About The Diplomatic Pouch

Manus Hand, Publisher

What Took So Dang Long??

Let's start out this "About" article with the sad fact that this issue is the latest (nearly four weeks later than deadline) to publish in the history of the Zine. There are a few reasons for this, but in short, they can be summed up in two words:

Real Life

We hobbyists joke a lot about real life and how it can screw things up on you, but every so often, it has a way of making sure you know how important it is.

About six weeks ago, my father found out that the "back" pains he'd been having for years were heart attacks, and that he should fix himself post-haste or become unfixable. It was a very stressful time on him, and, although I was only involved as a spectator and hand-holder for my mom, I wasn't able to really think of much else. He came through the quintuple bypass with flying colors (nearly three weeks ago now) and is well on the road to recovery, but as soon as he came out of surgery, I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't even known was in me. I hadn't realized how stressed I was until it was over. Dad's condition prompted me to start in on regular doctor's appointments, and I began them while he was hospitalized but before he had gone through the surgery. My blood pressure registered high each time (a surprise to me), but when I went in after dad was back home recovering, my own blood pressure was back down. Like I say, I just hadn't known my own stress level, I guess.

While I'm on the subject, I had to ask for a long deadline extension in a couple of my ongoing games so that I could deal properly with my father's hospitalization and with trips I made north. I mentioned the reason for my extension request, and that my father is e-mailable. He received a number of well-wishes from the Diplomacy community, and I want to personally thank all of you who sent him words of encouragement (which he got on returning home from the hospital). As I've said, I feel very proud to be involved in the Diplomacy hobby. It is made up of thousands of very kind people. We are indeed much like a worldwide fraternal society. Like most players (I hope) I have come to know people from literally all over the world, and I don't think I am saying too much to call a large number of them my personal friends.

Other than dad's successful surgery, my own work piled up and got to be a lot of fun to do, so I was occupied with that. When I finally got the time to get to The Zine, something went haywire with the modems at my office, which I use for off-hours Net access, and I was without a way to get to The Pouch (or e-mail) for nearly two weeks except during work hours.

Thankfully, Simon (who also has been extraordinarily busy) was able to do a lot of editing, and we got some help from a couple of volunteers (Thomas Kuhlmann and Frank Mayer) as well. However, even this wasn't enough to make the 31 March deadline, because as it turns out (and as you will see), we had a lot of submissions this time around. As a matter of fact, we had so many that we ended up deciding to save a few until next issue. If you are one of the contributors who doesn't see your article in this issue, my apologies, but it will be in the next one.

I know -- excuses, excuses, but hey, if you didn't get excuses, you wouldn't even get a Pouch this time!

A lot of people have been mailing me wondering, "where's The Pouch?" There've been more than a few postings to the rec.games.diplomacy newsgroup asking that same question. I've got to say, it's nice to be so loved. Honest. If The Zine is ever this late again (God forbid), I hope there is still as much interest and concern!

I've also received some very understanding words from postal 'zine publishers and ex-publishers, and I want to thank them here as well. Publishing is never a real easy thing, and to do it to a deadline is near impossible.

My apologies to you all for the times when deadlines are missed, and my thanks to you all for your understanding.

Speaking of Real Life...

A trio of sad notices have come to my attention recently. The sister of Björn von Knorring, a world-renowned Swedish player who I met first at WDC VI and then again in Göteborg at WDC VII, is very seriously ill. I want to extend to him all the best thoughts and prayers of his many, many friends in the Diplomacy community, among whom I happily count myself. We are thinking of you, Björn, and we will miss you at Chapel Hill.

Cyrille Sevin, the reigning World Champion, was in a serious automobile accident and was left comatose for two days back in February. The last word we have is that he is steadily recovering, and our thoughts go out to him as well! Cyrille is a world-class player and a very nice man, and hopefully he will be back to health soon. If you want to drop him an e-mail with words of encouragement, which he will get as soon as his condition allows, you can find his address in The Hobby Registry.

Another tragedy befell us when Julian Giles, an e-mail player who made his name as a frequent contributor to the rec.games.diplomacy newsgroup and who became a prolific player and good friend to many, died earlier this month. A number of games have been started in his memory.

News That is Bad But Not Nearly As Bad

This issue is the first non-retreat issue that does not see the publication of a Dan Shoham "Diplomacy Academy" article. I don't mean to call more attention to that fact than it deserves, but I thought it was worth noting here simply by way of thanking Dan for being the most constant of all the regular contributors! Doubtless, he will be back next issue with another lesson taught by way of End of Game Statements.

Pitt Crandlemire, our long-absent Big Dipper, has a killer topic on which to write his article, but he didn't quite make it back to these pages this issue. Maybe next issue. Right, Pitt?

Oh, Come On, Manus! You did Nothing Diplomatic??? Since January??

Okay, okay, you got me. One accomplishment that I got to this first quarter, and which I consider rather significant, is the creation of the Crystal Ball Central Website. Modeled after my Payola Central site, the Crystal Ball site handles game details for the players of (one guess) the Crystal Ball variant. That took a fair chunk of time, but now there are three games running, and the site seems to be running bug-free (at least since that last little bug, reported a couple days ago).

While we're on the topic of variants, I've also been busy in spare moments here and there working on two new offerings. One of these will be a map variant based in Ireland during the time of the Vikings. I've enlisted those most famous of map variant creators, Vince Mous and Andy Schwarz, to help me.

The second of these is an idea long dormant that Pitt Crandlemire and I knocked around long ago and is now getting knocked around again by us and Wes Makin. Soon enough, we plan to introduce a variant with overtones of H.G. Welles.

Is That All You Did? Just Work on Your Weird Variants?

In a word, no. Let's see here....

Quote, Unquote

Back in the fourth century, a fellow who called himself Aelius Donatus had occasion to say, "Pereant, inquit, qui ante nos nostra dixerunt." We can only but agree with wit like that.

What Mr. Donatus would have said if he were Mr. Donatus (that is, if he were a modern-day English speaker) is, "Confound those who have said our remarks before us." Confound them, indeed!

We at The Pouch have managed to compile all sorts of quotes, each one relating to the Diplomacy player's view on the world, each one from the lips or pen of a famous (or once-famous) personage, and each one something that one of us Diplomats would and should have become famous for saying, doggone it! Confound those ancients for thinking of them first!

In spare minutes here and there, Simon and I have added quotes to the list until the count has grown to over 260! (For any who haven't noticed, a random quote from the quote list greets you each time you visit the front page of The Pouch.)

Anything Else?

Oh yes indeed. We're just getting started!

More than a few other things have changed and been updated over the past months. Not only have the game queues celebrated their first birthday, but they have done so while going over the 500 games created mark. The frenetic pace established last year, surprising us all -- more than eight games a week (isn't that a Beatles' song?) -- continues unabated!

And did everyone see the April Fools' version of the front page that Simon put together? It was a very successful day, and we had a lot of fun reading all the mail and posts made by those who got a hearty laugh after being victimized!

What else? Well, the Online Resources continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Just check the constantly-updated "What's New" page to see what I mean.

In one of the more major accomplishments, Simon has added a whole new (and very hefty) page entitled Improve the Way You Play Diplomacy, which provides links to over 100 strategy articles, sorted just the way you would hope to find them.

Not enough for you? Well, read on.

Open Sesame

I finally got around to doing what I wanted to do to The Library of Diplomacy Openings. If you haven't checked it out yet, it's interactive and much easier to use. Find the opening you're looking for by selecting the moves for each unit from pulldown menus. Or select the name of an opening. Either way, you're sure to be entertained and educated. Perhaps it's egomaniacal, but I'm rather proud of the categorization and systematization I've done for the openings for each power, working with (and depending a lot on) what had come before.

The Library is only destined to grow. The anonymous contributor in this issue of the Zine has grand plans for it. He approached me with them in an e-mail, and I was astonished that what he planned to do was exactly what I had always hoped to do. So, as is by now expected from me, I roped him into a commitment to do it. Look for big things in the Library of Diplomacy Openings.

Still not enough? Well, I saved the pieces de resistance for last.

Where Do We Stand?

Fulfilling a long-standing promise, I also finally got around to doing something that, in my opinion, The Pouch has needed to do for a long time.

Two things, in fact.

The Pouch -- through a prominent, pernament link on the Face-To-Face section's main page -- now makes available the current face-to-face player rankings. The rankings are the long-entrenched and well-respected "American Diplomacy Ratings," a system established by FTF veteran Buz Eddy. Any Pouch visitor can now peruse the rankings of the top players in the face-to-face hobby. GameMasters in tournament and sanctioned settings are encouraged to mail or e-mail game results to Buz, and the ADR rankings will be updated accordingly! It took me long enough to get this up, didn't it, Buz? I remember promising you once that it would happen after that very happy day when the Broncos won the Super Bowl, but that day came and went (without hell freezing over, somehow) and it remained undone. But finally, we're off and running with it.

Similarly, I got really ambitious, and -- admittedly, when I should have been editing The Zine -- I created the PBEM Ratings service. You can get to it from the E-Mail section's main page. PBEM ratings here at The Pouch will be based on the YARS system developed by Bruce Duewer. As each standard game that is run on an Internet judge completes, its results are reported automatically to the system. The database, at the time of this writing, is therefore very small, but it is bound to grow and soon enough we will all have at our fingertips an up-to-the-minute list of who the true masters of the PBEM game are.

I am aware that the Internet judges are not the only avenue for PBEM games. A lot of games are run over Cat-23 and by other independent GameMasters, and pretty soon ICQ play will be off and running. As the ratings service matures, I will beef it up to be able to accept result listings from any GM. As it stands now, it automatically receives results from those judges that are participating in the effort (lobby your favorite judgekeeper if his judge doesn't yet show up in the list on the Ratings page). Additionally, you are able to call for the inclusion into the database of any completed standard game on any judge at all.

Now we just need a Postal Ratings listing. How about it, Jamie...?

And Finally, Something Really Important

Yes, this issue is late, but the thought of not publishing it and just sliding the contributed articles to the next issue never entered my mind. You know why? Because then we Pouchsters would be missing our last and final big chance to push for attendance at World DipCon VIII, at Chapel Hill, North Carolina next month.

Almost all of of the DP Council (Simon, Jamie, Tim, and myself) will be there. So will Pitt Crandlemire (The Big Dipper, and the 1996 World Champ), Vince Mous (Modernaire), Buz Eddy (the ADR guy mentioned above), Edi Birsan (developer of the Lepanto and Sealion), Larry Peery (everyone knows Larry!), and Melinda Holley (surely and deservedly the most famous female in the hobby, and one of the most feared Diplomats of either sex).

Not to mention Bruce Reiff, Dan Mathias, Jim Burgess, Don Williams, Tom Nash, David Norman, Michael McCabe, Mike Gonsalves, Mark Fassio, Tom Korbin, and Mark Wightman. And David Hood (the organizer), of course!

If you won't be there, you will live to regret it. If you will be there, look for me and the rest of the Pouch crowd. We'll be happy to meet you! Because we'll be the guys with the T-shirts that say "Stab You Soon..." on the back.

Enjoy The Pouch!

Manus Hand

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