Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow Day

In honor of the snow day we're having in much of the Seattle area today, I found a great poem on the topic:

Snow Day by Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch,
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed,
the All Aboard Children's School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with -- some will be delighted to hear --

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School,
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and -- clap your hands -- the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Your Computer May Be Infected

I got the following letter in my email today. Scary stuff. I'm glad one more time I use the Apple operating system. I'm sort of hoping Apple stops gaining market share, otherwise I'll become susceptible to this stuff just like all you Windows users ;-)

Dear BRUCE CORDELL,

We take great care to keep your personal information secure. As part of these ongoing efforts, we are notifying you that the computer you use for online bill payment may have been exposed to software that puts the security of your computer's contents at risk. This letter will help you determine if your computer is actually infected and advise you how to fix the problem and protect yourself against future risk.

The malicious software affects some but not all customers who accessed online bill payment on Tuesday, December 2, 2008. For a limited period of time, some customers were redirected from the authentic bill payment service to another site that may have installed malicious software. Your computer may be infected if all of the following are true:

* You attempted to access online bill payment between 12:30 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. Eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, December 2, 2008, and
* You were using a computer with the Windows operating system, and
* You reached a blank screen rather than the usual bill payment screen when you attempted to navigate to online bill payment, and
* After reaching the blank screen, your computer's virus protection program did not tell you via pop-up or other messaging that malicious software was detected and quarantined.

If all four of the conditions above are true, your computer may be infected. We have partnered with McAfee®, the world's largest dedicated security technology company, to provide you with a complimentary copy of its VirusScan® Plus software which, when installed, will detect, block and remove any malicious software from your computer hard drive. Please contact us at 877-800-4864 for further instructions or 800-564-9184 (Option 1) for further instructions. We will also offer you both advice and free services that can help you mitigate any risk you may face as a result of this incident or other everyday exposures you may encounter.

CheckFree will never ask for your password via email or via phone. If you ever receive an email requesting your password, do not respond and delete the email immediately.

We value your business and your trust, and we apologize for any inconvenience this incident has caused.

Thank you,

Art D'Angelo
Vice President, CheckFree Customer Operations

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Plague of Spells Reviews


In the spirit of book promotion,I sent out my author copies of Plague of Spells to online sites that review fantasy novels about four weeks ago. Now, the reviews are coming in! Take a look:

Grasping For the Wind


The Beezer Review

Graeme's Fantasy Book Review

Take a look at what the reviewers are saying!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Plague of Spells: Ruins of Starmantle

Another bit of Plague of Spells novel promotion, this time in the form of a fragment of the narrative turned into a D&D encounter you can add to your game!

In this scene, Raidon Kane comes upon the city of Starmantle, but finds it has changed much since his last visit . . .
Starmantle was gone.

In its place was a madman’s fancy. Translucent emerald
spires reached from the earth in wild abandon. Each hummed
a single flutelike note. In their thousands, the spires produced an
atonal melody that clawed at sanity.

If you're a subscriber to DDi (and Dragon and Dungeon magazine), download the PDF.

If you're not a subscriber . . . I apologize. As the author, I'd hoped to make this a purely promotional piece for Plague of Spells, but Dungeon saw it as premium content that its subscribers should have the benefit of, which I understand. So, if you really want to see this scene of the book come alive as a D&D encounter, consider it another reason to take the plunge and subscribe to DDi.

Find it here at:
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/duad/20081203

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Plague of Spells Released Today!


Guess what? The novel Plague of Spells is officially released today. (In good Shadowrealm company.)

For a taste, download the free first chapter here.

If you'd like to talk about the book, you can do so in the comments here, in the comments at plagueofspells.com, or on other online forums I'll find links for.

Reviews are pending, but please provide your own, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Draconomicon Interview


Wizards posted an interview with me regarding Draconomicon I: Chromatic Dragons, for which I was lead designer.

More ink has been spilled on describing dragons than on nearly any other creature. These ancient, noble, yet savage beasts are a favorite subject of guidebooks, bards' tales, and ancient tomes and scrolls. Draconic knowledge is gained at risk of life and limb; dragons are rapacious, jealous of their secrets... and often hungry.

Wizards of the Coast: With the release of Draconomicon, let's discuss dragons in general. Now that 4th Edition has been out now for several months, how do you feel 4E dragons compare to their counterparts of earlier editions? That is, in your experience how do you find 4E dragons playing around the table? From a design perspective, how are you approaching their creation any differently?

Bruce R. Cordell: Dragons were always the quintessential "solo" monsters, so in a sense, 4E dragons, unlike many other monsters, are more similar in theme to earlier edition dragons. A single dragon is a challenge the party fears to face. This was true before and should still be true now.


More here:
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4spot/20081126

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spin War for Minnesota Senate Seat Ensues

Challenging ballots as they come in puts them out of circulation for a recount, at least temporarily. This may give the impression that one of the candidates is winning a recount when it is simply too early to say.

Both candidates in Minnesota are challenging ballots as their recount moves forward, but it looks like the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman, is going slightly more crazy at this time.

From fivethirtyeight.com (Nate Silver):

Now, the Coleman campaign isn't being devious or anything like that; they're simply exploiting a flawed system and trying to win a spin war. But news organizations should recognize that -- as of about Friday afternoon when the number of challenges skyrocketed -- the entire first phase of the recount process essentially became a spin war. The running totals being reported by the Star Tribune and the Secretary of State are at this point fairly meaningless, and should be denoted as such; we aren't likely to learn very much more about the ultimate winner of the recount until the state canvassing board convenes in December.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Supreme Court Sides With Navy Over Whales

So much for Pacific whales. I guess the Supreme Court doesn't hold much with the ecosystem's value. I guess they don't think it's important the ecosystem maintains life on earth (life such as, say, Supreme Court justices) through a complex network of species interaction.

This decision was 5-4. Thanks George W. Bush, for stacking the court with science ignoramuses. That'll continue to serve us well long after you're run out town.

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/11/supreme-court-n.html

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama Changes The Lightbulbs

After reading this, I had to laugh, because it is true. Individuals can't change the world and make the USA energy independent. But, man, do I try.

In fact, my lightbulbs are CFL, my car hybrid, a portion of my power I purchase from wind farms, I balance the household carbon footprint with Terra Pass, and my batteries are rechargeable. And I'm a freakin' vegetarian partly for environmental reasons!

I think I deserve my own tax credit! Show me the money!

Here's the post that put me briefly in this comedic frame of mind:

http://www.terrapass.com/blog/posts/obama-are-you-kidding-me-with-the-light-bulbs

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Little of This, Little of That

Today I spent a total of 6 hours in a Muay Thai test for my level 6 certification.

I pulled my glut half way through, and I'm going to have some terrific bruises, but I claim success nonetheless! Moreover, my friend Karol got her level 7 certification, and Todd his level 12 (well, his test is going to last this entire week...)

I'm pretty hungry, so I'm hoping a celebratory dinner is in the offing. But before that, a couple folks are coming over to take a look at the foster kittens even now trying to jump on the keyboard. It'll be fabulous if these two cats find a final home. As wonderful as they are, this house is already filled with adopted shelter cats (and a dog).

Finally, there is some interest from sites I've querried that review fantasy books in Plague of Spells. If you run a review site and would like a copy, I may have a couple to spare. Email me at bruce [ampersand] plagueofspells [period] com if you want a copy.

So ends this stream of consciousness blog entry. Where's the ice and ibuprofin?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

VOTE

Things have been hectic for me lately on any front you care to name, but thankfully, I managed to vote. Actually, my legislative district (#33) has no polling places--it's all vote by mail. So my ballot went into the mail last week.

I pointed to Jeff Grubb's recommendations awhile back. Of course, he's not in my district. So I'd like to add one additional recommendation for a few folks whose campaign office I've visited:

State House of Representatives District 33, Pos 1: Tina Orwall
State House of Representatives District 33, Pos 2: Dave Upthegrove

Go vote!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Who's Discrediting Who?

You may recall a couple of my previous posts where I described KCACC "Exposed" as group with a beef against the King County animal shelter, and some of its unfortunate activities.

I imagine many members of the group believe they are fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, it's come to the point now where these folks' honest efforts have apparently been hijacked by people with ulterior motives--motives that seem ultimately aimed at channeling public funds into private coffers. Worse, they aim to do so under cover of the shiny, happy "no kill" label so taxpayers unfamiliar with the problems of region-wide "no kill" policies will be snowed into thinking everything will be OK.

As I've indicated, the King County shelter had and still has issues, but the process of modernization is ongoing, and more are on the way, if the latest effort is allowed to continue.

Unfortunately for the animals of King County, this KCACC "Exposed" group doesn't appear to have any problem publishing the allegations of folks like Brad Crauer and Nathan Winograd who have a history of questionable actions and failed policies, respectively, in the animal welfare industry.

Worse, the KCACC "Exposed" co-chairs apparently have no problem with printing outright lies. For instance, they recently said the "volunteer coordinator" hired to build a modern program was hired at a salary of $93,000 a year.

Well, let me just say, "I wish." Since I'm married to the Volunteer Program Manager hired at the shelter, I can tell you she was hired into tough job for a lot less than that.

I presume KCACC "Exposed" thought their claim the volunteer manager was making such a large salary might drum up discontent among outsiders and shelter volunteers alike. Discontent that could lend unearned support of their cause. A dishonest tactic, I'm afraid.

Tactics like these are being used to drive the county to consider privatization and "no kill" policies.

So, beware of crazy-sounding allegations about the shelter when you run across them. If it sounds like something akin to "Satanists are killing babies!" then the allegation is likely just as untrue. Better yet, head over the King County shelter in Kent to take a look for yourself, meet the staff, and see for your own eyes what conditions are actually like.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grubb Guide to Responsbile Voting Is In

Want to research every candidate and issue before you on the ballot, but just don't have the luxury of time? Well, if you live in King County in Washington State, one of your first stops should be the blog of someone who always does his own research, and better yet, posts his conclusions on his blog.

Yes, I'm talking about Jeff Grubb, my friend and fellow Alliterate.

His latest take on the issues facing us on Nov 4 are up and posted here.

Take a look!

http://grubbstreet.blogspot.com/2008/10/jeff-recommends-annotated-version.html

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Viral It: The Truth About ACORN

I think we saw the first salvo last night that will become an attempt to delegitimize Obama's upcoming presidency, at least among McCain's unswerving base. So let's get the truth out there and spread it around.

Here's the deal: ACORN is not trying to steal the vote for Obama.

* The only fraud committed was against ACORN itself. ACORN hired 13,000 workers to register a remarkable 1.3 million new voters. And a few of them turned in registration forms with inaccurate and even made-up names to get credit for work they didn't do. ACORN fired them and turned them over to the authorities.
"The Truth About ACORN's Voter Registration Drives,"
http://acorn.org/quickfacts

"Group Answers Charges of Voter Registration Fraud," New York Times, October 14, 2008
http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/14/acorn/

* ACORN reported the fraudulent registration forms. In most states, ACORN is required by law to submit all forms collected whether they appear to be bogus or not—that way election officials, not partisan groups, can make the call. ACORN flags cards that may not be legitimate. And in many places, the charges of fraud only came up because ACORN was the one who flagged the cards!
"Voter Group Admits Mistakes, Defends Work," ABC News, October 14, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=31241&id=14429-6672261-LU6AT3x&t=5

"Is there ACORN fraud in Florida?," Orlando Sentinel, October 15, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=31239&id=14429-6672261-LU6AT3x&t=6

* This won't have any impact on the election. No one is allowed to vote unless they are properly registered. And there is no evidence of false registrations actually leading to organized voting fraud.
"'Fraud' vs. 'Suppression'," Politico, October 14, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=31240&id=14429-6672261-LU6AT3x&t=7

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Slaves of the Red Goddess

My friend Wolfgang Baur has opened voting for his next round of Open Design. Wolf's RPG writing hearkens back to the patronage in Renaissance Italy when wealthy individuals would commission a single work from an artist and employ him until that work was finished. Yes, he's a modern-day Michelangelo, and he paints with your imagination.

He's previewed the set of Open Design candidates here, if you're interested in becoming one of his patrons and helping to choose which project he next tackles.

I notice that one of the candidates is one of those "The Truth is Stranger Than You Can Ever Know" pieces that I really enjoy :-).

Slaves of the Red Goddess (4E D&D): Bruce Cordell is writing a take on the “Kingdom of the Ghouls”, so it seems only fair that Open Design do a riff on the Far Realms. This 4E adventure features the cult of the Red Goddess, and attempt to summon Things from the Realms Beyond, and an assault on the goddess’s followers stronghold in the Grey Marshes. Adaptable to any campaign, it features a “points of light” approach, a dozen new monsters, and a set of ruthless arcane and divine villains. Possibly some emphasis on the Glass Books, Slave Wands, and other new magical items.

http://www.koboldquarterly.com/kqforums/viewtopic.php?t=229

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Plague of Spells Dec 2


The final cover for Plague of Spells has appeared on Amazon. Very nice! In two more months, the Abolethic Sovereignty shudders towards a long-foretold awareness. Will you be ready?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kittens Ready for Adoption

The King County Animal Care & Control shelter has many great foster cats ready to find their permanent homes, including Carson and Charlie, two kittens we are currently fostering. If you would like to adopt Carson and Charlie, please email dee dot cordell at kingcounty dot gov. This video includes some of the highlights of the kittens time in our home.

To socialize the kittens, we let them interact with our other cats and dog after they were old enough. Being around 5 months old, they love to play, and play hard. But when they've had their fun, they also love to snuggle and purr. Both are very calm and sweet, and ready to go into their forever home.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

maps.google.com/vote

This is amusing, but has some NSFW language in it. So, put on your headphones.



The magic web page? maps.google.com/vote

Top 1% Should Aid Bailout

Senator Bernie Sanders voted against the bill that would put Wall Street's burden on the backs of the American middle class. "The bailout package is far better than the absurd proposal originally presented to us by the Bush administration, but is still short of where we should be," Sanders said.

Bernie Sanders, and Independent from Vermont, describes how the top 1% of the wealthy in this country who profited handsomely during the lead-up to this popped bubble, should be on the hook for fixing the situation.

A very interesting read:

http://www.truthout.org/100208J

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crisis Explained

I've heard a lot of explanations about what's caused the current financial crisis, and now I've heard several reviews on why the bail-out plan failed, and what that means.

This blog article does the best job I've seen describing the situation:

http://silentclarity.livejournal.com/376012.html

Summary: We'd better pass some bail-out legislation sooner than later.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Animal Propaganda 2.0

Looks like real money is behind the effort to discredit the King County animal shelters. The effort to dismantle the shelter is becoming all the more desperate now that changes instituted (changes which, frankly, needed to occur!) are beginning to bear fruit. You'd think folks concerned with conditions at the shelter would be excited their effort has been rewarded with action.

But it's exactly the opposite. It seems like they really won't be happy until the KCACC shelter is a smoking crater. I'm not exactly sure what the forces behind shutting down KCACC think will happen if they succeed--but I suspect they believe they or or their friends will get to swoop in and grab the financing currently supporting the shelter. If so, then this is nothing more than a cynical money grab, and really has nothing at all to do with animal welfare.

I say that real money is behind this ongoing effort to discredit the shelter for many reasons, not least of which is the launch of a new web page titled KCACC "Exposed." This is no simple free Google Blogger blog like mine or KCAS Creatures (run by someone who volunteers at the shelter)--someone spent some money putting together a site whose sole goal is to tear down the county shelter. I mean, come on, the site actually has a logo! They've branded their effort!

The site includes several pages, and is interactive... well, interactive so far as you are prompted to send in your own stories of "KCACC failures." Comments are NOT enabled on any of the pages, which indicates the page owners don't want people like me showing up there and calling them on their spin.

Why do I know the effort to shut down the shelters consists of spin and in some cases outright lies? Because I am intimately familiar with conditions in the shelter; my wife is the Volunteer Program Manager (or, as the KCACC "Exposed" propaganda blog identifies her, the volunteer coordinator) recently recruited to sift from the shambles an actual volunteer program. Several other people, including former CEO of the Humane Society and a newly installed head of the shelter with a reputation in the country for getting things done, are also newly installed. They are committed to fixing the shelter, and are making great progress to that end.

Of course, when you start from shambles, it takes a while to build actual programs and institute new policies and procedures. Maybe even several months. Apparently, KCACC "Exposed" regards the money spent on bringing in new management as a waste, and that the money should have gone to the animals. Ok... like, what, should that money have been just shoveled into the kitten cubbys? Knitted into $10 Bill blankets? What?

Oh, wait, I have a guess... given to managers of a DIFFERENT shelter that the KCACC "Exposed" blog is working with.

One final question--how much money did the KCACC "Exposed" site spend on its spiffy logo and web page design? Perhaps they'd consider donating an equal amount to some animal shelter just to show that, you know, they actually do care more about animals than winning.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How About This Plan, Mr. McCain?

I wonder of John McCain will deign to debate if the following is the plan passed to save the economy? (Or, is it just that the elderly senator from Arizona is too old to call up enough gumption to multitask during times of crisis?)

10 Ways to Bail Out Wall Street (and Main Street) Without Soaking Taxpayers in Debt, By Chuck Collins and Dedrick Muhammad

Who says we need to borrow a trillion dollars to save Wall Street from its own excesses?

As Congress debates the particulars of the Bush-Paulson bailout, one key question has gone largely unexplored: Who will pay for this mess?

Lawmakers in Congress appear to have assumed that the federal government will simply borrow more money to foot the bill for the bailout. The national debt ceiling will rise to a whopping $11.3 trillion, up from $8 trillion a year ago.

But this rush to borrowing merely shifts the bailout burden onto the backs of future taxpayers. Congress needs to change course -- and develop a "pay as we go" plan that makes Wall Street pay.

The lion's share of bailout funding should come from the high-finance gamblers and the wealthy CEOs who have so profited from our casino economy.

Read the full article here:
http://www.alternet.org/workplace/100223/?page=entire

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Say No to $700 Billion Bailout?

There may be other ways to save the world from economic collapse (especially the current plan, which has all the makings of a grand screw up). I'd like to see more of these alternates discussed before we move forward. Alternate plans such as those suggested by economists Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein (hat tip to Sharon Cordell)

I have a feeling I know why the following won't fly. It is because it doesn't assuage our genetic urge to see those who've transgressed the boundaries of fairness immediately reap the consequences of their decisions, even if this ends up hurting everyone else in the process.

But here's the idea:

The Treasury Department has told members of Congress that the US faces a financial tsunami if a bill to allow the government to purchase up to $700 billion of toxic financial securities from financial firms is not passed – this week.

Unfortunately, this solution of giving the US Treasury almost unlimited power to buy distressed securities could be avoided if the government made some simple (and temporary) changes to mark-to-market accounting rules. So far, and for many unknown reasons, these changes have been considered off limits.

Why drawing such a hard line in the sand is so important, is a real mystery. Certainly, firms that took excessive risk should be punished. And the US should avoid creating moral hazard whenever it can. But saying; “I told you that you would stay in your room for a whole week if you disobeyed, and I don’t care if the house is burning down…you are going to spend an entire week in your room,” is absurd. If we are really talking about the end of the world as we know it; who should really care about relaxing the rules for a short time to get us through.

Let’s not take this the wrong way. Mark-to-market accounting is a good thing. It makes sense most of the time, and for most financial instruments that are traded frequently, and in the open. But there are special circumstances. And today’s financial market problems would meet any definition of the word special.

It is true that home foreclosures have risen, but a vast majority of mortgages are still paying on time. As a result, the market prices of subprime loan pools today have absolutely no relationship to the actual performance of the bonds. If every subprime loan went bad, and banks recovered just 40 cents on the dollar, the bonds would still be worth 40 cents. But the market has pushed bonds well below that level, taking down venerable firms and causing the government to consider draconian solutions.

In other words, mark-to-market accounting, not the reality of the economy or the actual credits, has created much of the financial turmoil that has shaken the world. Imagine if you had a $200,000 mortgage on a $300,000 house that you planned on living in for 20 years. But a neighbor, because of very special circumstances had to sell his house for $150,000. Then, imagine if your banker said you had to mark to this “new market” and give the bank $80,000 in cash immediately (so that you would have 20% down), or lose your home. Would this reflect reality? Not at all. Would this create chaos? Absolutely.

And it is happening all over Wall Street. Merrill Lynch was forced to sell $30.6 billion of illiquid mortgage securities to Lone Star Funds for just $6.7 billion, or 22 cents on the dollar. If it did not sell, these bonds might have fallen to 18 cents and further eroded its capital on a mark-to-market basis. It couldn’t take the chance.

But what if Merrill was allowed to hold those securities on its books, without marking them to an illiquid market? The company would not have had to take a $24 billion loss. And maybe investors in Merrill Lynch would not have had to settle for a $29/share buyout from Bank of America, a 60% mark-down from the share price less than a year ago. After all, everyone knows those loans were worth more than 22 cents. The actual performance of the bonds was much better than the price, and Lone Star was able to take advantage of the fact that Merrill was over the proverbial knee of accounting rules.

All of this can be avoided if a system were put into place that allowed private companies to hold these distressed assets. Rather than a centralized holding place, why not use a decentralized one? Why not allow financial firms with structured (Tier 3) assets issued between December 2003 and August 2007 to suspend mark-to market accounting for those assets, and receive government insurance as a backstop? This would be a temporary solution, not requiring any ultimate change in Sarbanes Oxley or mark-to-market accounting rules, and the government could even make money by selling insurance with less risk to the taxpayer than buying them outright.

In essence a firm could sequester, or firewall off these specific assets from the rest of its balance sheet, and either finance this itself, or bring in outside financing. The firm would promise to hold the securities to maturity, or until government insurance was no longer needed when it liquidated the assets. All of these deals could be settled in the private sector, in multiple locations with the government looking over the shoulder of each deal.

If the rules had been relaxed a little bit for these specific assets, Merrill Lynch could have created its own private equity investment fund inside its corporate structure instead of selling at a huge loss to Lone Star, which created its own holding vehicle.

This plan would leave mark-to-market accounting regulations intact. It would be a temporary change in the rules. Its most important attribute is that it leaves taxpayer powder dry for another day. It also allows the private sector to price assets in an environment that is not contrived and will help avoid the loss of, or government takeover of, more private firms.

Even if the Treasury initiates an RTC-type vehicle, the slight changes in the accounting rules for these specific assets should still be made. If a firm does not want to accept the government bid for its distressed assets it would have an alternative. It would also create a level playing field because the Treasury does not have to mark-to-market. A competitive marketplace for these securities would insure the current holders that they would get a price that is not based on a fire sale.

This plan stops the mark-to-market meltdown without undoing the good that mark-to-market accounting has done, protects the taxpayer, stops the losses at financial firms at a crucial time, and therefore helps end the shorting of stock and bonds that has kept the financial system on the rocks without making it illegal. Best of all it keeps the government from a massive and draconian step toward financial socialism.

Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist

Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist

Approved for Public Use

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

Decisive action to stem the continuing financial meltdown is required. However, let's be certain "decisive" isn't a synonym for "rushed" or "rash." As long as the markets know something will be done, we have a little time to think about the bailout and stem longer-term undesirable consequences a simplistic 'get 'er dun' bailout is likely to lead to.

Steve Fox of Steve Fox of the American Freedom Campaign Action Fund sums it up well:
If we have learned one thing over the past seven years, it is this: Do not EVER trust the Bush administration when the question of executive power is at issue! From the Patriot Act to the authority to use force in Iraq to the need to pass a new FISA law, the Bush administration is always saying some kind of crisis necessitates urgent action, which inevitably leads to the administration being given -- and abusing -- unprecedented power.

This week, the Bush administration is at it again. With the specter of a complete Wall Street collapse hanging over our heads, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is seeking 700 billion taxpayer dollars to bail out the financial industry. While the American Freedom Campaign is not taking a position on the financial details contained in the Bush administration legislative proposal, we are outraged by one specific section related to executive branch accountability.

Section 8 of the legislation provides, "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

Yes, the Bush administration is asking Congress to give the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to spend $700 billion as he wishes, without any real oversight or accountability. With respect to Congress, the proposed legislation requires the Secretary to merely submit reports about his activities starting three months after the first purchase of mortgage-related assets and semi-annually thereafter. That's like giving a gambling addict your life savings and asking him to send you a postcard from Las Vegas every once in a while.

If you believe, as we do, that it is time for Congress to actually serve its constitutional function and guide and oversee the activities of the executive branch*, please click on the following link to send an email to your members of Congress.

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2165/t/1027/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=25969

After you send your email to Congress, please be sure to forward this email along to friends and family or use the Tell-A-Friend option on our site. It is critical that members of Congress hear from their constituents before they adopt any legislation related to this crisis.

Thanks for taking action.

Best,
Steve

Steve Fox
Campaign Director
American Freedom Campaign Action Fund

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Politics Closer To Home: KCAS Witch Hunt

You may recall that I've talked about no-kill shelters before, and how that feel-good label actually works to many animals' disadvantage. See my no-kill summary at the bottom of this post for a refresher. It's relevant to my larger point.

Anyhow, there seems to be a witch-hunt in King County to close down the King County Animal Care and Control shelter. It is one of the remaining open admission shelters in the area now that the Humane Society in Bellevue has been perverted to "no-kill." And, the King County shelter is vulnerable because of past poor management.

Leading the charge on this poorly thought-out mission is apparently one Claire Davis of the Coalition for a No Kill King County. Recently, one of Davis' stalking horses, a Dr. Brad Crauer, blasted the King County shelter in a Seattle Times article for a variety of lapses, apparently in an effort to get the place shut-down or taken over (perhaps by the aforementioned Humane Society?).

However, it turns out Brad Crauer may have been a poor choice for the the Coalition because... well, Crauer isn't the most credible of people. For instance, you might think twice about listening to the recommendations of a vet who "prescribed pain and muscle relaxant medications for himself, using his deceased dog's name."

Ho boy.

And that, my friends, is not even the least of it. Heart worm is potentially in Washington state thanks to Dr. Crauer. For a full list of Crauer's many credibility issues, check out this post from the KCAS CREATURES blog.

It's true that the King County Animal Shelter has had issues and still has them--several people have been brought on board to put the shelter on the right track, including Nancy McKenney, former CEO of the Humane Society. In any case, turning the place into a no-kill shelter is not the solution, because it will ill-serve thousands of animals every year (see below).

And even more to the point, lying and smearing to get your way says a lot about the validity of your goal.

No-Kill: "No-kill" is nice spin term that gets folks riled up for its emotional content; politicians find it easy to get behind because most people don't know what no-kill really means. If a shelter bills itself as no-kill, it is purposefully ignoring the realities of the animal welfare world, where there are (sadly) many many sick, aggressive, terminally ill, or otherwise non-adoptable animals who deserve a more humane end than death by starvation or exposure.

There is certainly a place for no-kill shelters, especially for a group that has limited funds. But no-kill shelters pass the buck by not taking in animals they see as having poor adoption probability. They get to keep their 'no-kill' status by sending animals to open admission shelters. (Actually, the truth is, no shelter is no-kill; a whole other layer of prevaricating going on with that.) If there are no open admission shelters in an area, what do you suppose happens to the stray dog you found on the road? Well, you might take it home... or, you take it to an open admission shelter. What happens when Claire Davis makes the whole county no-kill? A lot of suffering animals, that's what.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Take a Look

(hat tip to Paul Kemp)

Here is Obama just talking about what's been happening with the big banks lately. Take a look.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Reason Reporters Were Arrested at RNC?

Guess what? It turns out there were preemptive arrests during the 2004 RNC, similar to the arrests perpetrated against journalists just last month at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

However, in 2004, I-Witness Video, a media watchdog group that monitors the police to protect civil liberties, video-taped many of these preemptive arrests ("premptive"--is that a legal term? Sounds like Minority Report's Precrime...).

Anyhow, in 2004, I-Witness Video worked with the National Lawyers Guild to gain the dismissal of charges or acquittals of about 400 of the 1,800 who were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, which ended up costing the city millions in lawsuits.

It's so darn pesky being video-taped breaking the laws you're supposed to be enforcing.

Now that we know that history, it makes a little more "sense" (and makes my stomach churn as I think on it) why MN police preemptively moved in on the I-Witness Video team at a house they were staying out 2 days before the 2008 convention started. What other purpose could they have had but to harass and scare the reporters into silence?

If the citizens of this country understood the ramifications of these and similar events, I doubt they'd be OK with the eyes and ears of their democracy being closed, arrested, or worst of all, owned and embedded.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Large Hadron Rap

Are you ready for the Large Hadron Collider to be switched on tomorrow? Here's a little primer, rapped by CERN researchers, for your edification and enjoyment:



More on this video from the Youtube Info pane:
There has been a lot of interest in the original mp3, lyrics, and vocals for remixing. You can find all that here:
https://www.msu.edu/~mcalpin9/lhc_rap...

Images came from:
particlephysics.ac.uk, space.com, the Institute of Physics, NASA, Symmetry, and Marvel

The talented dancers doubled as camera people, with some work by Neil Dixon. Stock footage is CERN's.

Will Barras is responsible for the killa beats:
http://www.ling.ed.ac.uk/~s9527813/

And thanks to MC Hawking, who first thought of using computer-voice to bring Stephen Hawking to the world of rap :-)
http://www.mchawking.com/

The rapper has a day job (we agree this is a good thing) as a science writer.
http://www.katemcalpine.com

They'll have a lot of data to sort. 15 million GB per year, actually. Want to get involved and donate your computer's downtime? Try LHC@home:
http://lhcathome.cern.ch/lhcathome/

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Wider Perspective

I have an acquaintance who often rails about Democrats and their evil schemes to "socialize" America. This fellow is retired and draws benefits from Medicare, Social Security, and a pension his union helped negotiate for him.

Hmm, remind me, which side of the political spectrum did the former two programs originate, and from which side of the political spectrum is the latter most supported by?

But, come the election this fall, he's voting McCain, baby!

When I ask him if he's OK with the mess the last 8 years of Republican rule has caused, he and his wife say, "What're you talking about? We're doing fine." Meaning him and his wife.

I think that response defines parochial. He is getting by, which means he sees no reason to "change teams" after all these years. To do so would, to his way of thinking, somehow invalidate himself.

The thing is, he's not doing fine. Most immediately noticeably: he can't go see his grandkids as often as he'd like because of high gas prices. He can't sell his house for the price he'd like because of the mortgage industry crash. And his savings are being drained by health issues, despite his Medicare, because of a lack of a comprehensive single-payer health care plan. But he's doing fine.

Ok, but what about those grandkids? The administration has only contributed to plummeting test scores with its moronic 'No Child' initiative, which forces educators to teach to tests as opposed to allowing educators even the potential to teach kids how to reason.

The administration's disastrous War Against Terror sent us into Iraq on a pack of lies, the repercussions of which we have been and will continue to deal with for a long time. Not least being how America's reputation has been punked. And don't get me started on the money we've thrown into this fiasco, billions of which have simply disappeared with no accounting. Billions of dollars of money sapped from our paycheks--gone!

And finally, my perpetual cause: the ecosystem that generates the air we breath and the food we eat. The Republican administration of the last 8 years has waged a war on the science that underlies strategies to save it. Why? So the administration's friends and supporters can make a buck, that's why.

Though my acquaintance may not live to reap the repercussions of our failure to get on board with saving the planet, his grandchildren certainly will.

From my point of view, he's not doing fine. From a wider perspective, it seems to me he might be in trouble.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin Controversy

So, if it weren't for the fact that Palin's Abstinence-Only stance failed even inside her own household, she'd otherwise be the perfectly qualified choice for Vice President? [insert ironically raised eyebrows and disbelieving smile]

(hat tip to Dee)

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now arrested Outside RNC

The free press is being arrested outside the Republican National Convention.

Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. She has received journalism's top honors for her reporting and has a distinguished reputation of bravery and courage. Feeling a little sick to my stomach.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Signing at PAX

I'll be at PAX, the Penny Arcane Expo, in Bellevue, WA this Saturday from 3-4 PM in the Wizards Booth (#1132). I'll be signing copies of Stardeep (#3 in the Dungeons quadrilogy). Of course, if you bring some other novel or D&D product, I'll sign that too. I'm there to sign, and by God I mean to sign something! ;-)

With me in the booth will be fellow authors Erik Scott De Bie (Depths of Madness, Dungeons #1) and Rosemary Jones (Crypt of the Moaning Diamond, Dungeons #4). We're missing only Howling Delve (Dungeons #2) author Jaleigh Johnson.

Come by and say hello if you're in the area!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama Hero Worship

I think our species' instinctual desire to put others upon pedestals is a flaw we'll have to overcome. It is one of the reasons we had to suffer through a second term for George Bush despite all his demonstrated failures to lead the free world in a positive direction. Too many people were unwilling to give up their earlier formed idealized version of Bush.

Though I'm behind Obama, I don't want to fall into the trap of becoming a blind supporter. I don't want to engage in hero worship or fall sway to celebrity. That said, I will offer respect where due.

Anyhow, I just watched this video. It's quite cool, but I urge you to watch it while keeping in mind just how celebrity and hero worship come naturally, perhaps genetically, to us. (Thanks T Heck for passing this video on.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wish Upon A Star


My latest Dragon magazine article, Wish Upon A Star, is available here online. For at least the rest of this month and possibly most or all of next, Dragon (and Dungeon) magazine content remains free (after that, $4.95 a month for both mags bundled with a subset of other online tools).

If you play a warlock in your Dungeons & Dragons game, I think you'll want to check this out!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why I'm Not in An Irish Bar in Burien

Tonight's the primary. I was looking forward to meeting local Dems at an Irish bar in Burien (including at least one of the candidates for state representative). However, fate conspired against me, in the form of our two foster kittens and their fun new developments.

Not only do the kittens have a penchant for chewing through power cords, they also apparently have a lingering upper respiratory issue that came to light today. While certainly not life-threatening, the combination of discovering the wire-chewing (well, that could have ended one of them right there) and the recurrence of the upper respiratory this afternoon requires the kittens be moved once more to a safer room. Poor little guys.

And, no meeting of the local candidates as I'd been looking forward to. Ah well, c'est la vie.

How am I getting online? Well, turns out not all my neighbors have secured their wireless connections. But, it's touch and go... a little more go than can actually be depended on, I'm afraid.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Realms at Indy

So, I guess by now it's become fairly clear I had the Realms on the brain for this Gen Con. I was gratified on one hand to see that the new FRCG sold out of our booth... but in the first hour of a 4 day event? Well, we ordered more... which sold out. And a third time, which we split up to sell some on Saturday and the rest on Sunday. Sold out both of these final lots, too. Awesome from one point of view, but that means a lot of people at Gen Con who wanted to buy a copy there weren't able to do so. Drat!

Anyhow, on Sunday, GamerZero interviewed me about how my seminar went, and about the Forgotten Realms in General. Take a look:

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ecosystem Under Assault

What damage can the failed administration do in its last months in office?

Well, among other things, it can attempt to water down the Endangered Species Act.

The ecosystem totters under the assault of too many people reaching for middle class using last-century energy sources. This has put the environment and the components that make it up (living species) under continued and accelerating stress. Please ponder the fact that scientists who make the ecosystem their specialty field of study warn the next great extinction is happening now. Consider further the web-like connections you and I, and every person you know, share with the ecosystem. The planet, it's atmosphere, the creatures, plants, and insects that live their entangled lives upon it are like a woven piece of cloth. Only so many threads can be cut before the whole thing unravels.

Now is not the time to undercut the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

If you believe as I do, write Dirk Kempthorne, secretary of the Interior, to tell him please reconsider. (Click the link to find a the Center for Biological Diversity's easy method of contacting the secretary.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gen Con So Far

Tomorrow I'll be running a D&D game at Gen Con from 8 am to 1 pm. I'll be using an adventure that takes place in the giant shared world of Forgotten Realms, and is held under the auspices of the RPGA's Living Forgotten Realms program. Speaking of Forgotten Realms, the 4th Edition campaign setting I helped write went on sale here. It was selling at a blistering pace. So quickly, in fact, we sold out what we brought to the Con in just hours. So, more cases were ordered, and should arrive tomorrow (fingers crossed).

Thus, I just finished my second read-through of the adventure, after a short lie-down in my hotel room.  Earlier today I ran two hours of general dungeon bashing fun, hung out for an hour signing autographs in the Sagamore Ballroom, and walked about a third of the convention floor hall.

Last night I arrived in Indianapolis, ate with a couple of my co-workers at Ruth Chris's Steak House (a minor feat for a vegetarian like myself), and attended the Diana Jones awards, where my friend and fellow Alliterate Wolfgang Baur shared the award for his Open Design work.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bruce At Gen Con

I'll be at Gen Con this year. Come by and say Hi if you like!

My schedule:

THURSDAY
12:00-2 PM RPGA Delve @ Sagamore
2-3 PM signing autographs I guess @ Sagamore

FRIDAY
8 AM-1 PM Running a Living Forgotten Realms adventure @ Sagamore
2-4 PM Adventure Workshop Seminar

SATURDAY
10 AM-Noon Secrets of the Realms Seminar
12-2PM RPGA Delve @ Sagamore
4-6 PM 4E Q&A

SUNDAY
10 am-11 Hanging out somewhere @ Sagamore doing something....
12-2PM RPGA Delve @ Sagamore
2-3 PM Hanging in the booth

Monday, August 11, 2008

Forgotten Realms, Returned Abeir, Gontal

When we wrote the 4th Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide (releasing this month), we generated so much material that not all of it fit between the covers.

The most significant such area is a region of Returned Abeir called Gontal. In the FRCG, Gontal is described as so: "The western land of Gontal hunkers behind its mountainous border and reveals little of itself to outsiders. A land of mystery to many Abeirans, Gontal’s citizens know it as a place of raging intrigues."

Interesting, yes. But a hook that waits for a follow-up.

So here's the follow-up, and a prime example of how DDi will enhance and extend D&D. Even as the FRCG is published in hard copy, you can download a digital copy of the 2 page Gontal spread here. Actually, I think most of you can download the Gontal region even before you'll have a chance to buy the FRCG (not to mention the copious previews the DDi team has assembled for the FRCG; seems like there's a new extract from FRCG going up online every day).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Elect Tina Orwall in the 33rd Legislative District

At my precinct's caucus in February this year, I learned I was in the Washington 33rd legislative district. Having come from recently not even knowing how caucuses worked, I was delighted and surprised to find myself a delegate for Barack Obama.

When I attended the next gathering of delegates, I found there were many, many people like me who were energized and excited to be part of the process. When I got up to make the case why I should be passed on as a delegate to the national convention, I was one among nearly 200 people with the same idea, all hoping to fill about twenty seats. As you've probably just guessed, I didn't wow anyone with my effort.

Anyhow, during this meeting, I was introduced to several people, including the chair of the 33rd legislative district, Tina Orwall. Ms Orwall conducted the gathering of hundreds with aplomb and grace. She also indicated she would be seeking the State House of Representatives seat being vacated by incumbent Representative Shay Schual-Berke, and what's more, she had Schual-Berke's endorsement.

Since then, Ms. Orwall has gained the endorsement of several other groups, among them the Washington Conservation Voters, who gave Orwall their sole endorsement. That means a lot to me, as conservation of ecosystem is one of my top issues. In the end, as my Voter's Guide pamphlet reveals, Tina Orwall gained the party nod (in our wacky new "Top Two" system) for the primary.

I'm not certain how many of you who read this are in the 33rd legislative district (I guess very few), or heck, even in Washington. Your choice for state legislator is likely to be someone different than Orwall. Regardless--please remember to vote on August 19th (or sooner, if you vote by mail as I do). It's all very well and good to get some fresh blood into the White House (go Barack!), but it means nothing if we don't pay attention to our local political scene, too.

If you're feeling especially motivated, you can do as I have done and donate to your legislative candidate noted in the Voter's Guide. These folks aren't the recipient of vast sums of cash, so every little bit helps, especially if several people donate (Quick Link: Donate to Orwall's campaign here.)

And... go Tina!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Coils Below


Coils Below, my latest Dragon article is posted here. It is another in the Role vs. Roll series that Chris Sims and I have worked together on. Unfortunately this time around, Chris was too wrapped up in working on the GSL, so I had to go this one alone.

From the article:
Snaketongue cultists are humans suborned by the doctrine of Zehir, the evil god of darkness, poison, and assassins. The cultists have fallen prey to the core tenants of the Coiled One, and as such they delight in the use of poison, adore snakes of every scale hue and size (especially yuan-ti), and kill in their god’s name, offering each death as a sacrifice in long rituals or quick murders. Snake¬tongue cultists are so fevered in their worship that Zehir and allied yuan-ti reward them with ritual transformations, bestowing upon the cultists minor reptilian traits, which only increases their fanaticism and zeal to die in service to their god.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jasmine Needs A Home

UPDATE: Jasmine has been adopted! Thanks for your interest. Stayed tuned for future foster cat video updates, should more foster cats find their way into our home.

The King County Animal Care & Control shelter has many great foster cats ready to find their permanent homes, including Jasmine, who we are currently fostering. If you would like to adopt Jasmine, please email dee dot cordell at kingcounty dot gov. To help you decide, please enjoy a video I made of Jasmine.

While in our home, Jasmine interacted with our dog and several cats. She loves to sit on a lap, she loves to flop on her back to have her belly rubbed; generally, she just loves attention. She's very calm and sweet, likes to knead and give love nibbles, and is ready to go into her forever home.

Microblogs

Where would you be without coffee? I'd have failed out of college; not a promising start. Thanks coffee-flavored caffeine!

Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Microblogs

  • 11:55 It is not unpatriotic to want change. #
  • 15:58 Get ready for it: Autism is NOT caused by vacinations. Read on, and help nerf this nonesense: is.gd/11NW #
  • 16:20 Perception is king. Those with the tools to spin perception are the kingmakers. #
  • 00:58 2 hours of kickboxing today and 1 of jujutsu. A big day, calorie wise. Have I slipped over the edge and become obsessed? Perhaps. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

-Edited to remove @replies; future microblogs will automatically avoid sending replies here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Atomic Array Game Podcast

So I've listened to two episodes of Atomic Array, a new game podcast. I quite liked them, and will be keeping this podcast in my stable. I particularly liked the 2nd episode, where the guest Darrin Drader talked about his SciFi RPG, Reign of Discordia. I'm a great fan of science fiction roleplaying, despite the fact my day job rarely affords me the opportunity to go in that direction. In fact, one of my best friends and I went a long way towards writing our own scifi RPG write before TSR hired him back in the day. It sounds like RoD has some great scifi opportunities.

Back to the podcast: At one point in the 2nd episode, one of the hosts makes a great plea about the state of our space program, a position I am in complete agreement with. Want to hear what he has to say? I guess you'll have to subscribe to the podcast.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Microblogs

  • 12:36 My plan suceeded. Merely required that I pack lunches, work-out clothes, and day clothes last night. Only forgot to bring one thing. #
  • 18:47 100% of electricity from renewables within 10 years. Inspiring idea. Let's try for it and see if we can't hit 35%, then throw a grand party. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tapestry of Me

Just heard recording of a broadcast picked up by nanotube radio the size of a molecule. Maybe the Singularity is closer than I thought. 10:26 AM July 17, 2008

Turns out Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog is worth a view. 01:20 PM July 17, 2008

I had such dreams for this republic of equals. Still do. 10:22 AM July 18, 2008

Next on the reading docket: Final Theory, a modern day Einstein-inspired thriller. The mix of action and real science is fabulous so far. 12:38 PM July 18, 2008

The stone was cold. The scant words etched on it were an invitation to desolation. She was gone, and all his plans and hopes were ash. 11:56 AM July 18, 2008

Got to see the Practical Guide to Wizardry today. Wow! I guess I have more in common with 6 year olds than I thought, because I loved it! 02:39 PM July 18, 2008

So dawns another 16 hour slide on the fulcrum of the present. I clutch at the tatters of successive diversions to see me through. 10:51 AM July 20, 2008

Now a question for our viewers: If Loudtwitter stops working (a service that automatically reposts microblogs from Twitter, as many previous posts below are composed of), anyone know of another service I can try out? (hopefully, loudtwitter is merely gummed up and not down for the count). It's a pretty handy service, in that it ships my tweets here, which is the clearinghouse I prefer for all my projects and ambitions Yes, I set up a friendfeed, but hmm, that seems like a service designed for a stalker.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Microblogs

  • 11:49 Disentangling ego from an idea's value is hard. #
  • 13:26 just heard recording of a broadcast picked up by nanotube radio the size of a molecule. Maybe the Sinularity is closer than I thought. #
  • 16:20 Turn's out Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog is worth a view. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Microblogs

  • 19:29 I made the mistake of telling Santa about Fallout 3. Now I have to wait for Santa Day on Dec 25th for my Vault-tek sponsored joyride. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Microblogs

  • 12:16 Enjoying the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The plot and action seems a little fierce for a YA book--maybe another reason I'm liking it. #
  • 14:52 Fallout 3 on XBOX 360 Oct 7th FTW! #
  • 17:45 More than clever plans and whispers are required to unseat Death herself. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Microblogs

  • 15:17 When "satire" goes off the cliff and becomes an example of poor taste: is.gd/Tba. Oddly, McCain supporters disagree. #
  • 18:34 @ephealy Have you looked into disqus? #
  • 00:15 Facebook apps taking on a life of their own may be precursor to the Singularity. Or, not. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Monday, July 14, 2008

Microblogs

  • 22:39 What're your favorite songs to listen to while running/rollerblading/doing cardio of some sort? Looking to expand my active mix. Thanks! #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Risk Habitat to Seek Oil?

A perennial favorite of the current administration has been its practice to use any and every excuse to open ecologically sensitive areas to oil exploration. Since I've kept a blog for several years, I've discussed the various pretexts of the day in previous years, here, and again here.

And now, of course, Bush is pushing hard to open ANWR and other places for drilling, this time using an excuse that at least has surface plausibility: We need relief from crazy gas prices!

Of course, checking into this claim even the tinsiest bit reveals how little relief we could expect if we started drilling today, or indeed, if we had opened ANWR to drilling 7 years ago when Bush first proposed it.

Rather than reposting/updating entries from my old blog in a "From The Vault" entry, I thought I'd actually provide you an interesting crosspost from the blog of the Green Skeptic, who spends a lot more time following energy than I do these days, in a piece called: Energy: Drilling for Oil Offshore and in ANWR; Has the Time Come?

In this piece, the Green Skeptic takes a look at all the pressures to drill, and wonders, if perhaps it might be the thing to do after all. Why don't you give it a read and decide?
I'm wondering whether it may be time to reconsider drilling offshore, and to take a hard look at whether the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) can be developed for oil in an environmentally favorable way.

I'm not saying we should go ahead with either, but I do think we need to put both considerations on the table, put aside our emotions, look at the real impacts, weigh the options, and then decide.

There are several things we need to factor into our consideration:

1. Our dependence upon fossil fuels is not going away any time soon.

2. There are, according to some sources familiar with the situation, relatively abundant remaining sources of fossil fuels, offshore and on land. Most agree they will take too long to develop to have immediate impact, but they may extend the time-frame for alternatives to replace fossil fuels. And with prices what they are now, it's looking like now may be the time when these sources are actually viable.

3. It is not known whether ANWR is a viable source; there is little baseline data with which to make such a call. Some say the oil industry may be betting on the fact that developing ANWR will allow the life of Alaska's pipeline to extend beyond 2030, and make it more viable to recover smaller pools throughout the region.

4. Developing ANWR is likely to have little impact on today's prices. In a report last May, the Department of Energy estimated that it will result in a reduction of only 75 cents a barrel.

5. A recent study by the federal government's Energy Information Administration projects, in the best-case scenario, developing ANWR will engender a price reduction of around $1.44/barrel by 2027.

The same study claims drilling off the coasts of the US won't affect prices until 2030, as reported in the New York Times.

6. Global consumption of oil reached 85.2 million barrels a day in 2008, up from last year's 76.3 million. Another study, to be released this fall by the International Energy Agency (IEA), projects consumption will rise to 116 million barrels next year.

7. New techniques, such as directional drilling will continue to reduce the footprint per well-head on Alaska's North Slope, but there remains the issue of roads, housing, pipelines, and other facilities needed to bring the oil to market.

Those impacts could still be huge in ANWR, which is used by polar bears, caribou, and other animals as they search for places to give birth. (Birth is the most vulnerable stage in the life-cycle of some species.) Other biologists familiar with the area claim the stated impacts may be overdone.

As for the coasts, there are worthy concerns about impacts on human coastal communities, especially those that rely on fishing or tourism for their livelihoods. Our neighbors to the north and south have increased their off-shore development over the past decade with little or marginal impact on the environment.

8. New off-shore development will also take years to put in place.

9. Finally, there is a shortage of deep water drill-ships for offshore development, which are currently booked for the next five years, and we may be looking at a long time horizon with very little short-term impact.

Still, impact is impact, and while we're looking at alternative energy development, perhaps we need to consider how we will meet demand for fossil fuels while alternatives build momentum.

High demand, low supply rules the day. But if the benefits of off-shore and ANWR development are a long way off, is it worth the risk? Can we do without it? What if it can be demonstrated that the environmental impacts are negligible? What if, as Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska announced last week, we could put revenues in service of alternative energy projects?

I am not advocating a position for or against such development; I'm simply calling for a rational, emotion-free analysis before we move forward or rule it out.

Hmmm... still seems like far too little return in exchange for the potential to destroy yet more ecological preserves. But, I'm biased. I personally want to stack the odds in favor of humans surviving into the next millennia, as opposed to maximizing odds we won't have another depression in the next decade.

Microblogs

  • 15:35 Caught up on my writing, trained to exhaustion, the day pretty much to myself. Now what? Housework, reading, shopping, and XBOX square off! #
  • 16:01 Nope, I don't have an iPhone, or even a cell phone. But, come year's end, I intend to remedy both these deficits! #
  • 17:31 Oh crap, I think I forget to attend an event I RSVPd... #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Microblogs

  • 11:48 With everyone else talking about the 3G iPhone, I feel like I should, too. #
  • 11:52 Bush to Earth's leaders: 'Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter." He then punched the air while grinning. No joke: is.gd/Rcd #
  • 12:02 Sad how media is portraying telecom immunity as a 'win' for Bush or a 'loss' for Dems; It is a 'loss' for the constitution and the republic! #
  • 13:49 Time to pull another entry from the old blog to the new, on how opening ANWR to drilling helps NO ONE but oil interests. Big Lie, take 5. #
  • 17:35 Enjoying a surfeit of benign fortune, is it human nature to dwell on what is still denied? I guess it depends on what that thing is. #
  • 19:44 A lot of us hoped [...] there would be light at the end of the tunnel. [But now] the only light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Friday, July 11, 2008

Microblogs

  • 10:21 Brain chemicals stagger into motion. Mood elevates over period of twenty minutes as sleep's tangles fade. Day is looking up! #
  • 12:46 For the love of all that's right, enshrining telecom immunity for past warrantless wiretapping as law is a terrible, terrible thing. #
  • 13:40 Elder Evils got a couple ENnies nods, yay! (I outlined this book, though Scwalb of course provided all the fantastic content). #
  • 23:49 I'm continually amazed by the wit and brilliance of other people I know. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Microblogs

  • 17:14 Last bits and pieces are cleared from my plate, allowing me to focus my full attention for the next 3 hours on my epic adventure! #
  • 18:54 Literally save a life if you live near me. Foster a cat from KC Animal Care & Control to help them expand their walls: pets@kingcounty.gov #
  • 00:54 1 hour of Muay Thai, 2 of jujutsu today. Accelerade made a world of difference! At the very least, psychologically, but perhaps actually! #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This and That

  • 16:37 Writing on spec is an entirely different kettle of fish than writing to spec. The latter is apparently quite difficult to pull off. #
  • 23:00 It may be time to stop cutting your own hair when a mentally handicapped person points at you and wonders "What's wrong with that guy?" #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Monday, July 7, 2008

This and That

  • 16:37 Writing on spec is an entirely different kettle of fish than writing to spec. The latter is apparently quite difficult to pull off. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Progress To Date

I am making progress on Book 2 of the Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy. Book One, Plague of Spells, is due out this November. The second book is due out next October, in 2009.

I'm a little more than a third of the way through Book Two. My first draft is due November 1. Assuming I can keep my hand in the pie every day, so to speak, scribbling 500 words here and 500 words there, I should be home free.

Just to be on the safe side, though, I took two weeks off from Wizards at the end of October to make sure I have 10 completely free days to devote to writing. Better safe than sorry.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
32,000 / 90,000
(35.6%)

This and That

  • 13:50 Her eyes rested on the empty chair across the kitchen table. Her hands clutched a white coffee mug, and her mouth was grim with sorrow. #
  • 14:17 Obama rally live: tinyurl.com/6g42hn #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Friday, July 4, 2008

From the Vault: No Kill Animal Shelters

[updated from my old blog; more relevant than ever]

You've probably heard about no-kill animal shelters, as opposed to shelters that euthanize animals. It seems pretty cut and dried--you probably prefer the idea of no-kill animal shelters.

But consider the following subtleties that you might not be aware of.

Open admission shelters take all animals, no matter their state of health, their temperament, their age, or any other factor.

On the other hand, no-kill shelters only accept highly adoptable animals, and when they're full, they don't accept any animals.

Which means people attempting to relinquish pets or strays at these places are sometimes turned away.

What do you suppose happens to stray animals turned away from "no kill" animal shelters?

Well, I guess if they're lucky, the folks who brought them in to the shelter keep looking until they find another shelter with open admission. If the animals are not so lucky, they are simply let loose again (which means starvation, being hit on a highway, or any of a number of ends that could include undue suffering). No-kill shelters know full well (or they should know full well) that when they refuse to take an animal, they've sidestepped responsibility. Despite their "no kill" status, they may even give out names and locations to the open admission shelters.

For example, the Humane Society in Bellevue has adopted political expediency and a "no kill" outward-looking face. So, when a terrier with a rough-looking demeanor showed up at their door as a stray a few weeks ago, the Humane Society refused to take the dog. Which meant the people who found him made the trek down to King County Animal Care and Control and turned the terrier over there. One of the shelter staff members, wondering if the dog were perhaps merely scared, took the dog home for a week to care for it. A dog the "no kill" Humane Society closed its doors to, kissing its fate up anyone else but itself. [At the time of this writing, I don't yet know the terrier's final outcome.]

So who has the higher 'moral' ground here? Those who pass the buck, or those willing, if necessary, to humanely euthanize an animal that has no prospect for adoption because of health or temperament? Or, in the case of the terrier I noted above, give a questionable animal a second chance?

Of course, all animal shelters have a role. Some no-kill shelters simply don't have the financial resources to employ a veterinarian to treat sick animals, so rather than take any chances, they turn all such animals away. And that's understandable--many of these shelters operate on a very small budget. They do what they can.

However, if animals slip into a no-kill shelter who turn out not to be adoptable, those animals are sometimes "warehoused," which basically means the animal is kept in a kennel or cubby so long that health and temperament slip to the point can justify euthanasia (yes, even at the "no kill" shelter). More considerate "no kill" shelters send these animals to open admission shelters (allowing them to hold on to their "no kill" status despite passing direct responsibility for the animal; at least it's the ethical thing to do).

BUT, a quality open admission shelter [which is no longer the Humane Society for Seattle/King County, I'm sad to say; now it's "no-kill" see here] might have programs, policies, and services in place to make certain every animal surrendered has the absolute best chance for finding its forever home--the Humane Society once had an 80% adoption rate! Its rate is skewed now, because of its new selective intake procedures.

So, to sum-up--"no kill" shelters are merely side-stepping responsibility, rightly or wrongly. I believe wrongly, especially the "no kill" shelters that take every opportunity to denigrate open admission shelters, and for shelters that have the resources to be open admission but choose to jump on the political bandwagon for the sake of public naivete, but at a real cost to stray pets.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

This and That

  • 14:00 Trying to not let all the toys on internet distract me from writing. Failing. #
  • 23:06 It was old when Selûne cried her glittering tears. When it fell into slumber, the world yet rang with the primordials' forge hammers. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

So many toys, so little time

I think I need to swear off the internet.

Or maybe just swear off twitter, Facebook, and about 3/4ths of the various RSS news feeds and podcasts I subscribe to. There is just not enough time for me to stay current on all the content out there that interests me, especially if I want to continue to read, write, and pursue side projects from time to time.

But there's more to it than just those services. The internet and all its jewel-like wonders sing to me a song of desire I can hardly ignore. In fact, my profession requires I pay attention to it! To succeed at both my day job and freelance job, I need to use a computer to write a certain number of words per day; longhand is too slow and has to be transcribed to boot. And just as important, I need to research various things I write about on the internet.

Which means that even when I am able to cull the demon internet from my attention for a whole hour, I'm right back on those greased rails looking up castle ramparts on Wikipedia, what rhymes with Faustian on rhymer, synonyms for observer on thesaurus, interesting names for villains on rarewords, or any of a hundred thousand different interesting sites that'll pull me out of the original reason I logged back on faster than a hummingbird's wings pulsate.

Yep. You and I both know I won't be swearing off the internet. So I guess I'll simply have to face facts, and learn moderation. I do the same every day for eating; looks like I may have to treat internet access the same way.

This and That

  • 23:35 A 4 day virus begins to release its tendrils on my mind and body. Or is it the 2 glasses of merlot? Either way, mood trending upward. #
Crossposted by LoudTwitter

Friday, June 27, 2008

If Twitter dies...

When Twitter is over capacity, how can I post my pithy comments quickly and easily, too quickly and easily to think better of them?

Like, "For the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year."

On a slightly related note--when did Digg get overrun by lunatic climate change deniers? Just because you don't think global warming is real doesn't change reality, Digg-lunatics. Do you drive a car? Do you use the internet every day to check your email and connect to Digg? Do you go to the doctor? Do you talk on a cell phone? Do you use global positioning "beamed" down from satellites? All brought to you by science. And now, the scientific consensus among researchers who study climate say global climate change is real, and dealing with it must begin now, now ten years from now.

See? When Twitter dies, I have to post here and vent my spleen. On twitter, the 140 character limit spares you this.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alchemical Imbalance

The latest Dragon article in the Roll vs Role column penned by me and Chris Sims is now posted at Wizards. The Roll vs Role articles are designed to give DMs some great background on a specific series of encounters, providing both roleplaying and tactical information appropriate to the encounter. Each article could be developed into a full-blown adventure, or used as more limited series of encounters, depending on a DM's desire.

The article just posted, Alchemical Imbalance, focuses on a tribe of goblins who've found power in iffy alchemical arts.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

D&D Alignment

Now that 4th Edition D&D is released, excerpts from the rules are a little less exciting, eh?

But, an excerpt that released last week discussed D&D alignment, and some of our thoughts about why alignment was updated. Behind the scenes, I was the chair of the alignment committee, and the report I and my committee put together greatly influenced the final alignment system. Here is a summary of what we were thinking, in simplified form.
Like everything else for 4th Edition of D&D, we thought long and hard about the alignment system we wanted to launch with the new edition. The struggle of good heroes against evil villains is one D&D’s core tenants. The D&D alignment system possesses a heritage and brand identity we did not want to lose. If we could overcome a couple of issues associated with the traditional alignment system without introducing new problems, we knew that we absolutely had to preserve the system so players could still talk about their lawful good paladin or the chaotic evil demon they vanquished.

As we saw it, several issues plagued D&D alignment, including:

1. A character’s alignment, chosen at character creation, can become a straight-jacket on that character’s actions. Consider the paladin we’ve all seen in play, “I had to attack the rogue, I’m lawful good,” or the rogue, “I’m chaotic good! That means sometimes I push you off the bridge; come on, don’t get mad!” or some similar sentiment when presented with a role-playing choice. For this reason, many characters stuck with neutral: a nebulous self-serving alignment (as was then defined), a “me first” mentality that didn’t necessarily promote party cohesion either.


2. In 3rd Edition, choosing an alignment usually had the unfortunate mechanical repercussion of making the aligned player vulnerable to an opposing aligned attack of a foe. It’s not really ideal that being good made you more vulnerable to demonic attacks, for instance. Another reason some players stuck with the neutral alignment of previous editions.


3. The alignment system was tied to game cosmology, in ways that sometimes translated to physical effects that didn’t lead to fun gameplay.

So we came up with a new alignment system for 4th Edition, though one not completely unlike the previous version. It saves most of the old terms, if not their cosmological or gameplay significance. If any statement can sum up the new system, it is: “Alignment means making an effort.” --Michele Carter.

Thus was born the concept of unaligned. More importantly, the concept that unaligned is benign. Being unaligned is not the neutral alignment of previous editions. Someone who is unaligned is assumed to be an “easy-going” and sometimes even helpful person, especially when it’s easy to be helpful. Just like in real life, where it’s arguable that many people (cocooned in their routines and safe lives provided by a supporting civilization) are unaligned, your fantasy character can enjoy the same freedom from thinking too hard about morality but still be granted the benefit of doubt when they are judged.

Of course, many players will feel benign isn’t good enough, and so declare themselves good or lawful good. These characters are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to uphold a virtue or save an innocent’s life, even if there is the very real possibility they could lose their own life in the process. Such willingness for self-sacrifice is not benign; it is good.