A monk asked Nansen: "Is there a teaching no master ever taught before?"
Nansen said: "Yes, there is."
"What is it?" asked the monk.
Nansen replied: "It is not mind, it is not Buddha, it is not things."

Nansen was too kind and lost his treasure.
Truly, words have no power.
Even though the mountain becomes the sea,
Words cannot open another's mind.

the Dirty Pair in the Mandelbrot Set. (use PNG for patent-free images)
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The new computer, my sister, and other observations...
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

After waiting and planning for several weeks, I received the last part I needed to build my new computer last Thursday. I can't get over how powerful my new machine is.. I ran 3DMark 2001 on it and received a score of over 7000. While not the most powerful computer out there, it's well over and above the capabilities of my old system. Appropriately enough, I've christened it Justifiable Expenditure, or simply Justcost (obliquely inspired by Iain M. Bank's Culture novels).

I felt it appropriate to break in Justcost with a game I couldn't properly play before. I chose No One Lives Forever, a charming 3d shooter and an adventure into '60s spy dramas. My hat's off to you, Ms. Archer!

Finally, my sister Laura has come up from Florida to visit for the next few day. Good to see you sis!

(I have not run any auctions recently, in anticipation of these events, but intend to put up several more books RSN.)

Naming Computers
Wednesday, July 17, 2002

I've enjoyed coming up with names for my computers since I went to college. Even if I couldn't publish the name by DNS, or expect my machine to provide services to anyone else, I've liked to give my own name to computers I use, simply because I enjoyed it.

For the past few years I've called my machine at home 'dogma', partly as an anime reference and partly as a joke. I kept using this name through several upgrades and repairs, until I'd replaced everything once or twice, including the floppy drive.

But after the latest new motherboard finally failed, and it became apparent that I would end up replacing practically anything, it didn't feel like I was repairing ol'Dogma any more. I needed a new name. I haven't collected all the parts for the new machine yet, but I have come up with several nominees for its name-to-be.

  • Amelie - from the lead character of the recent French movie by the same name
    • PROS - sounds cute, reminds me of movie, almost as good as having a French girlfriend.
    • CONS - difficult to spell correctly (should end with É), would rather have an actual girlfriend.
  • Mike - from two different characters by Robert Heinlein, including a fictional computer.
    • PROS - sounds friendly. also the name of a good friend & former housemate.
    • CONS - common name for people, may confuse people.
  • Techfetish
    • PROS - accurate, won't get confused for a person's name.
    • CONS - long, may not wear well.

As you can tell, I'm still struggling with this momentous decision. I'm open to suggestions!

FRP Books for Sale
Wednesday, July 10, 2002

I have put up my third batch of eBay auction items, a dozen fantasy roleplaying books. I've chosen to sell my Rolemaster books as a set to compare how that works compared to selling individually.

I've read some real horror stories about PayPal's customer service, so I didn't hold out much hope when they unexpectedly overcharged my checking account and didn't respond to my emails asking them to lift the restriction they'd placed on my own account with them. I wish I'd known before subscribing to Modern Tales that PayPal would renew my subscription on their own, and I didn't appreciate waiting weeks after I cleared my debt with them to have my account restored. But to give them credit, once I did think of calling them, I reached a human quickly, and PayPal lifted their restriction the next day. B+

Incidentally, you all should take a look at Modern Tales, because they've got some great art and good people. They charge a subscription fee, okay. I dig what Scott McCloud has said about micropayments, and Modern Tales attempts to provide that. I wish we could avoid using the power to exclude to support the creation of art, but I cannot deny the hard, mundane problems posed by rent and bandwidth charges. Besides, Modern Tales has some truly excellent stories like Paradigm Shift, Vicious Souvenirs, and Sketchbook. And if you feel cheap, you can read the new pages added each day, and forgo the archives.

Hamburgers, Baseball and Phoenix Down
Saturday, July 6, 2002

Ahh, this blog needs a Fourth of July report.

My friends Peri & Matt invited me to a picnic at their house in Rochester. Many of our mutual friends also showed up.. I counted a dozen geeks, all told, eating burgers and talking about nothing in particular. Rob, my old co-worker, and Wei Wei, his Chinese roommate, were there. Jan, who runs our D&D games, and his girlfriend Sha, the ambulance driver, were there. Peri's significant other Sue, who runs her own campaign, would have been there if she hadn't fallen asleep inside. Also, Jas, Anne, Kage and Anita were there, but I haven't nearly as much dirt on them.

After the picnic, most everyone took off. The few of us who remained decided we needed to watch some anime, so we watched eight episodes of Princess Nine, a fun new series about an all-girl high school baseball team breaking into an all-boy league. I haven't seen any sports anime before, perhaps because I've had little interest in watching sports, but I loved watching this team on and off the field. It also amused me to recognize the voice actor for the team's coach as the same seiyuu who voices Fujisawa-sensei in El Hazard.

Finally night fell, and the time came for fireworks. However I took the suggestion rather liberally, and followed Sue back to her house to see her Playstation 2 console. I saw for the first time Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Final Fantasy X. I would like to say something original and insightful about these games, but words fail me. We do good work.

Sci-Fi Gaming For Sale
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

I've put up my second batch of auctions today, a dozen swell & nifty roleplaying sourcebooks. Most of them cover GURPS Traveller, a far-future setting where humans have lived for thousands of years and the Third Imperium rules benevolently (is this for real?). Take a look at them and bid on what you like! (please!)

Happy Birthday to Me
Sunday, June 30, 2002

Today I've become 30 years old. Good grief! Words fail me for describing how reaching this milestone affects me. I recollect generous portions of both wonder and horror when I look back over my last decade alive. Visitors who don't know already know me will have to wait for me to flesh out my biography.

In other news, my first eBay auction ended last Friday. I felt very excited watching the bids come in, and quite satisfied with the final price. Now I wait to hear from my buyer about his shipping preferences.

Very soon, I'll post links to my second batch of auctions, a dozen GURPS source books.

Our tax dollars at work
Wednesday, June 26, 2002

I had a surprise waiting for me in my mother's kitchen today. I've had the good fortune to live in my folks' basement for the past couple months. A sudden thunderstorm had rolled in, so I had gone there to read while my mother prepared for a doctor's appointment.

Some time later, I heard the trundle of footsteps. Too many for my mother to make on her own. Maybe prowlers? I got up and started up the basement stairs, wondering who would have entered my parents' house. (Since they live outside the city, they occasionally leave the place open for the utility representative to check our meter.)

I found three uniformed police officers in our kitchen, who told me to halt and sighted their shotgun and handguns on me. I followed their instructions, raising my hands, kneeling on the floor and turning to face the corner. They they cuffed me and patted me down for weapons. They asked me for identication, which I had left in the basement. And when they felt satisfied that I was who I said I was and not burgling my parents' home, they apologized stiffly. They explained they had not made a mistake, because they had responded to a holdup signal from our security agency, they had found our front door open, and they'd heard no reply when they'd first entered. Then they left.

When I talked to my parents' security agency, they informed me that they'd called the police before calling our house. I did not see their number on our caller id, but even if they did call I wouldn't have heard their call from our basement.

I suspect it happened as a freak consequence of the passing thunderstorm. I hope I can get an apology from our security agency.

New Term, New Legs
Sunday, June 23, 2002

Since my pc's motherboard fried 3 weeks ago, I've had to use other computers to get online (and maintain this blog). But now, thanks to my buddy Matt (who hasn't got a proper homepage yet, the weanie) I have a loaner until I can build a new computer properly. Thanks Matt!

With any luck, I ought to update this blog more frequently now. I have two dangling links off my vanity indulgence page to amend, and I have some amazing insights that need documenting on my graciousness to strangers page.

Last night I joined my buddies at Jan's apartment, and we saw Harry Potter. I hadn't seen it nor read it before, so I felt curious to observe this new pop phenomenon for myself. (Spoiler warning) I did enjoy the movie, but not without reservations. Several moments appeared derivative to me, such as Platform 9 3/4 from similar riddles in Alice in Wonderland, and the shifting staircases and malevolent library book from pterry's Discworld novels. The pacing occasionally felt rushed and I became confused from missing some points of the story. Harry and his friends trespassed on the 3rd floor, discovering the cerebus and its trapdoor, but what prompted them to go up there? In the quidich match, most of the players played for points with the larger balls, except for Harry who spectated until he discovered and then caught the tiny winged ball, which by itself won the game. So to what purpose did the non-seekers play? When was the fourth kid introduced, who confronted Harry and his friends, who the young witch froze with a spell, and who then earned 10 points for his house for that? Who did Weasley play against in his chess game, and why did they need to continue playing once the line of enemy pawns was broken? And what was it, exactly, about Harry's hands that enabled him to destroy the evil wizard by touching him? As a story in film, I felt unimpressed, though I did enjoy the amazing fx and various bits of humor. I anticipate I'll have to read the first book now, to check that I haven't judged the story too critically, but my favorite for the young-wizard-boy-goes-to-a-magic-school-and-makes-good category remains Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea.

My First eBay Auction
Tuesday, June 18, 2002

I've listed my first auction, a rare wargame from Japan I bought a few years ago. Until I create a separate Auctions page, you can find information about any of my auctions on my Stuff page. Somebody please bid on this excellent game!

I gave blood today!
Monday, June 17, 2002

Or I will soon, rather. Visit the Red Cross, they're nice people and they have cookies.

In other news, I've updated my friends page. At least, I took out the entries with dead links. I have other friends on the WWW, but they'll have to wait until I get back from donating my warm, red blood.

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Copyright © 2002 by Ben Taylor <mithras@dhp.com>