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Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Steve Cole writes:
1. Sometimes you need to take a moment to admire your own work. Somehow, reading something you wrote or edited just to enjoy your own work will find a mistake that proofreading it six times did not find. I think it's because your mind is relaxed and not looking for problems.
2. Do you remember the movie ZULU? In it was Colour Sergeant Bourne, who was a stalwart supporter of the two young officers. Bourne was given an officer's commission for his heroism that day, and died a lieutenant colonel at the age of 91 on the day after Germany surrendered in 1945.
3. Much is written about the best weapons for the zombie war. Besides the obvious (one each: assault rifle, pistol, machete, big knife) you may find yourself without weapons due to some situation. The easiest thing to find is some sort of club, which might work if you don't have to face more than one zombie at a time. The easiest real weapon to find is a knife. While a good combat knife is preferable, any big kitchen knife is better than nothing. Absent a firearm, several strong knives with blades of a few inches or more long will at least give you a fighting chance. When you get time, make a spear. You need a piece of wood maybe four or five feet long and at least an inch in diameter. Hardwood is preferable, and shovel handles can be swell. Shape it to a point with your knife. (You can "fire harden" the spear point by holding it over a flame then scraping away anything charred or burned.) That gives you something that can penetrate a skull, keep a zombie a bit farther out of reach, and use two hands to extract if it gets stuck. If you only have one knife, make some extras by sharpening stakes (a foot long) and using them first. Driven by both hands, they will penetrate a zombie skull, or you can aim for the eye sockets.
4. The top stupid reason to open a business: I am tired of working my rear end off so that somebody else can live the high life. I want to have the easy job, sitting in the office counting the profit.
5. One day last June, Simone, Jean, and I were looking over JagdPanther #7 (a magazine I published in 1974) which Simone was to scan so Jean could upload it to the PDF stores. Jean took great delight (and great pain at the same time) pointing out my rather silly spelling, formatting, and punctuation mistakes. (I actually hyphenated the word "rules" at one point. Ok, it was a fanzine, but I was a 23-year-old college senior and you'd have thought that I'd have known better.) Simone found the graphics laughable. I told Simone that 40 years from that day, she would be showing some of her 2014 work to a 23-year-old intern who would be laughing at how primitive it was compared to 3D holograms that sang and danced.
6. Things SVC wanted to say to college graduates: Congratulations. College is tough and graduating is an accomplishment. Just remember that your degree is not a certificate of entitlement. The world doesn't owe you an income or even a job. You have to get out there and find a job and earn an income. Remember that everything you did, and everything you're about to do, was already done by almost every adult you know, so welcome to the club, but you're not unique.
7. The best of the random interesting words was PANDEMONIUM, a place of great noise and confusion, comes from the Greek words pan-daemonia. Milton named the capital of hell (in Paradise Los) as Pandemonium because all of the demons lived there, and it became a polite word for hell, which was somewhat impolite. In time, because hell was expected to be noisy, busy, and confusing, that became the meaning of the word. Even today, the word is capitalized in most dictionaries as it is (technically) the formal name of a city.
8. Best of the ADB TV Network: REALITY SHOW PREPPERS: Has your restaurant, bar, or hotel signed up to be on a reality show? Have you ever watched one? Don't you know that the first half of the show is going to make you look bad so the expert can save you? Avoid embarrassment by having our crew of experts get there a week early. Expert chef Jean streamlines your menu. Expert accountant Leanna gets your books in order and drills you to memorize and recite the key numbers. Expert operations chief Steven whips you and your employees into a frenzy of cleaning. Expert web designer Simone rebuilds your website, launches your social media campaign, and installs new software. Expert maintenance chief Mike gets everything working and a repair schedule established. Meanwhile, our fearless leader rethinks your entire business plan. On tonight's episode, hotel owner Ken asks "You mean discounts for skinheads is bad for getting families to stay here?"
9. Television taught me that everyone who does not live in New York wishes they did, except for the people who wish they lived in Los Angeles. (People who live there think so; those who don't live there mostly don't want to.)
10. In the final days of July, 1945, the Japanese had assembled 60 twin-engine bombers and 600 commandos for Operation Sword. This was to be a one-way suicide mission to attack the US bases for B29 bombers in Guam, Saipan, and Tinian. The theory was to crash land on the bases, at which point the commandos would rush out with machineguns, grenades, and firebombs to cause as much damage as they could. The mission was continually delayed (by weather or by US attacks on their base) with one of the final dates set for a time when the Enola Gay was sitting on the runway with the Little Boy atomic bomb inside.
11. A thought on game design. Many years ago, someone put on my desk (I was part of TFG then) the game Supervillains. I tried to read it, but it made no sense. I gave it back to my partner, and years later he printed it. The reason I couldn't make heads or tails of it began with the introduction, which described the events of a typical day for the supervillain about town. One of them was to go to a certain area and "beat up some punks." There were other events of the day, but that one stuck in my mind. Why did I want to go beat up punks? Did I gain money? Did I gain reputation points that had some game function? Did I gain combat skills? Why was I doing that? So remember when designing a game and writing that very important introduction, get the people into the game mindset. Something like "Go to the Bowery and beat up some punks, thereby gaining reputation points you can use to intimidate people when you go to Central Park later" or maybe "beat up some punks, thereby gaining money to support today's expenses and activities" or "beat up some punks, thereby keeping your combat skills points up to the maximum level." Give me something to start getting my mind into the purpose of the protagonist's lifestyle.
12. A year ago I wrote in a blog: If you find my body beside a jogging trail, it's a good bet that I was killed somewhere else and moved there by somebody really strong. My, what a difference a year (and a dog named Wolf) make. Now, I'm on the walking (not jogging) trail every day.
13. The Foodie & Grumpy Show, Episode 4: Foodie Jean takes Grumpy Steve to a restaurant he used to visit every week, but grew tired of. Foodie Jean points out that it is easy to grow tired of a place if you always order the same one menu item. Grumpy Steve says that he has to do that, because it's too hard to figure out if he is allergic to a dish from the menu listing. Foodie Jean suggests that Grumpy Steve order something new, while she orders the item he has eaten 12 times in a row. She promises to trade plates with Grumpy Steve if he doesn't like what he gets, or if it turns out to be allergy toxic. She helps him review the menu and select some likely choices, and he gets lucky and finds a new dish that he has never tried before but which he greatly enjoys. Foodie Jean complains bitterly that the dish Steve traditionally orders is boring and plain and proceeds to liven it up with a selection of items from the condiment counter.
14. Sometimes people want to know why we published a stupid rule, a stupid ship, a stupid scenario, or an entire stupid product. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. There; now I never have to answer that one again.
15. The next US atomic bomb was just a few weeks away and was scheduled to be dropped on Tokyo itself. That might have killed the emperor and decapitated the command structure, leaving nobody with the authority to surrender.
16. Be very careful in making enemies. If there is a way to work with or within the existing power structure, give that a try first before you launch a revolution. (Most revolutions fail and most revolutionaries are remembered unfavorably.) Claire (on Outlander) should have told the priest something like this: "You know that Satan sets traps around the old ruins to ensnare souls. This leaf is part of the trap; it made the boy sick enough that a demon could get inside him. If you let me cure the damage the leaf did with this elixir, you will have an easier time of removing the demon while the boy is still alive." That would have been win-win-win. The priest (who knew the kid was going to die) gets to claim he saved him. The boy lives. And you now have a priest who will ask for your help not reject you as a person.
17. During the zombie apocalypse, there isn't much in the way of entertainment other than curling up together and making out, even with someone you would have never married in the pre-apocalypse world.
18. During World War II, the division my father was in was given one of the few companies of African-American combat infantry. By all accounts, the unit performed well in all respects, equal to white units. This was partly because the men were picked volunteers, partly because blacks hated the Nazis more than typical whites hated them, and partly because, as my father said, "they fought like demons, like they had something to prove."
19. When negotiating a deal, ask yourself: Am I making a deal which produces no benefit other than the warm feeling that I made a deal with someone?
20. ACTASF required some "cut-out comet terrain pieces" which we promised to upload (as they could be used with the miniatures version of any game). Reminded of this promise during the proofreading process, I tasked Simone with creating some comets. She created a few, and I wanted changes made (which she did) but I told her to upload both versions and let the players take their pick. It should be noted that comets are actually fairly boring things (muddy white smears on a black background) but I decided to have Simone make ours very colorful just because color is pretty. Simone also suggested that she put a starfield behind (and showing through) the comet to make it more like space, and we agreed that this made them much nicer, but (again) told her to upload the original versions as well since some players might not have the same taste in comets as we do.
21. Never, ever, sign a contract with a person or company until you have spent 10 minutes trying to find them on Google.
22. Women's lib did not mean that guys could stop being gentlemen. Giving women equality doesn't mean men can't open doors for them or let them go first in line.
23. Happy wife = happy life. That's true and hubby better live by it, but I would advise wifey that nobody wants to live with grumpy hubby, so it's not all going to go your way.
24. It is often said by people studying Noah's flood that "every culture on Earth has a flood myth" and because of this, one might assume, every culture on Earth descends from a single group of people who survived the biblical flood. A simpler explanation might be that floods happen all the time in localized areas and a storytelling looking for a new plot for his next story might well just make up a "really big flood." There may, however, be some truth to it. About 5600BC, the basin that is now the Black Sea flooded; that much is a geological fact. There is a theory that due to dry conditions, a substantial part of the European and Middle Eastern population lived around the shore of the (much smaller) Black Sea. (Not everyone agrees. The Black Sea might have been like the Great Salt Lake and not much use for drinking.) When the dam broke and the Mediterranean flowed it, it took a year or two for the basin to fill. There was no real need for panic, but everyone who wanted to keep living by the shore had to move their camp a mile away from the edge every evening (and probably woke up with wet feet the next morning). Eventually, the people got tired of this and relocated to more distant areas.
25. I was told a story once, by someone who insisted it was true and was in a position to have known. Back when they invented the Internet, somebody at that table suggested charging a penny per email. It would, the story said, have been easy to implement a system from the start that did not let an email into the router loop until some account had paid the penny (or a fraction of a penny). The vast majority didn't want to bother, or thought that the internet should be free. If that system had been in place, there would be no spam. Spam only works by blasting 40 million or more emails and even at a quarter of a penny per email that would not be something spammers could afford.