Let It Be

A couple of months ago, I ran into this NYT article discussing Ralph Nader’s inclusion on the Michigan ballot. It appears that Mr. Nader had only 18% or so of the signatures he needed to make the ballot, but miraculously ended up with an extra 45,000 signatures on the petition, courtesy of the Republican Party. The motive, according to the executive director of Michigan’s Republican Party, was to “ensure that Michigan voters are not disenfranchised.”

Today, I happened upon this new little gem. In a related move, Florida’s Division of Elections director Dawn Roberts declared that Nader could appear on the Florida ballot despite legal questions about whether Nader qualifies under Florida state law. And apparently, “Analysts said most of the nearly 98,000 votes Nader got in Florida would have gone to Gore had Nader not been on the ballot.”

What I find interesting about these cases is twofold. First, it intrigues me that the bar to get on a ballot is so high. Okay, I suppose there are technical reasons why not just anyone can be placed on the ballot; it might be overkill to have 5,381 presidential nominees. But from the perspective of freedom and democracy, it seems to me that if someone could get 50,000 signatures nation-wide, he or she should automatically qualify to be on all state ballots. Part of the problem with current American politics is a lack of choice, and the two parties prefer to maintain that status quo.

More interesting, however, is this notion that somehow by including Nader on a ballot, you are “costing” one or another of the established parties the election. This, of course, is the Republican motive to place Nader on a ballot, and the reason that Democrats are screaming. I really doubt that anyone particularly cares whether or not voters are “disenfranchised” these days. Still, there are problems with this “costing” logic.

The Democrats, in my honest opinion, are being extremely pathetic and anti-democratic with the whole thing. By whining about Americans getting extra choices in the election, what they are effectively saying is that:
1. Americans do not deserve to have multiple choices; Republican or Democrat are all they should be allowed, and
2. the Democratic party is not confident enough in its attraction to voters to believe that it is capable of winning an election should it face extra competition on the ballot.

But the problem isn’t solely with the Democrats. The Republicans, by using unethical tactics, are basically saying something else. Specifically, that:
1. it doesn’t matter if Americans have more choice, because the Republican party will use whatever methods they have to in order to win – ethical or not – and
2. the Republican party is not confident enough in its attraction to voters to believe that it is capable of winning an election without extra competition to dectract votes from its only practical competitor.

Overall, a sad state of affairs. Basically, both parties are participating in insuring that Americans have two effective choices come the elections – and if the Republicans successfully manipulate the election process enough, only one viable candidate. Whatever happened to sportsmanlike democracy, where you take your wins or losses with grace without using slimy tactics to undermine your competitor? Oh, wait – democracy…that has to do with politics, and what are politics if not slimy? Oh well. Maybe one day Americans will get fed up with having limited (or no) choice and actually do something about it – and maybe one day pigs will fly. Neither one is gonna happen any time soon.

Magic: The Gathering Strikes Again

So I was bored Friday evening, and decided to try a few old games out. I like to do this occasionally because once in a while, you run across these gems that validate your search and provide a few hours of non-crappy entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong, modern games are visually spectacular but they often seem to lack something in terms of gameplay. For instance, in the last two months, I’ve tried the following games:

  • Dungeon Siege – nice graphics, nice party-based hack’n’slash, but got bored about halfway through. Lacked story.
  • Age of Mythology – why the hell can’t there be a more intuitive interface? This just made me miss Total Annihilation (and TA: Kingdoms).
  • Rise of Nations – felt like the Age of… series, but with a Civilization-like twist. I played this for a few days, and got incredibly bored after winning the thirtieth single-player skirmish. This game could’ve been so much cooler if borders actually meant anything, and I missed the Civilization-like ability to totally dominate and have riflemen fighting spearmen. Perhaps it was more “fair,” but it was less fun.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War – the story has always rocked in Deus Ex. I would love to read this as a novel, but somehow I wish there was more to do besides shooting. Maybe a Deus Ex with an adventure game twist and some actual puzzles would’ve been nice. And deformable environments.:-P
  • Neverwinter Nights – I’d looked forward to this for a while, but absolutely hated the inability to summon more than one creature or have more than one other NPC in your party. Baldur’s Gate 2 totally kicked this game’s ass.

Anyway, so I ran across Magic: The Gathering on the Underdogs website. Granted, some people would call this a questionable source for games, but in my opinion, discontinued = fair game. You can make up your own mind about the morality of this.

Moving on, I installed the game, only to have Windows XP crash on me with a fault in “cardartlib.dll” – just great. Being the inquisitive type that I am, I spent an hour or so on Google trying to dig up resources on this problem. I found a few websites that mentioned it, but essentially all they’d say was “install the game, install the patch.” Okay, morons, did that already (in fact, I believe the patch is pre-installed in the Underdog bundle for download, but reinstalled it anyway) and it didn’t help.

So I experimented a bit. The deck editor crashed every time I loaded it, and the game itself ran okay until I tried to manipulate the deck. Intuitive leap of thought led me to suspect that it was something with my display settings.

So, for those of you running Windows XP, and wanting to play Magic: The Gathering (that whole Shandalar thing) – if you get an error with cardartlib.dll and installing the patch does not help, here’s the solution: drop your resolution to 800×600 and the game will run just fine.

Yup, that’s all there is to it, at least on my system. Apparently 1400×1050 is just way too much for this old (1997) game and the card art libraries were never intended to stretch the cards that much.

Now, to deal with the consequences of installing this virtual crack cocaine…god, after the 50th loss to a !#$(!##!$#@(*(!@ druid, I want to smash something, but I want my lost cards back more. Talk about addictive…and me just the little naive innocent who wandered into this having never played or more than heard of Magic before.

Hope this helps some other addict-to-be out there.:-)


Earlier this year, I read an article talking about the reason for computer/technology-related outsourcing. In the article, people like HP’s Carly Fiorina and Intel’s Craig Barrett suggested that the USA should pour more funds into education, particularly in the sciences, to make more workers available in these fields.

Initially, I was sorta surprised at this notion. The outcry in the USA over outsourcing, with many tech workers complaining that they’re even being forced to train their own replacements, seemed to suggest to me that the USA is doing fine – we have enough workers and enough people looking for jobs to keep the industry well-sated.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take into account the nature of capitalism. The problem is not that there is an actual physical shortage of willing workers in the industry. The problem, rather, is that there are not so many workers as to create strong competition between workers – which is precisely what Fiorina and Barrett mean when they discuss ‘competition.’ Why strong competition between workers? Well, if you have only just enough workers to go around, obviously the wages will be higher. More workers = lower wages because of increased competition. Mouths to feed, bills to pay? You’ll definitely take a lower-paying job in a crunch. But at least your CEO will pocket some more millions. This hurts the small guy, but is great for the corporation’s bottom line.

The joy of capitalism.:-P


I released a 0.01 version of NateOffice today. The administrative side is still buggy as hell (thank the gods for phpMyAdmin) but the user side is working quite nicely, in my honest opinion. Still a hell of a lot of work to do, but at least maybe some people can start playing with it now.

Update: November 09, 2007: NateOffice has changed quite a lot since that initial release and there are more changes coming up that will hopefully pave the way to something with a nice UI and a 1.0 release in the next few months.

While I’m happy to provide help if I can, please use the forums and bug reporting at sourceforge.net/projects/nateoffice for this, as that way I can track the issues separately and deal with them as they come up. Additionally, there is another person now working on this project at times, and he will not notice issues if you post them here. Thanks for your interest!


Seems that the programmers of the WS_FTP file transfer protocol client must be fans of the Paranoia role playing game. Note this unusual message buried in the WS_FTP transfer log during a routine FTP session.

PORT 192,168,2,225,11,146
200 PORT command successful
RETR adminapglacct.php
150-Connecting to port 2962
150-The computer is your friend. Trust the computer
150 4.4 kbytes to download
Received 4542 bytes in 0.1 secs, (440.00 Kbps), transfer succeeded
226-File successfully transferred
226 0.000 seconds (measured here), 32.06 Mbytes per second

Edit (22 September 2004@21:00:48): It occurs to me that it may be a certain *nix FTP daemon returning this code, not necessarily WS_FTP. At any rate, it’s still cool.


Okay, so everyone’s been raving off and on about this David Gelernter guy. I was advised by a friend to take a look at his “The Second Coming: A Manifesto,” which I did.

My real impression is that it’s quite overrated. Don’t get me wrong, the technologies are amazing. However, for all his talk about this grand upcoming revolution, Gelernter proceeded to patent the entire lifestream idea, essentially making it impossible for anyone to use it in the next 15 or so years without paying him a fortune (and some sources suggest that he has no interest in doing so unless you’re a major corporation). Some revolution, especially since his company seems to have folded and you cannot even buy HIS implementation of the lifestream principle anymore (check scopeware.com or mirrorworlds.com – as of this writing, those sites have been down at least a few months).

In addition – not that I have anything against conservatives – Gelernter seems to be a particularly outspoken conservative of the Republican type, as evidenced by his rants on topics as diverse as capital punishment, baby boomers and WW2, and art and the Nobel Prize. Serves him quite well in the current American climate, but his computer ‘brilliance’ aside, I somehow doubt his overall views would make him well-liked by much of the world. The world is indeed bigger than whatever chip he has on his shoulder.

While I understand that his run-in with the unabomber has probably made him a little bitter, I still find him a classic example of the type of arrogant intellectual elitist pre-geriatric who unfortunately wields entirely too much power and influence in the United States today. Sad.

A thought…

It occurred to me today that there’s a certain irony in the fact that Americans are getting fat and having severe health problems from overeating (School Cafeterias Resist Low-Carb Pressure) while people are starving overseas.

It isn’t the traditional “Oh, we are so blessed that we have food…we should help feed the hungry! *stuff face and ignore hungry*” sort of didactic anecdotal irony, but rather a real irony that comes from the fact that finally, Americans are *dying* from eating too much. See, if they’d just give some of their food away to the poor, maybe both sides would live now. Weird way that the scales have turned…

Hello world !

So I watched everyone else do this long enough, and in true Nathan style, I’ll jump in now. And, of course, probably find myself bored to tears in about a year.

Stuff to promote – Tapping The Vein, Whitesands MUD, being American in Canada, slashdot.org, kuro5hin, cats rule, and other stuff I’ll probably think of later (yes, I’m a geek, so shoot me).

Look for lots of stuff coming soon:-)