Jeff Freeman

If I had something to say I would put up a web-page. This is a blog.

Monday, June 28

The Dunbar Number

Last week, I posted a link to an essay titled Monkey Law, by David Wong. The essay makes reference to ‘The Dunbar Number’, established by the research of R.I.M. Dunbar on the relation of neocortical volume to social group size.

The Monkey Sphere has a tongue-in-cheek description of Dunbar's discovery:
You see, monkey experts performed a monkey study a while back and discovered that the size of the monkey's monkey brain determined the size of the monkey groups the monkeys formed. The bigger the brain, the bigger the little societies they built.

They cut up so many monkey brains, in fact, that they found they could actually take a brain they had never seen before and with a simple dissection, analysis and a quick taste, they could accurately predict what size tribes that species of creature formed.

Most monkeys operate in troupes of 50 or so. But somebody slipped them a slightly larger monkey brain -- but a monkey brain nonetheless -- and they estimated the ideal group or society for this particular animal was about 150.

That brain, of course, was human. Probably from a homeless man they snatched off the streets.


Also known as ‘the Law of 150’, this is of interest to virtual world developers in establishing the ‘proper’ size for social groups in online games. Typically it is applied ham-fisted as a sign-post of optimum guild sizes. The logic is something like, “Someone smart has established that the optimum social group size is 150, therefore we should make our online game support guilds of about 150 people, expect guilds to have 150 members on average, balance content and so forth with the number 150 in mind. 150, 150, 150!”

Or developers may fall back to the Laws of Online Game Design and read:

Community size
Ideal community size is no larger than 250. Past that, you really get subcommunities.


…and apply the same logic process (“Well guilds are communities, and the ideal size is… uh… from 0 to 250… so… uh…”) and conclude that they should implement guild systems post-launch. They are, after all, pressed for time.

So I started thinking: This is antithetical to everything I have learned, seen, heard and smelled in my many, many years of playing online games, and in my fist-full of years making them. Guilds, being the most common manifestation of online communities (in MMORPGs, I mean), just don’t typically get that big. When they do, they are frequently, in practice, multiple subcommunities working together to overcome a common enemy (such as, say, obstacles designed to require massive armies, because the developers expected most guilds to be that big).

I would expect the most common guild size to be the ‘optimum’, which would imply that the optimum guild size is a lot lower than 150.

My blog, my observations:

  • The typical guild size is 30 to 50 people.

  • Many guilds are even smaller than that.

  • Guilds which are larger than that are frequently fragmented, internally, into smaller groups.

I know, this approach is contrary to the “Anthropologists say optimum community size is 150, and therefore we should assume guilds to be ~150 members strong even if they aren’t”, but I’m crazy that way.

It doesn’t fit my own personal observations, but I could be wrong. So I did some googling, and ran across another skeptic, the esteemed Christopher Allen.

In his blog entry titled The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes, he has some nice charts of guild sizes in Ultima Online, Allegiance Size numbers from Asheron’s Call, and personal observations of other member-size averages (and apparent limits) in assorted other online groups. The charts are from Raph Koster's Small Worlds presentation.

He speculates:

This all leads me to hypothesize that the optimal size for active group members for creative and technical groups -- as opposed to exclusively survival-oriented groups, such as villages -- hovers somewhere between 25-80, but is best around 45-50. Anything more than this and the group has to spend too much time "grooming" to keep group cohesion…


Sounds good, except language was supposed to be what provided humans with the more efficient grooming (so to speak) that a social group of 150 requires, not the other way around (the limit isn't 150 because that's all we have time for, but rather the limit is 150 because of our brains, and that requires a more efficient mechanism than grooming to maintain).

The reason optimal size for 'creative and technical groups' is smaller than the size for, say, a village, is not due to their function/purpose. It is because the village is an all-encompassing group. It is everyone you know.

Meaning:

  • Non-human primates use grooming to maintain social cohesion

  • Grooming is too inefficient with group sizes of 150

  • So humans use language, instead of grooming, to maintain social cohesion

There’s nothing in Dunbar’s research to suggest that the limit to human group size is 150 (or 250, or any other number) due to time-limitations. Or to put it another way, even if we had a mechanism for maintaining social cohesion that was even more efficient than language – telepathy, let’s say – then we would still be limited to social groups of about 150 people, because that is all our brains can support.

Or for an even third way of putting it, this time in the form of a question: What is the maximum group size humans could maintain if the limit were based on the efficiency of language as a tool for maintaining social cohesion? Answer: We don’t know!

So, I got lucky. Chistopher Allen’s going somewhere else with all this, and didn’t hit on the point I want to make. So now I can still make my point, and I’ll just refer to Raph's charts and Chris' observations to validate my suspicion that ‘typical’ guild sizes are much, much smaller than either our language or our brains can support.

You can take a closer look at just what exactly R.I.M. Dunbar actually wrote, but I’ll give you the stupid-person summary:

  • Group size is a function of relative neocortical volume.

This point is mistaken for being useful to the virtual world developer. We want to know the answer to the question, “Well what size is that?” The answer depends on which formula you prefer. Dunbar’s equation isn’t simply a measure of neocortex size, volume or surface area, but rather… well, knock yourself out:

log(N) = 0.093 + 3.389 log(CR) (1) (r2=0.764, t34=10.35, p<0.001), where N is the mean group size and CR is the ratio of neocortex volume to the volume of the rest of the brain (i.e. total brain volume minus neocortex) (Dunbar 1992a). Use of both major axis and least-squares regression, as well as alternative indices of relative neocortex size, all yield equations that are of about this same magnitude.


That gives us ‘The Law of 150’, Dunbar’s number, really 147.8.

A different equation (based on absolute neocortex volume) gives us 248.6, which might be the origin of the 250 in the Laws of Online Game design.

In order to understand why online communities are smaller than the Dunbar Number, we must keep in mind that the Dunbar Number is not a property of the group, but rather it is an attribute of the individuals in the group. Groups don’t have neocortical volumes, people do.

The group size identified by this relationship appears to refer to the maximum number of individuals with whom an animal can maintain social relationships by personal contact. It is not necessary that all these individuals live in the same physical group: chimpanzees (among a number of other species) have a fission/fusion form of social system in which at any one time the community (the group in the sense defined above) is divided into a number temporary foraging parties whose composition changes repeatedly (see for example Wrangham 1986). Nor does it follow that a species' social system consists only of a single type of group: it is now clear that most primate species live in complex multi-tiered social systems in which different layers are functional responses to different environmental problems (e.g. the gelada and hamadryas baboons: see Dunbar 1988, 1989a). Rather, the neocortical constraint seems to be on the number of relationships that an animal can keep track of in a complex, continuously changing social world: the function subserved by that level of grouping will depend on the individual species' ecological and social context.


We, human beings, cannot maintain more than 150 social relationships.

Guilds in online games are smaller than this because their members have other important social relationships that they must maintain. Don’t you have any friends or family offline? No individual member of the group can maintain more than 150 social relationships, total.

So let’s say, offline, you have a 100 social relationships. You could go online, join a guild of 50 people, and maintain all of your social relationships, both online and off. The optimal guild size for you is 50. If your guild is larger than that, then it ceases to be ‘your online community’.

More likely, you will have 150 offline social relationships, and as you invest yourself in the online community you begin to sever ties with your old offline friends. Ever heard of that happening? ‘Course.

Different people have needs (or perhaps I should say, “available capacities”) to form different numbers of relationships online, on a case-by-case, person-by-person basis. This is determined by how many relationships they are maintaining in other groups, including (especially) offline ones.

You, being so popular with your rugged good-looks and smooth-talking ways, might be maintaining 145 social relations, straining your little brain to the very limit just to maintain those. And then you join an online game. You could form some new relationships with a tight knit little crew of six people. If all six of your posse are in the same situation, then the ‘optimal group size’ for this hypothetical happy band is isn’t 250 or even 150. It’s six! Even if they aren’t all in the same situation, since you are, then the optimal group size is still six. If those other members want more relationships, then they need to join other groups (of various sizes, up to their limit).

This may even dictate what sorts of games a person wants to join. If the game is especially geared toward very large groups then it might even be prohibitive for the average person to form the sorts of meaningful relationships which lead to cohesive online communities (which lead to greater retention).

Again, not due to time-limitations, but because our brains cannot handle maintaining more than 150 total relationships simultaneously.

My conclusion to all this leads to requirements for MMORPGs to support multi-guild, micro-guild and persistent-partner relationships. To stop thinking of guilds as 'online communities' and to instead recognize that online communities exist within subsets of even relatively small guilds, communities which should be supported and encouraged to form via system mechanics (similar to the system mechanics which support guilds, only different).

But I’m going to leave that essay for another day.

Update: Previously I had incorrectly attributed a quote to the PWoT article. I dont know where it came from, but it didn't come from there, so. Fixed now.


Sunday, June 27

Pandora's Star

Currently I'm in the middle of Pandora's Star, by Peter F. Hamilton.

So far, so good.

Dan recommended it, and I resisted reading it for a long time. Peter F. Hamilton was grounded, you see. His book had to sit on my desk as punishment for him having starting a wonderful, epic tale in The Reality Dysfunction, continuing beautifully in The Neutronium Alchemist, and then delivering the most disappointing non-ending ever in The Naked God.

I would recommend the whole series of books in spite of the ending. I don't know, maybe he got tired. Some people don't seem to mind anyway. It's not as if this sort of thing hasn't been done a time or two before.

Or hey, if you fancy yanking out the last 20 pages and writing your own ending to the story, this could be the best series ever.

Hamilton makes more interesting universes than just about anybody.


Friday, June 25

Funny reply

From a post on Slashdot:
Re:...and give them a new reason to pester me.
by Epistax (544591) on Thursday June 24, @11:52PM (#9525009)

(Last Journal: Friday August 22, @11:36AM)

You so nailed it. I seriously avoid people in places like Best Buy. "Can I help you?" More like can I help them. The only reason they have the job is because they initiate every conversation so it looks like their working (to be fair, they are trying). One store I walked into lately (it wasn't a best buy) was very small-- about the size of say, the electronics department at walmart. There were at least eight sales reps standing around, and a couple customers. I tried to do some quick math to figure out how they could possibly make money but I lost interest (trying to get out of the store as fast as possible).

If I need help, I'll ask. If you can replace a job with a bunch of inanimate signs then from a practicality standpoint I'd say do it. I hate to say fire people who might be trying but it just seems like they try to hard. Sales reps should not be overachievers. I would rather they are bitter and hostile to me. Hell I'd rather they smell bad. Actually scratch. The majority of sales reps are already overly friendly, bitter and hostile. Also most can't afford the deodorant that they so say you need without trying to insult you (until you say no). Actually at this point I'm just rambling so if you haven't hit the back button on your browser yet we might as well have a conversation. I regret to inform you that it will be quite one way but I have a feeling you already knew this. Well anyway as some background I grew up in Maine in a small town. The university was the lifeblood of the area and because of it we had a downtown with more restaurants than our town was worth. The only fast food to speak of is Subway which isn't strictly unhealthy, but rather has the feeling of being in a dentist's office. That is, a dentist's office with roast beef and a cute petite female behind the counter. This has caught me as quite odd. Every cute petite female I knew in high school has worked at a subway and virtually every subway I go to has a cute petite female behind the counter. I don't know if they're trying to tell me that I'll turn into a cute petite female if I eat their subs. I certainly hope not because I don't have nearly enough experience putting on makeup. The extent of that being deodorant, which I see as a polish for the olfactory sense. The funny thing about that word is you wonder what factory the guy had in mind who named it. Obviously some factory smelled really bad and needed some cleaning. The problem with cleaning things is that bristles on brushes are far too weak to get any real scrubbing down except for the toilet brush. I think many people would have an aversion to using the toilet brush on anything but the toilet, however I think they could be convinced otherwise simply by buying two toilet brushes and using only one on the toilet, and using the other on everything else needed. This brings me back to the guinea pigs I used to own. I thought their cage was too small so I gave them free range over a large section of tiled floor. The floor was white before the guinea pigs were there and it's now a rich musky yellow color/smell. I can't think of any makeup that will work on that floor as bleach failed it quite easily. I used enough bleach to kill a medium sized animal. I know that this is the amount I used because I consider myself a medium sized animal and I'd be quite dead if I stayed in the room. That's why I left the room which was nice because I could go out doors. Being from Maine we have a large forest in the back and a brook to play in. It's not deep enough to swim but the rocks are there so you can sure give yourself a bad time. During the spring the water would be very strong from all the melting snow which is exactly the kind of water you do not want to fall in, and so I did. Actually twice: once in the winter, once in the spring. All I can remember about the spring incident is that I was wearing a sweater. The thing about sweaters is that chewing on them gives me chills all over. I hate it so much but I just cannot resist the urge to take a bite. It's such a horrible feeling and to top it all off my sweater might now be ripped or at the very least wet. Wet was exactly my concern after falling into the water.

Yup.


Thank Dan for wasting your precious time.


Thursday, June 24

All Your Problems Will Be Small Ones

Nicked from a post on SunSword's Forums, a couple of nifty links!

President Bush plans to unveil next month a sweeping mental health initiative that recommends screening for every citizen and promotes the use of expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs favored by supporters of the administration.


Hooray! Personally, I can't wait to feel just right, all the time.

Does this have you worried? Anxious? Well that's ok, they've probably got a pill for that, too.

This really made me laugh:
The panel found that "despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed" and recommended comprehensive mental health screening for "consumers of all ages," including preschool children.


CONSUMERS!

And you can get a Full Report by clicking on the internet.


The Haitian Gambit

One of my coworkers, Brandon Reinhart has started writing an After Action Report on his current Victoria game, as Texas.

The game begins on January 1, 1836. In this AAR, I'm playing the Republic of Texas. It's very hard to maintain independence as Texas in Victoria... the country is poor, the Mexican AI wants to smash you, and the Yankees want to turn you into a state.

I believe the key to victory against Mexico lies in the forced conscription of Haitian troops. So if you have any interest in weird alternate history stories or bizarre strategy games, check it out.


It's pretty cool, in a really nerdy sort of way.


Referrals

That sitemeter doodad is pretty neat. I like seeing where people are coming from, to get here.

Have some pie!



I guess the only big surprise is the frequency of hits from people looking for info, help and how-to with running Sacred multiplayer. How did I get to be the go-to guy for that? Ok, so it's only 3 or 4 hits or so a week, but still...

For whatever it is worth, I haven't touched it since City of Heroes came out, so if they've patched any fixes or the like, and they have, then you should go read someone else's blog. I'm sure my previous How-To Guide is out of date, and probably wasn't much help to begin with.

The How-To Guide for running CoH is much shorter: Double-click it.

The hits from Anyuzer will doubtless decline, as there's not actually a link on the main page from there to here, but rather, just the one in this one update. Retaliatory Strike for my finger-pointing in a micro-rant.

And the one hit from a comment thread buried on Terra Nova... That might have been me. There are links to about a thousand blogs and other sites where game-related things live, sandwiching their thrice-daily updates on the commodification of virtual worlds, but this aint one of them.

Maybe I'll write a how-to article: How to Write A How-To Book On Virtual Worlds. I've never written a book on Virtual Worlds, but what the heck. I see lots of How-To essays and the like from people that haven't actually done whatever it is they're explaining How To.

Chapter One: The Foreword by an Expert.
The Foreword (by an expert) is a very important first impression. It immediately establishes (from someone who knows what they are talking about), that you're qualified to talk about the stuff in the book. If Raph Koster is busy, Richard Bartle will do in a pinch.


Or something like that.


Wednesday, June 23

Die Wagenschenke - Das Partyzelt am Albanifest in Winterthur.

Die Wagenschenke - Das Partyzelt am Albanifest in Winterthur, yo.


The Law of Monkey

So, there's an update worth reading on Pointless Waste of Time (which you have probably already seen).

You see, monkey experts performed a monkey study a while back and discovered that the size of the monkey's monkey brain determined the size of the monkey groups the monkeys formed. The bigger the brain, the bigger the little societies they built.

They cut up so many monkey brains, in fact, that they found they could actually take a brain they had never seen before and with a simple dissection, analysis and a quick taste, they could accurately predict what size tribes that species of creature formed.

Most monkeys operate in troupes of 50 or so. But somebody slipped them a slightly larger monkey brain -- but a monkey brain nonetheless -- and they estimated the ideal group or society for this particular animal was about 150.

That brain, of course, was human. Probably from a homeless man they snatched off the streets.


Go read the whole thing


Monday, June 21

Goodbye IE!

So, this weekend I got some kind of malware that I couldn't get rid of.

Whatever it was, it was nasty, and pretty much opened the door to install a bunch of other malware that I could get rid of.

Thanks to SpyBot and Spy Sweeper and Ad-Aware and CWS Shredder and HijackThis, and finally everything was gone except for one, little, itty-bitty, very annoying DNS hijack which I couldn't remove (at least not permanently).

So, hours and hours and hours of downloading malware removal utils, running them, rebooting, running in safemode, running them again, rebooting again, following various manual removal instructions, and so on... I went from being infested with lots of crap (a mess of stuff I must have gotten just in the past week or so, but which I couldn't dodge simply by restoring because the last time I got malware, I had to turn off the restore option in order to get rid of it, and I'd left it turned off), to having one bad thing.

Which prevented me from playing CoH and SWG, and we just can't have that.

So I reformatted and reinstalled Windows. That was painful. Dude, I have a Dell. The WinXP install disk installs WinXP with no drivers. There's a different disk for that. It shows you a list of all the drivers that a Dell might have on it, with a little check-mark next to everything you need.

Then you need to click on each driver that you need, scroll down, click on the install button, let the unzip and install programs run, then when it is done, go back to the list of drivers and try to remember which one you just installed. For Every. Single. Driver.

Then hit Windows Update for 19 "critical updates", not a damn one of which, I can assure you, will prevent your system being infected.

Fortunately, reinstalling Windows-XP doesn't cause you to lose any installed programs, it just makes most of them cease to function, and wipes out silly little things like your documents folder.

So goodbye! Internet Explorer, you evil piece of crap.

I'm switching to Firefox for browsin' and Thunderbird for emails. And forget "My Documents" - I'm putting everything important on a completely different drive.


Friday, June 18

Terra Nova: Virtual property overview

Saw this on Terra Nova, a link to Richard Bartle's Virtual Property Overview. It describes various pitfalls associated with the concept of virtual item ownership.

Executive summary:

  • Just what exactly Virtual Property means isn't well defined

  • Accepting the notion of VP creates a burden of responsibility on the developer which would otherwise not exist.

  • Virtual Worlds are, if not games, at least game-spaces. Games have rules that players agree to follow in order to play said game.

  • Players resent Virtual Property sales (Really just an extension of the aforementioned pitfall: We were playing a game, but you cheated).

  • Intellectual Property... er... Virtual Intellectual Property? This is such a can of worms that a whole essay could be done on this topic alone.



So, now you can go read the whole thing if you want.


Howdy



Sure are a lot of you.


Thursday, June 17

D&D Quotes

tOAD has (and has had for a while now) a D&D Quotes Page listing teh funny from assorted D&D campaigns he's been involved in...


Updating without updating

Here's a formerly unwritten rule of blogging, which is now written, by what comes as close to an expert on the subject as I could find on short notice, me:

Posting an update which says that you haven't updated in a while, issues excuses as to why you haven't updated in a while, and offers promises that you'll update more often in the future, does not count as an update, itself.

For example, if you haven't posted an update in two weeks and then you post an update, but only to say that you haven't posted an update in two weeks, then you still haven't updated in two weeks... AND COUNTING.

Yes, you.


Who ARE these people?

Well this was a nice break from the usual, "I am a Nigerian Princess and my late father was assassinated by his enemies and that's why I need your bank info"...

MY NAME IS SAEED AHMED. I AM 65 YEARS OLD MAN.I AM FROM DUBAI {UNITED ARAB EMIRATE}. I OWNED TWO BUSINESSES IN DUBAI. I AM MARRIED WITH TWO CHILDREN. MY WIFE AND TWO CHILDREN DIED IN A CAR ACCIDENT SIX YEARS AGO. PRESENTLY, I AM IN HOSPITAL RECEIVING TREATMENT. EVER SINCE, I HAVE BEEN HELPING THE ORHANPS IN THE ORPHANAGE/MOTHERLESS HOME.

I HAVE DONATED SOME MONEY TO THE ORPHANSIN SUDAN, SOUTHAFRICA, CAMEROON, BRAZIL, SPAIN, AUSTRIA AND GERMANY. BEFORE I BE CAME ILL,I SENT SOME MONEY {20.5MILLION DOLLARS} TWENTY MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS IN A BOX THROUGH ONE SECURITY COMPANY.THE MONEY IS PRESENTLY WITH THE SECURITY COMPANY IN LONDON{ENGLAND}.

PRESENTLY, I AM IN A HOSPITAL. MY DOCTORS TOLD ME THAT I HAVE CANCER OF THE LUNGS THAT I HAVE FEW MONTHS TO LIVE. PLEASE,I BEG YOU IN THE NAME OF ALLAH TO HELP ME COLLECT{BOX} FROMTHE SECURITY COMPANY IN ENGLAND. AFTER COLLECTING THE MONEY{BOX}FROMTHE SECURITY COMPANY IN ENGLAND, YOU WILL NOW HELP ME TO TAKE THE MONEY{$20.5 MILLION} BOX TO ONE ORHANPANGE HOME IN LONDON OR ANY ORPHANANAGE HOME CLOSE TO YOU.

I AM OFFERING YOU 15%OF THE TOTAL SUM OF $20.5MILLION 5% IS FOR ANY EXPENSES INCURED BY YOU. MAY THE GOOD ALLAH BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

I AWAIT YOUR URGENT RESPONSE.

REGARDS.

SAEED AHMED.

N:B
IF YOU CAN HELP ME.MAIL ME SO THAT I WILL GIVE YOU THE SECURITY COMPANY TELEPHONE NUMBER IN ENGLAND. AND THE CODE TO OPEN THE BOX.PLEASE, HELP ME.I'M DYING IN PAINS.


Who falls for this stuff? Since they're still sending them, I assume someone, somewhere is.

Why are these emails always in ALLCAPS? Does that make it easier for old people to read, or something?

Don't they have lawyers in the United Arab Emirate?


Tuesday, June 15

Stupid eMail reminders

I setup a few things to automagically send me emails to notify me of various things.

My bank offers home banking and I asked it to send me a notification whenever my account is either over a certain amount, or under a certain amount. Now every time my account balance changes, it send me an email that says "This is the email notification you requested regarding your account balance." And that's all it says. Heh? Which is it?

I ordered a Hack the Vote! t-shirt from Jinx and they sent me six emails in a row informing me that the t-shirt had been shipped. Am I going to get six t-shirts, or are they just trying to make a political statement regarding electronic voting, or are they just really proud of themselves for having shipped a t-shirt? I dunno.

I setup a credit card to email me seven days before the bill was due. Since they also mail me a hardcopy bill, I've frequently already paid it by the time I get the email. Nevertheless, the email reminder comes anyway, informing me that I have a bill for $0.00 coming up.

On a related note, Cingular Wireless sent me a bill last month (email reminder AND hardcopy) for 24 cents.

The exhange server just sent me an email to notify me that my mailbox was full.

Hrm.


Friday, June 11

Let's play Funny Reply

POST:
If you rearrange the letters of Ronald Reagan, you get Dragon Analer

Rearrange Ray Charles, you get Laces Harry.

Therefore the next person to die will be someone who is into gay BDSM sex with repitles in furry costumes. QED bitches.


FUNNY REPLY:
Oh man I hope it's not me.


Ick

This is the sort of thing you get in slacktown. They say it's being done "all over the world", but I don't buy that.


Thursday, June 10

Ronald Reagan

The world was supposed to have exploded by now.

This is what we learned in school and from television news and movies and our parents and our peers, starting at a very young age. We learned about fallout shelters and Carl Sagan told us they wouldn’t save anyone from Nuclear Winter, even if they did prevent some people glowing.

And we performed disaster drills on a regular basis. Practice makes perfect! Single-file into the hallway, line up against the walls, get on your knees, put your head between your legs (“…and kiss your ass goodbye”, we always added, long after it stopped being funny).

I remember getting on the bus to school the day (or soon thereafter) Reagan was elected. “We’re all gonna die!” we joked. We thought it was funny because we were immortal pre-teens, but also because we thought it was true. I think the consensus was that the world wouldn’t really end so long as we had someone in the White House who would back down. And no one expected Reagan would do that. So sooner or later the Ruskies would say or do something and we’d tell them to stop it, or vice versa. “Or else!” we’d add. “Or else what?!” they’d demand. Then Reagan would say “This” and push a button that made the world explode.

I never got the sense that anyone had much faith in our military. Vietnam had taught us they we couldn’t really win a conventional war against anybody. The military, it was supposed, was no good at everything, because we didn’t need it for anything. It wouldn’t ever be used to fight a war again – if it came to that, we’d just push the “Everybody Dies”-button and single-file our asses into the hallway for a goodbye kiss. So the military was used as a welfare program to provide food, clothing, shelter and educational opportunities to the poor and unwed mothers, since we weren’t using it, or them, for anything else. All the good old soldiers were either Bikers or homeless now.

Was that really the case? Beats me. I was twelve, what did I know? It’s what TV told me, anyway, and who was I to argue?

For the next eight years Reagan reassured us that the world was not going to end, and it didn’t.

He said that we needed a competent military after all, and would have one. Just as an option, you know, an alternative to killing everybody, everywhere. It would be competent, capable, combat ready, he said. And it was.

He said democracy was alive and well, America was great, we were great, everything was great. And it was.

It may or may not have been anyway, regardless of anything he did, didn’t do, got mis-credited for or whatever. I don’t care. Even it were already true in spite of Reagan, no one believed it. Someone important needed to say it, and in a convincing manner. So he did. To us and to the rest of the world, too.

Even in the Middle East, we’re not just “The Satan”, we’re “The Great Satan”. How ‘bout that? And those people don’t even like us!

Now some people are saying Reagan was such a great president that he, or at least a picture of him, ought to be put on the dime, or half the dimes, or the ten dollar bill, or the crucifix, replacing whatever Founding Father happens to be holding the spot currently.

Other people are saying he didn’t really do anything but read from a tele-prompter and nod on queue, that any good things that happened while he was President were mere coincidences. Or perhaps orchestrated by someone else – The Former Filthy Hippy Reformed Socialist Party, I suppose. Some say that whatever ‘good things’ he did weren’t actually good things at all, and point out that FDR wasn't a ‘Founding Father’, and even the case for Jesus is a little weak.

How should I know? It’s not as if I could just look it up online. “Ah ha! According to the internet, Ronald Reagan was indeed Great!” Nagh. What you find on the internet are a lot of, uhm, conflicting reports. What you don’t find are point-for-point comparisons to previous presidents, founding fathers, and religious saviors: Reagan scored a 12.7, but while that’s better than Carter’s 3.6, it still falls short of FDR’s 15.1 on the International Standard Greatness Scale.

Whatever.

I was too young to ever vote for Reagan, but he is still my favorite president. The best president I ever had, I reckon. He told me I was great, that the world wasn’t going to end, that America was strong. And I like America. Some of my best friends are Americans. Plus, to paraphrase The Tick, it’s where I keep all my stuff.

He said all that, and I believed him. I still believe him. I’m willing to entertain the notion that he’s given credit for more than he deserves, that maybe he said America was great but didn’t actually make it great. He might even have said that himself. ‘Just point right at you, smile and wink and say, “Oh I didn’t make America great. It was already great, because you made it great, because you’re a good person.” Then you’d walk around feeling like a superhero for a day and a half.

Something like this, maybe:
And in all of that time I won a nickname, `The Great Communicator.' But I never though it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: it was the content. I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation—from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the Reagan revolution. Well, I'll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.


But I think he still deserves credit for a lot. I could be wrong. I’m sure someone will say, “Right! You are wrong!” Maybe so, but that’s still what I think and I don’t see myself un-thinking it any time soon.

Should we put his picture on some money? Oh boy. Tough call. If it were mine to make, sure, I’d probably go ahead and do it. Then I’d put Richard Garriot on the $5 and Gary Gygax on the $1 and my grandpa on the $20.

Just, you know, if it were up to me.

President Reagan's Farewell Speech


Tuesday, June 8

Fan Fest - the inside scoop!

Ok, the bloody feets pics were gross, so I took 'em down.

Happy?


Monday, June 7

Fan Fest Wrap-up

IGN Travelogue Part 1
IGN Travelogue Part 2
Cinco Interview
Dev Panel Day 1
Dev Panel Day 2

links to some pictures

Ronda’s Thanks Thread


Thursday, June 3

Actually

People use the word 'actually' way too much.

Most of the time it's used, it isn't necessary. You could substitute 'Like' or 'Ummm' or even 'aduhhhhr' without changing the meaning of the sentence. You could just not say the word 'actually' without changing the meaning of the sentence. Try it!

The rest of the time, you could and should substitute any other word in the English language instead of saying 'actually' again, because you just said it.

Yes, you did.


Online Dating

Online Dating is a dating website for gamers.

Could this guy be your soul mate?


Counterpoint

Point: Blah blah blah
Counterpoint: You're an idiot.

Tonight I met an extroversiant racist. First time ever. I have met racists before, but never one so in-your-face that it caused me to create a whole new word to describe what sort of racist he was. I think I was just about to get punched in the eye when Jeremy distracted me with bullshit 'til this guy moved away.

Me: Thanks a lot, man, I was just about to CHANGE THE WORLD by challenging this guy's assumptions regar--
J: You were just about to get punched in the eye
Me: But I was gonna tell this guy--
J: I know where you were goin with that - eye punch!
Me: Oh

More about that -- and the near-moon from the Target checkout girl -- when I get back from the fanfest. It's all part of that story.

Actually, no, that's all there is to that part of the story. More of some story anyway.


Wednesday, June 2

Fan Fest

So I haven’t updated in a while. I’ve been busy.

Tomorrow we (most of the senior designers, producers, leads, etc.) leave for the SWG Fan Fest. If you’re going, I’ll see you there. If you’re not, then I won’t.

If you’re a Rebel or Neutral, you could have shared a room with this guy.

I’ll only be on two of the panels, because I don’t work on Live any more, most of the panels are organized around the various professions, and I didn’t work on any professions to begin with (other than revamping the CH profession, way back in the day).

So I guess I’ll mostly be hangin’ out, passing out swag and playing Greeter, or something.

It'll be fun.



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