This has probably been done before, but here’s a consolidated map of Gotham City as depicted in the Arkham series.


(WordPress used to automatically make a link to a bigger version, but now it doesn’t, so click that link to get there.)

Weirdly, Arkham Knight (which we have to assume is Rocksteady’s last word on the subject) tilts the Arkham City portion of the map by 45°. If you don’t believe me, check the in-game map! You can identify the courthouse, the Peabody Institute, Wonder Tower, and the steel mill, and clearly see that the street grid is tilted relative to Miagani Island.

Arkham Origins gives the location of Wayne Manor and Blackgate.  The Origins portion of the map may be oversized here.

Seagate is from the Matter of Family DLC for Knight; its location relative to the city is not given.

The inset (bottom left) gives the Arkham City map; it has a little peninsula that doesn’t appear in Origins, and also makes downtown Gotham much closer than in Knight.

As a bonus, here’s a comparison of the same view in Arkham City and Arkham Origins.


Not everything matches up, but a lot does. What you chiefly notice, I think, is that even with the snow effects, City was much clearer. Origins has way too much fog.


The people in charge of the Angoulême comics festival were recently completely unable to think of any female cartoonists, so I thought I’d help by contributing a list of more than 200.

If your favorites aren’t there… tell me!  Especially if they’re non-English.  I’m especially weak on manga.

As it happened, I was already reading Deborah Elizabeth Whaley’s Black Women in Sequence, which is about black female cartoonists.  It has a whole chapter about Catwoman, so I had to read it.  (Catwoman has been played on the screen by black actresses twice, going back to 1967, so it’s not surprising she has a special meaning for black comics fans.)

The most interesting chapter is on Jackie Ormes, who had several syndicated strips in black newspapers from the late ’30s till the ’50s.  I would love to see more of her work; it’d be a fascinating glimpse into those times.  What’s striking about her elegant, smart characters is simply that they look human, and sexy, at a time when white cartoonists were producing abominations like the Spirit’s Ebony.

Anyway, Whaley’s theorycrafting doesn’t turn me on much, but the introduction to a bunch of artists is worthwhile.  (I kept wanting to ask what she thought of Jaime Hernandez, or what she might think of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new Black Panther…)



This week I cobbled together an impressive argument, to myself, which succeeded in convincing me that I needed an iPad Air. So now I have this little portable slab of computation sitting on my desk. The main expected use is as a camera. Here’s an example, otherwise known as “what every new iPad user discovers within the first hour”:


I hear there’s an app that will distort your face, too

Something else I needed, which you can see above: computer glasses. I’m near-sighted, which is supposed to mean I can see near things, but in the last few years my near vision got fuzzy with my glasses on. I learned to take them off, but the in-focus zone is now about 8 inches from the book or monitor. So now I have computer glasses, so I can sit at a comfortable (and probably healthier) distance from the screen.

I haven’t had a lot of chances to play with the gestural interface before, but I have to say: I love it. The basic gestures are intuitive, and manipulating the screen directly is a huge conceptual improvement over doing it remotely with the mouse. It’s not as great for detailed manipulation— but I learned how to make a stylus with a wet Q-tip wrapped in aluminum foil.  (Yes, that is a thing. The iPad screen works with your body’s static electricity, which is why most other objects don’t work as styluses.)

I’ve seen Apple Maps before, but their 3-D representation of major cities is pretty damn awesome.


Can you fuse the images? (I can’t.)

It’s neat that Apple has spent some ungodly number of man-hours creating 3-D models of all these buildings, including their setbacks and roof units. They could have wimped out with the Aqua Tower, above, but no, the undulations on the sides are 3-D modeled.

Sadly, they haven’t done the 3-D modeling out this far from the city.  They’ve done Evanston, though, where I went to college.

Another neat thing: it has a charger, but instead of using that, you can just hook it up to the Mac. Hey, it saves an electric outlet.

One reason I got the iPad instead of a Surface is because it talks nicely to my Mac. It can use the local WiFi, or the cable— I was able to grab the pictures easily enough, and to copy some PDFs to the iPad for reading.

Another projected use is research. I wish I’d had it back when I was researching numbers— scrawling numbers down in the library was always a hassle, to say nothing of the surprisingly tedious process of identifying what language a book represents (it’s often different from the name in Ruhlen or the Ethnologue) and whether I had its numbers already.

(The one thing I won’t use it for is phone calls, as I didn’t pick up a phone plan with it.)

For those who were concerned, we are back at home.  We spent seven weeks at our lovely and patient friends’ house.

Here’s a view of the courtyard of the building next door, from shortly after the fire:


The whole 22-unit building next door was demolished rather quickly. It took up a surprisingly small swath of land, which is empty for now. It used to dwarf our 2-story building, but now ours looks normal-sized.

There were several hiccups along the way. They replaced the roof; but after removing the old roof the roofers didn’t put out enough tarps, and it rained, causing water damage to our unit. They repaired this, but that caused more delay and a spray of dust that covered everything.

Just before we were going to move in, the unit below us had plumbing trouble: their sink was overflowing when either they or we used the water.  This was fixed (by rodding out the line), but from that time on we had no hot water in our kitchen.

The plumbers came by, saw that the report was correct, and started taking pipes apart.  They were clogged with rust.  But they got to where the water comes out of the wall without getting any water flow.  Apparently the riser that comes from below was blocked too.  They talked alarmingly about taking out the countertop and the sink to get at the riser, which would have been a huge mess.

Fortunately they thought about this, and came back on Monday to get at the wall from the other side— which is the building’s front hall.  This was no small task, because our walls are plaster, which is like rock.  Plus there were concrete bricks in the middle.  But with the right (very noisy) tools you can do anything, and they made nice big holes in the wall to get at the risers.

Now they discovered that there was a shutoff valve in the bottom unit… it wasn’t the rust that was preventing water from coming up, it was that the plumbers fixing the overflowing sink had turned off the valve.  I’d suggested as much, but of course the customer is never viewed as a reliable source of information.

Since they’d already gone into the wall, though, they replaced both hot and cold risers.  It took another day to redo the plumbing, hooking up the sink, dishwasher, and refrigerator. With a working dishwasher, it finally felt like we were at home and could relax.

They’re still working on the building— the units on the west side, facing the fire, need much more restoration, and then they have to repair the basement, which had 3 feet of water.  We lost a bunch of things we kept in the basement, including the original map of Verduria City.  (Fortunately I’d redone it in Illustrator.)

There’s no answer, by the way, on what caused the fire. The fire department said that any evidence was itself destroyed.

Curious fact: the bricks from the destroyed building were carefully piled up and carted away.  Old Chicago bricks are valuable.


On a brighter note, looking at sales, I found that five copies of Against Peace and Freedom were sold in December. That’s just enough to make the 200 sales for which I said I’d make an Incatena conlang.  It only took four years.  So, Hanying it is!  (Not immediately, but it’s on the to-do list.)


The China book has sold over 50 copies in the same month.  The Market continues intoning that it wants me to write nonfiction.

I think I may be done with League of Legends.  I haven’t picked it up in a couple of months. Part of this is that Arkham Knight and Fallout 4 have louder voices. Part of it is that, due to schedule changes, my friend Ash is no longer available for late-night games.

But the biggest reason is just that I’m not very good at it. I’ve put more than a year into it, I know the basics, I’ve played a ton of ARAM so I’ve played most of the champions.  I do well sometimes, and a few times I do really well. But I still have trouble staying alive, I lose more games than I win, and the learning curve seems as steep as ever.  I never even got into Ranked; the one game I played with friends was a disaster.

Millions of people love League, so I can’t really criticize it, but I think it has a few design problems.

  • You’ll enjoy it best if you play with friends, preferably over voice chat. But if you’re low level, you basically can’t play with high-level friends. They may mentor you a bit, but the game is too different at different levels. If you play with them, you’ll get a higher class of opponents and it’ll be worse for you, not better.

    (This is mitigated in ARAM, which is why I could play with Ash at all.)

  • The game could use a fourth level of tutorial bots.  It’s still too much of a leap to go from the bots to humans.
  • The game avoids voice chat for good reasons… jerks can be bad enough in text. But it means that mentoring usually doesn’t happen. (I appreciate it when it does occur, but it’s easiest to do in voice chat.)
  • The games are long. A bad TF2 round ends in five minutes, and then you can start over.  A bad SR match can take 45 minutes (even if your team surrenders, it’s 20).  If the problem was a bad team comp, a player who messes up, or a bad laning phase, that’s a long punishment for a short mistake.
  •  All the items and champs and strategies that make it a great e-sport make it, well, a grind to learn, except for you teenage and college whippersnappers. And it just keeps getting worse as they add more champs and items.

I think I could maybe go for a League Lite.  Something more complicated than TF2, but far less than pro LOL.  Maybe something with 30 champs instead of 128, no items, and start each game at level 3.  Maybe even an option to switch out champs.

(ARAM is almost a League Lite, but the problem I have with it is that it doesn’t prepare you for SR.  You do learn the champions, but they play differently in SR, and ARAM doesn’t teach you the teamwork, the laning, or the overall strategy.)

If you’re considering League, I don’t mean to put you off.  I’m not sorry I tried it, and you might do better at it than I did.  I might even go back for ARAM once I’ve put down the Institute. Though I hear the new Tomb Raider game is next month…

Mùlán is here to tell you: the China Construction Kit is now available!


I spent yesterday making the Kindle version. If you get that and something is unreadable, drop me a line. I will have a page up shortly with the maps in a larger size.

I hope it’s not a bad sign that the roofers at our apartment didn’t protect the roof against the rain, causing some water damage precisely to my copies of the History of Imperial China.

I’ve been playing Fallout 4, and I thought I’d write about it when I’m still all confused but also happy, because the first twenty levels tend to be the sweet spot in Bethesda games.


Entering a Vault. What could go wrong?

We are staying with friends, and I was amazed when the entire game downloaded in about an hour. Gonna have to look at why our Internet connection is so much worse.

People seem to have mixed reactions to the introduction, but I thought it was great. For the first time (Tranquility Lane doesn’t quite count) we get to see and walk around the bright paternalistic prewar world of 2077, which is fun. (I’m not sure why there is so little apparent social and aesthetic change in the 120 years since the 1950s. On the other hand, maybe there’s more than it looks like. E.g., from the postwar world, it doesn’t seem like 2077 was much riven by racism or sexism.)

I have to say that I couldn’t figure out the new facial creation system. It feels like a step backwards: instead of a dozen sliders for the nose, say, you basically get two or three. So I couldn’t get the face I wanted.

Fallout 3 looked great, back in 2008, but F4 looks amazing. Look at the Vault above… all of that inscrutable machinery… it’s like stepping into a Jack Kirby drawing.  Plus it’s a welcome relief to have, like, all the colors. The greenish tint of F3 was effective in conveying a mood, but it really doesn’t show off a world to put a filter over it.

The actual gameplay is familiar yet streamlined.  I was immediately rifling through containers, crouch-walking through ruins sniping at raiders, and picking up quests from interesting people. I felt that Fallout New Vegas was too railroaded, so I like the fact that you can just wander again, losing yourself in the game and not worrying too much about where you are supposed to go next.

So a F3/FNV player will immediately know what they’re doing; and you’ll also appreciate lots of minor improvements: one-click container looting; time slowed but not stopped in VATS; integrated skills/perks; two levels of clothing; no need for repairs.  Plus all the enemies above the radroach feel like they’ve leveled up: even a mole rat attack feels frantic.

I like the voice-acted main character.  I’d prefer three voice options, as in Saints Row, but we can’t have everything. You no longer get a frozen world while you talk to someone; but the participants don’t look at each other, so it’s still a Strange Bethesda Encounter.

A sequel ought to add something new and engaging, and in F4 there are two big novelties:

  • The power armor. You get this very quickly, and to underline how badass it is, they throw a Deathclaw at you.  It has insane damage resistance, so it kind of feels like cheating. But hey, sometimes you just feel like walloping enemies, or just not dying so much.
  • Creating settlements. This is awesome fun– moving things around, scrapping items, and building up the place to attract settlers.  And I know I’ve only scratched the surface: I’ve seen screenshots of people making virtual castles, and working signboards… I can see this being a huge time sink. Plus you now have an excuse to loot pretty much everything; it’s far more satisfying than simply building weird weapons as in F3.

This is where Arkham Knight fell down, I think: the Batmobile was supposed to be way awesome, but it isn’t that fun and doesn’t fit thematically with the rest of the game.

You can modify weapons and armor, and this feels like the only big negative for me. Most of the options are locked… I’m 25 hours in and about all I can do is look at mods I may someday be able to use. You do get diverse weapons from enemies, but it’s not always clear what’s better. I’m still not clear on what piped weapons are…

The game occasionally slows down for me, though on the whole it plays nicely on Ultra.  It does crash unexpectedly at times, though I remember this being far worse on F3.


At least the Apocalypse killed all the Boston drivers

I already regret only being able to take one companion along at a time.  I like Dogmeat, Piper, and Nick. The interactions are fun, and in combat they have a useful ability to draw enemies’ attention so they’re not shooting at me so much.

I lived in Quincy for a few years, so I’m tickled that this area made it into the game, though I haven’t been down that way yet.  Since I know the area more, it does seem awfully compressed… you can walk between areas in about the same time it would take to drive in real life.  It does feel vaguely off that the Commonwealth is more into the Red Sox than the Patriots.  When the GECK comes out I really want to mod in my old house…

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