Blog Archive

4th edition stumbling

originally posted at:
With the 4th edition, Wizards is, as always, making some boneheaded PR mistakes. Compared to the old OGL and SIL licenses (yes, I know unneeded word, but not everyone would have known that those are licenses, and their actual identities are unimportant) the stuff leaked about the GSL is looking Draconian at best, and at least partially non-enforceable. Quick hint: when you say that you want everyone supporting the new edition of the game instead of the old one? You don't get way with then saying that your goal isn't to crush people who are supporting the old game when the license is openly discriminatory against them. The GSL currently has some very predatory terms that I doubt would stand up in court, but they are relying on the fact that even the biggest companies that work with their system won't be able to afford to bring it to court.

But license stupidity isn't the thing currently bugging me. Currently on their website, there are many different article types that are available to read for free. Since they canceled their contract with Paizo for the publishing of Dungeon and Dragon Magazine, they have been hosting much decreased versions of the sort of content that those magazines used to carry. They have a Dungeon section, a Dragon section, and a general section. They moved a lot of content from General to Dungeon or Dragon. At about the same time they release 4th edition? All of that goes behind a pay wall. One that, assuming the volume and quality of the content doesn't change significantly, I am not going to be buying. The loss of traditional website features sucks, but I can mostly take or leave their website. But. And this is a big one for me. But there is a section called Design and Development that takes a deep look at one of their products and the design process that went into it. This is pretty much purely an advertising article for me, and it works where the synopsis articles don't. Design and Development have convinced me to want a number of items that I otherwise wouldn't have looked twice at, including oddities like Three Dragon Ante. Putting it behind a pay wall means that have just said to anyone like me that they want us to pay them a monthly fee for the privilege of being advertised to. I can get that crap from the local movie theater.

More book lists.

*edit* I misread the instructions. I would suggest most of the bolded ones. The ones with asterisks were special favorites.

Initially from

Taken from
Bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish. Add (*) beside the ones you liked and would (or did) read again or recommend. Even if you read them for school in the first place, and a dash next to books you own but have not read.

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
1984 - George Orwell
I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson *
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card *
Speaker for the Dead - Orson Scott Card *
The Handmaid's Tale: A Novel - Margaret Atwood
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions - Edwin A. Abbott
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson **
The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Hyperion - Dan Simmons
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick *
Lucifer's Hammer - Larry Niven*
Dune - Frank Herbert* (too bad about everything else he ever wrote, eh?)
Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes*
Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' - Gene Wolfe
Foundation (Foundation Novels) - Isaac Asimov*
The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams I did reread it, but it stands up much less well than it did when I was in grade school.
The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein* One of my two favorite late Heinleins
Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein*
Out of the Silent Planet - C.S. Lewis
Xenocide - Orson Scott Card
The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton
A Fire Upon The Deep - Vernor Vinge
Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
Caves of Steel - Isaac Asimov
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
Revelation Space - Alastair Reynolds
Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
The Mote in God's Eye - Larry Niven
Valis - Philip K. Dick
Time Enough for Love - Robert A. Heinlein*
The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer - Neal Stephenson Until System of the World, this was my least favorite of his books.
A Deepness in the Sky - Vernor Vinge
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle*
Doomsday Book - Connie Willis
Neuromancer - William Gibson**
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein * I have read this an embarassingly large number of times.
Ringworld - Larry Niven
The Cyberiad - Stanislaw Lem
2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller Jr.
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny**
Startide Rising - David Brin
The Reality Dysfunction Part I: Emergence - Peter F. Hamilton
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
The Incredible Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson
Gray Lensman - Edward E. Smith
The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
Ubik - Philip K. Dick
Contact - Carl Sagan
The Postman - David Brin
To Your Scattered Bodies Go - Philip Jose Farmer
The Fountains of Paradise - Arthur C. Clarke
His Master's Voice - Stanislaw Lem
Journey to the Centre of the Earth - Jules Verne
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. LeGuin
Eon - Greg Bear
A Stainless Steel Trio - Harry Harrison
The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells
The Uplift War - David Brin
Burning Chrome - William Gibson **
Ilium - Dan Simmons
Solaris - Stanislaw Lem
The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
The Door into Summer - Robert A. Heinlein*
Way Station - Clifford D. Simak
Fiasco - Stanislaw Lem
The City and the Stars and the Sands of Mars - Arthur C. Clarke
The Gods Themselves - Isaac Asimov
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
Use of Weapons - Iain M. Banks
City - Clifford D. Simak
More Than Human - Theodore Sturgeon
A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs (One of the very first novels I ever read)
Gateway - Frederik Pohl
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - Philip K. Dick
Ender's Shadow - Orson Scott Card
A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick
Citizen of the Galaxy - Robert A. Heinlein
The Lathe of Heaven: A Novel - Ursula K. Le Guin
Puppet Masters - Robert A. Heinlein
The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells
The Time Machine - H. G. Wells
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain
Blood Music - Greg Bear
Have Space Suit, Will Travel - Robert A. Heinlein
The Chrysalids - David Harrower

The identifiers are longer than the post... again.

Erika is making a vocation of twitting Piro.

Avoidance memes

Originally at
Avoiding posting on racist anit-immigration issues, entrapping language in feminist essays, and the difference between dissention and divisiveness. I will get to all of the above maybe. Of course this has been the week for people to read against the text of my blog entries and comments, so maybe I won't. I do get tired some times.

Instead a meme I grabbed from

The Unread Books Meme, done by half of you.

These are the 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.

Here’s the twist: add (*) beside the ones you liked and would (or did) read again or recommend. Even if you read them for school in the first place.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion * (I liked it, but I set it down for too long and need to start from the beginning)
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey*
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods*
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Quicksilver Only one in this series I finished.
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World*
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo*
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys*
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno* (and Purgatory and Paradise)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon* Much better than the other books in this setting
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values*
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbitt*
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers**

feminist issues

Original post:

The more I read feminist blogs instead of feminists's blogs, the more I run into a fairly pernicious meme. It goes something like "You are free to make any choice you want, so long as it is my choice." Unfortunately it isn't on the surface of the discussion, it becomes a foundational meme that no one is pulling out and looking at. Or at least no one who gets listened to. (When it has been pulled out, no one replies to those posts.)
I'm also seeing a fair amount of factual inaccuracy being written off as unimportant because the issue in question deserves condemnation. Fuck that shit. This is the fucking base tactic of the misogynistic assholes that make up the core of the neocon-religious right alloy in our country. I am all in favor of using the tactics of the bad guys against them, but not at the expense of becoming them. I'm seeing a lot of decent friendly third wave feminists retreating to the memespace that Andre Dworkin and the like helped create that facilitated the black hats' efforts to vilify the word feminist. (As a side note, I keep wanting to use the word "villainize" in these situations. I may start doing that just for the fun of it.)

To make matters worse, most of the feminists who blog (as opposed to feminist blogs) who I read have gone very quiet as late, so I'm getting more and more burnt out due to the lack of stabilizing influence from folks who, even if I disagree with them, I trust to have solid reason to back them up. The willingness to be convinced that their position doesn't encompass the entirety of a situation is nice too.

Also? The willingness/eagerness to write off other's experiences reflects very poorly on these communities. The immediate assumption that everyone, or even all of the driving factors behind something they dislike are male *cough malkin and coulter cough cough* and disparaging comments about people's sexual experience and history disturb me a lot.

The worst part is that this is less than 15% of the posts and threads on my main example, but it makes me wonder if in the other 85 to 90% of cases, I'm just not seeing that I'm taking part in these activities. (Well, actually let's call it 30 percent. Most of the posts and threads on Feministing aren't negative, so if there are memetic sins they will be different ones.)

Come back Tamora Pierce, Annie, and Elizabeth Bear! (I've got to find feminist bloggers who aren't professional writers or other absolute time sink jobs.)

(EB posts a lot, but mostly on different sorts of things than when I started reading her.)

Last little brother post for a bit.

Originally posted:
I finished reading the book yesterday, and I've been rereading particular passages since then.
I compared it to Cryptonomicon the other day, and it turns out that Cryptonomicon is in the acknowledgments. I think that little brother was more tightly written, possibly a better book, but since the comparison came up while reading it, I ended up missing the more nonsensical asides from Stephenson's work. (There were big old exposition dumps in Little Brother, but they all had to do with explaining important parts of the world. Cryptonomicon had a multiple page digression about the perfect bowl of captain crunch cereal.

One thing that I wish the book had had was a 10 years later section. I wanted to see what happened to the characters. Of course, that would have changed the book from a story about a 17 year old protagonist to a story about the protagonist when he was 17, and while that would have been great for me, it probably isn't quite what the target audience wants.

Ooh, also? Shortly after publication, this book should be available on for download under one of the CC licenses. (The rest of Cory's work is there already.)

All in all? A good book. I'm going to have to buy a hard copy of it eventually.

Reading Little Brother. And other Things

Originally At

Hum. It is one AM and I am up reading the review copy of Little Brother that came with the UPS truck today. This isn't particularly non-standard behavior for me, what with the 1:30 AM average bed time. I'm going to post sometime soon about my thoughts about accepting a book that I want in exchange for agreeing to read the book (oh no, not the briar patch!) and talking about it either online or in the physical world. Unfortunately, I'm still figuring out my thoughts on the subject. I think they'll mostly be shaped like "I'm fine with it, but I do wonder if how much my perceptions are being shifted by the fact that I was given a shiny object that I wanted very much right before I started reading the book. And by the standard "wanting to do things that please the people doing the study/promotion/what have you" response that almost every human gets when they are asked questions or given things.

Now I'm going to play with metaphor.

So far (138 pages in) this book is reading like very good Neil Stephenson. (Cory Doctrow writes like the better parts of Stephenson's work in general. So I could have said "this reads like Cory Doctorow" but since this is a Cory Doctrow book, that would be less than useful.) Take Cryptonomicon. Make it more accessable. Double the amount of Civil Liberties stuff in the book. Make the character a particularly un-annoying 17 year old. He's brash and arrogant, he's a smart 17 year old after all, but he's a lot less annoying than most of the smart 17 year olds I've met recently. Update the pop culture references to today. Update the tech to today. Make it a shorter book, one short enough not to suffer wrist damage while reading it. (Cryptonomicon is one of the strongest arguments for e-paper. Gah that is a monster.) Up the fun by a bit. You have Little Brother.

I keep seeing reviews from people who use words on paper as a professional medium that say this is one of the most important books they've read. Usually folks who aren't neophobes. I think they might be right. The message is definitely incredibly important. There are some other books in the genre, including some that were published before the inception of the DHS, that say the same things this book is saying (as of 1/3rd of the way through.) This book is saying them though, in a manner that may well get them read. Concrete example. I think that Crypnomicon had the message and the information, but it lacked the accessibility to bring this to the people who need it. I was pretty much exactly the right audience for Stephenson's Book. Anyone who had a little more trouble following the plots, was a little less interested in any one of the stories, found the explanations a little harder to follow, thought the book needed to be a little shorter, or had less tolerence for a multiple page discussion of how to eat a perfect bowl of Captain Crunch probably didn't finish the book. That limits the audience, especially the young audience, to a particular set of subsets of nerdy geeks. Crypto geeks, WW2 Espionage Geeks, Geek Culture Geeks, and Hardware Geeks are all likely to finish Cryptonimicon with smiles on their faces. Broadway Musical Geeks with short fingers? They'll probably hurl the book against the wall out of sheer boredom and hand cramps after 50 pages. On the other hand, I have it on good authority that they readily and rapidly devour Little Brother. Additional Jokes Temporarily Suspended

Ooh! I'm a big fan of how the world and how the tech works exposition if done well. Stephenson, Lynch, and Heinlein come up as my first thoughts of examples of people who can do it right. Doctorow does it almost flawlessly throughout the book. All other lesser writers? I want to point out something that these people almost never do that you do and need to stop doing. Some asshole writing teacher sometime in the past told people never to put exposition in the text. Make it part of dialog. That can work. Except when you are explaining basic pieces of the setting by having two people talk. The "As you know" monster will come and beat you in the night with a rock if you do that. If you have to choose between An as you know style passage and just having the narrator have a half page or page segue, well the segue is much better. I am now typing with my eyes shut. I am done. Good Night.


I want a "Don't trust anyone over 25" shirt. The second message is nice too, but if I had to select one, I'd definitely go with the bottom one.

Little Brother ARC

Originally at

I was on the right side of the registration for the ARCs of Little Brother! I'll try to get it read quickly so I can blog about it.
(For the price of agreeing to read the new Cory Doctrow and then talk about it, either online or face to face (I almost said in real life, but that is a false dichotomy if ever there was such) I was given an advance copy of the book. Don't have to like it or say nice things about it. Just get it out there in the mindspace.)
Needless to say this is the current cool thing of today for me.

remembered one of the things I'd intended to say.

remembered one of the things I'd intended to say.

I am looking for books and writers of Scottish Mythography. I know I read several blogs whose authors are reasonably knowledgeable on the subject, but I can't remember if any of them read me.
A friend of mine is working on a project that is going to work with the Scottish mythic space, but he really wants to avoid the fluffy new-age stuff on the subject. I'm not particularly familiar with the field, and since there's an NDA in the way I can't really advise very well, but maybe some of you know who writes the best material on the subject.

I think this is going to be a miscellaneous post.
First, because I suspect the payoff on this one is going to be rather a bit in the future, I want to thank for the huge amount of work he did answering a question I posted. I had mostly been hoping for links to the information I needed to do the analysis, and he sent me his own analysis of the subject as well as the informational links. Here's his primary website, by the way. If I don't get my own work ready to post by say Friday, I'll make sure to post the relevant parts of his e-mail. The work he did deserves to be shared/aired in public, and my own scatterdness shouldn't be allowed to significantly delay that.

Second, I just realized something. If I'm ever in a position where I am overseeing the distribution of review copies of something, I am going to make sure that I contact both the people who don't get one of the limited numbers of copies and the people who do. I requested one of a stack of review copies of a book that I am looking very much forward to reading however I can get my hands on it. The folks managing the giveaway promised to email everyone who didn't ask for one in time. Now I sent my email out within minutes of the offer going live, so I suspect that I'm in line for one, but it is also possible that my spam box ate their message saying that I didn't get one. It would have been awesome if they had notified both groups. I know limited time and griping about the practices of a group that is (potentially) giving me something for free. This borders on invoking Eric Burns' Entitlement and the Modern Fandom essay. But this isn't about criticizing Tor, this is about me trying to sort out best practices for something like this. (And PNH and TNH are some of the best folks in publishing right now. I realize that they are working with a very limited resource pool on matters of time, what with between them there being a mere 48 potential hours in a given day, and having jobs that could easily take 192 of those hours if they let it.)

Oh goo. I think that I've forgotten several things I wanted to talk about.

Ooh, my library houses Scott Lynch's textually Prettier than Leiber urban fantasy caper novels in general fiction. I really don't understand them at all.

Haven't actually seen anything about this (I've spent my google time reading and writing the above post, but I've heard via word of mouth that Obama is talking about an incredibly awesome plan to help boost the US back into the front position in the world educationally speaking.

Anyone looking to hire a synthetic generalist/researcher? I work cheap and I build unusual memetic structures.

Let's see. What else.

Oh yeah.

As a nascent writer, I've decided that the two nicest things someone could say to you are, in this order:
"You've caused me to rethink my position on X." (Not necessarily change that position. This one is, by the way why I don't think that internet discussions/arguments are pointless or stupid. At least in the parts of the net that I frequent people are generally capable of being convinced by solid data and well wrought logic. It may not happen often, but it happens.)

"Can I quote you?"

I'm not sure of the identity or order of the next entries.

oh well. If I think of the next points I wanted to make I'll post again.

And then there's the ever charming Alex Kochno

My current computer is a Frankenstein's monster formed from the remains of a homebrew box and an HP Pavilion. The Pavilion was free and the motherboard on the old box died. I am using the ugly-ass HP case because I was too lazy to mod the other case to take the HP's stupid proprietary power supply. I regret this every time I open it up and try to mess around in my computer's guts.
It has pretty much the same stats as its original incarnation except it has 60 extra gig of Harddrive, a much nicer video card than either computer possessed previously, and a DVD drive. It also has an AMD 1000 mhz processor instead of a P3 1000 mhz processor (significant downgrade in performance, that) and the motherboard is not a Raid Board (meaning only 4 ide devices for me mutter) and it has fewer ram slots (meaning that if I want more ram, I have to replace a chip instead of just add one.)
I built the base system in 2000 I think. It has no part that could not have been bought at the time I built this computer. I got some of the pieces a little cheaper than they would have been at the time. My 256 meg graphics card cost less than the 16 meg card it replaced. On the other hand, while it won't run a lot of modern games, it is quite happy with World of Warcraft, and a bunch of stuff a generation or 2 back.
Best thing? 2 years before I built it, I was given a laptop computer, not a monster box, but with competitive stats when compared with the stuff available at the time. August or September 1998, I was given a P2 200 with a 2 gig hard drive. Within 2 years, my middle of the road PC had 10 times the processor speed and 10 times the harddrive space (the first HDD I bought was a maxtor 20 gb pos, that got replaced with a WD 40 gb hdd when it died. No I didn't take advantage of Maxtor's replacement offer. I'm not stupid. Free is nice, but crap is crap and free doesn't overcome crap.

not about Love Hina

Time to toss off Harry Potter. Harry Dresden is my wizard.

Today has been math day for Michael. I've got a decent intuitive grasp of mathematics, but there are some fairly serious holes in my knowledge base. It means that I often have to figure things out from earlier principles. Today's "taking more time than it should have" issue has been dice math.
Particularly I wanted to take a look at the math behind RPG systems that use a success dice sort of system. When you roll dice to see if an action is successful, there are several ways to handle it. Many games have you roll a die or several dice (1d20 for D&D, 2d6 for Big Eyes Small Mouth, 1d100 for the old call of Cthullhu systems, 2d10 or 3d6 for the Fuzion based games, etc) add assorted modifiers and then compare your total to a target number. If your total is equal or higher than the number, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. There are some important differences between the systems that role a single die and the ones that roll multiple dice, but the comparison methods are the same. Critical hits and misses make more sense the multiple dice systems, but your rolls tend to be clustered at the center of the range a lot more. (There are other dice methods that work on the comparison to a target number, but these are the two major categories.)
 personally prefer the straight probabilities you get from a single die, but systems with multiple dice do have some interesting features.

Target ValueChance of success

In the above table, notice that there are some reasonable probability spreads. If I think something should be 30% likely to work for a normal person, I set the target score to 13 or so. It isn't perfect, but there is a reasonable value for any 10% step between 0 and 100%.On the other hand, bonuses can quickly skew the odds. A +2 bonus on the above role moves the chance from 1 in 4 to 1 in 2. Given a 30% chance in a d20 setting, a +2 bonus shifts you to a 40 percent change. +2 is always a 10 percentage point shift when you are using a d20.

The other sort of system is a success dice system. Here you have a pool of dice that varies based on your statistics and skills. To do something, you roll your pool of dice, count all of the of the dice that ended up above the system's target number, and count successes. The number of successes determines if you actually succeeded or not. For example, you might have a dice pool of 10d10, with a target number of 8. If an action requires 4 successes, then you need to roll 4 or more 8s or better. In this case, you have about a 35% chance of actually succeeding. It is a serious pain in the ass to modify difficulty in a system like this except in a few very limited cases.

Here's the percentages for different numbers of required successes with th above 10d10 pool.
10 dice  
1 97.18%
2 85.07%
3 61.72%
4 35.04%
5 15.03%
6 4.73%
7 1.06%
8 0.16%
9 0.01%
10 0.01%
(that last .01% is actually ..0059%)

I just thought I would take a moment to mention that "biology isn't destiny" from my previous post implies an acceptance of the existence of free will. I have yet to see a convincing argument for the actual existence of free will. I have also never seen a useful memetic, epistemic, metaphysical, or ethical structure based on the assumption that there is no free will.
Since no one has ever convinced me of the necessity of free will or its inverse, and the assumption of free will seems both functionally and esthetically superior, that's what I'll be assuming.

Michael Phillips

I just ran into another example of something that bothers me a bit.
For various reasons, feminists tend to be hostile toward evolutionary psychology and sociology.
As far as I can tell, the main beef is that not all of the problems in human societies are solely artificial. Well, actually, some of the less nuance oriented folks seem to take statements of biological and evolutionary trends as normative absolutes. "Boys, in general, behave in manners x, y, and z," becomes "All boys behave in manners x, y, and z, and any examples otherwise are aberrations likely due to abuse" in their ears. Admittedly, anti-feminists are fairly guilty of turning the first into the second, but come on people, you don't want to let the bad guys set the rules of the conversation do you?

Let me make a few clear statements of belief.

0. Biology is not destiny. Nor is social conditioning.
1. There are differences in human behavior that are grounded in gender and only reinforced by social systems. These are, like damned near anything dealing with living organisms, expressed not as two distinct expressions, but as tendencies and trends, statistical clusterings. You'll tend to get gender based behavior clusters with outliers from each cluster spanning the whole range of behaviors. I suspect this will hold up even in the absence of or when corrected for social conditioning. Humans can and do overcome their biology.
2. Social conditioning can absolutely change behavior trends in a group. If it is more than a mild thing, it can also seriously harm people whose biologically based behaviors fall outside of the social norm. Humans can and do overcome their social conditioning.

Today's lesson for the day? Unlike Firefox, Pidgin, and MS. Office, Photoshop does not have a spell checker.


1. Ex Mechana 3 Er, it’s been 3 months since I read this. I recall it was fairly enjoyable, though maybe not as good as book one and two.
2. Rogue Angel Destiny Alex Archer Interesting adventure story. Main character seems to have a bit much of the super human thing going on even before she gets the sword. Second, possibly third time in a short while that La Bete has featured in a book I’ve read.
3. Terrier Tamora Pierce Well, this is another book by Tamora Pierce. I’m hoping for another story with this character. *edit March 17* Whoo there is another one on the way!
4. Peeps Scott Westerfeld Wonderful. I ran into Westerfeld’s work in his adult stuff. Nice solid SF. His YA is brilliant. Parasite driven vampirism. Beautiful essays on parasites every other chapter. Happyness.
5. The Eternals Neil Gaiman Writing is strong, don’t care about the characters. I’m not really a Marvel or DC person. I’ve got characters I like to read, but they weren’t here.
6. Undertow Elizabeth Bear Not my favorite Elizabeth Bear, but Elizabeth Bear, so better than my favorite books by any number of other artists.
7. Eve Proto Mecha Lusen, Lichtner, and Garza Decent graphic novel/comic book. I hope to hunt down the rest of the story eventually. The title character is massively malformed has a pretty standard comic book female’s proportions. She’s a robot, so the fact that this doesn’t mean that she is inherently non-functional like biological versions of the body type would be is cancelled out by the fact that there is no good reason for the old guy who built her to make her that way. Like the story, other than my gripe about EVE herself, I like the artwork. Oh gods, I just went to check on the other female characters (reasonable physiques) and noticed that in several pictures, EVE’s breasts appear to have been stuck on as an afterthought. Not Youngbloods or Gen 13 bad, but bad.
8. Eternal War A series of space marine themed warhammer 40k comics. *Shrugs* They get the feel of the setting at least.
9. The Last Days Scott Westerfeld I return to my burgeoning love of Mr. Westerfeld’s YA work. It doesn’t use the parasitology lecture framing device I liked so much in Peeps, but it is a fine addition to his body of work in the Peeps world, even if it does
10. The Book of Night With Moon Diane Duane This is an auxiliary book in the Young Wizards series. It has brief appearances by the main series protagonists, but it focuses on the cats who maintain the world gates. An interesting look at some of the non-human wizards and the shape of the Choice of some of the other creatures. (Not my favorite of the Choices, but still neat.)
11. Jennifer Government Max Barry I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, and almost decided that it wasn’t worth the hype when Mr. Barry brought my main gripe to the front and center. Part way through the book, he has one of the characters reading The Space Merchants and commenting on it. If he hadn’t done that, I think I would have had a hard time breaking away from the parallels between the two books. All in all it is a competent to good near future story in the low chrome cyberpunk tradition.
12. Sing the Four Quarters Tanya Huff. First of the Quarters novels, with a realistic teen to young adult protagonist. (Meaning I wanted to strangle her more than occasionally.) Next book in the set is set elsewhere with different people, which isn’t best in life, but what are you going to do? Not every day can be pillaging and such.
13. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comics Pale Reflections, Crash Test Demons, and Bad Blood Sort of in the middle of a story here, but it is set before the parts of Buffy I’ve watched at this point.
14. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comics Willow and Tara Amber Benson et al. I liked this set better than the more standard Buffy comics, but then I’m pretty sure that Willow and Tara are my favorite characters in the setting.
15 Megatokyo Volume 5 Fred Gallagher I’ve been reading Megatokyo since the middle of college. No surprises here. I think I’ve said this before, but MT works much better as a manga than as a web comic. (Which makes sense, as Fred wanted to make a manga.)
16. Forge of the Mindslayers Tim Waggoner Second book of the Blade of the Flame series, quite possibly my favorite Eberron material. This one delved further into Diran and Ghagi’s pasts and demonstrated the sort of special project that got spun and abandoned during the Last War.
17. The Sea of Death Tim Waggoner 3rd book of the blade of the Flame series. Vol’s running a Xanatos Gambit edging into Xanatos Roulette here. I’m really hoping for more Dirian and Ghagi books.
18. The Sagittarius Command R.M. Meluch This is the third Merrimack book. I’m pretty sure I assumed that Meluch was a guy in my first writeup of her work. Why? Not because she writes space combat, but because I internalized Asimov’s rant about women hiding their names as initials and assumed that everyone else did too, and because the ending used a plot device that annoys me a lot, one that I associate with male writers because it was developed and made badly stale by male writers at least 40 years before I was born. Oh yeah, I like this book a lot (I liked the first book except for the last 20 pages or less.)
19. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight 1-12 Assorted authors. I’m enjoying this series. So far it has been hit or miss for the tone of the best of Buffy. Book 12 has the most perfect reveal scene in the series so far, though the early scene with Buffy monologuing at Dawn is close, and Willow’s first appearance is awesome. (I so want to quote it, but that would spoil one of the better scenes in the early series.) Even if I’m not sure that she or Buffy deserves all of her lines later on. There is some big time healing that needs to happen to make their relationship make sense. Same as the end of Season 7.)
20. Midnighters: The Secret Hour Scott Westerfeld I’m not as enthralled with this one as with the Peeps universe. Still, good solid YA writing. I’ll give the whole series a chance.
21. Reader and Raelynx Sharon Shinn Another 12 houses book with the requsite fated romance story. This one focuses on the last core member of the party, and the Princess he just spent a year escorting across the country. The war that the series has been building toward happens, the bad guys die, and Sennith once again hijacks the end of the book. *sigh* I like her character. I just wish that when it isn’t her book, the last chapter wouldn’t be all about her.
22. Queen of the Slayers Nancy Holder Ugh. A few major slips in characterization. Major annoying style issues. Whenever she refers to Buffy outside of dialogue it is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Seriously? Ugh. If she had called her Buffy? We would have known just who it was. Including a main character’s title in every reference doesn’t work. It is a distancing tool you use for secondary characters and even then you drop it if they are emotionally close to the protagonist, unless it is a major issue for the protags. (See the Honor Harrington books. Honor uses titles with her closest friends until she starts growing up Very few exceptions. The narrator? Only when they are on their own, and even then only if they are briefly in view. The titles game is played fairly well to show how Honor (and often we) are supposed to feel about a character. Watch the narrator’s naming of White Haven and Hemphill through the series. (Also? Wikipedia totally screws Hemphill. She’s an important antagonist for the first 3/4ths of the series, and an important ally in the rest.) Also? Nothing happened before Xander’s eyes. He doesn’t have eyes. He has eye. Find a different non-incongruous turn of phrase.)
23. Seven Seasons of Buffy Glenn Yeffeth (ed) A series of essays by SF and F writers on Buffy the Vampire slayer. Fairly enjoyable literary analysis, even if occasionally an author would ignore all of the points that contradicted their thesis.
24. To Visit the Queen Diane Duane As much as I like the young wizards books, there is something particularly neat about reading Rhiow’s viewpoint. Even though she isn’t human, she has a more adult worldview, and seeing how she deals with the Lone Power’s more subtle attacks throughout this book is nice. I’d like to have had a little more resolution of what went on with her human, though I suspect that the next book (which I’m not sure got published. I know back before I was reading her material, there was a push to get it funded without going through her publisher, but it was sort of peripheral to my awareness at the time, with not recognizing the name (even though I’d read her work before.) The two youngest cats could have had another five thousand words to work through their issues as well. That probably would have strengthened that plot for me. All in all, a good book though.
25 Comic Party Book 2 Sekihiko Inui I bought the first book in this series on deep discount several years ago. I’d not bad, but if the library hadn’t had book two I’d probably not have bothered with it.
26. Chobits Book 1 Clamp Hurm... Pretty goy gets female android servant manga so far. Reasonably nice artwork, nothing particularly special. Both this and Comic party use a visual vocabulary that doesn’t quite click with me.
27. Class Dis-Mythed Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye These new Myth books are, in my opinion, not as strong as the best of the earlier books. That said, I am enjoying the Skeeve books in the new set. Skeeve as teacher is neat, and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming book that brings the characters back together. I do wish that these books did the traditional checking back in that the earlier books did whenever we were following only one portion of the cast. Also? The Bunny/Skeeve thing needs to be resolved between them (it has been resolved between all of the other characters, she needs to sit the boy down and give him a good talking to.)
28. Myth-Gotten Gains Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye An Aahz book. I think that Aahz has grown more as a character since the lead up to the dissolution of Myth-inc. I’m not as fond of his stories, even though they do a lot more character building than the Skeeve stories do. This book felt very much like it was there solely to demonstrate Aahz’s new personality.
29. Night Life Catlin Kettredge Supernatural Urban Fantasy. (Not necessarily in the genre romance category by the same name. Not sure yet.) Werewolf Cop in a world where Werewolves are known, if somewhat of an underclass. I like the main character, the setting, and the story. I wasn’t particularly convinced by the love interest, or at least he’s not the sort of guy I understand girls being into. Not a Harry Dresden book, but a very solid first novel. Ketteredge is definitely an author to be watching out for. (I’m pretty sure I heard about this one on Scalzi’s Big Idea posts.

Silence broken.
A familiar sound.
I look back.
You are not there.

My username is _____ because ____.

This is a user name I had started using several months before joining live journal, when I was first starting to devote some serious time to writing. I'd been spending a lot of time writing back and forth with some Japanese friends at the time.
Almost every instance of my name lacks the underscore, but this time I used it to differentiate the two words. I did register the other version of the name and I intend, some day, to mirror this journal over there. This is not that day.
Prior to this one, most of my user names had been based on the phrase voice of the people, often latin renditions, or character names from online rpg sessions.

My name is _____ because ______.

I've been using it as a tag. (I'm probably going to change it to my own name sooner or later. I've been using my real name around and about more and more recently.

My journal is titled ____ because ____.

Reflections from the narrow road to the interior.
I had just read Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior when I started this journal. I had intended to write a daily poem for the journal, and eventually to try to do some group poems in one of the Japanese styles. You'll notice that lasted less than a year.

Actually, this one is called "The Mirrored Road into the Interior" since it is a mirror of my primary blog over at

My friends page is called ____ because ____.

This is the default. It didn't seem like the sort of thing that needed naming beyond the entirely functional default name (though, I could argue about the vocabulary of the social interface on LJ...)

My default userpic is ____ because ____.

A screen shot from an old C64 Usagi Yojimbo game.

The picture spoke to the wandering idea that informed my initial selection of the user name. Also? I had just bought a hat like his. It is currently sitting on the head of my gargantuan red dragon mini.

Here's a build I've always wanted to run, tenth level edition. It pulls from several source books. (PHB, Complete Warrior, Complete Divine, Magic Item Compendium.)

Human Rogue 2, Fighter 1, Paladin 4, Pious Templar 1, Dervish 2
2d6+1d10+4d10+1d10+2d10 (53 hp/avg)

Str 14
Dex 13
Con 10
Wis 8
Int 12
Cha (15) 17

Perform (Dance) 13, Tumble 9, Gather Information 5, Bluff 5, Intimidate 6, Listen 5, Search 5, Sense Motive 9, Use Magic Device 6 (7), Spot 5, Swim 2, Knowledge (Religion) 11, Survival 2 (4)

1st level: True Believer (Ehlonna), Dodge,
3rd level Weapon Focus Longsword, Mobility
6th Combat Expertise
9th Lvl Power Attack


Fort 13 (8) Ref 13 (7) Will 10 (6)

Class Features
Sneak Attack (+1d6), trapfinding, Evasion, Aura of Good, Detect Evil, Smite Evil 1/day (+3/hit, +4 damage), Divine Grace, Lay on Hands (12 points), Aura of Courage, divine health, Turn Undead, Mettle (Take no damage on successful save vs spells that have a save vs fort or will for half damage), +1 AC*, Dervish Dance 1/day (6 rounds, Take Full Attack Action and still move full speed, must move at least 5 feet between attacks, can't return to square immediately vacated, if weapon is slashing, add +1 to attack and damage rolls, when dance ends, become fatigued for remainder of encounter.)*, Movement Mastery (May always take 10 on perform dance, tumble, and jump checks), Slashing Blades (Scimitar is treated as a light weapon for use in 2 weapon fighting), Fast Movement +5 ft*

* Only while wearing light or no armor and with light or no encumbrance.

Gear (49,000 gp): Greater Bluring Mithril Breast Plate +1 (20200 gp, MiC 9), Sacred Longsword +1 (8315, MIC 42), Ring of Arming (5000 gp, MiC 122), Ring of Protection +1 (2000). Cloak of Resistance +2 (4000), Anklet of Translocation (1400 MiC 71), Truestrike Gauntlets (3500, MiC 144) Wand of Bless Weapon (750), 3835 gp

The quality control on the 3rd party D&D books? Not so much.
I'm reading a book on paladins, the quintessential paladin 2, and in the section on multi-classing, their pally rogue sucks.

First off, they have you grab 8 levels of rogue.
That's not a paladin who has a few levels of rogue to supplement her abilities. That's a rogue who found faith in the middle of her life. Their 20 level build has 10 levels of rogue.

8 levels of rogue is stupid.
Let's look at their 9th level build. This is the first level where they have any paladin. We'll compare it with a Rogue 4/Pally 5, my preferred 9th. (no outstanding ability scores)

Hd 8d6+1d10, avg 36 (first level maximum hp)
Saves Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +2
Bab +7/+2
Sneak Attack +4d6
Improved Uncanny Dodge
Trap Sense +2
Trap Finding
Aura of good,
detect evil
smite evil 1/day
2 ability increases
4 Feats
2+int bonus paladin skill slots
88+11*int bonus rogue skill slots

Hd 4d6+5d10 (avg 44 hp)
Saves Fort 5 Ref 5 Will 2
Bab +8/+3
Sneak Attack +2d6
Uncanny Dodge
Trap Finding
Trap Sense +1
Aura of good,
detect evil
Divine Grace
Lay on Hands
Aura of Courage
Divine Health
Turn Undead
Smite Evil 2/day
Special Mount (*)

2 ability increases
4 Feats
28+7*int bonus rogue skill points
10+5*int bonus paladin skill points

* I'd usually ask to play the non-mounted paladin variant from the PHB2 unless this is going to be very low on indoor encounters.

If this character has straight 10s, then I'd put both ability scores into Cha (empowers Turn Undead and Divine Grace with Cha vs gaining a single spell and a bonus to that poor will save with Wis. No contest.)

HP: My build averages better. This is important for any Pally Build.
Saving Throws: Look like they balance, but keep in mind that evasion lets you avoid all of the damage on successful save for 1/2 damage reflex saves. On the other hand, my build gets divine grace and thus at 9th has overall better saves than theirs.

Bab Mine wins, though not by a lot. The rogue's advancement doesn't really fall behind until 10th level.

The extra 7 points of sneak attack damage are nice, though unreliable.
Improved Uncanny Dodge lacking this hurts my build more than anything else. It is balanced by better HP and me not being stupid about armor selections (more on that later)

Trap Sense One point of difference is actually mostly made up with by divine grace.

Divine Grace is probably the Pally's best early ability. Add your charisma modifier to all saving throws. Yum.

Lay on Hands: Extra healing.

Aura of Courage Immunity to fear and a +4 morale bonus for your party vs fear effects? Load me up. This helps mitigate some of that awful awful will save.

Turn Undead, best for a pally if you have access to some of the turn undead powered feats.

Smite Evil helps with some of that damage loss, and it is level based, so more pally levels = better

The poke-mount is nice, but I prefer the charging smite from the PHB2.

Skills are the thing, other than Improved Evasion that hurts my build the most.

Ability scores in priority order for most of my pallys:
Cha/Str (Str 13+ lets you take power attack. You want power attack.)
Wis (Wis 12+ lets you cast Bless Weapon. One of the nicest low level spells in the game)
Con (HP Nice)
Int/Dex (Skills are nice, but..., and you can turtle up in your armor.)

From their writeup:
The best compromise armour is the chain shirt – it has
only a –2 armour check penalty, but gives a +4 bonus to
Armour Class and allows a high Dexterity bonus.

Their build has you 9th level before you are a paladin. The best compromise armor is not chain shirt.

Chain Shirt: +4 AC, +4 Maximum Dex Bonus, -2 Armor Check, weight 25 lbs. 100 gp. Light Armor
Mithril Breast Plate +5 AC, +4 Maximum Dex Bonus, -1 armor check penalty, weight 15 lbs, 4200 gp. Light Armor.
You have 35,000 gp worth of gear at this point in your career.
As an aside I'd also pitch in the 10,020 gp for an animated mithril heavy shield +1 (for a total additional +3 AC bonus. No additional Armor Check Penalty. (By the way, pure rogues can use this enchantment combo for a shield even though they aren't proficient with it. No Armor Check Penalty = ignore non-proficiency for shields.)

Today I realized that I love process texts.
That's why I like Elizabeth Bear's blog, the D&D design and development blogs, the Penny Arcade Podcasts, and dm blogs Today's PA podcast is incredibly cool.