Orc ID

So blogging has mostly ground to a halt since I’ve taken a new job at an academic library; maybe it will resume some time. But today a publisher got in touch to get a license to publish a short article I wrote and they recommended I get an Orc ID.O_o

Orc ID

No, not like that. But that is definitely what I imagine.

An ORCID is actually an identifier used to disambiguate people. Libraries have been doing this for centuries, but in the past couple of decades there’s been a push to use numerical identifiers rather than textual ones. Libraries have long kluged the problem of many people with the same name by adding qualifiers to names, such as middle names, years of birth/death, or other titles or even activities. So because there are many “Michael Monaco”s in the world,  I might be established as “Monaco, Michael Joseph” or “Monaco, Michael Joseph, 1972-” or something like that. But a simple number would make the identifier more useful worldwide. Consider Tolstoy — written in Cyrillic his name is be Алексей Константинович Толстой; “Толстой” is various Romanized as “Tolstoi,” “Tolstoy,” or “Tolstoĭ”. Likewise Korean, Japanese, and Chinese names may vary a lot depending on the language they are publishing in. There is an effort to bring all the forms together in individual countries’ authority files (for example the US has the Library of Congress’ National Authority File or NAF) and the NAF-equivalents of many countries are brought together in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF.org — where Tolstoy is VIAF # 96987389). But these are focused mostly on people publishing books, albums, films, and so forth. More minor works like journal articles don’t get cataloged individually in library catalogs and there is no need to disambiguate the millions of academics who publish worldwide for library catalogs. So the ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor Id.) is meant to work a bit like the VIAF but for researchers and academics (as well as journalists, etc., in principle), so that my publications as “Michael Monaco” are not confused with other “Michael Monaco”s, and it uses a string of numbers (in my case, 0000-0001-7244-5154).

So anyway it’s nice work and hobbies encounter each other like that.

Published in: on September 16, 2016 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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The rioting saw

This week there’s been some kind of crazy machine operating in front of my building. I think it’s some kind of saw or grinder — they are tearing up and replacing a bunch of pipes. But the thing is, the sound it makes is very much like a huge crowd — roaring, occasional whistles or screeches, and the volume rises and falls like some kind of riot (or a football game) is taking place. It’s creepy as hell when there is no one else to be seen (the workers are in a hole six feet deep).

I recorded a snatch of it on my cheapass MP3 player. Listen closely. Do you hear muffled voices? Half-formed words? Is that someone called your name?

Enjoy. (Click for MP3)

Published in: on September 8, 2016 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beautiful Mutants!

The guy who runs the “2 Warps to Neptune” blog started an online magazine, “We are the mutants.” Check it out!

The image isn’t on 2W2N or WATM, as far as I know, but it used to have Duty Now for the Future on LP and never forgot the image.

Club Devo ad from the inner sleeve of "Duty now for the future." Original image source: Wikimedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Club_Devo.jpg

Club Devo ad from the inner sleeve of “Duty now for the future.” Original image source: Wikimedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Club_Devo.jpg

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 9:17 am  Comments (1)  
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The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier

I have never backed a game-related Kickstarter campaign — I simply couldn’t afford to at times, and I also grew very cynical about how they’re used by amateurs and conmen.  But there is one that I am backing: Terence Gunn’s Kickstarter to publish a revised and expanded version of his book on Grenadier Models. I was never able to track down a print copy of the first edition, and was not interested in an ebook, so I’m really happy to see this KS launch. Technically this seems more like a pre-order system for a self-publisher, as he’s already done the writing and layout, or is pretty close to being done, from the activity I’ve seen on the Collecting Grenadier Models Yahoo group. If you look at the tag cloud over the right-hand sidebar, you’ll notice Grenadier is one of the most common topics of my posts. For years they were my favorite miniatures company. Such a shame they couldn’t bounce back from the lead scare of the 1990s.

In addition to photos of most if not all of the miniatures Grenadier Models produced, Mr. Gunn interviewed the people who founded and worked at the company, so this looks like it will be the reference for Grenadier Models.



Published in: on July 1, 2016 at 1:34 pm  Comments (1)  

2016 One page dungeon contest winners announced!

And I’m literally one of them!

Well, literally in the popular usage that means not literally at all but almost, maybe metaphorically.

What I’m saying is that I am not winner winner, but I did place in the “Penultimate Winners Circle,” and that’s pretty damn flattering, considering the caliber of the other entries.

Congratulations to the real winners, and to the penultimate winners, and a big thank you to everyone who entered and provided more free resources for game masters everywhere.

My entry, Bridge of Dread, is downloadable at the OPD site (“Submission archive”) and directly from my site here.

Published in: on June 5, 2016 at 9:51 am  Comments (2)  


So, CRPGs. I guess I really missed the boat on these. Way back in the day I vaguely recall seeing a D&Dish game on a friend’s TRS80, and year or two later my brother & I got a Commodore 64, which meant Telengard (an effectively unbeatable game with no real ‘end’), various text-based games like Zork (I think we only ever beat Zork I), and then Ultima III,which is really the standard against which I’d always measure CRPGs. I’d have to admit that the Bard’s Tale was a little better, but Ultima IV and V were the best. From what I recall though we never actually beat IV (we had a pirated copy which lacked a whole town of clues, and a critical PC), or V (either the C64 broke down or we found better uses for the time, I guess). Somewhere in between we tried out Temple of Apshai (not great), several others I can’t remember the names of, and my favorite, Phantasie III which let you assemble a party of humanoids, if you wanted. My brother was a little more into CRPGs, probably because we rarely had a decent DM other than him for real RPGs and they were his only outlet for playing until college. So he played the early AD&D games (Pool of Radiance, and others) as well as the CRPG version of Der Schwarze Auge. In college I played only tabletop games, but by grad school I needed a computer, and might have tried CRPGs except that Doom and Doom II happened. My only dalliance with CRPGs after that was Nahlakh, which was a throwback to the Ultimas and a great deal of fun, but somehow I never finished that one either. I think there might have been a bug in the game — it was shareware in an era where if you wanted to get a manual you had to send the programmer a check, which I eventually did, but I never made it any further. I also tried a few games that were pretty similar to old Commodore games but with better graphics — Dungeonmaster (which was pretty boring), Might & Magic : Darkside of Xeen, and first person dungeon crawl that was explicitly based on AD&D but I forget the title. After that, my only forays into CRPGs were Diablo and Diablo 2, which were basically graphics-intensive throwbacks, but the network games were pretty fun. Oh, and Dungeon Robber, which has some clever ideas but is an endless loot & scoot time sink.

Handy summary chart follows. First comment to explain the title of this post wins buku brownies points.

CRPG Pros Cons
Telengard Simple gameplay, funny narration, tons of randomness to tricks and monsters Repetitive with no endgame, so you need to create your own metagames (how deep can I get without resting, how much treasure can get in 15 minutes, etc.)
Ultima III Interesting quest with lots to explore and lots of choices for making up a party; ability to ‘go rogue’ and loot towns Many of the character choices are underpowered and you’re better off with a stereotypical party
Phantasie III 15 playable races, and fairly cool turn-based combat system Silly pun names (J.R. Trollkin)
Nahlakh Still available!; lots of races and classes; skills increase with use; dozens of weapons Possibly fatal bug involving a tomb
Autoduel It’s frikkin’ Car Wars! And set in the part of the country I grew up in! There are missions but the endgame was kind of underwhelming
The Bard’s Tale (1, 2, maybe 3?) Challenging, unique setting in the first game (a city overrun with monsters), includes half-orcs None that I can think of
Might & Magic: Darkside of Xeen Relatively short Basically a Bard’s Tale rip-off



Published in: on May 1, 2016 at 9:37 pm  Comments (6)  

Good news!

Congress has been so effective at getting things done and solving problems that they can focus on telling librarians how to do their jobs!

So when the Library of Congress Policy & Standards Division decided that “Illegal aliens” was not a useful and objective term for use in subject headings (with good reason), Repugnant congressmen raced to compose a bill that would undo their deliberations. For some reason every other PSD decision made that week was fine, but this one change demands action from our normally sessile representatives.

What next, a Senate hearing to investigate subversive call numbers? (“Why is Islam listed before Christianity? Why is the Bible filed under BS?“) A Supreme Court ruling on permissible story time books? Maybe we need a congressional oversight of reference librarians to make sure every question is screened by the Heritage Foundation.

FFS, man.

Published in: on April 13, 2016 at 3:28 pm  Comments (8)  
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Vor Da-Da war, da war Da-Da

A cautionary tale. Ish.

So back in grad school, some 20 years ago, another student shared his amusement with the German phrase “Vor Da-Da war, da war Da-Da,” which we translated as “Before there was Da-Da, there was Da-Da.” It just sounds funny, but it is also probably true. He could not remember where he’d heard it first and I forgot all about it, until for whatever reason I recalled it. So I decided to try Googling the phrase. That was not something you could do back when I first wondered about where it came from. So my Googling turned up exactly one hit, which led to a question I’d sent to a listserv 20 years ago (asking participants of a list discussing a German philosopher not associated with Da-Da if they might have heard the phrase). It was easy to navigate from there to the larger archive of listervs, and see all the posts ever made to it. I wasn’t the most active participant of the list during my stint, but it was a little bit like reading letters from old friends.

It was a listserv that changed hands a few times and technically seems to still be “active” in the sense that you can try to join it, but in reality all that it shows for the past dozen years are monthly announcements from some other mailing list. Reviewing older stuff, though, it was pretty interesting to see what other topics I’d asked about, and what I’d answered to other people’s questions, and in general what online conversations between strangers looked like back then. In fact even the most “heated” exchanges are pretty tame by today’s standards.

So the cautionary part of this tale is that the stuff I posted to that listserv was mostly harmless and mostly not embarrassing, and I’m glad about that because at the time, it was a private listserv that you had to join to see the archives, but by the magic of intertoobing you can actually find all the posts everyone made back then. Back before keyword searching of everything digital was an option, back before people had surrendered all expectation of privacy online, back before your words posted to an obscure academic discussion list might come back to haunt you, the posts were made somewhat innocently. I guess there is no way to be sure how long such things will continue to exist “out there” on servers, but it is a good reminder that any time you write something online, you are writing in permanent ink.

Apropos nothing, “Da-da” is also a pretty great Alice Cooper album, one of the ones he now has no memory of writing or performing because of his struggles with addiction in the early 1980s.

Published in: on April 8, 2016 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just saying

I’m not one of those people who resist new words or usages just because they are new. I like neologisms. But there is one I’ve started hearing over and over lately that is absolute shit. “Impactful.” There are already dozens of ways of saying something has an impact. Many of them are a single word, so don’t say “impactful” is more concise the than the synonymous phrases it is presumably replacing (“has a great impact,” “is deeply affecting,” etc.). What’s wrong with “impressive,” “stunning,” “influential,” or “stimulating?” These all seem to be what people mean when they say “impactful,” in various contexts. Is it really helpful to have one portmanteau word that covers all those connotations?

If the idea of coining “impactful” was to reduce excessive verbiage of “has a great impact,” or “is powerful,” here’s another synonym with one fewer syllable: “forceful.” You’re welcome.

“Impactful” usually seems to be applied to an emotional or psychological impact, but there is something to be said for clarity. Is a meteorite impactful? If not, did you really mean to use the word “impact” in it?

Also, “impactful” generally brings to mind “impacted colon” or “impaction”: “Your low-fiber diet is impactful.”

Note that this rant is not specifically against the kids on my lawn, because I have heard this word being used by people of my generation and older. Although a few online dictionaries are recognizing this impacted neologism, it has not yet made it into the OED, so maybe there is still time to shame people into dropping this ugly coinage, or at least redefine it.

Impactful : (adj.) causing impaction. “The Adkins diet is really impactful.” Etymology: coined by bad business writers as a term to suggest “effectiveness” (“My impactful projects include…” and made popular by journalists with inferior judgment. Occasionally used as a lazier, buzzier form of “forceful” or “having impact.”

Published in: on March 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  

Hmm, Things that make you go

So this book crossed my desk at work yesterday and joins the legions of books about the “Paleo” diet. Now there are many, many things to mock about the “Paleo” diet idea (in short, eat like people did before the invention of agriculture) and especially a lot to mock about the dumbed down version that tries to equate paleo with the Atkins death diet, but the hilarious thing about this book to me is that it tries to cash in on two fads at once — the juicing/smoothie fad and the Paleodiet fad. Because in the stone age, we all had masticating blenders in our caves, right? And made smoothies from the kinds of stuff on the cover here: collards, broccoli,  kale … you know … highly cultured variations of plants that only exist because agriculture. Yeesh. That said, vegetable smoothies are really healthy, so my mockery is tempered by that. It’s just a hell of a lot of trouble to go, and a little sad that people need all this fussing around to get them to eat their damn veggies.

Published in: on March 12, 2016 at 7:55 am  Comments (5)  
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