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Preview: The Pint 'N Tome

The Pint 'N Tome

Literature, beer, and other frothy bits.

Updated: 2014-10-04T20:55:50.068-05:00


Moving Once More


I'm moving the blog again, this time to my own web domain:

I swear, this is the last move, guys. I'm settling in to full control of my own site, and planning to expand it's offerings yet again.

So pack your comment bags, and join me over at the new site!

Oh, the Irony!


I was just thinking how many cool web domain names are already taken, when I wondered, "What if you had a site with the name Wouldn't that be ironic and hip?"

It turns out someone beat me to the irony, but left out the hip: that domain name is being squatted on by some nameless company.

Hubble to get New Eyes


The New York Times reports that the Hubble will be serviced one more time next year.

This is great news, since this mission (scheduled to take place years ago) was canceled after the Shuttle Columbia disaster.

I had the chance to work on one of the instruments going up to Hubble--the Wide Field Camera 3--while working at NASA, and I'm glad to see the mission's going forward.

Amazon has WMD?


Apparently, Amazon is now selling Uranium-238

Get yours now, while Nigerian supplies last!

Beverage Warning


Do not drink while reading this: The 9 Most Bad-Ass Bible Verses. You have been warned.

Why DRM is worth fighting over


Much to my chagrin, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with Neil Gaiman over the Kindle's DRM.

DRM isn't about lending books out (though that would be nice to still do), and it isn't about trying to get stuff for free. I don't have any problems paying for music and books (one look at my credit card statements would prove that to anyone), and I don't want to broadcast copyrighted works over the Internet.

What I do want to do is to be able to move my music and books from place to place and from device to device. I've already posted on how the DRM in iTunes means I've lost more than 3 Gigs of music just because I decided to stop using OS X. Now, if I were to get a Kindle and buy several books that I later want to move to a different device (say, a Sony Reader released in a year or two that's much, much better), I'll be screwed. If the books are DRM'd, they'll be attached to just one device: the Kindle. If I want to move them, I'll have to buy another copy. If that new copy is also DRM'd, I'll have to buy another copy if I ever want to move it to a different ebook reader.

I'm already dealing with this with the Adobe eBooks I bought before switching to Ubuntu. Because the books are DRM'd, I can read them on my Palm--which supports the DRM--but not on my computer, or any other electronic device I own. The PDA I wanted to buy--a Nokia N800 internet tablet--I didn't, because it wouldn't be able to read any of my DRM'd ebooks.

So if you don't mind being locked into one product, one company's way of doing things, forever, then DRM is not a problem. But if you ever want to exercise your buyer's right to choose--a key component of a free market--DRM will bite you in the ass.

Another Switch


As part of the switch from OS X to Ubuntu, I've lost iTunes, and thus can't listen to all the DRM-infected music I bought from the iTunes store.

Since I bought more than 3 Gigs of music from Apple, that really p*ssed me off.

But rather than strip the DRM from the music (which is now illegal--thanks to the U.S. Congress), or try to run iTunes via Wine, I've simply switched to a different music service: eMusic.

eMusic runs on subscriptions, meaning for $10 a month I can download 30 DRM-free MP3 files from their library. That's one-third of the price of songs on iTunes, and once I've downloaded the music I can burn 'em to disk, move them from computer to computer, or do anything else (non-commercial) I feel like. It's a simple, straightforward, consumer-friendly (and legal) way to download music.

Why doesn't iTunes work like this?

The Nerd Handbook


Dating a nerd? Married to a nerd you still don't understand? Go forth, and read The Nerd Handbook, and be enlightened.

Now With 50% More Open-Source


Made the leap today: I wiped OS X off the hard drive on my MacBook and put a fresh, clean install of the newest version of Ubuntu (7.10, or 'Gutsy Gibbon') on it.

Everything worked out of the box save for wifi, and there's a workaround for that. 7.10 looks great, the MacBook feels more responsive, and getting/installing software is easier than in OS X.

No Leopard for me. I'll stick with the penguin.

Short Book Reviews: Heart-Shaped Box


Title: Heart-Shaped Box

Author: Joe Hill

Synopsis: Ageing rock star purchases a ghost for a laugh; then finds the ghost is not only real, but wants revenge.

Cheers: Smooth, flowing prose style. Scary without relying on shock.

Jeers: None.

Quirks: Several passages describing the haunting could also be used to describe the Hypnagogia sleep disorder. Does Mr. Hill suffer from Hypnagogia, or know someone who does?

Bottom Line: Buy this modern ghost story, but don't read it alone in a dark house.

Religious crazy vs the Troops


Apparently the only counter-force to crazy American fundamentalist Christians is the urge to support the troops: a Baltimore judge just ordered a church to pay $1 million in damages to the father of an Army Lance Corporal killed in Iraq.

The church members drove all the way from Kansas to attend the kid's funeral and hold up such uplifting, Christian signs as "God hates fags," and "Thank God for dead troops." Really, who would Christ persecute?

Now I'm no fan of the war, but I don't want to see any more American troops die; that's why I'd like them brought home. Contrary to the what article says, these people aren't "protesting," they're co-opting the death of someone's son to push a message of hate. Isn't that what Republicans accuse liberals of doing all the time? So how many righties are going to come out and chastise these people? Or will they keep giving airtime to Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and others who cloak their prejudice in righteousness?

Too Weird to Not be True


I can't make this kind of stuff up, people: the CEO of Budget Hotels (yes, those hotels) is building a series of inflatable space habitats to put into orbit.

Even weirder: he's apparently already got two inflatable spacecraft up there.

Science Skeptics


Got involved in a forum discussion today about Climate Change that really depressed me.

It wasn't just that no one else follows the scientific consensus of human-caused global climate change. What frustrated and depressed me was how thoroughly they misunderstand the very nature of science, let alone the science of the Earth's climate.

One poster even claimed there was plenty of room for "his science" and "my science." He may have thought he was being nice, but he couldn't have been more wrong.

There is no "your science" or "my science." There's only Science. You either believe in the expansion of human knowledge through repeatable experiments or you don't. Science is based on consensus, not opinion.

How can these "skeptics" undermine faith in the scientific method using technology only possible because of that method?

Help me out here. Am I way out of line to come down hard on them? Should I just let it go? Or have I stumbled onto a nest of irrationality that must be confronted?



I've switched. Not from PC to Mac, but from Mac to Linux.

That's right. I'm a card-carrying geek.

But I've switched to the friendliest Linux flavor I could find: Ubuntu. It's free, it's open source, and it's MINE.
Mine, because everyone that uses Ubuntu owns Ubuntu. Everything is customizable, from the Desktop background down to the very kernel the operating system runs on. I can even use entirely different desktop environments if I want, kind of like being able to run a Mac OS 9-style interface on Mac OS X's code. Unlike a Mac, I can change the code anyway I want, and no one'll come after me with a lawyer.

In fact, if I make it better, they'll thank me. That's how I get tech support now: from other users, who have tweaked and poked and written code and twisted things to work just how they want, then published how-to's online. Check out the Ubuntu Forums for some examples.

So yeah, I've gotta use a command-line interface a little more now than before. And yeah, I've gotta spend time testing and tweaking some things to get them to work. But I *can* get them work, and I didn't have to pay a dime for them.

Oh, and did I mention I can get Windows games to run, in Linux, without booting up Windows? Check out the Wine project. That's the power of open source, folks.

First New Post!


A bit of doggerel to start us off:
(best recited with a thick brogue)

"Yer man's head took a piss
When he went for a hit 'n miss;
Now his name's on the list
Of them that got no wits!"

Fable: First Impressions


Bought, installed, and played Fable for the first time yesterday. I know, I'm behind the times, but for the past six years I've only had access to Mac games. I've heard a lot about this game, though, so I picked it up and installed it on the one Windows box I could get my hands on.

At first blush, the game's a bit of a letdown.

First of all, the environments look 3D, but it's deceptive: you can't jump in game, which means I might as well be playing a game that looks 2D instead of one that tricks me into thinking I'm playing a 3D game. The graphics looked great until I realized my avatar can't do something as simple as jump over a fence. It's the fracking 21st century, and we're still putting out games without 3D interaction?

Second, there are way too many cutscenes. I can understand a cutscene at the beginning to set the mood, and maybe one near the end to wrap things up, but one every five minutes of gameplay? Do I really need a cutscene to tell me I've got to rush down to meet the GuildMaster for the day's lessons? Couldn't they have just had a character conversation tell me what to do, or even a simple note? Worse still, do I have to spend 30 seconds running in game just to go from one cutscene to another? In Fable, every piece of story or gameplay information is conveyed to the player through cutscenes, even if it's the most inefficient way to do it.

Third, the main character looks like the worst kind of hick. I'm from Texas, I've seen his kind. Never imagined I'd be playing one.

Fourth, the cutscenes keep making choices for my avatar (and thus me, the player). For instance, the cutscene I mentioned above that started by telling me I'd overslept and had to run to meet the Guildmaster. Of course, I run down to where the Guildmaster is only to be griped out for being late. "Wait a minute!" I thought. "I'm not late--I've been playing this game since it started!" This kind of thing made me stop playing the game; my frustration level was too high (it didn't help that these cutscenes are so frequent, I never feel like I'm getting to actually play my character much).

All that said, though there were some great moments in the game. The bow gameplay is awesome, combining greater realism with a better experience. And I like the way you get awarded experience based on what weapons/skills you've been using; it makes sense and is easy to grasp.

I'll keep playing, if only to see if the cutscenes calm down and I can figure out some of the emoticons they provide (no thanks to the game manual, which doesn't say which emoticon does what).

Early Morning Post


Took the Magic: the Gathering 'What color are You?' test on a whim (since I don't play Magic), and it came out surprisingly accurate:


Take the Magic: The Gathering 'What Color Are You?' Quiz.

Game Tutorials


Tutorials should teach you how to actually play the game, not just how to use the controls.

I didn't think there was much of a difference between the two until this morning, when I spent an hour wading through one game's tutorial, only to come out the other end & realize I still didn't know how to play the game.

Fly my starship? Sure. Shoot my weapons? Yep. Do anything useful or fun? Nope.

This ties right into something I learned at Austin GDC: all players of your game start out as casual players. If you don't give them a reason to keep playing (like making the game fun & interesting from the beginning) they'll quit long before they become hardcore players (who might be more forgiving of a punishing tutorial).

Objectivity and Truth


Just watched an episode of the Colbert Report where the guest spoke of needing "objective journalists" to give us culture & truth. He said he loathed Wikipedia, because it relies too much on amateurs to give us accurate information.

Someone needs to tell this guy that there is no such thing as objectivity from a single source. No one person can ever be objective on their own; we have to sum up the subjective experiences of many, many people to approach an objective point of view.

That's what science does: it sums up the subjective thoughts & experiments of lots of people, all over the world, to arrive facts about the universe.

That's the idea behind Wikipedia, too: that millions of people, all contributing knowledge to a single database, will eventually create a storehouse of facts.

And that's the democratic ideal, as well: that by summing up the political views of everyone, we'll come up with the best policies.

To believe that only one person, or only a small group of people, can hold the keys to truth is not only undemocratic, it's unrealistic. As our history of scientific progress shows, the most solid truths are those that everyone can agree on.

I got a job!


I applied for a writing job at a newly-formed, local, video-game developer before leaving for Balticon. Went through two interviews, dropped off a good bit of writing samples, and...Got a call last week that I had the job!

The company's called Brainstem Games, and they're looking to develop a new sci-fi MMORPG. I'm Lead Writer for the development team, meaning I get to do the technical writing for the website, press releases, etc., but also help develop the setting, NPCs, quests, dialog, and storyline for the game.



The new Signs & Portents roleplaying magazine is up, and the first of my Conan articles is in it! I'm a published writer!