Blues Brothers Saturday Music

What I'm Watching: "the little things"

Let it always be known that I dislike everyone imitating e e cummings. Write in all caps. And I don't like leading articles in titles; "Little Things" is a better title. The entire credits are in lowercase, and I hate it.

How is it that 1990 is a period era? Yeah, it's 30 years ago, and they only have pagers and big CRT monitors, but it's post Cold War, LA is a shithole… it's not clear if this is before or after Rodney King, but nothing really changed. You could set this in the present and it'd be unchanged. Apparently the script was written in 1993, and took 26 years for someone's slush pile to get low enough for this to be produced.

The starting scene is annoying, car drives past a girl driving her car at night, then she pulls into a deserted diner to try to shelter, then runs into the desert, instead of just driving on. That's kind of repeated multiple times, with victims being killed because they were stupid, or just let their guard down. Blaming the victim, instead of building up the killer.

A working sheriff's deputy Joe "Deke" Deacon (Denzel Washington) does an evidence run to LA, hangs around and gets involved in local serial killer investigation. Which is a lot like his backstory investigation that burned him out. Denzel lays out some rules for how to be a bad cop, and immediately breaks them himself.

The LA sheriffs are mostly awful. Rami Malek (the whiny millennial with the bug eyes from Mr Robot), Chris Bauer (Tony Sobotka from the bad season of The Wire), Terry Kinney as a Christfucker captain. Rami's trying to learn something from Denzel, but he's barely even there, a mannequin being pushed around would have more presence. The coroner (Michael Hyatt, the black lady with the very male honkie name, you may remember as Bri Barksdale on The Wire and from Nightcrawler) is essential to the actual plot, but she gets only a couple of scenes. Jared Leto, my least favorite person in film, is skanky but not really menacing, obviously fucking around stoned most of the show. I will say, he gets what he deserves for the first time since American Psycho; it doesn't pay off having to watch this film, but it's something.

Unbelievably slow. Over 2 hour movie, one crime scene in detail, another seen on the edges. No real suspects. Slow police work leads nowhere. What we do find out about is Denzel's backstory, but only through flashbacks, very tell-not-show.

Completely misses a chance to reference The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly "There's two kinds of people in this world, those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You… dig."

★★☆☆☆ — absolutely a waste of my time.

Portable Computing Devices

"Dr Ed Morbius"[sic] posts The Case Against Tablets and one of the most unusable tables I've ever seen (too much data with no affordances, and Diaspora's design crops anything complex). But the premise is interesting, especially as I'm considering my next wave of new hardware. He's just going about it the wrong way (no, really, Samsung of the exploding batteries is bad? Tell me more news.), and then frustrated he can't succeed by going the wrong way.

So, luggables have been around since (counting only devices usable by the general public) Osborne I (1983, 10.7kg), tablets since Kyocera Kyotronic 85 aka TRS-80 Model 100 (1983, 1.4kg), laptops since Toshiba T1100 (1985, 4.1kg). It's been possible to have handheld computing since at least the Apple Newton MessagePad (1993, 640g), and Palm Pilot 1000 (1996, 160g). I've used but didn't own most of those, mind, just a Sharp PC-3, Psion, slightly later Toshiba and IBM laptops I hated, a bunch of Palm devices. I read many ebooks (Baen's early CDs of ebooks were great! Pity they mostly ship right-wing milsf these days), and 160x160 2-bit grayscale is not ideal. I have, as they say, seen some shit.

These days, the choices of hardware are a little better, thousands of suppliers, almost all of which fit into a few categories:

_ iPhone iPad Apple M1
Laptop
Android
phone
Android
tablet
Microsoft
Surface
Cheap
Windows
Laptop
Pricy
Windows
Laptop
Price mid-y mid-y hi-r low-g low-g hi-r mid-y hi-r
Weight/Bulk low-g mid-y hi-r low-g low-g to mid-y mid-y hi-r hi-r
Battery hi-g hi-g hi-g mid-y low-r mid-y mid-y low-r
Performance hi-g hi-g hi-g mid-y low-r to mid-y mid-y mid-y hi-g
Security hi-g hi-g hi-g low-r low-r mid-y mid-y mid-y
Books low-r hi-g mid-y low-r hi-g hi-g low-r low-r
Video mid-y hi-g hi-g mid-y hi-g hi-g hi-g hi-g
RSS/news sites mid-y hi-g hi-g mid-y hi-g hi-g hi-g hi-g
Social media hi-g mid-y low-r hi-g mid-y mid-y low-r low-r
Online shopping low-r mid-y hi-g low-r mid-y mid-y mid-y hi-g
Reference hi-g mid-y low-r hi-g mid-y mid-y low-r low-r
Videogames mid-y mid-y hi-g mid-y mid-y mid-y low-r hi-g
Writing low-r mid-y to hi-g hi-g low-r mid-y mid-y to hi-g hi-g hi-g
Programming mid-y mid-y hi-g low-r low-r mid-y mid-y hi-g

Figure out the things you care about, and pick whatever has the most green, maybe yellow, avoiding red cells. Now you know what to buy.

What do you actually care about?

  • Price: You do largely get what you pay for in this category. Apple's devices aren't really much more expensive than equal hardware, but they never ship anything in the bottom price category. They do gouge on the top memory prices, which is unpleasant. But any Apple device will last for years longer than Android or a cheap PC, and have good resale value. The incredibly low prices on Android stuff is tempting, but it's a trap ("get an axe").
  • Weight/Bulk: These days almost everything's under 2kg like a good sword, but holding up an iPad over your head in bed is very liable to fall and break your nose; this is one place where a phone or phablet is superior. Obviously holding a heavy laptop up is incredibly dumb, and they're completely useless while moving, standing, etc., can't be propped up anywhere, are just always in the way.
  • Battery life: It's easy for manufacturers to lie about this, but if you run a real workload, you quickly see how wasteful any x86 PC is. Everyone else, it comes down to power management.
  • Performance: Only matters for Videogames and maybe programming. But Apple's been putting absurdly powerful CPUs and GPUs in their mobile devices, A12 is essentially the same as the M1 in the new Macs. Only the fastest AMDs or Intel are even competitive, and those burn too much power to be good mobile devices. Benchmarks are hard to compare exactly, but: anandtech on A12Z puts it pretty high against laptops. 2 years later, that's the SOC that's now in the lower-end iPhone and iPad.
  • Security: I'm not trying to be biased here, but if you are concerned with security at all, you really only need to look at those first three columns. There's just no alternative at present.

    Only a fool would trust anything running Android, they often ship with malware, everything in the stores is contaminated and has ridiculous lists of permissions, and they stop updating at "EOL" which may come as soon as it ships, rarely more than 6-12 months later. Do not put anything of value or interest to others in your Android device.

    Microsoft wants to be good at security, but is functionally terrible at it. They live in an open sewer of constant attacks, and have cardboard walls of bad software. Your mobile device may be pwned and all your files crypto-ransomed the second you connect it to the Internet. MS monthly updates sometimes wipe drives or lock you out, those are just from the last year, I'm sure they'll fuck up new ways this year.

    One can, one supposes, install BSD or Linux on a laptop, but that just makes it unusable for most of the tasks below.

    You know who actually seems able to keep secure borders? The walled Apple garden. Other than nation-states getting physical access to an older device, and if you're not stupid enough to turn on iCloud backups for things you need to stay private (iMessage!), you are almost entirely safe on iOS or Mac OS.

The tasks you might reasonably do with a portable computing device are:

  • Books: Cannot be read comfortably on a small screen, or landscape laptop. Needs a good document management program. On iOS, there's Readdle Documents, which is a great storage/reading hub for almost everything. On the Mac, I use Murasaki to read epub, except those in Apple Books. On Android, I've found ReadEra and Simple File Manager do that well, are pleasantly minimalist, and are not apparently run by criminals out to rob you, unlike 99% of Android software. I guess on Windows you can just keep things in folders and click on them? As noted every time I have to use Windows, I don't know how people use that.
  • Video: Not ideal on small screens, but I've found almost everyone has caught up now. Everyone has players for all the major streaming services, can play web video fine. Android file management of videos is awful. Windows seems OK at this. The real losers, tho, are BSD and Linux laptops; they can't do any DRM video without jumping thru excessive hurdles. I've been fighting this off and on for a decade with my side terminals, and mostly end up playing video on the Mac desktop instead.
  • RSS/news sites: Relies on having a big screen for 2-pane or 3-pane view, and good RSS reader. I use Reeder on mobile, and Feedbin on desktop; there's inferior but functional apps on other platforms.
  • Social media: Doomscrolling is best done at arm's reach, where you can instantly push home or just throw it away to get away from it. You need a camera attached, so I don't consider laptops suitable at all. Can you imagine someone holding their laptop over their lunch or up for a selfie?
  • Online shopping: Requires multiple tabs, note-taking, preferably a spreadsheet. On the latest iPads, you can split-screen a notepad or Numbers and a browser, which definitely helps, but a laptop or desktop works best here. I don't know how you would even do this on Android, where programs rarely keep their contents when hitting Back a bunch of times.
  • Reference: Here I mean on-the-spot "what's the answer to X?". Mostly checking wikipedia or Memory Alpha. So just a tiny bit of typing in search, maybe poke at a couple followup links, not extensive reading. 12 years ago I started doing this with my Treo, and it was addictive. This is an ideal use of a smartphone, every second that passes until you can Kirk someone with your online knowledge, it becomes less interesting.
  • Videogames: All mobile devices suffer from shitty controls. Cheap computers suffer from shitty GPUs; these days mobile GPUs are better. Macs don't have as many games as Windows, the official hybrid Excel/Call of Duty OS, but it's fine. The whole category shouldn't exist, we should just play games on the Switch or consoles, but it persists. Go play catch with your dog, it's more fun than poking at a tiny screen.
  • Writing: Long-form writing depends on screen, keyboard, and editor. There's plenty of BT keyboards for every mobile device. The original iPad had a keyboard dock stand which I bought with mine, and used until I got a better one; I now mostly use a Zagg keyboard with it, or just type on-screen. The current low-travel keyboard cases for Surface, iPad, etc. are kind of awful to type on, but they're very portable. Laptops will always win here, you can sit upright at any table and type ergonomically, and still have functioning hands in a decade. Even with an external keyboard, I find phones too small to compose much text on.

    The editor situation is more complex. I love Editorial (by the author of Pythonista), and it's great for writing text in Markdown, and is scriptable. Pages is fine for short, pretty documents, but it's incredibly slow as your document gets long, and very fiddly when you adjust layouts. There's dozens more on iOS, of varying quality. MS Word runs on iOS, Android, and something called "weeendows"; it's mildly awful but standard. I've found no native Android writing programs that weren't hate crimes, but I'm not super motivated to try every one.
  • Programming: As noted in Programming on your Phone, there's only a few good environments for iOS, but Pythonista is so good it makes up for a category. I've now seen a few Android programming environments, and they're comically, hatefully bad. Surface would be fine, except it's Windows; the only way to dev on that crap is a giant IDE that really needs a high-end desktop computer. Again you might put BSD or Linux on a laptop, but now it's useless for anything else.

I don't rank Drawing, even though that's a very important task for some people, because I'm not qualified to evaluate it; I can draw stick figures and collage art/"memes", but is the Apple Pencil super great? Maybe. What do the others have? No idea. Apparently MS reinstated MS Paint to their program store?

In hardware, I ignored e-ink readers because I find them unusable; a 2-4 second lag when flipping pages or trying to type anything is just unacceptable. We have cheap, low-power, high-refresh-rate LCD screens now, there's absolutely no benefit to e-ink. If you can stand it, fine, but I have no idea how to evaluate a thing I can't even look at.

(my table's not ideal because WordPress fights me; writing this in BBEdit/multimarkdown, I had the column labels rotated 90° with CSS, but for some reason WP positioned them wrong! I could render the HTML and paste that in, I guess, but then it's not easily editable later. And the margin of my site theme is a pain; I keep threatening to rewrite the style sheet entirely. Also, I'm aware there's colorblindness, but safe colors for them look awful to everyone else; so read the -r -y -g labels.)

September 10,000, 1993

math (+1 to count the 1st)

So, checks out. 10,000 days of the September That Never Ended.

The world since is like a movie showing a few people coughing before the credits, wipe fade, zombie hordes tearing down barricades to eat the brains of the last few people. Someone's shivering in the corner with a gun, for the zombies or self, you can't tell. Freeze frame. "I bet you're asking how we got here…"

Note: I, uh, kinda infodumped here. Estimated reading time: 19 minutes.

What Went Wrong

At the time, I had a nice Gopherhole, finger and .plan (at times with a GIF of me uuencoded into it!), and was already annoyed by the overcomplicated World Wide Web rising. But in Feb 1993, UMinn saddled Gopher with threats of a license, which killed the better-organized system, and I was an adaptable guy. For quite a while I had both with equivalent content mirrored, but then my WWW site got more features, and the Gopher hole got stale so I closed it.

A bunch of new kids invaded USENET every September when school started, and commercial Internet started in '89-91 when NSFNet removed their commercial restrictions, and then fucking AOL unleashed bored neo-nazis from the flyover states on us. There was a vast onslaught of spam, bullshit, and trolls. So I switched from rn which had primitive killfile regexps ("PLONK is the sound of your name hitting the bottom of my killfile"), to trn, which had threading and a little better killfile system, to strn which had scoring so if you hit multiple good or bad keywords, you'd move up or down my queue or vanish. I bailed on all the big groups, tried moderation and was promptly attacked by scumbags who thought the moderation system was for protecting their corporate masters, not stopping spam, and then quit entirely.

We don't even have FAQs now. There's no netiquette at all (ha, Brittanica, remember them? Site's probably not been touched since 1999). I hide off to the edges in Mastodon with very aggressive blocking of anyone who looks annoying. The big media sites, Twaddler and Fuckbook, are just poison, an endless scroller of screaming between everyone who wants to feel offended all the time, and the Orange Shitgibbon's mob of traitors; I see a very little of Twaddler by way of RSS, but I won't go any closer than that.

Gabriel Dropout s1e2: Do you enjoy living like that, always being mad?

The Web. On most sites, there's megabytes of crappy scripts for tracking, style sheets, giant custom fonts instead of banners & buttons burned into GIFs, so a page might take 100MB to show anything. The basic World Wide Web experience of click a link, page shows you slightly formatted text on an unpleasant background, click another link, is unchanged from 1993, but there's a dumpster of shit on top of that. I hate using the Web now, every goddamned page wants to track me, bounce banners up in front of me, demand I approve cookies but don't let me say "DENY ALL FUCK YOU"; and even without cookies, they use fingerprinting to track me.

It doesn't have to be like this. Despite using WordPress, the dumbest and most bloated thing possible, I've tried to keep my site down to a minimal setup, go read the page source, it's just CSS, content, and the search widget. If I ever get around to purging the default CSS, it'll be even lighter. But most people not only don't live up to that ethic, they aggressively want the opposite, the biggest, fattest, most unusable crap site full of autoplaying videos they can make.

Criminals being able to use the Internet to attack physical infrastructure, or hostile encryption of computers (including in hospitals; some people need a stern talking to with a 2x4 or a shotgun). Back in the day, RTFM's worm was a novel disaster, but fixable. Microsoft's garbage OS was trivially infected with viruses then and now, but back then it didn't matter much; you might lose a few un-backed-up files, not real money.

The Internet as trivial research device seems like it should be good, but what it's meant is that the Kids Today™ don't bother to learn anything, they just look up and recite Wikipedia, which is at least 50-80% lies. They "program" by searching StackUnderflow for something that looks like their problem, pasting it in, then searching again to solve the error messages. Most of them could be replaced with a Perl script and wget. I assume non-programming fields are similarly "solve it by searching", which is why infrastructure, medicine, and high-speed pizza delivery are so far inferior to 28 years ago.

Search was very slow and mostly manually-entered into index sites back in the '90s. Now it's very fast, but only things linked from corporate shitholes actually show up, and spam and SEO poison all the results, so all you really get is Wikipedia, which might have a few manually-entered links at the bottom which might still exist or be in archive.org, or a few links to spam. Try searching for anything, it's all crap.

Vernor Vinge in 1992's A Fire Upon the Deep called a 50,000-years-from-now version of USENET "The Net of a Million Lies". Just a bit of an overshoot on the date, and a massive underestimate of the number of lies.

There's a lot of knock-on effects from the Internet as a sales mechanism. Like, videogames used to get QA tested until they mostly worked; fiascos like Superman64 were rare. Now, Cyberpunk2077 ships broken because they can patch it off the Internet, won't be fixed until actual 2077. Sure, not all games. I'm usually satisfied with Nintendo's QA, though even Animal Crossing: New Horizons shipped with less functionality and more bugs than Wild World on the (no patches!) DS cartridge.

What Is Exactly the Same

IRC, war never changes. I used ICB for my social group back then, and we moved from there to Slack. Most technical crap is discussed on IRC, rarely on Slack, Matrix, or Discord (which literally means conflict). Doesn't matter, it's just a series of text messages, because nobody's figured out how to make anything better that lasts.

I'm still using some version of UNIX. If you'd told me in 1993 that I'd be a Mac guy, I'd've opened your skull to see what bugs had infested your brain; Macs were only good for Photoshop and Kai's Power Tools. But Linux never got better, BSD is functional but never got a great desktop, SUN and SGI are dead <loud sustained keening wail>, and Apple bought/reverse-takeovered NeXT with a nice enough BSD-on-Mach UNIX. And the Internet is, largely, UNIX. There was a horrible decade mid-90s to early-00s when Windows servers were gaining ground, people were ripping out perfectly good UNIX data centers to install garbage at a huge loss in efficiency because their CTOs got bribed millions by Microsoft. But that tide washed up and back out taking most of the MS pollution with it. Maybe it won't be back.

I still write web sites in Vim or BBEdit (since 1993: It Doesn't Suck™). Well, I say that, but I'm writing this mostly in the WordPress old text editor, using Markdown. Markdown's new-ish (2004), but behaves like every other text markup system going back to SGML in the '80s and ROFF in the '70s.

What's Good About the Internet

Not fucking much.

Streaming or borrowing digital copies of music, movies, and books is easier than ever. I speak mainly of archive.org, but sure, there's less-legal sites, too. I have access to an infinite library, of whatever esoteric interest I have; I've lately been flipping through old Kilobaud Magazine as part of my retrocomputing; I like the past where just getting or using a computer was hard and amazing. In 1993 those might have been mouldering away in a library basement, if they could be found at all. Admittedly, I hate most new media; nothing's been good enough for Mark since 1999, and really I could put the line at grunge, or maybe 1986 when The Police broke up. But at least it is accessible.

I spent most of today writing new stuff for the Mystic Dungeon, and even with all the overcomplicated web shit, it's a little easier to build a secure, massively parallel message system in JS than it was in C or Perl 30 years earlier. Not by much, but some.

Internet pornography (link barely NSFW?) is a tough one. '70s-80s VHS porn was expensive, flickery, way too mainstream; fine if you liked chunky old guys banging ugly strippers, I did not. DVD porn in the '90s was still expensive, but got much better production, and every niche interest, that was the golden age. But now everything is "free" on the thing-hubs and x-things, but only in crappy 6-minute excerpts stolen from DVD, horrible webcam streams, and the creepifyin' rise of incest porn. Because the Internet enables weird interests, but what if a whole generation have massive mommy/daddy issues? You can in fact pay for good non-incest porn, but payment processors and credit cards make it hard to do, so it's easier to just watch garbage. And then there's prudes and religious zealots who think porn is bad; in the old days, they had the law and molotov cocktails on their side, but now they're impotent, so I guess that's barely a win for the Internet.

What Didn't We Get

The Metaverse. OK, there was and is Second Life, but Linden fucked the economy up, and never made it possible to take your grid and host it yourself without a gigantic effort. There's WebVR and a few others, but they have terrible or no avatars, construction, and scripting tools. We should be able to be scanned and be in there, man, like in TRON.

The Forum. There's no place of polite social discourse. There's hellsites, and some sorta private clubs, and a bunch of abandoned warehouses where people are chopped up for body parts/ad tracking. Despite my loathing of Google, who are clearly trying to implement SkyNet & Terminators and exterminate Humanity, Google+ was OK, so of course they shut it down.

The Coming Golden Age of Free Software That Doesn't Suck. Turns out, almost everyone in "FLOSS", the FSF, and GNU, are some of the shittiest people on Earth, and those who aren't are chased out for daring to ask for basic codes of conduct and democracy. Hey you know that really good file system? Yeah, the author murdered his wife, and the "community" is incompetent to finish the work, so keep using ext which eats your files. Sound drivers on Linux, 16 years after I ragequit because I couldn't play music and alarm sounds at the same time, still don't work. "Given enough eyes, everyone goes off to write their own implementation instead of fixing bugs"; nothing works, every project just restarts at +1 version every 2-5 years. Sure, you can blame capitalism, but there's a couple of communist countries left, why aren't they making infinitely better software without the noose of the dollar dollar around their necks?

The Grand Awakening of Humanity. This was always delusional, but the idea that increased communication between people of Earth would end war, everyone would come together, align their chakras/contact the UFOs, and solve all our problems. Ha, no, you put 3 people in a chat room and you'll have 5 factions and at least one dead body in a week. As we approach 7 billion people online, many with explosively incompatible and unfriendly views, this is only going to get worse, if that's even imaginable.

Final Rating: The Internet

★★½☆☆ — I keep watching this shitshow, but it's no damn good. Log off and save yourself.

Désenchantée Friday Music

3d6 Six Times in Order

I was looking at my Gamma World 1E and GW1 Legion of Gold reprints from drivethrurpg — the first RPG I ever ran, and my one true love system, tho my old copy was destroyed by flooding decades ago — and discovered that even in 1978, the rot had set in, tho I ignored it then and now.

I speak, of course, of "more generous" systems for generating stats.

Character personae are created at the beginning of the campaign, endowed with certain basic attributes through the roll of dice. First, each player must choose to play either Pure Strain Human, humanoid, or mutated animal-type characters (the advantages and disadvantages of each of these three categories will be explained momentarily). Having selected the type of character he wishes to play, the player then rolls three six-sided dice to determine the relative strengths of each of his character's six basic attributes: mental strength, intelligence, dexterity, charisma, constitution, and physical strength. As a general rule, a roll of 3-8 for a given attribute indicates a weak trait, 9-12 is average, and 13-18 is above average. The relative strengths of certain attributes can (and most likely will) change during the course of the campaign, due to mutation, acquired experience, or some other method devised by the referee.

It is desirable that few, if any, of a player character's basic attributes be below average. Player characters represent an elite with the desire, the initiative, and the ability to venture outside the boundaries of the village, town, or tribal lands. They are the pioneers, explorers, and tamers of the vast wilderness. It is they who will eventually bring order to the chaos of GAMMA WORLD and an end to the Black Years. To increase the player's chances of rolling up an exceptional character, the referee will find it advisable to use the following method: for each basic attribute, the player rolls four dice (4d6) but totals only the highest three. If, for example, the player rolled 4, 3, 5, 1 on the four dice, he would add together 4+3+5=12 and leave out the 1. If he rolled 4, 3, 2, 2 he would add 4+3+2=9 and leave out the second 2. While it is still possible to roll very low numbers (3, 2, 2, 1), the player's chances of rolling an average to above average character are greatly increased.
—Gamma World (1978), James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet

But just 2 years earlier in Metamorphosis Alpha, no such mercies are given:

A human player will roll 3 six-sided dice several times for the abilities he or she has at the start of the game. Each player has the following abilities: radiation resistance, mental resistance, dexterity, constitution, strength, and leadership potential.
—Metamorphosis Alpha (1976), James M. Ward

So I strongly suspect the 4d6 keep 3 paragraph was added by Jaquet to fit with Gary Gygax's AD&D stat inflation. The shift from every other part of GW being "grubby scavengers trying not to die" to this Manifest Destiny "heroes of the Black Years!" bullshit is also stinky. We love chaos! We hate order! Down with civilization! You don't play Gamma World to be a farmer and accountant, you do it to be a weird mutant viking beaver with a laser pistol and a STOP sign shield!

Original Dungeons & Dragons ("little brown books") and Holmes' D&D Basic Set ("blue book") are strict 3d6-in-order, with the possibility of moving points 2:1 to a class's prime stat, which often resulted in lopsided but more specialized characters. Moldvay's B/X ("red book") is 3d6-in-order.

AD&D has the following four increasingly ludicrous methods:

Method I:
All scores are recorded and arranged in the order the player desires. 4d6 are rolled, and the lowest die (or one of the lower) is discarded.
Method II:
All scores are recorded and arranged as in Method I. 3d6 are rolled 12 times and the highest 6 scores are retained.
Method III:
Scores rolled are according to each ability category, in order, STRENGTH, INTELLIGENCE, WISDOM, DEXTERITY, CONSTITUTION, CHARISMA. 3d6 are rolled 6 times for each ability, and the highest score in each category is retained for that category.
Method IV:
3d6 are rolled sufficient times to generate the 6 ability scores, in order, for 12 characters, The player then selects the single set of scores which he or she finds most desirable and these scores are noted on the character record sheet.

I'm tempted to write a little simulation script to see just how insane those stats are; it should basically be impossible to have anything under a 13 out of 18 with Methods II and III. I almost don't hate Method IV, I've allowed that with just 1-3 alternates instead of 12. Method I is what D&D 5E uses.

Tunnels & Trolls also from 1975, was 3d6 six times in order, though later editions added "triples add and roll over" (TARO) for superheroic characters, and non-Humans multiply various stats by anything from 0.25 to 2.0; but since T&T characters increase their stats as they level, that was just a head start, not unbalance.

The appeal of those early games was a normal, maybe a little better than average schlub, working their way up by way of good stats, player intelligence & skill, luck, hard work grinding out experience, cowardice, and ruthless treachery, until they were slightly less likely to explode in a blood geyser at the first papercut. If you made it to 3rd level, you were good, and extremely attached to your character. If you made it to 9th, you quit because you had won, and it was time to start over with one of your henchmen.

If you can just get another guy from the vending machine with high stats, who cares if you die? You'll come right back. Not that you can actually die in 5E, it's basically Toon with swords.

There is an argument that old-school games didn't give high bonuses to stats, which is true… but we did make a lot of stat rolls, long before such things were official. The Perrin Conventions (see Dexterity Roll) and RuneQuest formalized what a lot of us had always done: Roll stat x 5% on percentile, or d20 or 3d6 roll under. The guy who taught me used 3d6 for average, 2d6 easy, 4d6 hard, roll under your stat; I don't recall if all 6's were always a failure, but that's how I used it.

Oh, you know I've posted about this, but not the specific mechanics, a couple years ago on my Mark Rolls Dice blog

Textfiles

Looking for VT100 documentation, I found a folder of textfiles VT100 animations, including the classic Bambi vs. Godzilla.

Slightly difficult to watch on any modern computer, so save this script: (works on Mac & other Unix-likes, wtf knows what Windows does for clear and reset.)

Use: % slowblade.py ~/Downloads/bambi_godzila.txt 500

slowblade.py: [update 2021-01-14, encoding]

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# by Mark Damon Hughes. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

import os, sys, time

def slowblade(f, spd):
    try:
        os.system("clear")
        text = open(f, encoding='Windows-1252').read()
        for c in text:
            sys.stdout.write(c); sys.stdout.flush()
            time.sleep(1.0/spd)
        print("")
        input("[press enter]")
    finally:
        os.system("reset")

if __name__ == "__main__":
    if len(sys.argv) == 1: raise Exception("Usage: slowblade.py FILENAME [SPEED (default 100)]")
    else: slowblade(sys.argv[1], int(sys.argv[2]) if len(sys.argv) >= 3 else 100)

What I'm Watching: Warrior

On Hobomax. Based, allegedly, on notes by Bruce Lee in the '70s, it's a kung fu series in 1876 SF Chinatown. Produced by Jason Lin of 2Fast2Furious2Legit2Quit, and Bruce Lee's daughter.

Right from the start, there's a nice mix of actual kung fu halfway between Bruce Lee's actual beat-em-ups and physical comedy like Jackie Chan's fights (not just shitty jump-cut editing), politics within the tongs, brothel girls, nativist mobs of assholes, and the severely underfunded, corrupt, thug-like SFPD (so nothing changes in 150 years) starting a Chinatown squad (including a Georgian Confederate traitor, leading to some bad blood right from the start).

It's a little weird casting, Ah Sahm (half-Japanese/English Andrew Koji) doesn't at all pass for Chinese, especially when standing next to Young Jun (Hong Konger Jason Tobin) or Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng), but he's a fine fighter, a competent actor.

The dialogue is modernized, even more than in Deadwood, there's more profanity and just flippant speech that doesn't fit a Chinese man who supposedly trained with a sifu. They use the linguistic trick of speaking a few words in Cantonese (apparently all phonetic memorization except the whore) and then switching to modern English… and then back to stilted English or Cantonese if there's whites around. They have weird alternatives to "white" and "han" or whatever ethnic group they're pointing at, calling them "ducks" and "onions", much like The Wire replaced the N-word with "bitch" most of the time. "Itchy" means looking for a fight.

I'm not especially interested in the segments about the SFPD, and even less about the nativists, but that may change as the show goes on.

At times they also slip in modern music cues and other anachronisms, but it's largely trying to be a period piece.

Every fight isn't amazing, but they're all good. I've seen none that are as pathetic as any superhero trash.

Watch this show.

★★★★½