Linkfest 2023-01-20: Sugar and Sickness

The Long View: An Army of Davids

Self-assembling nanobots are vaporware, a concept without even a glimmer of actual technology behind it, so its is appropriate that they are used to advocate for libertarianism, a political philosophy without a constituency.

Nonetheless, I could not help but reflect by the time I finished the book that, in some ways, this is a remarkably crippling ideology. To put it briefly: an army of Davids is not an army, but the ideal of an army of Davids makes it difficult to recruit a real army and could make it impossible to finance its supply.

A thread on the transformation of Hawaii due to contact with the West.

Bryan Caplan argues that high quality of life means that Japan is a far nicer place to live than GDP per capita numbers would indicate. I wholly agree. When I visited Japan 16 years ago I was struck by how good the quality of life seemed. I’ve said a lot about this over the years. For example, check out my post on Cheap Houses in Tokyo.

Snowing Pine: On Trucking

A fascinating look at the business of trucking in America. I’ve got some exposure to this industry, as it where my brother works, and this all rings true.

I’m an engineer and an inventor, but what crucially distinguishes innovation [changing what people buy and do] from invention [I made a new thing!] is understanding business and markets and tradeoffs. This blog post is the kind of thing innovators need to understand.

Grognardia: In Defense of Abe Merritt

James Maliszewski has an excellent reflection on the unjustly forgotten Abe Merritt, and reproduces this astonishing claim from Lovecraft:

Abe Merritt – who could have been a Machen or Blackwood or Dunsany or de la Mare or M.R. James ... if he had but chosen – is so badly sunk that he's lost the critical faculty to realise it ... Every magazine trick & mannerism must be rigidly unlearned & banished even from one's subconsciousness before one can write seriously for educated mental adults. That why Merritt lost – he learned the trained-dog tricks too well, & now he can't think & feel fictinally except in terms of the meaningless & artificial clichés of 2¢-a-word romance. Machen & Dunsany & James would not learn the tricks – & they have a record of genuine creative achievements beside which a whole library-full of cheap Ships of Ishtar & Creep, Shadows remain essentially negligible.

I need to finish my own review of The Ship of Ishtar, but I can’t disagree more strongly with Lovecraft here.

Primeval Patterns: Combat Breakdown: Mass-Action Design

It is fair to say that the vast, vast majority of TTRPG players are students of D&D versions 3.5 or later. In D&D’s third edition, there was a dramatic shift away from patterns established by previous games and an equally dramatic refocus on the party of players, their characters, and the degree of detail in which they were being carefully tracked—particularly in combat.

It is instructive to see what was lost, what was pushed aside so that today’s conventions and expectations would come to replace it. We will return to the earliest point of TTRPG total convergence and examine AD&D’s systems, style, and assumptions by understanding an example combat from designer Gary Gygax.