character that had no warning whatsoever. A far too pat end portion, where all of the antagonists, somehow, are neutralized one by one. (Except the one Lustbader has apparently designed as the sequel's main one). Casual brutality that serves little purpose whatsoever. Yes, we've established the conquering alien race treat women as chattel, especially the conquered population, but did we really need the brutality and sexual assault/rape that ends the life of a sympathetic female character toward the end of the novel? I'm not sure gratutious is the right word, but this reminds me of Allan Cole's Wizard of the Winds, where he does the same thing, almost, to one of his female characters. Its as if the author wanted to be especially odious and misogynistic to his female viewpoint characters.

ROFD is supposed to be the first in a series, the Veil of a Thousand Years is next. I have absolutely no interest in reading that book. There is plenty to like in ROFD, the world building and the alien races are interestingly drawn, but, like Wizard of the Winds, all of its good qualities are stained and drowned by the negative ones. It was a waste of my time to read the book.

I read, as a chaser to wash the taste out of my mouth, Gardner Dozois' annual Year's Best SF collection, the one published last year (and thus for the year 2001). These collections are always a mixed bag of nuts, there is almost guaranteed to be stuff you like a lot, stories you think are all right, and stories which you skip.

This one is no exception. I'd encountered a few of these stories before, and re-read those. On K2 with Kanakredes, by Dan Simmons, for example, where an alien joins a climbing expedition to the most treacherous mountain on Earth. The Dog said Bow Wow, by Michael Swanwick, one of his usual strange birds. Although I really was turned off by Stations of the Tide, few of his stories have failed to entertain and delight me. This one posits a post-civilization crash world, where all forms of electronic equipment are verboten, and with good reason, but its told through the story of a man and his dog. Anthropomorphic intelligent dog, anyway (think like the Vargr in Traveller).

I've finished with that, though, and have just started getting into another oddity of a book, Vandemeer's City of Saints and Madmen (the small edition, not the newer, larger, hardcover). Its very Borgesian, so much so, consciously, that in this strange city of Ambegris where the stories in the book are set, there is a shop called the "Borges Bookstore". I think I am going to enjoy this. I'll of course let you all know in due course.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:56 PM

Jared Strait, a 20 year

Jared Strait, a 20 year old Oregonian who had filmed an anti-suicide spot a few months ago, came undone and
ended his life last sunday.

The dark hand of despair is powerful indeed.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:48 PM

Millions of dollars, a high

Millions of dollars, a high profile appointment and promotion to a cabinet-level department, and the Department of Homeland Security has for us citizenry...

A public service campaign.

Not that I am against such a thing, mind you, there is useful information to be had...but I was expecting...something more. This brochure is the sort of thing normally found from that place in Colorado whose name escapes me, the place for all of the government documents you can get via their catalog.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:30 AM

National Engineer's Week: Future City

National Engineer's Week: Future City Competition

For 7th and 8th Graders, they just announced their 2003 Regional Winners.

I would have loved to enter this, if it was around when I was this age...but then again, they do have the entrants use Simcity software, and that wasn't exactly around when I was 12. Back then, the Atari 2600 was state of the art...

Posted by Jvstin at 10:20 AM

Viva la (less) Resistance! A

Viva la (less) Resistance!

A national science foundation press release on a breakthrough
on dealing with electrical resistances

So what? Imagine storage capacities two orders of magnitude greater than what we have now. If this breakthrough can be brought to practical application, you could carry something that could fit in your wallet that could hold the equivalent of 50 modern DVDs...

Via Electrolite.

Update: A more technical description of the breakthrough is available
at Physics Web

While more jargon heavy, it makes it clearer that this discovery is more and could lead to much more than just a better way to store data...

Posted by Jvstin at 9:50 AM

February 19, 2003

Of Links and Readers Let's

Of Links and Readers

Let's face facts. BJS is not precisely a hub of the Amber Blogging world. It's actually, I believe, to be pretty much of a backwater. It's not as popular or as referenced anywhere near the heavyweights.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, necessarily. I forget where, but there is a "power law" that seems to apply to Blogs. Within a given community or subcommunity, there will always be a few blogs who everyone reads, and others which have a far more limited clientele.

My readership is actually a few people more than I expected. Honestly, I thought I could count everyone who read this Blog on a daily basis, or knew who they were. The comments I've gotten lately have expanded that a bit, and in one case, I had no clue that Claire had me linked in her blogs. So I have reciprocated her link, for example.

The question is, am I missing anyone else? I don't think so, but then, I had no clue Claire read my work until I saw her comment. If you do have a link to BJS and want a reciprocal one, well, let me know, okay? And it's okay if you don't have a link to me, either. Most people wouldn't want to send their readers over here, anyhow, for good reasons.

The only other point is that this blog is rather insular, but that's all right. There is, as far as I know, precisely one blog outside of the Amber Blog world which has a link to mine. (Thanks, Gabe)

In a way I envy people like Ginger who definitely gets a lot of cross-traffic from the "mainstream" Blog world..but then, I am an acquired taste, to say the least. I'm not sure what I would do with more than a dozen readers.

Some of you, though, my friends, deserve a far wider audience. And that's not depression or anything, just a testament to your skills and abilities.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:49 PM

Yes, I had a bad

Yes, I had a bad night, last night. I don't think you can call it a panic attack, but its similar, I shut down, hastily say good bye to anyone I am talking to, the storm of neurons in my brain frying.

I did do something different this time, to no avail. I tried a phone number that a friend sent me, you know who you are, unfortunately the number was for LA county and didn't have anything worthwhile. I guess trying to reach for help is a good sign.

Anyway, it was precipiated by a number of things, including the fact that my beloved minidisc player went to its eternal reward yesterday at work. Its past its warranty and I don't have the documents for it anyway, but buying a $150 electronic gadget is not going to happen. So, its a loss.

People at work are going to be happier, and have said so: I have an embarassing habit of singing as I listen to music. It doesn't matter if the song is "happy" (which I have trouble listening to these days) or "unhappy" (much more in my mood--you can imagine American Pie, for instance, gets heavy rotation). I sing. And it annoys my co-workers.

They won't have to worry about it anymore. "I'm sorry that your player broke, but I'm not sorry about no more singing" is what my Boss told me.

Just another bean on the plate of my discontented life.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:34 PM

The importance of spelling. It

The importance of spelling.

It seems that one site has capitalized on Blogger's popularity, and the propensity of people to misspell words in URLs

All of the following "misspelled Blog sites" go to one place, some sort of pre-millenial christian site:




This site apparently has bought a swath of such sites, or redirections, because some of my friends also seem to have this potential misdirection of a missspelled address:




When you leave Aaron's site, you get a popup window begging you to bookmark the "right" URL.

"Fun", eh? Maybe these guys can "exorcise my demons". You know, roll rocks on me, dunk me, put me on a rack.

And the classic, the burning at the stake.

UPDATE: It does seem they simply bought the domain blospot.com. Tricky! And intellectually dishonest. I understand their branch of Christianity is strongly evangelical, but to try and get readers this way is, if not breaking a commandment, its certainly contorting it out of shape.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:04 PM

February 18, 2003



Posted by Jvstin at 9:53 PM

I posted all of this

I posted all of this as a comment to a post on Arref's Blog, but I thought I'd repeat it here.

Oh I don't think it {Daredevil the movie] was boring...but it could have been done better.

The plot was a bit underformed in my opinion. Colin Ferrell fleshed out Bullseye very well for example, and I do like Jennifer Garner.

On the other hand, when Daredevil comes to fight Kingpin, we are not given any setup to suggest that Kingpin could take on a superhero. In the comics its made very clear Kingpin is very capable, physically. Sure Michael Clarke Duncan is a big guy, but that didn't suggest that he would be able to take on DD.

I was also talking with Bridgette, we both agree that some reference to the rest of the "comic universe" would also help make it seem more whole. In Batman and Robin, for instance, Bruce Wayne makes a throwaway reference to Metropolis, suggesting a wider universe out there.

Daredevil doesn't exist in a vacumn, the only way I know him in fact is via crossovers with comics I did read. Spiderman was often in his same orbit, since many of their enemies were common (Kingpin, Paladin, Dr. Octopus, etal). Is it asking so much to, for example, for in the Daredevil movie for Matt Murdock to admonish his lawyer friend or suggest "What, are you going to start reading about that web swinging superhero too" or for, in the next Spiderman movie, for Spiderman to see, just a glimpse, and gone, of someone else navigating the rooftops on the east side of Manhattan?

Posted by Jvstin at 1:12 PM

Something for the math oriented

Something for the math oriented is Pi-search.

This has an engine to look for strings in the binary representation of Pi. Since any character, via ASCII, can be converted to a binary code, this means that you can look for letters, words embedded in the digits. Think of the ending of the novel (not the movie!) Contact.

Thus, we find Zelazny is embedded at the binary position 467807378 (note this is not the 46780738th digit, but its the 467807378th digit if we converted PI to binary numbers).

Weimer is at position 1649292666.

But Amberite is not to be found in the first four billion binary digits of pi.

There is actually some serious math involved at this site, the age old question of Pi's randomness (or lack thereof) is mentioned.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:37 PM

Dense,but interesting article on Supernovas,

Dense,but interesting article on Supernovas, and the mysterious "dark energy".

Would you believe me if I told you there's now a supernova named Frodo?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:51 AM

February 17, 2003

WISH 34:Non Standard Characters Do

WISH 34:Non Standard Characters

Do you prefer to build a character with a unique concept, or do you prefer a simple or more standard concept to start with? Do you find that your preference correlates with a preference for elaborate initial backgrounds or with background development in play? If you�re a GM, do you find unique-concept characters easy or hard to GM for? What about playing alongside them?

Usually, I will go with a more standard concept, with perhaps one or two tweaks to make him (more commonly than her) unique. Work within the system to make characters as individualized and not cookie-cutter as possible.

On rare occasions, though, I have been known to play a character outside the standard templates. I refer you to my Amber character Tannim. He has a strong line of draconic blood in him (combined with Chaosian heritage). Thus, his shapeshifting is unique and poignant, he can only shift into two forms, but one of those is a small dragon, with, yes, a breath weapon. His shapeshifting and abilities do not quite fit into the standard ADRPG paradigms, he is unusual in that respect. To this day I am not sure what prompted me to create him, sometimes I think it was ex nihilo, although ever since I created him, I've seen more and more novels appear (although not read) with variations on the idea. (eg. The Dragon Delasangre).

As far as background to my characters, I usually like to have a modicum, or a seed of a background in place before play starts, and then the character can be developed both in play, and with subsequent stories and contributions and sometimes playing out backstory. In this way, I fill in the blanks and make the character more whole as time goes by. Different incarnations of a character can reveal new and varied facets as well. For example, it was only in this latest incarnation of Marcus, in Bridgette's Age of Retribution, that I established that Marcus knows how to speak French. Hadrian has developed and refined himself over his several incarnations, as has Dora, and the world of DuMarque.

As far as Gm-ing unusual concept characters, well, Strange Bedfellows could almost be considered a zoological park of unusual concept characters. Sure, there are relatively standard Amber PCs in the game that you might meet at any convention game. Rob's musketeer-like William comes to mind, or Keith's Brandeigh.

On the other hand, I also have in Strange Bedfellows:
A half dryad Amberite
Children of Elders unique to my game, and within that group, one who is 1/2 anthropomorphic felinoid (almost a furry, really)
Children of Elders who normally do not get players clamoring to be their children, like Sand, Delwin, and Dalt
Characters with ties to unusual powers and beings, sometimes such relations do not always go smoothly...
A PC from an alternate multiverse, descended from Oberon's sister
One PC whose twisted history and background is unknown even to the character, but the Player has fiendishly had fun
So do I mind unusual concepts? NO. I welcome them, within bounds of balance and fairness.

The trick is balance. I don't like characters or concepts which overshadow all other PCs. "Min-maxing" is not something I appreciate very much, and such players are not welcome in my games.

I'm pretty lucky though, the players in my game who have unusual concepts are not those who are prone to abusing them, they are aware that such concepts are a two edged sword, and that weird background and nature can bite you on the butt when you aren't looking. There are disadvantages if you wanted to play, for instance, a sentient half-chaosian, half-magical beast, but if it provides a rich game experience for the Gm, the player, and the fellow players, and doesn't become the be-all and end-all, then I welcome such a beastie into my campaigns and games. In Con games I am usually a little more restrictive in accepted concepts, because the richness of a unique concept is often harder to come across, to express fully and fairly.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:10 PM

The previous post reminds me

The previous post reminds me of one of those things I'd love to have. Long ago, in a land far away known as Staten Island, my older brother introduced me to an anglophilic card game.

It was a melding-type game (like Rummy or Canasta) although instead of regular cards, the cards had English Monarchs on them. All of them from William the Conqueror to Queen Elizabeth II. You could only meld cards if you had all of the Monarchs of a particular dynasty, and the larger, longer dynasties were worth far more points.

It was a lot of fun and educational, too. Where else would I have learned about people like Lady Jane Grey, the nine-days-queen?

I wonder if the game still exists (I have no idea even to its name).

Posted by Jvstin at 11:15 AM

Yes, I am working on

Yes, I am working on Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe...Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Day. Not a holiday here at DBS

On "This Week" on Sunday, George Will recited the entire list. I somehow think he can do it from memory, rather than a teleprompter or a script.

I'm not *that* good.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:53 AM

I worked on advancement points

I worked on advancement points for SB this weekend. Saw Daredevil, too.

Its not a surcease or the philosopher's stone, but I'm better than last Friday. Still, I watched the movie with
a level of apathy and disinterest which is unlike me.

Anyway, it seems the comments aren't working well, either. I'll be glad when I don't have to deal with Blogger or Haloscan anymore.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:46 AM

February 16, 2003

Ping. An explanation. It emerges


An explanation.

It emerges that my radio silence Friday possibly scared the crap out of some people, or at least unnerved them.

It also seems that my posts detailing in sometimes too intimate detail the dark torture of my mind are upsetting too.

So, dear readers, if I have any left, let's try a slightly different paradigm. The "Ping".

The "Ping" means I hurt, but I am alive.

I won't bother, upset, or take up your time with the bad things I feel. Arref said that pain shared is halved...but on the other hand,
when readers have a visceral reaction to my writing, and get upset...well, then, as I have said many times before, in many contexts, its
not my goal in life to cause that pain and upset.

So the Ping. A shorthand for endless stupid and boring details of my dark mental state, and at the same time telling you I am still alive. I'm not
savvy enough to have a bot post blog entries automatically, you can be sure that a Ping is a true sign.


So. Ping.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:21 PM

February 15, 2003

Yes I'm alive. Don't start

Yes I'm alive.

Don't start any fanfare, spit the fatted calf or anything else.

Once again, it seems that while wrestling with the darkness in my heart, I've upset the rest of you.

Work yesterday was a bitch and I didn't have much opportunity to do anything *except* work.

When I got home? Well, I turned on the news and nearly threw my glass at it when it started talking about last minute places to take your sweetheart.

So I didn't go online, didn't have any real desire to connect with anyone.

So I'm alive. In the pit of despair, with no staircase or ledges to climb out of it.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:05 PM

February 13, 2003

I've begun and erased this

I've begun and erased this post five times. I don't know what to say or do anymore that really, really would make a lasting difference. Therapy? Drugs? Psychologists? I don't have the money, little insurance (in fact one of the people at work is fighting over medical insurance).

To stay here in California is purgatory of the worst sort, a cruel joke, the shards of my greatest dream and hope dashed into pieces. Why did I ever believe for a minute that things could have worked between Bonnie and me?

If I had been pessimistic and did not move to California, I would be unhappy and possibly still at home. That is the one and only good thing of this. But I am lonely, alone, and dying inside. I rise and fall, yes, but the falls are growing more common, and deeper. Ever deeper. I thought I would be safe if I made it through the winter holidays.

It wouldn't be the first mistake I've made in this life. Stronger people than me would take this opportunity that I've been given and make the most of it. Stronger people would be having fun, exploring this west coast world and saying to hell with everything else. Stronger people would be seeing what happened as a good thing in a way, since its clear Bonnie and I are not suited for each other. Stronger people would be looking for that right person.

I am weak. I am not skilled socially, but all of you who have read this Blog and know me personally know I operate on the principle of introduced friends, I do best when people I know introduce me to people they know, expanding across social networks. There is a comfort level to that. I can't go into a room cold and make friends, not usually. Too much low self esteem.

And so, here alone, I am adrift, and lost. I have a "deal" to move somewhere else...right after the con, but right now, I only can think that I will be causing more problems than I can possibly solve.

It's not worth it anymore.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:16 PM

I don't know why

I don't know why I got to extremes
Too high or too low there ain't no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It's all or nothing at all
I don't know why I got to extremes

Sometimes I'm tired, sometimes I'm shot
Sometimes I don't know how much more I've got
Maybe I'm headed over the hill
Maybe I've set myself up for the kill
Tell me how much do you think you can take
Until the heart in you is starting to break?
Sometimes it feels like it will

I don't know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain't no in-betweens
You can be sure when I'm gone
I won't be out there too long
I don't know why I got to extremes

Out of the darkness, into the light
Leaving the scene of the crime
Either I'm wrong or I'm perfectly right every time
Sometimes I lie awake, night after night
Coming apart at the seams
Eager to please, ready to fight
Why do I go to extremes?

And if I stand or I fall
It's all or nothing at all

I don't know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain't no in-betweens
And if I stand of I fall
It's all or nothing at all
I don't know why I go to extremes

Posted by Jvstin at 5:41 PM

Arref's alt.wish.33 alt.wish.33 :: Perfect

Arref's alt.wish.33

alt.wish.33 :: Perfect Element
If you had a genre element of a rpg system that was perfect; for example a mechanic that worked so well that it was transparent to the Players, what would you pick? What would you really, really want that element to be? Why that element? What game comes close? What experience tells you it will never be perfect?

A fair question, requiring some thought. Of course this goes back to a comment made about the necessity of different systems, to address different issues, to introduce different mechanics.

My idea is similar to Ginger's, but its a slightly different focus although it might be considered under the same umbrella.

I call it the 110% rule.

The idea is that, every so often, a character can exceed his limitations, break the boundaries of her or his stats, go beyond what they think is capable of themselves. It might be tied into experience points, as a prelude to an increase in their abilities, but it could work in game, too. It's nothing that happens often (so a dice pool or a few points in a bank might be worthwhile), the character has to really want it for it to happen. Miracle points in Nobilis are a bit what I am talking about, the extension of the character's domain beyond their normal boundaries....and Adventure! has a mechanic, too. It's a fine line, though, if you limit it too much, the players hoard the points and never use them. On the other hand, too generous with such a system, and this "exceeding" becomes commonplace and ordinary, and not at all what I, the GM or player want to have happen. It should be uncommon, but not once-in-a-lifetime or every day. Just like real life.

One option might be that the player could use said points either for one-shots, or, if there is an accumulation system, a chance to convert them to actual experience points and lasting changes. But there, again, I wouldn't want a system where the players felt compelled to "only" save them, or "only" expend them. I'd want it to be a fair choice, and dependent on the player's taste, rather than the logistics of the game.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:49 PM

The weather has been awful

The weather has been awful by just about any standard...rain, lots of it, even by the standards of a New Yorker. (Maybe not by the standards of someone from Florida). 2 and a half inches yesterday...maybe an inch the day before that, showers today and tomorrow too. Yes, about 4 inches of rain all told...much more up against the mountains (Pasadena got 7 inches yesterday alone, and mudslides closed down the main I-5 pass called the grapevine)

It's not helped my black spiral dance (with apologies to WW).

Posted by Jvstin at 12:30 PM

No, I haven't bought duct

No, I haven't bought duct tape.

If terrorists did want to launch an attack on Anaheim, well, it would suck to be me. It's not *that* far fetched, we do have Disneyland here, lots of civilians for a fanatic to kill.

And some people might consider the destruction of the "Its a small world" ride a blessing.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:27 PM

February 12, 2003

I've wandered around with nothing

I've wandered around with nothing more than time on my hands
I was lost in the night with no sight of you
And at times it was so blue and lonely
Heading for the light

Been close to the edge, hanging by my fingernails
I've rolled and I've tumbled through the roses and the thorns
And I couldn't see the sign that warned me, I'm
Heading for the light

Ooh - I didn't see that big black cloud hanging over me
And when the rain came down I was nearly drowned
I didn't know the mess I was in

>From "Heading for the Light" by the Traveling Wilburys

Posted by Jvstin at 5:09 PM

One unhappy cat, thanks to

One unhappy cat, thanks to the similarity of the words lion and line in some dialects of English.

The picture says everything, the story explains how it happened.

Poor kitty.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:30 PM

On the flipside, I found

On the flipside, I found myself wondering on the way to work today just how much a "social tragedy curse" would be worth in GURPS as a disadvantage. Plenty of ways to implement it...for every month in a relationship, the character must roll versus his charisma, a failure indicates that their significant other now views them as if they had 20 points in negative social traits...

Posted by Jvstin at 12:13 PM

Really just bookmarking this for

Really just bookmarking this for myself...since it has occurred to me that just about everyone I know
who reads this Blog is in a long-term relationship. Everyone save the author of course.
Is it difficult for men to meet women?

Posted by Jvstin at 12:11 PM

Le Ton Beau De Marot,

Le Ton Beau De Marot, where are you?

One of his lesser known works, Le Ton Beau is Hofstadter (the guy who did Godel Escher Bach) tackling the problems of language, and more specifically, the art of translation.

With these competing versions of the translation of the Osama Bin Laden tape, I'd love to have my copy of LTBDM and read on what he had to say on the subject.

World Net Daily version of transcript

An Australian translation

Posted by Jvstin at 10:39 AM

February 11, 2003

Here is something to make

Here is something to make me smile a bit. Li likes my idea of a "Martian Ellipse" (see the comments)as a down-the-road
sequel to her Grand Ellipse game.

And I intend to join her Lunar Ellipse (which IS the next one she is doing), too.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:28 PM

Okay, I feel like a

Okay, I feel like a teacher now. Here's the next thing down the pike for you to read, Who's behind the attack on the Liberal Professors, by Dave Johnson, a fellow at the Commonweal Institute.

Remember the famous line from All the King's Men? : "Follow the Money"?

Mr. Johnson does exactly that...and whether or not you agree with the views of the Professors under attack (and I am sure that some of you most certainly do not), it is the attempted stifling of free speech which concerns me, rather than the content of that speech.

If the politics were reversed 180 degrees, I'd still want this out in the open.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:25 PM

Dense and not "soundbiteable", when

Dense and not "soundbiteable", when you have the opportunity to really do so, read Gary Hart's
speech Principled Engagement: America's Role in the 21st-Century World

I myself am going to have to wait until I get home to really digest it.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:04 AM

February 10, 2003

I don't have the heart

I don't have the heart to respond myself right now, but check out Arref's alt.wish.33 and his very good answer to the Roll the Bones #6: roleplaying sex.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:14 PM

"...I am everything you want.

"...I am everything you want. I am everything you need. I am everything inside of you that you wish you could be. I say all the right things at exactly the right time, but I mean nothing to you, and I don't know why...and I don't know why...why...."

Vertical Horizon

Posted by Jvstin at 4:05 PM

4 more days until what

4 more days until what is just about the unhappiest day of the year for me.

Valentine's Day.

I've never done well with the holiday, even in those years when I am attached. Its truly a day of bad feelings for me, a day of broken dreams, of tragedies returning to the surface of my mind. The what-if's, the if-only's, the why did she have to be taken from this world. The what could I have done?

The loneliest day of the year. Friends, near or otherwise really can't help, but this is not about friends, not really. I know I am narrowing the focus of Valentine's Day, but, what the hell, most of the holiday's persona is geared to that, its inescapable.

I shouldn't complain or get overly depressed about it. Friends in the Blogosphere are dealing with family illnesses, layoffs and other problems. I should be happy that I am alive, and employed and all of that...

But its not enough. To survive is not enough, I want to thrive. I'm not. I'm isolated, I'm alone, and every attempt I have ever made to change that has blown up in my face. Tragedy strikes. My own social inadequacy dooms relationships. I move 3000 miles away to make a real full relationship out of one conducted in the ether, and it falls apart almost immediately. God, the devil, Big Wuju, the Cosmic Luck are all slapping me in the face and laughing every time I try, and every different thing I try. I admit it, I am not one of those people who are a hermit. I may not be overly social in what an astrologically inclined person might consider a "Libran way" but I need friends...and I need someone to love.

It seems I can't have the latter and I am a failure as the former. And as Valentine's Day approaches, it hurts more and more. I always thought, in the worst depressions I've faced, that the day most likely, most appropriate, most symbolic if I ever were to take that fatal step, would be February 14. A symbol of broken dreams, smashed promises, and most of all, my own pathetic failures.

I hurt, gentle readers, I hurt.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:13 PM

Interesting article in the NY

Interesting article in the NY Times today by James Gleick on Spam.
The email kind, not the lunch meat.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:48 AM

In the Gene Wolfe novels,

In the Gene Wolfe novels, and Jim Groves has made use of the concept in his character descriptions, there is a color which is somehow "darker" than black, called fuligin.

Check out this article, where a few scientists have actually created something which is blacker than known materials.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:00 AM

February 9, 2003

I can't seem to see

I can't seem to see why the entry on Enterprise won't blind properly. I've done it before, but I have no clue what's different now. I can't seem to see any stray tags that would explain it. It might be implied Break tags from Blogger. Grrr.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:25 PM

Role Call #4 If we

Role Call #4

If we can agree that all roleplaying is really about telling a story, then how does system figure into it? Explain.

The system of a game, in the best circumstances, helps enhance the experience and make the story come alive, in terms of the genre and setting of the game as well as what "role" the players have in that universe vis a vis each other, and the GM.

Not all systems are created equal, which is why there are so many of them.

Nobilis, for example, of what I have seen, is very suited to "greater than mortal" adventures, I've heard variants on the game have been used for superhero games, even. Such a system, with its 0-5 scale on stats, would not, for instance, be very useful in a straight D20 fantasy game. Conversely, if you tried to "D20" Nobilis, you might get some odd results, and stats that probably would run into the 30s and 40s.

Science fiction RPGS, which we discussed a while ago, tend to need games that can handle hardware, technical terms, and the like. Possibly its the inability to come up with a really good system to handle all of this that explains the relative unpopularity of SFRPGs versus FRPGs.

I've mentioned D20 before, and I am aware that there are hundreds of supplements out for it, its becoming almost like a second GURPS in that respect. And these supplements run the gamut from Traveller T20 to the Epic Level Handbook. I do not feel, however, that D20 is the perfect universal system. For games which are modeled on a probabilistic outcome, it works. I would be curious, although likely not play, a D20 version of Amber. I have noticed, though, that some game systems are folding themselves up, and re-presenting themselves as D20 universes. 7th Sea and Fading Suns are two examples of this trend. GURPS itself has already done versions of several games in like manner, like Castle Falkenstein.

In an ideal world, system wouldn't really be necessary to tell stories, and such imaginative exploits are something some of us did with our fellows, as children. However, as we grow, system provides a useful framework, a mold with which to cast our role playing adventures. The sheer variety of those adventures and the chimera of a truly universal system is why there are many games out there, of all stripes and systems.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:27 PM

Ghosts of the Past, an ACUS 2003 scenario

Posted by Jvstin at 2:45 PM

February 7, 2003

Arref puts a face on

Arref puts a face on my Finndo, a nice pic of Leo McKern.

Thanks, pal. I do note your suggestions in the comments to that entry of mine that its a simple matter of the mind's eye to "scale up" him to more worthy proportions, but keep the features, voice, etc.

I've been thinking just why Finndo appeals to me to use. I think its the fact that we know little about him beyond the fact that he is older than Benedict, and he and his brother were sent off to die, apparently, by Oberon, or so goes the story. He is a tabula rasa for a GM, an elder in the abstract that he can change as he so fits. And I have. The Finndo of AAPA is strong in Pattern as well as Warfare, the Finndo of SB has strong ties to Chaos and now resides there.

The byplay you can create between the PCs and this elder they know little about can be juicy indeed.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:13 PM

Eugene Volokh rebuts that odious

Eugene Volokh rebuts that odious Sun editorial quite nicely, here.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:27 PM

Dorothea points us to a

Dorothea points us to a new node in the Blogosphere...

Ravings of a Textual Deviant

Posted by Jvstin at 1:08 PM

From a livejournal I hopped

From a livejournal I hopped to thanks to something Liz wrote and linked about:

In the end, when things were confused and she was hurting so badly, the distance was too great and a single misunderstanding was enough to break us. I locked myself in a closet at work and cried. I didn't trust myself around people for many months. I still don't, in some ways, because of the way I hurt her. If I could hurt someone who meant so much to me, even accidentally, or even if she just thought I did (which, I found out later, is what happened), how could I possibly be good to anyone?

Quinn, I hear you, I've been there, am there. You express exactly how I feel, what I think. And Liz, your story of your friend and your relationship to him tugs at me, too. I've been on the other end, afraid of relying on any of my friends because of the fear that my weight, my morass, will drag them down.

I don't want to break anyone I care about by my presence or problems. I would take drastic measures, including the unthinkable, before I hurt something that way. Some days, of course, I feel that if I didn't have any friends, this wouldn't be a problem.

But that is a whole nother story.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:35 PM

I see this and I

I see this and I immediately see and hear #86 from the Prisoner (the bald headed spectacled guy in the control room) saying into a phone "Orange Alert"

Not to make light of it too much, but this color-coded terror alert system always has seemed a little banal to me. And commentators and comedians funnier than I have skewered it to death already. But I couldn't resist a Prisoner reference

Posted by Jvstin at 12:07 PM

February 6, 2003

Which art movement are you?

Which art movement are you?

I got Renaissance. Just like Djinn and Arref. Thanks to the two of them AND Ginger for dragging me into the quiz.

I actually do have an idea for a quiz: What star are you?

Celestial star that is, not Hollywood.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:36 PM

Okay, so I seem to

Okay, so I seem to be in a pugnacious mood today, so here comes my next target:

Enterprise (the series)

I've just about given up on the show. Continued alterations and changes to the Star Trek mythology and "future history" have only increased, the ship seems to be encountering advanced technology which Kirk never had to deal with and even the later series would take on an even playing field. Its not making for good story when luck rather than skill saves them week after week.

Then there is the alien races. How in the world did the Federation "eventually form" with so many advanced, pugnacious races out there? It makes absolutely no sense, Enterprise is, theoretically, charting the area that, by the time Kirk rolls around, is solidly in Fed space, right? At Warp 5 (and why does every other race's ships seem to go faster than poor Enterprise?), they can't have gotten that far out.

About the only alien race that seems balanced and developed are the Andorians. And they have a big show next week, from what I saw of the preview, so we will see if they screw them up now, too.

But the real thing eating me alive is the depiction of the Vulcans.

Emotion, petulance, and arrogance were bad enough, contrary to the spirit of them seen in any of the other incarnations of Star Trek (although I admit to the Ds9 baseball episode as an exception).

But the last episode goes beyond this, and I am going to put it into spoiler text to continue. You have been warned.

In last night's episode, its revealed that the mind-meld perpetuated on T'Pau last season (when they met the "emotional" Vulcans) actually transmitted some sort of degenerative brain disease which is only perpetuated in this way. It's also revealed that the ability to mind-meld is not common to all Vulcans but in fact only a minority of them have this apparently inborn ability

It gets "better", we're only getting warmed up.
It emerges, as Dr. Phlox clumsily tries to get information on the disease from some Vulcan doctors (the ship is at an Interstellar Species Exchange medical conference), that this minority is persecuted as aberrant, and deviant, and the efforts to find a cure for the disease are not pursued vigorously because the disease almost exclusively affects members of the deviant, shunned population and not "proper" Vulcans who do not "share" of themselves in this way.

At this point, and I am sure by my description you likely have seen the parallels too. That's right, this is an allegory to the gay population, and AIDS (and just to reinforce the point, the phone number for a AIDS information hotline is given at the end of the show)
So, let's see...

  • Vulcans==20th Century Humans in their homophobic, bigoted worst
  • Those who can mind meld==Homosexuals
  • The act of mind melding itself==unprotected anal sex
  • This neurological disease perpetuated by mind-melding==HIV/AIDS.

So, this flies in the face of just about everything we know about Vulcans and mind-melding. I tolerated the arrogance and such as "we're a better species than you" even if I saw Vulcans more as teachers than arrogant superiors. But to say that the Vulcans, a century before we see them in Kirk's universe, as bigoted and intolerant of a minority of their population? To quote John Stossel: Give me a break! It completely rewrites the Star Trek canon. Spock is a member of this minority. Tuvok is a member of this minority. Heck, most Vulcans we have seen in Star Trek are. That high priestess of the temple seen in Star Trek the Motion Picture, Star Trek III and IV is, too.

Think of Star Trek VI. When Spock forces the mind meld on his protege to determine the plot against the peace conference, by the parallels drawn above, its the equivalent of a gay man sexually assaulting and sodomizing a woman.


"De gustibus non est disputanum" is my philosophy. I don't care what people do in the bedroom and personal lives. I empathize with people inflicted with AIDS. I don't know anyone personally stricken by the disease, but I have friends who do, so I am not disconnected from the tragedy of the pandemic. One of my bosses back in Pathmark, "vacation lady" is lesbian. I never had a problem with her, and I told off one of my co-workers who actually did disapprove of her lifestyle.

And I know of Star Trek's history and reputation for introducing issues such as these. Racism, the futility of war, what it means to be human, Roddenberry seamlessly explored these questions that other shows couldn't, or wouldn't. So in the abstract, I don't mind exploring the aspects of homosexuality and AIDS.

But to twist and change the Vulcans for the purpose? NO. At one point in the show, I was stunned as Captain Archer lectured the Vulcan doctors on bigotry and prejudice, claming that humans had discarded such ideas a century ago. I almost felt like this was Bizarro Star Trek, where the races all act differently. The Vulcan doctors nearly had T'Pau recalled to Vulcan for her engagement in the practice of the mind-meld, a trial where it was revealed that it had been forced upon her was the only thing that saved her that fate. If you guess that one of the doctors revealled himself to be a melder, well, it was a pretty easy thing to anticipate.

I do respect that the show has not taken the easy way out of a reset button. T'Pau at the end of the episode still has the virus, the information that Phlox got out of the Vulcans provides for an alleviation and a slowing of the disease (much like AIDS drugs today), but not a cure.

I remember reading somewhere, a couple of years ago, where Roddenberry and Star Trek were taken to task by a few gay-rights groups for NOT addressing these issues, not including homosexuals in their gorgeous mosaic of diversity. (I also recall a reference in that article to Babylon 5 doing it subtly, when Garibaldi and Dr. Franklin posed as a newlywed couple). Still...even given that, to overthrow a lot of the series canon to do it...its not worth it.

Star Trek could have addressed these issues, in a continuing fashion, without resorting to changing all we know about Vulcans. Give a similar disease to, say, Meriweather (a badly underwritten character who could use a continuing storyline). Keep the prejudice and fear, just transfer it to a hitherto unknown alien race, or one we know little about. Let Meriweather continue to have the disease, continue to explore the problem. If they had done that, I would be cheering the bravery of the show to look such problems in the eye, when our society often fails to do so. But to distort and change the Star Trek universe to do it? No, no, no.

Okay, rant off. But I am interested in what you think, especially if you saw the show and watch Star Trek. Feel free to email me instead of using the comments.
Posted by Jvstin at 10:50 AM

I really can't find the

I really can't find the words to comment on the vileness of it, but I post this link to an editorial in the New York Sun today. and suggest you read it.

And then get some Pepto Bismol afterwards.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:31 AM

February 5, 2003

Haloscan on the fritz this

Haloscan on the fritz this morning. Grrrr.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:19 PM

Q (The Star Trek one,

Q (The Star Trek one, not the James Bond one) says it best:

"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous; with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."

Posted by Jvstin at 11:13 AM

Interesting article/book review on Mercator

Interesting article/book review on Mercator and the creation of his map. While dissecting the book, the book reviewer, quite well versed in cartography himself, explains the shortcomings of Mercator's projection.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:17 AM

February 4, 2003

The weirdest Spam email

The weirdest Spam email I have ever received

I do not award that title lightly, and so I produce the text of the email below.

Subj: redhead Date: 2/4/2003 12:55:10 AM Pacific Standard Time From: vpferg@email.com To: maecfl@aol.com, maech11@aol.com, jvstin@aol.com, bdby2spnk@aol.com Sent from the Internet (Details)


I am offering $50,000 2003 US dollars for the below equipment:

1. The mind warper generation 4 Dimensional Warp Generator # 52 4350a series wrist watch with z60 or better memory adapter. Or if in stock the AMD Dimensional Warp Generator module containing the GRC79 induction motor, two I80200 warp stabilizers, 256GB of SRAM, and two Analog Devices isolinear modules, This unit also has a menu driven GUI accessible on the front panel XID display. Or perhaps you have some reliable all in 1 units available?

2. The special 23200 or Acme 5X24 series time transducing capacitor with built in temporal displacement. I need this with complete jumper/auxiliary system

3. An age stopping finger ring if available.

VERY IMPORTANT: All equipment must be original in sealed closed casing of it's time. No old imitation electronic parts or materials are accepted. Please send photos of the above items so I can verify you have them available.

I will offer you $50,000 2003 US funds total for everything with the ring if you can teleport to me in the Boston area within the next 48 earth hours to conduct business in person.

Business in person is greatly preferred! If business cannot be conducted in person, I will send you a deposit only after proof you have them available, and then the remaining funds upon delivery of the time pieces.
Please also reply if you can recommend a reliable supplier in the Boston area.

Send a (SEPARATE) email to me at:


Below is the result of your feedback form. It was submitted by
(vpferg@email.com) on Tuesday, February 4, 2003 at 09:54:12

Posted by Jvstin at 8:57 PM

Paul Krugman, a columnist for

Paul Krugman, a columnist for the NY Times who normally writes on economic matters, has a column on the tragedy and space exploration. He is in the manned space flight is a bust camp, reluctantly as he admits it.

Charles Krauthammer, on the other hand, argues that sending people up and down to Low Earth Orbit for little reward is the problem, the benefits do not outweigh the risks because the payoff is low--but the solution in his view is not to end the trips, but to boldly go further out and make true manned space exploration worthwhile.

No, I am not going to link to every column on this subject as it comes along (and there will be many). But this is one way to work through the tragedy for me, okay?

Posted by Jvstin at 11:17 AM

February 3, 2003

The Groves are back in

The Groves are back in the Blogosphere (or Blogistan)

Jim's Through a Glass Darkly is back to posting...and in addition, the creatrix of TKC, his wife Karen also has a blog now, No Longer Strangers

Welcome (back) to the community!

Posted by Jvstin at 8:58 PM

I found this excerpt from

I found this excerpt from a letter the then Congressman Lincoln wrote concerning the Mexican War. I thought it was so good, I would reproduce it entirely here. The world has changed in over a century and a half, true, but Lincoln does make points that are hard to refute:


WASHINGTON, February 15, 1848.


Your letter of the 29th January was received last night. Being exclusively a constitutional argument, I wish to submit some reflections upon it in the same spirit of kindness that I know actuates you.

Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is that if it shall become necessary to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of another country, and that whether such necessity exists in any given case the President is the sole judge.
Before going further consider well whether this is or is not your position. If it is, it is a position that neither the President himself, nor any friend of his, so far as I know, has ever taken. Their only positions are--first, that the soil was ours when the hostilities commenced; and second, that whether it was rightfully ours or not, Congress had annexed it, and the President for that reason was bound to defend it; both of which are as clearly proved to be false in fact as you can prove that your house is mine. The soil was not ours, and Congress did not annex or attempt to annex it.

But to return to your position. Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure.

Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him,--"I see no probability of the British invading us"; but he will say to you, "Be silent: I see it, if you don't."

The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.

Write soon again.

Yours truly,


Posted by Jvstin at 2:21 PM

Dueling Opinions on Space In

Dueling Opinions on Space

In the LA Times, William Burrows talks about our destiny in space.

Kevin Drum, aka the Calpundit, from whom I got the above link, has a completely divergent opinion.

I think in my comments and posts you know which camp I am in. I can see the logic behind those who don't want manned space flight, I just don't share their views.I take issue, though, with Kevin's analogy between Columbia and the Titanic. It's a false analogy, the Titanic wasn't and isn't a step toward people living on the ocean floor. That's just silly.

And besides, undersea colonies might be a reality someday, anyway.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:49 PM

February 2, 2003

Liz makes an observation on

Liz makes an observation on her blog about the reactions
to the Columbia disaster and people's reactions to it. She presupposes that most people seem to be numb to the tragedy.

If I gave that impression, I am sorry. I grieve and I hurt, and while I was one degree of seperation away from a loss in the World Trade Center (a co-worker of my brother), Columbia hurts, too. I'm very interested in space exploration and research and development, and I do think that staying on Earth forever would be like fouling our nest, and waiting for a single tragedy to wipe us out.

We need space, but space is not kind to us. Space is dangerous, as I said before, but that doesn't make the pain of seeing a fireball in the Texas sky any easier. I do have a couple of degrees of seperation to the shuttle program in general--my old teacher in Brooklyn College had one of his experiments (but not himself alas) go up on a flight a few years ago. So, I, too, am connected however tenuously to the space program. I read an opinion letter in the OC Register today which questioned the "expense" and "danger" of manned space flight. It is a tragedy, but it would be a worse tragedy to turn our backs on our future, and the horrible sacrifice and loss of the Columbia seven would be in vain.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:31 PM

I have done up pages

I have done up pages for two of my ACUS games:

Go ahead and look at the pages for Ad Amber Per Astra II, and Wizard in the Attic.

I still have to do up the pages for Ghosts of the Past. AAPA II and WITA (and Ghosts when it is ready) will be in the links column to the right henceforth until the end of the con.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:51 PM

"Where were you?" Calpundit has

"Where were you?"

Calpundit has an illustrative list, I am just going to add one, an obvious one to the top, even if I wasn't alive for it. Watersheds in recent American History. He's right though, the bad times are often remembered much more easily than the good times.


When JFK was shot ?
I was not yet born.

When Richard Nixon resigned in 1973?

I was only a toddler, blissfully unaware of it.

When Reagan was shot in 1981?

I had gotten home from school not long before it happened.

When Challenger exploded in 1986?

At home, with my mother and my brother, watching the shuttle liftoff, as I said below it was a big deal for me at the time.

When the OJ verdict was announced in 1995?

I was at my friend Elisa's apartment, we had gotten out of our morning class college (Biology) not long before and as we were eating lunch, as we always did before studying, it came on, and we were dumbfounded.

When terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001?

I was home, getting ready for work. My mother and I had just come back from voting in the NY state primary (she for the very first time) and we were watching Good Morning America when they broke to the story of "an explosion" at the WTC. We watched aghast in horror as the events unfolded.

When Columbia disintegrated on landing?

Thanks to being here in California, I was still sleeping when it happened. Felicia tried to call me to tell me, but I was too asleep to hear the phone. When I turned on the radio at about 8 in the morning, and heard they had an audio feed from CNN, I got a chill...and then I heard the dreadful news.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:21 PM

February 1, 2003

DISASTER I had intended to


I had intended to talk about the weird weather here (99 degrees yesterday was the day's high) and other such miscellany.

But I awoke, both to the radio and to a answering machine message from Felicia, about the disaster. Columbia is lost.

I was 15 when Challenger blew up, and I saw it on live TV. In those days, in the early ones of the shuttle program, the shuttle launches were a TV event at my house, we always watched their beauty and majesty. When we saw the explosion and the smoke ball, we all knew something horrible had happened.

It is a measure of the changed nature of the world that, back then, no one suspected or worried about foul play or terrorists or anything of that nature, it was considered an accident, a design flaw. For this tragedy, a lot of the talking time has been to downplay the idea that terrorists had anything to do with it. Such is the nature of the world we live in.

No American craft previously has failed on re-entry, all of the previous disasters have been on launch, or on the launchpad. Space Travel is not routine, and despite all of the safeguards put into the systems, it is still dangerous buisness, and today, we have horribly seen that.

May God bless the families of the Columbia Seven. Rest in Peace.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:40 PM

January 31, 2003

In case you wondered where

In case you wondered where I got the term "Blogosphere", here is the link.

Silver stars to those who guessed it IS a variation on ecosphere.

The alternative I have seen "out there" among the blogs is Blogistan, using a political metaphor.

-istan is a arab suffix meaning "land of". Afghanistan is the land of the Afghans. Pakistan is the land of the Paks (no, really!). Proponents of a Kurdish state have called the theoretical plan "Kurdistan". Oftentimes, India was referred to, by the Mughals, as "Hindustan".

Thus Blogistan is the Land of the Blogs.

See? If it wasn't for me, where else would you get this relatively useless information?

Posted by Jvstin at 2:23 PM

88 Degrees That's the current

88 Degrees

That's the current temperature here in Orange, Ca.

The normal temperature for this time of the year is just below 70...so it's hot, even for warm and sunny Orange County. Even in a mild El Nino year, this is only the fourth January on record (in 125 years of measurement) without rainfall. Dry and warm. Paradise to some, Californians south of the mountains love this weather. The ski resorts, however (and there are ones close to the LA Basin) are hurting badly in this weather. Their cold and snow and such are dictated by height, not by latitude. The Tehachapis are pretty darned tall, it took some getting used to when the forecasters would talk about snow "at the 5000 foot level". There ARE no mountains that tall, back in New York.
So when it is dry and warm like this, the ski resorts can't even make snow effectively, like their counterparts elsewhere. The news shows the lifts, empty and stalled, the mountainsides bare.

Anyway, Californians seem to believe as a general rule that snow and cold are things to visit rather than experience. Its kind of sad, really, and they really do complain at temperatures that would make a New Yorker laugh, to say nothing of my friends in Michigan and Minnesota. 50 degrees is NOT cold and yet my co-workers complained the other day as we toured the finally finished physical plant because the plant is open to the outside air and a raw wind came through. From their expressions, you'd think it was below freezing. I found it bracing.

Thankfully, this weekend will be cooler, dropping back down toward the low 70's. Still, I MISS snow. After the last rainstorm in December I could see some snow on the tops of the Tehachapis (I can see them from work, there is a good view). But there is, as I said, none there now.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:21 PM

There is, apparently, a new

There is, apparently, a new documentary out on the failure of Terry Gilliam's attempts to film his Don Quixote movie, Man of La Mancha. Salon has an article on the documentary.

It's sad. Having just watched and loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, to say nothing of Time Bandits, Brazil and Twelve Monkeys, I would have loved to see what he'd have done with Cervantes' work.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:24 PM

Friday Five 1. As a

Friday Five

1. As a child, who was your favorite superhero/heroine? Why? Urk. I gravitated more toward the Marvel superheroes than the D.C. ones. It's hard to choose a favorite from the short list of Spiderman, Iron Man, and Reed Richards (of the Fantastic Four).

2. What was one thing you always wanted as a child but never got?

Hmm, well its still something I want but I don't think it exists anymore. I had a small set and always wanted a larger one. There used to be a company that put out blocks that were a lot like dominos in the sense that you could line them up and have them fall in rows and patterns. These blocks had notches and the like to make them even better at setting up complex sequences. I had a small set, always wanted one of the larger ones, but never got it.

3. What's the furthest from home you've been?

London, England, to see my older brother who was on leave from his army base in Germany at the time.

4. What's one thing you've always wanted to learn but haven't yet?

I'm not good at languages but I would love to learn Latin. I only know a few phrases and the like.

5. What are your plans for the weekend?

See a movie (undecided as to which one), visit the non-Wizards of the Coast gaming store in Orange County, slow cook some chili and watch a few of the new DVDs that came from Netflix, write some turns for Strange Bedfellows and maybe work on some webpages for my Ambercon games.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:12 AM

January 30, 2003

Quantum Teleportation Years ago, when

Quantum Teleportation

Years ago, when I was much younger, my older brother tried to bribe and coerce me into cleaning the house before our parents got home by the offer of letting me read an article on "the teleport". While I knew it really referred to a place, an industrial park, he tried to say otherwise, that it was about real teleportation.

16 years later, this article from the NY Times on a successful "teleportation" of light particles over the distance of a mile.

And yes, in case you were curious, we did wind up cleaning the house, and I did read the article about the industrial park.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:54 PM

"Cyclops-like remains found on

"Cyclops-like remains found on Crete".
Thanks to Liz
I had read somewhere before about miniature elephants and mammoths probably being stranded on Mediterranean islands as the basin got flooded from the Atlantic. Indeed, any ancient person coming across one of these fossils would think that the trunk socket was a single giant eye, and thus the skull was of a Cyclops.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:18 PM

An unexpected B-5 fan

An unexpected B-5 fan

I don't think that anyone who reads this blog is unaware of B-5, aka Babylon 5. Like it or not (and a lot of people like it), it does have a niche, a place in the pantheon of science fiction, television or otherwise. I had every episode taped, back in New York. I liked it quite a bit.

Now, thanks to Interesting Times, I've discovered that two people you all know very well like it as well, and I would never have guessed or pegged them as SF fans at all, or B-5 fans in particular:

From: Jms at B5 (jmsatb5@aol.com)
Subject: Things You Don't Expect to Hear
View: Complete Thread (116 articles)
Original Format
Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated
Date: 2002-11-27 05:02:17 PST

So I was talking to Doug Netter this afternoon, who had in turn spoken with
Bruce Boxleitner earlier in the day about the year 2 DVD. In the course of
that conversation, Bruce mentioned something that Doug in turn mentioned to me.

To wit:

Bruce had been at the White House about a month ago, in the company of wife
Melissa Gilbert, president of the Screen Actors Guild, for a discussion with
some of the functionaries there concerning acting roles moving north of the
Canadian border.

As they're talking, in a long conference room, in the middle of the meeting the
door oens and Karl Rove -- main strategist for the Republican Party and power
behind the White House throne -- comes in. He says (paraphrased from memory)
to Melissa, "I hope you'll forgive me, but I actually here to see Bruce."

He then tells Bruce, "I just wanted to tell you that I'm a big science fiction
fan, and that Babylon 5 is the best science fiction television series *ever*."

Then there's a pause, and he adds....

"And the President thinks so too."

Upon hearing this, I went to lie down for a spell, but I fully expect to be
back on my feet by Spring, latest.


(all message content (c) 2002 by synthetic worlds, ltd.,
permission to reprint specifically denied to SFX Magazine
and don't send me story ideas)

Posted by Jvstin at 10:13 AM

January 29, 2003

interesting article on the Monkey

interesting article on the Monkey King and how to use him as a PC patron over on Roll the Bones

I do agree that, with "party of adventurers" games, a metagame device to hold the party together is more elegant and
refined than simply having a suspension of disbelief on the party of the players as to why they are hanging together. For an eastern flavored game, Monkey King works very well for the reasons given, but I wonder what other mythological patrons might work in other contexts and milieus.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:23 AM

January 28, 2003

Meera is posting to her

Meera is posting to her gaming blog again.

Thanks, Ginger, for the heads up.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:12 PM

Work has been busy as

Work has been busy as of late, so I've not had a chance to Blog.

Tampa Bay wins!

I was right about the winner, wrong about the margin. I thought that Oakland could only be slowed down, not driven into the ground by Tampa's nickname-less defense. Sure, I saw that the referees were absolute idiots on several calls, but fortunately they did not decide the game, or else Oakland fans would really think the NFL was out to get them (the infamous "tuck" in the New England-Oakland game last year, for example).

Tampa paid a high price in $ and draft picks to steal Gruden, and it has paid off. Even if TB doesn't win another Super Bowl for the next 25 years, they, like the Jets, say, or the Bears, now have one, and it can't be taken away. I do feel bad that Rich Gannon and Tim Brown, to name two of the older Raiders, might have missed their best chance to get that Super Bowl ring.

Anyway, this will be the last sports entry in BJS for likely five or six months, so enjoy it, o football haters. I don't follow Baseball much, or Basketball, or Hockey. I'm a one-sport kind of guy. Monogamous, you might say.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:51 AM

January 26, 2003

ROTFL Just before Jimmy Kimmel's


Just before Jimmy Kimmel's show, there was a clip with Ted Koppel that left me laughing like Mutley.

He explained that there was not going to be a special post-Super Bowl edition of Nightline, "So that ABC can bring you the following
piece of garbage."

Yes, I know it was scripted, and self-depreciating and ironic and all that. But to see Ted Koppel light into Jimmy Kimmel like that was damned

Posted by Jvstin at 11:42 PM

Ginger's WISH #31 Is there

Ginger's WISH #31

Is there any addiction to the feedback gaming provides in the weaving of stories? Unlike traditional tales, gaming allows the input of the players and GM into going �other places,� depending on the interests and desires of those involved�but can that lead to feeding the audience too much of what it likes and not enough challenge? Where in that scale do you measure?

Ginger found it a rather tricky question, and I concur with that assessment. In the game, do you indulge on what your players want too much, thanks to the feedback between players or GM, or do you manage to put up what makes a good story or experience?

It's hard. It's easy for a GM to over-indulge on the players. Ginger mentions the Monty Haul syndrome in D&D and that is a good example of a GM who wants to hold the players by giving them everything they ever wanted. It's a sign, I think, of loneliness, of the need for attention, the need to be liked. I've been there, I understand those motivations all too well. Indulged too far, the game goes to crap and the players soon grow tired of endless +5 longswords and magic items galore.

A D&D campaign I ran a long long time ago suffered a bit from this, and I realized that I was giving the players too much, being too indulgent. So, I trimmed back, ramped up the challenges and made the PCs work for what they had gotten, throwing in twists and turns and bringing the game back to the challenge level that they had once expected.

In Amber, though, for example, the nature of the game sometimes makes this entire question irrelevant. My good friend Scott on the Amber Mailing List expressed a dislike of plot-driven games. It is in those Amber games where this problem can come to the fore. In games where the players have their own plots, their own plans, the tendency toward over-indulgence is tempered when the players conflict with each other (as they invariably do--and Scott is excellent in such situations). Now, in SB, I do have a plot and a very large universe, and one player at least has expressed concerns that the game universe is much larger than it used to be. SB started off small and intimate, and has grown in scale and scope since. I've tried my best to cut the bloat and keep the players interested and the primacy and immediacy of things on the forefront. I think I've succeeded, since I do throw curveballs at the players to deal with, to react, to enliven them. In fact, one character is about due for one, and I think now is a good time to throw it. In the large plot-arc of SB, with the Omphalos and everything else, I do like to throw in non-story arc related things.

Turbulence, without reference to the Steve Howe album, is a cure for the complacency expressed in the feedback gaming. And I get a thrill, and I think the players get a thrill when I do unleash something unexpected at them. Not the +5 longsword that the kobold had in its lair, but, for example, the fact that the town they have been staying in for weeks really has an underlayer of things going on which, when the PCs get an inkling, suddenly have that intimation that things have been too quiet and now the real trouble begins for them.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:11 PM

Netflix One of my Christmas


One of my Christmas gifts, thanks to the inestimable Bridgette, was a three month subscription to the DVD rental-by-mail service Netflix. I'm sure that you have seen their pop-up ads.

The funny thing is, so far, I've had a decent experience with them. The mailing time for some of their DVDs has been very inconsistent (sometimes getting a DVD mailed later before one mailed earlier) but the mail around here is kind of kooky. I've avoided going for new releases on the theory that they will be the hardest to rent due to popularity. The way it works is, you can have up to three (sometimes four I've noticed) DVDs out at any one time...and as they receive them back from you, they send you another. Thus there are no late fees, but if you hold onto those DVDs, you won't ever get new ones.

So what have I seen thus far? Well, the following movies/DVD's:

Dangerous Beauty
Shakespeare in Love
The Prisoner (Episode 1)
The Five Doctors (Doctor Who)
Flash Gordon (The 1980 movie)
Three Musketeers (1974 version)
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Mask of Zorro
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
The Man who knew too little

I've been stealing ideas from things like ginger's recent WISH on movies for gamers, as well as movies I've wanted to see, see again, etal. Any ideas you have I would greatly appreciate.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:46 PM

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Treason

>From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:


Pronunciation: 'trE-z&n

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English tresoun, from Old French traison, from Latin tradition-, traditio act of handing over, from tradere to hand over, betray

Date: 13th century

1 : the betrayal of a trust : TREACHERY

2 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family

It's also the title of Ann Coulter's next book Actually the subtitle of the book is "Liberal treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism."

Treason is a very serious charge, not to be bandied about lightly. It's one of the things specified in the U.S.Consititution. What does it say? I'm glad you asked.

>From Article III of the Constitution:

Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Basically, what Ann Coulter is implying, insinuating is that liberals are levying war against the United States, or giving aid and comfort to our enemies. Pretty strong stuff, Ann.

Is there dissent against George Bush? Absolutely. But that is the American process. Was I being treasonous when I thought that William Jefferson Clinton was a lying sack of crap who diminished the office of the US with the antics of his personal life? I think not.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:30 PM

January 24, 2003

For my friends in cold

For my friends in cold places (basically most of the country besides Southern California):
Temperatures and Europeans

I love the California reference:
-5�C / 23�F People in California almost freeze to death.

I should do one for New Yorkers, Minnesotans and Californians. :grin:

Posted by Jvstin at 5:33 PM

Something to play around with

Something to play around with when I get a MT Blog:
Intro to RSS

Posted by Jvstin at 5:30 PM

Thanks to Julia (Society for

Thanks to Julia (Society for Aesthetic Deletions--gotta love a Heinlein reference) for inspiration, as well as ***Dave ,here is my Friday Five.

1. What is one thing you don't like about your body?

Considering my penchant for self-loathing, I will limit myself to my height. 5' 7" (5' 7 1/2" if I am generous) is too short for my taste. I am the runt of my family.

2. What are two things you love about your body?

Good grief. Okay, I like my eye color (hazel is just as nice as blue!) and I can get my leg briefly behind my head still.

3. What are three things you want to change about your home?

Get a home, first and foremost. My apartment doesn't feel like one. California doesn't feel like home...

4. What are four books you want to read this year?

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (next on my queue as it so happens)
A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin
Evolution, by Stephen Baxter
His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Philip Pullman

5. What are five promises you have kept to yourself?
Get out of my parents house (unfortunately into another bad situation)
Open my heart to love again after Lisa passed away
Learn to cook at least passably
Learn to live on my own
Keep my chin up enough to not give into the maw of darkness

Posted by Jvstin at 2:08 PM

Messing with a good thing.

Messing with a good thing.

One of the few TV shows these days that I make a point to watch is Alias. If you haven't seen it (and the ratings have been somewhat underwhelming), go do so. I am not usually a fan of the spy genre or at least not compared to some other genres, but I discovered Alias by accident one Sunday and have watched it henceforth.

Salon has done a profile on the show. that unfortunately mentions they are jettisoning the complex, byzantine multi-episode story arcs that got me hooked, and going for more self contained individual episodes. I LIKE the complexity, however. Even though I did not watch the entire first season, I caught myself up gradually, picking up stuff in every episode about the mythology and the world of the show. I don't mind the occasional one-shot, but I'd take the long story arcs (a la Babylon 5 and the last seasons of Ds9) over just an ordinary series of "spy adventures" any day of the week.

But go do watch it. Jennifer Garner is a good actress (she will be Elektra in the upcoming Daredevil movie), and having Victor Garber and Lena Olin as her feuding parents is great television. Characters have complexities, shades of grey, and I was happy in the last episode where the major antagonist managed to extricate himself from the monstrous organization he had created and escaped to reunite with his thought-to-be-dead wife. Mind you, Arvin Sloane, while being the amoral head of Sd-6, also was a father figure of sorts to Sydney, and never devolved into a cardboard character.

Besides, for my RPG friends, ALIAS is also is a wonderful fount of ideas for games of various sorts. The byzantine machinations and plans suit Amber very well, and if you are playing something like Modern D20, you can lift things wholesale from this show. Pacing, plotting and world-building really shone through, it took me a while to get into the world, not starting from the start, but you can get a sense of what a complex, integrated world looks like over time.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:58 AM

Are you ready for some

Are you ready for some football?

I know Jenn is not, of course and probably most of you will skip this post. I'll take a stab that at least one reader will, the rest of you can wait a while until I turn to other matters.

Tampa Bay versus Oakland. I did mention that I thought Tampa Bay, if they could defeat the Eagles in cold Philadelphia (and they did, and how!) were possibly built just right to stop the Oakland offensive machine. All other things equal, Defense usually beats Offense in the NFL...even if, these days, the offenses are ascendant (one of the reasons for higher ratings lately, its easier for casual fans to get into high scoring "exciting" games than 13-10 defensive field position slugfests)

So even though the Raiders are favored by oddsmakers, I am going to stick with last week's forecast and predict a Tampa Bay upset of the Raiders in the first ever "Pirate Bowl". I think it will be close, and, fingers crossed will be as exciting and intense as last year's (one of the best Super Bowls ever). I foresee that despite Oakland's persistence and offensive juggernaut, Tampa Bay will slow them down just enough to pull off the upset victory.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 26 Oakland 23.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:44 AM

January 23, 2003

Dual headed apology I would

Dual headed apology

I would like to make two apologies, the second will help be an apology for the first, too.

First, I would like to apologize for ever thinking, ever imagining that the difference between the two major candidates in the last Presidential Election was slim enough to vote for the third, notably minor choice. Although my vote, in NY, was in a state that the FVPOTUS won handily anyway, my Carrollian reduction of the two candidates to "tweedledum and tweedledee" now proves to be horribly incorrect. I was wrong, dead wrong, the difference between the current President and the alternative becomes more clear each day.

Second, I'd like to apologize for the somewhat excessive political fulminations as of late. I think its a reflection of #1, and the loathsome feeling that the country is not merely on a wrong track in the way that the country has stumbled, but a more fundamental change is taking place. The best analogy and I don't remember where I saw it, refers to what happened to republican Rome around 230 BC and thereafter. The war against Carthage put Rome on a path that, now in retrospect, lead from Roman ideals of a (relatively) free and open society to the rule of the Ceasars. Oswald Spengler predicted such a thing for us, but he thought it was going to happen soon, back when he wrote his book, in the 20's. I am not saying Bush wants to be an American Imperator...but then, the accumulation of power by the top of the social pyramid in Rome, and its military following the annihilation of Carthage wasn't intended to produce Julius Ceasar 200 years later, either.

We've been incredibly lucky in America, dodging the bullet, so to speak, many times. The nuclear threat of the Communists, the threat of the Fascists, the near-disintegration of our country in civil war, and other, less well known possible derailments...the two impeachments, the near-election of the very aristocratic Aaron Burr...America has done well in its history. I am getting a sense that we are in the rapids of yet another of these points of divergence and anyone who tells you what is going to be the outcome of this 20 years hence is a fool. But some of those possible outcomes, the thought of them, has touched a nerve in me...and that's why the excess of such entries as of late.

BJS was always intended to be a forum for my interests that I want to share with my friends and everyone else. I do try to be moderate, after all I could fill a lot of space talking about the potentially awesome Super Bowl matchup. But I am trying to balance things out. If I've tilted too much on political matters lately and given you a bad taste, I apologize.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:03 PM

"The people can always be

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. . . . All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

I leave the attribution of this as an exercise for the interested reader, it shouldn't be hard to find. And if I did reveal who said it and when, well, I just think its a good quote, and I am not making any comparisons or allusions. Just some Thursday Food for Thought.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:48 AM

January 22, 2003

On the House of

On the House of Cards Blog, Ginger has been thinking about the size of Kolvir and Arref has put in his thoughts as well...

Hmmm....I've never thought that the distance up Kolvir to the Castle was THAT large. I've had PCs walking up and down the mountain often now, I think I've ruled out, by play, it being that much of a distance.

Judging from how the walks down to the Castle have gone...maybe half of that. I've judged it takes a little more than an hour to go from the Castle gates to actually getting into the city....so maybe a 4 mile long trip. 21,000 feet...which suggests, thanks to our architect friend, that Castle Amber is 2100 feet above sea level. If I am conservative and put Castle Amber halfway up Kolvir, then the top of Kolvir in SB is 4200 feet. That's not so bad.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:03 AM

January 21, 2003

Referenced thanks to Arref: "One

Referenced thanks to Arref:

"One to Grow on #3: The Afterlife"

Everyone has their own idea of what the afterlife could be, or should be like. If you could choose the form that the afterlife takes, what would it be, and why?

My vision of the ultimate afterlife that I would want is a concept that i've called the Infinite Library. Think of the Library of Babel in the famous Borges story, only better. Beautiful, barqoue decorations, endless shelves of books, reading rooms, places to talk with other readers. And the best yet, if you want, every book is a portal, a passage, or if you want to use the Amber term, a trump to the world depicted in the book...to see that world and meet the characters within (think of the old Gumby cartoons).

An afterlife, like Arref's, that you could never tire of exploring, for there would be no end.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:41 PM

Here's another set: Nine Princesses

Here's another set:

Nine Princesses in Rebma
The Guns of Atlantis
Sign of the Dolphin(Kraken?)
The Hand of Moire
The Court of Amber

Posted by Jvstin at 11:51 AM

A line of thought that

A line of thought that occurred to me the other day...

Nine Princes in Byzantium
The Guns of Anatolia
Sigil of the Unicorn
The Caliphate of Chaos
Nine Princes in Memphis
The Guns of Alexandria
The Sign of the Serpent

Two possible alternate Ambers that I've described here before, of course. Amberites in Byzantium and Amberites in Egypt.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:56 AM

Woohoo! They upgraded the IE

Woohoo! They upgraded the IE on the computers here to 5.5, I can see webpages much better and with a lot few errors. Arref's elegant GAME Wish windows now display properly.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:41 AM

Lucky Duckies I've heard

Lucky Duckies

I've heard about it for quite some time, but now the Wall Street Journal has published online its somewhat infamous editorial opinion piece, where it calls the poor "lucky duckies" because they pay little income tax. What's worse, that's a shame because its not fair to the rich, and its harder to cut taxes on the rich when the poor don't feel "oppressed" by income tax. Of course the WSJ rejects the quaint notion that sales taxes, medicare, social security and such are significant bites into the paychecks of the poor...but go ahead and not only read the original but as a value added bonus, read the newly written sequel.
Posted by Jvstin at 9:18 AM

January 20, 2003

Happy MLK day, everyone! He

Happy MLK day, everyone!

He might not have been a saint (who is, anyway?) , but definitely a man we can aspire to be more like.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:21 PM

January 19, 2003

A couple of new gaming

A couple of new gaming Blogs have popped up...Roll the Bones, and the game-designer gathering point, Rock Scissors Blog.

The former has come up with a weekly question much akin to Ginger's WISH. I've decided to give the current Roll Call a shot.

"Everyone has played, or does play, D&D. It's the game of games, the undisputed king of roleplaying, whether one likes or dislikes it. Bearing that in mind, what's your favorite class to play, and why?"

Well, the first class I ever played was the Ranger. Yes, the Tolkien influence, and the Amber influence too (count me in Julian's camp). His name was Justin, Justin of Aragorn. Sure, he's a fighter, which is not my normal niche at all, but if you saw The Two Towers, you do get a sense of a fighter who can do other things. There is also something biological about Rangers, I am not sure how to express it otherwise.

The other class is the magic-wielder. I am keeping that vague, since between the various editions of Dungeons and Dragons and sourcebooks. In Third Edition terms, I like the Sorcerer a little more than the wizard, because of the flexibility of spell-casting. Too many times a magic user can't memorize anything but combat spells, because how would he know that other spells might be useful, and "wasting" a slot on a non-combat spell can be deadly in a martial sort of dungeon.

Although they aren't core classes, I like the Psion from the Psionics Handbook. They are even more "flexible" than the Sorcerer, using a point based system which some people have criticized for being too weak, and others too strong. I know Bruce Cordell has a bunch of variant and extended rules for Psionics in "If thoughts could kill" but I haven't felt the need to pick it up--after all, I am not actually playing a 3e D&D game right now and I have to draw the line somewhere on buying RPG stuff.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:52 AM

January 17, 2003

Random opened his window

Random opened his window to throw away the butt, and an icy breeze came in and swirled around the inside of the car until he closed the window again. The breeze had a sea scent to it, sultry and sharp.

"All roads lead to Amber", he said, as though it were an axiom.

Random talking to Corwin, Nine Princes in Amber

Stay tuned, my friends

Posted by Jvstin at 11:16 PM

A little more humor... Saddam

A little more humor...

Saddam Hussein and George Bush, after a couple of beers, decide that war is bad, wrong and it wouldn't do a bit of good. Instead, they will have a pool match to determine the outcome of the dispute. If Saddam wins, we have to live him alone, live and let live and all that. If Bush wins, Saddam has to disarm and abdicate and go live on some Caribbean island for the rest of his life.

As the pair walk toward the pool table set up for the event, Saddam turns to his opponent and asks "You rack, or Iraq?"

Posted by Jvstin at 2:08 PM

Lightbulb jokes It seems

Lightbulb jokes

It seems that in a certain section of the Blogosphere, Lightbulb jokes are coming fast and furious. Everyone seems to be a target--Bush administration officials, popular bloggers of all political stripes, its actually pretty amusing. So I am going to offer two of my own here:

Q: How many Amberites does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Six. One to do it, two to form a cabal with him or her, and three more to form a cabal opposing the first cabal.

Q: How many Jvstin's does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: "I'm glad you asked me that. As I am changing the bulb, let me tell you about the history of the lightbulb starting with its first successful creation by Thomas Edison. Alva was his middle name you know...
...and if you look at the spectrum of light from a bulb, you will see it is not the same as visible light...
...and that's why in cartoons when you see a character get an idea, a lightbulb appears over their head...
...and that's how stars evolved and why they show the colors you do. Oh, wait, we were talking about lightbulbs!"

Posted by Jvstin at 12:48 PM

January 16, 2003

Yesterday, Ginger wrote an entry

Yesterday, Ginger wrote an entry about NPCs and the depthness to them that is a large part of the appeal of the Amberverse, in relation to James Maliszewski's comment about games and soap operas. One of the commenters to that, Chuck, said:
"To do this properly, of course, you�d have to let your NPCs have lives of their own, which would involve you, the GM, roleplaying all of their interactions, whether or not a PC was witness to them. This could be time consuming�"

I've been thinking about this and I wanted to share my thoughts. I do think that as an Amber GM, you have to have at least a shorthand for what the NPCs have been doing, are doing, and will do. Having them frozen in time and place, just waiting for a PC to interact with them, well, that reminds me of old (and not so old) computer CRPGs, where it seemed that the little boy's sole purpose in life was to tell you that the bridge has a troll under it.

I do admit, however, a preference for PCs to interact with, influence and affect, and witness major events. Such events lose a bit of their definition and reality when PCs aren't involved in any way. And yes, its time for an example from
Strange Bedfellows. Even better, because it happened a while ago game time (although the information has not "disseminated") this will be news and possibly quite shocking to the PCs, although they will find out about this. I have made the spoiler text invisible, though. You read it at your own risk, then.

One of the lesser advertised plotlines in SB, beyond the Omphalos, beyond Brand and all that has been the machinations of Moire. For years she has been studying the Sapphire of Justice, the Rebman counterpart to the JOJ. And as the game opened, she decided upon a fateful course.
IMC, Rebma is a dependency of Amber. Much in the same way that the Queen of England is a titular figure in independent countries of the British Commonwealth, so too is the King of Amber to Rebma. In the times of Oberon, this control was more explicit...in the Interregnum and the rule of Eric, Rebman independence was more pronounced.
Moire decided that the best way to achieve true freedom from Amber would be to have a power base of its own. Its established in the books she sent people on the Rebman Pattern, trying to walk it. IMC, after Patternfall, she decided on a bolder approach--she would rewrite the Pattern, using the Sapphire.
One of the original batch of PCs was a son of Moire and Corwin named Triton, played by Fynn. I thought this was perfect for my concept of PCs involving themselves in large scale plots. He actually stole the Sapphire from Moire for himself for a time, when he learned of Moire's plans. He considered himself, a son of Corwin, merely part of that plan and nothing more. So Moire's plans were delayed during the theft, and it was a well and interesting bit of roleplaying up to his capture. Anyway, much to my lament, Fynn dropped off the face of the earth, and Triton became, perforce, an NPC.
Now, with Moire having recovered the Sapphire, her plans could go forward. However, I still wanted a PC "there", to give the event more heft, but I had already lured some PCs down to Rebma early in the game, and two of the PCs I might have coaxed there (having made a tie to Moire during that visit) were both off in Omphalos-land.
Thus, when Bridgette offered to do a second PC, a Rebman, I just knew her character would be up to her gills in Moire's plot. It has worked out well, although Priya still is a bit baffled just what happened and where she was transported to.
The "re-drawing" wouldn't have been the same, though, without her.
The rest of the game will learn about Moire's actions shortly...at the Ball, in fact.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:09 PM

Good stuff on Voyager (remember

Good stuff on Voyager (remember the Voyager probes?)
over on Cosmic Log.
I really do hope they can issue the "soundtrack" on CD/DVD. And I wish I had cable to watch Cosmic Journey tonight.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:17 AM

January 15, 2003

Okay, I am in a

Okay, I am in a political mood today...but I recommend to you this piece published in Britain
by John Le Carre (of the spy novels). The United States has gone mad.

Provocative title? Yes. But sometimes parallax is a good thing. See what a Brit thinks of "W". And of us.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:22 AM

The Doritos President Last night,

The Doritos President

Last night, as I was watching the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon DVD I got from Netflix (another story in itself), I was looking at the bag of Doritos I was eating. On the back, it said "Okay, so you are bold. But are you daring?" It was one of their inane little marketing texts they put on the back of their bags, they've done that for years.

However, when I read this, I burst out laughing, because Bush has been all over the airwaves lately with his "bold" proposals on his dividend tax cuts, and now his new found engagement with North Korea.

Bush...the Doritos President. He's cheesy, he's crunchy, tasty perhaps in small doses but the more you have of him, the more you will regret it.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:28 AM

January 14, 2003

Finally finished The Rise of

Finally finished
The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
by William O'Neill. today. 800 pages of world history was quite a bit to slog through, although it wasn't torturous like, say, 800 pages of a bad Tolkien clone. The writing is definitely very 1950's ish, America uber alles sort of thing...history converging to produce American civilization. The trick is, O' Neill cops to this in an essay written in '89 that serves as a new forward. Refreshing that someone can actually say 25 years after their masterwork that they had some serious blinders on. Still, while I argued aloud constantly as I read it, I did enjoy the book. It was worth the effort.

Some new fiction coming up on the reading list. Finally I am going to get to reading some books I've really wanted to read for a while--The Years of Rice and Salt, Perdido Street Station (I can see Gabe looking at me with googled eyes that I've not read Mieville's work yet--hey, give me a break. I've just managed to read my first Graham Joyce recently.) and some other goodies. After a lot of world history, I need some unreality.

Also, I got an email from John Marco when I entered the latest of his famous contests. Now he I discovered on my own, and early, and I emailed him on several occasions. One particualr email, when his first series was complete. I suggested that while some of his fans would love to see endless stories set in the Tyrants and Kings universe, I was all in favor of seeing what else he could do. His Eyes of God, first in a new series in such a new world, is ALSO on my reading pile, albeit somewhat further down. Anyway, he remembered who I was when I entered the latest contest. I didn't think I made an impression at all. Funny that.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:56 PM

NFL Football redux Well, the

NFL Football redux

Well, the Jets got spanked last weekend, much to my lament. One half of a game does not a victory make, the inexperience of the team hard to take. The Oakland Raiders showed their guile and might and thus the Jets' dreams extinguished like a dying light.

Now, though, there are four teams left and I thought, although its certain to bore most of you, describe the possibilities for the Super Bowl. Indulge me, if you would, there are exactly three NFL postseason games left, and then nothing for months. Its not like the NBA or NHL whose postseasons seem to last as long as their regular seasons.

1. Oakland Raiders (AFC) versus Philadelphia Eagles (NFC)
This is the most likely matchup, as both teams have home-field advantage for the championship games this coming weekend.
Oakland features the best offense in the game, a passing attack that was for a while on pace to break the all-time single season record held by Dan Marino. Philadelphia has a very good defense, and the "one man gang" of their quarterback, Donovan McNabb, possibly the second best of the new breed of QB's (the best, Michael Vick, got knocked out by the Eagles last week when the Eagles beat the Falcons). Oakland's weaknesses? Their secondary, their pass defense. They are pretty good up front, as the Jets learned, but they are vulnerable to long balls. Philadelphia on the other hand, lacks that deep threat and that is their weakness.
Projected winner of an Oakland-Philadelphia matchup: OAKLAND

2. Oakland(AFC) versus Tampa Bay (NFC)
Less likely than #1, because the warm-loving Buccaneers will have to find a way to win in Philadelphia to make it happen. Plus, the last two years, the Buccaneers have been bounced from the playoffs by, you guessed it, the Eagles, badly losing both times. So, its a mountain to climb for them. Given that, however, the Buccaneers bring the best defense in the league...and possibly one of the best ever, ranking up there with the Ravens of the 2000 season, and the Bears of the 1985 season. Their weakness, however, is that much like that Baltimore team, their offense is lackluster at best. Without turnovers and good field position, they often fare poorly, even with the flamboyant and arrogant Keyshawn Johnson as their deep threat. On the other hand, the very similar aforementioned Baltimore team took apart the Raiders on their way to the Super Bowl. The Bucs, if they get past the Eagles, might be built just right to derail Oakland.
Projected winner of a Oakland-Tampa Bay Super Bowl: Tampa Bay

3. Tennessee (AFC) versus Philadelphia (NFC)
Tennessee, perforce, to get to the Super Bowl must defeat the Oakland Raiders in the "black hole" of Network Associates Coliseum. A daunting task, as the Jets learned to their sorrow, the place is a nightmare for opposing teams because of the crowd noise. Plus, Tennessee and Oakland played in the regular season--and Oakland won, 52-25. Not precisely a small mountain for Tennessee to climb.
Given that, the Titans' strength is their tenacity. After a 1-4 start (including that loss to the Raiders), they rallied behind their quarterback, who played injured for weeks and willed them to victory after victory. They have no true dominant strengths, but no weaknesses either. Philadelphia, though, holds a defensive edge.
Projected winner of a Philadelphia-Tennessee matchup: Philadelphia

4. Tennessee (AFC) versus Tampa Bay (NFC)
The most unlikely matchup, the two underdogs this weekend both winning to advance to the Super Bowl. Its a matchup that favors Tennessee, if they can beat Oakland, they will find a way to beat the Bucs, whose one-dimensionality might not be enough against a well rounded team without significant weaknesses.
Projected winner of a Tampa Bay-Tennessee Super Bowl: Tennessee

Posted by Jvstin at 11:39 AM

January 13, 2003

Emotions and games. When I

Emotions and games.

When I played it, TKC was a very emotional game. Karen was good, almost too good, at pushing those sorts of buttons. She was especially good in the couple of times that, instead of email, we played it face-to-face at ACUS. I do recall poor Felicia getting quite upset over a turn of events happening with her mother, and I got somewhat twisted when Laertes' father let his displeasure at Laertes' actions become known.

Looking at the blogs today, both Liz and Djinn have remarked on tbe most recent game session. I just wanted both of you ladies to know--I've been there.

It's good to know Karen still has her touch.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:57 AM

January 12, 2003

I had a dream last

I had a dream last night. I hesitate to call it weird because, quite frankly, in discussions with other people--MOST of my dreams are weird.

I don't remember the entirety of it, I only remember the last act. I was in this corridor, some sort of futuristic place, and was debating putting on some virtual reality gear when this ferocious bear appeared in the corridor. He was large, and brown, and looked like Bart from The Edge.

I debated putting on the virtual reality gear and "shooting the bear"...but I didn't want to hurt the creature, even if it was far from docile. Instead I started moving down the corridor, wondering how to handle the creature. It advanced toward me, slowly, growling. Although there was plenty of corridor behind me, I didn't turn and run, I knew it would be futile. I also debated somehow taking the bear on hand-to-hand but I couldn't figure a good way to scare the creature off.

And then I woke up.

Bears are not a common symbol in my dreams. I'm much more of a Lion, Tiger and Wolf sort of person, so on that level, I am not sure why a Bear would appear in my dreams, pugnacious and angry.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:27 PM

January 11, 2003

Causa Belli They read good

Causa Belli

They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn.
Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad:
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad.

Andrew Motion, Britain's Poet Laureate

Posted by Jvstin at 11:57 PM

Game Wish 29: Campaign Styles

Game Wish 29: Campaign Styles

Ginger's WISH this week is another goody:

Do you prefer campaigns to be limited-plot, with a definite ending, or open-ended, so that they can continue indefinitely? What about things like �convention campaigns� where people meet irregularly to pick up old characters and game together? What are the pros and cons of each sort of game? Which is more common in your gaming experience?

I vastly prefer open-ended campaigns, both to play in, and to GM. Arref hits it right on the head, I am not an adrenalin junkie. I like to explore plots, themes, ideas, character relationships, and such, and I often feel the best way to do that is in a large open-ended format.

Strange Bedfellows has been running for 6 and a half years now. Sure, there's a metaplot. Sure, I've had an idea of where things might go or I think they should go. But in the meantime my players through their characters, character contributions, conversations with me, and such have developed an ornate and STILL evolving world. Do I think the game will last forever? No, that's silly. And I don't hope that it "runs out of steam"--I would like it to end, if it must end, by deliberate act rather than fading to nothingness.

Campaigns with a defined ending? (eg. Paradox). Well, I've only really been in one that came to a conclusion and that was the Empire of the Gleaming Banner ACUS series by Arref. I really do think it was more of a campaign than a serial game even if it was episodic in nature. In between the games, some of us players had busy characters. And when EGB came to a conclusion, I was crestfallen. I like Archard, and have gotten to know him quite well.

All of the other games I have ever been in have just died for one reason or another. Karen decided to end TKC, and so Laertes went on the shelf--although I understand she does it FTF with a new generation of PCs now. Two of Rob's games, Shadow War and Doom of Trumps slowed to a crawl and died. My own Oaths of the Unicorn with Felicia...well, it imploded, as did When it Rains it Pours...the latter mainly due to time constraints. Storm Chasers hasn't gone anywhere thanks to time constraints and life getting in the way of Nicole. And there are many more games I was in that simply went poof.

The all time worst, though, was Jennifer Jerlstrom's ending of her game, the one with Hadrian. It was implied that some characters were going to survive and play on in a different format and Hadrian simply didn't make the cut. I was so outraged at the cavalier way he had been treated that I imported Hadrian, Dora, and the lands of DuMarque and Crie and put them into the Strange Bedfellows universe. It worked out stunningly well.

As far as convention campaigns, aside from EGB as noted above, I've only in the last year joined one--Deb Allen's Rites of Passage. And she does stuff outside the con slot, too...so its not quite only "4 hours of Cadmus a year". That, I am not sure I'd want to do, to play a character for such a limited time. The sequel to AAPA doesn't quite qualify as making that universe a campaign--but Liz and I had a discussion in email about it. From her technical standpoint, it is, although I think its more of a serial game. Perhaps I am modeling AAPA on my pleasant experiences with EGB.

In any event, I hope that the one non-con continuing campaign I am in, Bridgette's Age of Retribution, is around for a long long time. Marcus was unfairly cut short in Shadow War, and he is having lots of fun in Bridgette's game--and hasn't even lost an arm or met long ago lovers in jewels of judgement yet. If I had time, and I really don't, I'd like to have another PC running around, in someone's game....and explore and help grow another universe.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:21 PM

January 10, 2003

Post script on the entry

Post script on the entry below. I have to re-work the page for WITA, and create pages for AAPA II and Ghosts. As soon as I do, you will get the links here, my friends and readers.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:37 PM

The third game Well, I

The third game

Well, I decided that I am going to revisit and re-do my first solo con game, The Wizard in the Attic. I am actually, though, in negotiations with a friend to possibly co-GM a fourth slot, but for now I am going to be Gming the following games.

Slot 2: Ad Amber Per Astra II. A sequel to the first. It's not really a continuing campaign, but more like a serial game. I'll assume new PCs were simply not part of the events of the first (which pretty much took place in one trap shadow). This new game will be more wide open in scope and thus open to new players.

Slot 5: Ghosts of the Past. You've read the prologue. My latest and greatest idea, inspired by a few things, primarily a "phat fantasy" novel I read a few months ago. Which one? To quote the Prisoner "that would be telling".

Slot 6: Wizard in the Attic. My first ever solo con game, revisited. Its 50 years after Patternfall...an Alternate Patternfall where the evil Fiona died, dragging her poor brother Bleys with her into the Abyss. Thus Deirdre survives, and the supreme magician in Amber is the slightly kooky eponymous title character...Brand. The game in which the first time I ran it, I burst out laughing at the actions of Arref and his wife playing Rebman fraternal twins.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:36 PM

January 9, 2003

Never let it be said,

Never let it be said, or more likely, never let me say again myself that I am useless and can't help anyone...because I did manage to help Liz fix her ACUS slot table. Thanks for the shout-out, Liz...but, really, the email thank-you would have been just fine. I did correct an injustice and put you in the link column, seeing as how you are running ACUS and all. :Grin:

The game numbers though, I can't fix alone, although pursuant to the comments on my previous entry, I think I am going to go for the third slot at the con.

I have to make a decision quickly to make cut off on the game book. My choices are, as far as I see it:

1. Run a second copy of Ghosts of the Past in a slot different than slot 5.
PRO: It gives people more of a chance to play in that game.
CON: It might be a little confusing to seperate out the two slots as far as preparation; I've never done anything like this before

2. Re-run a game from a previous Con--Wizard in the Attic or Dreams Made Flesh or even a new original AAPA
PRO: It gives people who missed those games a chance to play in them
CON: I am not sure those games were "good enough" that people would jump at such a chance.

3.Run a third, new game
PRO: Its the most 'creative option' and gives a greater opportunity for my friends to be in my games
CON: I really don't have anything well developed for such a venture. I always have ideas, but nothing solidly done.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:48 AM

January 7, 2003

Interview with my favorite SF

Interview with my favorite SF writer, Harry Turtledove, is available here at Science Fiction Weekly.

Those of you who wonder what I see in his work can get a sense of it. It's a short puff interview, but it also gives a taste of his sense of humor and other things.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:47 AM

January 4, 2003

Over at Caveat Lector,

Over at Caveat Lector, Dorothea a few days ago mentioned Everway.

I agree with what a lot she has to say. I bought a copy of it online last year, just before it slid out of print. Even sweeter, and just as useful is "Spherewalker" which is a stat-free encyclopedia of ideas for the Everway world--but the ideas definitely have portability to other worlds.

My Everway stuff is still in New York, unfortunately. I look at things like Ginger's House of Cards and wish I could play or even be in a position to ask. Or at least have my Everway set nearby to mine for some more ideas. A virtue/fault/fate/usuper sort of rubric for all my shadows in The Shadowwalker's Guide to the Golden Circle, for instance, might be fun.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:45 PM

Sometime back, Arref put

Sometime back, Arref put a link to the unusual "googlism" page, where you can see what the search enging Google thinks of
a particular topic. At the time, I was a little miffed that while there were entries for Arref and a bunch of other people in our cadre, there was nothing about me.

Today, out of curiosity, I plugged in "jvstin" again to get the message: Jvstin is finally blogging again.

Fun, eh?

Posted by Jvstin at 5:20 PM

January 2, 2003

Arref, on his blog

Arref, on his blog puts up some suggested Ten best Fantasy, SF
and Comic Book Characters.

Some Suggestions of mine, not intended to disparage or take away from his own lists:



I am not conversant enough with Comic books to make intelligent additions to Arref's list!

Posted by Jvstin at 10:25 PM

December 28, 2002

Quantity Multipliers for Shadows "She

Quantity Multipliers for Shadows

"She is Star...Empress of the Twenty Universes."
--GLORY ROAD, by Robert Heinlein

There is an ecological niche between the single world or shadow, and the Infinity of shadows that Amber allows for. The Glory Road Universe of Heinlein has at least 20 known ones with more implied in Number of the Beast. (which is in itself contains an Infinity of worlds). In Anne Bishop's Darkness novels, there are three worlds. Even Middle Earth is not a single world, since it is mentioned in The Silmarillion that Valinor, the Uttermost West, no longer exists on Middle Earth per se.

My characters, even outside of Amber, have had dealings with multiple worlds. Just as alternate histories and universes in Science Fiction gets my blood pumping, so do a plethora of worlds in a fantasy novel or fiction. I love the Kelestia Harn setting, with its constellation of worlds around the central one of Harn. In fact some of the ideas contained therein originally come from that setting.

Anyway, if a player wanted to buy the entire Harn group, or even something larger, like Arref Mak's Empire of the Gleaming Banner, buying shadows one by one would be cost-prohibitive. So if items can have multipliers, why can't shadows?

Quantity Multiplier Cost Name Number of Shadows Examples
*1 Single One Personal Shadow
*2 Named and Numbered ~2-8 Cadmus' Local Group, Harn's Kelestia; Anne Bishop's Darkness Worlds
*3 Horde ~20-50 The Twenty Universes; Empire of the Gleaming Banner; 3rd Edition D&D Multiverse
*4 Region of Shadow ~200-500
*5 Province of Shadow ~1000 to 3000
*6 Swath of Shadow Tens of Thousands or More The Million Sphere, the Worlds of Eon

Of course, like items, the shadows inherit the points that you spend before the multiplication. So, if you had a Horde of Primal shadows, it would cost you 12 points Too cheap? Perhaps, but a good GM remembers that all of those Shadows means an influence on the story. And can you imagine the "maintenance" the character that even thinks about having a region, province or swath of shadow? To say nothing of the potential of mischief from other players, enemies, and the like.

In practice, it is unlikely a character is going to have more than a Horde of shadows and if you wanted to limit shadow purchases to that level, it certainly would be a defensible position.

Once a character has bought a set of shadows, however, there are two more steps in the tradition of Kelestia. The first is that they can customize individual shadows, paying extra points on a single member at a time. Second, they should establish the links between shadows beforehand. It is implied that the shadows are in the same area of shadow, and thus there is an opportunity for the player to provide means to travel between the worlds they have created.

Depending on the setting, the milieu of the worlds, this can range from magical gates to inter-dimensional wormholes, to even something like having a foggy barrier that, if walked into, leads you to the adjoining world. In some cases, for example, Kelestia, there is a definable map of which worlds can be reached from which worlds. In that setting, Harn, as the center of the wheel can reach any of the worlds, but there is no direct link between Yashain and Terra. The availability of these links can also vary, two worlds can have a "weak link", with few methods, or stronger links between other members of the family.

An example of putting this all together is a setting I am creating for Cadmus, for Deb Allen's Rites of Passage. When I created the character, I established with Deb that Cadmus came from a small group of inter-connected worlds. Although we really haven't explored the setting much as yet, I have had a vision in my mind of how this would all work. I've called the family of worlds "The Local Group"

Cadmus' Local Group of Shadows (6 points)
Personal Shadow (1)
Restricted Access (2)
Named and Numbered (x2)

Cadmus' Local Group consists of four worlds arranged in a triangle with the fourth point, Terra, in the center. This central world is the main entry and exit point from the group.

This is much like Earth as we know it, with a history diverging in the 11th century A.D. As a result, the Byzantine Empire survived and lived on to influence much of history, and the colonization of the Americas. Cadmus, for example, lived in New Thessalonica, and speaks Greek as well as English

Orbis Astralis
A space-faring universe, this world is much like an amalgam of space empires, republics and other political associations. It is mainly humans, although there are aliens, the Q'rin, which seem much like the Eldar from the Warhammer Universe and might have links to the Fae of the other worlds

Orbis Arcanus
The reverse of the space-faring universe, this world is a fairly typical fantasy based world. Still in development as Deb has "definite ideas" on its nature

Orbis Faerie
This world is the origin and domain of the Fae, and may prove to be the secret to the Faerie found in the other three worlds. Still in development as Deb has "definite ideas" on its nature

Kelestia, from Harn
Chessboards, the Planes of Possibility
Alternity: Tangents, by Bruce Cordell
Posted by Jvstin at 7:35 PM

Usenet Archive now available on

Usenet Archive now available on google.

Now this is interesting. The old archives of Usenet are back up to browse on Google. I found some really old posts from when my email was pjweimer@nyc.pipeline.com as well as the variations on jvstin that I've used on various locations. It was strange to do searches and find and read posts of mine from 6 or 7 years ago on NYC politics, computer games, and other stuff.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:08 PM

December 27, 2002

Testing out some layout changes...

Testing out some layout changes...

Posted by Jvstin at 9:57 PM

December 26, 2002

Added a link to my

Added a link to my Glacier Page, "Glaciers, Rivers of Ice". I've gotten more than a couple of emails from students and educators appreciating the work I've done. I've had it up for a few years now, it began as a project for a class and has taken on a life of its own.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:45 PM

December 24, 2002

Christmas Wishes To Mom, Dad,

Christmas Wishes

To Mom, Dad, my family and friends and readers, I want to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas. I'd want to spend it physically with some of you, all of you, any of you, but you are in my heart and mind on this, Christmas Eve as I write it.

I am feeling somewhat better, physically, I think all of you know I have been battling a nasty cold the last few days. It's still attacking me, but I am slowly winning the fight.

I also wanted to share with all of you something that just happened, a few minutes ago as I wrote this. I don't do it to brag, or to toot my own horn, but merely to affirm to myself and the rest of you that, even alone, the spirit of the holiday is here, within me.

I was in the grocery store, on the checkout line, buying a few things. Ahead of me was a nice little old lady, the real grandmother type. She was buying some candy, some chunk canned chicken, and some cat food. The checkout lady asked her if she was alone and she said no. There was a pregnant pause and then she indicated me, standing on the line behind her, barely paying attention to the conversation. I could sense it though...she was alone on this christmas eve. I felt a twinge of sadness.

When it came time for her to pay for her groceries, about $13, I watched as she pulled out a few singles and some coins. It became apparent to me, and to the checkout girl that she didn't have enough...she only had $7 or so. The checkout girl then asked her a question that I, back when I worked in a grocery store, saw every day. She asked her what items she wanted to remove from her order.

Something possessed me and I still can't quantify it. I pay by debit card at the store, and so it was a fait accompli. I swiped my card, and paid for the bill and only then, once it was a done deal, told the cashier and the lady that I would pay for the groceries. I refused even the $7 that the lady had, something inside me told me to pay for the bill in full and so I did.

The lady thanked me, the checkout girl looked at me quizzically, and the people behind me just seemed relieved that the delay was over. But I felt like I did the right thing, and after I bought my own groceries, and walked out of the store with a spring in my step.

It wasn't much...it was less than $13, but I think I brought a ray of happiness to that lady, on Christmas Eve. And that is my story.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Posted by Jvstin at 4:41 PM

December 22, 2002

Feeling lousy I've been feeling

Feeling lousy

I've been feeling really rotten the last couple of days. I went to work sick on Friday, and Friday night into Saturday I spent a sleepless night in bed for 12 hours trying to get to sleep. That I didn't have something like Nyquil or Tylenol PM on hand should come as no surprise to many of you, my dislike of using medicine or drugs except in extremis is pretty well known. I paid the price for it. I knew somehow that I wasn't going to sleep, and tossed and turned from 8 PM to 8 AM.

Feverish dreams and weird quasi dreams even for me were just icing on the cake. I had some weird dreams last night, too, even if I felt a little better...I felt up to actually going to a movie yesterday, since I really wanted to see LOTR II. Review will be published shortly.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:51 PM

December 19, 2002

"When they came for the

"When they came for the socialists I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.
When they came for the homosexuals I did not speak out because I was not a homosexual.
When they came for the Jews I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
When they came for me there was no one left to speak out."

I can only hope I am being alarmist. But after reading this, I am getting concerned.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:20 AM

December 17, 2002

View of the Universe Remember

View of the Universe

Remember the old "Powers of 10" mini-movie? (Or maybe you don't). Check out this page with a java applet that takes you from the edge of the universe to quarks.

Now I have a longing to watch Cosmos...but my VHS tapes (and VCR!) are 3000 miles away. And the DVD set is expensive.

Oh well.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:50 PM

December 16, 2002

I finished reading A Shadow

I finished reading A Shadow on the Glass.

It was, well, just above average for doorstopper fantasy series, or, more colorfully, "phat" fantasy. Some things annoyed me about the book, revelations came like lumps in oatmeal, unexpectedly and sometimes without much foreshadowing. It wasn't bad, but I've read much better series (eg. George R.R. Martin). I might continue reading the series at some point, but its not a priority. And with so many books to read, it just might never happen. I'd rather continue reading, say, the Tyrants and Kings series, or the Rhapsody novels, to name two examples.

Next up? Hammerfall by the one and only C.J. Cherryh. It is NOT set in any of her previous universes and I've only started reading it, but it reminds me a bit, thus far of a cross between Martha Wells' City of Bones and Modesitt's Gravity Dreams.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:45 PM

Good news for font-o-philes...Apostrophic Lab

Good news for font-o-philes...Apostrophic Lab has a couple of new fonts today.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:02 PM

December 14, 2002

Posted a correction to my

Posted a correction to my recipe entry, regarding the Kitchen Sink.

Djinn is only a participant, not the creatrix. My bad, my very bad.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:38 PM

December 12, 2002

Writers on America Now here

Writers on America

Now here is a curiosity, to say the least. This website, the on-line edition of a book disseminated by the Office of International Information Programs and intended by law for foreign consumption only. Theoretically, an American visiting this site is breaking the law, but I don't think the US State Department is going to mind very much...even though they do not give out the website's address as a general rule. What it is, is views of what it means to be an American, and what America is, by some writers and poets. It's good stuff...so be a rebel, break the law, and check it out!

Via The Juice (a blog on MSNBC)

Posted by Jvstin at 1:28 PM

Fear and Loathing in the

Fear and Loathing in the NFL(?)

While looking for Tuesday Morning Quarterback (a great weekly column by Gregg Easterbrook), I came across something
I didn't expect...
Someone gave Hunter S. Thompson (yes THAT Hunter S. Thompson) a column on espn.com.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:55 AM

Evil Name Generator Different

Evil Name Generator

Different categories and stuff, too. Generator Page

Via Arref

Posted by Jvstin at 9:07 AM

December 11, 2002

Litigation Mania Perhaps, just as

Litigation Mania

Perhaps, just as the 60 Minutes piece suggested (which I saw and thought was quite insightful), Jefferson County, Mississippi is really the mecca of lawsuits in the US...since a couple of former jurors are suing 60 Minutes for libel in airing the story. Maybe I would be more sympathetic to the plantiffs if they didn't have the gall to sue CBS for 6 Billion (that's B folks) dollars. Read all about it.

Via Reason magazine's new Hit and Run Blog.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:53 AM

Great stuff over on Arref's

Great stuff over on Arref's Blog today. All sorts of interesting items. Then again, you've probably come from there or will go there anyway. This Blog is pretty insular that way.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:27 AM

It's a (quasi) wonderful life

It's a (quasi) wonderful life

Jvstin, you are my friend.

Not only this, but my mother sent me a christmas tree, it arrived yesterday. Granted its a small 24 inch artificial tree..but now I do have one, with decorations to boot. Yes, I do realize that people care and I am grateful, but there is another emotion I feel in times like this that I have never been able to express properly. I am going to try it here and now, and hope you will all understand, give you some insight into my personal micropsychology (no I have no idea if that is a real word but it sounds good).

When someone does something nice for me like this, it provokes guilt and shame within me. Let's face it, if I was hunky-dory and fine, Arref would not have even thought of going to that flash site and putting my name into it. He likely would have never considered the effort at all. To a lesser extent I feel the same way about presents, too, no matter what mood I am in.

So...while I appreciate the effort that he put into it, I wish that circumstances were different and there was no reason for him to put that effort in at all. Time (and money in the case of gifts) are precious and there are better and more pressing things to spend them on than me and my problems. In a perfect world, this sort of thing would never happen. I wouldn't feel down and bad, and friends wouldn't expend their time on such a thing, when there is so much more and other things they might do.

Maybe its a feeling of unworthiness. I hope this all has made some sense.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:35 AM

December 9, 2002

I've continued my reading

I've continued my reading apace, as you might note from the list of books.
turned out to be a dud, in the end. A promising start, promising ideas, all sound and fury devolving into ordinariness. Too bad.

Mysterium, by Robert Charles Wilson, on the other hand was a much better read, although just as short and quick. It had the almost signature "parallel world" theme of most of his novels (except BIOS, which I have not read yet). Basically the plot revolves around a town in Michigan transported from our world to an alternate historical timeline where an ecletic and syncretic, but repressive Gnostic Christianity won out as the dominant strain instead of the brand we know. The reasons why the town was transported to this world in particular is part of the engine of the plot. It shows some of the unpolished nature of his early work, but on the other hand it is thoughful and intelligent, and I reinforced and learned more about Gnostic ideas. Now, when people on the AML talk about Dworkin as a demiurge, I have a better grasp of the concept. It's out of print, but I recommend looking for it.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:47 PM

The other major thing

The other major thing I did this weekend was register for ACUS 2003. I've been debating it on and off for a while now, but finally decided to pull the trigger. One of the forces and inhibitions, though, was an aspect of that Dark Voice again--nagging me that there wouldn't be any point to registering for the con because I would somehow "not make it" to March. So, in a weird way, you might say that my purposeful registration for the Con is a life-affirming act.

Right now, as I think I have mentioned before, my plan is to run two games--the sequel to Ad Amber Per Astra, and a new game whose working title right now is "Ghosts of the Past". I'll only run the former if I get a quorum of interested players from last year--I know Bridgette is raring to revisit that universe. I will have to find and dig out the emails of everyone else.

Ghosts of the Past--I have a prologue of sorts in my head that needs to come out, to offer to prospective players. I'm hoping, once again, for a cross section of friends and good players interested in my tale. I admit it, I like to game for my friends, and make new friends in that context. I am not sure I could GM a game entirely composed of strangers.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:41 PM

It's Back to Work Monday

It's Back to Work Monday again...

I had to do christmas cards and other things this weekend, and so I still owe the Game WISH on Retcons. I am not sure if I will do it here at work, I'm being taught some new tricks, so my disposable time is at a minimum, plus the holiday rush is upon us. Even more exciting though is the fact that DBSis moving. Its not far in terms of physical distance and it won't make it harder for me to get to work, but it is to a larger facility. Space is good.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:04 PM

December 7, 2002

Am I doing better? Not

Am I doing better? Not particularly. But I am still here. I am still standing. I haven't quite gone off that cliff.

Thank you to the person who emailed me with their concern and well wishes (you know who you are, there is no need
to name names). I am not trying to solicit such reactions, the purpose of my entry was simply to document how I was feeling. Most of the time I want to be alone and isolated when I get like this--I actively avoid going online, I neglect SB and my RP characters, I cut myself off. Since this dark tide
rose at work...I felt compelled to share my feelings and emotions.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:25 PM

December 6, 2002

The Seductive Dark Voice It

The Seductive Dark Voice

It begins as a seductive voice inside your head. A dark one. "Stop fighting it, you know its inevitable." "Quit fighting so hard, you are only prolonging matters beyond their reasonable conclusion. And be reasonable to your friends. Sure, they might be upset at first, cry, be angry, but in the end it would be better for them, too. They won't have to worry about you anymore. You won't be a burden on them, selfishly taking up their time and energy thinking about you and your lot. In fact...they will be happier, in the end. And those who only feign your friendship will be relieved not to have to anymore."

"It's not like you'll be really missed. The Earth turns on and on, whether you are here, or not. The fact that you are so far away from everyone you think cares about you just makes it easier, after all. There are many people worse off than you, but they are stronger than you are, and its folly to pretend otherwise."

I'm fighting it as best as I can. I think I am losing.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:32 PM

December 5, 2002

Dorian Cleavenger, Fantasy Artist. Some

Dorian Cleavenger, Fantasy Artist.

Some Dark images here. Caution is not merely pro forma in this case. Think the darker images from Royo, if you
are familiar with his work.

Referenced from Arref.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:48 PM

Population Ecology of Vampires

Population Ecology of Vampires in the Buffyverse

For those of us equally at home with the exploits of Buffy, and not adverse to a little biology, I present this link for your edification. Vampire Ecology

Posted by Jvstin at 9:02 AM

December 4, 2002

Earth as Art I

Earth as Art

I saw this in the local newspaper, and I had to go to the website when I got the chance (The actual real life exhibit is in the Library of Congress). The images here are incredible! http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/earthasart/
Posted by Jvstin at 8:04 PM

December 3, 2002

From Lisa DuMond's website: Keep

>From Lisa DuMond's website:

Keep an eye on the SciFi Channel website for my interview with screenwriter/producer/author Richard Christian Matheson and learn about his new projects, including a Chronicles of Amber miniseries and a new book.

As Emeril might say, BAM!

Posted by Jvstin at 10:34 PM

Pretty quiet today. Much

Pretty quiet today.

Much of the day at work the Blog complained that it could not publish due to template errors. Oh, well. If and when I get a domain and a real website, I definitely am going to migrate to something like Moveable Type.

I finished Archangel Protocol, and have begun Dreamside.

I felt uncomfortable when I opened the book, I have had it for a while, it was a gift last year from TGFKAB, and the amazon.com receipt with her message on it was still inside. A bitter joke, you might say. But, I am digesting this book, its a fairly nice read so far. I had avoided actually reading it (and had been tempted to fling it away) because it precisely had been a gift from Bonnie. But, I couldn't do that...to a book.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:52 PM

December 1, 2002

Updated and worked on my

Updated and worked on my somewhat previously defunct Jvstin's Universe page. As you can see on the links to the right, I've emphasized the "Book Reviews, Jvstin Style" page, which I formerly called Small Book Reviews. Basically its very short
book reviews, with a numerical rating and a few lines about the book. Go forth and enjoy.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:02 PM

November 26, 2002

Did some more changes to

Did some more changes to the template. I'm starting to make it mine.

In other news, I finished Little, Big. I stand by what I said before...I wish I had a skeleton key to the book. I enjoyed it, in the end, and the ending was wistful and bittersweet. Maybe I will re-read the book in 5 or 10 years, and gain perspective by a re-reading of the work...sort of like Silverlock.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:36 PM

November 25, 2002

Well, as you can see,

Well, as you can see, I did radically change the template for BJS...and it seems to have worked. I don't get that error anymore, and the archives are working again. I realize that there might be old posts which are not going to degrade well to the new template, if this becomes a problem, do let me know.
And I do intend to tweak this new skeleton until it becomes my own.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:25 PM

In addition to the problem

In addition to the problem of template saving, Blogger is NOT archiving my posts. I think its two heads of the same hydra of a problem. It might be Blogger...or it might be my template. The best way to test it would be to change templates completely...I'll want to save this one at home before contemplating it.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:15 PM

Arref gives his own view

Arref gives his own view of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As I suspected, I think my feelings about the movie are going to be in a somewhat minority opinion. I guess I really do nickel and dime things to death. After all, I was somewhat deflated by Spiderman, which "only" managed to gross the highest amount ever in a weekend for a movie.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:56 PM

November 24, 2002

Game Wish Well, thanks to

Game Wish

Well, thanks to Arref, my idea for a Game Wish got picked up by Ginger. It's not precisely the point I made about Pets, its sufficiently broadened so that I should and will give a response.

What have pets and companions belonging to PCs and NPCs in campaigns you've GMed or played in added? What have their bad points been? How do they compare to sentient magic items in terms of their effect on play (good or bad)?

I talked about pets and companions already, so now I'll talk about sentient magic items. Perhaps the classic sentient companion that one encounters in Amber is the bugbear of danger sense items. Nothing can kill the suspense of a tense encounter than having to constantly take a danger sense item into account. Often a GM, at least speaking from personal experience, will have to think in advance of how danger sense items will handle a particular encounter.

On the other hand, to play Devil's Advocate, I as the GM am willing to use sentient magic items for my own purposes, for plotlines. For example, Larissa in Strange Bedfellows has a sword named Nightthread which she is not quite sure of, and I have intimated that there is more to her mysterious weapon than meets the eye. Priya's magic item, Ykanga, has proven in the PCs short span thus far in the game to be interesting and I got ideas on how to handle it from the weird A.A, Attanasio "Irth" novels. One can't and shouldn't change what is already known and set (by points and otherwise) by the player, but if a character is going to invest, say 10 points in a sentient artifact, it should be a source of personal storylines.

As for myself, I generally don't go for sentience in my own magic items. I've leaned more toward companions to fill that role. On the other hand, in a case of the GM playing with my own character's history and item, Marcus, in his incarnation in Rob's Shadow War, found himself at one point inside the Jewel of Judgement. (Looong story). Basically, though, while inside the Jewel, Myriad, his hitherto quiet multi-formed weapon, began showing signs of intelligence and communication. I think Rob stole the idea from Frakir and Merlin in Undershadow, but it was well done, and Marcus was rather surprised, to say the least!

Posted by Jvstin at 10:14 PM

November 23, 2002

The Seventh Seal No,

The Seventh Seal

No, not the movie. My friend Felicia Olson told me that she picked up a new RPG of the same name. From what it looks to me, it looks like it is a human-oriented apocalyptic version of In Nomine with maybe some Hunter (which I have not seen) thrown in. As she told me about it, I looked online, and found a review of it on rpg.netand also the website of the company.

I'm at a stage where I need a new RPG book to digest and enjoy. It's a craving not quite as intense as my unquenchable one for books, but my craving for RPG books exists all the same. The last one I bought (Exalted) was back in May, which very nearly may be a record for me. Lots and lots of choices, too, that might get my gaming dollar from GURPS Mars to Space 1889 (back in print!) to even the new WOD line, Demon. Although I did like Exalted enough to consider getting another of that line, like Dragon-Blooded, or the Lunars Book. Other possible choices even include exotica like the Dying Earth RPG and Sorcerer.

Why not Nobilis, you might ask, since I've talked about it and practically drooled over the concept? Well, a birdie told me that a friend of mine has decided to be overly generous and send me a copy. Unfortunately, amazon is not being very cooperative or quick with the shipping. It was intended as a birthday present...that I might not get until Christmas at this rate!

Posted by Jvstin at 10:20 PM

Working on tweaking the Blog

Working on tweaking the Blog today, as you can see.

I've barely begun.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:35 PM

November 22, 2002

Giant Hyenas versus stone-age

Giant Hyenas versus stone-age Man

Okay, so its science day. But this was too good not to share, too. The story suggests that the domestication of dogs was a key to Man being able to colonize the northeast of Asia, and subsequently, the Americas. I always thought the Cenozoic was under-appreciated compared to the Mesozoic (Age of the Dinosaurs). I like the Hall of Extinct Mammals in the AMNH as much as the Dinosaur Halls.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:03 PM

Scientists glimpse cellular machines at

Scientists glimpse cellular machines at work inside living cells

Wow! Biology may be coming to a true golden age. Read all about this discovery.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:30 PM

Updated the recently read

Updated the recently read column, on the right hand side of the Blog. Yeah, yeah, I know, I should take the time to really redesign my somewhat creaky design. At least a new Iteration if not a complete paradigm shift.

I've been reading, as you can see,
Little, Big
, by John Crowley. I have heard about the novel for years and years, its considered a seminal work in the fantasy genre. Not fantasy as in the "phat" tolkien-clone fantasy (Goodkind, Eddings, etal), but more along the lines of Emma Bull, Tim Powers, and Charles De Lint. I'm about 5/8 done with the book. My impressions so far? Well...I wish I had a "skeleton key" to the book, since I think I am missing a lot of allusions and tropes...and I consider myself a fairly well-read person. (I submit that I do well in the spot-the-reference in Silverlock, for instance). The book is allegorical, subtle and understated, pastoral might even be a good word for it. But I do like what I have read so far.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:15 PM

November 21, 2002

"The pen is mightier than

"The pen is mightier than the sword. But lost Carthage has borne the brunt of both."

Not sure where this came from, just thought of this looking at a new pen at work. It's true, though, Carthage gets a bad rap, and I am willing to believe its partially bad PR and propaganda on the part of their Roman nemesis.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:07 PM

Grand Ellipse? Came across the

Grand Ellipse?

Came across the original reference on Turn of a Friendly Die, but the actual GURPS game is here.

Sometimes great minds think alike? Ever since I read Paula Volsky's novel, I've thought about doing a game using this idea as a template. I even imagined the possibility of doing it at Ambercon--but I'd need multiple GMs to handle something like it. (It would be shades of Its a Mad Mad Mad Amber, which I ran with Felicia Olson and Karen Francis Groves two years ago at ACUS).

The way I would handle it would be to have shadowlame characters (relatively speaking), preferably recruited from and around Amber and the Golden Circle. The prize for completing what would be a cross-golden circle race would be the choice of a cash prize or a request from King Random (an audience would be granted in any event). I'd encourage the players to come up with, nay, require them to have the reason they want to take up this challenge as part of PC background. I would have a chance to showcase my Golden Circle in a new and interesting way.

Of course I'd need too much helping running the thing, and I already have plans, assuming I return to ACUS, to do a sequel to Ad Amber Per Astra, and I have another idea. The prologue and fore-story to that second game...stay tuned to this Blog.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:09 PM

Retronyms This is a relatively


This is a relatively new word that I have come across. It refers to the respecification of old terms in the light of new technology. Analog watch, for example is a retronym. Acoustic guitar, and even two-parent family (sadly enough).

Ones that I've thought about, just now, would include real-time, and snail mail (although that is not quite there yet as reaching critical mass in replacing "mail". But I am sure that as email becomes ubiquitous on cell phones and the like, it will be.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:05 PM

Old Browser Blues The problem

Old Browser Blues

The problem with surfing the internet, and blogging here at work is that the hardware and software are rather antiquidated and not up to the task. The machines are running Windows NT, and the version of IE on this computer is 4.0.

Yes, old 4.0 I keep getting script errors everywhere, and pages which are designed to be rendered in the newer browsers often do not do well...Arref's page looks horrible, and Ginger's page was even worse...I wanted to make a comment on the whole Grand Ellipse thing...but the stupid page is cut off and I can't. I can see, from looking at the source code, that there are comments there, but the page cuts off at Arref's first comment.

Of course, I can't exactly tell work to upgrade their web browsers so I can surf the internet, now can I?

Posted by Jvstin at 9:19 AM

November 20, 2002

Arrefand also Ginger seem

Arrefand also Ginger seem to be discussing today what films inspire their Amber experiences. Films as models for games.

I thought about this a bit at lunch in regard to Strange Bedfellows and the only thing I can come up with off of the top of my head is not quite a film, but rather a TV series, and I have to thank, grudgingly, TGFKAB for the idea.

I think Strange Bedfellows has parallels with...Doctor Who. Mixes of genres, diverse and varied locations, including outside the normal universe, there has even been an episode of time travel in SB. The Omphalos perhaps are my version of the Daleks...implacable, dangerous adversaries bent on conquest and destruction on a grand scale, plus croploads of other protagonists and antagonists. Even though Jim invented him, maybe I've been influenced in my plans and plots for Baralis by the Doctor's mortal enemy, the Master.

Amber as Gallifrey. Hmmm. It does make me think of "Tangents" which was a supplement for the defunct game Alternity. It was something like GURPS Time Travel except it dealt exclusively with interworld travel, mainly focusing on technological methods and motifs. There was a reference, interestingly enough, to Amberites, under a disguised name, of course. I wonder how you could handle a Gallifrey like world gaining not only time travel ability but inter-shadow travel, and used that in an forward and aggressive manner. Hmmm.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:56 PM



Perhaps its a topic I should submit to Ginger's WISH. I've gotten to thinking about it lately, because for the first time in years,
I am without a pet or companion. When I lived in the house of TGFKAB, she had a dog and a cat. Back home, with only a few short breaks, I've had pets continuously, notably two beloved cats, one of which recently and tragically had to be put to sleep.

Yes, it makes me sad. I miss having a pet around, period, but my lease forbids it. I'm not sure I can even have something like a goldfish, but even that would be an improvement. I guess its just loneliness, as well as that void which an animal companion can fill.

This brings me to an actual RPG topic! Companions/pets for role playing characters. Too often, they are point batteries, used to gain additional powers for the character. Munchkins are notorious for this.

On the other hand, if actualized and envisioned, some companions not only become an integral part of their character's concepts, but take on the aspects of a character in their own right. I submit, as a player, my character Hadrian, whose companion Dora has proven, in con games and in Strange Bedfellows (Hadrian is one of the NPC cousins) that she is a person of her own mind, and Hadrian would not be the same without her. The very original concept of Hadrian, back in the mists of time (a topic for another time) did not have Dora, but every iteration of him since has included and developed the Wyvernet. Her original concept was a variation on the Jhereg from the Steven Brust Vlad Taltos novels, but, especially in SimAmber's game, I developed the Wyvernets into a unique species.

As far as players in my games, very few have any sort of companions whatsoever. The most notable are Brieanne, who of course as Julian's daughter not only has a horse of her own, but two hellhounds. The hellhounds have personality, though, and I fondly recall a scene where they ran amok through the castle like overexuberant children, causing chaos in their wake. They are not just for protective purposes. The other is good Arref, and Bhangbadea's companion, Bishop. The species that Bishop (who outwardly looks much like a cat) is was developed in Arref's universe, and the significance of such has only touched on Strange Bedfellows. Briefly, the felinoid species is/was a race of dimensional travellers who have lost some of that wanderlust, and perhaps some of the ability as well.

Bishop has independent plans, goals, and ideas, and both the player and I feel comfortable in writing "for" Bishop and that helps to keep him from being a simple deposit of points and powers. If you can't tell already, I dislike companions which really have zero role playing potential whatsoever. Personality for Pets!

As far as my own current RPG characters, I only have two really active characters at the moment. Marcus, from Bridgette's Age of Retribution does not have a pet or companion. However, there was made mention of 'shadowcats' appearing on Kolvir following the recent Patternfall War, and it was mentioned in discussion between a few player characters that such a creature might suit my sorcerer's temperment pretty well as a companion. Marcus does have a "cat-person" sort of personality.

Cadmus, on the other hand, in Deb's Rites of Passage, I see much more as a "dog person" although he hasn't had time to have a pet, either. He's much more physically active and capable than Marcus (even if he is a spell-slinger, too), and him running around with a hound in a park is definitely something I could envision.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:50 PM

November 19, 2002

Arref has put some stuff

Arref has put some stuff on putting comment functions onto Blogs. I'll have to check them out when I get home...thanks my friend!

Posted by Jvstin at 5:52 PM

I tried to see the

I tried to see the Leonid meteor shower last night.

I woke up at 2 am local time, went outside and looked up in the sky. The very bright, very full moon, very much overhead washed out the stars (and thus the meteors) like a searchlight. I did manage to see one bright one near the eastern horizon, and a few more. After that, given that the moon was not cooperating, I went back to bed.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:43 PM

November 18, 2002

Made a couple of corrections

Made a couple of corrections and modifications to my movie review. Thanks to Arref for linking me up, I am curious what everyone else thought of it. Its possible I can be too critical of movies sometimes.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:12 PM

November 15, 2002

It's Friday! What that means

It's Friday!

What that means is I do not have to go to the salt mine tomorrow...and so in a fit of activity, I've decided to participate in this week's WISH.

Game WISH #22

The typical party of PCs appears to be composed of equals. They may have Nodwickian henchlings or distant authority figures, but in most of the games I've played, the PCs are equal with respect to each other.
Is this generalization true for you as well? What other group dynamics have showed up in campaigns you have played? What other group dynamics might be workable? What isn't workable, and why?

I admit freely to be of the Equals School. All other things being equal, I prefer to start players on an even footing, and I do try to take pains in Strange Bedfellows to narrow the gap, somewhat, when the most prolific players (contributions wise that is) threaten to throw their compatriots into extreme shadow.

I've played in games, though, where the power levels were more hierarchial. Karen Francis Groves THY KINGDOM COME, for instance, where I played Laertes, Crowin Prince of Rebma. He started off, and by the game end was, part of the newest crop of players, a definite couple of "ranks" below characters such as Lucifer and Erin and Sabre. The way I saw it was that they moved in bigger spheres, and had larger plans and ideas, than the smaller fry...which included my good friend Arref (as Kirwyd), and TGFKAB (playing an Angelica, Ceasarea). What we did counted, and our plans affected the game and story, sometimes strongly, but there was definitely a sense that the older and more established players had a bigger influence and impact in the game. The implication was that, given time and power, the newer players, too, would advance to that level someday. Laertes, for instance, started off as a relatively innocuous Trump Artist, and by the time the game ended, had been named Moire's Heir, had his appearance altered, walked a Pattern (mind you, he was Rebman, not Amberite), and obtained a rather significant artifact of power.

So the egalitarian approach is not the only one...but the hierarchial one takes a lot of work. The players have to be given the chance to advance, and the players lower on the rungs must still count. I can't say this highly enough. No one wants to play a character whose every plan is overwashed, overmatched and ignored in favor of the clash of the Titans.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:34 PM

If you Blog, and it

If you Blog, and it doesn't post, does it still count?

Posted by Jvstin at 11:31 AM

Okay, this is now getting

Okay, this is now getting annoying. Unable to load template file, eh?

Popularity has its downside. I mean, Blogs are hitting the mainstream in a big way. Many of the news websites have Blogs, now (part of the motivation for me getting back into the game, so to speak--Blog envy.)

Posted by Jvstin at 10:46 AM

November 14, 2002

BLOGGER seems to be having

BLOGGER seems to be having trouble today. Figures. At least I managed one uploaded missive...

Posted by Jvstin at 2:33 PM



Posted by Jvstin at 1:33 PM

AND YES, I do intend

AND YES, I do intend to return to discussing things roleplaying related, etc. etc.

My imagination and such has taken a hit in the aftermath of the painful breakup with TGFKAB. I do not wish to dwell upon it, because frankly it would get dull for you and depressing for me. I am alone, and single and by myself, a strange in a strange land, in the city of Anaheim, California.

But I am still standing. I'm bloody, oh, yes, but I am not dead yet.

Stay tuned for more exciting entries (hopefully) in the days and weeks to come.

--Just what have I been reading lately?
--My ideas for games I might run at ACUS 2003 (assuming I can afford to go)
--Roleplaying ideas, and other things that come on my plate, too.

Until and if I get one of those comment things a la most other Blogs, please feel free to email me.

You didn't think I'd be gone forever now, did you?


Posted by Jvstin at 1:17 PM

I'm back. Like Osama, or

I'm back.

Like Osama, or even Poindexter(!), I've resurfaced for air and returned. I also didn't want to be delisted by Arref. :grin:

Blogging from work, no less! Its not precisely legal...but work has been light in the shadow of Thanksgiving. Besides it does give me a chance to communicate again to all of you.

I've missed it. Much has changed, some for the good, not all of it however. Its like a Native American medicine bundle...good with the bad, and one cannot unmix the two.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:01 PM

August 23, 2002

I am alive...if not thriving.

I am alive...if not thriving.

More at some point later...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:57 PM

June 22, 2002

Driving Most everyone takes it


Most everyone takes it for granted, except for Geologists, who probably take it for granite. For years, fear, mainly, has stunted my natural development and growth. Only in the last couple of years have I actually obtained my driving license. And only since I have arrived in sunny California have I actually driven without driving instructors, on my own.

Today marked another milestone. While yesterday was significant in that I drove a fair distance (Santa Ana to Placentia) in a futile quest for a job, I drove that solely on surface roads. Today, I drove to the Laguna Hills Mall to meet an acquaintance of Jean's who might have a lead on a job with her kiosk/store, THINGS REMEMBERED. I drove there and back, by using the 405 and 5 Freeways.

I will pause here a second for those of you who know me well to recover from fainting, falling down and other reactions. Yes, I, Paul, have driven on freeways and lived to tell the tale. I topped off at a blistering 70 MPH at one point.

As for the job, the lady passed on my application and such up to her supervisor, so we will see what happens. The acquaintance, Bev, made a good point in saying that its oftentimes easier to get a job once you have one. Perhaps this will serve as a stepping stone to a better and more fiscally renumerating job. Right now, though, make no mistake, I want a job, period. One step at a time. The hurdle, the monkey-on-my-back, has to be overcome, expunged.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:06 PM

June 12, 2002

Been working on getting a

Been working on getting a job. Haven't even been keeping up well with SB and my other games, to say nothing of my blog or BN. Sad indeed.

Oh, an addenda...the Queens of Amber game mentioned in the Abyss entry below is at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~fazzari/Amber/QOA/

Posted by Jvstin at 1:37 PM

June 6, 2002

One of things being discussed

One of things being discussed around a bit on the blog circuit is superheroes, jedis and, well, sex and romance.

You will have to highlight the text below to read this, because it does contain spoiler information.

In Spiderman, Peter Parker in the end, decides not to return Mary Jane's love, even though it is clear that he has feelings for her. Its almost a strange superhero celibacy that Arref and a couple of others have commented on thanks to a few articles floating about. In Attack of the Clones, its implied Jedi cannot have such relations, either...even if Anakin winds up breaking this sort of code to spend time with Amidala.

However, according to an article on imdb.com, Lucas has a slightly more nuanced view:
Celebrity News: 16th May 2002
Jedis Can Have Sex, Says Lucas

...Lucas says it's romance, rather than hanky panky, which is banned by the Jedi code. He says, "Jedi Knights aren't celibate - the thing that is forbidden is attachments - and possessive relationships."

So, Jedi's can sleep around, but can't call the girl (or guy!) the next day?

Posted by Jvstin at 1:47 PM

June 4, 2002

Blogging (and webspace maintainence too)

Blogging (and webspace maintainence too) is so slow under this connection. :sigh:

Still working on the job thing. Went for an interview today that turned out to be mediated by a Temp agency. Not what I expected but maybe it will work out.

Been working on my own conjectural version of the old hoary Abyss power. I am borrowing lots (mainly from the Queens of Amber game) but I am putting my own spin on it. Not sure if anyone would actually ever qualify in SB to use it...but this keeps within the canonical rules of the game.


It has many names...the Abyss, the Great Pit, The Hole...the edge of the Abyss is sometimes referred to as the "Rim." It is the perfect moat as mentioned above. The Abyss prevents physical exit from the Courts...even the shadows of Ways cannot cross the Abyss. It may not be a power in the sense of the Logrus and Pattern, but it does, in a sense, represent true entropy.
>From the Strange Bedfellows FAQ, on the Abyss

Introduction to the Abyss

Perhaps there is power there. What follows is a conjectural exploration of what an Abyss power, in the Strange Bedfellows universe, might look like, and how it would work.

First of all, if there is power to be gained in the Abyss, it could not be from a source of sentience or potential sentience, like Pattern or Logrus. The Abyss, as mentioned on the cosmology page of SB, is really a conduit, a passage from the Amber Multiverse to the even greater void beyond, which holds all of the multiverses. So its not a force of destruction or entropy in an active sense.

Also, too, the likelihood of someone actually developing these powers would be rare to say the least. Said person would have to travel to the deep depths of the Pit, but manage to stay alive in the degrading conditions down there, and manage to not leave the Amber Universe altogether. Oh, and yes, the Abyssal user would somehow have to manage to get back out of the Abyss again.

Requirements for Abyss:

Advanced Shapeshifting, or Basic Shapeshifting with significant points in Lessiman Pahth techniques Endurance greater than Amber Rank. I'd personally say a minimum of 20. The Abyss is a BAD place. A long term (months? years?) immersion into the Abyss to allow time for the corrupting power to manifest itself within the user.

Abyss in Action

By definition, anyone who has Abyssal powers must have spent a significant amount of time in the zone of the Abyss, and has thus become immune to its effects. As noted above, without a high amount of shapeshifting and endurance, this should not be possible--either the users mind and body would degrade to useless in a short period of time following escape, or they would not have survived the experience in the first place.

However, this Abyssal Taint then, even stable within an Initate, will be relatively easy to spot by anyone using Mage Sight, Logrus Lens and similar techniques. The catch is that the sorcerer looking at the Initiate will see the taint, but will very unlikely know what it is without further investigation. The Abyss is simply so rare, that its taint, however distinctive, would be undefinable. Abyssal powers are like an unshielded nuclear reactor, and the fingerprints of their use is fairly easy to spot, once someone knows to look for it.

Abyssal Powers

Abyssal Taint Points: 10 The basic level of Abyss, this is the minimum investment in the power. The Initiate has been to, and somehow survived the Abyss. Said Initiate can now handle Abyssal energies, and, if they somehow return to the Abyss, have no personal danger of further damage.

Abyssal Defense
Points: 15
Requires: Abyssal Taint
This power enables the Abyssal Initiate to infuse his/her body with Abyssal energy, such that the initiate is resistant to attacks by pattern, logrus, and trump. Spells that utilize such energies are much reduced in efficacy, though they may have some effect. The initiate must concentrate for a minute or so to activate this power, but after activation the effect lingers for 10-40 minutes, during which time the initiate is protected. Note that it is impossible to contact the initiate with trump while he/she is infused with Abyssal energy. Another facet of this power is that while imbued the Initiates touch becomes harmful to non-abyssal creatures. Wounds inflicted by the Initiate while in such a state do not heal normally, and often fester, and become infected.This latter effect is somewhat less severe to high endurance and real beings.

Abyssal Sight
Points: 5
Requires: Abyssal Taint;Abyssal Defense
This power enables the initiate to percieve the presence of greater energies, in much the way that Logrus or Pattern Lens work.

Abyssal Shadowwalk
Points: 5
Requires: Abyssal Taint;Abyssal Defense
This power enables the Abyssal Initiate to move through shadow, at much the same slow rate that someone bearing the Broken Pattern Imprint does. Note that this power damages the boundaries between shadows on a temporary basis, such that anyone with Pattern or Logrus can easily track the passage of an Abyssal Initiate. Also note that the Abyssal Initiate will not necessarily walk through the most offensive shadows as a Broken Pattern Initiate might, but the tendency will be to use those, as they will provide a somewhat easier path.

Further powers and uses for Abyssal power beyond these almost certainly exist...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:04 PM

May 30, 2002

Deb Atwood, the guiding force

Deb Atwood, the guiding force behind, among other things, the ACUS and PBEM game RITES OF PASSAGE, has
begun a blog of her own. http://www.hall-of-mirrors.com/.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:27 PM

May 28, 2002

A 28.8k connection is NOT

A 28.8k connection is NOT conductive to frequent use...either it be email, surfing the web, designing webpages, or working on this ol' blog.

Plus, its been a busy few days, again.

Let's see...more driving practice--and even my very first solo. It was successful, I might add.

Weather here is getting warm again, it seems to be like the waves, slope upward, and then slope downward, back and forth like a rhythm. Not much rain to speak of. No wonder people love the Mediterranean climate.

I ran a one-shot Amber scenario Sunday for Bonnie and our friend Sandie...Bonnie's first live game in over a year, and Sandie's first live Amber game, period. It was pretty fun, dusted off one of my old ideas (Fimbulwinter) about a misunderstanding, really more of an orchestrated conflict between Amber and Chaos by a third party. It is one of the ideas I've had in my "idea jar" for running at Ambercons. I, and they, enjoyed it and it felt good to GM live for the first time since the Con.

Speaking of need, I need to get on over to Beter Noire and download some stuff so that I can work on some letters. I owe them. I've done all right in doing SB turns, and turns for AOR and ROP, but that is something I need to make my voice heard. Its just a pain to surf the net in slow motion. Broadband made me into a spoiled brat that way.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:24 PM

May 20, 2002

An interesting couple of days.

An interesting couple of days.

Actually went driving Sunday, practicing for the first time since I've arrived in California. Driving laws are somewhat different here than back East, not that I was a polished driver to begin with. I didn't do too badly except when it came to trying to park...

In Amber news, Arref has quoted from my SB Faq and compared the use of Trump Calls between his world and mine. http://shadowthriller.blogspot.com/2002_05_19_shadowthriller_archive.html#76754047. Actually, the one time in my game I had Random ignore trump calls for a while, PCs immediately took this as a sign something was wrong with him...even if all he wanted was some peace and quiet.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:42 AM

May 16, 2002

That marine layer thing that

That marine layer thing that happens during the mornings here has not yet burned off. On the national weather maps, its listed
as "fog" but that's not quite an accurate term. Overcast might be better.

Pretty quiet day. Played with the template a bit, as you might see.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:57 PM

May 15, 2002

Well, I now have a

Well, I now have a dilaipidated 14" monitor. Its not pretty but it works...and so my computer (even if it is not connected to the internet) is back in buisness. The funny thing is, and Bonnie's mother noticed it in conjunction with Bonnie, that my desire to spend endless amounts of time on the internet has decreased significantly. One of the prime causes of that (Looking for Bonnie) has been eliminated.

Ive discovered the bus system here makes the poor one back on Staten Island seem like paradise. Buses here during the day can be as infrequent as every HOUR, on weekdays. Old cord style bell ringers and a lack of seats completes the rather dismal experience of riding them. That, and the fact that the number of sidewalks and crosswalks are less than what should be make it a fact--you truly have to drive here to do ANYTHING. The nearest major grocery store is more than a mile and a half away.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:28 PM

May 11, 2002

Hooked up my monitor and

Hooked up my monitor and computer today and discovered my monitor has DIED. Dead.

Not a happy day in paradise

Posted by Jvstin at 11:37 AM

May 10, 2002

Alive, and, well... Well, it

Alive, and, well...

Well, it doesn't look like I will be connecting MY computer to the internet, per se, considering the layout here as far as phone lines. In actuality I am now on a 28.8k connection...which is going to slow down my output of everything. My plan is to compose stuff on my CPU (once I hook it up, I just got it the other day) and upload stuff via Bonnie's.

I wrote a recent email to my friends about life here, and somewhat edited, I decided to have it here as well.

C'est la vie. To Bridgette, and Cathy, and the SB people, I beg your indulgence a little longer. Once I get my computer set up and can see my emails, I can truly respond in an orderly fashion, even if it means swapping disks between the two.

California is definitely a very weird world, where u turns are legal, crosswalk buttons actually do work, and grocery stores have end cap displays full of tortillas.

The weather here has been more variable than you might expect, or think, from all of the movies and tv shows. May seems to be a transitional month, and the weather at 9 am and 2 pm can be startlingly different. It takes some getting used to. I've passed the written driving test here, almost by accident, but for the nonce only have been riding in cars that Bonnie or her mother have drove, or walked.

Walking here is even more impractical than Staten Island. Buses are few, and the blocks and distances between places is longer than you might think. Two traffic lights, back East, doesn't sound like much at all. Here, its a hike. I'm sure you all know that I am no stranger to hoofing it, but the sheer space between things is daunting to say the least. I WILL NEED, and WILL, drive.

I've gotten a bit of a farmers tan so far, my arms are darker than they have been in a long time. The lower latitude and thus a stronger sun is partly to blame, as well as, once the "marine layer" clears in the morning, it is very sunny here. A couple of days, though, that layer has held throughout the day. It's strange...back in NYC, the weather generally (except Noreasters and Hurricanes) came roaring TO the ocean where we were. Here, the Ocean is the *source* of the weather patterns. On the evening news, when they do the weather, they show satellite maps of the Pacific Ocean that you never see unless you are a devoted follower of the Weather Channel--because everything that California gets comes from the deep blue sea.

Bonnie and her mother have been helpful and wonderful in helping to get me acclimated to California. We've not spent much time together since the initial weekend--Bonnie's been drowned in work and her classwork, and our relationship really is almost starting from scratch in a sense, building up from a new foundation. Co-habitation, even in her mother's house, is definitely a new experience for the both of us. With work, faith, love and hope, we will build and grow a lasting, wonderous relationship together here.

I might be a stranger in a strange land, but I continue to learn all I can about the world that I have chosen to drop myself precipitously into. I'm still standing, yeah yeah yeah.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:57 AM

April 28, 2002

"Never underestimate the power

"Never underestimate the power of Human stupidity"--Robert Heinlein

Trying to play with the template a bit as you can see.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:49 PM

April 27, 2002

In an EMPIRE mood today.

In an EMPIRE mood today. The romance, intrigue and adventure of same. Not the Courts of Chaos...but a more Amberish Empire. Sort of like my idea (not detailed here yet) for Nine Princes in Byzantium. I think its an aftereffect of reading Cetaganda. Space Empire would work too--I also have an urge to pick up Faded Suns, which sounds like a game tailor made for me. (Byzantium meets Space Opera?!).

Perhaps after I recamp in California, I will explain my NPIB idea more fully. I still might yet sometime turn it into an Amber game--heck it could be the con campaign that I've sometimes dreamed of running. That, or the neglected Borders of Eternity idea. Given time and opportunity, I will talk about that, too.

5 days now until California.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:44 PM

April 26, 2002

Just haven't had the time

Just haven't had the time to Blog. Its the California and attendant stuff, I tell you. I have plenty that I might write about, but just don't find the opportunity to do so.

For example, Bete Noire (http://alkime.org/mtfierce/letters/) is picking up steam,but now server issues are frustrating Meera. It's too bad, because even in "pregame" all sorts of interesting things are afoot, even with my contribution, Tynan.

It was a nice day in the Big Apple, so I decided to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to say "goodbye" to it. It will be weird living in a place without the mega-museums I have grown up on.

Bought a couple of bookmarks...a circular celtic knot one that I already once had but had broken through over-use, and a straight hieroglyphic one. The hieroglyphics, interestingly, translate to "As a gift of eternity, in your hand, that you might be pleased with me." It doesn't have a clip or a tassel though, disappointingly, this is definitely not a commuters bookmark. Then again, the days of me reading books while riding subways are just about over, in six more days. I also finished Cetaganda today, by Bujold. Good, good stuff. I can't wait for the GURPS book to finally be finished on the Vorkosigan world.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:00 PM

April 22, 2002

In a Chaosian mood today.

In a Chaosian mood today. So I decided to dust off and revise a document sitting on my hard drive for a while.

A Seminar on Chaosian Politics, in House Hendrake

"My dear young one. Some beverage, perhaps?"

"Excellent. Let us begin. We have much to cover before the sky turns. I promised Belissa to help get you up to speed. Of course no one in Chaos, not even the Emperor, understands the enormity of what happens. But let us confine ourselves to the major events of the here and now, shall we?"

"You know of course the basic social institutions of this, our world. The Emperor, Merlin the First, the House Sawall now House Royal as a result. A weak king, and thus responsible, by that weakness for the fractuous nature of our political landscape."

"Treason and treachery? I hardly think my words constitute THAT, young diplomat to be. I merely describe the obvious. In times of strong Rulers in Thelbane, the energies of the Houses are less directed at each other, and are usually channeled more productively. However, with a King admittedly both new and unschooled in Politics, it is certain that there will be those who take advantage of the deficiencies."

"Then, there is the Diet. Thirteen Great Houses and a rotating crew of six Lesser ones. Currently, its considered weak, for it has not actively tried to exercise its power in the wake of the new Emperor. However, much of the politics of the Courts revolves around that august body. For, as you well know, it is only from the Thirteen that a new Emperor or Empress is ever chosen."

"For as long as there has been a system of Great and Lesser Houses, the Lesser have sought to become the Greater, and the Greater scheme with each other for power and status."

"Now, attend. The order of the line of succession is complex and requires continual calculation to determine one's rank and order. The order of Houses is relatively stable, but it does change, especially because of and in terms of the strength of the Great Houses. It would not do, of course, to have a weak House be on the top of the succession. And yet, no one House can dominate the succession, either, that is why the heirs filter through all of the Great Houses cyclically. But that is a lesson in and of itself, and aye, more than a single one."

"But let me list the Great Houses nevertheless."

"House Sawall is the House Royal. The House of our Emperor-King, Merlin, and the Heir, Despil Gramble Sawall. The second in succession is none other than their brother Jurt Gramble Sawall. Sawall's strengths lie in the fact that Suhuy is of the House, and his influence over matters of the Logrus weigh heavily on the Courts."

"The second House in line is ours, House Hendrake. Yes, our beloved Duchess Belissa, the head of our House, is next in the line in succession after the Grambles. Our House's traditions you know well...honor, martial prowess, loyalty. We are one of the larger Houses, by the way, in terms of actual numbers."

A pause. "We also have a high rate of the Final Death, alas, as well."

"After us comes a House that couldn't be more different...Helgram. The House of Sorcery and Magics. It is said that the Helgram have lost and forgotten more spells than any other Houses knows in toto. However, as Sorcerers, they are often cowardly, retiring and treacherous. Deal with their diplomats with this in mind."

"The House Minobee are Traders, and this is far beyond the simple aspects of money. Trade can take any form, and can be of anything. A Minobee will never give you, young Diplomat, what they can sell to you. They are always looking for the margin to profit."

"Aricline...Ariclines are the Youngest of the Thirteen, diplomat to be. They are still finding their way in the Chaos world. It would do to watch them and theirs."

"Amblerash, of course, is the House of the Serpent. The ranks of the priesthood come exclusively from their number. Were you, young diplomat, find that you have a calling, you would first have to be adopted into their House before you could take the Vows. Their politics are predictably conservative and tradition bound."

"Baccaran? Baccaran you have to watch for. They aren't called the Golden Tongued for nothing. They will ply you will grandiose and subtle plans for alliance and partnership, and make it seem that it was your idea all along. They have ambition to match their persuasive skills."

"Draynell is a House that we have a love and hate relationship with. They are Expansionistic and Imperialistic, always seeking to expand the fortunes of their House, and of the Courts in general. Of course you will realize that such expansion often comes on the blades of our House, young diplomat."

"Vangrast is a most unassuming House, until you realize that their specialty is the art of Trump. Trumps, you know, are often as dangerous as they are useful, and the Vangrast know all about them. Be wary of accepting a friendly trump call...or even a card, from one of their number."

"Cultivate friendship with Elvina, if you can. The Elvina, aside from our exiled cousins, are the best at the healing of the body and of the power of shifting. They are far, far, more honorable than the treacherous Lessimans, cursed be their name. Their politics are always in support of the King. They dare not deviate otherwise. They keep their heads in the sand as a Karagh might."

"Wererathe is another fairly new House, not very noteworthy except for their ongoing feud with Chanicut, which I will mention in a few moments, my pupil. They are fairly competent at Ways construction, and in fact constructed your own. The bulk of the Shadowmaster's Guild is of their House."

"Chanicut is a shell of the Great House they once were. They suffered, and suffered badly in the War, and also in the Succession. Once known for extensive tracts in the Black Zone, they now hover on the edge of viability. There, young diplomat is the flashpoint, for there are Houses who would not shed a tear to see Chanicut lose its last shred of status...and minor Houses bucking to supplant it in the thirteen."

"Jesby is even more ambitious than Draynell, who often allies with them on many matters. Jesby has a penchant for trying to assimilate small minor Houses with talents they want into their own body, swallowing them whole. They have even, in the past tried to do to one of the Houses under our aegis. Their attempts to do so make them not very loved, young diplomat."

"More wine? Excellent. Now, in two turnings, I will discuss more of these matters. Reflect on what I have said. Fare thee well."


Posted by Jvstin at 4:44 PM

Another busy weekend...been having a

Another busy weekend...been having a lot of those as California draws nearer and nearer.

This weekend, for instance involved my mother's birthday, and a trip to the Museum of Natural History to see five of my friends before I jump from
East to West Coast. It was a lot of fun, I will admit, and actually one of my friends (Elisa) is NOT part of my circle of gaming friends, and so had
never met the others and vice versa.

I will miss them all!

In other news, the first real review of the new Nobilis is out.

I want it! The game Mechanical Dream, also reviewed in that issue of Out of the Box, sounds intriguing as well. Sort of like Agone in its weird setting. But I really want the new version of Nobilis. I bet that I could do an email Nobilis game--and get a few players to try it.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:26 PM

April 18, 2002

Evangelism, Jvstin Style? I've been

Evangelism, Jvstin Style?

I've been praised as an Evangelist of the Amber Community by Epoch, aka Michael Sullivan. (thanks to Arref for telling me this)

Strange, huh? Read it for yourself. Me, Arref, the Michigan Cabal, and Doyce are cited.
And here I have always thought of myself as a lightweight compared with the others. Maybe I am not such a small fish as I thought. Objective views of ones work can
reveal hidden depths, indeed.

Funny, though, one of my joking routines at work back when Joyce was my Boss involved a book we called "The Bible"--which was a huge compliation of stuff she had gathered over the years on procedures and info. Whenever she asked me to look something up, I would start doing a "sermon" bit, citing a fake chapter and verse.

Darn, this makes me feel good.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:51 PM

April 17, 2002

New Daily Newspaper in NYC

New Daily Newspaper in NYC debuted yesterday, under an old name.


Trivia buffs will recognize this as the name of the paper which has the famous letter to Santa Claus by a little girl named Virginia. That paper ceased publication in 1950. In an neat tip of their hat to history, though, the first issue of the Sun yesterday printed the "previous day's crossword puzzle solution"--which was the solution to the puzzle from the last issue of that original Sun in 1950.

No real web presence as far as I can see, though, which is a pity. The style of the paper's columns and text is definitely a type of voice not heard in New York in quite a while--it definitely has a unique character of its own.
The politics of the paper seem conservative thus far in choice of articles and editorials. I *think* they are trying for a "mature NY Post" in editorial tone, but time will tell.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:45 PM

Meera has a kick-ass entry

Meera has a kick-ass entry on the difference between PCs and the various types of NPCs on her general game blog.

Go read it now. Trust me, you will not regret it.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:14 PM

Just found out that Damon

Just found out that Damon Knight passed away.

Name doesn't sound familiar? One line from a classic twilight zone episode is hardly justice for a man's life work, but I am sure, gentle
reader you will remember THIS:
"To Serve Man...It's...it's a cookbook!"

Rest in Peace.

Too many authors passing away, too quickly. What a way to start my day.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:53 AM

April 16, 2002

Weather is way too hot

Weather is way too hot today. Upper 80's is fine, well and good..on July 16th, not April 16th.

The weather has just been screwy for months. Winter really was nothing more than a cold spring..the number of below freezing days were very few, the previous fall had been warm...the previous summer had been moderate with few very hot days. All atypical for New York's "bake and freeze" climate.

Today, Southern California (17 days to go!) was 20 degrees cooler than here.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:41 PM

My dear friend Felicia had

My dear friend Felicia had a horrible experience with Circuit City recently.

Like many electronics store, they have a price matching policy. Felicia bought from them a rather nice (and expensive digital camera) that was intended as a gift for her irrepressible husband Scott. Now, of course, not long afterward, she discovered an ad for the identical item, at a price several hundred dollars less. However, due to a fine print technicality beyond belief, they have rejected her request for the price matching. It's the literal equivalent of declaring a page of text spoiled because a t was not crossed.

Needless to say, Circuit City has lost a customer, once Felicia returns the camera (to buy it at the other store of course). I have never been a big patron of the store to begin with, but as having extensive experience in my soon-to-end job, I can appreciate Felicia's anger. Policies are policies, even if its painful to cop to them. Changing the rules of the game in mid stream is, in a word, unethical, and I have gotten very angry at customers who have tried to accuse me of unethical behavior. So, Circuit City's duplicity irks me in a way far beyond simple sympathy for Felicia.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:37 PM

Looks like Wendi is joining

Looks like Wendi is joining Chris Kindred's ILL Met in Amber game. http://www.sfpro.com/amber/IMIA/bea.html

I really need to get into some GOOD games and with good continuing GMs. Empire of the Gleaming Banner certainly fit that bill, but that cycle unfortunately is done. On the other hand, I AM now a part of Deb's Rites of Passage, so that counts in my favor. Still, I get a little jealous when I hear about some of the other continuing games out there at Cons that I have the bad luck or choice never to get into. Chris Kindred is one of the Gms that I need to experience, I think based on what i have heard from people like, say, Bridgette. I managed to get into a John Davies game this year at ACUS even if I didn't shine.

I just hope that someday people will want to actively get into my games based on my own reputation.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:29 PM

April 14, 2002

Thought I would share this

Thought I would share this photo from Astronomy Picture of the Day. It looks like the comet is "aimed" at the galaxy.


Oh, did a bunch of stuff on Bete Noire. Finally time and inspiration combined together! Hurrah.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:53 PM

April 11, 2002

Had a weird thought while

Had a weird thought while doing a little Amber-based Collaborative Writing with Felicia.

Miles Vorkosigan is a distant shadow of Lorius.

I really need to read more of Bujold's books. The ones I do have definitely come with me to California.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:25 PM

Moving a little closer to

Moving a little closer to Amber matters today...the allure of cousins in Amber.

A fair number of games and campaigns explore to varying degrees the idea of relations between Amber Royals, and most of these are between first half cousins. On the other hand, some GMs and players are very uncomfortable with the idea. It's definitely a case of your mileage may vary.

The genetic consanguinity, however, in a recent study, has been shown to be less of a problem than one might think. Yes, there is an increased risk of birth defects and problems, but that risk is not much more than strangers, or at least not as much more as you might think. And in Amber, its rarely full first cousins who wind up having sexual relations, at least to my experience...its usually half first cousins, which reduces the risk further.

An interesting MSNBC article talks about all this (the cousins, not the Amber part). The writer has a definite POV but the article is definitely worthwhile.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:03 PM

April 10, 2002

Even the great Ursula K.

Even the great Ursula K. LeGuin has gotten rejection letters.

Go ahead and read this rejection letter she received for what many consider one of the best SF novels (or novels period) of all time, The Left Hand of Darkness.

Just goes to show you aspiring writers out there that even superlative talent can be missed.

The Date, by the way, for my move to California has been set at 5/2/2002.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:08 PM

April 7, 2002

Work has eaten my free

Work has eaten my free time terribly as of late. I've barely done anything for Bete Noire, much less my own poor blog here.

Some food for thought, though for you, Gentle Readers.

I thought of a party game today at a relatively stressless Sunday at work. It's a variation on a theme.

I'm sure you've heard of the idea of "Desert Island books"...if you could only take five books with you on a desert island, what books would you take and why? My idea is "Desert Island People". Suppose you had to be exiled to a desert island for, say, a year. You can take five people that you know with you. Who do you take? All sorts of subvariations come into play--just co-workers, just friends, the island could require you to need to survive and so you would need survival oriented types, or it could be a comfortable exile, and it would be people you could stand being with for a year with no one else.

Interesting, no? At work, we mainly focused on co-workers, since that was the original inspiration. There are no right or wrong answers, and its fun to debate things back and forth "I'd want him, he's strong. I'd usually pick her, but a year of her sense of humor would get on my nerves."

Posted by Jvstin at 8:05 PM

April 3, 2002

From Scifi.com and apparently NOT

>From Scifi.com and apparently NOT an April Fool's joke of any sort.

The SCI FI Channel announced that it is developing an ambitious slate of original miniseries and movies, including several backdoor pilots for possible series. Anchored by its upcoming 20-hour epic miniseries Taken, from DreamWorks Television and Steven Spielberg, SCI FI said it will air four major movie or miniseries events a year, starting in 2003. A list of miniseries and movies follows.

(Mentions of other projects snipped)

�The Chronicles of Amber. Based on Roger Zelazny's best-selling 10-volume series, this four-hour miniseries tells the story of a royal family with amazing powers over time and space, which is plagued by in-fighting as it tries to unite against a sinister enemy. Richard Christian Matheson will write the screenplay. Tom Patricia of Patriarch Pictures will serve as executive producer.

Well...if the SCIFI channel can do a passable Dune (far better than the Lynch movie in my opinion), perhaps they can do Amber passably. In any event, its interesting news to say the least. So by 2004, perhaps, we will have a film version of the Eternal City. But how do you do five books in four hours?

I can see the Casting Thread rearing its head, AGAIN on the AML.

Still...we shall see what happens.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:23 PM

March 29, 2002

I think I am just

I think I am just about over this thing. Thank God! It really has killed my creativity, energy and desire to do anything.

Even blogging. Yes, this is the virus that can stop Blogging in its tracks.

I am going to join Meera's Bete Noire Letter-blog game, have to come up with a PC for that, or find one to revisit. If I were to do that, it would be one of my lesser-developed creations. I'd like to develop someone new, if I have a preference but we will see who surfaces and wants to be epistolary.

Nobilis, according to eager posters on its list, is out. I'm jealous. It sounds wonderful, a complete revision of the very, very dry first edition.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:54 PM

March 26, 2002

Oh yes, I forgot to

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that, while in the middle of madness of ACUS, I have managed to firmly seperate the two Jenn's
that I conflated. The one I spent a fair amount time with because she was a co-chef with Deb, and the other I met when
a mutual friend (thanks mutual friend, I know you know who you are) brought her to my table. I do want to apologize to THAT Jenn, though, for being rather uncomfortable--by that
time I was sick and I had no idea what to expect. So I went turtle like, defensive and nervous about the whole thing. I AM glad to have met you, though, Djinn.

Maybe next year we WILL chat like real people. Or even wind up in a game (as players, as me as a GM or whatever). I am not usually THAT
anti-social, even to strangers.

I still feel sick by the way, people. And if I had moveable type, I'd lilkely branch the non gaming stuff of this blog away from the gaming stuff, so those looking for my Amber and RPG stuff wouldn't wade through complaints of colds from the underworld of your choice.

It's good to be back.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:15 PM

March 25, 2002

Okay, think I straightened things

Okay, think I straightened things out. And so finally I have my Ambercon report.

I never did a good look at the quote wall and I am pretty sure there are *no* quotes for AAPA

Posted by Jvstin at 7:23 PM

Mindspring is acting funny on

Mindspring is acting funny on letting the Blog update.


Posted by Jvstin at 7:19 PM

Ambercon 2002 The Good,

Ambercon 2002

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (in no particular order or sense)

One of the hazards of modern travel is the fact that it makes it a lot easier to spread infectious diseases both minor, middling, and major around. Unfortunately, I fell victim to this, possibly on the plane ride to Detroit...for by Friday night, I started to show the first symptoms of what has turned out to be a cold nasty enough to keep me home sick from work today.

Such is life. I shall thus persevere and now give the lowdown on what the ACUS 2002 experience was like.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Bridgette and I were travelling companions (likely for the last time), and flew Northwest Airlines from Newark to Detroit. Northwest had built a brand spanking new terminal at Detroit Metro, and Bridgette and I were stunned at first upon arrival, not sure we were in the right place. It was clean, fresh, and the architecture was pleasant. The only downside was a distinct lack of cellular service inside the terminal, which caused the both of us to miss phone messages from our kindly ride, Keith Cripe.

The Hotel

The Livonia Embassy Suites was/is in the midst of a $5,000,000 renovation project which lead to no end of problems and concerns. The pool was closed, the dust and such were prevalent on the lower floors, and in the final indignity, the convention banquet was held in a room so freshly finished, the air was thick with the stuff, with bits of plaster and stuff on the floor. Unpleasant is a good word. The Hotel Staff, from the experience of myself and my roommate Deb Atwood, was abysmal, culiminating in a not very funny case of mistaken property acquisition--one of Deb's cookie's plates being claimed by the maintainence staff and removed from the room, even though it was with Deb's personal effects at the time. Getting it back was a hassle but eventuall accomplished.

The Con staff

Once again,. fighting against a tide of problems, Liz did her best to keep things relatively sane as things went a little crazy. A last minute cancellation of a game on thursday night threw a few curveballs, and there were strange anomalies in the dispensation of games. I don't like the sunday banquet idea, but by then I was feeling unwell anyway and my perceptions were colored by same.


This year, since Miss Bonnie was not in attendance, I found myself as the roommate of Deb, and her four month old son, Ryan. He was, overall, remarkably well behaved, and found himself with more than a few ersatz uncles and aunts for the duration. Ryan especially seemed to bond well with Bridgette and Keith, and with Jennifer Jackson and Michael Curry (both of those had seem him before, I think). Felicia was up and about with her camera, the Groves actually commuted to the hotel from a friend's house, and Michael Levay filled out the list of people I know fairly well. I want to thank Deb, Michael and Jenn for their hospitality as far as their annual cooking goes. I couldn't enjoy it very well on Saturday thanks to the cold but otherwise, it was quite pleasant indeed.

Games People Play

The heart and soul of the con, of course, is the games. The rearrangement of slots meant that Bridgette and I could not attend the Sunday slots at all, and so we were restricted to five slots. We did not attend the Costume Ball, either.

Slot One, Blue Moon by Randy Cox

My first game turned out to have a large proportion of people I knew in it. Besides myself, Bridgette, Mike Levay, Keith, and Deb all decided to sign up for it. It was a rather amorphous character-driven scenario at first, revolving around a special night in Tir. Every three years in Amber, a second full moon in a month, a Blue Moon, occurs. There is standing decree that visiting Tir on a Blue Moon is verboten...but the point of the scenario was that all of the player characters were going to go up anyway. While my motivation never really came into play, I was playing, in a PC debut, an NPC from Strange Bedfellows--Pollux. My thought was that he was going up to Tir to find his dead brother, Castor. However, the game quickly turned from individual plans to the mysteries that abounded--why was there a King in Tir who did not know his name? Why were the inhabitants of the city so hungry for blood? Why was there a hall of Trump carvings in the basement, and what was Dworkin looking for? Pollux did not have too much to offer, but at least was able to keep up with the real plot drivers, as we determined that Dworkin was looking for the Jewel of Judgement, to place in his own head. It was eventually found, and given to him, even as the night ended. It was also determined that walking the Pattern of Tir that night would MAKE you the new King, and fortunately, this was determined before Deb's PC, Jenny actually did it.

Slot Two: Three Amberites and a Baby by Deb Atwood and Jennifer Jackson

This slot, I brought Lorius to the fore, but once again found myself in another low-key role, which was disappointing but understandable. The plot revolved around, mainly, the appearance of a baby which had unusual powers which seemed to tie into previous episodes of the game, and it was those continuing characters which really moved the plot along. Lorius did, however, actually play with the mysterious quick-growing baby, as he ran into it after it had transported her/himself out of the nursery other players had established. A few chaosian delegates just added to the mix. It was eventually learned that the baby was a child of Ygg, and the scenario culminated in replanting the baby beside its mother. The game turned out to be entertaining even if not very participatory on my part.

Slot Three: Rites of Passage by Deb Atwood

I feel that this slot is where I shined as a player best. I recently joined this campaign, and due to the vaguaries of time and space, only three other players, Bridgette, Keith and Andi, although the campaign is much fuller than that. Thanks to this low amount of players, and Deb's focus on player threads and plans, Cadmus, my PC, got as much screen time as the other three, and Deb skillfully brought us all together to meet with hardly any sort of manipulation. Scott Olson's theory of Development in Play definitely was applicable here, as I grew more comfortable with Cadmus as I went along, coming up with plans and ideas with facility. I am very interested in the further adventures of my son of an unknown Amberite who is sort of a protege of Fiona, but smart enough to realize that she is manipulative of everyone, including her own daughter, Cadmus' best friend Persephone. As usual, Bridgette's Rhiannon had to be experienced to be truly appreciated.

Slot 4: Ad Amber per Astra, by Paul Weimer

My own game this year, and as usual, I have a blind spot as to how my games do. I was somewhat bummed that one player (Michael Curry) dropped out before the game because of a preference for another game (understandable though given circumstances), and Felicia was not feeling well and left early. The rest of the players were Bridgette, playing Calico (Bleys' wild daughter) , Keith, playing Honor (Corwin's son), Michael Levay (playing Rhionde, Brand's daughter), Deb (playing Melisanthe, Random's daughter), Bridgette's friend James Puckett playing Cedric, Melisanthe's half-brother, Linda Duncan playing Peregrine, Caine's daughter, Janet Vandenabeele playing Julian's daughter Allegra, Felicia played Benedict's daughter Lorelei.

I had 6 hours of plot in a four hour slot, and so I had to cut a lot of corners to get the game to finish, but in basic, the idea was that Finndo had been long trapped in a shadow by Oberon as punishment, and could only get out once he felt he had been redeemed. Finndo responded to this by managing to turn his shadow prison into a shadow of destiny and drew all of the PCs inside a space-opera themed universe, where Finndo was a casino and under-the table dealings magnate. Each of the PCs had, with their own minds, the thoughts and ideas of a person in this universe, which aided them in adapting to this situation, and Finndo seemed to regard all of them as who they seemed to be.

After exploring the casino, all finally reached Finndo and he proposed looking for the equivalent of the Lost City of Atlantis, a space asteroid named Amber which appeared aperiodically. He offered a rich bounty for same, and the PCs soon made plans to locate the planets where it had last appeared, in order to figure out where it would appear next. Each planet had a piece of a key needed to enter Amber, and I had to really cut short the adventures on each world, which I had tailored to each PC's ability. Finally, at Amber, a few deals were struck between PCs which did not entirely trust each other, enough so that they could escape the shadow, and keep Finndo inside, alive.

The scenario's universe is open ended enough so that there is an obvious idea for a sequel, once Random learns of what has happened. I know Bridgette and Keith would like to revisit Calico and Honor, and I wonder if I should run a sequel to this at the next con. Who knows? Maybe I will run it again at the next con, and run the original in a longer slot. We shall see.

Slot 5: Dark Journey, by Felicia Olson

Felicia's game was set in a future Amber where, with most of the elders gone, Benedict had become the progenitor of a new line of Amberite children, who with him ruled the Eternal City. Chaos was nearly forgotten as were any remaining aunts and uncles who might be still alive. I played Romulus, and right off want to point out that I designed him badly for what he was designed to do. As a battlemage, his stats did not really match what he should have been doing. I once again took a back seat supporting role, and am convinced I disappointed the GM this way. I had good ideas and questions, but what I could so was a lot less spotlighted than his siblings plots and plans. What Romulus did and saw was important, but it wasn't very flashy and he couldn't BE flashy with the stats that he had. The plot revolved around a strange delegation of Chaosians, and the determination of what they wanted, and why. It turned out Benedict was dying, and that he hoped that either the Chaosians might cure him, or that bonds of marriage, alliance and blood might help invigorate both poles. An invasion by Julian and Brand's armies was ably thrusted by Romulus' martial siblings, who raised large armies and thrashed the plans of our Uncles. Even though Romulus did not shine, I enjoyed the milieu and ideas Felicia put on the table and Romulus' other children helped flesh out. It turned out that the eldest brother, Iago (player's name not recalled) plotted behind our backs to his advantage, managing in the end to become a Emperor with the head of the council of Chaos as his bride.

Slot 6: Midnight in the Garden of Pain by John Davies

By this time, i was really punked out, with my voice gone, and my energies ebbing away like a vampiress was feeding on me. I played Scipio, son of Flora, and did very little of consequence. The plot revolved around the reappearance of Fiona after being gone a few weeks, screaming and thrashing uncontrollably. It seemed that she explored a forbidden analogue to the Hall of Mirrors, called the Corridor of Torture, which led to the Garden of Pain. The PCs resolved together to explore it, and find a cure for Fiona's malady. After Brand's unusual daughter Elaine was instrumental in helping us find it, we by turns found ourselves in an alternate, gothic, decadent amber, where Corwin and Eric ruled. Family members were bizarre and dangerous at every turn, with Caine as the head of secret police, Benedict a robotic version of his counterpart, and torture, orgiastic sex, and violence the norm. After attempts to find a solution, common cause was made with the alt-amberites, who disliked the idea of contact between our Amber and theirs. However, it took an ambush of the same to retrieve their jewel of judgement, which contained Fiona's lost soul in order to provide solution to the problem and end the connection forever. Although many of the PCs took grievous wounds (Scipio excluded in this), all were saved in the end.

And those were the games at ACUS 2002, and the con in general. And now I need another nap.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:03 PM

March 20, 2002

Magical Personality Quiz Recommended by

Magical Personality Quiz

Recommended by Arref, and Meera.

My score:
Primary Creature: Unicorn. Air with Water.
Unicorn types are very concerned with the communication of ideas. They are witty and likeable but can also be quite shy. They are easily bored and easily distracted, and may seem unpredictable and superficial for this reason. Actually they are very deep and are usually trying to find the connections between the people and things around them. They are highly imaginative but not very practical. They love knowledge for its own sake and are not concerned about putting it to use. They are socially astute and sensitive to others� feelings, but may still appear somewhat aloof. They are drawn to grand schemes for unifying people but these often don�t extend beyond the initial idea. Very logical and rational, Unicorn types are also unconventional and even bizarre. Other people may regard them as fey or just strange.

Shadow Creature:
Fire and Earth

This shadow is prone to a sense of stagnation due to lack of motivation and laziness. Nothing durable is ever produced. Practical activities may never be embarked upon. There is an underlying sense of futility and hopelessness. Disillusionment results from their lack of confidence that they can change anything for the better, and in any case they do not have the will. At the same time there is an underlying grandiosity and even megalomania reflected in their dreams and aspirations. They need to feel special. Instead, they may simply overindulge or neglect themselves physically. The biggest obstacle of weak Earth is to overcome self-centeredness and greed; the biggest obstacle of weak Fire is to overcome anger and aggression.

Interesting. These sorts of pop psychology quizzes have been around for some time, but this is a rather different take on it. I can see some of these traits in me, the good and the bad.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:56 AM

March 19, 2002

Added Alt tags to the

Added Alt tags to the Tengwar examples. Now you can learn what the mystery message is. :Grin:

Posted by Jvstin at 10:13 PM

My apologies to the "two

My apologies to the "two Jenns" for conflating them on my Blog.

They will know what I am talking about, at least and I apologize for the inconvenience. All the rest of you can go enjoy the Tengwar some more. I'm inordinately proud of my work.

In other news, the site meter, according to good Ginger, is still being an ass...so I am yanking it. It's a bit of a vanity piece anyway. I want to thank her for helping to try and debug it.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:04 PM

I know, I should be,

I know, I should be, and am, working on Ambercon stuff, but I am also in a language mode, lately.

My example of translating the word Amber into the Elvish language and then the alphabet is not the only thing you can do with the tengwar symbols. What if you didn't want to learn the language, but liked the script?

Well, you can use Tengwar to write English...Tolkien did it himself! And, I think its probably one of the most fun uses of Tengwar. You don't need to know, or care, to translate Amber into Quenya, and then transcribe it, you can do it directly. However, since Tolkien was not consistent himself in his transliterations, you can wind up with multiple interpretations.
Amber in verbose tengwar
For example, a straight letter to letter translation of Amber to the Tengwar alphabet a-m-b-e-r looks like the graphic to the left, but the graphic to the right
shows that you can combine matters. Notice that m and b look the same...and so the mb combination is usually treated as a single symbol. Also note that it is
actually the 3 tehta (dots), not the i-like character which is the a. Similarly, it is the apostrophe which is the e, not the i. In Tengwar, vowels are usually these small symbols, and are either in front, above or inside the main consonants. If that is not possible, then the vowels are put on top of those of i-like characters which are called carrier symbols. Double vowels use a longer, thicker carrier.

Amber in condensed Tengwar

My advice is to actually use the more literal translation...it is easier to read for a casual enthusiast...and if you wanted to use it as a alphabet in a game, you yourself could read the Tengwar with a lot more ease. Now, there are variants on Tengwar where a lot of the vowels are replaced with characters of their own instead of using Tehta (Sindarin, especially) and English usually favors the non-tehta way, but I myself like it.

So for today I will leave the subject of Tengwar with one more graphic to enjoy. :grin:

all roads lead to amber

Posted by Jvstin at 2:22 PM

March 18, 2002

Just for your amusement... http://www.shibumi.org/eoti.htm

Just for your amusement...


Posted by Jvstin at 8:22 PM

Still working on the problem,

Still working on the problem, which seems to be more of a javascript problem than a html problem. I don't know much about Javascript, but Ginger (thank you, if only you could read this) has pointed me in the direction of a Blog which has dealt with and licked the problem.

The travail continues.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:30 PM

Hmm. The hazards of multiple

Hmm. The hazards of multiple browsers.

Ginger has kindly let me know that Netscape does not render BJS well. Its her contention that its the site meter...I've tried to add height and width attributes to it, in an effort to correct the problem.

Once upon a time, when the Internet was young, browsers usually rendered things about the same. Even in a world where Internet Exploiter is the dominant browser, a lot of people use Netscrape and other browsers, and what may look good in one is not guaranteed to look that well in others.

I'd hate to think I've lost readership thanks to browser incompatibilities.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:39 PM

March 17, 2002

I was talking to Mike

I was talking to Mike Levay about Gate Sorcery and he made the point that

"In a sense, the Portal power could be defined as an advanced form of Gate Sorcery, using a unique power source, yes?"

And he's right! I was wondering if someone would connect the two. Gate Sorcery is like a stepping stone to Portals, especially given that I have established that Portals have a strong sorcerous element to them in addition to their unique power.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:23 PM

Speaking of fonts... Why would

Speaking of fonts...

Why would you steal something that's free? Or, to be more precise, try and make money off of something which is given to the public at large?

Case in point: Freeware Fonts. A lot of freeware fonts are not worth the time to download them. They have incomplete character sets, look poor at any number of resolutions, etc. However, there are a number of good font designers out there, who put time and effort into fonts you could use for any sort of material from casual to corporate, and only ask that you don't try and rip them off.

http://www.apostrophiclab.com/ is probably the best Free Font Foundry out there..and yet, the two main designers there are very seriously thinking of quitting, soon. Why? Because some asshole decided to take fonts from the site wholesale, burn them onto a CD, and sell them, as if it were their own work. The designers found them not metrely online...but in a computer store!

It's absolutely sickening. Its like someone took donated food from a food bank, and decided to resell it at a profit. It's immoral, its illegal, and its wrong.

More information on this topic can be currently found on Cybapee's website, at http://moorstation.org/typoasis/tbp/topic/topic03_2002.htm.

Just FYI, to show you how good and versatile the fonts look, the title graphic for BJS is derived from a Apostrophic Lab Font, and numerous examples of their fonts grace my pages.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:59 PM

March 16, 2002

I love fonts...and have a

I love fonts...and have a special weakness for fonts of well done, unusual alphabets.

Is it any wonder that I love "Elvish" Quenya fonts based on Tolkien's work?

Just for the halibut, I looked up what Amber is in Quenya...its Malikon. And converting to tengwar (the elvish writing system)...we get the graphic you should see below.

Amber in Quenya

Posted by Jvstin at 9:24 PM

March 15, 2002

"Killing Time", all too real.

"Killing Time", all too real.

In Caleb Carr's SF novel Killing Time, the protagonists perpetuated a number of false and strange revisions to the historical record (like a somewhat benign 1984-ish rewriting) in order to bring light upon the fact that, in this 21st century, corporations had far too much control over media, and therefore our perception of who and what we were.

That's what I thought about today when I read this.

The revelation? That Issac Asimov, inarguably one of the giants of SF, died from complications of...AIDS. He apparently had gotten the disease in a blood tranfusion during surgery in 1983. Somehow,t his has the capacity to shock me...and I am disappointed that it was hidden for so long.

It makes me wonder just what else is out there.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:33 PM

March 13, 2002

Speaking of linking and Blogs

Speaking of linking and Blogs and stuff, decided to get BJS linked over at MIT's Blogdex, which is a compedium of sorts of all kinds of Blogs.

I'm not the first in our community to do this, apparently, because when I got it validated and looked at the entry for my Blog, I found that there
was a Blog in its index already with a link to here--Wendi Frost's as it turns out, and she linked to me on December 6th, 2001. That's when my page first
became visible to them, and now, of course, BJS is officially a part of its constellation of linked Blog webpages.

I guess all of this nonsense today is a compound of a rainy day off. I really need to work on Ambercon and other stuff.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:47 AM

Interesting idea I came across

Interesting idea I came across today, showcasing how the book The Tipping Point actually applies to Blogs, as well.

And Ginger seems to have gotten wrapped up in the writer's experiments and thoughts on the subject. (her regular Blog, not her gaming
one). But go ahead and
read Corante's article to understand what I mean.

If I understand the concepts correctly (haven't read the actual book myself yet) its possible, as Blogs evolve, that they will become THE dominant medium in
the Amber community for disseminating and exploring new information. (See, I managed an Amber reference in this after all).

Posted by Jvstin at 10:26 AM

March 12, 2002

A malformed idea I was

A malformed idea

I was toying with using a new variant on sorcery for one of my characters at ACUS...but it turned out to be too much grief for the GM(s), especially given that the game is not a campaign or the like. Not to mention that the variant itself is ill formed and overlaps with other powers (namely Trump) too much. It just turned out to be too much work all around. In a classic mood of mine, I feel bad that I wasted their time with it.

But I figure I would include it here, since maybe someone reading this can get inspired, or whatever. Or just proof of Sturgeon's Law...99% of everything is crap...including my ideas.

Gate Sorcery
Pre Requisites: Sorcery, and Conjuration
(10 points)

Gate Sorcery is the advanced and applied study of non-euclidean connections between locales. In the generic sense, these are referred to as Gates. Gates have a wide range of possibilities, ranging from a simple spell, to faerie rings, to artifacts. The Gate Sorcerer has made a special study and extended ability in dealing with, using, and manifesting Gates.


Gate Recognition. By an application and extension of magical senses similar to Mage Sight, the Gate Sorcerer (hereafter referred to as GS) can recognize Gates in any form, because of their attunement to the potential or actual passage of energies between locales. Thus, even if never confronted with one before, for example, a GS would realize that the ring of stones really has the potential to be a link to Faerie, or that strange archway with runes along its edge in the basement was a portal to somewhere else. The GS, with a few minutes study time, can determine what conditions are needed to activate the Portal.

If the Gate has been recently used, or is in fact active, the GS can tell things about what sort of environment lies on the far side without passing through, because of their attunement to such phenomena. The GS will also roughly know how far away the other side of the Gate lies. For example, they might recognize that the other side is a stone room, underground, only a few shadows away...but would not know that, out of sight, a man is standing with a crossbow waiting for a target to emerge.

Note that this does NOT give the GS any additional ability to activate or use the Gate--whatever conditions or restrictions are placed upon its use still apply. They might know, for example, that the Faerie ring requires a sprig of mistletoe to activate, but being a GS does not allow them to get around that necessity.

Gate Creation
The GS can construct Gates themselves. Permanent Gates require a permanent power source of some sort, and may not be possible in, say, Amber, because of corrosive effects of Pattern. Gates can be constructed out of any appropriate materials, shapes and sizes, and would be equivalent to items which rack and use named and numbered spells--and, if not connected to a power source, would be rechargable just as an item with spell storage is. If a Gate has multiple possible destinations, then the locations must be defined in advance via the spells charged into it. Any other property of the Gate must be defined at the time of creation--such as frequency of use, restrictions on those allowed into it, and so forth.

Instead of physically building a gate and empowering it with spells, of course the GS could conjure the entire lock,stock and barrel...but note that such a spell would be time consuming to create, considering it would be a spell for a conjured item on top of spells to empower the Gate.

Gates which are intended to be two-way require two constructions, of course, one at origin and one at destination. Multiple networks require however number of Gates that are required. Otherwise, a Gate works one way only.

Note that Gate Sorcery is still a magical ability, not a primal power, at its core, and suffers from all of the limitations thereof. Gates which are completely conjured suffer all of the disadvantages and weaknesses of conjured objects. Gate spells are still susceptible to dispels and the like.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:31 PM

March 8, 2002

I still do read the

I still do read the Amber list, and a reference to an online work by one Ron Edward sent me to read his piece on role playing theory.

The piece is a dense piece of work, but with a clearly defined agenda. What's more, I pity the man, for the following quoted paragraph
in the pieces summation. It shows his basic unhappiness with a lot of role players. He seems to think that the majority of role players are closed minded, defensive turtles and such players, according to him:
"I have not, in over twenty years of role-playing, ever seen such a person have a good time role-playing. I have seen a lot of groups founder due to the presence of one such participant. Yet they really want to play. They prepare characters or settings, organize groups, and are bitterly disappointed with each fizzled attempt. They spend a lot of money on RPGs with lots of supplements and full-page ads in gaming magazines." (Ron Edwards, GNS AND OTHER MATTERS OF ROLE-PLAYING THEORY)
To read the entire piece (be warned, its jargon heavy, to say the least):

Posted by Jvstin at 1:22 PM

March 7, 2002

Quenya Baby Book Ginger

Quenya Baby Book

Ginger finds good stuff, and I HAVE to crosspost this.


It's a listing of names and their Quenya equivalents. Quenya is the language of the elves in Tolkien's Middle Earth. What's more, my love of fonts has long since given me a set of Dan Smith's excellent Tolkien fonts...so I can render the names properly with the aid of The Tengwar Scribe.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:42 PM

Hello, my name is Paul,

Hello, my name is Paul, and I am a junkie for good role playing games. :grin:

As readers of this space have noted, I am excited by the prospect of the second edition of Nobilis. I should have provided this link
much earlier, but R. Sean Borgstrom, the creatrix of the game, has a series of columns
on RPG net taking the lid off of the re-launch and design process.

In other news, I decided to start putting up some of my books on half.com for sale. If you want to take a look at what I have
available so far, take a look. PrinceJvstin's books on half.com

Posted by Jvstin at 4:03 PM

March 6, 2002

Oh, speaking of the little

Oh, speaking of the little things in life, thanks, Meera, for the nice comment on the alt tag you put on the link to my Blog.

I do appreciate it.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:13 PM

Experimented with Blogskins, but I

Experimented with Blogskins, but I didn't like the results.

I suppose that I will work with hand-coding instead. It will be good practice for when I do decide to use something like Moveable Type--which would be predicated on me getting a *real* website...but that might just happen after all.

In other news, Ambercon comes nearer and nearer, and I need to work on characters and such. I do wish all of the GMs would get in touch with the players, so that hammering out issues can be done before the game. This year, with AAPA, I essentially am giving 25 extra points to players who give me players before game day. Not to penalize those who come in cold, mind, but it makes it so much easier to resolve sticky issues, and have an idea of what the PCs are like beforehand. "Okay, so she's a warrior daughter of Benedict...I think I will involve her like *this*."

Posted by Jvstin at 3:54 PM

As an addendum to the

As an addendum to the Which Classic Book Are You?,if you want to read a different book
on Machiavelli than translations of the Prince, and learn what connection he had with, of all people, Leonardo Da Vinci,
pick up Fortune is a River.

I highly recommend it.

Of course, given the results of this test, I guess you wouldn't believe me if I told you that I wasn't "trying" to get The Prince
as an answer at all! I think it might have surprised me as much as it did Arref.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:49 AM

March 5, 2002

Which Classic Book Are

Which Classic Book Are You?
Book: Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince.
Synopsis: The Prince's essential contribution to modern political thought lies in Machiavelli's assertion of the then revolutionary idea that theological and moral imperatives have no place in the political arena. 'It must be understood,' Machiavelli avers, 'that a prince ... cannot observe all of those virtues for which men are reputed good, because it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state.' With just a little imagination, readers can discern parallels between a 16th-century principality and a 20th-century presidency.
Excerpt: Those who wish to win favor with a prince customarily offer him those things which they hold most precious or which they see him most delight in. Very often, therefore, we see princes presented with horses, weapons, cloth of gold, precious gems, or similar ornaments worthy of their greatness. Wishing, then, to present myself to Your Highness with some mark of my duty to you, I have been unable to find anything I possess that I hold so dear or esteem so highly as my knowledge of the actions of great men, learned from long experience in modern affairs and from constant reading of ancient ones. Having long examined and refected upon tese matters with great diligence and having now set them down in a small volume, I send it to Your Highness.
Amazon: The Prince
Which Classic Book Are You?
Posted by Jvstin at 8:24 PM

Ted Koppel, we love you

Ted Koppel, we love you


Ted Koppel is showing far more class than his bosses do at Disney, or deserve to be shown. In their admission that they are chasing the services of David Letterman like a whore, or, a lawyer chasing an ambulance, they have admitted that they are looking to replace Nightline, and Politically Incorrect. While Bill Maher's show is getting relatively low ratings, and his outspoken, controversial statements have angered many, Ted Koppel is a different fish altogether.

For example, did you know Nightline gets more viewers, each night, than Letterman?

The thing is, though, that Letterman brings in much more advertising dollars...more than twice that of Nightline. It's the worship of Mammon that motivates the Mouse to court Letterman, not ratings. The machivellian machinations on the part of Disney, though, are foolish and ill-serving. Ted Koppel could have opened up a vial of vitriol on them, justifiably so, but his editorial is remarkably restrained.

His point, though is clear. Even in an era of 24 hour cable news--there is ALWAYS a place for thoughful, provocative discussion and digestion of the issues--and Nightline provides that.
And, not everyone has cable or satellite TV, anyway.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:18 PM

March 1, 2002

Lots of interesting things over

Lots of interesting things over at my fellow Bloggers, and yes, once again, I feel like I am in network mode here, telling you about them all.

Ginger throws a campaign seed out on Rebma. She also posted it to the AML. Arref also throws in his own thoughts on Rebma too, again, sort of crossposted to the AML. Meera has a brand spanking new graphic for her Amber bits Blog, and its absolutely gorgeous.


Today is March 1st, and, although I haven't received mine yet, the list of games for Ambercon is due out today (although it might be a function of a name near the end of the alphabet more than anything ). We are creeping up, also, on the Ides of March, the official Anniversary Day for Strange Bedfellows. On March 15, 1996, after a lot of debate and thought on the matter, I decided that running a PBEM could be a good thing. So, I began to approach a few online friends if they might be interested in getting in on the ground floor. I still have most of those charter players.

The funny part is, it took six years of real time to get to a major milestone that I have been thinking about since the game started. In the Strange Bedfellows universe, the Calendar of Amber is far more regular than ours. It is comprised of twelve months of 30 days each, and to bring the total to an even 365, there are five intercalary days. Game time started on March 15...and the first Intercalary Day is the Spring Equinox. After 6 years, the events of the Festival (between the 19th and the 20th of March) have begun.

I have envisioned it as a day of a variety of events. I provide a graphical version of it here. The link opens up in a new window, so feel free to click and look at it now.

As you can see from looking at it, (Sure, I'm not Alisia, or Arref, but I can be proud of my own stuff), my vision was that members of the Royal Family of Amber would naturally gravitate toward creating or hosting or being patrons for various events. I imagine that other strata of Amber society also have their own events...and wouldn't that make an interesting con game? Just revolving around the entire day of the Festival. Hmmmm.

The highlight, the climax of the day is the Ball, hosted by none other than Florimel herself. It's THE event of the season.

The other four intercalary days are, by the way, Midsummer (again, lots of parties and a ball...but the symbolism of this Ball is that, often, the last person you dance with at THAT Ball, will be your significant other for the rest of the Summer), The Harvest, or Autumnal, Equinox,Midwinter, and New Year's Day. Unlike the Equinoxes and Solstices, New Year's Day is a very somber and quiet day...for Midwinter, only 9 days before, is usually a party whose hangover can last for quite a while.

Another minor, astronomical note to the Festival of the Unicorn, the Vernal Equinox, is that it is the first day of the year that the constellation of the Unicorn, with the brightest star in Amber's sky, is visible, and that's why Cas and Pol get more attendees than you might expect to their stargazing.

A full moon has not fallen on the Festival of the Unicorn in quite some time, and it does not this year, either (it fell on the day before). A Festival of the Unicorn with a full moon might make an interesting Tir visit, indeed.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:32 PM

February 24, 2002

Okay, I feel somewhat better

Okay, I feel somewhat better now. Mostly, I am just smarting over the entire affair. I have better and more friends, though, than I realize sometimes, and am much more than just a bleating sheep of pain. Although I don't think that he was talking to me personally, Arref goes from that point, to talking about Amber, and the attitude of the Elders.

He makes a good comparison between immortal children...and Faerie (as in the real, 200-proof ones, not Tolkienized Elves). Children who lived forever, and had power to match, would be very much like them indeed. To go all scientific and biological, you might even say that Faerie are akin to empowered humans who show neotony not in physical appearance, but in their stage of social development.

Why are the Elders of Amber often depicted this way? Especially the first series...where stranding half brothers on islands, putting sharp objects in footwear, and shooting truck drivers are all considered appropriate behavior? Kids in a sandbox, to use Arref's turn of phrase.

The answer is deceptively simple. Amberites are Faerie.

I can hear the groans now from some readers (although I bet Meera and Arref just think I am stating the obvious). Jvstin, this buisness with the copyright violation has addled your brain. Corwin, Brand, and all the rest are Faerie?

They sure are. The thing is, since we mostly seem them from the inside, we don't really think of them as Faerie. Another good example is the novels of Steven Brust. Vlad is also in a Faerie realm, although in that case, things like the sky, and the implied border with a realm where things are different (Fenario) make it a little more clear. But Amber could be considered a Faerieland, and its inhabitants are Faerie.

You just have to get a little parallax from it. The head of the family is...Oberon. Sure, there is no Titania, but disregard that. High Magic, strange powers, time flows different than, say, Earth...an iconic realm...are these not all attributes of a Faerieland and its inhabitants? Add their child-like personalities, long life spans and cavalier attitudes toward shadows (mortals) and you are all set. Oberon's continual search for new wives is nothing new--the stories of mortals being lured as lovers "Under the Hill" are too numerous to count.

You can push the analogy too far...Chaos as the Unseelie Court, perhaps, is a stretch. And as Arref points out in his missive linked above, the Amberites do something that true Faerie are rarely seen to do--grow and change, and mature.

In fact, now that the thought strikes me, perhaps THAT is one of the reasons why the Merlin series is not as well liked...an underreported reason, anyway. Not that Merlin's story lacks a lot of the charge of Corwin's, or some of the ideas are not well thought out (sentient Pattern and Logrus).

It's that, with the Amberites far less the scheming and treacherous Faerie of the first series, some people who like their Amber to be filled with that sort of thing find it lacking in that area. The machinations in Chaos don't hold a candle, in that sense, to the cabals, intrigues and side-switching of the First Series. Jim Groves once coined the phrase "Vanilla Amber" to describe Amber royal families where everyone gets along, and there is no conflict whatsoever. Aside from the matter of Luke and Dalt,both outsiders, internal family conflict in the Second Series is lacking, and that turns off a lot of people who adore the first series. Just combine it with the decidedly different taste of Merlin as protagonist, and its easy to see why there is a dichotomy.

Hmm...now there would be an interesting point to correlate and if I had Moveable type here, I'd do it. Do Amber players who really like Throne Wars correlate to those who prefer First Series?

Posted by Jvstin at 9:12 AM

February 22, 2002

Keyword of the day is

Keyword of the day is Stupidity.

The bit that I found, I decided to post on the Amber Mailing List. I was roundly and decisively criticized far faster than the nazi-conspiracist ever was for his babble. Deservedly so.

I managed to get everyone to agree on the AML...and that's an accomplishment. Unfortunately, the agreement is that I am an ass.

I have a paranoid, pessimistic but undeniable sense of worry about the Con now, all of a sudden. I hope that this whole flap dies in a month...or that it doesn't cause the Con committee to revoke my membership.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:30 AM

February 21, 2002

Found an interesting bit on

Found an interesting bit on alt.books.zelazny the other day. Not sure if I should post it here because it is of dubious legality, although I did send it to a mailing list--it is an introduction to a "choose your own adventure book' set in Amber called Black Road War. In the intro, Zelazny clears up some of the inconsistency of the family tree that cropped up in the novels.

I won't change the SB family tree, though. After all, I have a couple of elders in there Zelazny never heard of.

Oh, and by the way, just to make it clear from a couple of days ago. My reference to Jack Gulick was referring to his excellent Nine Princes in Hong Kong scenario...which recasts Hong Kong as the Eternal City. You can see that good stuff right here.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:34 PM

February 18, 2002

Game Idea (with apologies and

Game Idea (with apologies and nod to Jack Gulick for the style)

Nine Princes in Memphis.

It is Amber, but it is not the Amber you know. It is Amber as it might have been if Roger Zelazny had infused his ideas with the Middle East, and the romance of Ancient Egypt.

Here, now, the Eternal City sits on the River Nile, the center of all life in the Eternal Kingdom. It is the one city, the true city all others are just shadows of. And it is here that those of the royal family, and perhaps others with the strength of will, master the power of the Pattern, and play their deadly serious game of power and control over the most powerful Kingdom in all shadow.

The Eternal Kingdom stretches from Alexandria and the Mouth of the Nile, down along its length, to the second cataract. To the East and West are deserts, beyond which, those who can walk in shadow can find lands beyond...Carthage, Babylon, and Arabia. Across the Mediterranean, into the seas of shadows, lie still more worlds, to those who know how to navigate to them. Crete, Greece, Sicily, and beyond.

And to the South...along the eternal river that snakes into Shadow itself, lie wonders and worlds unexplored and unimaginable.

I came up with this idea, thinking a while ago about Rivers and the lack of a "mythic one" in Amber. This Amber would definitely place great importance on the Nile, the Eternal River...and it would snake through shadows like Tethys does in the Hyperion/Endymion novels by Dan Simmons.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:00 PM

February 14, 2002

Arref continues to work on

Arref continues to work on creatures of power, and this time describes, a bit, on the Unbrood.

Let me tell you. No description in print does it justice. In the EGB/Amber the Eternal City setting, my character Archard actually tangled with the Unbrood. Arref described it so well, made the evil and danger of the creature so palpable, so real, that it actually gave me a waking nightmare, weeks after the game. I had a very visceral sense that the Unbrood was in my room, hanging on the posts of my half-bunk bed, and that it was going to overwhelm me. Upon turning on the light in a panic, I saw that it was just an extra blanket draped over the frame.

Arref does GM light and sweet, and also white knuckle bone terror equally well. I'm not sure I'd WANT to play in a Call of Chulthu game run by him...but it would be a rush all the same. Although a De Profundis game with him in it would be something.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:34 PM

"The best thing about being

"The best thing about being a pessimist is being wrong.
The worst thing about being one is being right."

Posted by Jvstin at 7:27 PM

February 13, 2002

Sometimes, one line in a

Sometimes, one line in a PBEM or such can reveal the vast gulf between the mindset and lifestyle of the Courts of Chaos, and Amber.

As a Chaosian NPC in SB said:

"I've had an assassination attempt on me this year, which is always a good sign."

Posted by Jvstin at 4:16 PM

February 10, 2002

Blogging at 4 am before

Blogging at 4 am before my all-too early work on Sunday morning.

I came across this courtesy of Djinn and Ginger.

Dr Pepper Skips 'Under God' On Patriotic Cans
By Jeff Johnson
CNSNews.com Congressional Bureau Chief
February 08, 2002

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - The Dr Pepper/Seven Up soft-drink company (DPSU) is under fire for skipping the phrase "under God" in a partial quotation of the Pledge of Allegiance on its "patriot can."

The graphic design of the can, created "to show the world that we are a united nation of people who place a high value upon freedom" according to the company, includes an artist's rendering of the Statue of Liberty and the phrase "One Nation ... Indivisible."

The American Family Association learned of the omission of the phrase "under God" when a 12-year-old girl wrote the group to complain.

"I am very concerned with Dr Pepper's new design on their cans," wrote Alyssa Haynie of Colt, Ark., whose letter is posted on the AFA website. "I noticed they have 'one nation...indivisible' on their cans and left out 'under God.'"

Haynie had emailed the company, and was told there was not room on the can to include the complete phrase.

But Randy Sharp, director of special projects for AFA, doubts that reasoning.

"Because they're trying to be politically correct they're being patriotically incorrect," Sharp told CNSNews.com. "By doing so, they're becoming divisive themselves, because they're alienating a major portion of the nation."

Dr Pepper (the period was dropped from the name in the 1950s) has been hearing from its customers, as well, based on the home page of the soft drink's corporate website.

"Dr Pepper responds to consumers regarding its patriot can," is the headline stretching across two-thirds of the page.

"The special packaging was designed to reflect our pride in this country's determination to stand together as one. The Statue of Liberty and Pledge of Allegiance were chosen as two of the greatest symbols of American freedom," the site explains. "Due to space limitations on the can, only a few of the 31 words from the Pledge of Allegiance could be used."

The explanation continues describing the "verbiage limitations" imposed by the size of the graphics on the can, echoing the reason Haynie was given. It also notes that 90 percent of the Pledge's content was omitted.

Sharp still doubts that space restrictions caused the edit to be made.

"I think anyone who looks at the can could see that there is plenty of space to include 'under God' very easily," he said. "They could drop their nutrition label a little bit and 'boom' they'd have plenty of room."

Haynie made that exact point in a second email to DPSU, but says she received no response.

Despite the controversy, the soft-drink maker believes it accomplished its goal with the special edition container.

"We at Dr Pepper/Seven Up strongly believe that the message on these cans is a resoundingly patriotic, bipartisan message that we are a united nation," the letter to consumers concludes.

Sharp says DPSU might be surprised to learn that he has received complaints from a number of people identifying themselves as "non-Christian" or "not religious" who are also offended by the slight.

"They may not be religious but they do recognize and respect religion and God as major factors in our culture and in our society," he said. "It's clear this is a company that has decided not only to leave God out of its corporate philosophy, but also has decided to offend a great number of the citizens of this country."

DPSU says the claims made against the can's design are "incomplete or inaccurate." AFA is asking anyone offended by the omission to contact the company.

Forty-one million of the cans were distributed in a dozen states. The regular Dr Pepper can design will return later in February.

Maybe its too early in the morning--but is it just me, or is the American Family Association being a complete and utter ass?

I've seen the design, and on the top of the cans in large print are the words "One nation...indivisible." A three word quote from the Pledge of Allegiance. And they are upset because they left out under God from between nation and indivisible? I don't see veterans groups being upset because they left out the word flag, or United States of America or any of the other words in the pledge. Besides, the three words they choose pithily encapsulate (okay too much caffeine!) what the pledge of allegiance, and America are all about. One nation, indivisible.

The sad thing is, in this day and age, even if Dr. Pepper had decided to put "One Nation, under God, indivisible.", then the American Atheist society would have complained about that. But still, I think there are far better things for the AFA to do with their time than this.

We truly are back to where we were before Sept. 11, when a patriotic gesture like this is derided as an attack against God. Or did I slip into an alternate universe, and we have a theocracy of our own here in America?

Posted by Jvstin at 3:14 AM

February 7, 2002

Meera's been collecting slogans for

Meera's been collecting slogans for ADRPG. The one I submitted, "Amber: Infinite Worlds. Zero Dice" inspired my good friend Arref enough to make a graphic of it. It's now a feature of the page, and I thank him for it. You can borrow it--with credit for him (for the graphic) and myself (for the slogan).

Posted by Jvstin at 6:49 PM

February 6, 2002

Since Rikibeth talked about coinage,

Since Rikibeth talked about coinage, I decided to share what I do in Strange Bedfellows. Its considerably more streamlined than hers...I went for simplicity and ease of use, rather than realism. I do like her set up, though and if I didn't have one, I might steal elements of hers.

Coins in Amber

Being a crossroads of shadows and trade, the numbers of types of coin seen in the Eternal City number in the dozens, if not hundreds. While Amber does mint its own coins, of course, it is not adverse to the monies of other lands. In a feudal, medieval sort of society, it is the metal in the coin that is often the determining factor in whether a coin is accepted, rather than who is imprinted on it. Roman coins, for instance, traveled much further than the Empire did.

Copper Coins

Amber's official copper coin is the Penny, and depicts a sailing ship on one side, and the name of the sovereign on the other.

Other copper coins include the Pence of Kashfa and the As of Asherah.

Silver coins

Amber's official silver coin is the Cartwheel, and is the largest of the coins in cross sectional area. The cartwheel has the head of the King on the heads side (Random, although there are plenty of Oberons, and even some Erics. Princess Noys, as you might guess, has more than a few of the latter). The tails side depicts Castle Amber.

Other silver coins include the Denarius of Antioch, the Stater of Begma, and the rounded triangle Pyramids of Felis.

Gold coins

Amber's official gold coin is the crown. It shows the unicorn on one side, and the crown of Amber on the other. While not as wide as the silver coin, it is considerably thicker and as you might expect, heavier.

Gold coins, by their nature, are not as common as lesser metal coinage, but gold coins flow into Amber from pleaces such as Antioch, Begma, and the beautiful Double Griffins of DuMarque. Although that shadow is not a golden circle member, naturally such coins wind up in Amber, too.

Other coins.

A few shadows use unusual coinage, and that too, shows up in Amber now and again. Electrum coins are often used by Menuis , and they are often reckoned as midway between silver and gold coins, in value.. The shadow Arcanus uses small platinum coins called royals, worth anywhere from 5 to 10 gold coins. Brass coins called orichalks are used by Gaiga , and they are midway between coppers and silvers.

There are even more unusual coinages, steel coins, iron coins, and even admantium coins, but they are extremely rare and certainly not seen in the markets in Amber more than once a year, if that.

Generally, given good condition of the coins, 20 copper coins are worth a silver, and 20 silver coins are worth a gold coin.

One last note. Naturally the ability of the Royal Family of Amber to bring in whatever they want from shadow can have quite an impact on the local economy. Dumping large amounts of money on the city, then, is discouraged. Many merchants, restauranteurs and the like will not charge Amberites, knowing that the upswing in business they can get for claiming royal patronage far outweighs what the Amberite herself might have paid. Others, as you might expect, are far more venal.

Caveat Emptor, as always.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:59 PM

February 4, 2002

Which Member of the Amber

Which Member of the Amber Royal Family are you?

Arref tried it and got Caine. Ginger got Random. And me? I got Dworkin.

Has to be the Sorcery question. Knew that my procilivity for playing sorcerers would get me in trouble one of these days.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:18 PM

I'll have the side order

I'll have the side order of humble pie with the crow, please. And extra cayenne pepper on the crow

"..the Patriots, who do not have the capability to keep up in scoring--unless and a big unless, they get interceptions
for touchdowns, blocked punts and field goals, and great kick returns."

Well, they did. And I cheerfully admit that I was wrong. For three quarters and change, the greatest show on Earth had exactly
three points to its credit, facing an opponent which outmuscled and outplayed it. The end of the 4th quarter, though, shows just how dangerous
the Rams are, and what might have been and what I had thought would happen for more of the game.

Let me put it this way. With the score 17-10 with 2 minutes to go, the Rams scored the tying touchdown in 21 seconds and no time outs. 21 seconds! THAT, my friends, is the offense that everyone thought was going to destroy the Patriots. And that's why, I think, in the last minute and a half, even with John Madden screaming that the Patriots shouldn't take any chances and run out the clock for overtime, the Patriots rolled the dice and went down for the winning field goal...the Rams HAD gotten their offense back, and if they had gotten the ball in overtime, it would be curtains for a Patriots team which had, I will admit, outplayed the Rams for most of the game.

It was probably one of the best Super Bowls ever. As I told to Bonnie, "THIS is why I watch football." My friend Nicole, whom I watched the game with, called it right at the beginning that the Patriots were going to win, and they did. I bow to the wisdom of her prediction, even if she only watches one game a year. :grin:

At least I don't feel completely foolish. There were columnists who bought into the Rams far deeper than I did...claiming scores like Rams 41 N.E. 17 and the like. I at least gave the Patriots a chance if things went their way as my quote indicates. Things went their way, and N.E. played well, with heart.

And now Football Season is at an end (I do not watch the Pro Bowl) and you won't have to hear me babble about it for months.

New England Patriots 20 St. Louis Rams 17

Posted by Jvstin at 6:00 AM

February 2, 2002

Time to bore the RPGers

Time to bore the RPGers again, but this IS Blog, Jvstin Style, and tomorrow IS the Super Bowl, so I have to talk football.

After all, come Tuesday, this space will likely not have any real stuff on my favorite sport until the NFL draft, and after that, not until the summer.

So, first things first. I've been asked many times by those who just find out about my fondness for the monsters of the midway. Just HOW in the world did I, a guy whom if you saw on the street,would probably never guess I watched the sport?

I'm not sure. I do remember, vividly, the first football game I ever watched. Chargers versus Dolphins, 1981 AFC playoffs. The game happened to be on at my Grandmother's house, my uncles watching the game avidly. I was just 10 at the time, but it looked interesting, and exciting. (Since then it has been declared one of the best all time games, the Chargers winning in overtime). That was my first taste of the sport. I watched a few more games over the next couple of years, slowly and surely getting a taste for the sport. The first Super Bowl I watched, start to finish, was the New England Patriots (how ironic!) versus the Chicago Bears, in 1985. Although it was a 46-10 extermination of the patsies, I enjoyed the game, and resolved to not only watch it, but understand it and really get into it.

I've watched every Super Bowl since. My all time favorite Super Bowls have to be Giants versus Denver, Giants versus Buffalo (Norwood's folly!), Broncos versus Packers, and the second half of Bengals-49ers in 1988 (The first half of the game was as dull as you could imagine, the second was a gem.) and the second half of Rams-Titans (the first half was a Ram blowout, the second had drama enough for opera, including a tragic 1 yard from tying the game stop at the end).

The Super Bowls I found the WORST were the 49ers-Broncos (55-10!), 49ers-Chargers (49-26, and don't be fooled...the 49ers scored on the third play of the game and the Chargers didn't score most of those points until it was far too late) and the Cowboys-Bills Super Bowls (thorough pastings of the Bills, every time).

And now its time for me to make a fool of myself, in joining the annual quest for a Super Bowl Prediction. Predicting the Super Bowl winner is harder than you think, even when there is a clear and uncontested favorite (and the Rams are that!). After all, four years ago, the Packers were a big favorite over the Broncos, and the Broncos gave them a run for the money. In fact, I wrote a poem to commemorate the Broncos unbelieveable and heroic victory. The Giants were underdogs when they shut down the No-huddle Bills. (back before the Bills were a laughingstock of Super Bowl misery).

Anyway, before I make the prediction, let me share with you an elaboration of the secret to team success in the NFL. I think it was Marv Levy (former coach of the Bills) who explained a couple of years ago that, for a team to be truly successful, they have to excel in two of three areas: A. Offense B. Defense C. Special Teams.

For example:
Last Year's Super Bowl winners were the Baltimore Ravens, a BC team. Their defense is possibly the best ever to take the field in a Super Bowl--they would have shut out the Giants if not for a kick return for a touchdown on the Giants part. Not even the Steelers in the 70's or the legendary Bears of 1985 allowed only 7 points. The Giants of that year were ALSO a BC team, but the Ravens were a far better one.

AB teams are actually fairly rare, but when they do show up, they can become dynastic. The Cowboys in the mid 90's were an AB team all the way,as were the 49ers of the 80's and the Broncos in the late 90's.

AC teams are far more common than AB. The Rams are an AC team with a big emphasis on the A. It's their lack of B which kept them from the Super Bowl last year, although its gotten much better this year. They just might be one of those "complete teams." The Titans of two years ago were a AC team, their C coming to the fore in their last second kick return for a playoff win against the Bills dubbed the "The Music City Miracle". Their C did not do them very well in the Super Bowl, and so the Rams stopped them just short of tying the game, as mentioned above.

The Patriots, whom they are facing this year, are a BC team...with an emphasis on the C...their special teams being the difference against both the Raiders, and the Steelers. Note that it doesn't take spectacular kickoff returns, or punt returns, or field goals to make a C team. Playing smart on punts and kickoffs, chewing up field position, pinning your opponent, or keeping yourself from being pinned after a kick, all can make the difference...and the Patriots do all of this. The only problem is, it has a large element of luck in it, and hard to rely upon...on the other hand, neglecting your special teams, no matter how good your offense, is deadly. The Bills playing their Super Bowl against the Giants lost memorably...when their field goal kicker missed.

So...with a team that is AC and maybe even ABC, versus a BC team with a lot of luck and breaks to get here, you have to go with the AC team. And that would be the Rams. The score? I think it will be 31-20 Rams. The Patriots might frustrate the Rams for a while or for stretches of time...but in the end, that offense is going to destroy the Patriots, who do not have the capability to keep up in scoring--unless and a big unless, they get interceptions for touchdowns, blocked punts and field goals, and great kick returns.

We'll see how things progress on Monday.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:11 PM

January 30, 2002

Learned today that Nobilis will

Learned today that Nobilis will now not be available until at least April. Rats.

This is what the term "vaporware" came from. And I am having shuddering rememberances of the ADRPG promised book on Rebma which never saw the light of day.

Then again, maybe because I am feeling lousy (physically) is just making me cranky. It might even explain why the Black Hole incident got under my skin the other day.

Saw Count of Monte Cristo (dragging myself to the theater to do it). On my popcorn scale (1 to five kernels, five being a Classic Movie), it gets a bare two and a half kernels. For every good piece of cinematography, there was a foot in the mouth, sometimes literally. Poorly written dialogue, a fight scene which was edited rather badly and a couple of glaring logistical flaws in plot. I think of this much like I did the Les Miserables movie done a couple of years ago...definitely not the book, by any stretch of imagination.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:58 PM

Rikibeth joins the Blogging community

Rikibeth joins the Blogging community with a Blog entitled Rikibeth's Amber: Tales of the City. She's already got the ball rolling with an old article of hers on money and Amber.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:51 PM

January 28, 2002

Agitated today. I think its

Agitated today.

I think its a reflection of work but it is coloring my perceptions of things.

For example, looking around a bit, reading Djinn the Spazz blog, I see she responded to my Black Hole comment. Her implication irks me somehow, but I think its just my agitation today making me find fault in it.

Iwas speaking from a personal standpoint as far as ACUS goes. Not that the con was destined to be a disaster or anything of the sort...but so far it seems like its going to be somewhat diminished by the absence of friends I don't get to see as often as I'd like. That's why I call it a Black Hole. If I really thought that it was going to be bad, I wouldn't be running a game.

I've tentatively decided not to run a second. I co-ran two games and ran an informal one in slot 1, and that was quite a bit for me last year. I think Ad Astra per Amber is enough, for now. I still might get roped into the slot one gambit, depends on what Bridgette, Felicia, Scott and the other friends that do come want to do. Besides, I have no illusions...I know that my games are not precisely clamored over at Ambercon.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:41 PM

Early monday morning. Rams beat

Early monday morning.

Rams beat the Eagles (although the dirty birds made a game of it, more than anyone gave them credit for).

Patriots...shock the Steelers?! Who would have thought? Brady gets hurt, Bledsoe off the bench...and the Steelers can't take advantage of a QB who hasn't played in a couple of months. Once again, Pittsburgh goes down in the big game at home.
In the 1990's, Pittsburgh had three AFC championship games at Three Rivers. In 1994, they were such big favorites over the Chargers, they (as was vogue for the time) made a super bowl rap video. Thing is, they made theirs BEFORE the Chargers game.
Result? Chargers win.
Then came their game against the Indianapolis Colts in 1996, a cinderella team out of the AFC East much like the Patriots this year. The Steelers barely held on, a last minute pass by the Colts JUST falling short
In 1997, the Steelers faced the wildcard Denver Broncos...and were spanked. Those Broncos, if you recall, then went on to defeat the mighty Green Bay Packers in one of the most entertaining Super Bowls ever.
So, 1-2 in the 1990's. And now, in this season, heavy favorites over the Patriots, the Steelers seemed to learn NOTHING. I've read this morning that Pittsburgh actually made their travel plans to New Orleans for the Super Bowl in advance "To avoid the rush." I'm glad they did so, it means they can go down to Bourbon St. and get drunk while the AFC champion Patriots take on the Rams.

The bookmakers install the Rams as 14 point favorites over the Patriots. The two teams actually played this year, with the Rams winning 24-17. I'd really not like to bet against the Greatest Show on Earth, with Warner, Faulk, Holt, and friends...but "On any given Sunday..." was proved Sunday Afternoon in the Land of Three Rivers. It's a longshot, but the Patriots have a chance.

Heck, maybe if the Patriots DID beat the Rams, Warner will reveal himself as a space alien in his frustration.

One counter-argument though. This is the third Super Bowl appearance for the Patriots. Ironically, their other two appearances were held in New Orleans. Unfortunately, both of those were failures. They lost to the Bears 46-10 in 1985...and then lost to the Packers 35-21 in 1996.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:48 AM

January 25, 2002

River And now for


And now for something different. I came to an interesting realization as I walk to work. I do get a bunch of good ideas doing it. For the uninitiated, I do take a 30 minute walk to work everyday, unless the weather is bad, when I find alternate means. And today, I got to thinking about Amber and the lack of a River. I don't just mean a river with a small r, but a big one as well.

It's proof that Zelazny really did make it up as he went along, to miss one of the big archetypes so easily. There is a Mountain, of course, and all that implies from a mythological standpoint, and a City, and an Ocean (complete with a 'lost city' beneath it). Even more noticeable than any of these is Arden, the First Forest, the Greenwood.

But a River is missing! The way I got to thinking about this was reconsidering whether or not I wanted to re-read the Confluence series by Paul McAuley. (First book is Child of the River). The River is the heart of the artificial world Confluence. I also then thought about the Hyperion/Endymion books (First book: Hyperion) by Dan Simmons, and his River that ran from world to world by means of Gates. Another example is the Otherland novels by Tad Williams. (first book: Otherland: City of Golden Shadow). In that milieu, all of the virtual reality worlds are connected by a worlds-spanning River which provides a gate mechanism from world to world. And it was then I realized that Amber lacks such a primal entity.

Rivers are as old as humanity! The first real civilizations grew along the banks of the great rivers of Eurasia-Africa...the Nile, the Tigris/Euphrates, the Indus, and the Yangtze. In fact, straying into Jared Diamond territory, I've always thought that one of the handicaps to the Native Americans developing civilizations to anywhere past the Paleolithic is the fact that there are a lack of rivers in warm climates to foster similar circumstances...proto civilizations growing along its banks, fusing to form great cultures. The Aztec are in the mountains of Mexico, the Maya in the jungles of Central America, the Inca in the mountains of South America. The mound builders in the Mississippi valley only started too late.

Anyway, Rivers and man have been together a very long time, and Zelazny missed an opportunity by not having a major River as part of the Amber world. I had a sudden interesting thought of scions of Amber traveling up and down a River much like the one in Hyperion, shifting shadow to other worlds connected by a Great River.

Interesting idea, no?

Posted by Jvstin at 6:44 PM

January 24, 2002

Okay, think I fixed the

Okay, think I fixed the archives. Using a subdirectory under my blog one turned out a bad idea. That was the problem...I think

Posted by Jvstin at 4:56 PM

Hmm. Meera points out that


Meera points out that my archives and such are screwed up something fierce. Going to have to work on this. Or just take the plunge at long last and get myself a domain name and REAL webspace where I do stuff. After I do this post, I'll try and fix the blog, at least.

In the meantime, its time for MY turn to explain what Trump is. Meera and Arref have had their say, and actually Meera mentions some more on it. Good stuff all around and I suggest you read up on it.

Those who have read my Cosmology of the Amber Universe already know how I think when it comes to such matters. It's actually somewhat ironic and strange. For a game, for a milieu so open and ready for myth and such as explanations, I veer to the scientific. I guess its my scientific mindset. I may not actually BE like a scientist, but I sure as anything like to think like one.

So what is Trump, then? It's kind of hard to pin down in a scientific manner, and frankly, it's easier to follow Meera's or Arref's lead and make it mystical in origin and nature. Its not the mark of sentience on the universe in my universe, and its not the fundamental power, either. Instead its a mystical, tangible manifestation of a very strange phenomenon from science called Quantum Entanglement. Basically, you can arrange matters so that linked elementary particles will still have a connection, even if seperated. This connection is a very spooky action at a distance which seems to even work faster than light.

What Trump DOES is establish a quantum connection between the card, and the caller, and the subject. What Trump Artists do, when they learn their art, is to create such connections. This is why Trumps do not have to be portraits, but portraits are far and away the most common--it is far easier to focus on creating the quantum connection in the creation of a portrait than anything else. Yes I do realize I am introducing mystical elements in the fact that Trump Artists can do this, but the thought I have had is that its the power of their mind. Maybe I am closer to Arref's sentience than I think in that sense...but there is a school of quantum thought which suggests that certain events on the quantum level do not have an outcome until they are observed...again, going back to Sentience. However, my quantum explanation for Trump does explain some things--like why conversations are in real time between the two parties of a trump call, or why stepping through a Trump takes no time at all-its going through a quantum teleportation, and therefore is instantaneous.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:31 PM

January 23, 2002

Lots of fun over at

Lots of fun over at my fellow Ambloggers. Meera and Arref are discussing the nature of Trump. Meera considers it a Primal power, but on the other hand Arref has a slightly different view. Meera also makes an interesting observation on the Jewel of Judgement and Pattern-drawing.. By the way, I really wish I had a website where I could run cgi and stuff. Moveable type gives Meera a flexibility that I can only envy.

And then there is Turn of a Friendly Die. Ginger (aka Immigration Lass) has a campaign/scenario starter which I mention here because it its first
couple of paragraphs, it has a brilliant idea, even more important, I think, than the rest of her scenario (although I like that too.)

How, with hundreds or thousands of years available to them, have the Amberites NOT managed to fill the multiverse with children like an immortal family of Von Neumann Machines? Especially given that Chaos has its own solution to the problem of overpopulations...the inherent dangerous nature of the other pole of reality.

The answer HAS to be the Pattern. Ginger suggests that the Pattern inhibited fertility in the Amberites. However, with the redraw of the Pattern at the end of Patternfall, this fertility inhibition might be lifted. I like this! It even explains a post second series game where the Amberites suddenly have a bunch of children since Patternfall...which is practically the default setting for an Amber game. Of COURSE they are mostly born since Patternfall, because only since then has the fertility been high enough to ensure a clutch of children.

Arref, in conversations with me, revealed that his thought on the matter was that it was Oberon's doing, to keep his children from raising substantial numbers of offspring to challenge him...and that the elders had to work around and defeat this reduction in fertility in their own ways.

An alternate idea, if you like sentient Patterns, is that, following the Patternfall War, the Pattern decided of its own accord to increase fertility amongst its scions--to compete with and provide defense against a Courts of Chaos which was now more active on the scene. A peculiar thought occurs to me of Oberon communing with the Pattern (or Dworkin!). "I need a few more children, this time on Faiella. They'd make good fighters, perhaps more rounded than Cymnea's brood...and perhaps less liable to cause us problems."

Posted by Jvstin at 3:33 PM

January 20, 2002

And because its Sunday, Divisional

And because its Sunday, Divisional Playoffs, time for a bit of silliness. On the other hand, this would explain much...


Kurtis, Football Player Amberite

100 point version

Brendan Getzell pointed out that Kurt Warner's walk-away-from-the-line fake on fourth down against the Niners, however clever-looking, should have drawn a flag because as part of the act, the space alien unbuckled his chin strap. They may allow that on your homeworld, but not here, buddy!
-Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Slate magazine.

It's an improbable story at best, one that hollywood itself might reject. A complete unknown, at one point working in a supermarket in Iowa, turns out, once given the proper environment and training, to become an NFL Quarterback of such skill, that a sports columnist jokingly refers to him and his team as space aliens.

Perhaps there is more to Kurtis Warner than meets the eye. With Corwin on Earth for so long, is it so odd to think that he might have sired children outside of his knowledge. And that one of them would display his abilities in such a forum?

Current Objectives: Recently learning of his Amber heritage, the sky is the limit for the young son of Corwin. Used to working with a team in the NFL, it is likely that Kurtis will find allies of repute, and make a difference. Once he figures out what he is REALLY capable of.


Psyche:5 Endurance 5 Strength: 5 Warfare: 20 Banked for Pattern: 50 Kurtis has not yet walked the Pattern, but it is not likely Random will long refuse him.

Artifacts of Power

Football( 6 pts)
Kurtis is never far away from a football. Useful for physical training, they can also be turned to dangerous weapons. Kurtis is far more dangerous with
these in his hand than a blade...although his father and Gerard will likely correct that deficiency
Extra Hard(1)

Amber Devotee (6)
Good Stuff (3)

Tips for playing Kurtis:

Be Humble. You didn't expect to be an NFL star, and you never saw this coming, either. Be honest with those around you, and good things will flow from it. Yes, your relatives seem as sneaky as Al Davis on his worst day, but you've dealt with the NFL. Amber should be a piece of cake. And never forget where you came from.
Posted by Jvstin at 2:45 PM

January 18, 2002

This is almost incestuous to

This is almost incestuous to reply and reference it back and forth, but it does look like Meera is having her own thoughts on Primal Powers and what makes one over on her Amber Bits.

Her idea is that Trump is the original, first power, THE original power. Its an interesting thought, and I could see designing a hierarchy of powers based on her concepts (go and see her link for what she is talking about).

In my games, Trumps are Art and aren't quite so much a power as a reflection of the relation between art and reality. You could argue that I am really saying the same thing as Meera, but I don't go with her flow about Trump use and the reality of locations.

Her comment about Pattern Ghosts being a tool by a sentient Pattern to figure out things is VERY interesting when you consider the Children of the Jewel Project that Arref, myself and a couple of others experimented with. http://www.fortunecity.com/rivendell/fireforge/407/cotj/.. It's a similar idea, really.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:55 PM

It actually does seem someone

It actually does seem someone besides the writer is reading this, or checking it.

Meera (see links at left) questioned me about my definition of Primal Powers. She thinks my definition is suspiciously like her idea of a Spikard.

I replied to her that Spikards are (usually) portable. Primal Powers are not and have a fixed Locus.

The obvious question, which she asked, is WHY are they fixed in place?

Good question. I think its a matter of my scientific-oriented mindset. While I have a good depth of knowledge and appreciation for things mythological and mythopoetic, its not my field, per se, or speciality. I leave that to Arref, who has forgotten more of that than I will ever learn.

Its a bit of a tautology, but the Primal Powers have fixed loci simply because it is they which help define the boundaries of the universe. Looking at my cosmology page, at http://www.mindspring.com/~jvstin/strange/sbcosmology.html, might help illustrate what I mean but I'll explain further.

Before Pattern, and before Logrus, or any Primal Powers anywhere, the universe was not what we exactly called organized. Heck, there really wasn't much difference BETWEEN universes. The multiverse was not truly differentiated. Shadows were born, died, and born anew without much organization to them.

Primal Powers are those nodes which changed, and continued to change that. Relativity strikes again...they are fixed relative to the shadows which they create, or organize, or influence about them. For all one knows, they may wander the void of the universe, the Amberverse moving like a brane in a fifth dimensional matrix...but relative to the shadows themselves, they are the fixed poles of reality, the Alder Boles, if you will. A Power which can DO this, add this level of organization, is considered Primal. Spikards are mobile powers and do not influence the world about them in this way. Trump, Shapeshifting, Dream Magic, Sorcery...none of them do this, either.

Only things like the Pattern, the Logrus, Portals (from the Omphalos) can do this. This is why the creation of Corwin's Pattern is a big deal and worried and worries people like Fiona. Mucking about with the creation of Primal Powers has unexpected side effects, not all of them benign.

Funny, but I seem to have thought of yet another game idea from this...

Posted by Jvstin at 6:02 AM

January 16, 2002

Over at Shadow of Greatness,

Over at Shadow of Greatness, Arref has been thinking lately of what exactly MAKES a Primal Power exactly that.

It's a good question and one for me to consider here, myself.

Primal Powers

Primal Power

A Primal Power is a locus or node of energies which is powerful enough to permanently affect a section of reality greater than the shadow from
which it springs

Under my definition, The Pattern and the Logrus are two obvious Primal Powers. Under my definition, though, things like Trump are not...since Trump does not
have a physical manifestation like the spiral of the Pattern or the chaotic home of the Logrus.

Primal Powers take some work to create. The Logrus...well I don't think I have revealed just how it was constructed. The Pattern, in my games, was constructed with the aid of three Spikards bound by Dworkin to the task. Two of these Spikards you have encountered before, in the works of Roger Zelazny--Greyswandir, and Werewindle. Just as Dworkin used the Spikards in the creation of the Pattern, so too did he bind Pattern into their making, changing them from what they were, to the Pattern Swords that they are now.

Why? Perhaps the Spikards have some control over the Pattern, some say, and the Pattern itself (if you consider it sentient) does not desire to have any sort of controls on it. If you eschew the sentient Pattern theory, then Dworkin did it, to keep young scions of Amber, or anyone else, from having "keys" to the Pattern.

Does the Logrus have any such keys? If so, what are they, and what do they look like now?

Posted by Jvstin at 10:09 AM

January 14, 2002

Hi friends. Since you know

Hi friends.

Since you know I am interested somewhat in dreams, and I had such a long and clear (as far as memory) one last night, I decided to share it with you all.

What this dream strongly reminds me of is the book Silverlock, by John Myers Myers.

It began in the cemetery which I used to live right next to (our backyard adjoined this cemetery). In this dreamscape, there was a mountain, though, inside this burial park which was very popular for people to try and ascend. "One day", I apparently decided to try and climb it, too.

It started off with a minor obstacle, this little bitty ridge which proved to be harder to get over than it looked. Once I got over it and was standing up, a woman said to me that the obstacle was not as easy as it seemed. I brushed myself off and looked at my options. There were roads going up this thing and instead of taking a road that I had a feeling I had taken before (straight up the mountain and ending in a cul de sac), I took a road along the edge and made a more gradual ascent.

The ascent went well, passed through a small town and kept going up and up. There were lots of people trying to go up, too, and some people going down having given up on the thing. I stuck with it.

At some point, reality got bent, and instead of climbing the mountain, I found myself in a victorian house of some sort. Now, I was going up to the attic to where "grandma" was. I didn't question things at first but it got harder and harder to find the way to keep going up, and when I did reach what seemed to be the attic and grandma, I realized that I had been lured into a false path. Grandma did not look familiar at all, and I had a feeling her attic was a dead end.

So I headed back down a bit to find another way. I was back on the mountain, on one side of a road when there was a scene shift to this dark figure taking orders from an even more nebulous antagonist. This antagonist was upset that a record number, six, people were still doing well on the mountain. He commanded the dark figure to make sure that no one reached the top.

Back to me, this mountain road had busy traffic on it, and crossing it (which I had the feeling I had to do) was tricky, but I managed it, and it was then I saw the dark figure. I avoided him, and then found myself in some sort of palace. Somehow, someway, I was the only one of the six who had gotten past his obstacles and had gotten to its destination. There, once again, was the dark figure, who was somewhat more resigned to the fact that I had succeeded. There was a very weird bit where I had to relieve myself in this giant canal of water (with him there), and I was afraid that the canal would suck me down with my bodily wastes. I managed to get back out and once I was back in a hall, the dark figure explained that now that i had succeded and become published (!) I had to leave the palace. I could either retrace my steps back down the mountain, or else I could steal a blue magic broom from the typeface department and fly down the mountain.

I decided to go for the latter. So I found myself climbing up a spiral staircase which opened up into this 1950's era office. People, mainly secretarial women (and a couple of men) were typing on ancient typewriters. I asked if this was the typeface office and the senior secretary said yes, but to take a broom, I would have to pay for it. I opened up my jacket and took out my minidisc player and showed it to her for possible payment. As she looked over the device, having obviously never seen one, someone from my real job in real life came into the office. "Tina!" I said, turning to her, and as people were distracted by her entrance, I made my move. I subtly took my minidisc player back, and grabbed the blue broom, and before anyone could stop me, I mounted it and had jumped out the window while riding it. The end of the dream had me soaring down the mountain, back home.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:02 AM

January 11, 2002

Picked up a couple of

Picked up a couple of gaming goodies the other day...

GURPS Atlantis and GURPS Planet Krishna.

I'm sure the first is making you go. "ahhh." and probably the second is making you go "huh".

The second is based on the Viagens Interplantarias novels of L. Sprague de Camp. You should at least recognize the author's name. If not, I have a remedial course on seminal SF/F writers for you. :grin: The VI stories mainly center around a low tech planet called Krishna, which a Brazilian dominated Earth discovers. Not quite a Prime Directive, Earth forbids anyone going to Krishna to bring advanced technology or knowledge of same to the natives.

Inside that framework, Krishna is very much a reimagined Barsoom. Green skinned Princesses! Scheming potentates! Strange and sundry creatures in the wild! Pulp fun and adventure! It's one of my favorite settings, and so when I saw this book, I had to have it. It encompasses the setting, the milieu and the mise en scene perfectly.

As far as GURPS Atlantis, that will have to bear even more reading before I can pronounce an informed opinion on it.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:57 AM

January 9, 2002

I'm not an IT professional,

I'm not an IT professional, but my dear friend Bridgette, who is, knew that I would get a kick out of this
and understand it.

The magnitude of Bernie's cluelessness is amazing. If his cluelessness was stellar luminosity, it would be Eta Carinae. If it were
a book, it would be War and Peace. If his cluelessness was a lottery jackpot, it would be a big old powerball one. If anything, I might
actually be understating the matter.

Anyway, here is the link:


One good thing besides a laugh out of this...learned a new word: Barratry (Threatening to sue someone (but with no intention of doing so) in order to get a result.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:01 PM

First cold of the year

First cold of the year (although not the season) has broken over me like a Noreaster.

Weird dream involving a search through an abandoned building with someone I didn't know save in the context of the dream itself.

On brighter news, still thinking about a second ACUS game and have a few tentative ideas I need to marinate and select the
most promising of. I don't want to do one of the more ambitious ideas I've had for awhile--Status Quo Ante Bellum, Borders of Eternity, and the like simply on the basis of who will not be at the con. Is that selfish of me, to save ideas like that?

Posted by Jvstin at 9:00 AM

January 7, 2002

Character Scenes. Saw what Meera

Character Scenes.
Saw what Meera did for her character Damascus, and thought I might do the same for my characters. Of course the irony is, right now I have only one single active character, Marcus, from Egwenna's Age of Retribution

Marcus at a Rebman Party.

His right eye turns toward "The Troupe." It would be unpardonably rude to walk away, but its clear that the seven of them should be and are more concerned with their reunion and such than having to deal with him. And Kyrie would not have gotten as nervous as if he was not present.

So, Marcus quietly and subtly slides back, and off to the side. It's not a sudden motion, and it is very gradual. The Rebmans might take offense, get the wrong idea, or prevent him, if they actually saw him shuffle off. However, its for their own good.

But, as a Trojan asteroid is loosely held in the grip of a planet's gravity, so too he will be loosely attached to the Troupe, giving them their space.

The reunited friends need and should have time with each other rather than the dubious charms of talking with him. The strong reaction of them to the presence of Ganieda here at the party is clue enough for Marcus. So just as he gave his sister space, so too, the Troupe.

He continues, once he emplaces himself, to watch his sister, Daphney, Serenia and 'Mirna'. from his more isolated orbital point.

"Here, let me refill that." The woman's voice is calm and self-possessed, as familiar seeming with you and her self appointed task as any family member might choose to be. But the delicately boned hand tinted the color of tropical bays is most distinctly not related.

"It wouldn't do to get caught with an empty glass when the Queen arrives." Silver rings sparkle from two fingers as Ganieda casually refills the glass Marcus still holds. "And might I add, for future reference, that nothing escapes a man who's profession is observing people?"

Ganieda's dark eyes flicker briefly in Arion's direction, but the bard is preoccupied with straightening the pin in his stole and doesn't seem to notice.

"Now there� is a mighty fine woman." Brastias steps forward, his eyes on a tall powerfully built woman in militia regalia. "Pardon me."

Arion's brash friend heads her way with a jaunty step that earns smiles from his friends.

"Oh�. Lieutenant Danai�" Gauriel winces, sizing up the impeding scene. "Seven to one he crashes and burns."

"I'll take that." Brehon appears from around a giggling group of old women who don't seem to have noticed him. "Ganieda?"

"I'm out. Don't know the woman." Ganieda shakes her head.

The Troupe dissolves and very neatly reforms without missing a beat. The cast members no more commenting on Marcus' attempted exit then they did on Kyrie's nervousness.

And so the moon is recaptured. So much for letting them have their privacy for their own good. Time to bow to the inevitable.

"Remind me to tell you sometime about celestial mechanics." Marcus says with a grin, mainly to Ganieda but intended for all, his eyes split between the persistent members of the troupe, Brastias' attempt at gaining the favor of the Lieutenant, and his sister's continued interaction with Serenia and Daphney.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:55 PM

January 6, 2002

Some real Amber Content today.

Some real Amber Content today. This is an idea that I've floated around a bit for a while, and might use
for my character in Deb Atwood's Rite of Passage. I'm sure a lot of GMs have thought about it before
but here it is in black and white.

Quantity Multipliers for Shadows

Shadows, like Creatures and Items, can be defined by quantity. The advantages of this are obvious--one can buy multiple shadows at a fraction of the cost of specifying each and every single one. Shadows which are bought under a multiplier are considered continguous areas in the universe. Players are not only encouraged to, but should specify any shadow paths which exist between the shadows of their "family" of worlds. Just like creatures, shadows bought under the multiplier contain all the abilities of the base shadow in terms of barriers and controls. Just like creatures, too, one can highlight and add points to a single shadow of the group, as well, making it more potent than its brethren. Note that this compatible with Arref Mak's Shadows and Substance.

*1-Unique. The Default.
*2 Named and Numbered: Up to about a dozen or so shadows. Note thanks to the continuity rule, these shadows will be in the same small region of
shadow and probably will be very much alike.
*3 Horde: A much more substantial area of shadowspace, up to 50 or so. The Empire of the Gleaming Banner in Arref Mak's universe is a horde sized area of shadow.
*4 Myriad: A significant region of shadowspace has been bought, up to a thousand.

Example of Multipliers in creating Shadows:

The Local Group of Shadows.
Personal Shadow (1)
Limited Access (2)
Named and Numbered Shadows (*2)
Total 6 points.

A group of five shadows, the Local Group is the home and realm of Prince Cadmus of Amber. Created by perhaps his parent, or his quasi-godmother
Aunt Fiona, Cadmus was fostered within it. There are several worlds within the Local Group, but only his home world, Terra, has access
outside the group of shadows themselves, and that access itself is in a limited number of locations. Gates and portals, however, link Terra with the
other worlds of the group, and were designed to provide a way for Cadmus to get around his domain and learn about the variety of worlds without
the need for Pattern. One of the worlds is of Faerie, another is a magic-based realm, another is a space-opera universe, the fourth is a magical kingdom,
and the fifth keystone world is Terra itself, a world much like Earth where history diverged around the 12th century AD, and has a strongly Byzantine dominated culture.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:01 PM

January 5, 2002

Still thinking about ACUS 2002

Still thinking about ACUS 2002 games. I've decided not to go with Gwyddbwyll...but what shall be my second game? Decisions Decisions...

Posted by Jvstin at 2:31 PM

I normally don't discuss my

I normally don't discuss my job in this space, but I wonder if I should make an exception.

The ethics of these things are a quandry. How many people who work at my store actually read my Blog? Is it a violation of

Posted by Jvstin at 2:19 PM

January 4, 2002

Ambercon disappointment continues. I've learned

Ambercon disappointment continues.

I've learned that another stalwart veteran, and someone I had hoped would be in Ad Amber per Astra because of my enjoyment of
their attendance in my games last year, will not be in attendance in ACUS 2002. Real life strikes again!

This truly is turning into the black hole of Ambercons.

If I weren't so stubborn, heck, I would be half tempted to say no to this Ambercon.

I still should try and come up with another game. Considering the claustrophobic (shadow wise) nature of AAPA, I am wondering if Gwyddbwyll is really the best game to run this year in addition. I don't want to get "typecast.", GM wise.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:50 AM

January 2, 2002

Happy New Year! Well, its

Happy New Year!

Well, its January 2nd, anyway. Close enough.

Still bloody cold here, but DRY. It's upsetting in a way to see Atlanta, Ga. get snow before NYC. But its happened.

Tried to go see the new platform for Ground Zero at the WTC site yesterday but the line was HOURS long. In the cold windy day, it was NOT an option to freeze
and get chilblains out of the deal.

I've come up with a site for the game, or one of the games, I will run at ACUS 2002. After much laboring for a title, I finally decided on "Ad Amber per Astra" and the site for it is available through the link: Ad Amber per Astra

Posted by Jvstin at 8:42 PM

December 25, 2001

Although it is almost over

Although it is almost over here on the East Coast, Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday to all (the few, the proud!) who actually read this.

Oh, by the way, had a little fun playing around with the look of the Chaos Pages of Strange Bedfellows.

And that's about it.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:46 PM

December 23, 2001

I had to share this

I had to share this exchange, from my email campaign. Never let it be said that Amberites don't take their fun seriously...

"So you have seen my cousin since we returned?" {Rylan} asks in return. "As for what we have been up to, just a small war in shadow. Nothing, I am sure, to compare with the activities going on here. Will there be many here for the ball tonight? With all that is going on, it seems a strange time for a party."

Asteria's demeanor goes from a pout to angry surprise at Rylan's words. "A strange time for a party?" she says, as if disbelieving Rylan's words.

"You've got her started." Noys comments aloud.

"Why, Mother and I have been planning the Ball since, well, since Midwinter Ball was finished, months ago. We've worked hard on the music, the guests vetted and invited, and everything else involved."

She pauses, and if there was any doubt that this "pretty little thing" lacked the steel of an Amberite, it is soon dispelled.

"And, Rylan son of Finndo, if you even think for a moment that I, or Mother for that matter are going to postpone or cancel our party on account of a gang of interdimensional invaders, then you are very sorely mistaken." Her eyes flash.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:39 PM

December 20, 2001

Feel somewhat in a malaise

Feel somewhat in a malaise this afternoon and I am not sure why. Part of the reason, I think, is that I changed around the stuff on the defunct Oaths of the Unicorn page, making it official that the game didn't work out.

The reasons why are mainly time, time and time. Oh there are other factors, but they are not for me to say or to judge or to mention. Although the game just started as a writing exercise between the two GMs, there was potential there, and I am sad that the game really is done. I take my creations seriously, and I mourn their passing, especially in an untimely manner. I mourned WIRIP in the same way.

In happier news, I managed to, the other day, snag a copy of First Edition Nobilis. What is Nobilis, you ask? I point you immediately to http://www.chancel.org. I find it most intriguing. I would be willing to try and play or even GM this once the oft delayed second edition finally comes out.

Incorporating Nobilis into an Amber game would be a very strange exercise. The Amber Mailing List hashed this out months ago, and I admit that at the time I didn't understand half of what they were saying. Many RPGs have a vocabulary to them that a player has to learn. In Amber, for instance, its things like the four stats, Amber Rank, Chaos Rank, Good Stuff, and many more. For D&D, its things like Hit points, Skills and Feats. Nobilis has terminology to master including Imperators, Chancels, Anchors, Domains, Excrucians and many more. So a lot of what was said on the list was unappreciable by me because I simply couldn't understand some of the terminology at the time.

Re-reading those posts, I do understand it a lot better now, although the First Edition book can be very obtuse and unclear in its dense writing style.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:46 PM

December 19, 2001

Movie Review: Lord of the

Movie Review:
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Featuring Elijah Wood, Ian Mckellen, Ian Holm, Liv Tyler, etal
Directed by Peter Jackson

"One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them."

An autobiographical prologue
When I was nine years old, the animated Ralph Barski version of Fellowship of the Ring was set to come to television. My older brother thought it would be prudent
for me to read the books before sitting down to watch it that Sunday.
>From Thursday to Saturday Night, I managed to devour and assimilate The Hobbit, and all three books of the Lord of the Rings, admirably equipped to watch
the animated film. Just as The Martian Chronicles and I, Robot were my entry into Science Fiction, Lord of the Rings was my entry into Fantasy. When I created a D&D campaign, I named the country that the PCs (and my NPCs) were from after my favorite character. Thus, Ragnar, Phocas and Justin of Aragorn.
For all of its faults and shortcomings, I still remember the animated film..and aside from an ill considered animated version of Return of the King, no director has dared to try and tackle the veritable ur-text of modern Fantasy
Until Peter Jackson's film, which has opened today.

The movie's opening reminded me, ironically, of a failed attempt at a movie version of another major piece of Fantasy and Science Fiction...Dune. The opening is a prologue, one that is unfortunately necessary for any hope of a non-Tolkien fan to understand just what has happened before. And I admit that it wasn't quite as bad as one might think. At least its not static images and monolithic blocks of dialogue, like Dune's early going was. We get to see how the Ring came to that most unlikely of persons, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

And it is then that the movie can begin in earnest.

Summarizing the plot does no justice, for if you are not familiar with the plot in even broad outline, then I have to just wonder just what you are doing reading this. My audience is almost certainly Tolkien-friendly, and in some cases even more so than I. So I shall limit myself to what you are really interested in. What is missing? How is the acting? Does it WORK on screen?

The short answer to the last question is, yes, it works. Oh, I have regarded Tolkien as unfilmable, ultimately, as, say the Amber Chronicles. By this I mean that no film is going to be perfect, because filming everything and leaving nothing out would make the work unwatchable. But for nearly three hours, Jackson does manage to transport you to Middle Earth. You are there in Hobbiton...in The Prancing Pony...in the Mines of Moria. Mise-en-scene is strong and high. Visuals, both CGI and the landscapes are absolutely incredible. I suspect that Jackson perhaps chose New Zealand not only because of the relative inexpensiveness, but because the terrain IS so picturesque, and varied. From the idyllic country Shire, to the fierce Misty Mountains, the terrain is a character in this story. The computer graphics blend in fairly well with the rest of the real world. When the Fellowship sails by the statues of the Kings of Gondor, they look damned good and not at all fake.

But what about the acting? Well, one of the weaknesses of Tolkien, hard to argue against, is the relative paucity of female characters. The movie does try to alleviate this to an extent, but no worries...the Fellowship does not have a tenth female member...it is the same nine as in the novel. The biggest change is to Liv Tyler's Arwen, conflating her with Glorfindel (the Elf, if you remember, who aids Frodo in those last few crucial miles into Rivendell.). It is she who holds the Nazgul at bay with the transformed river flood, and the sequence is one of the best in the movie. Other than this, however, her role is limited to pledging her love for Strider, aka Aragorn. The other major female role is another small one, given to Cate Blanchett, in the role of Galadriel. Both Elves are filmed in an almost ethereal quality every moment that they are on screen.
To the major characters, then. First we have Elijah Wood as the reluctant hobbit Frodo. The "reluctance but ultimate determination" that runs through Fellowship of the Ring comes through very strongly here. Time and again, Frodo is the archetypal reluctant hero who eventually has to overcome his own resistance in order to do the right thing. The filming of the Hobbits is done very well, when you have Gandalf meet the Hobbits, they really do look just about half his size. Ian McKellen was a good choice for the wizard. Old, his power stored and not easily or lightly invoked, the age of a world in his eyes...but in the times of peace, playful enough to blow smoke rings with Bilbo (played by Ian Holm). The other hobbits get a bit of short shrift. The other characters do dominate the action, and there are a LOT of action sequences for the hobbits to get lost in while the more capable members shine.

Legolas and Gimli, out of those other characters, are next in the undercharacterization department. Gimli does better...the movie does travel to Moria, and we do see him nearly break down seeing the Tomb of Balin. Legolas is not so lucky, and basically is known as "the elf who only uses arrows in the battles." Camera trickery doesn't quite work as well with Gimli as the Hobbits...we really don't see him as too much shorter than, say, Boromir.

Boromir, played by Sean Astin, is a major focus for the later action, as anyone who can recall the plot will realize. I shall reserve something of this until the later part of the review, but while he doesn't get screen time as much as Vigo Mortensen on the sheer fact that we don't meet him until Rivendell, Sean Astin makes a very capable Boromir indeed. His love of Gondor comes through quite well, just as in the books.

Strider/Aragorn, played by Vigo Mortensen, does all right although not spectacularly. He gets the romantic piece in the movie, with Arwen, but in that scene, I had the feeling that Liv Tyler was investing a lot more emotions than he was. He does very well in the action sequences, however, and the weight of that does help his piece of the movie.

Elrond does not get much screen time, but his tone seems a lot more stridently anti-human than I remember in the novels. He takes it very personally that Isildur failed to destroy the ring, and we do see in a flashback his failure to do so. Elrond was there, and he still remembers and the simmering resentment shows.

Finally comes Christopher Lee, as Saruman. I expect he will get more screen time in the next movie, but he does pretty well with what he has. His malice in subduing Gandalf, in breeding his improved Orcs is evident...as well as his devotion to Sauron. It remains to be seen if he will emerge as his own "power" in the second movie, as he does in the books.

Finally comes the last question, which I posed first. What's missing? Tolkien's epic is far too large to translate word for word. Things HAVE to get lost even in a three hour rendition. (I shudder at the idea of a two hour version of this film, as I do a four).

Tom Bombadil is gone and never mentioned. So, too, the Barrow Wights. The Flight from the Shire goes directly to Bree in the movie, with of course the Nazgul on the heels of the Hobbits. So there is a bit of a slight wonderment of just how the Hobbits made it to the Shire in one piece after so many close calls, especially given their reliance on the stronger characters later--Strider, Arwen, and the Fellowship.

We don't get to see as much of Bree as in the novels, but we do get Weathertop, and I mentioned the River Rising sequence above (with Arwen instead). Rivendell definitely does look like a place faerie might build and live.

My favorite sequence in the first novel is still here...the failed attempt at the mountain pass. In the movie, however, it makes it more the action of Saruman than the mountain itself which defeats them. Still, I was afraid going in that they would simply have them head into Moria. Moria is well done, and the stop at the tomb where they learn the fate of Balin and his settlers is there in full. The sequence with the Balrog...wow! Lorien is somewhat syncopated...only Frodo has significant interaction with Galadriel once they reach the Elves' hospitality. Most notably, Sam does NOT get the seeds. I wonder, thinking ahead, how this is going to play out in Return of the King, after the Scouring of the Shire. I'd really be upset if a rabbit is pulled out of the hat at that point.

At last comes the climax, the finale. The problem with Tolkien is that he didn't set out and in fact didn't write three novels...he wrote a long one. So how DO you film the end game sequence and make it a dramatic finale? Not without changes. I am not sure I should reveal them, but the end sequence, with Boromir's Temptation, and the Orc Attack is noticeably different than in the novels. I looked at my copy afterwards to make sure...and yes, it definitely reads differently.

The results, however, are the same. Boromir falls, Merry and Pippin captured, Legolas and Aragorn and Gimli pursuing them, and Sam and Frodo heading east into Mordor. To its credit, perhaps, there is NO "to be continued" at the end of the movie. Peter Jackson does strive mightily to make it a complete movie, but doesn't quite make it. Really, you couldn't, but at least he tried. Unlike Harry Potter, the director was far more willing to take liberties and make some changes to try and make it play better on screen. Expanding Arwen's role was a good thing. I am not sure if I like the end-game sequence at the end of the movie. It has a very different "feel" than the novel.

One last bit. Peter Jackson might have made the use of the Ring a relatively innocuous thing to the wearer. Instead, when we are shown Frodo using it, it is a terrifying, dangerous, perilous thing. The "Ring sight" that the ringbearer sees is a completely different world. Oh, I know that in the novels we see this in the Nazgul on Weathertop sequence, but every time Frodo puts it on, this is shown...and it is made absolutely clear that Sauron KNOWS you when you put on the Ring. The handling of this is one of the best things in the whole movie. The idea that, in changing the perceptions of those around you, you change your own perceptual capabilities into a different spectrum is one I shall have to think about and perhaps steal for my RPG worlds.

Out of Five Popcorn Kernels, I would give LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring 4 and a half. The undercharacterization of the hobbits, and a decidedly action sequence orientation to a book more noted for far more do detract some from the movie. However, unlike, say, Star Wars Episode One, this movie makes me EAGER to see the sequel(s).

Posted by Jvstin at 5:25 PM

December 14, 2001

Our Amber community can be

Our Amber community can be very creative.

Over at Meera Barry's general Amber log, she's revealed the names of her towers. Towers of Castle Amber. I admit that I have never thought of naming the towers of Amber.

I wouldn't put it past Arref, though. He's an architect, it would come naturally to him.

Me? I'm not sure where I fit in, or really what is my forte. Sometimes we are blind to our faults AND our virtues.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:02 AM

December 13, 2001

Arref's Blog continues to impress.

Arref's Blog continues to impress. He really is using the Blog to its hilt...highlighting the gems and gems-in-the-rough that he has
found for the rest of us.

So I will share something, myself, today. A NEW review of ADRPG, over at Rpg.net. Read the review..

Interestingly, the author of the review said that he received a copy from the author, i.e., Erick Wujick. I never thought of him as someone to hand out Amber DRPG books for review, but there you go.

Work and time has stymied me, and so Marcus' story languishes. Actually its a matter of keyboard time. I seem to have all sorts of ideas when I am walking to work, etal. For example, I think I know now pretty much what i want to run for Ambercon 2002. The irony is, I don't have a title, which is what I usually have first.

I would like to have had Bonnie, and Ray, and Anne play in this, but its not going to happen, alas. Hopefully people like Bridgette, Mike, and other members of my circle will, as well as others.

Details on a site for my con game to come soon. I am going to borrow a couple of ideas, and give bonus points to players for submitting characters before the con (given the nature of the game, it is much easier for me), and I will give every PC a single point they can ONLY use to describe one "skill" that their character is the sine qua non of. The best archer, or blacksmith, or pilot. That sort of color will help me in the game, too, and it helps flesh out those who do not bring fully formed characters.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:13 PM

December 4, 2001

I've been thinking about some

I've been thinking about some comments Ray made about Death in In the Shadow of Darkness Blog.
I seem to have done some things he's never done.

I brought back Brand. I brought back Deirdre. Finndo never really was dead.


Not because I wanted to cheat death. Death IS death, although there are always echoes of a person. I still think about people lost in my own personal life, from my grandmother to Lisa Shandler.

Maybe, just maybe, saying that x, y or z didn't die after all was a way to defy and cheat that. I can't psychoanalyze myself, who can?


Brand and Deirdre I always intended to have return because they didn't die in the first place. Furthermore, the Elemental Plane that they wound up on serves a purpose...it was the first tangible proof of Valerian's claim...that the Amber Universe was definitely NOT all that there was. I originally did not intend to have Brand return in a healthy state, but in a classic case of player involvement, Jim Groves, playing Jayson, did the unexpected, and so I rewrote some of my plans to suit. Thus, Brand, alive and free...but quite mad, and quite dangerous.

Human, though. A coordinated attack by some of the brightest lights in the PCs stopped him cold. He wasn't quite himself yet, anyway...part of the reason WHY he was meddling with the Fount...to try and regain his former power. Now that he is in custody, what will happen to him is not precisely clear.

Deirdre was, in effect, rescued by Jayson. I wasn't going to deny his heroic effort. It WORKED. I think, now that she has come to Amber, it will make things rather interesting.

Finndo was an accident. Chris, who plays Finndo's son Rylan, suggested to me the idea that Finndo was living in the Courts all of this time, and didn't die like Osric did. I ran with it, and thus that's why he's alive, despite the attempts of a few NPCS to correct that.

Caine? Except for an echo of himself seem in two different venues by two different player characters, he IS dead. Dead, dead dead. Luke is wise not to go through Arden, or to Amber much. Retribution is a possibility, and not just from the obvious choices, either. Read this profile of Noys, an NPC in my game.
Is it TRUE? The Gm remains silent.

On other Amber fronts, I still haven't registered, but I DO have a budding idea for a game to run at the con as I mentioned yesterday. It was a little more clear to me today what I could do...but it involves bringing back a 'dead' character as focus for the plot.

Found an interesting out of print game book called Nexus, the Infinite City. I am going to have to digest this more, but it is made by the guys who turned around and made Feng Shui...but Nexus could very well be a template for someone's idea of Chaos...shadows running riot together, laws of magic and technology changing from place to place, variable geography and the like.

I love reading gamebooks for ideas. :grin:

Posted by Jvstin at 11:00 AM

December 3, 2001

Another Monday. Last week was

Another Monday.

Last week was bad, this week looks to be worse as far as my creativity goes. Vacation Lady, my boss, has gone on my vacation and the Store Manager, variously called Voldemort, Nero and Ivan the terrible has made my life into a living hell.

Fun for me, eh?

So, Marcus' Murder Mystery is stuck...l am behind on my Amber turns. I actually did have a con game idea, but that was on Friday, before the madness really hit. When my brain clears I am going to have to try and retrace it in my head.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:01 PM

November 26, 2001

Just another Manic Monday. Let's

Just another Manic Monday.

Let's see what bases we can cover.

The Giants absolutely, positively screwed the pooch, so to speak. The redskins had beaten the Eagles, and that was only good news for the Giants...but the Raiders dominated them completely and utterly. It wasn't even close. :Sigh:
Still, the NFL looks wide open still. Sure, the Rams look like the best team, but this year seems to be the "Any Given Sunday" sort of year. With a little luck and getting to the playoffs, the Rams could fall to the Packers...or the Bears...the 49ers or even the Eagles. The AFC seems even more of a crapshoot. Maybe the Raiders are now the Rams of the AFC, but they are far less dominant. And just behind them are the Steelers, and the Ravens, the Dolphins and even (gasp!) the NY Jets.

This year, a Jets-Bears Super Bowl might be a very long shot, but it could happen.

My prediction thus far, Rams and Raiders, with the Rams enjoying the clime of the Louisiana Superdome and outrunning the Raiders, 31-21.

Next up: Writing.
Both Bridgette and Ray are enjoying what I have thus far. I just hope to keep the quality up, and continue. I shall definitely have a link here to it when I am done, and maybe I will publish an excerpt or two. This is really the first time I have gotten this deep into Marcus' head...its first person.

Finished reading Nylund's A GAME OF UNIVERSE. He definitely writes Fantasy better than SF...its too bad that he has been reduced to doing a media tie in novel to a Microsoft XBox game. I've several ideas that I can lift from his novel for Amber ideas. While Universe is not quite as good as Dry Water, its definitely underappreciated stuff...and now out of print.

My next book to read is Cherryh's Fires of Azeroth. Yep, you guessed it. Morgaine, the wielder of Changeling. I've slowly intergrated those books into my reading queue, and if you didn't know, that's book three in the series. The first two were as good as advertised.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:22 PM

November 23, 2001

Black Friday, the biggest shopping

Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year...and I predict it will be one of the worst, financially, in a decade, at least. Oh, people may go out...but they will not buy as much, and with the steep discounts, the total profit is going to be way down.

Sad. It would have been bad enough, but 9-11 pushed it over the edge.

I've started to work on actually writing Marcus' Murder Mystery.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:51 AM

November 21, 2001

Saw the Harry Potter movie

Saw the Harry Potter movie today.

I made the mistake, as dear Bonnie puts it, of reading the book first...and so I was disappointed in some spots by the movie...but it wasn't a severe disappointment...far from it! I loved the movie, but do not give it "timeless classic" status. Kids will not be watching this movie endlessly for the next 50 years like, say the Wizard of Oz or Willy Wonka or Star Wars...but it will do very well, very well indeed.

Casting was very good. Alan Rickman IS Professor Snape, suitably malevolent looking for the part. The young actors and actress playing Harry, Ron and Hermione do a generally good job. We don't see enough of Dumbledore or McGongall to really form a good opinion, in my opinion. The actor playing Hagrid did a good job, though.

Special effects and sets were very well done. I wish they might have contrasted the muggles world with the wizard's world a little more forcefully, but a lot of the set pieces worked well...the Alley, Gringotts, and of course, Hogwarts itself. Quidditch came out rather well...it could not have been filmed 5 years ago, I am certain, and maintain its believeability. It does look a little more chaotic than in the book, however...a lot less clear on the rules.

Overall, out of five popcorn kernels, I give it four.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:59 PM

November 16, 2001

Been very busy the last

Been very busy the last few days with work, and such. The virus is all gone, and I am completely back to normal. In game news, the Festival of the Unicorn comes closer and closer, and Bridgette's character is partially responsible for a surprise that will happen at the Ball. I hope she enjoys the situation, too.

Marcus' story is just about jelled and ready for writing.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:13 AM

November 9, 2001

Oh, and one last thing.

Oh, and one last thing. Gatorade has become my new best friend. I've drunk over a gallon of the stuff since this hit me.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:24 PM

Stomach Virus! An intestinal tract

Stomach Virus!

An intestinal tract ailment of some sort has knocked me on my derriere the last couple of days. I got it from my brother, who got it from his girlfriend and her mother. Fortunately my little nephew, who just might be the "carrier" that gave it to Lana and her mother, did not get it himself.

Boy, this bug is a nasty one. My vomit was actually BLACK with crap. It was considerably unpleasant to have it coming out of both ends, and to be sleepless while tossing and turning with intestines turned into Gordian knots.

I'm feeling somewhat better now.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:23 PM

November 3, 2001

Another quiet weekend. NOBILIS is

Another quiet weekend.

NOBILIS is being pushed back to January, or even more likely, February. Arrgh! The closer we get to the publication date, the faster it recedes...sort of like a perverse Zeno's Achilles and the Tortoise paradox. Or the speed of light.

However, the other day I picked up AGONE. You can tell that its a translation (from
France), but its very interesting thus far. Mythic, Epic fantasy. Baroque. The artwork in the book definitely is keeping in theme. The meat of the book is not bad thus far, although there are holes (as always). The character generation system is sort of like White Wolf. No dice during character creation, but d10's for skills and such. I'm usually more interested in milieus, concepts and so forth than rules. Harmundia (the name of the game world) would make an interesting shadow for Amber. The reason why I picked up AGONE was that I had heard about it on the Nobilis list sometime back (and someone mentioned it would be an interesting world on Ygg). I had not seen it in a store until the other day when I saw it in the Compleat Strategist. I bought it on the spot. I shall miss the Strategist when I move west...there is really no other store like it in physical reality. Of course with the internet, its not so bad as it was, say, ten years ago, when options to buy RPG stuff was really limited and I could see people making long trips to stores like the CS. Now, its a click to Wizard's Attic or any number of places.

Still, browsing a store has its merits.

I did a graphic for SB which represents the schedule of events in the "Festival of the Unicorn". I might put it online once more players get into the day.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:18 PM

October 31, 2001

I've hit a new time

I've hit a new time sink, and its name is Civilization III. So I thought that I would give it a review here (and probably
in email to friends). As a fan of Civilization, Civ II, Alpha Centauri (and Alien Crossfire), I definitely looked forward
to this third generation effort by Sid Meier and his friends.

With the game CD came a nice and thick manual, but no tech tree chart like in the previous games. Maybe they decided to only have it for the
"limited edition?" A shame if that was their motivation, and a shame if I simply got gyped. Install of the game was pretty easy and it has a
700 MB footprint.

Opening screens are prettier but much the same. The usual sort of options (Create world, quick start, etc.). There is a "tutorial" but its pretty lame--it just
sets it to the easiest level and turns the tutorial tips on.

The choices for creating a world are pretty much the same as in the past...type of continent, size of world, the age of the Earth are all things which are in previous editions. The big change which they borrowed from the Alpha Centauri series is the nations you lead. In the past, it really didn't make too much of a difference (just a couple of small changes with the starting techs and not much else). In Civ III, there are 16 nations, and each of them has two characteristics (out of six) which determine the starting techs, but also determine other specific advantages. The Romans, for example, are COMMERCIAL and MILITARISTIC....which means they start with Alphabet, and Warrior Code. Babylon, which is RELIGIOUS and SCIENTIFIC, get Ceremonial Burial and Bronze working. COMMERICAL civilizations get extra commerce and lower corruption. RELIGIOUS civilizations get less anarchy and cheaper temples and cathedrals.

Each nation also has a special unit only they can build, which replaces one of the units in the normal tech tree. Using the examples above, the Romans get their feared Legionaries (instead of Swordsmen)...and Babylon gets an improved Archer called the Bowman. While most of these special units are gotten early, a couple of nations have to wait until late...Germans get Panzers instead of Tanks, and Britain gets Man-O-Wars instead of Frigates.

There is an option for turning off the advantages, though, if you don't like them. I am gathering already that there are possibly problems with the balancing, since in the Readme, a couple of civilizations changed their civilization strengths from the manual.

The gameplay itself is much like the earlier Civilization series games, but with some changes. First and foremost is something taken from the Alpha Centauri series, and that is the splitting up of the duties of the old Settlers from Civ I and II. In this game, just like Alpha Centauri, there are units which build cities (Settlers) and units which build irrigation, roads and such. These are workers. Having played a lot of Alpha Centauri, I was able to quickly adapt to this.

Barbarians have changed, too...now instead of them just popping out of nowhere, randomly, they come from specific villages that you can plunder (no more barbarian chiefs!).

Another change is technology. Now, the tech tree is divided into three eras, much like Age of Wonders. You cannot research techs in the Middle Ages until you have most of the Ancient ones. This defeats the "rush to Invention" that I employed to good effect in many Civ games. Some of the Wonders are new, some are gone, and there are now also some "small wonders"--wonders any civilization can build one of. For example, the "Forbidden Palace" acts as a second Palace for purposes of the "Center" of ones civilization for happiness.

Trade and commerce are very different. In the old CIV games, it was a case of building caravans and setting up trade networks that way. This also led to abuse on the Wonders, since you could use the caravans to hurry a wonder into premature completion. I did that myself many times. In Civ III, there are no more caravans, and in fact there is only one way to rush a Wonder (you can't even buy them quickly anymore)...you can spend a "leader" to finish the wonder. Leaders are special units which are created from elite units randomly. Leaders can either hurry a wonder...or expend themselves to create a special unit called an Army. Armies group three units together, and no unit dies in an army unless you kill all the hitpoints of the army...making armies powerful. In the two games I have played thus far, though, I have not successfully created one.

Resources are also different. There are ones which make your citizens happy and are for trade (ivory and gems)...and then are the somewhat controversial strategic ones. The strategic resources, like iron, coal, and uranium are needed for certain units, and if you don't have a supply within your borders connected by a road, you can't make the units. The Romans legionaires (and plain old swordsmen) need iron. Railroads need iron AND coal...which stymied me in my second game, because while I had researched steam power, I couldn't build networks of railroads because I lacked iron for much of the game.

Some of the problems of the modern era are STILL here. The cities have an auto governor of sorts which will build things (not just endless amounts of the same) in a semblance of order...but in the 20th century, some of my governors wanted to build Longbowmen. Alpha Centauri did this much better. The end game can be a exercise in finding hundreds of units and moving them too and fro.

The biggest complaint I have is multiplayer, the lack thereof. Sid and co. HAD to know we would be chomping at the bit to play this, even imperfect work, with our friends. You can't do it though, and it is a shame. While the computer players offer a good challenge (so far anyway), it is against humans that Alpha Centauri and the Civ II really shined.

Still, so far I like the game, despite its faults. If you will excuse me, now I am going to try the Germans. Militaristic and Scientific. Perhaps I will get an army this time...

Posted by Jvstin at 3:17 PM

October 29, 2001

Had an idea for breaking

Had an idea for breaking the deadlock in my mind for the story that I keep trying to do for Marcus--the murder mystery. I think I know now just who did the murder, and why and how Marcus might solve it. I also have figured that the Weir love interest could be fostered on him by a combination of a lack of sleeping quarters plus the peculiarities of the female Weir heat cycle (stealing that from a great short story I read on ASSM by Desdmona).

I just have to sit down and write the thing at some point. I feel its close...almost at that point where I can do nothing BUT write it. Otherwise the game is pretty quiet...created a graphic for the leaflet with the events of the Festival of the Unicorn. I hint that in years pass that there were even more events but the current year is reduced...Omphalian invasions can put dampers on a lot of things.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:35 PM

October 28, 2001

Found a neat new font

Found a neat new font over at Aenigma fonts, which seem to be specializing in outre and strange fonts more suited to graphics than to ordinary day to day use on
documents. The entangled font, as you can see, now is in a graphic on the top of this page.

System is getting back to normal slowly...installing software is a long chore at best. I have imagestyler back working, as witness the graphic creation, and we will see what else I need to do in the coming days.

Bridgette offered, discussing Amber again, to co-run Gwyddbwyll with me. After all, she "won" the game when I ran it in email,and understands perhaps better than anyone but me just what the heck goes on. It's an offer I will give serious thought.

I also remembered an idea that I had for a "hawaii" sort of scenario. Not the islands themselves, per se, but the politics, dealings and repercussions of events which are analogous to the history of US relations with Hawaii, and how we literally stole the islands from their rightful rulers. It's a story that doesn't make the history textbooks that often, I am sad to say.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:00 AM

October 25, 2001

Another crash of a hard

Another crash of a hard drive, and this time an outlay of money to do it "right" .

But I am back, and back for good.

Ambercon news...it seems unlikely that Arref is going to go. I shall miss him and Anne, to say nothing of EGB. Damn. Then again, buying a new house is definitely an order more important and complex than a gaming convention. I wonder, if in his absence now, I should try and start an Amber campaign at Ambercon...something sufficiently free form and loose so that players could swap in and out.

Something to think about, anyway. Also on that front, Felicia has reminded me that doing a sequel to last year's Dreams Made Flesh might be fun and could definitely get the interest of the players involved. Cal Westray, among others, had a lot of fun with our game and wouldn't mind returning to the setting. Of course...it would require a "plot".

Just finished reading Michael Swanwick's IRON DRAGON'S DAUGHTER. A very different take on faerie, I shall have to mention it to Arref. It's not to his vision of "In the Shadow of Greatness" but its a unique vision that has pinged the "idea meter". Industrial Faerie! Draconic aircraft! Rich, rich rich. Swanwick can infuriate, titillate, and amaze...his prose rarely bores you.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:39 PM

October 23, 2001

Another fine morning. With the

Another fine morning.

With the Ambercon notice going out, I have to start thinking about scenarios and such to run. I think that I definitely want to run something solo, and perhaps
in concert with someone else (Felicia turned out to be a hell of a good co-GM...I'm sure Bonnie could, if she got the urge...Bridgette might not have enough time, but she is going a hell of a job with AOR in email.)

My choices that I have come up with to run so far are:

1. Gwyddbwyll. I ran it in email, I could run it for real. I'd change some things, but it could be done. I know the setting very well and it has been shaken down.

2. A continuation of Into the Depths, for Deb, Bridgette, Bonnie, and the others I roped into that impromptu setting. It was sufficiently freeform that I could set just about anything I wanted into it, given that of course the unusual nature of Bonnie's PC and the implications of what Corwin's realm is like based on the fact that she's his daughter.

3. Status Quo Ante Bellum. One of my big ideas...the idea that, at the end of Patternfall, while Amber's army is assaulting Chaos, a Chaos expeditionary force from a somewhat disreputable house manages to conquer the city of Rebma...and holds it. Now, in the post Patternfall War world...Amber wants them out, Chaos wants them out (on the grounds that they did it without even tacit approval and that Amber might take out their frustration on Chaos again)...and Rebma...well, some of Rebma actually likes the new autonomy given the City, with a change of administration. So, its a multisided, intrigued filled setting...but its definitely not like Murky Waters, that Rebma Throne War.

More ideas will probably surface as the time nears.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:37 AM

October 22, 2001

Hmm, still playing with the

Hmm, still playing with the template. :grin:

Posted by Jvstin at 10:06 PM

Okay, started to share this

Okay, started to share this with people for the first time. I had intended to last week...but then the Hard Drive madness got in the way.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:04 PM

Arrgh. My hard drive has


My hard drive has been failing, and while I still haven't replaced it, I had to fdisk and reformat the sucker. I am not running windows 2000 and it feels weird, like reading the history of an alternate universe and seeing things are similar but different than what I knew.

I don't know what OS I will put on the new hard drive, when I get it.

I managed to save most of the text files and other miscellany, but a lot of other stuff is gone, and lost. The center of corruptionw was around the windows directory, and so I had some limited DOS access to move stuff to the small auxiliary hard drive.

Thus, my game slowed down but I am now finally returning back to the swing of turns. I have high hopes for the Festival of the Unicorn and I do want to get my players involved with the events of that day.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:02 PM

October 15, 2001

What this means, in effect,

What this means, in effect, that you must post something, after a template change, in order to see it.

Okay, the most boring game on the planet is on...can't the NFL schedule games better? 0-4 Redskins vs 0-4 Cowboys. Ick

Posted by Jvstin at 9:13 PM

Okay, now I figured it

Okay, now I figured it out. Had to change the template on Blog...not just upload the HTML to the space on my site. It reposts the thing from scratch every time, rather than adding to the existing HTML file. Interesting.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:08 PM

Hmm, Strange, the template colors

Hmm, Strange, the template colors didn't take. Curious.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:04 PM

Okay, I changed the template

Okay, I changed the template around somewhat, to colors more of my own. I'll probably tinker with the thing for quite some time in the future. A new toy! Now, some actual good content.

I've been reading a bunch of RPG books lately, buying them like popcorn. I am very interested in the upcoming Nobilis, and another game, Agone, looks interesting too. Maybe I will pick up the latter when Nobilis comes out.

3e Manual of the Planes was and is interesting. I caught a Zelazny reference...the new link between alternate prime material planes (game worlds) is...ta da, the Plane of Shadow. Even more clinching, the description of the terrain changes on the POS trying to go from the corresponding area on one world to another sure sounds like shadow shifting to me. Pretty neat. I had disliked the idea of splitting up the Prime Material Plane this way (in the old 1st and 2nd edition, all the Prime Material planes had the same set of outer planes...but now, conceptually, D&D worlds can be easily plunked into an Amber universe with a lot less fuss now, if you wanted to do such a cross.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:57 PM

Well, here we go. After

Well, here we go. After looking at Arref's, and Meera's and a couple of others, I finally decided to get one of these things, too. However, since Mindspring gives me more than sufficient room for my webspace, I am going to host it on my own site, rather than on Blogger's. I just don't like ads, and I can hopefully modify and alter the template to my liking.

For those who are browsing me for the first time, my name is Paul Weimer, a 30 year old resident of Staten Island, NY, and this is my BLOG. Enjoy.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:15 PM