Saturday, December 18, 2010

Neverwinter Nights Available at

A team of 4 players, from different parts of the world ranging from Florida to Sri Lanka, explores an ancient underground fortress in Faerun, the world of Neverwinter Nights.

Neverwinter Nights has just been made available as a DRM free download for $10 at Good Old Games.

More than 8 years after it's original release NWN remains the most revolutionary cRPG ever made.

The adventure isn't that special. If you're a casual cRPG fan it's worth a play, but it won't rock your world. Baldurs's Gate 1 and 2 are both better cRPG experiences for the RP lightweight (and both are available on GoG). The official campaign is weak at best. The first expansion, Shadows of Undrentide, is MUCH better. In fact, just skip straight to "Shadows" (known in the NWN community as SoU). It's no Baldur's Gate, but at least it gives BG a run for it's money. The original campaign doesn't even try. The last full length module, Hoards of the Underdark (or HotU) is a sequel of SoU and is without doubt the best of the three modules, but it's also epic level. I wouldn't recommend making HotU your first NWN experience.

No. As far as the single player game goes it falls into the "meh" catagory. The graphics are dated, and in the OC the plot is lame, linear, and riddled with painfully 2 dimensional NPC's.

But it's still the best cRPG ever made.

What makes NWN stand apart from any game that came before it is the Aurora Toolset and it's multi-player features.
The toolset is easier to use and more powerful than anything ever released before or since. Dungeon Siege, Morrowind, even Oblivion have toolsets that pale in comparison to NWN. While the sequel, NWN 2, has a toolset that offers a building experience with much better graphics, it offers nothing in terms of improved game play and is much more complicated and time consuming. NWN is also highly modable. It's relatively easy to create and animate 3d models, so fans have fleshed out the game with custom clothing, models, buildings, monsters... you name it. The system is so flexible that it has been used to create d20 modern and even sci-fi modules. NWN is the perfect platform for the amateur game designer. As a result there are literally thousands of fan made modules, and literally hundreds that are actually superior to the official campaign.

Still not convinced? Let's talk multi-player. NWN can be played cooperatively or PvP. The official campaigns can be played co-op, but there are scores of fan made modules designed for MP co-op as well. Now there's nothing new about MP support. Baldur's Gate was an amazing MP experience for the few people who tried it, but compared to NWN it's downright primitive and without the toolset the MP experience in these games was intrinsically limited.

And this brings us to the one thing that sets NWN apart from every other cRPG ever made...

NWN has a Dungeon Master client.

NWN's DM client, in combination with the powerful toolset, relegates every other MP computer game on the market to the status of "Poser". This feature makes real tabletop Pen 'n Paper style role playing available in a thoroughly rendered 3-D environment for the very first time.

NWN still has a very active community. IGN's "Neverwinter Vault" is the place to go to find fan created content and modules, NeverwinterConnections is a great resource for finding NWN multiplayer games and campaigns to join, and the Bioware social NWN boards are still very active. There are scores of NWN "persistant worlds", or "PWs". These servers are custom worlds built with the NWN toolset; basically free mini MMO's; and are open 24/7. There's also a fairly active X-Fire community.

BUY NEVERWINTER NIGHTS RIGHT NOW! It's the best game value you will ever find.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fine! Raise My F&($ing Taxes!

I for one am fed up with the Republican bullshit in regards to the Bush tax cuts.

Word to Obama:
If the Republicans filibuster just raise my f&($ing taxes. I've had it up to my eyeballs with spoiled rich b$#(%^s
f&($ing up the country so they can make a few pennies on the share in the market.

At some point the government has to get real about deficit reduction, and while cutting taxes for the middle class will, I believe, stimulate the economy; cutting taxes for the rich is like throwing $700 billion to Hong Kong.

The middle class is likely to spend their tax savings on paying bills and mortgages and otherwise funneling money back into local economies.
I'll grant that. It would be worth trying to keep them in the hopes that it stimulates jobs (and in acknowledgment that, quite frankly, we need the money).

But the Republican contention that cutting taxes for the rich will somehow stimulate the US economy is ludicrous. The rich will invest their tax savings, that's true, but they must take me for some kind of idiot if they think I'm financially illiterate enough to believe they're going to invest it in the US. This just ain't where the money is. If I have a choice between paying higher taxes and getting a handle on the deficit or letting a bunch of Fat Cats throw almost a trillion dollars into creating jobs in China and Brazil over the next ten years I'd just as soon cough up the extra taxes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No Rest for the Weary

I was hoping with the election over I could take a rest from being PO'd at politicians, but no such luck. It's clear we voted out the bastards to make way for more of the same old crap. This whole earmarking hysteria is just a silly drama for the benefit of the illiterate masses and all it's going to do is increase congressional gridlock. Of course this may very well be the Republican's intent... bring Washington to a grinding halt and then blame Obama for it in 2012.

In any event, any talk about deficit reduction that's not accompanied by a determination to increase taxes and cut defense, social security, and medicare spending is just more of the same old political BS.

Shame on us all for buying into it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weird Weekend

I have an awesome little dog. A pekingese. I didn't actually kill him,
but I gave it a couple good tries. While I was taking him out he ran
full tilt head first into a trailer hitch. Knocked him right on his
fuzzy but. Then a much larger dog tried to eat him. Picked him up by the
scruff of the neck and shook him like a rag doll.

Oh... and tonight I stepped on him. With shoes on.

Poor little guy. He may be a poofy little girly dog, but he's the toughest little bugger I ever met. He never so much as let out a yelp.

Oh, and tonight I doped my wife up with a heavily spiked peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Yup. Weird weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nothing Like a Three Ring Election for a Great Show!

I'm loving this election.

I'm kinda enjoying watching the Democrats wading around in all the wild promises they couldn't keep, and the smug feeling of superiority that comes with knowing full well that it takes a heck of a lot longer than two years to turn around an economic disaster like the one we're crawling out of; A disaster brought about, by the way, by eight years of faux conservatism. It's also kinda fun watching full grown men running around screaming like a bunch of school girls in a pantie raid. Here's a news flash for you, ladies. The stimulus package worked. The recession is over. Businesses are growing again. They're just not sharing the money with you. If this surprises you go stand in the "stupid corner" and face the wall.

Here's another news flash for you Panicky Nancys out there: unemployment is always the last metric to improve after a recession. Deal with it. What the hell do you want the government to do about it? It's not the governments place to create jobs. That's what the private sector is for. The private sector has stabilized. In fact they're sitting on HUGE surpluses. They're just not hiring. In fact they're still firing. That's the way this game goes. Am I the only person alive old enough to remember that last time this happened? When all our manufacturing and engineering jobs got shipped to Mexico back in the 90's and we all wound up in the service industry? What can I say. It sucks to be us. But crying and voting in a bunch of corporate whores isn't going to change the situation.

And this brings me to the best part of this whole cluster %$#@: Watching the Grand Ol' Party implode.

That's right... The real clown show has come from the Republicans this session. They've strayed so far from real conservatism in the name of sucking big-money corporate ding-dong that they got their asses handed to them by a bunch of idiots running around screaming "CONSTITUTION! CONSTITUTION!"

Now this might have been a good thing if any of them had bothered to actually read the Constitution. Kinda makes a guy wonder what the heck were these clowns studied in high school instead.

Anyway... Congratulations, GOP. You chased away all the "RINOs" just in time for a party split to scoop up the radicals and sully the entire parties reputation by forcing the you to field illiterate nut-cases like Paladino and O'Donnell. Real smooth. "Republican Strategist" has officially become a contradiction in terms. Of course the lobbyists are adapting nicely. They know full well these upstarts will be all too eager to wrap their lips around their cash engorged hot corporate willies when re-election time rolls around. ;)

Now I'd like to make a comment about conservatism that's going to piss off a lot of people, but it needs to be said... If you haven't read the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution all the way through at least twice YOU'RE NOT A REAL CONSERVATIVE! You're just a chest thumping drone, and very likely a chump for the same special interests you're waving your fists and railing against.

The Conservative's Required Reading List:

There. That wasn't so hard was it? By the way... If you're really serious about understanding the conservative principles of our founding fathers a quick look at the Articles of Confederation wouldn't kill you either.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two-Faced Bastard Brigade Strikes Again: Congress Smacks Down Small Business

For all their talk about how important we are to the economic recovery congress has once again smacked small business owners across the face, especially in regards to hiring/retaining employees. The new law, appended quietly into the health care reform bill and having abso-frigging-lutely nothing to do with health care, requires small business owners to declare all purchases over $600 to the IRS on a separate form called a 1099 MISC. The idea is that they can use this information to bust your vendors for shorting their taxes by under-reporting sales. Everything a small business buys costs more than $600 a year. This is going to make our already ridiculously long tax packages into damned novels.

Did I join the IRS at some point and miss it? What the hell good is a tax cut if you're just going to take it out of my hide in administrative costs twice over? And did I mention that I have a business to run? I can't do that when I'm filling out bloody paperwork for the IR bloody S all freakin' day long. The greedy bastards are already taking up too much of my workday with their incessant money grubbing.

If the IRS really wants me to function as a tax enforcement officer they can just give me a badge and pay me to do it, otherwise would somebody remind these lazy schmucks that it's their job to catch tax cheats, not mine. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Betrayed by my Beloved Bioware

Bioware still hasn't come out with a demo for Dragon Age Origins. Well this gamer, for one, is done waiting.

My concern about Bioware not offering a demo has nothing to do with the game quality. I have no doubt about that. Bioware makes the best cRPG's on the market, bar none. This is the company that brought us Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. My concern is more practical. How can I know for sure it will run on my machine without testing it first with a Demo? My video card exceeds the recommended requirements in every category, but it's simply not on the list of supported cards, so it's a crap shoot. The only way to know for sure is to try it out by using a demo or a pirated copy.

Oh well. I guess it's off to the high seas. Arghh ye maties. At least you got a few organic links.


Monday, May 10, 2010

The Grubby Paws Gang (AKA the IRS) Strikes Again

A couple of stories in my favorite trade mag have me REALLY pissed off.

The first is about the IRS trying to squeeze more money out of schools.

HEY! PAWS OFF! I mean seriously, the cost of higher education isn't enough for you already? You can't find a better source of revenue than this?

The other is about the IRS saber rattling about individuals failing to report IRAs properly.

Really? Is that the way it's gonna be under the Obama administration? Our IRA's tanked when the economy did. Our retirements have been pretty much lost, and now the tax man is going to come sniffing around looking for more money.

You can't find a better place to concentrate you enforcement efforts than this? REALLY?

As usually the king hunts down the peasants while our lords and masters rob the treasury blind.

"Change" my ass.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: Cannon DC320 Camcorder

Utter fail. Discs don't initialize properly, can't be titled or finalized. "Playback Software" for PC isn't available in the download library.

If you're content to be able to playback your videos on the camera, and on the camera only, go for it. You can always buy an AV cable and preserve your memories on tape by VCR. But if you live in the 21st century you might want to find a camera that doesn't try to lock your files away in a proprietary format that your PC or DVD player can't read.

If you do buy this piece of garbage, or God help you, if you already have...



If it's too late, and you've already stored a years worth of baby pictures on discs that didn't initialize properly, well... it sucks to be you.

There's no excuse for storing data in this fashion. Data is a string of 1's and 0's. It SHOULD be recordable on any DVD-RW disc. But for some reason this isn't the case with this camera.

F. Do not buy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Broken Heart: A Preview of my Upcoming NWN Module

Omagogg was a warrior of the Bear Claw tribe. Long before the city of Neverwinter sprang up Omagogg served Mhoghazz, Overlord of vast stretches of the sword coast with a reign that was still growing as civilization was only just reaching the north.

The young warrior was ambitious, and he sought help from Grizellha, a night hag. She agreed to help him overthrow Mhoghazz. When he asked her the price she told him "Omagogg, your rise to power will make you many enemies but one will stand above all and that enemy will take from you more than you can now conceive. You may make no attempt at vengeance. Fear not, warrior, for vengeance shall be had, but it will be mine, and not yours. I will come to him in his sleep and destroy him."

Omagogg agreed and within the year Mhoghazz, who had no surviving sons but for a single infant who had vanished months before, died of sickness, unable to rest for the nightmares that plagued him. Omagogg met all challengers in battle and became Chief of the Bear Claw.

Inwau was a barbarian princess, daughter of Hurugarr of Elk's Leap, one of the Bear Claw's smaller rivals. Omagogg was prepared to sack the Elk's Leap when Hurugarr sent Inwau, offering his thirteen year old daughter up to wed the overlord as a peace offering.

Omagogg was immediately smitten with the young girl's beauty and accepted her as his wife. The people of Elk's Leap were spared slaughter, and Hurugarr was bound to Omagogg's house by blood and became a great chieftain of his clan.

Inwau had a talent for wild magic, and as she grew she became a mighty sorceress. Omagogg and Inwau lived together in the Arms of the Bear, a great and ancient tunnel complex on high ground, in the hills overlooking the Vale of Summer.

Omagogg was blissfully happy with his bride. As he grew older with her he became a gentler ruler, and fair. As settlers trickled in from the south he allowed them to settle in his marginal lands in relative peace in exchange for trade goods. His people prospered, as did the "pinkskins" (so named for their lack of tatoos) from the south.

As Inwau blushed into womanhood she happened upon a pinkskin Captain named Herold Whillson. While she was trading for scrolls in his village they were attacked by a band of Ogres, and side by side they fought them off. They parted, but Inwau was clearly smitten by the chain clad knight. Each time she returned to the village to trade the spark between them grew. Soon she began sneaking out of the barbarian fortress from a secret tunnel she had built.

This went on for many years. The Pinkskin village prospered and grew, and eventually Omagogg traveled there himself to collect the governors tribute.

It is said that as soon as he saw Captain Whillson his queens treachery was laid bare, as he saw his two youngest sons in the armored man's eyes. Omagogg knew this was the enemy that the night hag had warned him of all those years ago. He knew that he should stay his hand and allow Grizellha to exact her vengeance, but his rage was too great. He drew his greatsword and struck the knight down. He then ordered his retinue to raze the town and they killed every man, woman and child in it.

He returned to the Arms of the Bear, but word of his deeds had arrived before him. Inwau lay dead in her chamber at her own hand and her bastard sons had fled to Elk's Leap.

Omagogg mustered his Army and marched on his wife's home tribe. Omagogg met Inwau's bastard sons on the battlefield, but they still loved him as a father and would not raise a weapon to him. Instead they bowed before him and offered their heads, which Omagogg took. Then his army slaughtered the people of the Elk's Leap just as thoroughly as they had destroyed the pinkskin town.

He returned to the Arms of the Bear, and that night Grizellha apeared to him. She said "Omagogg, you have served the life I made for you well, and now I have come to accept your payment. Now I shall destroy the enemy I warned you about all those years ago."

She returned to the shadows from whence she came and Omagogg railed at the darkness, "Devil Bitch, No enemy stands before Omagogg! I have slain them all with my own hands! Stand before me again and I shall destroy you as well!"

That night as he slept he stood again on the field of battle and took the heads of his sons. Night after night he suffered the same dream as Grizellha kept her promise and feasted on the despair of his greatest enemy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

ERROR: NO RIGHT BRACKET ON EXPRESSION from Lilac Soul's NWN Script Generator When Using CheckPartyForItem Function

If you're getting an ERROR: NO RIGHT BRACKET ON EXPRESSION error on compile when using Lilac Soul's Script Generator I'll pretty much bet the farm that you're trying to write a script that uses the CheckPartyForItem function. The solution is VERY simple. If you get this error just add an include for nw_i0_tool and voila! The script will compile perfectly.

If you don't know what an include is... well, it doesn't matter. Just generate the script normally and copy/paste it into the script editor. Save and Compile. If it gives you a No Right Bracket on Expression error just add a line above the entire script (immediately above or below the green comments are fine as long as the line is above the int Starting Conditional(); or void main(); line).

The line you need to add is:
#include "nw_i0_tool"

Don't put a semicolon after the line.

That's all there is too it. The script will compile normally now.

If it hadn't been for Lilac Soul's Neverwinter Nights Script Generator I never would have started modding. Sure there are some intrinsic limitations, but nothing you can't learn through. The script generator is a perfect starter tool for noob modders.

Last night while modding I used it to do a simple script and behold... I got an error! It's not the first time I ever had this particular error, and It's one that can be worked around using multiple scripts and integer variables, but that's a royal PITA. This time I decided to try and fix it.

It took ten minutes.

I gotta tell ya, I feel pretty stupid for not Googling the solution right off. I shudder to think of the time I've lost in my life writing and testing scripts to get around this function. After ten minutes of looking at scripts that worked it became clear that all I was missing was a simple include!!!

Edit 10/1/12: The Krit has updated the script generator, and he's done a GREAT job with it. You can get the updated version here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ink: Movie Review

A puff of air can change the world.

My sister has given me many wonderful things in her life. Of these things Hulu is not the greatest, but neither is this the least.

I'm not going to bore you with a detailed review of this movie beyond this...

Someone once said that fairy tales don't exist to teach children there are dragons, fairy tales exist to teach children that dragons can be slain. Ink is a fairy tale.

But that's all. Anything I say will only spoil the experience for you. It's free. You can watch it yourself. Do it or not as you choose, but life offers few easy joys. Take the opportunity to enjoy this one. This movie threatened to displace π as my favorite all time film. It stands head and shoulders above anything a major studio could or would create. Once again thoughtful writing and skillful film-making trumps a big budget.

I don't want to become an independent film snob, but one or two movies like this and the mainstream film studios can kiss my ass goodbye for good.

Take a couple hours, get a drink, sit back, click the full screen button and watch. It will be a better one hour and forty seven minutes than you ever payed for in the Cinema, and the popcorn's a LOT cheaper.

EDIT: Well, you missed your chance to see it for free, but Ink is still available for purchase at

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Future of Manned Space Travel

Most people who think they know me are going to be surprised by this:

Bravo to President Obama and the administrators at NASA for the new direction they are now taking!

Now, some advice: Take it further!

The manned space program is a waste of time and money.

Hey, I'm a Trekkie. I want to see people in space, but for the time being there's really no good reason to have us there. All we're doing is farting around in low orbit the same way we've been doing for the last half century. We're not really learning anything anything any more. All the great scientific discoveries that NASA has made in that time have been made by unmanned spacecraft.

Sorry. I know I'm bringing down some serious hate on myself, but going into space just for the sake of going into space is a frivolous waste of money.

NASA's concentration needs to focus on exploration and scientific discovery. Technology being what it is just now the best way to do this is to concentrate on development and deployment of unmanned probes. We can't continue to support manned space flight when that same money could launch 10 unmanned probes, especially when each probe will generate far more scientific data. If 90% of unmanned probes failed, crashing into the sun or spinning off into space, the program would still provide more valuable scientific data than an equally financed manned program.

Down the road, as technology improves and space travel becomes safer and cheaper it will also become more practical, but we're a long way from the type of engineering leaps that will make manned space exploration competitive with unmanned probes, or commercial exploitation of extra terrestrial resources practical.

It's possible that these probes may find a reason to send men into space, in which case all bets are off. Even with current technology this there is a resource that would justify the expense of space travel for commercial reasons. Helium 3 is a compound that very likely exists in small amounts throughout the universe, but it can't be found in significant amounts on earth. If a source of He3 could be found just about anywhere in the solar system it would be worth mining at just about any cost. It would be quite literally priceless. Engineers could use it to create a controlled fusion reaction and even a small amount could provide virtually unlimited energy.

There is no other (known) resource in space that justifies the expense of retrieving it, and there is no valid scientific reason to waste valuable resources with manned space flight if there is a cheaper, safer unmanned alternative.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Star Trek: Rest in Peace, Old Friend

Personally I thought Star Trek The Motion Picture was the best of the TOS movies. I realize that's not a terribly popular opinion, but the whole franchise went downhill from there. What made Trek unique was that it was thoughtful and intelligent. Trek was "smart" science fiction (although Gene Roddenberry, Trek's creator, preferred the term "Space Opera" since there wasn't a lot of scientific basis for Treknology).

I'm the first to admit that thoughtful and intelligent doesn't sell. Roddenberry wasn't an idiot. He knew that, too, but that didn't stop him from fighting tooth and nail to make Trek what it was... Smart.

Hell, NBC threatened to kill the project entirely if Rodenberry didn't make the First Officer a man! Truth be told they wanted him to get all the women off the ship.

Unfortunately Gene's dead now, and the franchise is now corporately controlled.

There are a lot more stupid people than smart ones, so if you want to sell something you market to stupid. Paramount doesn't care about Star Trek. Paramount is a corporation. It's their job to make as much money as they can for their stockholders, so that's what they're doing. There's no money in asking people to think. "Whiz-bang" sells movies; gun fights and gasoline explosions; and that's pretty much what Star Trek delivers now.

Star trek is no longer smart Sci-Fi. Smart Sci-Fi is pretty much dead in mass media now. I think Firefly was pretty much it's last gasp. Thank God for SyFy. Without it we would never have seen the Battlestar Galactica redux, Dr. Who, Caprica...

So how do I respond to NuTrek?

Easy. I don't.

A lot of younger trekkies tell me that I'm just old and afraid of change. Maybe, but it seems to me they're the ones that are afraid of change.

The ultimate change awaiting all of us is the passage from life to death. All things die. The people who rail on about my fear of change seem to be the ones least likely to accept this.

Star Trek is no longer Star Trek.

The reaper has come and Star trek is dead. The franchise died with The Great Bird of the Galaxy. The franchise is now completely controlled by the same people that told Gene Roddenberry to "Get rid of the guy with the ears" after screening the pilot.

What Paramount's trotting out now and calling "Star Trek" is a painted lady. She's hot, sure, but Star Trek is just her street name. She's really just a sad little whore being pimped out by her corporate daddies.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

South Park's Take on Obama Fever

I didn't really become a South Park fan until I saw "Bigger, Longer Uncut". I thought it was one of the most brilliant examinations of profanity in America I've ever seen. My wife hates it, so I don't often get to see new episodes, but I continue to watch it eagerly every chance I get. I've been grossly offended by the show on many occasions, but loving South Park is a lot like loving Monty Python, if you watch it long enough it will eventually seriously offend just about anyone with an IQ over 65.

This episode, "About Last Night", first aired right after the last election.

I know, I've been away for a while.

Take a half hour and behold one of South Park's most inspired moments of genius.

Where I Stand on Pot: Legalize it

I openly grew and smoked marijuana for many years. I even announced this on Vermont Public Radio while debating this issue with the state police Public Information Officer. I invited arrest and made it clear that it was my intention to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

The officer I was debating was demoted, the radio host was fired, and both the state and Burlington municipal police passed down orders that under no circumstances was any law enforcement officer to ever enter my home. I can only assume that the feds received similar orders as the federal building was less than two blocks from my home at the time. The only possible reason that I was never arrested is that the cops knew that I was serious, and they knew that if some nut case was willing to spend enough time in jail there's a very good chance he... I... would win a constitutional challenge.

To suggest that alcohol prohibition required a constitutional amendment while drug prohibition does not is to perpetuate the myth that alcohol is somehow not a drug. I'm sorry, but there's no nice word for "stupid". This is a stupid assertion.

Well I'm married now, and I'm no longer in a position to play fast and loose with my life, I no longer smoke or grow, but I still care deeply about this issue.

Now, a quick history lesson:

The English word for marijuana is "hemp". Until the 1930's the word marijuana didn't exist in the English vernacular. Hemp smoking was never adopted by european culture, and most European strains of the plant are completely devoid of THC. Psychotropic strains of hemp were used medicinally, but not recreationally (except by slaves for whom a glass of beer might as well cost as much as a house, hemp leaves were considered garbage and traditionally were left in the fields to fertilize the next seasons crop).

The vast majority of European hemp crops were tall, straight, fast growing strains of cannabis that had no intoxicating value. It was used as a raw material. Hemp fibers could be used to make all manner of textiles and it was hemp, not parchment or vellum, that produced the vast majority of western and middle eastern civilization's paper. Until modern chemistry came along paper could not be made from wood at all.

Hemp was also a food source. Modern mythology would have you believe that "gruel" was some sort of oatmeal. It was not. Gruel was boiled crushed hemp seeds. Hemp was the food of the poor for thousands of years, and saw millions through times of hardship and famine who otherwise would have starved. It's a good thing that the problem of global starvation has been solved or legalization would be a no-brainer.

While all references to hemp were removed from the Smithsonian Textile Museum under the administration of Bush I it was also, in fact the most important textile in history. It clothed the poor, sure (wool and cotton were reserved for the wealthy), but it was the strength of the textile that made it such an indispensable part of our history. No other fiber could even come close to it's strength and durability. Navies in the age of sail were completely dependant on hemp. All the ropes, sails, and even charts had to be made of hemp. No other material could withstand the rigors of the sea. The salt air would turn other materials to rags in a single voyage. Cotton sails are a myth. In reality anyone desperate enough to use a cotton sail would soon regret it. It would absorb water in the rain and rot. And when it tore, it tore like a modern nylon sail. It would suddenly split from end to end like a zipper opening. Hemp, on the other hand, would last voyage after voyage and when it started to wear out it would do so slowly. The individual fibres were so strong that tears could actually patched!

The hemp plant is deeply ingrained in western culture and to this day the term "hemp" is still used to describe all kinds of course fibres. But the jute that we now call hemp is a pale shadow of the real thing. The word "canvas" is a direct derivation of the dutch word for "cannabis". So vital was Hemp that one of the first laws in colonial Virgina required all landowners to grow it. Even through the industrial revolution hemp remained an important crop. Even after it had been prohibited in 1937 hemp prohibition was suspended and farmers were encouraged to grow it during WWII with posters like this one. The navy still relied on hemp for cordage, and it was vital for making combat and parachute webbing.

The downfall of hemp was its use as paper. Hemp was historically a very labor intensive crop. The process of growing it is easy enough, but harvesting it is a back breaking job. First the hemp is cut and left to rett in the field for 3 or 4 weeks. Then it needed to be broken. Hemp breaking was a ridiculously hard job, but this was the process that separated the fibers from the hurds in the stalk.

In 1838 a chemical process was uncovered to allow wood to be used to make paper. As the process was improved it pretty much replaced hemp. The product was inferior, but it was so much easier to make, and therefore cheaper, that it's tendency to tear easily, rot quickly (eaten from within by the acids used to make it), and dump toxins into the air and water was readily forgiven (ever driven past a paper mill?).

Over the next century wood completely replaced hemp in the paper industry. Then, in 1936 a machine was invented called the decorticator that would break the hemp automatically. What would take a man hours to do a decorticator could do in a minute. The pendulum was ready to swing back to hemp. With the decorticator taking over the labor of breaking the fibers hemp paper would not only be stronger, longer lasting, and cleaner, it would soon be cheaper as well.

Enter William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was a newspaper baron. He's still very famous. In modern journalism circles he's frequently refferred to as "the father of yellow journalism". He had papers all over the country in every major city.

Now one would normally expect a newspaper man would welcome lower paper prices, but Hearst didn't just own newspapers. He owned the logging companies that provided the pulp, he owned the mills that made the paper, and he owned the railroads that moved the product all the way from the deforested woods to the printing presses.

Before you read on I need to point out that Hearst wasn't just doing all this for the money, although he certainly had a vested interest. Hearst sincerely believed he was doing the right thing. After all, he was a white supremisist. He hated non whites with a passion, and above all else he hated Mexicans after having lost hundreds of thousands of Mexican timber acres to Pancho Villa.

Every Hearst paper in the country was touting the evils of a new drug called "marijuana".

It was a brilliant act of journalistic manipulation. Nobody had any idea that the "evil weed" he was lobbying against was really hemp. The campaign was one of pure unabashed racism. I'm reluctant to repeat the specific allegations in this venue. The gist of it is that it made non-whites insolent. Stories concentrated heavily on non-whites raping white women, or seducing white women who were themselves under the influence of the drug. In a modern context the headlines are just funny, but keep it in context people... blacks were being lynched back then. It was not uncommon for a black man in the deep south to be lynched for acts of insolence as minor as stepping on a white man's shadow. There's nothing funny about it.

Hearst found powerful allies. Henry ford was pioneering new ways to polymerize hemp hurds, and a wealthy family named the DuPonts wanted to shut his experiments down. After WWI they had been given German patents in an act of shameless nepotism that would eventually allow them polymerize petroleum by-products and they didn't want to compete with clean plastics made from a renewable resource like hemp. He also teamed up with Harry Anslinger, a former prohibition agent. Ansliger was appointed by his father-in-law, Andrew Mellon, a Dupont Financier and at the time Hoover's secretary of the treasury, director of a newly created agency called the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The primary function of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was to give the Secretary of the Treasury's son-in-law (and select other prohibition agents) a job after alcohol prohibition collapsed, but the public justification was to assist in enforcing existing laws against opium which had been enacted to keep chinese railway workers from trying to unionize.

I'm proud to say I pissed on Anslinger's grave once when I happened to be in the neighborhood.

Their campaign was an outrageous success. They drove hemp prohibition through before anyone even realized what was going on. It's late.

There's a lot more but I'm tired. We all know what happened then.

It sickens me that these laws passed. It sickens me that they still exist. And it sickens me that the veneer of legitimacy bought and paid for so many years ago by a wealthy, racist elite still lingers. It is a shameful legacy and I have very little tolerance for the ignorance and self-righteousness that allows it to flourish.

BigPoint's "Dark Orbit" Review: My first try at one of the new "free" MMOs

If you don't want to pay, dont play.

Me and My Peanut

I really wanted to like this game. It's a good try. It even held my attention for about a week, but in the end it's just badly designed.

I'm not going to get into the difficulties I had signing up and the poorly designed and programmed home site beyond saying, "don't bother trying". Just log in through's gaming center.

I will take a moment to say that they've recently "upgraded" the client. The game graphics are MUCH slicker and the client itself is much less prone to lag, but the "HUD" was designed by a baboon. It's not even a HUD. A hud is supposed to be transparent so I can see the information without obscuring my view of the road, right? I mean look at that mess! It's almost impossible to click on the screen without accidentally hitting a control.

Why do so many idiots get jobs redesigning perfectly good GUIs?

Anyway... Let's talk about game play.

Free players are not going to enjoy the game. If you want to have any fun at all you'll need to drop some bucks. You need to use real money to buy "Uridium" for good equipment or you're just cannon fodder for the PKers. All told for enough equipment for a good, survivable ship you'll need at least 150,000 uridium. In real money that's about $60.00 US.

It's theoretically possible to grind up enough uridium in-game to compete, but not practically (unless you have no life at all and are willing to be bored out of your wits for several months).

The game isn't really that interesting. You gather resources. Some appear as random pickups, but mostly you accumulate them by killing aliens and salvaging the materials from the wreckage. After 20 or so hours this gets a little dry.

The big problem you're going to run into are the PKers (Pkers, or Player Killers, are players who play the game mainly to kill other players). In most MMOs there are safe areas. Nearly all games allow newbies "haven" zones where they can learn the game basics and "grind" a few levels, and most allow for the simple reality that not everyone likes PVP (Player vs. Player). This game has no safe areas at all. It's very frustrating getting killed over and over and over. Be prepared to be PK'd 2 or 3 times a day. If that doesn't sound like fun... well... it's not. In all fairness the point of the game is to make money. Getting PK'd 2 or 3 times a day will either drive you away or get you to dig into your wallet. Frankly, the folks at BigPoint don't care which. The whole point of allowing free players into the game is to give easy kills to the premium players.

Cough up a hundred bucks, buy a goliath, fill it with the best drives, weapons, shields, and "boosters" and you may have some fun. Spend another hundred bucks and add a squadron or two of battle drones and you can run with the big dawgs. Lastly, be prepared to cough up 5 bucks every now and then when you run out of money. The problem, of course, is that the game isn't worth that much money.