Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.



My First Book

The first book that I read was Singing Wheels; I asked my parents to read it to me many, many times before I learned to read, so I'm sure they were glad when I could finally read it on my own.

Why Is Everybody Too Busy?

Why is everybody I know too busy? Nobody seems to have any time for enjoying life and just plain contemplation.

Jane Lew

Jane Lew is a tiny hamlet in Lewis County in central West Virginia, slightly south of the the Harrison/Lewis county border. It is, if I remember correctly, named after the wife, Jane Lewis, of one of the earlier settlers in the area.

Jesse's Run

Jesse's Run is a small creek near Jane Lew that is named after Jesse Hughes, the local historical homicidal maniac. He was early settler in the area (his cabin was apparently located where the Jane Lew exit overpass is now, at the mouth of Jesse's Run) and a number of stories are told locally about his unpleasant relations (that's where the homicidal mania comes in) with the Indians of the area, including one that appears to be a variation on a legend told about an ancient Greek hero.

The Desk From Hell

My friends and family sometimes talk about my Desk From Hell. I don't see why: it only takes five full carloads to transport the small version. And the micro version fits in a 39 inch wide, 7 foot tall, 36 inch deep cube! Of course, even I haven't seen the full version for some time. The large version is a L shape with both legs 80 inches long 32 inches deep. It is about 83 inches tall.

Alas, The Desk From Hell is gone, collapsed into a single moderately sized table. (October 1998)


SPI was the company that published (among other things) the DragonQuest role-playing game. Apparently it was eventually taken over by TSR and dissolved, alas. (Greg Costikyan's analysis of the death of wargames (or you can find the "A Farewell to Hexes" link from his SPI Compendium) contains the clearest explanation of what happened to SPI that I have found.) DQ was the first roleplaying game I played after starting with AD&D, and was a breath of clean air: short, clear, simple, and reasonably flexible.

Why Write a Campaign History?

Why did I write the Frontiers of Alusia campaign history? Since we only got together to play once or twice every couple of years in the last years of the campaign, I had trouble remembering when certain events had happened and what non-player characters the characters had met and when they had met, and where the characters had been. I knew that if I had trouble remembering, the players certainly would also. For some time I had been writing quick summaries in my notes after we'd played a session, so I took those and wrote up a campaign history and bugged the players for comments. Eventually it turned into a good-sized pamphlet. Later I converted it (using unroff, an application written in Elk Scheme) to HTML. (If you are interesting in Elk Scheme, check out the new maintainer.)

What is Steampunk?

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction or fantasy which presents an alternate history in which Victorian era science is considerably more advanced in one or more fields than in our history, either because a Victorian era theory such as the Luminous Ether was actually correct, or because some real or possible technology was developed earlier than in our history (such as computers or anti-matter). The "Steam" comes from the prevalence of steam-powered mechanisms in actual Victorian history.

Some examples of the genre are K.W. Jetter's The Infernal Device, James. P. Blaylock's books about Langdon St. Ives (Homunculus and Lord Kelvin's Machine), The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and Anti-Ice by Stephen Baxter.

Rereading Books

I've always reread books, as far back as I can remember, starting with Singing Wheels, the first book that I read. I've always been a very quick reader (though not at the expense of comprehension, of course), and I often read and reread books that appealed to me several times. The book I've probably read the most times is The Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip; I lost track sometime in the middle 10s of how many times I've read it. There are some books that I reread every few (one, two, five, ten) years to see how the book and I have changed as I've grown older. Patrick O'Brian's “Aubrey and Maturin” books are in this category; I am usually in the middle of one of these at any moment, and I've on occasion finished the series (all twenty & ½ of them) and started back again on the first one.

In the Middle

I often (even usually) have several books that I'm working on at one time. When I was in my early to mid teens I often had five or more that I was involved in at one time, reading fifty pages or so of one and then turning to another. At other times I've put down one book for several years, then have taken it up again at the same place later.