There must be hundreds of thousands of Social Security or tax checks that go out every week with this note on the front:
Check here and drop in mailbox.

There must be enough of them dead every week or every day to make this note worth while.

In other news, I learned a new word today. I was brought up to always read the fine print before signing anything, no matter how much the other person tries to rush you or makes it all sound like common, innocuous details. This tidbit from an agreement for a new checking account is innocuous but sounded funny:
DORMANT ACCOUNTS. If your Account is inactive for five years, we are required by state law to escheat the funds in your Account to the State of Michigan.


dateline Australia, 8 OCT 2003 -- Prime Minister John Howard was censured by the Senate for misleading the public in his justification for sending Australia to war with Iraq.

I just heard this on Democracy Now today, but I don't feel so bad because Juan Gonzalez hadn't heard about it either.


Update: Real Audio clip in which Harry Shearer imagines what Dick Cheney might have said to the Pope while presenting that crystal dove.
Wolf Blitzer tries to get Kucinich to agree that the ends justify the means, phrased these days as "Are the Iraqi people...better off today than they were under the regime of Saddam Hussein?"
Prediction: begin the countdown until Conservative pundits and then the mainstream media begins fluffing up the accusations about Kerry killing civilians in Vietnam. Back around the time he came out with that book, at least one of the men he served with claimed that Kerry and his squad took part in killing unarmed old people and women and children. Others in his squad backed up Kerry's claim that they had returned fire and later found that women and children had been killed in the process.

One man's word against another's, but guess how long before Conservatives start pumping up the claims that help them crush Kerry.

Also it's funny to hear people complaining about Wes Clark not distancing himself from Michael Moore's calling Bush a "deserter." See, there's no record of Bush having showed up for his last year of Air National Guard duty, but that does not PROVE he's a deserter. Meanwhile Bush apologists argue that even if Iraq was not creating new WMD's, they have no paperwork showing where or how they disposed of the tons of old WMD's that we gave them. Therefore some of the old WMD's must still be around.

Would it be too much to ask that pundits and journalists hold Bush and Michael Moore to the same standards of proof? If "you can't prove me wrong" doesn't work for Moore, then it shouldn't work for claims about Iraq's leftover WMDs either.


Obscure Brag.
This is probably not worth writing down and bragging about, but My Love For You (one of the free games I workshopped on The Forge) was playtested a few months after I posted it, by someone who had a game positively reviewed by Greg Costikyan.

I don't know how this gives me more street cred, but it just means some of my stuff was noticed by someone who was noticed by the creator of Paranoia and Toon and Star Wars RPG (WEG edition) and The Creature That Ate Cheboygan and the must-read of game design I Have No Words & I Must Design.


A social history of Pirates of the Caribbean: Their real history is not what you'd think.


I'm hoping that this means the United States is thoroughly protected from any kind of terrorist attack for the moment, because why else would FBI agents spend their time fighting transgressions against intellectual property? A god damn video game, no less.

I propose that if any major terrorist attack succeeds within the next six months, then we repeal all intellectual property laws to make sure our protectors get their damn priorities straight. No, fuck it. All property crimes. Aren't there some perpetrators of violent crime that these guys could be tracking down, instead of making sure that Coleco or Microsoft doesn't hemorrhage a little money on Half-Life 2? Could we get any clearer evidence that money matters more than people in this country?

How bout if one of these FBI agents gets pulled off the video game case and takes a look around Cleveland or Benton Harbor, see why they need to riot every few years to keep cops from shooting black people? How bout if one of the video game agents maybe checks with Robert Novak and the White House to find out which senior Bush advisor revealed the name of a fucking CIA operative who has been researching weapons of mass destruction? Could you make some time for little things like that?

If there were a five-step color coding system for the Intellectual Property Threat Advisory, like blue-green-yellow-orange-red, I would suggest that our current status be colored at Code WILL YOU PLZ GIVE ME A GOD DAMN BREAK?

In other news, Federal Boardgame Investigators vow to end rampant counterfeiting of Monopoly money, to ensure that only Parker Brothers has the monopoly on printing Monopoly money. [Parker Bros is owned by Hasbro now, but aren't we all?]


Whitey On The Moon by Gil-Scott Heron.
Yay! Bush said that one of the things they'll be studying on the Moon and Mars is how to keep U.S. infant mortality rates competitive! [Ooops. That link doesn't work because I made it up. Oh well.] USA! USA! USA!


It sounds like Fox and everybody else is going to spin this story like Dean losing his temper, but the situation is just like a troll in a chat room or internet message board. The guy wasn't a Dean supporter or a democrat who had some qualms with Dean's policies. He was a total Bush supporter, registered Republican who only stood up to provoke an angry response from Dean. He had nothing helpful to say or to ask. If you're asking someone to decrease their negative statements, how can you be credible when the first words out of your mouth are "please tone down the garbage" and accusing your target of being "pompous"?

It would be nice if Dean had saintly patience and had been able to ignore it, but it's just provocation. Anyone would have reacted that way, after the snippy old fart bitched for three minutes straight, then tried to interrupt when you respond.

I'm not a total fan of Dean, but he's getting hosed.


Pork & Greens Soup with Rice

3/4 pound of cooked pork, bite-size
4 to 5 cups pork broth
3 big leaves of collard greens (2 cups?)
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup frozen carrots & peas
1 clove of garlic minced
3/4 cup long grain rice
salt + pepper ad gustum

Simmer everything but the rice for 20-30 minutes. Add rice and simmer 15 minutes or until rice feels done.

I think I'm getting good at improvising soup. The pork and broth were leftovers from a roast I made a couple nights ago. The greens and garlic were meant for a different recipe I found in a magazine, but I had bought way more than needed. (Are collard greens an adequate substitute for escarole? Does Kroger even have escarole? I couldn't tell the difference between Escarole and Escaflowne.) The peas don't really add to the pork & greens mystique, but I ran out of fresh carrots, so these peas had to come along for the ride.

I'm trying long grain rice instead of minute rice because I read this scary article "The Oil We Eat: Following the food chain back to Iraq" from the Feb 2004 Harper's Magazine. It doesn't say much about Iraq exactly, but it says a lot about how much energy is used to make the fertilizers and chemicals and to raise tons of grains, just to feed them to cattle or chickens, pumping in more chemicals, shipping it all to your grocery store. How many pounds of corn and gallons of oil does it take to raise each pound of beef we consume?

"In 1940 the average farm in the United States produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil energy it used. By 1974 (the last year in which anyone looked closely at this issue), that ratio was 1:1." Somehow the author's final triumph is that he shot an elk and fed his family with it, seemingly in defiance of any vegetarians who might be reading. All I know is I damn well need to start a garden next year. Guess if it had really scared me, then I wouldn't have bought 16 pounds of pork shoulder. Had to buy one 8 pounder to get a second of equal or lesser value free. Ended up like sixty cents per pound though, so not too horrible. I'm hoping that good ol' long-grain rice gets less processing done to it than instant rice, so I'll be doing my part for the environment. Does that stuff freeze okay? Cause I could cook a big pot of it and just freeze it all, then it would be practically "instant" when I microwave it to use it later.

Never mind all that. Besides reading Jimmy Corrigan, an awesome comic book by Chris Ware which I'll have to talk about later to do it justice, I've been reading Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal by Howard Zinn. (Two more marks in favor of the Jackson Public Library system.)

I read this section below and thought about how it applies to Kucinich...

Scholars, who pride themselves on speaking their minds, often engage in a form of self-censorship which is called "realism." To be "realistic" in dealing with a problem is to work only among the alternatives which the most powerful in society put forth.... American society, although it has more freedom of expression than most societies in the world, thus sets limits beyond which respectable people are not supposed to think or speak....

To me this is a surrender of the role of the citizen in a democracy. The citizen's job, I believe, is to declare firmly what he thinks is right. To compromise with politicians from the very start is to end with a compromise of a compromise. This weakens the moral force of a citizenry which has little enough strength in the shaping of governmental policy. Machiavelli cautioned the Prince not to adopt the ethics of the Citizen. It is appropriate now to suggest to the Citizen that he cannot, without sacrificing both integrity and power, adopt the ethics of the Prince.

And then on the inside margin of page 17, apparently nothing to do with the subject at hand, somebody wrote, "I want a girl who will laugh at no one else." Go figure.


Sorry, but this phrase just kills me. "Sane enough to execute." That's like trying to decide if a pretty teenager is old enough for you to rape her.
The US-VISIT crap would not have stopped the Shoe Bomber from the UK.


Watched The Hulk at Ma's Sunday night. {SPOILER ahead!} It shows an almost interesting idea about bad tempers being passed from one generation to the next, but it's all muddled with the stuff about Bruce Banner being adopted, father killing the mother, etc. Unsatisfying ending -- did the Absorbing Man survive? And implausible bits. Why didn't the gamma bomb dropped on the energy-absorbing creature make it stronger? When the Hulk tosses a massive hunk of steel through a NASA-style control room and demolishes nearly everything in it, how does General Ross expect to yell at his underling huddled beneath her desk to carry out some final command, which she hastily types on the keyboard and monitor that happened to also fall under her desk next to her???? Lots of little ridiculous tidbits like that.

Synchronicities between The Hulk and A Beautiful Mind:
1. Jennifer Connelly plays love-interest.
2. Jennifer Connelly cries a lot.
3. In A Beautiful Mind, Josh Lucas plays a rival who tells the hero he'll never win if he doesn't play by The Establishment's rules. In The Hulk, Josh Lucas plays a rival who tells the hero he'll never win if he doesn't play by The Establishment's rules.
4. In one of the most haunting images of A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe spreads blinds and looks for people who might be out to get him. In the Hulk, Eric Bana spreads blinds and looks for people out to get him. I really wanted Jennifer Connelly to walk up behind him right then and turn on a light, so he could yell, "Turn off that light! Why would you do that?"

The Hulk is either a really encouraging movie for budding screenwriters to watch, because they'll realize that even something this crappy can get made, or really depressing, because they'll have to think about how their script languishes while turds like this continue to get churned out.

At least this means that two years from now, we won't have to walk through grocery aisles covered with images of the Hulk on every god damned box of Cheez-its and Oreos and gravy mix and tampons, because there will be no Hulk II to hawk merchandise for.

Excuse me, honey, could you get me that box of Eowyn Night-times with the Steppes-of-Rohan fresh scent? No, not Arwens, I said EOWYNS!

Oh yeah, and speaking of asinine merchandise, figure this out: I got a Lord of the Rings edition of RISK for Xmas from a co-worker. I still like the game, and definitely appreciate it, so don't think I'm trying to be ungrateful if my Secret Santa reads this somehow. But in playing the game, I noticed that one of the dotted lines on the game board map leads from a port city down towards the south of the board and off the map. Why did they bother putting a dotted line there? It doesn't connect to any other port city, so it doesn't affect game play at all. Somewhere in the rules I found that it says this board does not show Gondor or Mordor, because it doesn't cover the last movie or last book. Apparently they drew a full map, which probably leads from the port in Rohan down to some other port in the south near Gondor, but for this edition of the game, the board cuts off just below Rohan.

Sure enough, I looked at the store later and found a Lord of the Rings: Risk TRILOGY EDITION. When you look at the map of the game board on the back of the box, it shows all of my board plus Gondor and Mordor.

Were they afraid of spoiling the third movie for somebody? That doesn't make sense, since the story has been available as a book for decades, and as a BBC radio play for decades, and a cartoon for decades. The only possible motive is that they wanted to sell different designs so collectors would have to buy multiple versions of the same friggin game.

Anyhow, the game is flawed in other ways. It's perfectly amusing if you just want to play a regular game of Risk in a weird territory with fantasy armies. The idea of having two Good factions and two Evil factions even makes sense if you think about the possibility that Saruman might have fought against Sauron if things had gone differently, or the well-intended humans of Gondor might have fought the good armies of Elves to take control of the ring a la Isildur or Boromir.

But the game adds a complication unique to the Lord of the Rings, which is that the ringbearer slowly travels his route across the land while you play. A little pewter ring colored like gold rests on the board, and you move it gradually throughout the game. Cool prop, but it screws up the game. There are cards that let you slow the ring, and it can get stuck for extra turns in tricky areas like Moria and Lothlorien. But when the ring reaches the end of it's path, then the game is over. Players count points to see who wins.

It's way more satisfying for the victor to play this game all the way until the end, totally vanquishing other players. Way less satisfying for everybody to grab pencils and try to calculate how many territories they held, how many missions they completed, blah blah blah, to arrive at some abstract victory. It's like Bush driving Iraq out of Kuwait, then pummeling the country for several more weeks and stopping. Maybe there was some deadline in the game he was playing that kept him from finishing the game all the way and marching to Bagdad in 1991. Oh wait, that's right -- they didn't want to remove Saddam because they were afraid that Islamic fundamentalists might have taken over. Never mind.

Anyhow, if you kind of follow the story, then any amount of struggle between the armies becomes pointless after the Ring reaches its destination, because it's too big a setback to Sauron when part of his soul is destroyed along with the Ring. Evil can't win after that. In game terms it takes maybe 15 to 20 turns before the Ring ends the game, and it seems unlikely that one player could defeat all the others before that point.

Maybe an interesting house rule would be that the Ring reaching the end of its path has some massive effect on all players -- half of all players' armies are destroyed or something? But that would just make the game twice as long. It would also be interesting if the players had a way of permanently stopping the ring, or taking control of it before it reaches the end. Still not quite as fun as gradually conquering everyone on the board.

In actual play, I imagine gamers will tally up their points when the Ring reaches its end, then they'll ignore the Ring and keep playing until one player really wins.

Melinda kept asking "how can there be two good armies fighting each other?" I guess everybody thinks they're the good guys and their opponents are bad guys. How can there be any good guys in Risk at all, when the game is global conquest?


I got Melinda The Sims for Xmas, so once again, I find myself sitting at a computer for long hours, feeling sleepy, a little hungry, needing to empty my bladder, failing to socialize, ignoring my hygeine, while micro-managing the life of a little cartoon guy to ensure that he doesn't lose sleep, doesn't get hungry, socializes, bathes. Sims also need "fun" (usually fulfilled by tv, games or material objects), and apparently I'm having so much fun in real life playing Sims, that it's worth while to ignore all my other needs just to make sure the little guy gets his similar needs fulfilled.

So why do I so often find that my Sim lacks in his "fun" stat? Go figure.