Friday, March 30, 2007

More observations on Daytona Beach

This is my last night on the beach. Tomorrow morning I have to check out, though I still have one more day of client training and another day in Daytona. Tomorrow night I'm going to be staying at a Hampton Inn near the airport. Next week is Black College Reunion week, and the hotel is full tomorrow night. They will also be closing several of the bridges across to the main land. Since my flight leaves at 6 a.m. eastern time, it's just as well that I'll be spending the night near the airport.

I heard some comments about BCR week while I was here. Apparently there is more damage done to Daytona Beach during BCR than for the Daytona 500, Bike Week, and the Pepsi 400 race combined. The difference is 50,000 people for BCR compared to about 10 times that many for the other events combined.

A couple of things about that statistic.

  • I wasn't able to find it confirmed anywhere. Not sure where the people heard this, but it doesn't sound like the sort of thing most news outlets would be likely to report.

  • As far as I can tell, there are no big organized events here during BCR. The races occupy people's time, and focus visitors west of the beach. Bike Week is apparently pretty wild, but it also seems to skew to an older demographic. As far as I've seen so far, BCR week is an excuse to get drunk.

  • They didn't compare BCR with spring break, where the demographic (except for racial make up) is similar, and where the main excuse is to get drunk.

I have my doubts as to the veracity of that statistic. The crowds so far have been quieter, older, and more respectful than the high school kids that had infested the place earlier in the week, so go figure.

(Oops. Spoke too soon. There was a huge, loud commotion at the front door of the hotel. Security had to be called...)

I'm tired of Daytona's divided streets. All the major roads have medians on them. Obviously this is to aid the flow of traffic, but it makes it a pain in the neck to drive around. I'd sure hate to be down here in the middle of spring break. I also noticed that there isn't much on the strip along the beach other than restaurants and surf stores. You'd think someone would come up with a slightly different store, if only to grab those people who are tired of surf store after surf store.

I ate at Shells, a really good seafood place, last night. Great clam chowder! I'm glad I got to have seafood while in Florida. I haven't decided if I'll go there for supper tomorrow or not.

I found a comic store that had more non-collectible miniatures games than the actual game store I found on Tuesday. The games were almost all old enough to be in the comic store I worked in two decades ago. They had wargames and RPGs, which surprised me. Unfortunately the store owner is a Luddite. I ended up buying an old Call of Cthulhu module for $4, but I put away a comic I was going to buy because they don't take plastic (credit or debit). I simply don't walk around with cash anymore. When I saw the old games I figured that he'd make a killing on eBay. I'm not entirely sure the owner has heard of eBay...

There's a game store in Orlando (thanks, John!) that is tempting to visit. It would mean having to drive for 60 to 90 minutes each way, and it's not like I can really afford any game stuff anyway. I'm not likely to go there. I would if we weren't heading down to New Orleans in two weeks. There were two game stores in New Orleans prior to Katrina. There is still a game store in Baton Rouge. It happens to be the best game store in the state. (I could make a joke about "the best game store in Louisiana" not meaning much, but in fact it's one of the best game stores I've ever been in...)

Much as I'd like to check it out, I'm likely to pass on the Orlando game store and just get to bed early, as I'll have to get up at the equivalent of 3 a.m. central time on Sunday morning. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

More beach pics

I was going to write a blog post then post the pictures, but Alana's getting impatient, so here are some pics I took on Wednesday.

As always, click on the picture to see a larger version of it...

The hotel where I'm staying, from the front:

The beach, behind the hotel, looking south toward the pier:

A seagull and the surf:

A pair of seagulls:

And a trio of seagulls:

The same three seagulls after I made them a little nervous:

The beach south of the pier. I think the north end is better:

A restaurant on the pier. You can walk through the restaurant and the gift show to go to the end of the pier, but they want $1 for that. I didn't bother, but a bunch of people did, for fishing:

And the same spot of the last picture, but looking west instead of east:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sun, surf, and bad karaoke

My first work day here in Daytona is over. The whole day was spent setting up clients on their server and installing our system on their desktops. For the number of clients this should have been finished by 10 a.m. Part of it had to do with their server not being set up right, and part had to do with a client with a single semi-technical person who was pulled in a bunch of directions at once. So, we're off to a rousing start.

Oh, and I phoned home to the tech guys to come up with a solution. We came up with our own when they didn't phone back in a reasonable amount of time. Turns out their suggestion, which came through as we were leaving, was what we implemented. Geez, thanks.

I managed to get to the one game store in town. It's nothing to write home about. Our sad little game store in Monroe (a comic shop, actually) has more roleplaying games. This place seemed to be half collectible miniatures games. The owner was very nice, though.

I'm now sitting here typing up this entry in the dark. Okay, I guess it's "mood lighting". This is slightly better off than I was up until 10 minutes ago, when they had kid karaoke night. Friday is adult karaoke. They have wireless internet in the lowest level... which makes sense, as that's where the fitness room and the pool are(?!?). I may risk it Friday, when they have "adult karaoke". If you saw yesterday's post, you saw how cool the rooms were. Apparently this place makes its money by not providing proper maid service; they didn't make the bed or change towels. It's essentially a rental condo... from 1993. I have to leave this hotel Saturday since it's booked up. I'm going to find out tomorrow if the woman who booked this place for me has the new place booked. If not, I'll get her to make sure the rooms have Internet first.

I still have to go down to the beach. Might do that tomorrow. I have to get Logan a souvenir, and there are plenty of souvenir places nearby. It's awesome waking up in the morning and seeing the sun rise over the Atlantic. I miss large bodies of water (having spent most of my life near Lake Ontario). Still, the beach life without internet in the hotel room is getting old. I guess I am, too!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Howdy, from Daytona

I didn't blog on Saturday because I was a lazy sot. I didn't blog yesterday because I was packing... and I was a lazy sot. Today's blog comes from sunny (or it was sunny until about 6 p.m.) Daytona Beach, Florida.

Daytona Beach is split into two parts. The mainland part, and the part that's on essentially a sand bar. This is the part most of the kids visit during spring break. You can tell that the two main reasons for this place's existence is Spring Break and the Daytona 500 NASCAR race. NASCAR and partying barely-twenty-somethings are the main industries in town. That having been said, I'm here training clients...

Daytona Beach reminds of New Orlean's French Quarter if it was modelled after Niagara Falls, Ontario... Actually, that's not totally fair, as there are no wax museums. The Strip (I don't know if it's called that, but it should be) is made up of bars, seafood restaurants and tacky tourist shops, predominantly selling "beach wear". Come to think of it, with the Skylon tower, the Falls, and the casino, there's more culture in Niagara Falls. And way more culture in New Orleans. I'll have to refine my estimate. This isn't what the French Quarter would look like if it was designed by the Swedes, it's what New Orleans' Canal Street would look like if it got an infusion of urban renewal cash.

The hotel I am staying at is gorgeous. The suites here are intended for long term visiting. My suite has a full kitchen, a bedroom(!) and even a washer and dryer. There's a fold down bed in the couch (so you can tell it's used for large groups of kids crashing in one room). I have a view of the ocean that's wonderful.

What I don't have is internet access in my room! What the hell is up with that? Is this the 21st century or what? I was expecting wireless access. I don't even have high speed wired access. I can get more out of a La Quinta in Chattanooga than I do out of a Wyndham in Daytona Beach! The resort is the Ocean Walk, by the way, in case you need net access in your well furnished room. (For the record, I didn't book the room. I suspect that the people they usually book the rooms for don't really care about net access.)

The hotel has a movie theatre, several shops, and several restaurants attached. One is a Bubba Gump's. It had a long wait, as did another place I went to. In the end I ate at Denny's. *sigh* I'll eat better tomorrow.

I'm posting this from the restaurant area. The lower two levels have net access, so it's not like the hotel doesn't have a network. It's attached to a bar. There are a bunch of drunk twenty-somethings yelling in the background, but the music isn't too loud. When I got down here it was humid and hot. The temperature and the humidity have dropped a big. So has the lighting, unfortunately. What is it with bars and "mood lighting"?

Most of the kids down here are white, I noticed. Not many black, hispanic, or Asian kids. There are a smattering of us older folks in the hotel, and a few people with families, but even though Spring Break is mostly over the predominant demographic are twenty-somethings.

One last observation: I've never seen so many well-tanned white people in my life. I live in Louisiana, which has a climate not much different from this one (though less humid!). There aren't as many tanned people in Monroe as here. I think it must be the beach, which encourages going outside to get skin cancer. For the record, I think Daytona Beach has more well-tanned, chunky blonds (mail and female) than it has cars. The whole place looks like it's populated by survivors of a nuked Scandinavian fat farm!

Anyway, here are some pictures I took a few hours ago. As always, click on the picture for a bigger version...

The Atlantic Ocean, looking east-northeast from the balcony of my suite:

The Atlantic Ocean looking east from the balcony:

And the Atlantic looking east-southeast:

This is the living room and the kitchen of my suite:

And, finally, though you can't tell it, this is a fair sized bedroom. In fact, I've stayed many a time in hotel rooms that were as big as this one room and the attached bathroom (and a couple that were smaller):

Friday, March 23, 2007

Miniatures wargaming meets car insurance

This is a link to a Geico car insurance ad. I have no idea how long it will stay at this site.

Instead of cavemen they are directing the commercial at miniature wargamers. The city is Troy, and it was created by a wargamer who posted about it on The Miniatures Page.

For the record, I don't wear armour when I game!

I think the commercial is neat, and not really mean spirited. I hate the new Altel ad that makes fun of roleplayers and geeks all in the span of a few seconds. I'd really like to know just how many people play roleplaying games in the U.S., and then write to Altel asking them if it's wise to alienate that many people.

Now I'm going to go back and drool over the guy's game room...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Bolton: arrogant, ignorant, or a liar?

Former Interim U.S. ambassador to the U.S., John Bolton, was on The Daily Show last night. Give him credit, a certifiable "Bushie" (to use a newly-noticed Karl Rove term) Bolton was not going to be thrown softballs from the progressive Jon Stewart. It was an interesting discussion, but one part made me very angry.

While discussing the current president's penchant for surrounding himself with people of a like mind, Jon Stewart suggested that it's actually a benefit to have members of the president's cabinet who don't actually agree with him. He used the example of Abraham Lincoln, who had men in his cabinet who were not only rivals but who in some cases actively disliked him.

In response, John Bolton said that Jon Stewart was historically in error, basically stating that Jon Stewart's characterization of Lincoln was wrong. It was at this point that I let out a stream of expletives. The nicest word I used was "bullshit"!

Tonight, Jon Stewart took up this point. He had, via telephone, a talk with Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals, an excellent book about Abraham Lincoln's presidency. As she pointed out, Jon Stewart was right and hundreds of historians would agree with him. Amen!

Lincoln is rather well known for having cabinet members who actively worked against him prior to his election. Three of his cabinet members were rivals for the presidency, and each thought that they were a better candidate than Lincoln. Some of their written comments about the 16th president are horribly malicious. However, by his death almost all of them had come to believe in his political genius, and some had grown very close to him. Lincoln gained from his cabinet. Lincoln almost always received a variety of opinions on every important topic. Lincoln made the tough decisions, but it wasn't for want of understanding the issues. This was Jon Stewart's thesis, which John Bolton threw away with a casual, inaccurate comment.

This is a classic example of what's wrong with political discourse in the United States. John Bolton was clearly, demonstrably wrong. If he honestly believed his position, Bolton is woefully ignorant on Lincoln's presidency. If he didn't know whether or not Stewart's comment was wrong, but stated categorically that Stewart was wrong, then he is incredibly arrogant... and ignorant. On the other hand, there's the possibility that Bolton knew Stewart was right, but said he was wrong anyway in order to toe the party line; lying his teeth out in order to make a political statement in favour of the current president.

So Bolton is either ignorant, arrogant, a liar, or all three.

Let's face it, he stated a pro-administration position for the simple reason that some people will see him and agree with his opinion, even though it is wrong, demonstrably, verifiably wrong.

And that's the problem with political discourse in the United States. It's one thing to state an opinion and defend it. Today's partisan pundits go beyond that. They'll state lies as truth, even when it's relatively easy to see the lies for what they are. It's more important to score political points, knowing that television does not offer the ability to refute even a single lie in any kind of depth. This isn't new, it just bothered me because it touched on the Civil War, something for which I'm very well acquainted.

Test anxiety

Logan was over at his dad's place this week, but since today is Alana's birthday he gets to spend it with us. He's also in the middle of his Iowa tests. (For non-Americans, or Americans without kids, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills was developed by the University of Iowa. It's one of the standard tests given to kids from kindergarten to grade 9. This is Logan's first year taking it.)

Last week Logan was getting a bit worried about the test. It didn't help that on Thursday he forgot his homework at school. He had me make up some questions so he could prepare for the tests.

While it's probably a good thing for kids to take tests seriously, Logan's school seems to take it further than I'd like. They've pushed the kids all year with warnings that they had to do well on the test. They sent a form back with him last week with instructions on it, like making sure he had a good breakfasts, and avoiding punishing anyone in the family (in order to reduce stress).

This test — which goes on all week — is more important to the school than to Logan. This year it doesn't count toward his grade. it does count toward the school's rating, and a poor rating will affect the school's funding. That's the real reason for all the stress on the kids. It's not so much about them, but about their institution (though in the later grades it is important for them to do well).

We didn't have standardized tests in Ontario when I was in school. I remember my grade 11 math teacher talking about standardized tests and why abolishing them was a good idea. They got rid of standardized tests because schools tended to teach for the test. It was more important that the kids knew how to beat the test than it was for them to know the material. Once the tests were done there was little the schools could do to keep the kids interested, particularly in higher grades. This killed off several useful weeks at the end of the year.

I am of two minds as to standardized tests. I don't like how the emphasis seems to be on the school instead of the kid. I don't like that so much time is spent teaching the test.

On the other hand, I found out how sucky R.S. McLaughlin Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Oshawa was when I got to university. The other schools in Oshawa were at least a third of a year ahead of me in calculus. I had horrible grades (partially because my ADD kicked in big time). It was only when I talked to others from Oshawa that I realized how much we missed. Standardized tests would have helped even the playing field.

Logan says he's doing okay. We won't find out for a few weeks. He seems to have calmed down, though; apparently it's not as scary as it was a week ago.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Battlefields at risk

A week ago the Civil War Preservation Trust issued its annual report of endangered Civil War battlefields, titled History Under Siege. It identifies 10 "sites" (sometimes including more than one physical site) at imminent risk of being lost to developers, or nature. An additional 15 are identified as being in danger. These 25 do not cover all the battlefields that may be lost, and some 15% of Civil War battlefields have been totally lost to history.

The CNN article is here:

The Civil War Preservation Trust's report is here:

The irony is that over the weekend The Scotsman published a story about the historic Bannockburn battlefield being at risk to a gravel quarry. This underlines the fact that battlefield preservation is not just an American problem.

The Bannockburn article is here:

The biggest threat is from "population pressure". As big city populations grow, the need for housing increases. Developers are more interested in plopping houses on land than they are in preserving the significance of that land. This is a big problem in Virginia and Georgia. The Manassas, Chancellorsville and Petersburg battlefields in Virginia are at great risk due to population pressure. Fredericksburg has been largely lost.

"Population pressure" comes in many forms. A casino near Gettysburg was defeated, but on the edge of the battlefield there are plans for a housing development. In Franklin, TN a series of city councils have let the Franklin battlefield be eaten up, bit by bit. It was only when a library was built on a significant portion of the battlefield — with the ground from the site protected from inspection, presumably so that no one could see the relics and/or remains dug up — that the council was replaced by a preservation-friendly group. Expansion of Nashville still threatens the site.

A close second to population pressure is the threat of industrial encroachment. The Mansfield battlefield in Louisiana is at risk from a lignite mine in a tug of war that puts at risk all but 15 of the battlefield's 6,000 acres. In Scotland, a quarry is eating away at Gillies Hill on the Bannockburn battlefield. This battlefield was the site of Scotland's greatest military victory, against the English force in 1314, which led to Scottish independence. Camp followers and untrained peasants swarmed over Gillies Hill, panicking a tired English army into thinking reinforcements were upon them. The English battle line broke. Amazingly, in 1982 the local town council allowed the quarry to dig into the back of the hill, putting the whole feature at risk.

Even when laws exist to preserve an area, some unscrupulous folk have simply ignored the law. From the Civil War Preservation Trust site:

On August 19, 2006, a consortium of Jefferson County, W. Va. developers crossed onto National Park Service (NPS) property along School House Ridge and dug two 1,900-foot-long trenches for water and sewer piping. They did so without receiving any permit from NPS or notifying Park authorities of their intent. Despite repeated requests to cease and desist, the developers refused, leaving nearly two acres of taxpayer-owned hallowed ground seriously compromised. After the incident, NPS officials discovered archaeological artifacts among the rubble. To make the story even more heartbreaking, the property had only become part of the Park in May 2005, after CWPT members contributed $300,000 toward its protection.

Currently the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Justice are considering charges against the developers, who could be tried under both civil and criminal law.

So much for "hallowed ground".

Nature will wear away at a site if it isn't kept up. Lack of staff and maintenance threaten the future of Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay, Alabama.

Personally heartbreaking is the fate of the forts in southern Louisiana. I visited Fort Jackson in February, 2005. It was relatively well preserved by Plaquemines Parish, one of the state's poorer parishes. Then came Katrina. For over 6 weeks the fort was submerged under water. It's empty now, but there was a great deal of damage to the structure. Although the report doesn't mention it, Fort St. Philip might be safer. It's across the river from Fort Jackson in almost inaccessible ground. It was heavily filled with silt and was only visited prior to Katrina by the intrepid with access to a boat. I suspect that the silt might have protected the fort from the worst ravages of the hurricane. Not so lucky was the third fort, Fort Pike, northeast of New Orleans (actually within the city limits of New Orleans, just south of Slidell). It was occupied during the Civil War but no shots were fired in anger at or from the fort. It has needed work for years, but Katrina tore several horrid cracks in the outer wall. The fort is currently closed to the public. (I'm glad I went to Fort Jackson in 2005, but wished I'd made it to Fort Pike, too.) Forts Jackson and Pike are eligible for federal funds for rebuilding, but the Civil War Preservation Trust is worried that the money and the repairs will come too late, that the damage will be irreparable by then.

Here is a Wikipedia picture showing the damage:

Click on the picture for a bigger version. The image is found on this web page:

I could go on about the importance in preserving a nation's history, but you've probably heard it all before. Seeing the interest and wonder in Logan's eyes as we walked the battlefield of Chickamauga proved to me the importance of protecting these locations. Hiking several miles through the Port Hudson battlefield with Logan in a stroller when he was younger, and sitting with friends on Little Round Top at sundown years before then showed me that these places are gifts to younger generations. It would be a terrible shame if they were plowed under to make room for yet another Super Target.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Another thing Alana and I did this weekend was see 300.

I've read some so-so reviews about it, mostly complaining that it was a mindless film. They've lumped it in with Wild Hogs and Ghost Rider, all of which are considered somewhat low brow, and all of which took in obscene amounts of money during the cinematic doldrums that is the period between January and May. In retrospect 300 does have a pretty linear plot, and not much character development. I didn't care, I enjoyed it!

The film is based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name. It is a fictional — fanciful, actually — depiction of the stand of 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. The film takes huge liberties with history, but it's a very close adaptation of the graphic novel. Corrupt controllers of a prescient oracle prevent King Leonidas of Sparta from sending an army to oppose the huge Persian host under the god-king Xerxes. Leonidas uses a legal loophole to take 300 of his men to a narrow oceanside pass, in order to delay Xerxes long enough for the Greeks to amass an army. With about a thousand allies (historically there were over 7,000 Greeks), the Spartans square off against an enemy numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Those who know me as a history buff realize that I don't usually go for Hollywood's depiction of history. That's not entirely accurate. I despise "historical movies" that take liberties with history because of laziness or incompetence (see my review of Flyboys). However, I enjoy historical fiction. If the fiction is good enough (like most of Shakespeare's stuff, which is excellent drama but horrible history), or if I know the writer knows he's being fanciful, I have no problem with the author tearing apart history. I love alternative history stories, and I quite enjoy fanciful history where it's obvious the writer knew what he or she was doing. A good example of this are the Alistair MacLean novels of the 1960s and 70s, or films like Kelly's Heroes. They aren't realistic, but the authors know they aren't realistic. And above all, they're fun.

Miller's depiction of Thermopylae is fanciful (fantastic, in the true sense of the word), and he knows it. The film is even more fanciful, adding an attack by a giant charging rhinoceros as perhaps a nod to The Lord of the Rings. There's also a giant slave warrior controlled by the Persians that didn't appear in the graphic novel. The horribly disfigured Ephialtes (based on a supposedly real person) was the novel's most obvious fantasy construct, and he is depicted exactly as in the comic version.

The combat style used in the film is also fantastic (and I mean that in all senses of the word). It's based heavily on oriental martial arts, but with enough of a twist to be something new. There are a couple of impressive wire shots, but mostly it's fancy footwork and brilliant spear twirling. And blood. Lots and lots of blood, splattering about like a car soaking a pedestrian next to a muddy puddle. Combat is depicted in a sort of a Matrix style. There's a blur of motion which is abruptly arrested into slow motion. Then the blur kicks in again, followed quickly by more slow motion. This under cranking/over cranking bounce creates a fluid frenzy of action, and yet freezes images. It's amazingly close to how the combat was depicted in the comic book, frame by frame but with a sense of hysterical movement.

Some have called the film "sterile" for its heavy use of CGI. On the contrary, I thought it was the most organic I've seen a heavily CGI-ed movie look. If there was sterility in the images, it was because they tried to match Frank Miller's artwork. I suspect that I got more out of the film than most in the theatre, as I have the graphic novel (in it's original five part comic book release version). There are shots that while, perhaps, "sterile" were direct copies of the comic. The one that captured my imagination the most was a light background with a black face; the eyes were all that was visible. This single shot is almost exactly as I remember it in the comic.

Besides the charging rhino and what not, the film's only major departure from the comic is a subplot involving Queen Gorgo. Leonidas' queen is a very minor character in the graphic novel. Her subplot in the film was created as an example of just what Leonidas was fighting for. Unfortunately, I thought the film clunked a bit when director Zack Snyder (of the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, a damn fine zombie movie) cut to the subplot. I liked the subplot, it just felt grafted on. I also think it could have been used to greater effect. I didn't mind the subplot, I just thought it could have been handled better.

The cast is mostly made up of up-and-coming actors. Playing Leonidas is the Scottish actor Gerard Butler. I enjoyed Butler's portrayal, but noticed that his accent slipped a few times. His Scottish accent came out once in a while. At other times he seemed to be affecting a Greek accent, and at others there was no accent at all. That aside, I enjoyed his King Leonidas. The most familiar face was that of David Wehnham, playing Delios, one of Leonidas' men. He also played Faramir in the last two Lord of the Rings movies. Lana Headey plays Queen Gorgo, with probably the strongest performance in the film.

There is, of course, a lot of violence and blood (and a total of three decapitations). I was also warned going into the film (by someone at work) that there was a fair bit of nudity. The nudity turned out to be Butler's bare rear end, and the breasts of Headey, and Kelly Craig (a Canadian model, playing the Oracle). I was expecting far more from what I was led to believe (and was a little disappointed there wasn't more, truth be told; surprising thing to say about a film with a harem scene). I suspect that my co-worker believed there was more due to the erotic sex scene near the beginning, where a lot is suggested without being explicitly shown.

300 is doing wonderful business. According to Rotten Tomatoes it has cracked $100 million gross. Not bad given that due to its R rating it was pared down to a budget of $60 million. A surprise is the demographic that's seeing it. There are as many people over the age of 25 going as those under that age. A lot of women are seeing it, too. Mind you, there's plenty of eye candy for the women. Alana commented on the incredible UBD (upper body development) on the part of the continuously topless Spartan men. We also noticed that the two female speaking roles were played by women who were relatively flat chested. Though thin, they are as close to what you are likely to find as "normal" women in Hollywood. Normal women and well developed, semi-naked men; Alana said, "This is a trend of which I approve!"

There's been a lot of talk about the film's subtext and its political overtones (talk that ignores the fact that it's based on a graphic novel that came out in 1998). Ignore all that. The two hours in the theatre sped past in a blur, and yet the stunning visuals still remain in my memory, which is almost always a good sign. Critics of the film industry are at a loss to explain how an R rated film released in March could make so much money. It's because 300 is the type of film Hollywood tries hard to make but rarely succeeds. It's something that I call "accessibly original". First and foremost, for a film to be "accessibly original" it must be entertaining.

Computer free weekend

I realized this morning that I hadn't so much as turned on the computer this weekend!

Alana and I were alone, so we had a stress free, laid back weekend. I ended up playing a couple of games solitaire (Battle Cry, a Civil War miniatures/board game hybrid in one of my favourite all-time game systems, and Formula Dé, a Formula One race car game). I did a fair bit of reading of game stuff, and way too much sleep (though you wouldn't know it from this morning).

And I got to watch the first Formula One race of the season, something I almost never get to do. It was the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne. Speed, the racing channel, ran it live early Sunday morning. I stayed up to 3:30 watching it! (This is what got me thinking of playing Formula Dé).

So that's my excuse for not blogging this weekend.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Stardust implosion

StumbleUpon is a relatively new (well, new for me!) site that lets you "stumble upon" interesting web sites. There's a StumbleUpon add-on for Firefox.

Basically, it sends you to random web sites. This is not new. Where StumbleUpon beats similar sites is that they apparently have some sort of database. In the early life of the web a bunch of places let you bounce to random sites. Unfortunately, as the web expanded these sites became useless. You'd be just as likely to come across a lame vanity page as a corporate page. The "cool stuff" got lost in the noise. StumbleUpon seems to have fixed this issue. A quick stumble gave me a dozen sites, each of them with at least a fair level of interest.

StumbleUpon has a new feature: StumbleVideo. It works the same way, letting you stumble from video to video. The first one I saw was a British comedian at the Apollo Theatre. It was quite funny. This was the second: the implosion of the Stardust casino in Las Vegas. The explosion took place on Tuesday (March 13, 2007). Las Vegas knows how to put on a show. Enjoy:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Louisiana lone holdout on cockfighting

Believe it or not, cockfighting (the blood sport where two cocks try to tear each other apart) is now legal in only one state: Louisiana.

A bill was passed into law last Friday in New Mexico outlawing the "sport". As of July 1, 2007 Louisiana will be the only state in the Union (in fact, the only jurisdiction north of the Mexico border) where cockfighting is legal. In spite of strong support for the bill, there was considerable resistance to it. Pro-hunting conservative groups were apparently scared of a "slippery slope" situation where outlawing cockfighting would eventually result in the outlawing of rodeos. The lack of any evidence of this happening in other jurisdictions did not silence the resistance.

This shocked me, as I just assumed this brutal and useless practise was illegal in the entire nation. England and Wales outlawed cockfighting in 1849. Scotland outlawed it in 1895.

With Louisiana the last, sad bastion of this "sport" it's likely pressure will increase, dragging Louisiana kicking and screaming out of the 19th century and toward a ban.

My reaction to the USS New Orleans commissioning story

It's funny how some of my recent posts dovetail. Earlier this month I did a post on the media and the military. A small example of the media's general cluelessness with regard to military matters appeared in our local newspaper.

The USS New Orleans, a warship, was commissioned in New Orleans last Saturday. It marked the first time since World War II that a ship was built in its namesake city.

The article, in Monroe's The News Star, is here:

When I read the story one thing struck me: they never mentioned the ship's class! This is something that should have been mentioned. This isn't the fault of The News Star, because it was an Associated Press story (unless the name of the class was pulled for space reasons). The story mentioned the people of New Orleans, and such trivial — and relatively unimportant — details like its height and the fact that it has two gymnasiums. Missing, along with the class, was any mention of what the ship was for! They mentioned that it could carry 800 marines. That's nice, but is that trivia or is that its main function?

Enter Wikipedia:

The USS New Orleans (LPD-18) is a San Antonio class amphibious transport dock (also called a landing platform dock, which is why it has the designation LPD) is, according to Wikipedia, "a warship that embarks, transports, and lands elements of a landing force for expeditionary warfare missions". Basically, it transports marines to a combat area and deploys them in landing craft to the beaches. At the same time, it carries helicopters and/or tilt-rotor aircraft for close air support.

This technical stuff helps you understand what the ship does, and what the people of the United States spent its money on. Plus, it's interesting information (more interesting, to my mind, that it has two gymnasiums or is the length of "two French Quarter blocks). I had no idea, except for the comment about 800 marines, that the ship was something other than a guided missile cruiser or a resupply vessel.

It seemed to me that this little Associated Press article displayed exactly what is wrong with news today. Hard information is being replaced with soft news. More of the article was spent describing the effect on the city of New Orleans than on the ship itself, and what was mentioned about the ship was less informative than trivial. They didn't even mention that the vessel was actually launched over two years ago.

This reminded me of today's Non Sequitur comic (found at, which questions why soft news has replaced hard news:

As always, click on the picture to see a bigger version.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Lost is losing viewers

TV ratings are a weird thing. Like political polls, you can pull from them anything you want. The recent ratings for one of my favourite TV shows, Lost, are no exception.

Lost ran for 6 weeks back in the Fall, and then went on hiatus. They are now going to run 16 episodes one right after another, which they began doing four weeks ago. At the same time, ABC moved the show from Wednesday at 9:00 pm to Wednesday at 10:00 pm, Eastern Time.

The good news is that the show is hands down the winner among 18 to 49 year-olds in its time slot, and it's actually the highest rated show of any network in its time slot.

The bad news is that it has lost (pardon the pun) 2 million viewers since it's return on February 7, and a whopping 6.5 million viewers from its season debut back in the Fall. Back then, 18.8 million people watched Lost. Last week that number was 12.34 million (down 440,000 from the week before).

There are a number of theories behind this.

The move to 10:00 pm will always drop viewers. A lot of people will stay up to 10 to watch something, but need to be in bed before 11. There's no way of knowing how many people tape the show for later viewing.

While I didn't mind the shows that ran last fall (though they didn't engross me as they should have), a lot of viewers were peeved that the story line focused on Jack, Sawyer, and Kate. The problem with an ensemble cast with 10+ characters is that even if three of them turn out to be the most popular, you're going to anger a whole bunch of viewers who prefer some of the other characters (my favourites are Desmond, Sayid, Hurley, and Jin, for instance).

The second half of last season was a bit of a mess, until things started moving forward quickly in the last couple of episodes. Lots of fans see the first half of this season as more of the same. More questions are being asked than answered. Fans are starting to get frustrated.

Although certain blogs blame the plot and the slow pace of revelations, I don't think you can discount another major issue. I, personally, disliked the way ABC teased me into watching six episodes and then pulled the plug for three months. In protest, I didn't watch their replacement show. Neither did a lot of people, as the show was pulled and probably won't be renewed. It wouldn't take much for people to shrug and say, "You know what, I'll just spend my evening web surfing or knitting, and watch it all in one lump when the DVD comes out." With popular shows releasing season DVD sets soon after the season has aired (in lieu of reruns), there's no such thing anymore as "must see TV".

A couple of posts on Lost fan sites make it clear that the fans know ratings have dipped, and have even applauded the dip. They think that ABC will start to reveal more information at a quicker pace now. A teaser for this week's episode (first released on, and now available on YouTube) reveals more than the usual teaser.

I have my doubts that the show's pace will change for the better. The show's producers say that Lost will have a definite end, and that the end will likely come in the 2009/2010 season. If that's the case, it seems they already have an arc in mind. If they hold to their artistic vision, they won't release things more quickly just because their ratings are slumping. On the other hand, ABC may force their hand, which could mean a decline in quality and/or story line coherence in an effort to boost ratings.

We'll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile Heroes continues to capture more of my attention, though it is on hiatus until April...

U.S. Congressman comes out... as a non-theist

If you thought the deep, dark secret in American politics is being gay, you are wrong. Gay congress people first came out of the closet in the 70s. No, the deep, dark secret is not being religious.

Representative Pete Stark (a Democrat from California) came out of the non-theist closet, as indicated in a press release today from the Secular Coalition For America (I found this out from The Carpetbagger Report, which learned about it from the Shakespeare's Sister blog).

Stark is the first openly non-religious member of the U.S. Congress. That's right, apparently there has never been a member of Congress who has admitted to not believing in God. Note that he is listed as a "non-theist". He's not necessarily an atheist, he could be an agnostic.

According to the press release:
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America ( ). Rep. Stark is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is Chair of the Health Subcommittee.

Although the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, the Coalition's research reveals that Rep. Stark is the first open nontheist in the history of the Congress.

The religion of Canadian politicians is rarely brought up. I know the religious leanings of several Canadian prime ministers mostly by accident. It's not something that comes up during a campaign. I can't tell you the religious persuasion of most of the MPs (Members of Parliament) or MPPs (Members of Provincial Parliament) I voted for. I do know of several who were openly non-theistic, and it didn't hurt their ability to win an election. I'm not saying the rest of Canada is like that. I'm certain that it is an issue in certain conservative-leaning ridings. It's just not a big issue, and certainly not one on a national level.

By contrast, Stark is one of only four people who chose to come out in response to the Secular Coalition's inquiry. The others are Terry S. Doran, president of the School Board in Berkeley, California; Nancy Glista, a member of the School Committee in Franklin, Maine; and Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from Arlington, Massachusetts.

Another part of the press release says the following:
Recent polls show that Americans without a god-belief are, as a group, more distrusted than any other minority in America. Surveys show that the majority of Americans would not vote for an atheist for president even if he or she were the most qualified for the office.

That ties in with my first blog of the year, where I mention that one of the big fallacies against the non-religious is that they are less moral than the devout. That essay can be found here:

The United States is a very religious country, one of the most religious in the world. Even still, some 10% of Americans are considered to be non-theists. Assuming that politicians have the same distribution as others in the population (and that's probably a stretch), then you could expect 53 or 54 members of Congress to be non-theists. Instead, only one has been identified. The others (and there probably are others) have to hide the fact or face defeat at the polls.

Which is funny. Most people despise politicians for lying to them. And yet if a non-theist is open about their religion, they will likely get the boot regardless of their actual performance or qualifications, thus reinforcing a need to lie. People complain about the morality of politicians. And yet as far as we know all but one of these "immoral politicians" is devout, and the vast majority are Christians.

My point is the same as in my earlier article. Non-theists are no more, or less, moral than theists, except perhaps in that they often have to hide their status if they wish to receive equal (Constitutionally protected) treatment in the workplace. Alana already suspects her non-theist beliefs have had an effect at work. I haven't bothered mentioning mine at work (not that they would have much effect on me at any rate, given that I haven't had a raise in almost 2½ years *grumble*). I wouldn't hide the fact, but I'm certainly not going to bring it up. If you live in the Bible Belt, freedom of religion is only a partial freedom at best.

The full press release is found here:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Winner a loser

I'm sure you'll see the title of this post other places, because The Winner, starring Rob Corddry of The Daily Show fame is pretty lame.

So what's wrong with it? The first thing I hated was the laugh track. This is the 21st century and they are using a late 80s laugh track! The show is set in 1994, so maybe they thought it would be a cool retro feel. It's not. Neither are the really cheap sitcom sets. (I'm somewhat spoiled with Scrubs...)

Corddry plays the richest man in Buffalo, NY, who didn't "bloom" until his 30s in 1994. He's a "man-child", whose parents have badly coddled. So, of course his best friend is his 14 year-old neighbour and the kid's mother (a doctor) sees nothing wrong with that. And there is nothing wrong, because this is fantasy television land where the idea of a 32 year old hanging out with a 13 year old — who in turn is trying to help him land his Mom, an old crush who just returned to Buffalo — isn't creepy...

It's hard to see how the premise could have worked. Maybe if it had been darker or edgier. You'd expect it to be edgy, since Seth McFarlane (The Family Guy) is an executive producer. The writing is awful. The plots (Fox ran two episodes tonight) were pathetically predictable. The gags were mostly bad, with only the occasional funny line.

Corddry is a disappointment. Actually, his timing is fine. The problem is he's playing essentially the same character he did on The Daily Show. He was funny in short stints there, but his self-conscious semi-ignorant shtick is a bit much for a half hour.

I'd hate to see Corddry flop (and considering the show is on Fox on a Sunday it's entirely possible it will survive longer than it should) but if the show is cancelled he can return to The Daily Show. Assuming there is a place for him, as the cast of "reporters" that they hired to replace Corrdry and Ed Helms are actually quite funny. Only time will tell how bad a career move this show was.

Northern Louisiana didn't get a Toyota plant

I've been to 26 American states, and I couldn't help but notice that most of them don't spend as much on infrastructure as Ontario. This is the downside of having lower taxes, I suppose. You see it in the state of the roads. You see it in the trash on the roads. The northern states are usually in better shape (frost upheaval, you know), though the scariest city I've ever been in was Gary, Indiana. When it comes to infrastructure spending, Louisiana is one of the worst.

That lack of "attention to detail" was partially responsible for Northern Louisiana losing a new Toyota plant. State Sen. Robert Barham was part of group who took Japanese business people from Monroe to Franklin Parish, where they have an industrial site. One of the things they talked about was the amount of trash on I-20 along the route. The other big negative was the lack of skill in the local workforce.

The local media have been making a big deal about the trash part. In spite of the laws already on the books, you see an unsightly amount of garbage beside the road throughout Monroe. It's not like there are mounds of garbage bags and fly-covered garbage throughout the city. It's more like paper, cans, and Styrofoam cups in empty lots. Our street is bad because the apartments have dumpsters that aren't emptied enough. Every Monday the parking lot where I park downtown is littered with a couple of glass bottles (often broken). The head of our company, and several others, are forever picking up the litter near us. The city doesn't do it (but, then again, I'm not sure the city could afford more workers...) The roads are bad for rocks and gravel, too (which I noticed while cycling), indicating that the street cleaners aren't used very often.

Too many people drive around with garbage thrown into the backs of their pickup trucks. They seem to think that just because it sits in the truck bed when there's no wind and the truck's parked it won't fly out at 60 mph on the highway, or when the wind picks up. It's illegal to have trash flip out of the car, but until now that didn't stop anyone. We have neighbours who put their trash bags outside their apartment until they have enough to make the trip to the dumpster (maybe a 30 yard walk) worth their while, at which point they pile the bags onto the hood of their car and drive it over.

The city has started a big clean up drive. The horse now several furlongs down the road, it's time to lock the barn. Apparently there was a big clean up blitz this weekend. We weren't in town, so I didn't notice anything. I did notice a lot of trash along US 165 down to Alexandria; it's not just a Northern Louisiana problem, it extends to the entire state.

I noticed that no one wants to talk about the other reason this part of the state lost the Toyota plant: the unskilled workforce. Barham, the state senator, said that it's important that Delta Community College get a permanent campus. Apparently the only thing keeping the poor folk in the area ignorant is a roving campus. It doesn't, apparently, have anything to do with a large poor population without access to higher education.

The trash problem is, by comparison, easy to fix. Especially if you just use the low-risk offenders in the local jails to pick the stuff up as some have suggested. (Since a fine and eight hours community service is the penalty for littering, it could be a self-correcting problem.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The press and the military

When I was checking out atomic bomb information I came across a site high up on Google's rating for "hiroshima atom bomb" suggesting that the U.S. government in general, and the U.S. Army in particular, had kept the truth about the bombings a secret. The site suggests that newsreel footage of the full effect of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs was hidden from the American public for 25 years, deliberately hiding the horror of atomic warfare.

Of course the site doesn't suggest a less conspiratorial theory. The Cold War was just beginning. The exact effect of the atomic bombs, and thus the ability to calculate their yield in explosive force, was a military secret. The precise effect could also suggest ways to mitigate against an atom bomb. There is a concrete building that was below the hypocentre of the bomb blast in Hiroshima that still stands today. A more reasonable situation is that the bomb footage was declared a secret and sealed for 25 years. Once it's sealed it's very difficult to get secrets unsealed before their release date.

Reading this article brought to mind the recent scandal with the U.S. Army's Walter Reed Medical Center. If you haven't heard, a motel bought by the U.S. Army as an outpatient facility is, apparently, not fit to for human habitation. The Army Secretary relieved Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman from command of the facility. The general had been in command for several years, then he moved on to another post, and then was brought back just recently. In a recent television exposé Weightman dismissed the worst of the charges against the facility.

It's not surprising that the media don't trust the military. That lack of trust is mutual. It's been going on a long time. My main area of expertise is the American Civil War. The press in the 19th century was not what it is today. There were journalists with a sense of integrity, who wanted to only tell the truth. There were others who would flat out lie. Publishing rumours as fact was common. I have read copies of the New Orleans Daily Picayune from April, 1862. The reports from the Battle of Shiloh were anywhere from one to three days late in getting to New Orleans. The first day's battle was overwhelmingly in favour of the Confederates. The Union counterattacked the next day, and the battle became the Confederacy's first major defeat. You wouldn't know that in the newspaper until about four days after the battle. The battle was over for two days and the newspaper was still printing reports about a great Southern victory, mostly from over-eager communications from field commanders. On the third day the news was ominously quiet. I can just imagine what it was like that day when the bad news was finally accurately reported.

The press in the North was heavily partisan. There were Democratic papers and there were Republican papers, and they regularly saw eye-to-eye unless it was after a major victory. I doubt any American president has had to deal with so much open criticism during a war as Lincoln. It wasn't just criticism. The term "loose lips sink ships" was still some fifty years away. It was common for troop positions to be printed in the newspapers. Robert E. Lee tried to grab Northern newspapers whenever he could. William T. Sherman once said about newspaper men in his camp, "I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast."

The North wasn't the only side suffering from an unrestrained press. Robert E. Lee lost his first field command in 1861 largely due to press criticism after a failed campaign in western Virginia. When Lee turned out to be a tactical genius a year later, the papers forgot all about how they called him "Granny Lee" and the "King of Spades". Open criticism of Major General Jeb Stuart after the Battle of Brandy Station doubtless stung the cavalry general. Although it is impossible to know for sure, it is possible that it at least partially resulted in Stuart's vainglorious ride around the Army of the Potomac prior to Gettysburg, and thus put Lee in the position of fighting a battle on ground not of his choosing.

Someone at work said she didn't care for the way the media reported, daily, the number of dead in Iraq. I pointed out that not only were the numbers of dead reported during the Civil War, but the names of the dead were regularly posted in public areas of the towns, and were often the first knowledge family members had of their dead loved ones.

The Civil War may have been the first war with photographs of combat dead. There were military photographs in the Crimean War, but they were from rear echelon positions. Long exposure times made actual combat photography impractical and dangerous. The American Civil War showed the nation the aftermath of battle. Some of the corpses were posed for effect (likely including the famous picture of a sharpshooter at Gettysburg's Devil's Den). This did not seem to be a problem among those who viewed the pictures in galleries.

Sometime between the American Civil War and World War II newspapers started to be more accommodating of the administration. Newspapers inflamed the situation leading up to the Spanish American War. Perhaps Michael can chime in with his take on the press during World War I. By World War II, though, the press had learned that there were certain things that they didn't report on. They understood that it was important not to give the enemy aid. Of course the press in Germany and Japan believed the same thing. We can only speculate whether or not the Second World War would have even happened had there been freedom of the press in those nations.

Giving away troop positions is a pretty basic thing for the press not to do. (Geraldo Rivera apparently forgot this lesson during the combat phase of the Iraq War. Maybe Geraldo isn't so much a hack as he is "old school". 19th century old school...) It's interesting how much editorial control the military exerted, too. I saw a photograph of a dead Marine in the Pacific that was never printed. The Marine fell funny when he died. One leg was bent funny underneath him. It looked not like he had broken it, but like his body had gone limp in a peculiar position. The photograph was not cleared by censors due to the odd, disturbing position of his body. Anything that could affect the morale at home was deemed okay to censor.

I read an interesting account in the defunct magazine Brill's Content. The magazine explained part of the disconnect between the press and the military as a lack of military service among journalists. For the first half of the 20th century journalists regularly served in the military. Currently that isn't a career path for most journalists. Journalists don't understand the military as much as they used to. The level of mistakes about military jargon and technology is staggering.

The current animosity between the military and the press in the U.S. stems from the Vietnam War. It's largely believed by the average American that the press and television news media were against the war from the start. That wasn't true. For the first few years of the war the press was overwhelmingly positive. The turning point came with the Tet Offensive. The Tet Offensive was a North Vietnamese campaign that began in January, 1968 during the Tet religious festival. The offensive would turn into an American military victory, but a political defeat. Until the Tet Offensive, the Johnson administration was claiming that they were winning the war, and that the North Vietnamese were incapable of defeating the U.S. and their South Vietnamese allies. The Tet Offensive, and the later release of the Pentagon Papers, showed that the press had been lied to. The My Lai massacre, which the military whitewashed, (the initial report on the incident was written by a Major Colin Powell) in the middle of the offensive added to the feeling that the military was hiding something. From then on the spell was broken and the press became more skeptical, and more negative, about the war in Vietnam. This coincided with a virulent anti-war movement in the U.S., an anti-war movement that didn't, or couldn't, discern between the political decisions and the average soldiers.

Things are different today. The military learned how to get the press on their side. The embedded journalist concept appears to have been a big success. By putting journalists in the field with the soldiers — a concept that was common back in World War II — the journalists got to see the soldiers as people. The combat portion of the Iraq War was described in very positive terms. The press also learned to differentiate the soldier from the war. Even when Abu Ghraib hit the news, the emphasis was on the bureaucracy and some bad soldiers. For the most part, the press has been very much on the side of the average soldier. They questioned whether or not enough troops were sent in the first place, why the troops weren't given more heavily protected vehicles, and whether or not the troops have the right body armour. (The latter has become a big deal with the British Army.)

In the Walter Reed case, an injured soldier was unable to get the army to do anything until he took his story to The Washington Post. Immediately afterward, he was moved to a better room, the holes in the walls were repaired and the room was painted. The threat of the media got things done when official channels did not. This is why a free press is essential to a democracy.

The irony is that the average soldier has to go to the press to cut through the military's bureaucratic red tape.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Chaosium back at GenCon

On Saturday I posted about Chaosium not attending this year's GenCon game convention. I posted a link to a GenCon forum thread talking about it.

I just learned that the issue was resolved, and Chaosium will be at this year's GenCon, and that there will be Call of Cthulhu events at GenCon after all.

No word was given as to what caused the problem in the first place...

Nuclear bomb video

While researching the background for a superhero roleplaying game, I came across a bunch of information about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs. I stumbled across this video.

It's just nuclear explosions set to heavy metal music. Truthfully, it could do without the music. The images themselves are stunning, in their horror and their beauty.

There are some images that don't look like they belong. They look like big balls of ooze, slowly expanding. That's the core of a hydrogen bomb, expanding in the very, very early stages of the explosion. The footage was taken with an ultra-high speed camera. The bulk of the camera was situated over a mile away in a hardened bunker. I can't remember the specifics of how the camera worked, but it was able to catch the very first microseconds of the blast. I've seen stills from that footage, but not the motion pictures.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

No Call of Cthulhu at GenCon?

According to a message on, there will be no Call of Cthulhu games —; or any other Chaosium games, for that matter — at this year's GenCon gaming convention, at least not unless some sort of agreement is made between GenCon and Chaosium.

No one is saying why there will be no games. Speculation is rife. The leading contender in the rumour department is that Chaosium owes GenCon money, and will not get to participate unless they pay up. This is only speculation however. No one is saying anything official. It could be that Chaosium was moved to a different area of the dealer's room and has decided to fight that. Or it could be any of a number of reasons.

Here's the announcement:

It sounds suspiciously like GenCon is locking out Chaosium. Not only won't they be in the dealer's room, no one — including fans — will be allowed to run games based on Chaosium's products.

Presumably Delta Green could still be played using Arc Dream's relatively new NEMESIS game system.

If GenCon is doing this, it could only mean that they're trying to force Chaosium into doing something. For a company like Chaosium, GenCon could be the equivalent to the Christmas buying season. This is a big deal...

Chaosium's not the best run business in the gaming world. They've been slow to publish stuff in the last few years. They are notorious for the way they treat their freelance writers. At least one game designer on speculated that it wouldn't be surprising to learn that Chaosium owed GenCon money.

But, again, that's speculation and rumour only.

If, instead, it's Chaosium deciding that they won't be at GenCon unless some sort of concession is made, they do have some bargaining power. Chaosium and Call of Cthulhu in particular are not the huge sellers they used to be. But, as the thread pointed out, they are iconic. The Cthulhu for President rallies have always been at GenCon during presidential election years. The Call of Cthulhu Masters Tournament has always been held at GenCon. Not having them there is a big deal.

Origins (which at least used to be owned by Wizards of the Coast, the same company that owns GenCon and Dungeons and Dragons) is still running Cthulhuthon, a large Call of Cthulhu convention within the Origins convention itself.

It's unlikely that we'll get to Origins or GenCon this year, much as I'd like to go to one of them. If we were leaning toward GenCon, this would cancel it. Without Call of Cthulhu I'd much prefer to go to Origins. Origins is smaller than GenCon, but still pretty big. It's also at a more reasonable time of the year. (GenCon used to be the first week in August. When it moved to Indianapolis it had to move the date to later in August, which now conflicts with Logan going back to school).

It's still possible that things will be sorted out. It needs to be sorted soon, before people start cancelling their plans.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Last night on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert implied that there will soon be an ice cream named after him. The announcement is set for next Monday. Knowing of only one ice cream manufacturer that does celebrity based flavours, I checked the Ben & Jerry's site.

Yep, there it is, a new flavour! Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream, "a decadent melting pot of vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a caramel swirl."

Here's the site, with a picture of the ice cream tub and the ad copy. It's quite cute.