About The Diplomatic Pouch

Manus Hand, Publisher

Hi again, everybody. Welcome back for yet another exciting issue of The Zine. I've got a number of things to cover here, so let's get right to it.

First of all, as you may or may not know, I found myself very busy before the publication of this issue -- so busy, in fact, that I considered skipping the issue (after all, retreat phases don't always happen). Leaving for another paragraph the reason why I was very busy, I'll just say that this near-decision was also motivated in part by the apparent dearth of articles. Up until one week before the scheduled publication date of 31 May, the number of submitted articles could have been counted on one hand with room to spare.

Then, all of a sudden, articles started pouring in, and it became obvious that abandoning the S1996R issue would be a mistake. However, my time was not available to edit the surprise harvest of articles. In stepped my savior, my fellow DP Councillor Simon Szykman, and while I attended to the business which I'll discuss in a minute here, he did the yeoman work of readying the issue for publication. I truly can't thank him enough. Other than my small contributions to the article which Simon and I are submitting for publication in the Proceedings of the upcoming World DipCon, and the customary Deposits column and this "About" column, everything you see in this issue is the fruit of Simon's editing pen. Did I say I can't thank him enough. Well, since this is the case, I suppose that, by definition, it bears repeating.

What was I so busy with, you ask? Well, as you may or may not know (but you should at least know a bit about this, since I mentioned it in the last issue), I've been writing a Diplomacy judge in the Python programming language. I became enamored with the language and its perfect suitability to this project, and I motivated myself enough to write about my experiences, submitting this write-up to the 4th Python Conference. I was surprised (to say the least) that my submission was deemed to contain concepts that were worthy of presenting to a larger audience, and I was invited to present it at the Conference.

Much of my time was thereupon spent arranging for funding and transportation, and even more was spent in the preparation of overhead projector transparencies and the girding of my intestines for such a presentation. Thus prepared, I journeyed to the San Francisco Bay Area and there attended the Python Conference. You should know that I introduced The Game to a number of my fellow attendees (or, if they already knew Diplomacy, I introduced the e-mail hobby to them). Some of the new names who will be joining the PBEM community soon will have come from my informal recruiting efforts.

My presentation went off rather well, I thought, and the entire conference, with its after-hours activities, was very very fun. I look forward to the next Python Conference, and I encourage any of the readers of this page who are computer geeks like I am to check out the Python language.

It is also my hope and belief that some of the Python cogniscenti who I met will accept my offer to assist with the writing of what I'm calling the "dpjudge" (since it will run here at the Pouch site), whose design calls for it to serve both e-mail and Web-based play.

On my arrival in San Francisco, I met (yes, met, as in face-to-face) the DP Council member Matt Self (he of the Tactics Library) and the redoubtable Conrad Minshall (of DSI fame). Having learned that I was to be coming to the Bay area, these two (who live there) arranged to dine with me. In fact, Conrad even attended the Python Conference, with the intention of learning the language for the purpose of putting his shoulder to the "dpjudge" effort.

A lot of the mail I get about The Pouch asks for one thing in particular: more personal stories -- biographies of the DP councilors, interviews with hobby personalities and legends...things of that nature. With this in mind, I can't help but feel that the pleasant dinner which I had with Matt and Conrad deserves far more space than I can give it here, and so I resolve to write up my memories of that long and enjoyable evening of Diplomatic conversation, and publish it in a future issue of The Pouch. I'd do it for this issue, but the calendar has advanced so far now that the Zine must go to the Net without it.

You might remember that last issue I tentatively mentioned that this current issue would have a "judge coding" theme. Well, that idea fell through. Although my "dpjudge" is quite far along, I ironically had to abandon work on it for a time in order to ready my Python Conference presentation. I don't know exactly how Stephen Beaulieu's parallel effort is going (Stephen was planning to have his system up and running for World Dip Con attendees and absentees to use), and Danny Loeb's excellent article on computer adjudication of orders is undergoing some further revisions, and so there is no such "judge coding" theme in evidence this issue. (Instead, the issue took on a life of its own and seems to have a "theme" which centers on what is called the "classic PBEM" style of play.)

Speaking of World Dip Con, I'm definitely going to be there, as will Simon (and Pitt Crandlemire and [of course] Larry Peery, among other Pouch contributors). We're working on attiring ourselves in Diplomatic Pouch T-shirts, so hopefully we'll stand out (and hopefully you'll be there to see and meet us). Those with your heads in the sand might need to know that WDC (and the North American DipCon) will be held over the 4th of July weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Arrive early -- meet my plane and give me a hero's welcome! I'm looking very much forward to the convention, and most especially to meet the revered Allan B. Calhamer, inventor of The Game, and to get his impression of The Diplomatic Pouch (if he hasn't seen it yet, he'll be able to see it at the convention).

All that remains is for me to apologize again for the tardiness of this issue. While I don't want to call the text above a list of good excuses, I do hope you understand why the delay was unavoidable. Enjoy the issue, everyone, and I hope to see many of you in Columbus!

Manus Hand, Publisher

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