Friday, April 13, 2007


I stood in the crowd behind the tables listening to the Irish band play. The guy in front of me occasionally decided to hold the plastic cup of ale in his mouth and clap along, bumping into me. The only time I clapped was at the end of each song because my hands were tied... one to Guiness and one to Irish whiskey.

About three songs from the end of the set I felt the spiritual resonance of the bomb . The maker had loaded it with enough c4 to level the pub, but a lesser spirit (barely sentient) was tied to the bomb to take care of any survivors. The spirit's resonance was how I found the bomb; it was rage where everything else was celebration.

I listened to a few more songs, and felt to spirit shift from rage to readiness. To free my hands I slammed back the rest of the whiskey, and soothed the burn with the rest of the Guiness. I sighed as I grabbed my sister-in-law and shoved her out the open window. Her husband was pretty shocked at what I had just done. He did not respond when I threw him out too.

The physical aspect of the bomb exploded. Nearly everyone in the pub died from the initial blast. I felt the flames and debris wrap around me, but they would not dare touch me. The spirit flickered from survivor to survivor aggravating whatever wounds they had to the point of death, and then it noticed me. I drew my blade from Elsewhere.

It tried to attack with a few cheap shots, but the most basic defense of Crane Snares Frog knocked away the spirit easily. Most who learn true blade arts learn the technique within the first few weeks. The first two movements act to parry any attacks, while the third acts as a riposte. However, before my blade split the enemy its spiritual essence was already bleeding away into a sorcery.

A curious ripple of spiritual energy blossomed behind me, and I saw where the spirit had expended its energy. Thousands of charged shards of glass from the windows came at me. I countered with the blade technique Storm Kills Hive, and each piece of glass exploded into a fine sand before touching my body.

I leapt out the same window I had thrown my sister-in-law as my blade went back to its sheath in Elsewhere. She and her husband were standing quite a bit away from the flaming pub on the sidewalk. "Get in the car. Forget about the rest," I said, "Just go."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Oak Table

The gentleman arrived late in March and the Marquis recieved him graciously. That night and every night of his stay I waited upon the gentleman's every need as I had waited upon the Marquis for the past 20 some years.

Every evening I prepared supper for them in the banquet hall. It was a good deal of trouble to go to for just the two of them to dine, but as the Marquis no longer entertained regularly it was cause enough for the formality. The gentleman, after all, was a representative of the Duke. Every night at supper he met with the Marquis to discuss the workings of his serfdom and divine the cause of the last few years' steady decline in tribute to the Empire. Every night the Marquis patiently listened to the gentleman's lectures on the matters of government and economics, and answered all the gentleman's inquiries with polite yet delightfully vexing vagueries and musings.

During the day the gentleman roamed the estate or lingered in the library as the Marquis would not see him, save at supper, and his attempts to interview myself, the only servant of the manor, had not satisfied him in the least. Every night after dinner he returned to his chambers for the evening where I observed in secret his restless nights. Often I saw him run to shut the windows in a vain attempt to silence the howls of the wolves. But they would howl all night, because I of course had not fed them since the gentleman arrived.

Finally, one week after the gentleman had arrived I delivered to him the message that the Marquis did not wish to sup in the banquet hall that evening, but rather out on the veranda in the fresh air, where their discussions of the proper ways and means of state could be refreshed as well. The gentleman acknowledged this humble page but was not pleased. As I left he returned to the window of his chamber to contemplate the forest who's howling emanations kept his nights sleepless.

On the veranda I set the broad oak table with simple pewter place settings rather than the usual silver. They would certainly seem more fitting of the table itself. It was an single ancient slab from a mighty tree felled far from these mountains. It was a plain table, by most respects. It and the stout flat chairs that accompanied it were completely unadorned and had no varnish save what many years of what age and wear could do to darken them. Several gouges, blackened with grime and the dried accumulations of the various fluids spilled on the table over time, could be found on its surface. The Marquis, ever coy, would say that these only serve to define the bold and honorable character of the table.

The Marquis and the gentleman dined once again together that night, though they did not converse much. The gentleman was clearly uncomfortable with the spare arrangements, and the woods lingering just off to the East. The special seasoning I had added to his stew that supper took effect as soon as the meal was complete. I was just able to bus the gentleman's dishes away before he slumped over onto that old oak table. It was a curious recipe which I made a trek to procure once a year from a gnarled and crafty hag that lived in a cave deep in the mountains. The gentleman was not dead, and not even unconscious. He was, however, rendered quite immobile and utterly helpless for sufficient time. The Marquis got up from the table and removed his waist coat so as not to soil it. The wolves could be seen crossing the plain at that time, coming to the manor.

I proceeded with my role then, pulling the gentleman up onto the table and turning him over. His eyes glared at me with the most comical confusion. "Do not fear, good sir!" I told him as I removed his vest and shirt. "All matters of state shall soon be resolved by the good Marquis." And at that time I dimminished to simple observer as the Marquis approached the gentleman with his instruments in hand, and the wolves crept onto the veranda licking their chops and trembling in anticipation.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Free Speech

I don't think Americans realize how good they have it. 99% of the time if they want to say it, an American can say it.

Our 1st Amendment cases are much of the time extreme compared to other countries:
In America if you burn your draft card on the steps of courthouse during a time of war, you might go to jail for a bit. In China, in a time of peace, you might get shot or run over by a tank.
In America nothing is sancrosanct when a comedian performs an act. In United Arab Emirates, the comedian has to provide a transcript of the act so that someone can edit it out.
In America we watch and laugh at a show that presents our President as a complete idiot (let's sidestep the obvious). And most recently, in Thailand they block an entire website for relatively weak mockery of a ruler.

I know many people are currently unhappy with a lot of American government policy, and hopefully that will change. But, it is helpful to remember sometimes how truly different the freedoms we take absolutely for granted are not even tasted by other people of the world.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Wikis and Copyrights

I have created a wiki (I choose not to link for a number of reasons) and been a healthy contributor on quite a few. You might notice that almost every wiki has a copyright license at the bottom of the first page. This license will tell you what happens with the stuff you add to a wiki. For instance can others edit your additions, can people take your additions and bring it to another place (not on that wiki), can your addition be related to any commercial use, and realistically the most important, IMHO, what happens when your article is edited.

There are many "commons" licenses that allow for an almost public-domain-like allowance for the copyright material. Usually any kind of personal use is allowed. However, the differences can be suffocating.

Recently my all time favorite game, Guild Wars, started an official wiki. This was awesome except that awesomeness was tempered by the fact that there was already a goliath-size unofficial wiki in existence. For the rest of the article I will call the former "OGW" (official guild wiki) and the latter "GGW" (goliath guild wiki).

The community was pretty excited because the benefits of having an official wiki were pretty substantial: (a) the owner would not randomly decide to take the wiki down, (b) the hardware and connection could be substantially improved, (c) developers and personnel of ArenaNet might be persuaded to add to the wiki, etc.

Community: Ok, well let's just copy everything from the very substantial, nearly complete GGW to the new and blossoming OGW.

ArenaNet: We can't do that.

It seemed that the license on the GGW did not allow for any commercial use. OGW, owned by the company that ran Guild Wars, would definitely be used for commercial use even if only "lay people" would be adding content.

This was horrible. Two wikis on the exact same subject create the biggest bane to a wiki's existence. Competing wikis are about as stupid as competing operating systems, as entertaining as it may be. Ok, bad analogy and wrong battleground.

Anyway LDRAW (Lego CAD development) recently had nearly the same problem shifting their parts library over to a "commons" copyright license. This took nearly a year because they had to contact each parts author and ask that author to release his copyright to the part under the new license. The authors that could not be contacted had their parts deleted off the LDRAW server, and those parts had to be later remade in an original manner.

This solution would be perfect for GGW and allow the OGW to replace it. The problem is that a wiki is editable by practically anybody. Many people create usernames to attach to their wiki additions/edits, but just as many edit anonymously. Well not totally anonymously because IP's will be tracked, but still contacting an author based on their IP is not very feasible. The other problem is that so many authors add their stock to the wiki article's soup.

Sure Bob the Farmer may have started the wiki article on sheep, and then Sally edits his article for grammar and had to add a sentence on sheep diets, Gregor added a paragraph on sheep diseases, ph3@r added a bit on having sex with sheep, etc. As of the current iteration, let's say, 80 authors have put their hand on the sheep wiki article.

Can our law really handle the copyright problems imposed when 80 people add material and then walk away? Most people that use wikis know that nothing is sacred. What one might feel is sacrosanct is just another factoid to another, and may edit out the feelings of holiness to make it more neutral. People also get their facts wrong, add opinions, and even make stuff up.

What about the fact that the author's copyrighted material is basically in the hands of another person? If the server is taken down with no backups, etc. the material may be lost forever. Should that matter? Should copyright really protect all the crap that is shoved out onto the net each day (including this article) to the degree that a book or manuscript is protected?

Now American intellectual property law is based on the notion that you must protect your rights. So while 80 people might hold some iteration of a copyright on the sheep article, it is probable that no one will actively seek to protect their copyright. Still, companies wishing to make things "official" will not wish to take on the boatload of liability.

I feel that this is another stab at how archaic and stupid our copyright laws are. We are coming upon another Mickey Mouse cycle for copyright. I hope our Congressmen attempt to learn about copyrights with a forward-looking expansive scope, instead of to just a commercial degree.