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* Sahara Mart has sun-dried strawberries in the bulk section. They're pretty good.
** ETA: though given their gumminess and color, I suspect sugar and sulfur dioxide additives. Pure dried (e.g. freeze-dried) strawberries should be darker red. No brand, but some stuff online has strawberry flavor added as well.
* Domo seems to have turned into Ami, long AWOL from Fourth Street. Rumor is that Domo lives, somewhere... don't know where. Gain a Japanese restaurant, lose a Japanese restaurant?
* Is Leela the most useful Doctor Who companion ever? Discuss.
* Anti-noise earmuffs: useful again.
* Did Darwin Get it Right?, John Maynard Smith. Nice collection of essays, somewhat dated. A bit amusing to read old thoughts on sex, before parasite theory or the handicap principle. He has a nice paean to Dawkins's reason and clarity that I should type in.

Link dump.
* War Before Civilization
* Someone's thoughts on D&D 4e
* Planescape Society of Sensation. I thought it was cute.
* Steampunk theme for Firefox
* transgender bank commercial in Argentina
* Dealing with bugs from Mars
* DEA: better to live in agony than risk taking too many opiates.

* The prime minister of Japan has problems with kanji. So do many Japanese, apparently. I say this not to make fun of them but to say "maybe your system is too frigging complicated".
* History and growing abuse of the filibuster
* Won't let me expand my business? Have a sex shop
* Krugman on rent control and how the more economists actually agree on something, the less the world listens to them.
* 2007 letter on land tax
* Med schools and Pharm money

* The Mormons, not having violated the apolitical conditions of their tax-exempt status enough in California, are opposing civil unions in Illinois
* More homophobia in North Carolina
* Creationist War on the Brain


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 6th, 2009 06:42 am (UTC)
I took a look at the D&D article (among others.) I'm left with the impression that he hasn't played 3rd and 4th edition D&D, just looked at them, which lets him gloss over a lot of design flaws and benefits.

His facts aren't inaccurate (mostly), but I agree with very few of the conclusions he's drawn.
Mar. 6th, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
Near the top he links to his later playtesting of 4e, and he seems to have a fair bit of 3.0/3.5 experience.

My own bias is that 3rd was a good game, given the constraints of D&D, and 4e seems a good tactical combat game and gives me a rather bad feel as a sandbox world RPG.
Mar. 6th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
Ugh. I hate the "Gandalf was a fifth level wizard" argument. It made sense in 1st edition, but not 3rd. When your system is set up on a twenty-level span and players gain levels fairly quickly, you don't get to say, "...but nobody would ever be above fifth level!" 3.x worked really well between levels 5 and 10, and completely broke down outside of that range.

My experience so far has been that people who are familiar with 3.x are strongly biased against 4.0. I definitely was -- until I played it. It's very different, but a lot of fun. I'm going to crib from someone I was talking to (I don't remember whom) and state that 3.x is a lot of fun to make characters for, because there are so many options, but that 4.0 is a lot more fun to play.

Maybe your experience differs from mine, but the bulk of the time I've spent playing D&D has been in combat. That's not necessarily the reason you want to play, but it's what ends up taking up the most actual time. For the same reason, the combat system is what needs the most streamlining.

Really, the combat system in 3.x was a de facto tactical combat game -- I don't know anyone who didn't use miniatures and a grid map for combat. The author of the article seems to think it's a good thing that there was a rule for everything, but the practical effect of that is that unless the person running the game has an encyclopedic knowledge of the rules, combat gets bogged down because you have to look up so many weird mechanics. Worse, half the time whatever weird mechanic you looked up ends up being useless unless you've designed your character around it. (Grappling, I'm looking at you.)

When I look at all the things I disliked and found problematic in 3.x, they removed or fixed nearly all of them in 4.0. The classes are more balanced, and you no longer run into "The wizard cast all his spells for the day in the first fight, so we need to rest for another day even though we just woke up." You don't have to have a cleric in every party anymore! It just works much better.

You say 4e doesn't feel like a sandbox world RPG, and that was how I felt too at first, but what does that really mean? When you really think about it, any RPG basically boils down to game mechanics and flavor text. Sometimes there's overlap -- Deadlands, a Wild West-themed RPG, originally had a neat and flavorful mechanic involving poker chips and cards from a deck of playing cards -- but I don't think that's really the case in 3.x any more or less than 4e. You can still use the combat mechanics for a generic fantasy game, or a Forgotten Realms game, or a steampunk game, or anything else.

I could probably rant/discourse about this indefinitely, but I have class in five, so count yourself lucky. :)
Mar. 6th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
I thought the point of that essay was that you don't need more than 5th or 6th level to emulate most fantasy protagonists. The system goes to 20th-epic, but most authors don't. So yeah, Gandalf and Aragorn are 5th level.

I have to admit that the only time I've *played* D&D is anima_mechanique's 4e-Spelljammer one-shot, so my opinions are largely theoretical. I know Basic/Expert and 3.0 from reading reasonably well, though. I've also seen a lot of opinions from a friend of Gygax's on RPG.net, who still plays Original, and various "old school" essays.

I guess, seems to me that in the early days, characters weren't particularly well defined, even in combat. Fighters had hit points and armor, thieves had skills, magic-users had spells, anything else was your imagination. Combat would be boring rolls, or freeform tactics ("gee, we havve 5hp, let's ambush" "sounds good! you get initiative and an attack bonus") but could easily go into puzzles or social stuff. The system didn't support it, but the system didn't suggest you shouldn't.

Third has a lot more definition -- real skills, feats, prestige classes, so you can actually define characters good at investigation or talky stuff (though you might run out of skill points if you try to build Roy Greenhilt). And it broke down a lot fo the arbitrary restrictions, made things make more sense. Combat was detailed and tactical, yeah, no one likes grappling or Attack of Opportunity rules, but your bard wasn't necessarily defined by her combat ability. It felt like a half-decent open game, like D&D crossed with GURPS, especially with alternate rules in the SRD. But yeah, never played it, though I read part of a high-level Actual Play that had combat but not hugely so.

Though I did note that lots of the spells are combat or weird, and a lot of them have been nerfed from earlier editions.

4e... classes are defined primarily by their combat type and power source. The customization choices are about your combat powers, or utility powers that look mostly useful... in combat. The skill system is simplified -- friends like it, but I look askance. Challenges I only know of second hand, e.g. Alexanders critique. The ritual system is probably nice (I assume it's like the 3.0 SRD one). And there's the whole squares thing, and wonky powers and Alexander's critique of mapping the powers to in-world terms.

So I guess it's
* old: not much definition
* 3rd: lots of definition
* 4e: lots of combat definition

To which I say... meh. For comparison, the games I've actually played longest have been Mage, Ars Magica, and Exalted.
Mar. 6th, 2009 10:29 am (UTC)
On the Kanji article. I have two thoughts:

a) The characters make much more sense in Chinese. Encoding morphemes instead of phonemes is still cumbersome, but at least has consistency. A single one syllable pronunciation per character and "clues" towards pronunciation embedded in the character make Chinese a whole lot easier. When in Japan I often found myself reading in Chinese (what little I can read) and then translating the meaning directly to English.

b) Simplified Chinese characters may stand as perhaps the one real positive achievement of the communist leadership. So much nicer than traditional and most think it does a great job of preserving the unique cultural heritage of the written language while improving literacy.

Bottom line - other than tradition I don't understand why you would stick to Chinese characters when you have something as simple and easy as Hiragana.
Mar. 6th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
Simplified Chinese characters may stand as perhaps the one real positive achievement of the communist leadership. So much nicer than traditional and most think it does a great job of preserving the unique cultural heritage of the written language while improving literacy.
I just had an exchange with a Taiwanese who disagrees 100%!
Mar. 6th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
a) Yeah, I dimly remember your blog story, kanji to Chinese to English back to hiragana or something.

b) And North Korea did away with characters all together, moving entirely to hangul! (alphabet) Meh -- seems to me that simplifying characters gives you the worst of both worlds, having the high-buy-in literacy system of learning a character for each word, with only modest phonetic help, while losing the easy connection to that cultural heritage, i.e. you'll have to learn more to read well anything from pre-Communist era. Of course, that could be part of the point...
Mar. 6th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
* The prime minister of Japan has problems with kanji. So do many Japanese, apparently. I say this not to make fun of them but to say "maybe your system is too frigging complicated".
The Chinese have TONS more kanji than the Japanese do, and they don't seem to have any problems.
Mar. 6th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
Or do they? *dun dun dun*
But I got the impression that the mapping between spoken and written Chinese was more straightforward, vs. kanji coming with up to a dozen different readings. "This is mizu (water), but because we stole the character from Chinese it is also read sui in combinations, except when it's mizu anyway, or something this other thing..."
Mar. 7th, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)
Straightforward, in most cases, but the Japanese aren't the only ones with pronunciation that changes depending on the usage. ^_^ Chinese does, too.
Mar. 10th, 2009 01:24 am (UTC)
New Location of Domo
Domo does live on. It's now located in the same area as Texas Roadhouse and Golden Coral. Looks like it's still the same owner too.
Mar. 10th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
Re: New Location of Domo
Yeah, a call told me that the 3rd/Jordan location had been sold to Ami some months ago, explaining the Korean creep onto the menu, and they just got around to changing the sign.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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