11:17 PM

(4) Comments

I just can't put my finger on it...

Mister Nizz


Noticed in the Village Voice

Copyright, 2007, Village Voice and Lee Bailey.. This is my vote for oogy story of the week.

Getting Off . . .
by chopping off your fingers and toes. For tips: ask David.

by Lee Bailey, Village Voice
April 24th, 2007 1:27 PM

Crossing St. Marks Place, David seems like a fairly ordinary veteran of the East Village, with several visible tattoos and a backpack slung across his shoulders. In conversation, he is gentle, thoughtful, and clearly well-read; many of his sentences start with, "There was an article in the Atlantic . . . " He enjoys modern classical music, and has a particular liking for the works of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. He also has a fondness for disposing of his fingers and toes, most of which he has removed himself, unaided by doctors or friends. A closer look at his hands reveals stumps of varying length where his fingers belong, with only his thumbs and right index finger left intact. Most of his toes, except for the two big ones he needs to walk, are cut down to stubby knobs. And his perfect pearly whites aren't God-given—he wears dentures, having yanked out his real teeth with pliers several years ago.
David's predilection for amputation is an occurrence of a well-documented condition to which the medical and psychiatric establishment has applied several labels, including apotemnophilia, amelo- tasis, and body integrity identity disorder. However, David and many like him don't feel they suffer from a disorder at all.

Over a bowl of lamb soup, David calmly recounts the first time he chopped off a toe. After icing his foot, he placed it in the bathtub. He positioned a chisel over a joint in his toe with one hand, and used the other to strike the chisel with a hammer. "It was so painless that I went ahead and took off more of the toe, at the next joint closer to my foot," he recalls fondly. "It bled more than I thought it would, though." He says he dealt with the ensuing shock by returning to bed and "sleeping it off." It took almost two months for the self-inflicted wound to heal.

For a long time he saved the severed body parts in his freezer, where they slowly shriveled, until a girlfriend made him throw them out.

Most of David's amputations healed by a process called granulation, the body's natural, unaided response to injury. Lately, though, he has started suturing the wounds, which can cut the healing time from eight weeks to two, but requires the assistance of someone with some surgical training. He is reluctant to identify his helpers, but implies that piercing artists have sewn him up in the past.

Most people who voluntarily remove body parts have longed for the separation since childhood. David, who asked that only his first name be used in this article, is not one of them. He says the desire was born in the 1990s after he read a couple of articles about the phenomenon in men's magazines like Penthouse and Nugget.

David first removed a toe in 2000, five years after he separated from his wife of 25 years. He says that their relationship started to fall apart when he first took an interest in body modification, which started with tattoos and piercings. (The two share a daughter who believes that David's missing digits are the outcome of peripheral artery disease, a fiction that he promulgated so as not to disturb her.)

David performed his first few amputations without anesthetic, but has since relied on lidocaine to help numb the target areas.

Though he admits that he finds amputation sexually arousing, his overall rationale for parting ways with his fingers and toes is artistic. A longtime painter, he conveys the joy he feels on sunny days when he looks at the shadow cast on the sidewalk by his hand and admires it for its incompleteness. "This is an aesthetic pursuit," he says. "I see myself as a sculptor." He equates his incomplete physique to that of an excavated, limbless Roman statue, an image he finds beautiful.

Now that David has severed most of his fingers and toes, he is looking to the future. He has been told that there are doctors in the Philippines and in India who will sever healthy limbs for about $10,000, and says he might be interested in removing his legs and maybe even a hand.

David acknowledges that most consider his habit bizarre. "When people ask me about my fingers, I never tell them it's voluntary," he says. "They would be horrified. I mean, little children stare at me already. Big deal."

Though he acknowledges that most people are repulsed by his practices, David is hopeful that he might still find a companion. "Tomorrow I'm meeting a woman I found on Craigslist," he says. "We haven't actually met in person yet. Who knows? Maybe she'll put up with my nonconformity."

2:34 PM

(2) Comments

new Osprey Publishing Title

Now that's an obscure topic!

One of my hobbies is to paint silly little mettalic figures, amass large quantities of same, and create games that simulate historial and not-so-historical conflicts using these figures. The Osprey Publishing Group is an invaluable resource for this hobby, with literally almost one book written for almost any obscure conflict imaginable, and several written for more popular periods, such as World War Two. As there are a lot of history buffs reading this blog, many of you are likely already aware of Osprey's existence.

I had thought virtually every aspect, theater, or uniform of World War II had been covered by now. The follow pictograph is lesson in not relying on faulty assumptions.

Yes, a "History of SS brassieres" was just released by Osprey Publishing. For all of you who have been impatiently yammering for just the *right* hue for an army issue bra for your female SS and Wehrmacht troopers.

1:18 PM

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A future that never was...

Mister Nizz

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Paleo-Future Website

Check out "Paleo-Future", a great website that documents images of the future that once were part of popular culture, but have faded away into the past.


Well worth a visit, especially for the more retro steampunk, Victorian and art deco art pieces contained therein.

1:04 PM

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Mister Nizz

Wait a second, it's bring me the Funny Friday!

From my ever expanding file of "So a guy walks into a bar, see..." jokes.

1. A guy walks into a bar, see, with his dog and says, "I'll have a Scotch and water and my dog would like a whiskey sour."

The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't allow animals in here."

The dog replies, "Hey, I'm tired of being discriminated against. Just give me a drink."

The bartender says, "Oh, no, not another ventriloquist with the old talking dog trick. Both of you, get out of here!"

"No, no, no, this isn't a trick, I promise you," says the man, "I tell you what, I'll go for a walk around the block and you talk to Rover here."

The man leaves and the bartender sees him turn the corner."Now, can I have my drink." says the dog. The bartender is amazed. "Sure you can and it's on the house! Listen, can you do me a favour? My wife works next door at the cafe. It'll make her day if you go in and order a cup of coffee. Here's ten bucks and you can keep the change afterwards."

"Okay." says the dog and he takes the ten dollars and leaves. Ten minutes go by and the dog doesn't come back. The owner returns and asks where is the dog. So both of them go off to see what happened to the dog. As they approach the cafe, they see Rover going at it hot and heavy with a French poodle in the alley between the bar and cafe.

The owner shouts, "Rover! What are you doing! You've never done this before!"

The dog shrugged.
"Hell, I've never had any money before."

2. Three guys are drinking in a bar, see, when a drunk comes in, staggers up to them, and points to the guy in the middle, shouting, "Your Mom's the best lay in town!"

Everyone expects a fight but the guy ignores him and the drunk wanders up to the end of the bar. Ten minutes later, the drunk comes back, points to the same guy, and says, "I just screwed your mom and it was really sw-e-et!"

Again the guy refuses to take the bait, and the drunk wanders off.Ten minutes later, he comes back and announces, "Your mom even let me...."

Finally the guy interrupts, "Go home, Dad, you're drunk again!"

3. A guy walks into a bar, see, with his pet monkey. He orders a drink and while he's drinking, the monkey starts jumping all over the place.

The monkey grabs some olives off the bar and eats them, then grabs some sliced limes and eats them, then jumps up on the pool table, grabs the cue ball, sticks it in his mouth and swallows it whole.

The bartender screams at the guy, "Did you see what your monkey just did?" The guy says, "No, what?" "He just ate the cue ball off my pool table - whole!" says the bartender. "Yeah, that doesn't surprise me," replies the patron. "He eats everything in sight, the little twerp. I'll pay for the cue ball and stuff." He finishes his drink, pays his bill, and leaves.

Two weeks later he's in the bar again, and he has his monkey with him. He orders a drink and the monkey starts running around the bar again. While the man is drinking, the monkey finds a maraschino cherry on the bar. He grabs it, sticks it up his butt, pulls it out, and eats it. The bartender is disgusted. "Did you see what your monkey did now?" "Now what?" asks the patron. "Well, he stuck a maraschino cherry up his butt, then pulled it out and ate it!" says the barkeeper. "Yeah, that doesn't surprise me," replies the patron.
"He still eats everything in sight, but ever since he ate that damn cue ball he measures everything first!"

10:46 AM

(3) Comments

Sort of CARE package on the way

Mister Nizz


Windfall o' Boxed Games!

My editor at GAMES, John, has to clean out his closet, and 86 stuff that he actually had to pay money for, either because a publisher refused to provide a comp copy or he had to have a pristine copy of a game for photography purposes. When they start piling up, John's wife squawks. So he approaches others to see if he can unload a few things at a decent price. (No patience for Ebay, I suppose)

This year, most of it was a shot in the dark.. some of these I recognized and definitely wanted, others, well, it was a throw of the darts.

My CARE package (well, not really, I am buying them) are arriving now.

Here's what I got:

Ingenious Fantasy Flight

Combo King Gamewright

Luck of the draw Gamewright

Barbarossa Mayfair

Alhambra The Vizier’s Favor Rio Grande Games

Euphrates & Tigris Contest of Kings Rio Grande Games

Fearsome Floors Rio Grande Games

The Gardens of Alhambra Rio Grande Games

Heroscape Milton Bradley

I've always wanted FEARSOME FLOORS, and The HEROSCAPE stuff alone is worth thirty, and I spend sixty bucks for the bundle. I don't feel ill used.....

10:21 AM

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A few critical Details I forgot to mention..

Sept. 8-9, 2007

University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

Doors open 9, close.... eh, after 8 for sure.

Website is here:

Admission prices to be posted over the Summer.

Game Event Registration at any time.

If you have an event, tournament, or game series you would like to run in a small convention with a friendly atmosphere, TriaDCon is the con for you! Please contact us!

Walt O'Hara or Mike Hillsgrove

Board Games:
Kaarin Englemann

If you would like to work staff, stay tuned, we will have the signup list up shortly.

3:13 PM

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hey Look!

Nice media coverage for a change!

Check out this article in the News Tribune! It's actually not condenscendng, patronzing or paranoid about the notion of grown men playing with toys! Will the wonders ever cease?

Photograph copyright Janet Jenson and the News Tribune

2:06 PM

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Storytelling, games and the Escapist... again

Mister Nizz

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Once Again..

The exceptionally talented staff of the ESCAPIST magazine weigh in with a subject dear to my heart, storytelling. Granted we are discussing a medium only tangentially interested to your humble narrator, that of game console games and MMORPGs, yet I do spend an inordinate amount of time in Second Life, after all, and if there ever was an example of meta-reality fiction, that's it.

Warren Spector, an extremely prolific and prolix designer that has worked for everyone from Steve Jackson Games to TSR to Dark Point Studios, weighs in with a nicely crafted start of a four part series about the promise of new technology in display, processing power and AI for the art and craft of storytelling.

Are we concentrating too much on the hardware and whizz bang at the cost of a solid AI? How can this assist in telling the game story?

Warren's article is not a trailblazer, we have seen discussion about these elements before, but
it is rather well structured and it offers up some ideas.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with Doug Church, secret master of gaming, where he said something like this: A story is constructed of sentences, strung together in a coherent, dramatically significant order. Game "sentences" are the actions available to and selected by a player. The more sentences we allow players to construct (in other words, the deeper the pool of options we offer), the cooler and more numerous the story possibilities will be. To that extent, a robust world and character simulation - both made possible by next-gen hardware - will allow us to tell a better story. But there's a hitch: all the graphics power of the new platforms

We've made - and, thanks to the new hardware, will continue to make - great strides in the fidelity with which we can portray a world. Our characters will look even better. Our worlds will look and feel much more convincing than they ever have. And audiences will come to expect a certain level of believability in the worlds they explore. They will expect the world to look and behave the way the real world does. ("It looks real; it'll act real.")

All of that means AI - cornerstone of creating great characters and, therefore critical to great story games - becomes even more challenging. And here I'm just talking about the fundamentals of navigation and base level interaction. We've made great strides in AI over the last few years, but you'd hardly know it - the advances have come in the service of "just keeping up" with graphical and simulation enhancement.

-- THE ESCAPIST, issue 94, "Next Generation Storytelling", by Warren Spector.

I look forward to reading more in the series. Console gaming is not my cup of tea, by any means; but it is a surprisingly adept distant cousin to that ancient art of telling stories, and traces its roots to that circle of hunters, crouched around a fire at night, fearful of the wolves-- and telling each other stories to pass the time.

1:30 PM

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Big Doings with TriaDCon

Mister Nizz


A Merry Band of Discontents are we..

Last Saturday was the first meeting of the planning committee (aka "DC Con Cabal") for TriaDCon 2007.

Your beknighted group of rogues are above:

Top Row: Mike Hillsgrove (Clubs), Otto Schimdt (Publications Coordinator), Andrew Turlington (Convention Director), Your Humble Narrator (Miniatures), Rich Low (Operations, Merchandise), and Jim McWee (HMGS Liasion)

Bottom Row: Wyatt Bogan (Facility and "Meet the Designers"), and Kevin Wood (Additional Design Work)

Our agenda was sparse, but functional. We got started a little after 12 and were essentially done by 3PM. Major discussion points were table sources, marketing, outreach, cost control, "Convention Corporate Culture", game programs, and critical successes and failures from TriaDCon 2006. With Otto running the agenda (I was more than happy to ask him to help with this... planning and organization is a strong point with Mr. S), we moved along nicely.

We came to agreements about a great many infrastructure items, and assigned action items for the crowd. I was very pleased to have Kevin Wood on board, who was shocked when he discovered who, exactly, Mister Nizz is. I got a laugh out of that.

In general, it was a very pleasant and convivial meeting. We may not exactly have the size and deep pockets of other organizations, but at least we get along with each other nicely and working very well as a team. We got things done and have a pretty decent plan in shape. I will be posting on developments as they occur and promise to keep the casual reader informed of our progress.

1:18 PM

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Steampunk Glasses!

Mister Nizz



Mechanical spectacles by ~Y4G3R on deviantART

Noticed at deviantArt and Engadget..

3:06 PM

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Bring me the funny! *a day early* part Two

Mister Nizz

Will Farrell hassles with the Landlord

9:49 AM

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Bring me the funny Friday, a day early

Mister Nizz


Those Spartans, what madcaps! Who knew?

9:38 AM

(0) Comments

VPI Memorial in Second Life

Mister Nizz

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The Human Touch

I was very pleased to see that someone within Second Life remembers the human touch. Almost immediately after the tragedy at VPI the other day, some stalwart in Second life has put together a memorial to the fallen. I was quite impressed.

SL URL (slurl) - http://slurl.com/secondlife/Lion Sands/180/222/21
SL URL (global) - secondlife://Lion Sands/180/222/21

2:43 PM

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Bishops Statement Challenging Virginia Death Penalty

High time

I have opposed capital punishment my entire life. I don't believe we, as a society, have the ethical authority judge a human being for his life, no matter how awful that individual is. I don't believe society is bettered by executions. As a Catholic, I have often been confused by the church's stance on capital punishment. Didn't Jesus condone the practice, since He allowed His own slaughter? Yet.. if you are pro-life, you walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Thus, I am very glad that the two Bishops of Virginia recently released a public statement about this very issue:

The full text of the bishops’ statement appears below.

Life and Death in our Commonwealth

By Bishops Francis X. DiLorenzo and Paul S. Loverde

As the leaders of Virginia’s two Catholic dioceses, we recently opposed five bills in the General Assembly aimed at widening the list of crimes for which death sentences could be rendered. Although the bills passed with very little debate about their moral implications, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s decision to veto them gives our Commonwealth a much-needed second chance to reflect on a system of punishment that has spiraled wildly out of control.

Celebration of our Commonwealth’s 400th anniversary and storied contributions to the life of our nation must come with the recognition that since Jamestown, our history has been marred by nearly 1,300 executions, more than any other state; that since 1976, we have executed more individuals (98) – nearly one in ten of the just over 1,000 total nationwide – than any state except Texas; that between 1908 and 1962, Virginia’s electric chair ended the lives of 236 people, 201 of whom were African-American males; and that in more recent decades, the disabled are among those who have been executed.

Even as states across our nation exhibit growing unease, restraint and moratoria on use of capital punishment (ten of the thirty-eight states in which it is lawful have suspended it), Virginians and their elected officials continue to apply the accelerator to a system of punishment that kills to teach that killing is wrong.

Our Commonwealth’s legacy, approach, and trajectory in the matter of capital punishment should give Virginians pause. That it has given Gov. Kaine sufficient cause to exercise his veto power is commendable; may citizens of our Commonwealth, and especially our legislators, join him in a deeper reexamination of our state’s use of this ultimate and irreversible sentence.

Our perspective on this matter is enhanced by our personal experiences. Together with faithful prison ministry volunteers at many of our Commonwealth’s 180 corrections facilities, we visit and pray with the incarcerated; so too, we have met the victims’ families and witnessed first-hand their deep-seated grief and anger at the loss of loved ones. We pray with victims for a healing that no further loss of life can bring, even as we pray that justice be served to those who commit crimes.

A just punishment must be consistent with both the demands of justice and with respect for human life and dignity. Although often difficult or painful to acknowledge, respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of the most terrible acts imaginable. Later this week, on Good Friday, we will call to mind the mercy shown by Jesus Christ in his words to the thief on the cross: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Each of us is called to likewise respect the life and dignity of every human being. Even when the criminal, the thief, denies the dignity of others, we must still recognize that his dignity is, quite literally, a given: a gift from God neither earned nor lost through behavior.

Our consciences, therefore, call us to defend human life and dignity from conception to natural death with maximum determination. In fact, whenever an execution is scheduled in Virginia, we have called for a commutation of the death sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Because bloodless means of punishment are more in keeping with the offender’s human dignity, society must, we believe, limit itself to those means whenever possible. Our Catholic tradition teaches that the death penalty should only be used when, in the words of Pope John Paul II, “it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.” In similar words, we recently joined with our fellow U.S. bishops in A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death: “No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.”

Applying these principles to the Commonwealth of today, we are convinced that our government, equipped with an effective system of incarceration and the availability of a life-without-parole sentence, has no business imposing or carrying out death sentences. We therefore call on Virginia’s General Assembly members to sustain the Governor’s vetoes.

Even those who do not share our firm conviction – that the death penalty cannot be justified when non-lethal means are sufficient to protect society – should be able to agree on this much: Given Virginia’s unusually frequent recourse to the death penalty, the last thing needed is to look for even more ways to apply it.

Citizens of our Commonwealth stand at a crossroads: The vital choice before us – raised by the General Assembly’s approval of death-penalty expansions and Governor Kaine’s subsequent rejection of them – is whether Virginia’s death penalty should be curbed or expanded. As we weigh the decision at hand, may we be mindful of how the price of capital punishment extends – far beyond those executed – to the very society which condones the taking of life.

It's not a clarion call for social change.. yet. Yet is is a step in the right direction. I applaud the moral courage displayed by both of our Bishops at this time.

2:23 PM

(1) Comments

this Just In

Mister Nizz


The Onion

Corey Flintoff Unleashes Sonorous, Pleasantly Modulated String Of Obscenities

WASHINGTON, DC-Upon injuring a toe Sunday, Corey Flintoff, newscaster for NPR's All Things Considered, unleashed a string of rich, pleasantly modulated obscenities.

10:31 AM

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The VPI Shootings

Mister Nizz

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Sick at heart

I'm a Virginian. I love this state. I moved here a while back and never wanted to be anywhere else after. I like saying I'm from here. I've always considered Virginia to be the "Aristocrat" of the Mid-Atlantic... with all the history, and all the Presidents that were born here and all the Civil War and Revolutionary panache my home has.. I love her Shenandoah Valley, boasting some of the best views on the Eastern Seaboard, and the long, long journey to the shores of the sea. Yes, I love my home. And now my home will stand for being "the home of the worst massacre in the country's history". You have to know what happened by now. It doesn't bear repeating. There are many media outlets covering the story. Here's one. Many of you know me as a pretty light-hearted, free-spirited fellow. It is damned hard to be that today. And yet, we must honor the dead and succor the living, so we go on.

My heart goes out to the victims and families of this horrible insanity. I will pray for you.

11:05 AM

(0) Comments

More Street Magick

Mister Nizz

It's not quite the old Fork in the Eye trick, as popularized by my own daughter, but it'll do!

10:59 AM

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A Protest has been Lodged at the last round of the last BPD game

Mister Nizz

Late Development

Rich Low writes me:

According to 'The Ecclesiastical History of Salaminius Hermias Sozomenus' (d.c.450)

"When Constantine (III) heard of the death of Ediovinchus he cast aside his purple robe and imperial ornaments, and repaired to the church, where he caused himself to be ordained as presbyter. Those within the walls, having first received oaths, opened the gates, and their lives were spared. From that period the whole province returned to its allegiance to Honorius, and has since been obedient to the rulers of his appointment. Constantine, with his son Julian, was sent into Italy, but he was waylaid and killed... Not long afterwards ... Maximus ... and many others who had conspired against Honorius, were unexpectedly slain... After Constantius, who was a brave and able general, had destroyed the tyrant Constantine, the emperor rewarded him by giving him his sister in marriage; he also bestowed upon him the ermine and purple, and admitted him to a share in the government."
Salminius Hermias Sozomen (ca. 400-ca. 450) was a historian of the Christian church. Variations on his name include Sozomen, Salamanes or Salaminius Hermias Sozomenus. Since Constatine III was killed (vs executed)in 411, his makes his work a lot more contemporary than WIKIPEDIA
I shall review the primary source and make a decision-- the issue, was Constantine III murdered, or executed? I suppose it depends on legal niceities..

1:33 PM

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George Washington's Farewell Address for a new millenium


I don't like quoting something I find on another guy's blog verbatim, but this post was so well done it really needs repeating-- and since it is published under a creative commons license I don't feel no shame...

XKCD is a web comic that features stick figures interacting with each other, normally. It's pretty funny stuff, dwelling on science, politics, society, and other whimsical comic fodder. Here's an example.

The author, Randall Monroe, was in a whimsical mood recently and looked up George Washington's published farewell address and started reading it. Then he decided to translate it into modern idiomatic phrasing. The result is powerful, clean, and almost spooky in a modern framework. Props to Mr. Monroe, this is a hell of an effort.

A Bastardization of George Washington’s Farewell Address


Elections are coming up, and it’s time to figure out who we wanna give the keys to. I figure it might clear things up if I take a sec to explain why I’m not running.

Now, I care about the future, don’t get me wrong, and thanks for your trust so far. I just think me quitting is a good idea on all counts.

I’ve been president twice now, and I didn’t want to do it either time. I tried to quit the first time, but the country was in trouble and every single person around me begged me to stay on.

I’m glad to say we’re pretty much in the clear now and I can get out of here without getting screamed at or letting things fall apart completely.

I told you when I started what I thought of the job. All I’m gonna say is that I did my best to set up the government right, but the more I do this the more I realize how dumb I am, and so maybe it’s okay if I let someone else take over.

Before I go I’ve gotta thank y’all, for the awards and honors and stuff but more importantly for your supporting my projects to try to make everything right, even if they didn’t always turn out quite as well as I hoped. Remember, it’s hard to tell how things will turn out when people get all fired up, so thanks for sticking by me even when everything was going to hell. Y’all get the credit for anything good that came out of it, and by God you’d better keep taking good care of the Constitution and the lives of the folks who live here. As long as you do, we’ll be a pretty kickass country and the other guys will start noticing us.

I should shut up, but I care about you guys, so there’s some more stuff to cover. I’ve been doing some thinking and I’ve got a few things to say. You know I ain’t biased ’cause all I want is to leave, so you might wanna listen up.

Now, you all love freedom enough that no one thing here is too important.

You’re all happy that the government’s so together and unified on everything (and you should be — it’s why everything’s so good), but it ain’t always gonna be this way. All sorts of folks from both here and elsewhere are gonna try to divide it, make you lose faith in it, so please don’t sell this whole America thing short. Make it your top priority and don’t ever get in a mindset where you can let ANYTHING divide you.

You’ve gotta be Americans before all else. You’re for the most part the same religion and culture, and you’ve got the same goals, and you’ve only got what you do because you all worked together.

But even though this sounds good, when it comes to crunch time it’s easy to forget that in favor of stuff that seems more immediately important than sticking together.

The North and the South, as equals, help each other. The South gets machines and junk from the North, the North gets crops from the South. Also, the South’s got some nice boats which go out and fetch stuff we need from time to time. You’ve got a similar situation with the East and the West. The East supplies the West with what it needs, and the West gets a market for its crap as well as — once we get a navy in gear — protection on the Atlantic side. There’s really no way they could safely do what they’re doing without the folks to the East.

So, we all need each other and we’re all stronger when we’re together. Being a family also means we can get along a little better, unlike certain countries I might name who aren’t so well unified. This makes us stronger and protects our freedom, and if you wanna keep protecting it you’d better get along.

It should be obvious here that we should all try to keep ourselves together. Sure, it’s a big country, and we’re not sure if we can keep it all together, but what the hell? Let’s give it a shot and find out. It’d be stupid to call it off because we’re not sure if it’ll work. Since it’s obvious how much we have to gain from keeping ourselves together, we can safely say that anyone who tries to divide us, anywhere, hates America.

Let’s think about where those splits might come from. The big one is geography. North and South, Atlantic and West, people are gonna try to emphasize the differences. They’re gonna lie about what the other side wants, and they’ll try to make you hate each other when you should all be brothers. You saw just a bit ago how some folks were trying to stir up suspicion out West that we were trying to pull one over on them with the whole Mississippi thing, but you saw how thanks to Congress dealing with Spain and England they got everything they wanted in the end. So maybe they won’t be so quick to talk about jumping ship next time.

Government’s important, and it’s not always easy to stay together. You’ve figured this out, and that’s why you ditched the last idea and came up with this Constitution. We went over it all carefully, big and small, and it’s definitely something we can trust (we can even amend it if necessary!). Give it some credit, and if you disagree, change it — don’t just disobey. Otherwise it just screws things up.

Getting in the way of the law for the sake of power plays similarly screws things up. Playing that game creates groups just looking out for themselves, turning crazy splinter groups into a powerful force. Let this get too bad and you’ll probably have the country tossed back and forth wildly as the various parties with their pet issues fight for power, rather than nice, consensual, unified government.

Parties are probably gonna look like they’re helping with one popular issue or another, so you’re gonna want support them, but I bet the guys in charge of them will just turn out to be power-hungry assholes who want to run everything.

To keep things going nicely, quit fighting with the government and be careful with letting folk amend the Constitution to weaken it. Just, in general, give it all time and see how it works out before being quick to judge. It’s a big country and we can’t keep everyone safe without a little centralization.

I just said that parties are no good, particularly regional ones. But lemme go a step further and say ALL parties are a bad idea.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty much human nature to gather into little factions like this. It’s worst in the freeest countries, and they suffer because of it.

Control goes back and forth between one party and another, and they just get more and more pissed, and we’ve seen that get really bad in the past. But it also leads to terrible, controlling government and general suckage. This gets the people more angry, they get behind one party leader or another, and that guy just takes that support and does whatever he wants, screwing up the country.

I’m not talking about anyone in particular here, but this isn’t necessarially too far off, and it’s always gonna be a threat, so keep an eye out.

This division distracts us, enfeebles the government, it gets everyone riled up with jealousy and false alarms, it pits us against each other, and eventually creates riots and stuff. It also opens the door to other countries getting a hand in our system, since they can reach in through the party structure, and then we just become their puppets.

Now, there’s the idea that the parties are important to defend freedom and put the government in its place. That might even be true sometimes; when you’ve got a real Nazi in charge, you can afford to rally behind a party, but you shouldn’t like it, and you should dump it ASAP. And there’s always gonna be a feeling of opposition to whatever the government is, so be sure you know what you’re doing before getting all partisan, and be very careful to know when to drop it so you don’t just make the problem worse.

Also, make very sure that you keep all your politicians in their place. There’s this tendency to let all the power shift into one office, which inevitably creates tyranny (just look at human nature and how much we love power). If you just divide up the power, and get everyone to watch everyone else, we’ve seen both in the past and right here at home that things will work out pretty well. And if you think the powers aren’t laid out right, just go ahead and amend the Constitution. But be careful, because that’s an easy way to destroy everything. Make sure you’re not switching to something that, no matter how good it is for now, sucks in the long term.

Now, religion and morality are vital here, and it’s silly to say that patriotism could ever be more important than those. Politicians need to be pious and respectful folk; it would take forever to list all the ways that being a good politician is tied to being moral and religious. All you need to do is ask — without religion, how can we trust anyone who swears an oath? And be awfully careful before suggesting that we can be moral without religion. There’s a lot of philosophical junk out there, but the bottom line is we can’t possibly suggest that we can keep our morals as a country without religion.

So, virtue is the root of Government. So anyone who screws with the basis of the government is obviously a bad guy.

Make education of everyone a high priority, because the government will only be as smart as the average people are.

Public credit’s important too. Don’t run up debts during peacetime so you can afford to draw on them when there’s a problem — and then pay them back ASAP. This is the job of the politicians, but the people need to keep them in line. And remember, to pay debts you need cash, and you have to get the cash from somewhere, and there’s no way to do that which people will like. It’s a tough issue with no easy answer, so try to have a good attitude and pay up when necessary.

Try to stay at peace with everyone. Religion and basic decency both say to do this, so it should be a no-brainer. It might even turn out that God arranged it so if we’re nice to everyone, we’re better off in the end. Wouldn’t that be sweet? It sucks, though, that we tend to be jerks sometimes.

It’ll help a lot if you can avoid permanent rivalries and permanent alliances. Just try to get along with everyone when you can. Otherwise, you’re a slave to your policy, which may take you somewhere bad when the situation changes. Constantly being enemies with a particular country makes you stupid and reactive, and can even lead you to war when you really don’t need to. The government gets all involved in this, and one way or another it turns out badly. Permanent alliances are bad too, because they makes you give stuff up when you shouldn’t, cause jealousy, and divide loyalties of your own citizens, often with pretty bad results.

The idea of this kind of alliance should scare any real American because it lets foreign countries meddle with us. And remember, if a weak little nation (us) gets too attached to a big strong nation (anyone else) you know we’ll be stuck in that arrangement forever.

Now, foreign meddling is one of the worst threats around, and you should be constantly paranoid about it. But be careful to be fair and sensible about it, otherwise you’ll get so focused on one country or another that you slip into alliances with other countries. And then, like I said, you turn into tools.

The most important thing about commercial trade is to avoid getting politically tangled. We’ve obviously gotta keep the promises we’ve made, but in the future let’s try not to make new ones.

Europe has a whole lot of issues that don’t mean a thing to us. So they’re gonna be fighting, and we need to make sure not to get involved with the folks on either side. We might make some nasty enemies we don’t need to.

Since we’re out here across the Atlantic, we get to do our own thing. And if we just keep it together for a little while, we might be strong enough to stand up for ourselves. And if we’re tough enough, other countries won’t want to start anything, so the choice of whether to go to war or keep the peace will be up to us.

And why give up this great situation? Why give up our country just so we can live in someone else’s? Seriously — why get involved in Europe’s squabbles?

So, we’ve gotta avoid permanent alliances. We can’t break the promises we’ve already made — the government has to be honest just like anyone — but we don’t need to make more and we don’t need to actively make the current ones longer.

(Now, as long as we’re fighting a defensive war, alliances are okay in emergencies.)

In the same way that we should be politically friendly and stay on good and fair terms with everyone, we should be fair and open financially too. Just let everything go as it will without being biased. Let natural trade routes open up, and don’t try to mess around with the whole thing one way or another. Just keep and enforce the laws on trade and traders, and keep them flexible enough to change as the situation changes — always keeping an eye out for those foreign meddling. Never get used to paying one country or another, and never get used to expecting them to pay you.

I like you all. We’re friends. I’m not gonna hope that you’ll actually remember all this for long, but I can hope that every now and then people will look back on what I said and use it to calm down a crazy political party, remind us not to get tied up with other countries, or to try to expose phoney patriots. That’s the only payment I need — the hope that in return for my looking after you, you’ll look after yourselves.

You can look at my record. In my years in charge I’ve done my best to follow all the ideas laid out in this message.

Oh, and about the war still going on in Europe right now — check out what I said on 4/22/1793. It’s the outline of my principles on the subject, which I have followed as closely as I possibly could.

I gave it a lot of thought, decided that we could stay neutral, and then took reasonable steps to make sure that’s what happened.

You know, if you just look at basic common decency it should be pretty obvious what a good idea neutrality is.

As to the reasons it’s a good idea, you can probably come up with plenty on your own. For me, the main thing has been that we’re a pretty new country, just trying to get settled, and we don’t wanna interrupt that with war right away.

Now, I can’t think of anything I knowingly screwed up over the last eight years. But I’m sure I’ve made mistakes, and I pray that God helps to repair any harm they caused. And I hope that you’re understanding about them. I’ve spent 45 years working really hard for this country, and I hope that you won’t be too hard on my incompetences once I’m gone.

Speaking of being gone, I am really looking forward to this retirement. And I’m especially looking forward to retiring to live in a peaceful, free country of good laws under a good government — a government which is a good reward for our shared hardship, work, and love

12:03 PM

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Notice, when you feel happy

Mister Nizz

Kurt Vonnegut, farewell

"I've given up on (writing another fiction work) ... It won't happen. ... The Army kept me on because I could type, so I was typing other people's discharges and stuff. And my feeling was, 'Please, I've done everything I was supposed to do. Can I go home now?' That's what I feel right now. I've written books. Lots of them. Please, I've done everything I'm supposed to do. Can I go home now?" -- Kurt Vonnegut, 2006.

Kurt Vonnegut passed away last night, from complications arising from a nasty fall that gave him irreversible brain damage. If you want particulars,
see HERE. To say that I'm saddened just doesn't cut it. However, I sense that Vonnegut may have seen the end of the course and didn't want to fight it any more. Goodbye, Kurt. I will miss you. I loved your stories and essays over the years. I appreciated your views on politics, humanism, and current events. You can go home now.

For those of us left here, read the stories,

10:14 AM

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Diplomacy "Boxer" game forming

Mister Nizz

, ,

Interested in playing DIPLOMACY?

I have some parties that would like me to run a game of Diplomacy, on this blog, as I have done in the past. I will be using the RealPolitik game adjudication software, and running a variant.

I was thinking of running the Speed Treaty Ports variant, just for a refreshing change of pace. This is the basic Diplomacy game, set in the Far East, around the time of the Boxer Rebellion or perhaps just after. Thus, the game will be called "Boxer". If you are familiar with
Colonial Diplomacy, the setting is very similar, only the countries are different.

The default rule engine will be the year 2000 rule book by Avalon Hill. It can be found here:

See the variant home page here:

Documentation for the variant here (essentially, a version of ColDip set in a slightly later period):

The map (generated by RealPolitik):
Players apply for a position by email or comment. We will select spots from approved applicants randomly. Certain players from, er.. last time we ran a game will welcome, and some will not. Please contact me with your interest. You will need to make some level of commitment (regular turn deadlies) to see this game through, so please, think before you apply.

3:11 PM

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Storytelling, games, and Escapist

Mister Nizz

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Oh, Horrors! Say it's not so!

I am a great fan of ESCAPIST MAGAZINE, a free online magazine contributed to by (mostly) electronic gaming developers and journalists, but occassionally an old-school type, some of which are acquaintences of mine. In the latest issue, Vincent Kang writes a perceptive article with the somewhat heretical title: I'D RATHER GAME THAN READ A BOOK I found the article to be of interest to video game addicts and parents of same. Like some of you, computers and internet and games take up far too much of my free time, and I begin to despair of finding time to pursue some of my lifelong passions, notably reading books. Mr. Kang addresses the tradeoff between massive multiplayer online games (such as Second Life, and Warcraft, and what have you) in a trenchant and readable fashion. His semi-heretical point is that online gaming fosters narrative thinking in a fashion not unlike reading epic ficiton:

Literature is equipment for living. The cultural critic Kenneth Burke wrote those words in his 1974 book, The Philosophy of Literary Form. In a utilitarian sense, the stories we tell each other in books, movies and videogames help shape our consciousnesses in a way a straight recitation of facts cannot. Little Red Riding Hood teaches us to not trust strangers in a way that simply saying "don't trust strangers" cannot.

Narratives are the key. The format, be it film or books or videogames, acts as a wrapper by which the substance, the story, is delivered. They help shape the story by setting the boundaries of the playing field in which the story plays itself out
In a sense, isn't a MMORPG an ongoing narrative that we interact with every second that we are logged in? I find it rather easy to take a humorous incident of from an online incident and spin an anecdote out of it. I note, from the journaling efforts of other online gamers, that most of them that bother to do so can spin a tale out of relatively few narrative threads. In that sense, isn't gaming (and online gaming in particular) beneficial towards a story telling creativity? I can't hazard a guess as to whether it would replace fiction for me personally (it certainly hasn't, I'm reading four books at once, currently), but it has an epic look and feel that appeals to the same sense of creativity within my soul.

If you have an interest in the narrative process and creativity, I suggest you look into this article (linked above) as well as the non-fiction essay collection
SECOND PERSON, by MIT Press. Second Person is a book all about telling narrative storys through the medium of gamesmanship. It features some interesting contributors. A very costly read (alas, MIT Press books ain't cheap), but well worth it if you are a devotee of the genre.

1:46 PM

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BPD 3 Clio Turn 10 and GAME ENDS!

Mister Nizz

Well Done, Mike Reed!

Despite great showings by newcomers Turlington and Bellambi, the old Guard surged ahead and got quite competitive in late game. Congratulations to the 'usual suspects', Mike Reed and Karen Spurny.

First place is highlighted in blue, second place in pink, and third place in light green.

My personal favorite round was the Successors round; I would be interested in what you think. If you have a suggestion for a theme for the next game we run please get in touch with me either via comment or via email.

Thank you for playing, everyone!!

10:13 AM

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GWAS: Zeppelins due in May from Avalanche Press

Take the air!

... on cardboard..

Avalanche Press will expand their existing Great War at Sea (GWAS) series to include a game solely on Zeppelins! That is just ducky with your airship enthusiast correspondent. GWAS has its enthusiasts and detractors; I tend to be a cautious enthusiast about the series. Still, an entire game about airship combat, that's a rarity, and something I will seek out. Given the quality of the artwork usually devoted to the GWAS series, I am sure it will be a visual treat.

Avalanche blurb follows:

For a brief period, Ferdinand Graf Zeppelin's giant gas-filled airships ruled the world’s skies. Though conceived as passenger craft, during the First World War rigid and semi-rigid airships performed long-range scouting and bombing missions.

Like Dreadnoughts and East of Suez, Zeppelins includes die-cut-and-mounted playing pieces, but these are special, oversized ones: 2/3-inch by 1-and-1/3-inch large pieces depicting famous airships of Germany, Great Britain, the United States, Italy, Austria-Hungary and France. These are used with the new tactical and operational rules provided; unlike the standard game rules that treat all airships the same, with the Zeppelins module, each airship class has its own range and endurance qualities.

Every airship that played an important role in the First World War is present, both German Navy and German Army machines that scouted for the High Seas Fleet and attacked naval targets. The ultra-long-range “Africa Ship” L59 is present, along with the big, modern L100 class cancelled by the war’s end.

The Royal Navy maintained a large fleet of airships, and the British get the Italian-built semi-rigid airship SR-1 along with the many rigid airships built at war’s end. Italy built a large number of semi-rigid airships (with a solid keel rather than a complete frame as with a true zeppelin) and these are also included.

The United States Navy gets its Shenandoah and Los Angeles, and the United States Army the big semi-rigid airship Roma. The French Dixmude, a former German zeppelin, is here as are Austria-Hungary’s small contingent.

New airship-centered scenarios, or modifications of current scenarios, are included for almost all of the Great War at Sea games: Mediterranean, U.S. Navy Plan Red, Jutland and U.S. Navy Plan Gold.
(copyright, Avalanche Press 2007)

Given Avalanche's proclivity for creating, er.. "interesting 'what if' scenarios", may we look forward to a game that boasts giant multi-national air fleets fighting each other over the trenches or out at sea? Sure, it never could have happened. But it is nice to have the tools to simulate it.

GWAS Zeppelins pre order blurb site

3:06 PM

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Airship Combat Action!

Mister Nizz


I noticed this on BRASS GOGGLES, and being something of a VSF slobbering fanboy, had to post it.

7:21 AM

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Apropos of nothing...

Mister Nizz


Python Trek

11:27 AM

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Blessed Ovum Hunting

Mister Nizz

From Wondermark

11:13 AM

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For Joachim, on occasion of Easter

Mister Nizz

Easter reminds me of you.
You would have been 14 this month.
We will know each other,
when we meet in the place
where this is no darkness.
Until that time, little Lion heart..
Happy Easter.
-- Dad

10:35 AM

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Fair Warning to Pirates!

Mister Nizz

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Garrrrn.. you're a what??

9:22 PM

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Battlestar Galactica End of Season Wrap Up Eps. 316-320?

Mister Nizz

A Sad Development impacting a Great Show

If I didn't make it a secret in my last "catch up" post on Battlestar Galactica in this blog, I'll make it clear to you now: the second half of the Third Season of one of my favorite television shows has been extremely disappointing viewing. There have been some highs and some lows, but for the most part, the level of writing has ranged from mediocre to passable, with an occassional moment of brilliance that shines like a ray of sunshine in the darkness.

The remainder of the season constituted these episodes: MAELSTRON, THE SON ALSO RISES, and CROSSROADS ONE AND TWO. As usual, the numbering system on the SCIFI website doesn't exactly match my perceptions of what it's supposed to be from the podcasts.. oh well, what else is new. As in the last post, I will forgo examining each and every episode, it's getting to be headache inducing.

The Maelstrom showed some guts, but also a reckless disregard for well-established characters. They took one of the lead, pivotal characters and killed her off, in a very cleverly crafted show that was highlighted by flashbacks about Kara "Starbuck's" abusive background. Yes, they actually killed off Kara Thrace, but nobody really believed it. Unless I actually see the corpse, I'm not buying she's dead, either. Are they in some alternative reality? Is Kara going crazy? is it all a vision? Who knows. I do know this; the old show (from the 70s) occassionally 'resonates' in this new show, and they killed off a main character back then, too, only to bring him back later in a spiffy white Viper uniform. Go do you own homework!

The Son also Rises was a big downer, and generally speaking, poorly crafted. Grief issues, Anger issues, Adamas father and junior grieving. Lawyers getting killed. A "terrorist" plot. The shining diamond is the introduction of the character of Romo Lampkin, lawyer for the defense of Gaius Baltar (a stunning performance by Mark Shephard, previously seen as "Badger" on Firefly). I can say without fear of contradiction, Lampkin is the best new character I've seen on BSG in a season. Complex, cynical, Irish and realistic-- Lampkin is just so wonderfully crafted, I hope he isn't a one-shot. The fight between drunken Adama senior and son (and Lee removing his wings, assumed to resigned from the service.. that's some good stuff). But the capper was Edward James Olmos "Free associating" at the end of the show.. he improvised a destructive grief scene by destroying a ship model his character works on routinely during the show. Problem is, it was a museum diorama piece rented for the show, worth hundreds of thousand of dollars! Way to go Eddie!

Crossroads, Part One is a standard courtroom drama, along the lines of LAW AND ORDER, but not nearly so good. Lee is now in a suit, helping Rolo Lampkin! The highlight of the episode was Colonel Tigh's steady mental disintegration and breakdown on the stand at the hands of Lampkin-- he finally admits in public that he killed his wife. Lee gets his chance to act without conscience when he takes on President Rosslyn on the stand (whom we learn is now back with cancer). Michael Hogan deserves an Emmy for this, but he wont' get one, because the rest of the episode is very lame. There's a bit with a music playing in the background that becomes important later, which is interesting, but frankly, as the setup for a season finale, I thought it was crap. The beautiful moment, for me, was the extra scene where Adama senior is putting Tigh to bed, dead drunk. Tigh mumbles: "I embarassed you today" and Adama replies "Saul, you're my best friend...". You get the sense that Adama has done this before, many times.

Crossroads, Part Two really had some fantastic moments and a glaring atrocity of logic. We learn some interesting things. Baltar gets off, but doesn't know what to do next-- and this is, oddly enough, Jamie Barbour's finest hour in the entire show playing Lee Adama, not in a viper cockpit, but in a suit in a courtroom. We learn that (incredibly!) Colonel Tigh, Chief Tyrell, Tory (Laura's assistant) and Anders(!) are FOUR of the FINAL FIVE Cylon characters. My reaction went from increduility to sheer disgust. According to the WELL PUBLISHED LOGIC of the show's creators (the Bible), Human seeming Cylons have only been around for two years .. Colonel Tigh has been a noticeable member of the Colonial Fleet for FORTY FRACKIN' YEARS!!! He fought in the FIRST CYLON WAR, for fracks' sake. Gaylon Tyrell has been in military for a while, certainly OVER TWO YEARS. And Anders!! Anders the celebrity athlete????? A deep cover agent? And how convenient is it that the personal assistant to the last president of the colonies (replacement for the murdered previous occupant of the position) turns out to be the a cyclon, too? If Billy hadn't been killed in season two, would HE be a Cylon now?

Oh, and Kara shows up in the last second, to nobody's great surprise, with the way back to earth.

I can't get over how dissapointed I am with the way things are working out on BSG. It's clear that they've put the show bible on the bookshelf, and are simply winging it now. There are consequences to life when people give up and stop doing their job.. and there will be consequences to this show because RONALD D. MOORE and DAVID EICK have basically given up and are no longer doing their jobs. It's very clear that these guys don't have the fire they once had. Which is a terrible shame. BSG was one of the finest things to be on TV in a long while-- certainly since the grand old single season of Firefly, and maybe long before that. I don't want to sound too much like Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons here; I loved BSG, and it's sad to see it go down the road to mediocrity, but I guess this is the fate of all things sooner or later. .

12:02 PM

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Puzzling Dice

Mister Nizz

What the..?

A recent glance at a CSW headline had me visiting ADVANCING HOARDS to check out their "sale of vintage gaming items". I was walking down memory lane when I saw these items:

A Three Sided Dice

and A Seven Sided Dice

And a Twenty-Four Sided Dice. all of these by Gamescience.

These are certainly cool-looking, and functional, I guess. I just have to wonder, who the hell needs 1-7, 1-3 or 1-24 odds on any test of numbers? Seven sides is a bit odd, I admit, but the other two odds are easily determined with existing dice designs. Of course, when it comes to dice, just having something like these dice types gives a person a sort of geek status.

9:54 AM

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Sheep Killing Zwinky Adventure

Mister Nizz


For the sadist in all of us