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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fish-Men

What would the holidays be without the dead and dreaming elder gods come to drive humanity into the depths of horror and insanity? A Very Scary Solstice is an album with 25 popular holiday carols about the Cthulhu Mythos.



Too ridiculous not to post: Imagine What Your Life Would Be Like Without Pupaphobia and Fear of Puppets. Thanks to michmel for the link.

More on Domestic Spying

As I had discussed in a previous post (see "Spies Like Us"), it's now coming out that the NSA has been monitoring domestic communication without warrants, and this has raised serious concern regarding whether President Bush has authorized an invasive and unconstitutional practice, abusing powers granted to him in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

As reported by Reason Online, at least one aspect of the NSA's activities may be deemed legal by the courts. Citing law professor Orin Kerr, the Reason article points out that monitoring international communications from inside the United States may fall under a Fourth Amendement exception that permits the government to perform searches at the border without a warrant in order to stop smugglers.

However, as reported by the New York Times, the NSA is also performing data mining of phone and email records, searching for telltale patterns that indicate terrorist activity. But this year, there was an important ruling made in the Illinois v. Caballes case that stipulates that such searches must be specifically geared towards detecting illegal activity and only illegal activity, and the broad data gathering activities being undertaken by the NSA may be going well beyond this sphere.


Getting an Education in D&D

In late November, Wizards of the Coast posted a blurb on their website saying that Columbia University was planning on offering a 3-credit, graduate-level course in Dungeons and Dragons:

How would you like to take D&D for credit? Columbia University is planning a 3-credit graduate studies course on D&D -- in fact, researchers were here at WotC last week, interviewing members of R&D!
I wanted to blog about it then, but since I could find no supporting information, I figured I'd wait until I knew more.

Well, there's still no more information available on Columbia's planned course, but as you may already know, Barnes and Noble has recently begun running free online courses in a wide variety of topics. And one of their newest offerings is a course entitled "Discover Dungeons and Dragons", led by Eberron co-creator James Wyatt.

Introduced in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons is the leading fantasy role-playing game. D&D products are the benchmark for adventure role-playing game excellence.

As a beginning player, this course will guide you in understanding how D&D works, explaining the various worlds and characters types that it is based on, creating a D&D role for yourself, and understanding how your player role interacts in the world and with other characters. You will learn the extent of your abilities and the possibilities that lie ahead for your player, including magical spells, mythic quests, and epic battles with incredible monsters.

To play D&D, all that is required is a core rule book, D&D dice, a pencil, some paper, and imagination. With this course, you will be put in contact with a Dungeon Master who will guide your play through an adventure in which your character will perform feats and wage battles with other players, while gaining power, knowledge and experience.

Role-playing games have in the past been a topic of interest in sociological and psychological terms because it provides a window into the workings of psychological escapism, creates virtual economies, and explores the nature of myth. I will post an update if and when more information becomes available.

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Ya know, if I had heard someone say this, I would have made fun of them, because I never would have believed that it's a real word. But it is.'s word of the day is jollification, and it means exactly what you think it does.

Fuck Christmas

Strange. It's like a simple blog post... but it has its own domain. Whatever, kind of amusing. Merry Christmas, Fuck Christmas, ho ho ho.

Street Ninja

Plucked from thastygliax's blog: the street ninja.

Patriot Act Debates Held Off

From the Patriot Act article by our friends across the pond. Now tell me this look doesn't say puzzled:

Putting The "Do" Into "Dodecahedron"

Not sure if any of my readers read as many game reviews as I do, but when it comes to pen-and-paper games, board games, card games, and all other things low-tech and geeky, I do my best to stay abreast. And it's nice to read an off-beat review every now and then, just so that you know someone else out there in cyberspace feels the same way you do about my favorite hobbies.

The latest installment of Out of the Box, a column by Kenneth Hite (who has credits including Call of Cthulhu d20 and the Star Trek RPG), is just such a review.

That's right, as promised, it's time for the Best of Breed d20 Column, Core Game Version, Ultimate Badass Edition. One can be forgiven for believing that all d20 design is simply tired reiterations of the same crappy elf template or desperate tries at jiggering the encumbrance rules or lame attempts to jury-rig "retro flavor" into a far better rule set than any of us had when we were fourteen. (Oh, just a hint -- the reason that your D&D game seemed so much more exciting then? Everything seemed more exciting then. You were fourteen, for God's sake, your blood was approximately 88% hormones and 12% Wild Turkey.)
And you know what? I think the guy may be right. For those of us who long to recapture the excitement and wonder that we first felt when those dice clattered across the table, for those of us who refuse to use a DMG without a big red demon on it, for those of us who think that orcs should have pig noses and that's final, let's all take a step back and remember what it was really like to be a kid, and wonder if Kenneth hasn't hit on something. Sure, gaming was the greatest thing ever back in the day. And sure, we don't all have the same warm-and-mushy feelings that we used to when we sit down at the gaming table as thirty-somethings. But maybe that's just the way of things. Maybe it's not gaming that's changed. Maybe it's us.


Now What Do We Do With Kansas?

U.S. Dictrict Judge John Jones struck down the movement to teach Intelligent Design in Pennsylvania classrooms, calling it

the result of activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on intelligent design, who in combination drove the board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy.
— Judge John Jones as quoted by CNN
In a strongly-worded 139-page statement, he called the decision made by the Dover area's school board decision that would require high school teachers to teach Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution "breathtaking inanity". You can read some highlights of the ruling here.

I, for one, want to applaud this incisive and uncompromising decision. Finally, someone who is cutting to the heart of the matter. Intelligent Design is a religious agenda, regardless of how it is sold. What scientific theory supposes some inexplicable intelligence behind a natural phenomenon? And Jones' paper makes it clear in no uncertain terms.

First, Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory:

We have concluded that it is not (science), and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
Second, any scientific claims made by the proponents of ID are simply ways of dressing up their conservative Christian agenda.
We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom.
And third, that to permit this sort of blurring of the definition of science in the classroom does an immense disservice to the public.
The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID policy.
Now, what do we do with Kansas?


Katie Holmes

At least this one was right. Not sure who the other choices were, but I do like my girls cute and sweet, and Katie Holmes is friggin hot (and has very nice legs).

Your celebrity match is Katie Holmes. You like your women cute and sweet.

Take this quiz at

What I Will Go To Jail For

These online quizzes can be a fun distraction at times, but this one is just ridiculous. Now, I know that those dumb, weirdo questions they ask you are pointless anyway, but at least give me the impression that I'm participating. Just asking me to type in my name and then telling me immediately what I will go to jail for seems unsatisfying. You don't know me! You don't know the darkness that lurks inside me, what sort of horrors I would choose to unleash on mankind that would result in my incarceration. And dropping my pants in front of "a bunch of grade three's" is worse than sophomoric – it's ungrammatical.

You will go to jail for:
Because you lost your belt and your pants fell down in front of a group of grade three’s

Take this quiz at

Join My Cult!

James has created some of the best banners ever for promoting his book, Join My Cult!.

Spies Like Us

Is it just me, or has the threat of terrorism become the ever-present boogeyman used to justify ever more egregious violations of our constitutional rights?

The latest on this front comes in the form of another secret presidential order (cf. Executive Order 13233) signed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. As reported by the New York Times:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

... The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

Like the Patriot Act, whose provisions are so sweeping that they allow government agents to obtain personal information without any link between the individual and terrorist activites, this order is a violation of our constitutional protections against unlawful prosecution. I feel like I should be shocked, but there has been so much evidence of unchecked abuse of power by a one-sided legislature, that it's hard not to be jaded.

I ask the voting public to consider one thing: what will happen if this is allowed to continue? Why should we authorize our representantives to betray our trust? Terrorism is real, there's no denying that. We should do everything we can to protect ourselves. But without careful consideration, thoughtful debate, the checks and balances that form the foundation of our brilliant democracy do not work. The laws will reflect the agenda of the ruling party instead of reflecting the will of the people. If we do not achieve some kind of balance in our congress, then we will be dismantling our own future, brick by brick, willfully trading away our freedom for imagined protection from a spectral threat.


A Bull of a Different Color

I've started a secondary blog for my Jets-related material: The Green Bull Diary. Right now it's got some posts I manually migrated, but it's still just an experiment at the moment. I have enough trouble keeping one blog semi-interesting.

Cake on Jimmy Kimmel

Here is a link to ABC's website where you can see Cake perform "Wheels". You'll have to click the link below the video pane or else you'll have to listen to some band called Fort Minor.

Oh, and Def Leppard's performance kinda sucks. They're old, man. "I want rock n' roll..." *cough* *sputter* *hack*

Grand Tribunal

Atlas Games has just announced that they will be releasing an Ars Magica board game named Grand Tribunal in March of 2006.

Grand Tribunal is a board game for three to five players, inspired by the Ars Magica roleplaying game. In Grand Tribunal, players use Vis tokens to activate cards representing magic item types, spell categories, and resources, which they then assemble into powerful magic items. Each round, players place their votes for the item types and spell categories they're most likely to be able to play. Three times during the game -- at the periodic Tribunals -- players are presented with 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-place awards for creating magic items with item types and spell categories that match those with the most votes. The player at the end of the game with the most points based on those awards wins!
I like to reserve judgment on a game until I play it, but this seems like an awfully thin representation of such a rich and interesting game setting. Maybe a spell and magic item creation game can be fun, but a game with steeped in myth, rife with deep political intrigue within the Order, and filled with ancient magic, demons, faeries, and beasts of legend, do we really want a game where we compete for first place in a county fair?

Maltese Horse Diapers

Many thanks to the Sparrow for posting this gem from the Motherland:

Regulations on the control of horse dung forcing owners of horse-driven cabs to tie bags onto the animals are no longer valid after a judge ruled that this constituted cruelty to animals and was therefore in breach of the Animals Welfare Act which was a superseding law.
...Mr Justice Giannino Caruana Demajo heard vets explain that a horse's tail was to be kept free as he used it to swat flies and to gain strength when walking, especially uphill.
The judge ruled that tying the bag to the horse caused the animal to suffer and was therefore in conflict with the superseding law.
The Times of Malta
Horse diapers, called "nappies", have been ruled cruel to the horses, and so the law has been repealed. Let the horseshit flow freely through the streets of Valetta!

Better Late than Never

As reported by BBC News, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has come out against Islamic extremism, specifically condemning the funding or encouragement of terrorist activity and the spreading of radical doctrine through schools.

I applaud this statement and can only say that it's about time. In the typical fashion of religious institutions, the clerical authorities have spoken out only after it's a foregone conclusion, but it's better late than never.

Jockeying for Position

At this point in the season, the best thing the Jets can hope for is that the Houston Texans will somehow manage to win a game. That's because this is the only way they can hope to improve their current second-place position in the Reggie Bush/Matt Leinart/Vince Young sweepstakes (the 2006 draft). A team's position in the draft is determined by the reverse order of their overall win record, using strength-of-schedule to break ties. The top 4 positions after 12 weeks are as follows (source):

1. Texans 1-11 .083 105-87 .547
2. Jets 2-10 .166 101-91 .526
3. 49ers 2-10 .166 106-86 .552
4. Packers 2-10 .166 106-86 .552
Of the three big names in the draft, two are quarterbacks, and according to an article in Newsday
The growing uncertainty surrounding [Jay] Fiedler's future with the team has only strengthened the organization's belief that it must get a veteran quarterback to compete for the starting job next season. Nothing is written in stone, but the Jets simply don't have the time or inclination to groom a rookie quarterback, according to a person with knowledge of their thinking.
This means that the only way to really capitalize on this disastrous season is to acquire Reggie Bush. And the only way the Jets can be sure of getting him is if they move up to #1. I'm not sure whether this reluctance to acquire a rookie QB means that they're still hoping Chad will return, or whether they're going to actually consider a loser like current Raider/former Giant Kerry Collins for the job. As said in the Post:
Don't be shocked to see Kerry Collins in a Jet uniform next season. He's almost certain to be available, since the Raiders could save some $12 million on the salary cap if they release him.
This guy can't win games throwing to Randy Moss. Think about what'll happen to him with Gang Green. As bad as this season is, given Bradway's history of suspect off-season moves, I can actually imagine it getting worse. Please, Mr. Bradway. Think of the future.

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Man Sues CIA

As reported by the BBC, Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen, claims that he was kidnapped by the CIA, then taken to Afghanistan, where US government agents subjected him to torture and humiliation.

The landmark lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a district court in Alexandria, Virginia.

It claims that Mr Tenet and other CIA officials violated US and universal human rights laws when they authorised agents to kidnap Mr Masri.
This stuff is sickening, and the policy that is allowing it to go on comes from the top. Whoever is responsible for this flagrant barbarism must be made to pay. America has expended all of its moral capital in this so-called "war". The damage that has been done to our reputation, our economy, and our credibility as responsible world leaders has been staggering due to the selfishness and arrogance of a self-serving cabal of the power-mad.

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Like The Phone Bill

So funny, so sad, so true, I had to post it:

When it comes to scoring touchdowns, the Jets are like the phone bill: They're monthly.
—"Reeling Jets stand Pat in losing ways", New York Daily News
Martin is also in danger of not breaking 1,000 yards this year. When I heard that Herman was actually planning around that, I got upset. You don't play so that individual players can break records, but at 2-10, I think we should at least have something good come out of this year.

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For Those Inspired By Mel Gibson

I never cease to be amazed at what shows up on the Ars Magica mailing list. Many thanks to Michaël de Verteuil for posting a link to, where you can find an interlinear, Aramaic-English New Testament online in PDF format. If you want to see a quick example, here is a link to John (Yukhanan) Chapter 3. Remember, Aramaic, like its descendent, Hebrew, is written right to left, and so the English will appear jumbled, but that's only because it's correlating English phrases to the Aramaic in the order of the original. If you want to know more about the Aramaic-Syriac language, check out Wikipedia's excellent article.

It's worth mentioning that while an historical Jesus could have spoken Aramaic and there is a possibility that some of the original Gospels were written in Aramaic as well, there is no extant Gospel literature in Aramaic, and these Aramaic texts are re-translations from the Greek. Some Biblical scholars even question whether any of the Gospels were written in Aramaic at all. But it seems likely that even if all of the modern Gospels were written in Greek, they were at least informed by the presence of either a Hebrew or Aramaic source. This is the most widely-accepted solution to the so-called Synoptic problem: that an older source document called "Q" (from the German Quelle, meaning "source") informed some or all of the synoptic Gospels, thereby accounting for their striking similarities. Some good, general information about the different hypothetical solutions to theis problem can be found here.

Doing the Job Right

Warning: This link is to an explicit discussion of sex

I am posting this how-to article as a service to the gentler sex: paying lip-service to his ego.

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.