The Monsters Know What They're Doing: an RPG sourcebook for DMs who want to imbue monsters with deep, smart tactics

For years, Keith Ammann has maintained his blog, The Monsters Know What They're Doing, in which he carefully laid out the logical tactics that the monsters of Dungeons and Dragons would use in combat, based on their alignment, stats, and habitats, creating sophisticated advice for Dungeon Masters hoping to move their combat encounters from rote stab-stab-kill affairs into distinctive, memorable strategy-and-tactics affairs that created not just variety and challenges for players, but also depth and verisimilitude. Now, Ammann's work has been collected in the first of two planned volumes: The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters is one of the most interesting, thoughtful, smart RPG sourcebooks I've ever read.

A Public Service: a comprehensive, comprehensible guide to leaking documents to journalists and public service groups without getting caught

In A Public Service, activist/trainer Tim Schwartz presents the clearest-ever guide to securely blowing the whistle, explaining how to exfiltrate sensitive information from a corrupt employer -- ranging from governments to private firms -- and get it into the hands of a journalist or public interest group in a way that maximizes your chances of making a difference (and minimizes your chances of getting caught).

Review: Aeropress Go, the best travel coffee you'll ever brew

I've been writing about the Aeropress coffee maker for years, an ingenious, compact, low-cost way of brewing outstanding coffee with vastly less fuss and variation than any other method. For a decade, I've kept an Aeropress in my travel bag, even adding a collapsible silicone kettle for those hotel rooms lacking even a standard coffee-maker to heat water with.

After more than a decade, Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg's YA classics The PLAIN Janes are back!

[I adored Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg's YA graphic novels The PLAIN Janes and Janes in Love, which were the defining titles for the late, lamented Minx imprint from DC comics. A decade later, the creators have gotten the rights back and there's a new edition Little, Brown. We're honored to have an exclusive transcript of Cecil and Jim in conversation, discussing the origins of Plain Janes. Make no mistake: this reissue is amazing news, and Plain James is an underappreciated monster of a classic, finally getting another day in the spotlight. If you haven't read it, consider yourself lucky, because you're about to get another chance. -Cory]

This cheap professional grade electric razor is an upgrade I never knew I wanted

I started going bald in my mid-twenties, thanks to a combination of stress and shitty genes. I put up with it, right up to the point where I started thinking about getting a hair cut that would mask the amount of hair that I had lost. Realizing that, for me at least, this was the way to vain insanity, I went to my barber and told him to shave it all off, right down to the wood. I've been shaving my head ever since. For close to two decades, that shaving was done with either a straight razor or an old school safety razor, depending on whether or not I was traveling. Unfortunately, my relationship with sharp things and hot lather came to an end this past September. As part of  a physical with my new family doctor, it was discovered that I had an 80% blockage in my ticker—I'd been trying to kill myself, for years, with booze and bad food (and once again, shitty genes.) I had a stent put in me and was prescribed a ton of cardiac-related medications, blood thinners, included. My doctor made it clear that shaving with an exposed blade needed to be a thing that I didn't do anymore. Any injuries to my scalp, no matter how minor, would bleed like a sunovabitch. "You should invest in an electric razor," My cardiologist told me. "You'll get used to it, real quick," my friend Richard, who'd has a stent put in his heart the year before, told me. Read the rest

Review: SpotHero should be called SpotZero

SpotHero is an app that lets you reserve parking in advance. It seemed like a cool idea, so I installed it and gave it a try when I had a business lunch on Tuesday. I entered the name of the restaurant in Hollywood and SpotHero showed me a map of parking spots near the restaurant. I found one on the corner of Argyle and Sunset for $6.

When I arrived at the parking lot, I found that the entrance was barricaded. A worker standing by the entrance told me that the entire lot had been rented for the day. I showed her my SpotHero reservation, and she called for the lot attendant who came over told me the same thing. He said I could go to another lot at the corner of Hollywood and Vine and that I "might be able to work something out with them." He described the lot, but when I drove there I couldn't find the lot he was talking about, and I had my doubts that they would let me park there anyway.

At this point, I was already late for my meeting. Fortunately, I found a metered spot in the street, which is rare for this area, and paid $8 for 2 hours. So I ended up being late and paying $14 for parking.

After my meeting, I contacted SpotHero through Twitter to let them know about the problem with the lot. I received a reply on Wednesday morning:

This is Emily from SpotHero, our Social Media Monitor passed your information along to me.

Read the rest

92-year-old's memoir tells the forgotten story of a German official who sabotaged Nazi deportations and saved more Jews than Schindler

Hans Calmeyer was a left-wing German lawyer -- his law license was temporarily suspended when he was accused of being a Communist -- who was inducted into the German army under the Nazis, who put him in charge of an office that determined which Dutch people would be deported to Auschwitz during the Nazi occupation. Read the rest

Mozilla updates its "Privacy Not Included" gift guide for 2019

As with last year, the Mozilla Foundation's privacy researchers have produced a guide to electronic gifts called "Privacy Not Included," which rates gadgets on a "creepiness" scale, with devices like the Sonos One SL dumb "smart speaker" (Sonos ripped out all the junk that isn't about playing music) getting top marks, and Ring Security Cams, Nest Cams, Amazon Echos, and other cam/mic-equipped gadgets coming in as "Super Creepy!" (the exclamation point is part of the rating). Read the rest

Why do new psychotherapies work, and then stop?

On Slate Star Codex, psychiatrist Scott Alexander offers a "book review of "All Therapy Books", which is a jumping-off point for asking how it is that psychotherapy is periodically rocked by new therapies that seem to perform incredibly well, but whose confirmed efficacy shelves off over time. Read the rest

Girl on Film: a graphic novel memoir of a life in the arts and the biological basis for memory-formation

Cecil Castellucci (previously) is a polymath artist: YA novelist, comics writer, librettist, rock star; her latest book, Girl on Film, is an extraordinary memoir of her life in the arts, attending New York's School for the Performing Arts (AKA "The Fame School") and being raised by her parents, who are accomplished scientists.

Why are we still treating economics as if it were an empirical science that makes reliable predictions?

Robert Skidelsky is an eccentric British economist: trained at Oxford, author of a definitive three-volume biography of Keynes, a Lord who sat with the Tories as their economics critic during the Blair regime, who now sits as an independent who is aligned with Labour's left wing. Back in September, Yale University Press published Skidelsky's latest book, Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics, a retelling of the history of economics as a discipline that seeks to uncover how economics' failings created the 2008 crisis and have only made things worse since. Read the rest

Lynda Barry's "Making Comics" is one of the best, most practical books ever written about creativity

I've been a fan of cartoonist, novelist and memoirist Lynda Barry for decades, long before she was declared a certified genius; Barry's latest book, Making Comics is an intensely practical, incredibly inspiring curriculum for finding, honing and realizing your creativity through drawing and writing.

The First Scarfolk Annual: a mysterious artifact from a curiously familiar eternal grimdark 1970s

Since 2013, Richard Littler has been publishing Scarfolk, a darkly comic series of brilliantly photoshopped artifacts from a dark and brutal English town trapped in a loop between 1969 and 1979; Littler published his first Scarfolk book in 2014, a pretty straight-ahead best-of anthology that was a sheer delight, and since then, he's taken a brilliant detour into animation, while still keeping up on Scarfolk, which has now spawned its second -- and even better -- book: The Scarfolk Annual.

Kindness and Wonder: Mr Rogers biography is a study in empathy and a deep, genuine love for children

History has been kind to Fred Rogers' legacy; the beloved children's entertainer does not have the intergenerational staying power of Sesame Street (thanks in large part to Rogers' relentless focus on making programming aimed exclusively at small children, without any pretense to entertaining their grownups), but touchstones like his Congressional testimony on public TV funding, his remarks after 9/11 and his look for the helpers speech continue to bring a smile and a tear to all who see them, whether for the first time or the five hundredth; Mr Rogers was exactly what he appeared to be, incredibly, and the riddle of how someone could be so sincere and loving has sent rumormongers off to the land of conspiracy looking for an answer. But the real Mr Rogers story -- as chronicled in Gavin Edwards' new book, Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever -- is both more mundane and more amazing than any outlandish story.

Review / Control

Remedy Entertainment's Control is a masterpiece of weird architecture and bold design, but a tiring shooter.

Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments": a long-awaited Handmaid's Tale sequel fulfills its promise

When Margaret Atwood published "The Handmaid's Tale" back in 1985, it was at the dawn of the Reagan era, when the gains made by feminism and other liberation movements trembled before an all-out assault mounted by a bizarre coalition of the super-rich and the (historically apolitical) evangelical movement; 35 years later, even more ground has been lost and in many ways it's hard to imagine a more apt moment for Atwood to have published a sequel: The Testaments.

Medallion Status: comparison is the thief of joy, and John Hodgman is the thief-taker

John Hodgman's last book, Vacationland, was a kind of absurdist memoir of a weird kid who'd grown up to the kind of self-aware grownup who really wanted to dig into how he got to where he was, with bone-dry wit and real heart (I compared it to Steve Martin's Cruel Shoes, but for adults who'd outgrown it); in his new book, Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms, Hodgman offers something much more uncomfortable (if no less funny), a series of vignettes that explore the hollowness of privilege, the toxicity of comparison, and the melancholy of accomplishment. Read the rest

More posts