Topics Not Generally Relating to Me, Part One

Having gotten bored with myself, I asked you all to list some topics you’re interesting in me opining about that aren’t me me me me me. Here are some of them, and we’ll do another one of these tomorrow.

JReynolds: What do you think about the current polls that indicate that John McCain is now tied (or ahead) of Obama in the presidential race? Do you think it’s due to the negative advertising of the McCain campaign?

What? In the doldrums of the August of a presidential year, right before the conventions, the race has somehow tightened? Inconceivable!

I think the race has tightened because that’s what often happens around this time, if I’m not wildly mistaken. Do McCain’s ads have anything to do with it? Oh, probably. So does the fact that Obama went on vacation. So does the fact that conservatives have unleashed their poo-flinging monkeys (see: Jerome Corsi), and so does the fact that some liberals have come around to the realization that Obama, does not, in fact, fart cinnamon-scented rainbows. It’s a whole lot of things, really.

Matt W: If there was to be no more Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, etc. in the world ever again, would you switch to Pepsi, RC, Faygo? Or would you go thirsty?

Well, you know. Hard as it might be to believe, I don’t only drink Coke Zero. I do drink other stuff, including plain old water. I think I might survive. In fact, I have been giving some thought to cutting soda out of my diet entirely; I did it before, when I stopped drinking regular Coke, and save for the one day where I had a splitting caffeine withdrawal headache, it was doable. At the very least it would cut down on the recyclables.

Rick: The new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, or some other role-playing game if you don’t like D&D.

I haven’t really played D&D since back in the day, but I know a few people who do and from them the reviews of the 4.0 version of the rules seems to be pretty positive: I am led to understand everything’s more balanced and so on. Naturally I invite contrary opinion on the matter if I have been misinformed.

James J.: Maybe your opinions on what’s going on over in Beijing? IE: China having a huge gold lead over the US, etc…

You mean, aside from China showing yet again that it’s a world leader in illegal child labor? Not really. It’s not surprising that a host country would invest heavily in building up Olympic-caliber athletes, and the Chinese are strong in the marginal sports the US doesn’t give a crap about, such as Table Tennis and Badminton. So it’s not surprising to me they’re racking up some gold. I have only a mild interest in the Olympics this year; as egocentric as this sounds, my August has been busy enough without stationing myself in front of the TV to find out how we’re doing in, say, the equestrian events. Although apparently we did win a gold, silver and a bronze there. Go us.

Ashman: What good blogs have you recently read?

Seriously? None. Not that they don’t exist — I have an RSS blog feed that has a couple hundred blogs, all of which are interesting enough that I put them in the RSS feed — but more that I don’t have time this month to read them. And then the entries just sit there piling up and I feel guilty when I finally just delete them all, unread. But I really don’t have the time at the moment. Also, to be honest, I’m tired of reading many of the folks on my blog roll losing their minds because McCain has suddenly closed the gap on Obama. There’s only so many people you can watch lose their shit before it makes you edgy, you know? Better just to skip over it all for a while.

Christian: How did you lose your virginity?

Pretty much the usual way, with no particularly weird elements to make it an anecdote really worth the detailed retelling.

EvilDan: Skyline chilli: Worth the intestinal distress?

I’ve not found it so. And in fact I’ve wondered for a long time why Cincinnati has somehow developed a reputation for excellent chili, because in my opinion Cincinnati-style chili kind of sucks. I mean, really: spaghetti? WTF? I much prefer western-style chili. I understand there may be Cincinnati-style partisans out there, and to them I say: You are welcome to your chili-flavored soup.

Giacomo: Drinking age: 18 or 21?

Not being a drinker, nor ever having been one, I have no real investment in this particular question, save for the observation that I’ve never met an 18-year-old who couldn’t get a drink into their hands with minimal effort, so perhaps the law should reflect that reality. I read somewhere earlier today that someone suggested that what should happen is that the drinking age is lowered to 18 but the driving age is raised to 21, which solves the problem of drunk 18-year-olds on the roads. I don’t know that I agree with this idea, but I do think it presents an interesting argument.

More tomorrow.

46 thoughts on “Topics Not Generally Relating to Me, Part One

  1. D&D4 is relatively streamlined, but has lost a lot of the interesting funky non-combat-related stuff. A few years ago my husband ran an epic D&D campaign (first level to apotheosis), and it couldn’t have been done in 4th ed.; we had too much in the way of weird little side things that were interesting to do.

    Getting back to dungeon-crawling, sure, it’s a nice system for that, but I like more funk in my games.

  2. Have you been to the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, and if so, what did you think? I was there a couple of weeks ago. I had a great time and thought they did a good job of covering the breadth of topics in the genre. It wasn’t all Star Trek/Wars, although there was certainly a lot of that.

  3. The missus says that when she was living in Ireland during her high school years, everyone knew everyone and the driving age was 21. The drinking age was what your folks would let you get away with if you were tall enough to see over the bar, and since everyone knew everyone, the bartender knew whether or not to serve you and how much.

    Seems sensible. Wouldn’t work here.

  4. “Giacomo: Drinking age: 18 or 21?

    Not being a drinker, nor ever having been one, I have no real investment in this particular question”
    How old is Athena?
    I was a drinker and at the age of 26 or so realized I was one of those people who shouldn’t drink so I quit.
    I agree with you when you say it isn’t very hard for people under 21 to get their hands on a drink, or lots of other mind altering substances so the laws don’t seem to have much impact. Lets face it, DUI is frequently a capital crime so the threat of a little time in jail and fines and what not really don’t seem like much of a deterrent.

  5. I’m glad you’re talking about stuff, John. It’s a Good Thing

    On the drinking age: I, like everybody else, lack a definitive answer to this question. I do want to say that I read an interesting op-ed column in my hometown paper years ago, written by a bar owner, who talked about how things were different when the age was 18. He said that back in the day, people of legal drinking age rarely bought alcohol for underage folks because it wasn’t considered cool. And they didn’t stay at home and have lame-ass keg parties. They went out to bars and drank a reasonable amount instead of becoming idiotically–dangerously–drunk at home, because that wasn’t cool either. They tended to drink like responsible adults, because that was how the law treated them.

    Now that the age is 21, there is a large group of legal adults who can’t legally drink, and it’s not considered uncool to give them access to alcohol. They are, after all, legal adults.

  6. Hey John – I’d really love you to talk about the 5 (or 3 or 6, I’m not picky) sci-fi novels that are most important to you personally. There are plenty of lists of the best novels EVAR out there, but I think it would be interesting to know which novels affect (or affected) you most profoundly.

    I realize this is kinda talking about you, but I’ve always wanted to ask.

  7. i see the whole issue through a lot of filters from experience but:*and ymmv

    Children who are brought up having the occasional glass of wine or beer with dinner and a specific parental attitude of ‘this is a part of growing up but there are dangers to be aware of’ tend to do okay.

    Children who are brought up with ‘alcohol is the devil’s tool” or because of either ignorance or abuse have no farking clue about drinking alcohol tend to crash and burn when exposed to unlimited (well, except for $$) alcohol because they have never had the experience of it. These kids often have no chance until they’ve crashed at least once. OR they choose to live in a community where patriarchal leaders choose the lives of their disciples.

  8. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Cincinnati chili until now. Hmm, that’s a new fact for the day.

  9. On 4.0: It’s very good. It streamlines combat while also leaving the roleplaying elements of the game to the imagination and creativity of the players rather than consigning every peaceful interaction to a rules matrix. DMing a game right now, as a matter of fact.

    On drinking age: Eh, the current limit is pretty pointless. Not a drinker, but I don’t have a single friend who couldn’t score vodka.

  10. JReynolds: What do you think about the current polls that indicate that John McCain is now tied (or ahead) of Obama in the presidential race?

    One word : polls.

    What could McCain people do at this point, except generate polls?

  11. some liberals have come around to the realization that Obama, does not, in fact, fart cinnamon-scented rainbows.

    Question: Would “some liberals” go over to the McCain camp if it was discovered that he farted cinnamon-scented rainbows?

    Because I think that may be the case.

    Oh, and you forgot one thing. This.

  12. Liek the Q&A, specially enjoying the blogs that are light on political stuff at the mo, being Englisha nd not very interested really.

  13. “Oh, and you forgot one thing.”

    I believe I’ve actually referred to conservative shit-flinging monkeys, Frank. That you’ve scooped up the shit and smeared it on your own site doesn’t change it much.

  14. Cincinnati-style chili is not really chili; it’s Greek meat sauce. But “Greek meat sauce” doesn’t really work on a sign outside a restaurant, does it? So some enterprising Greeks way back in the Depression said, “Well, it’s chili.”

    “Is this Greek chili?”

    “Actually, it’s Cincinnati-style chili.”

    “Oh! Very clever!”

    Cincinnati-style chili is a lot like the New York Yankees. You either love the Yankees or you hate them. If you’re indifferent to it, well… People are have no opinion of the Yankees aren’t baseball fans. You do the math.

  15. Hey, if you’re still taking questions:

    What’s your general view on writing courses / workshops? Useful? Or waste of money?

  16. > Pretty much the usual way, with no particularly
    > weird elements to make it an anecdote really
    > worth the detailed retelling.

    Damn. I was looking forward to rocking back and forth in my office chair and breathing heavily this morning. You’re just no fun at all.

  17. As a displaced southwesterner and a resident of Dayton for the past 14+ years, I am PROUD to say that Cincinnati style “chili” has never passed these lips. bleurgh. If I want sketti, I’ll have freaking sketti dammit. And if I want chili… well, you get the idea.

    Oh, and I look forward to your answer to #18, seein’ as how I’ll be meeting you at VP! :)

  18. Jim Winter is entirely correct about Cincinnati “chili”.

    When I moved there in high school I couldn’t stand the stuff. As long as I kept trying to to think of it as “chili” it was just this weirdly spiced, soupy mess.

    One day a friend who grew up in the city and knew the Lambrinides family who founded Skyline told me to stop thinking of it as “chili” but as a spicy Greek meat sauce that could be served in various ways. That concept clicked and suddenly I loved it and remain hooked even though I no longer live there.

  19. Okay, this is a jump off the McCain/Obama polls question, but this strikes me as being a subtopic near-and-dear to your little techno-heart.

    What do you think of what analysts claim that the reason Obama’s numbers seem to have dropped in the polls is primarily because Obama’s core constituency appears to be younger people who, as trends seem to indicate, DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE LAND LINES. They have cell phones, which are not being called by pollsters. (What will polls do in the future, anyway?)

    Thoughts?

  20. While badminton, archery and table-tennis might be considered marginal sports in Europe and the US, and therefore no-one really cares, in Asia they are massively popular. For China to miss out on gold in them would mean the same degree of soul-searching as if the US (including Phelps) failed to dominate the swimming events.

  21. What do you think of what analysts claim that the reason Obama’s numbers seem to have dropped in the polls is primarily because Obama’s core constituency appears to be younger people who, as trends seem to indicate, DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE LAND LINES.

    It doesn’t matter. People under 30 are under-represented as a group come election day. And it is likely that this will be the case in November as well.

    Like relying on your own base, relying on the under 30 crowd to get you elected is not enough. Charles at Political Arithmetik did a great analysis of this recently

    So what are the implications? If you gave me a choice of being wildly popular with the young or moderately popular with the old, I’d take the old any day. They are far more reliable in voting, and while their population numbers are small they more than make up for it in over-representation thanks to turnout differences.

  22. Yeah, just think of it as spicy sketti sauce and it’s great. Just don’t think of it as chili.

    Also, “anyone who knows beans about chili knows chili ain’t got beans”.

  23. I agree with Frank here. And remember that the youth vote doesn’t always go the way people expect. The first time 18-year-olds had the vote, they rather famously went to Nixon.

    I don’t expect a huge youth vote for McCain, mind you, but I don’t expect the Obama folks should pin hopes on the lurkers supporting them on cell phones.

  24. Drinking age:

    I must say that from an outsider’s point of view (I’m Canadian), having the legal drinking age at 21 always made me wonder about the values of the American people. I mean, hell, you can enlist in the army and start KILLING PEOPLE at 18 (and I hear some manage to get enlisted even if they haven’t hit 18), you can drive a car, you will be judged for a crime as an adult well before you hit 18, but you can’t bloody drink? What the hell is that crap? If the State considers that someone is mature enough to kill, drive, commit a crime and be considered an adult, and whatnot, how the hell is he not mature enough to drink? I think it’s asking for trouble personnally, because it sends the message that alcohol is a bad thing altogether, which means it makes it desirable to drink it in excess to look like your “sitcking it to the rules” and so on, rather than saying: this is a type of drink to be enjoyed as a refreshment/treat/whatever in moderation.

  25. Wendy’s — a Cincinnati-based chain — has a new advertising campaign out for the Baconator. I realize that it will never replace the In-n-Out double-double, but did Wendy’s Int’l make a serious marketing error by not seeking an endorsement from the leading Ohio-based proponent of all things bacon?

    Or did it, and said proponent merely had far too much personal integrity to endorse the second-place competition, no matter how much filthy lucre was at issue?

  26. The Political Arithmetik post-link is great, by the way. A bit dense, but interesting.

    I was on a scriptwriting blog yesterday and the writer suggested watching some of the political ads with the sound off if you want to figure out how they’re being perceived by the TV viewing public. And if you do, you get a really skewed sense of how the ads are likely to be perceived.

  27. Oh, and I forgot to mention sexual consent too. I just have trouble letting go of an idea that you guys will give an 18 year old a gun and send him to be killed in Iraq, but tell him he’s too young to have a beer, because he MIGHT do something stupid. It makes my head hurts.

  28. Children who are brought up having the occasional glass of wine or beer with dinner and a specific parental attitude of ‘this is a part of growing up but there are dangers to be aware of’ tend to do okay.

    This is how it happened for me. One of the most important things that this kind of experience does for a person is allow them to find out gradually and with supervision what they’re like when they’re drunk, and how they feel when they stop being drunk. When I drink I become more and more amiable and laid-back until I fall asleep, and I don’t get meaningfully hungover. If I had been a ranter or a vomiter I would have hated to find out all at once at my hypothetical 21st birthday party, also hypothetically without someone to tell me to slow down.

  29. D&D 4th edition looks like it is either a godsend to revive a creaky old gaming system or the devils work. Which side of the line you stand on seems to depend a lot on how much experience and emotional investment you have with D&D.

    If you are new or relatively new 4th edition is wonderful. Combat rules that basically make sence and make sure that everyone has something useful to contribute all the time. Also class roles are strongly defined and the abilities you get support your role and contribute to playing to the archetype.

    If you have been around a while the new rules are a strightjacket tying you into specific roles for specific classes. They also have a lot less meat to them for situations that don’t specifically relate to typical adventuring.

    So as with most things in life the answer is it depends.

  30. Swampmaster: it’s every bit as stupid as you think it is, for the reasons you and Squid (whom I almost mistook for Skwid there) cite. I think the most unjust thing, though, is trying teenagers as adults. If a 30-year-old committed a crime, and it could be shown that his brain was still in an adolescent phase of development, he could plead diminished capacity on that basis; but a 15-year-old with an adolescent brain can be tried as an adult and is NOT allowed to so plead.

    If we’re going to have an age where we consider people adults (and I’m not so sure that’s really a good idea) we should consider them adults for all purposes at that age—instead of what we do now, which is consider them adults, or not, depending solely on which is more to their disadvantage.

  31. Drinking age:

    I was drinking pretty heavily the summer that I was 17. Then went to college and REALLy started hitting it. By the time I turned 21, I was over it. I went out on my 21st birthday and got a little drunk, but have very seldom had any drinking like I did when I was “underage”.

    So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with changing the legal age. It just reflects reality: if 18 year olds WANT to drink, they will. Also, throw in the usual arguments about being able to vote and join the military at 18. In my time as a squad leader in the Army, that was what I enforced anyway, figuring that if one of my guys was willing to fight/kill/die for his country, he was probably mature enough to handle a drink or 2.

    I don’t know what changing the drinking age would do to incidents of binge drinkiing. From what I can remember of myself at that age, I suspect it would make very little difference. Legal or not, I thought I was indestructible.

  32. Oh yeah, I forgot to talk about D&D 4E! I’m losing my edge.

    4E seems to be the most casual-gamer-friendly edition we’ve had. There’s a lot of crunch there, but a given player doesn’t have to keep track of very much of it to get at the fun parts of the mechanics, because, especially at higher levels, the game pretty much forces you to play with the good toys: your ostensibly boring basic toolkit abilities like powerful attacks have much more interesting side effects, often totally unrelated things like being able to fly for the rest of the encounter. I’d say this is the most interesting thing about 4E if not for the star pact, the actual most interesting thing about 4E. (God, so awesome.)

    That’s not to say I’m not going to miss things like those 3E optimized builds with two levels of five different prestige classes. If that’s badwrongfun, I don’t want to be goodright.

  33. It wasn’t until I moved to Louisville that I even became aware of Cincinnati-style chili. When I first heard about it, my first thought was, “Chili on spaghetti? You’re kidding, right?” My second thought was that if someone tried to serve this in Texas, they would get a rope around the neck.

  34. My wife contends that we should lower the drinking age to 16 and put the driving age up to 21. That way everybody could get the drunken binges out of their systems before the are old enough to get behind the wheel.

  35. Meh. D&D4E is a huge step sideways and something of a step backwards from 3rd. In particular, the game was so poorly prepared that two months out they’ve already completely rewritten a key skill and the whole skill challenge system, in errata.

    D&D was never a simulationist system; 4E is even less. It’s a miniatures combat game with extremely optional roleplaying.

    It also defines sqrt(2) = 1; I gather other miniature combat games on a grid do the same, but if that’s the way you want to go, use a fricking hex map.

    The economic system is not rational.

    It’s playable, I suppose. But it requires the GM to do things like say “I don’t care if the rules say you find everything there is to be found during a ‘short rest’, you’ve got to tell me what you’re searching and what your skill check is.”

  36. I actually tried the chili on spaghetti thing long ago, and totally ignorant that that’s how they do it in Cincinatti- I had a spicy leftover chili that had only become moreso as it matured in the refrigerator, it needed some starchy counterpart to tame the heat, and I was out of rice.

    For the record, it was actually pretty good- as a base for a Western-style chili. I’ve never tried the meat-sauce version, though.

    As for the beans thing, in my ever so authoritative experience living in the Southwest, it’s only Texans that give a damn either way. Arizonans just want to know if it’s tasty and can’t be put to dual use as a paint stripper, and New Mexicans only care if you used real chile.

  37. 4e is a weird beast. I love the idea that all the classes contribute (*koff koff 3.5bard koff koff*). I agree, the economic system as presented in the Player’s Handbook stinks. However, as written up in the DMG, it’s much more reasonable, and offers tools (*gasp*!) for customizing it to any given playstyle. Same with the roleplaying — in fact, the DMG has a huge section on the purely roleplaying aspects of the game. The organization of the books is awful, though — the skill challenge section should have been in the PHB, not the DMG, and I wish the writers had put some of the roleplaying advice in the PHB as well. I think that’s one of the bigger problems with the system — the PHB and DMG really need to be considered as a unit.

    As far as re-writing skills, the stealth skill didn’t really need to be re-written, IMHO. OMG, classes that are designed to take advantage of stealthy movement gain advantage from stealthy movement? Madness, surely! Since my DM hasn’t bothered to bring the skill challenge rules into the game yet (he’s running Keep on the Shadowfell, word for word. Ayiee.), I can’t really speak to whether they needed re-writing.

    I will concede that it’s a bit weird to play a magic-user with more HP than the paladin, but it’s remarkably easy to get used to. ;) Now, if I can just get my DM to actually run it as a roleplaying game, rather than “get the town stuff done so we can get onto the next battle…”

  38. Lower the drinking age, when home or accompanied by parent or guardian, to 12. Not home or not accompanied, 16. Yes, some will become alcoholics. Sadness is part of the world.

    Lower the learner’s permit driving age to 14, the unaccompanied, daytime driver to at least a year ticket-free of learner’s permit, unaccompanied nighttime 18 months, accompanied by one, daytime two years, accompanied by one, nighttime, three years. Full license at four years without a ticket. A moving violation ticket restarts all the clocks.

    Everyone has to pass both the written and the driving test every four years. They can start trying six months before their license expires; if they haven’t passed (at most one try a month) by the time it expires, it’s back to learner’s permits.

  39. Words that you see in your mind that are not there in the post: … moving violation ticket restarts all the clocks, until you’re 25. Yes, 24 and a learner’s permit. Learn to drive.

  40. Calling Jerome Corsi a Republican is like calling Sauron an industrialist. The man is a slime slurping ass with rabies who’d attack anybody who came to his attention. If Corsi ever decided to become a missionary, the world would turn Satanist.

  41. 23. Dave Godfrey said: While badminton, archery and table-tennis might be considered marginal sports in Europe and the US, and therefore no-one really cares, in Asia they are massively popular. For China to miss out on gold in them would mean the same degree of soul-searching as if the US (including Phelps) failed to dominate the swimming events.

    To add to that, I’d say it’s worth pointing out that American football is pretty damn marginal to everywhere other than the U.S.

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