Ask The Other Editor,11/22/2004

Long-time reader, first-time asker John Cochrane barrages me with eight questions on editing vs. webmastering, the locations of old writers, international politics, and whether I prefer chocolate or vanilla.

Long-time reader, first-time asker John Cochrane barrages me with eight questions:

“1) Which do you like better, being full-time webmaster, or full-time SCG editor, and why?”

Depends on what criterion you’re using: Do I like it better as a career move, or do I enjoy it more personally?

As a career move, I’m torn. Webmastering is often nothing but days of pure frustration – but in the end, it pays a lot better than basic editorial positions. Furthermore, I can use the stuff I learn programming to sell books, which puts a fair amount of extra dough in my pocket and builds my brand marketability.

On the other hand, from a career standpoint the strict programmers can now be farmed off to Pakistan. So maybe it’s better to be an editor. You can train some guy in Abu Dhabi to be a better PHP wizard than I am, but he’ll never speak English better than I do. (That’s not to slight the English of foreigners – just that as a writer and editor, I have a big head start. And a big ego when it comes to my wordsmithing.)

As far as job satisfaction, I know I’m damned good at editing, and I can take great pleasure in making people look better than they are. Plus, it’s rather fun to open my inbox every morning and see what people send to me. Since StarCityGames.com serves as a news source, I love being privy to a lot of internal secrets that I just don’t get as webmaster. (Psst – some guy named “Oh-sip” is a PCP addict. He goes on jags, sleeping for weeks at a time, then he cranks up and wins a Grand Prix. You didn’t hear that from me, though.)

On the other hand, being a webmaster consists of learning stuff every day. I like learning things, but I hate feeling dumb. There are days as a webmaster where everything goes right and I feel like a God, mastering new techniques as I slide from server to server…. And then there are the days where things go wrong and I can’t quite figure out why, and I spend the rest of the week reading every obscure forum and man page trying to figure out why it doesn’t do what it says it should.

This, I am told, is normal. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

In the end, I guess I slightly prefer editing. The career path is a little more certain, and I have fewer days where I’m pounding my head against the wall. But still, there are days when I log into the shopping cart that I built by hand and watch everything ticking cleanly like an immense clockwork mechanism, and I realize I wouldn’t trade that accomplishment for anything else.

“2) Where the hell did Jon Chabot and Stijn van Dongen go? I miss their articles greatly. Stijn’s hotmail account seems to be no more, either.”

I told the story of Jon Chabot on Friday, and he sent me a very nice email (I’ll respond eventually, Jon) saying that he was now working as a store owner and pretty much judges cards based on how much money they can get him. He’s thought about writing articles, and if you think that he should, email me and I’ll pass ’em along to him.

As for Stijn? No idea. The guy was amazing, though.

“3) Where do you stand in regards to liking and playing poker vs. Magic?”

I personally hate poker. I find poker to be like a strip club: There’s probably something good underneath it all, but it has such a strong stink of mercenary lust pervading it all that I find it distasteful.

Me, I like a game; I don’t want to spend my nights slaving over some glorified way of earning a potential salary. Poker – or at the least the way I’ve seen it played – is pretty much about taking the pot. Which is fine, but it ain’t for me; I want to be able to rejoice at someone’s excellent play without having to worry about my next week’s groceries.

“4) Any more good piercing and/or loss of virginity tales you wish to pass along to your readers? There’s all sorts of virginities to lose, ya know, and I’m not just talking sexual. By which I mean of course, ‘first time I did ____’ stories.”

Well, readers of StarCityGames.com will no doubt be grateful to learn that I have pierced nothing else since the day I pierced my nipple. I thought about a Prince Albert just out of some masochistic urge to see whether I could endure one, but that seemed a rather poor reasoning to shove a spike through Little Elvis.

Thus, the current count stands at three piercings: Two ear, one nipple. Love fifteen.

As for the first time I did X, I don’t have a lot of good first-time stories. I’ll give you the advice that I learned from the first (and last) time I parachuted out of an airplane; make sure the harness is adjusted so it’s running up the inside your thighs, not your crotch. When you jump, all of your weight will be hanging down on the harness and there will be nowhere to go – so learn the lesson and make sure that your journey isn’t as excruciating as I was.

Hmm. Maybe I do know what a Prince Albert feels like.

“5) How do you manage to still look do damn dashing well into your middle-aged years now? Is there some product we can buy from an infomercial or pushcart vendor or in-mall kiosk which would allow us to be more like you?”

Dashing? I’m a fat, pear-faced balding git with bad hair, yellow teeth, and a surly disposition. I’m aging rather poorly; I just don’t show anyone bad pictures.

Remember, when a girl sends you a photo over the Internet, she looks about half that good. Me? I look about a quarter. Which is saying something sad.

“6) So what do you think of the recent US Presidential election, particularly in regard to who won? Why do you feel the election turned out the way it did? Are the results a good thing or a bad thing?”

I normally have an anti-politics rule in place – but I did promise to answer every question asked. So ya got me.

I was no fan of George Bush, mainly because of his invasion of Iraq and his poor economic policies. (Cutting taxes is good, as long as you cut spending.) I was all for invading a country after 9/11, and I think it was definitely a good idea to invade somewhere in the Middle East to show the terrorists we could not be messed with… But invading Iraq, which was not an immediate threat, over countries like Syria, Iran, and yes, Saudi Arabia, was a bad idea.

Now, our forces are stretched thin. America has a poor history of installing democracies, mainly because a democracy is a social contract that the other guy gets to have a say. Think about how amazing America is; we had a heavily-disputed election in 2000, where the wrong guy arguably won, and yet we did not have a violent civil war. That’s incredible. Yet it’s common over here.

Democracy works only when people have some grudging respect for the other side… And while George Bush doesn’t think much of Democrats, he doesn’t want to haul them into a meatgrinder. Whereas a distressing amount of the Shiites and the Sunnis want to do just that. I hope with all of my heart that George Bush can pull off peace in Iraq, and that it spreads to the rest of the Middle East… But based on the sketchy evidence I’ve seen, I don’t think he can. And if that’s the case, we’re going to be less safe.

Furthermore, I think we already are less safe. Terrorists aren’t a faction; they’re a tactic used by fanatic losers who think that the democratic system doesn’t work. I’m not convinced that by invading Iraq under a false pretense won’t cause less terrorism in the long run.

But that doesn’t answer the question: What does the Bush win mean? Well, it means the Democrats are truly f**ked. I’ve seen a lot of whiny liberals, claiming that it was close, but the real message of 2004 was this: You got everyone out that you could. Bush got everyone out that he could. And the liberals lost.

That means that the Democrats are a minority party. When you’re the minority party, you have three ways of gaining back the lost ground:

1) Outbreed your opponents. Not only will this take awhile, but good luck outbreeding some of the Mormon families.

2) Find new and untapped voters to sway to your side. Ain’t gonna happen. Everyone in America who was going to vote, did… And you lost.

3) Sway people in the middle.

This means that you have to reach out to the middle in some way, and I think that can partially be done by dropping the long-time disdain of religion that the left has held. (The left’s idea of a good God worshipper is, largely, “Someone who shuts up about it and never tries to convince anyone that his way is better.” And I speak as a Christian.)

But more importantly, the liberals have to define what they’re for. Kerry was a terrible choice because he was fuzzy, and he did have problems making up his mind, and he liked nuance so much that he qualified every statement down into a watery milquetoast. As much as I hate to admit it, I read the Newsweek post-election analysis, where Kerry would call his staffers up at 3:00 a.m. with issues they thought were settled because he spoke to someone else with a differing opinion…. And I have to say that indeed, he flip-flopped.

The Democrats have traditionally been the party of the minority, which means that over the past thirty years they’ve become terrified of the word “Exclusion.” If you want to join, the Dems say, you’re in! And we’ll never say anything that will upset you or drive you away. It doesn’t matter if you’re some shrill, whacko freak with such a low tolerance for any dissent that you’re blatantly suppressive – we love you! We’ll shut up for you!

Screw that. The Democrats need to start saying, “We don’t need you.” Because they need to define who they are, and that’s partially done by defining who you’re not. (Hint: “Not Catholic” is a really bad start if you want to appeal to the reasonable Christians… And yes, there are some. They should be on your side automatically, and the fact that they’re not should tell you how off your message is.)

What sort of world do the Democrats want to build, aside from one that’s not Republican? I don’t know. It’s going to be a harder sell than the 1950s utopia promised by the Republicans – but until they can come up with something better, they’d better get used to the taste of shoe leather.

“7) Without fifty annoying hyperlinks to fifty-word articles (meow!), please walk us through ‘a day in the life’ of yourself, either a nominally ‘work’ day, or nominally ‘not at work’ day (if there is actually a difference.)”

I wake up. I slog to the computer. I check email, and I usually do some public writing if I’m in the mood for commentary. Then I look at the daily bug reports, seeing if there’s anything that needs to be patched on the shopping cart. If there are, I try to fix ’em.

Then I head out into my living room with my laptop, throw on a movie from Netflix, and program while I watch something in the background. I do this for long periods at a time. Sometimes it involves research.

Really, it’s fairly boring.

“8) Chocolate or vanilla? Gin or tequila? Camels or chaw? Burgers or hot dogs? Innie or outie? Dominant or submissive? Legal or illegal? Tacit or stated? Tactical or strategic? Beatdown or combo or control? Coke or Pepsi? Beer or wine? Minivan or SUV? Motorcycle or ragtop? Comb-over or chromedome? Detached or passionate? Champions or Unhinged? Thanksgiving or Christmas?”

Chocolate rocks. When I worked at Ben and Jerry’s, every dumb seven-year old came in the door and said, “Ah wanna vuh-nillo cone wid spinkles!” Always, always colored sprinkles. Then they’d smear their crinkled little faces with snot and sugar, beaming as they dropped stuff all over the floor for me to clean up.

So chocolate. Vanilla, I hate.

Gin. It makes a man mean.

Camels or chaw? I don’t smoke, and I find the habit repulsive, so neither. I chew pens daily, and usually go through a twenty-box every two months or so. Every three months or so I have a catastrophic explosion that turns my entire mouth a sticky blue. So I’d say “Sanford.”

Burgers are way better. For one thing, you can always eat a burger in the car. For another thing, burgers have mustard and ketchup. That rocks.

Innie. I’m an innie. Outies are heathen freaks, marked at birth by Satan Himself.

Dominant or submissive? Depends on my mood. I’m usually dominant, but I don’t mean to be.

Legal is always better. I pay for my music when it’s available (I have no qualms about bootlegging music or DVDs if the content producer refuses to release them in a reasonable amount of time), I pay my taxes, I try to play fair. Illegal is stupid, a breach of the social contract.

Stated. You know the best way to drive me crazy? Go passive-aggressive on me, and expect me to know what you mean even if you won’t say it out loud. I want to know where you stand, and you should have the guts to tell me even if you hate me.

Tactical and strategic? What’s the difference?

Aggro-control. I want to beat the crap out of my opponents, but I don’t want to lose the entire game to a Wrath of God. My best multiplayer decks have severe elements of control, like Pernicious Deed or a bunch of Counterspells. But still, the end always comes at the hand of some huge critter, shielded with a barrage of protection spells from moi… And that’s the way I like it.

Pepsi. I drink four liters of Diet Pepsi every day. I keep a fridge in my office, and drink it all out of a red Hurricane glass I picked up in Las Vegas at the Riviera. It’s perfect for my needs; cool glass that holds the cold, weighty enough that it doesn’t tip over, and voluminous enough to hold twenty ounces.

Beer. I try to drink wine every two years or so, just because I think I should know all about wine – and in fact, I’ll be taking a wine-tasting class with my wife sometime in early 2005 – but I have yet to be able to get into it. However, a good flavorful beer is always welcome at my table.

Minivan or SUV? Neither. They both waste gas, and most people don’t need ’em. I could care less about cars; all I need is a running Saturn that isn’t too scraped up and will go fast enough, and I’ll be happy. My wife loves sports cars, but I look at the Beemer and go, “Huh? Why would you pay $35,000 for that?”

Motorcycle or what?

Chromedome over combover. My hair is receding. I am not sure that a normal haircut is the best choice, but my wife likes the little hair I have left. She’s the one I have to impress, so I keep it. But I keep thinking that I should cut it off at the pass (heh) and go bald. But I’m no Rizzo.

Passionate. I’m always passionate. Why the hell would you want to not care?

Champions of Kamigawa, by a hair. Unhinged is really, really cool and I like it, but I couldn’t play draft with it week after week. Champions is less innovative, but it lasts longer.

Actually, I would have been a lot happier with a 350-card set where 150 of the cards were whacky, and the other 200 were normal. That, I could have played forever. But when every card is Krusty-the-clown style, hoo hah FUNNY! I can’t deal.

Christmas. I make a twenty-page list every year. People should buy me stuff.

Signing off,

The Ferrett

The Here Edits This Here Site For This Here Week Guy

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