Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Men in Black III

The villain was villainous, the menace was menacing, the heroes were heroic; but somehow, it didn't quite gel. That may be the fault of a review I read beforehand, which led me to expect that the strong point of MiB3 would be that it was funny. I have no idea what movie that reviewer stumbled into. So my problem with the movie may be due to my erroneous expectations -- like biting into a piece of strawberry rhubarb pie, only to find out that it's roast beef.
Best part of the movie was Josh Brolin's performance as Agent K.

Reynolds' Law

From Instapundit:
The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

Monday, May 28, 2012


On this day in 1905, at Tsushima Straits, the Japanese Navy destroyed a Russian fleet which had sailed from the Baltic to the Far East, attempting to reach. This was the only tactically decisive battle fought by modern battleships, and is considered one of the major naval battles of history.

The Iron Duke

Now reading The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook, one of the books that came up in the library search for "Airships". It is a steampunk romance.
Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth is called to investigate a frozen body that has appeared on the Iron Duke's estate. The Duke is the alpha-est male around and, as this is a romance, he falls in lust-at-first-sight; as this is a romance, she is filled with doubt, fear and distaste, and rebuffs him. Circumstances force them together and she gradually, but inevitably, falls in love, or at least bed, with him.
The circumstances are the interesting part, and they include: a pirated naval airship, the capture of Mina's brother, the invasion of the fortress of a mad inventor, a run through a zombie-occupied forest, a trip on a mercenary corsair airship, and the fears that the Eastern Horde has a mind control device and renegade English Black Guard are almost ready to use a weapon of mass destruction.
It's not one of those books where you stay up till 3am while saying "just one more chapter", but the setting is interesting. The characters look like they have the potential to be interesting, but don't quite manage it, leaving unanswered questions like "why is Archimedes Fox exploring zombie-infested Venice?" and "Why is Yasmeen a corsair?" and particularly "why is the Iron Duke so hot for this policewoman?" The sex scenes are both explicit and boring. We found out who dropped the frozen body, but if we ever found out why they did it, I didn't notice it. And there was no overall antagonist; for a couple of chapters the heroes were chasing one person, then they went off another another, then a third, then a fourth, and there was no sense of "there's a mastermind behind it all", just a jumble of "who has the McGuffin at the moment?"
I finished it, but I don't feel any desire to read the next one.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


When it comes to role playing games, I have reluctantly concluded that "a badly designed one with lots of local players" is better than "a well designed one with no local players". With that in mind, I've found a nearby D&D3.5 campaign which seems to be based on the European trading companies and the East Indies. Met the game master, designed a couple of characters, and had the first "introduction to the setting, let's get you to where the rest of the party is" session. It's a pleasure to be rolling some dice again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness

...if you know how to spend it. Summary of points from Coding Horror:
  • After a certain point, more money does not automatically mean more happiness. That point, according to the study referenced, is about US$75,000.
  • Buy experiences rather than things
  • Help others instead of yourself
  • Buy many small pleasures instead of only a few big ones
  • Commit; spend less on extended warranties and options to return purchases.
  • Anticipation is good; save up for a purchase rather than using credit.
  • Think about how much you'll actually use and enjoy what you're considering purchasing.
  • Beware of comparison shopping; that tells you whether A is better than B, but not whether you'll enjoy A at all.
  • Follow the herd; if something makes a lot of other people happy, it's likely to make you happy also. (But be aware the herd gets a lot of stuff which they think will make them happy, then it doesn't.)

Customer Service

A conversation from this week, somewhat abbreviated:

John: "For this thing we got from you, we're missing two parts."
Me: "That was delivered nearly a year ago so you're well outside the 60 day limit to report any problems. I won't be able to send it to you for free. I can ship it this way for $530 or that way for $590."
John: "I have to have it, I guess I'll get out the credit card.
Me: "Hang on a minute while I look at your order. You know, you'll need to cut out a couple of pieces of material here and here. If you do that right, you can use the material you cut out there, as the material you want to buy now. So you don't really need to buy that, you can do everything you need with what you've already got."
John: "I want to go ahead and get it anyway."
Me: "But...you know, if you want to spend money, I'll be happy to take it, but you understand that you've got enough stuff there, you don't need to get anything from me to finish your project?"
John: "Yeah, but I want to get it anyway, just to be sure."

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Zoe likes them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from D&D

  1. You'll be more successful if you have a plan for your life, instead of taking it as it comes
  2. In order to make that plan, you will need the advice of someone who knows the system better than you do.
  3. Being bold is more fun than being cautious.
  4. Get along with people, especially your own group.
  5. Don't get separated from your friends.
  6. A person with high intelligence but low wisdom will do stupid things
  7. People who do stupid things tend to regret it. Or die abruptly.
  8. You will gather more fame and fortune by being really really good at one thing, than you will by being marginally okay at a lot of things.
  9. It takes a lot of effort to be a hero--but what else would you want to be?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers

Had a good time with this film. Not as good as Iron Man 1, but as good as Captain America or better, and definitely better than Thor. Loki was, as in Thor, a very creditable villain, clever, manipulative, and arrogant. Several good lines, although none were up to the (admittedly high) bar of Princess Bride; the most enjoyable was perhaps Hulk's reply to Loki.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Tonight I heroically wrenched a couple of boards from the deck with my bare hands*, trimmed new 2x6's to shape with a nail file**, slammed them into place, and drove the screws four inches through the wood with a quick twist of one fingernail***. Tomorrow morning we'll put the paint / goop on, and that will hold us until we're ready to spend a couple thousand bucks and get the deck rebuilt.

* which happened to be holding a prybar

** and a jigsaw, as my circular saw is balky

*** which was on the trigger of my drill

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Had a good game with Josh tonight, 10,000 points to a side with my slower and heavier mechs doing a creditable job of taking on his lance of faster and lighter mechs. Jump jets make a big difference in hilly terrain, which is what we were fighting in. After four hours and 18 turns, we called it a draw, although I have to say my force was looking pretty chewed up at the end with two of six mechs destroyed, one immobile and and one down with an unconscious pilot. I need to get better at the mech equivalent of the Lufbury Circle, and to pick a specific set of mechs instead of rolling randomly to see what forces I get.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day

Today is May Day, which is also celebrated throughout the world as the leftist / communist International Workers Day. So this would be a good time to remember the approximately 94 million people killed by Communist states, either directly (as in the Khmer Rouge killing fields or the Chinese Cultural Revolution) or indirectly (as in the artificial famines engineered by Stalin).

Ninety four million people killed. That's the equivalent of every man, woman and child in California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.


Just received The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State , a book on government failure in the provision of law, and private alternatives. Five sections, which are:
  • From Voluntary to Authoritarian Law
  • A Public Choice Approach to Authoritarian Law
  • Reemergence of Private Alternatives
  • Rationalizing Authoritarian Law
  • From Authoritarian to Private Law
Thus far I've only taken it out of the box and read the introduction, but speaking as the creator of the Alarishi Empire, this is a book I'm really looking forward to.