Friday, December 31, 2010

On the "Sudden Short Story" Series

So, I now have what I suppose is a series on my blog. The "Sudden Short Story" series started out when I suddenly had an idea for a (very) short story back in ... October of 2009, apparently. I wrote it out and posted it. That has since turned into something of a theme for me. I'll have an idea for just a very short story, and I'll write it out.
Occasionally, I'll get interrupted or be otherwise unable to finish it in one sitting right away. Once, this caused me to go months between beginning and ending the story, but usually, that gap is filled with a combination of being busy and forgetting to finish it. These stories don't actually have months of work put into them: It's a few man-hours at the most. They're basically creative endeavors for me, but I share them with the world here on this blog that maybe 3 people read. Well, still, at least one person enjoyed at least one of my stories, so some good has come of it, anyway.
By the way, I've got 2 stories for which I've jotted down notes, and new ones can pop into my head at any time, so stay tuned. ;)

New Year's Resolution 2011

So, I'm probably not going to be able to make enough blog posts in the ... just over an hour before the end of the year to meet my 2010 resolution.
I'm going to make my 2011 resolution be similar to my 2010 resolution, but this time, I'll write at least 3 blog posts per month. Yes, this means fewer posts per year, but rather than trying to average 1 post per week (about 4 per month), I'm going to hold myself to 3 per month. That way, I won't be able to make a huge back log. The worst would be having to write 3 posts on the last day of a given month.
So, look forward to 3 blog posts from me in January, I guess.

GURPS: Low-Tech Get!

So, Steve Jackson Games, as @SJGames on twitter, had a contest a little while back, wherein entrants submitted photos of their favorite low-tech tools. I showed them a photo of my staff, and I won, so I got a copy of GURPS: Low-Tech. It showed up about 2 weeks ago, and I just now got to opening it. XD
Now, it will sit on my shelf because I'm busy, until I stop being busy, at which point it will sit on my shelf because I have nobody with whom to play RPGs. :(

On TF2 and the Ghastlier Gibus

So, I play a bit of Team Fortress 2 from time to time, and it's got some significant differences from Team Fortress Classic. I won't go into the details here, but suffice it to say that there are some MMORPG elements, including an item drop system and customizable equipment loadouts. Among these are hats, most of which have no in-game effect other than their looks. One of these is the Ghastlier Gibus.
Acquiring the Ghastlier Gibus is a bit different, in that it's easier to get than most hats. (Most have to be purchased, uncrated, received as a gift or in trade, or crafted by combining 27+ other items.) There's an achievement called "Ghastly Gibus Grab", which is obtained by dominating (killing a bunch of times w/o being killed back) someone who is wearing the Ghastlier Gibus, and the reward is the Ghastlier Gibus.
The item isn't class-specific (TF2 has the same 9 classes as TFC), so it can be equipped to any class loadout, and it's not limited to just 1, either. Thus, I've equipped all 9 of my classes with it. Why? Well, for one, I don't have any better hat items (just the defaults), but moreover, it generates more Ghastlier Gibuses (Ghastlier Gibi?), since folks who kill me a lot can get the achievement, if they don't already have it, and thus get the hat. It's not a zero-sum game: The hats are unlimited, as they exist entirely virtually. Thus, I'm maximizing the production of value. After all, not only do my assassins get hats, but if they then wear them, and get dominated in TF2 by people who don't already have the achievement, then they spread the hats, and so on.
Note: I just uncrated 2 class-specific hats, so only 7 of my 9 classes are wearing the Ghastlier Gibus at the moment, but still....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An Open Letter to TV Networks, Regarding Halloween

Dear TV Networks,
I've noticed that you tend to run themed programming or marathons in October, leading up to Halloween. In particular, I notice that the themes are generally "horror" in the general or "zombies" in the specific. Sometimes it's a different specific, such as "slashers" or "Hitchcock", but not usually.
My point is this: For the season when, per tradition, the veil between worlds grows thin and those who died in the past year ready themselves for their journey to the afterlife, why not show films about ghosts and the afterlife? It would give us something different from the usual mix, and it's thematically appropriate.
Well, that's what I wanted to say. It's just my two cents.

P.S.: If you saw this post and would like to mention a good ghost- or afterlife-related film, then leave a comment below.

Sudden Short Story 4

Notes: I came up with this one a few weeks ago. Normally, I write these down right away, but I had already closed the computer down for the night, so I jotted down notes and went to sleep. Then I kept forgetting about it. Here's the story, finally.
Yog was in the arboretum mortis, reading some ancient literature, wheren his friend Randy found him.
"There you are!" he said, a little too loudly for Yog's liking. Randy, like most people, spoke and listened because he preferred it when having a direct conversation with someone in his own presence in meatspace. He was right there with Yog, after all, though Randy hadn't been left much choice. Quieting down after getting a stern look from a stranger across the room, he continued, "You've been offline for over an hour. I was starting to get worried."
"I decided to read these the old-fashioned way," Yog replied. "Back when these things were written, people didn't have any direct feeds. Frak, back then, the closest thing was a ticker tape, and they had to go to a special machine for it."
Randy took the opportunity to see what Yog was reading. He caught "and studied Whateley's gorilla-like lope as he crossed the bit of campus visible from the window.", and quickly responded - as it took him essentially no time to search the work in which that exact phrasing originated - "'The Dunwich Horror' by a certain Howard Phillips Lovecraft, early twentieth century writer of horror and something called 'weird fiction', which is apparently --"
"Do you want to know what I found that was interesting?" Yog interrupted.
"I might as well."
"'Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread.'"
"Well, seeing as how you didn't read the whole text to me, I gather that you wanted to draw my attention to that section, but all that I see is a bit of a coincidence. You're named Yog-Sothoth, there's a Yog-Sothoth in that book, apparently, but, come on, that's bound to happen at some point. With all of the weird names that people have, and all of the weird words made up for fiction, somebody's going to be named something that's been used before."
"Yes, but I'm not so sure that this is a coincidence. You know that bit of a gap in my memories, right? Well, I don't recall why I named myself Yog-Sothoth. I can't help but think that this is more than a coincidence."
"So, does this mean more book-reading," asked Randy, trying to not show his disappointment.
"No. I remembered something else. Let's go to the Sol System."
Yog got online, put the book away, and went to the front door, where Randy was waiting. They took off, and landed at the nearest warp-gate terminal. Yog went first, requesting a warp-gate to Earth, and stepping through as Randy asked for the same.

When Randy got to Earth, he initiated a call to Yog. "Hey, you forgot to specify where on Earth. I'm near Kyoto. Where are you?"
"It doesn't matter. I just checked and Mars is closer."
"'Closer'? Where exactly are we going?"
"We're going to an asteroid in the belt," Yog replied. He forgot to dissonate his communications, so Randy heard him as he said "warp-gate to Martian night, midnight preferred".
Randy followed suit, and soon both were standing under the night skies of Mars, at a gate that was shortly before Martian midnight.
"The Solar asteroid belt's pretty boring. There's nothing interesting there except 1 Ceres, and we're nearly opposite it!" Randy complained.
"Yeah, but I've got these numbers in my head that don't match anything else there. They work as systemic coordinates, though, so I might as well have a look. If you're coming, then make sure that you bring enough fog." With that, Yog gathered up a large volume of nanofog, set the protocols for long-term control, made an ovoid around himself, set the outside to shimmer, and took off into the night sky.


They moved through the belt, heading where only Yog knew. The destination appeared to be an ordinary asteroid. Randy caught up to Yog when he stopped, touching their fogs so that they could talk.
"So what's this, then?"
"I think that a part of me is here. I think that I've pieced it together: It is the gate, and I am the key."
"Well, then, how do you unlock it?"
Without answering, Yog moved toward the asteroid. He orbited it closely, looking for anything that he might have missed. After a few minutes, he stopped, and messaged Randy directly, informing him that he didn't see anything that would be out of the ordinary for an asteroid of that shape and size in that system. Randy moved up alongside Yog, and said unto him, "Well, we could start cutting, though it would take a while with this little fog. We could surely crack it with more material, but I doubt that you want that, if it really does contain a piece of you. Are you sure that this is the right rock?"
"Yeah," Yog sighed, "I thought so," and rested his hand upon it. In a moment, his hand sank, unexpectedly, into the surface. "Oh, maybe that's how it's supposed to work," Yog commented, as he sank further and further into the asteroid. Randy put his hand on the surface, but nothing happened.
"It must be somehow keyed to you, Yog," he said, and used his fog to look at and feel the area around Yog. "I'm not sensing any action, though." Too quickly, though, Yog was gone.
With nothing else to do, Randy waited. It was a bit unnerving, that. There was nothing to occupy his time, and even the nearest contact point was subject to luminal lag, so there wasn't much point to anything other than passive reception. Since he was waiting for Yog, Randy figured that he might as well look into some old media, but then, Yog emerged from the asteroid.
"Well there you are," Randy said, as he followed Yog back to Mars. "So? What happened?"
"I'm not at liberty to say, nor can I, really," said Yog, "Whatever is in there, there's a reason that I made myself forget it. This time, though, I at least got myself to remember why this rock is here, so that I don't repeat this incident."
"Well, it's not like you had much choice," Randy retorted, "since I was here, too. It's not like you could make me forget."
"Oddly enough, I feel like I could...."

"wheren" - a blend of "where" and "when", developed to express both and the interconnected nature of space and time
Note (2010/December/29): I apparently started this back on July 28th, which was itself apparently after I first had the idea, per my note above.

What I Got for Xmas 2010

Here in the states, Xmas is celebrated on December 25th, and it's traditional to exchange gifts. Here's what I got:
-a sweater
-pajama pants
-Under Armor (special case of under shirt)
-Forbidden Island (the cooperative board game)
-Mushishi (anime) ^_^
-some Munchkin stuff
-some money from relatives

I think that that's it. Everything's going to get some use. I'm on schedule to watch Mushishi in late January or early February.
What did you get for Xmas? Also, happy new year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On 3D, Color, and Talkies

So, you may have noticed a 3D trend in film lately. There becomes a question of permanence. Is 3D here to stay? It seems like a fad. After all, 3D was a gimmick in the 1970s and 1980s, and even back in the 1950s.
However, 3D has something in common with synchronized sound (a property of films known as "talkies") and color. It's part of how we experience reality. Reality has sound (except to the deaf), reality has color (except to the colorblind, though even they can see some colors), and reality is 3D (except to those who lack depth perception). So, while I'd say that films don't need to be in 3D, they also don't need to be in color. It doesn't mean that the technology will go away.
That being said, the previous point that 3D has come and gone might indicate that it will fade again since the technology wasn't accepted just because it was widely available.

Personally, I think that 3D will first solidify itself outside of theaters, where individual people watching their films on personal laptops or handheld devices will allow for the use of autostereoscopy, such as via a parallax barrier. That is, you'll no longer have to wear fancy headgear for 3D, since the screen will effectively "know" where your head is, since you won't be likely to change it, a la how the Nintendo 3DS will work. (It loses the 3D effect if you're viewing the screen from off to the side.)

How to Con-Go for Cheap

I felt like writing about how to go to a convention on the cheap. Here are some tips.
  1. Pre-Register, and pay for the whole weekend. Basically, this is how to save money on the initial cost. Pre-registration is usually cheaper than the same days at the door, but there's usually a cut-off point (maybe a month before the con, sometimes more, sometimes less). It might be possible to register between then and the con, so that you don't have to wait in line at the door, but it won't be any cheaper. Also, paying for the whole weekend is almost always cheaper than the sum total of each individual day, and sometimes it just makes sense. For instance, I've been to some cons where paying for the entire weekend cost less than or equal to two single days, so there was no reason not to get a 3rd day out of it.
  2. Don't pay for a hotel room. There are 3 main ways to go about this:
    1. Go to a nearby convention. If it's in driving (or biking or walking) distance, then just drive there in the morning & then drive back home at night.
    2. Stay w/ a friend. Maybe you know somebody who lives near the con (and might even be attending) who has a couch, and maybe you can do the same for them for a con in your area.
    3. Split a hotel room. This isn't as good, as you'll still be paying something, but it's cheaper than paying for a whole room.
  3. Don't pay for food. Pack your own. Sometimes, the convention or venue doesn't want people doing that (I haven't encountered this problem yet), so, to solve this, eat breakfast before going to the con, and eat lunch (and perhaps dinner) in your car/hotel room/friend's room with whom you're staying, or wherever you can manage to eat some sandwiches without annoying someone.
  4. If there's a raffle, then play it. This one kind of varies. You'll have to compare ticket prices, prize values, and odds of winning. If you're not sure, then you might have to play it one year to see whether what you win is worth it, and then play or not play in later years based on that. Note, though, that this represents a gain in market value. If you need money, then hold off on paying for tickets, since you'll probably win objects, and not money.

Also, there are some ways to save that are more highly conditional:
  1. Get a group discount. This requires two significant things. Firstly, the con must actually offer a group discount. Secondly, you'll have to join or make a large enough group. We're usually talking double-digits of people (10 or more, 25 or more, etc.).
  2. Run events. At least at gaming conventions, it's common for someone who runs a game to get money off of his cost of entry, sometimes up to the full cost of a weekend ticket. This often involves planning pretty far in advance, and always involves, well, running some games. FYI, I've never tried this. I'd personally rather pay and play.
  3. Look into special discounts. For example, some conventions give a special recruitment discount for wrangling up new first-time attendees.

So, there are some basic tips for attending conventions cheaply. Maybe this will be of some help to someone.

Post Surge December 2010

Today & tomorrow, I'm going to be posting about 20 posts to this blog. There are a few reasons for this:
1. I have a handful of unfinished posts that I need to wrap up & publish.
2. I have several post ideas that I haven't gotten around to writing.
3. I resolved to do about 52 posts this year.
That last one is the biggest contributor to why they're all bunched up like this. There was a convention back in October, which kept me busy, and then I got sick afterwards, and then November was a bit weird, plus Thanksgiving was there at the end, and then pretty much the entire period between Thanksgiving and Xmas was used preparing for it (both w/ gift-getting and w/ trying to fix the lights on the tree (they still don't work, by the way)), and now it's just after Xmas and the year's nearly over.
So, yeah, expect lots of posts here today and tomorrow.

Crazy Idea: The Seven Skies

I had a random idea for what the seven skies could be in terms of space travel:
The first sky is Earth orbit.
The second sky encompasses lunar orbit and the space between.
The third sky extends to the Solar system.
The fourth sky includes interstellar space, and is the path to the fifth sky.
The fifth sky includes other star systems.
The sixth sky includes intergalactic space, and is the path to the seventh sky.
The seventh sky includes other galaxies.

I suppose that this could be useful in SF, particularly regarding a space opera.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sudden Short Story 5

"...All of these precautions... How did anyone ever assemble an electronic computer without breaking something?"
"Well, back then, electronic computers were consumer appliances, just like optical computers are now. Most people bought them pre-assembled off the shelf and never even cracked the case. They worked well enough for however long, and they were replaced regularly.
"It's funny, actually. You see, electronic computers had gotten to the point where they were all laptops, at least off the shelf. The only large form-factor ones were those assembled by hardcore gamers, and they ended up being the first consumer base for optical computers. Nobody else could justify the large form-factor, and most computers for personal use didn't need the speed boost at that point."
"So we have gamers to thank for modern computing, eh? How about that. So, do you like all forms of alternate computing, or just this one?"
"I think that I just like old things. You know, I'm thinking of building a mechanical computer after this. It should be even more interesting: Apparently, they never achieved commercial production before electronic computers took over.
"I dare say that it must have been a terribly interesting time, back then. Even electronic computers could fill entire rooms, and had to be serviced by large staffs...."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Regarding Christine O'Donnell's Comments Regarding Masturbation

So, one Christine O'Donnell, a young Tea Party senate candidate from Delaware, has achieved a lot of notoriety for stupid-sounding comments from her past, as well as her Palin-like incompetence in politics. The one that seems to have gotten the most attention is the one where she says that, per Christianity, masturbation is a form of adultery.
The weird thing is that, at least within Christianity, she isn't actually wrong. It's based on something that the character of Jesus said, that one who feels lust has committed adultery within his heart. In fact, this line has been touted for years by one Ray Comfort, during his man-on-the-street interviews, to recruit people to his rather profitable cult. He uses two fallacious attacks to convince the victim that he is a murderer and an adulterer, both based on what Jesus said (the murder bit is based on feeling anger, and works the same way). The fallacy lies in the fact that it is being presupposed that what Jesus said was true. But, within Christianity, which already supposes the truth of the statements made by the character of Jesus in its sacred text, it is true.
So, when Christine O'Donnell believes that lust is adultery, people are all over her for her believing what all Christians believe anyway. I'm just wondering: Why hasn't it been a big deal until now?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

So There's a Vampire MMO in the Works...

So, apparently, CCP, the company that makes the video game EVE Online, is working on a Vampire MMORPG. It should be noted that it's using the old Vampire: the Masquerade intellectual property. You know, the one where the end of the world is coming and the various lines don't use quite the same mechanics and all that.
I'm not sure exactly what to make of it. The fact that they're developing a World of Darkness MMO, and that it's focused on the Vampire line, just makes business sense. However, it seems that Vampire fans really like the intrigue involved, whereas an MMORPG is usually a collection of quests/missions. (Making MMOs out of missions makes sense: It's easy to add/remove missions modularly, and it's also fairly straightforward to come up with new ones.) Now, sure, quests could have story elements such that they seem like PCs are backstabbing NPCs or something like that, but that wouldn't be all that genuine.
CCP has said that it's going to be focused on politics/intrigue/player interaction (, which makes it sound kind of PvP, which isn't really my style (not that I was going to play a Vampire MMO anyway), so there's that. I hope that they come up with an interesting way to do it, though. The industry could stand some innovation, something outside of the MMORPG trinity of quest, dungeon, and achievement unlocked.
If I had to take a guess, I'd say that the Vampire MMO will probably end up a lot like DDO: Players will prefer the tabletop RPG, but will play the MMO if they can't regularly play the preferred game, to get their fix. (FYI: This is what got me into DDO, though an important part was that DDO is F2P (free to play).)

There's a Crack in my Beast Below

Right, I meant to blog about this quite a long time ago, but I forgot.
There's sort of a bit of an enormous plot hole in the Doctor Who episode "The Beast Below". Fair warning: There are spoilers regarding this episode of Doctor Who. Also, I'll probably talk as though you've already seen the episode, so it would be good for you to watch "The Beast Below" before reading this, if you haven't already.
So, at the end of "The Beast Below", it is discovered that the titular character (the beast below, not The Doctor), who has been propelling the giant city-ship up until this point, goes faster when it's not being shocked in the brain every few seconds. Specifically, the creature came to Earth in order to help the humans, though it couldn't communicate with them, which is supposed to have allowed this whole scenario to emerge.
To make sure that we're on the same page here: for literally the entire journey of the vessel (a few centuries in length), the beast below the city has been being shocked, in the brain, at very regular intervals. This is where I see an enormous plot hole. It means the following:
-Whoever was in charge of this project had to, somehow, decide to start shocking the alien in the brain once every few seconds before they left Earth orbit.
-Whoever was in charge of this project had to then implement this shocking plan, including making the brain-hole and constructing and activating the probe, again before leaving Earth orbit.
-The probe had to go the entire trip without breaking, needing replaced, or needing to be turned off to be cleaned, repaired, or updated.
-For the entire trip, the probe's power supply had to be uninterrupted.
-They had to never want to stop or slow down. Since they thought that the frequent shocks were keeping the beast moving, they would have reduced or stopped them to slow down or stop.
-Nobody ever said "Hey, what do you suppose would happen if we stopped shocking the creature for a few minutes?" - at least not in a convincing way.
-Nobody ever accidentally turned the device off.
-No scientist in the control room ever went rogue enough to sabotage the shock system. Also, nobody ever successfully broke into the control room or hacked into the controls to do the same.

Basically, the decision to set up this shock system was extremely unscientific - grounded only in ... well, absolutely nothing - and keeping it in perpetual operation would be a logistical nightmare - as anyone who has to maintain any system can tell you.

P.S.: I'd have given more/better details, but I'm going on memory, and the episode was quite a while ago. Like I said, I meant to blog about this and forgot.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Was He Dead?

I've noticed a peculiar trend regarding the English language. Specifically, this has to do with tense and dead people. In English, when referring to someone who's dead, and describing that person with "to be" or "to have" or similar, one uses the past tense (except, of course, when using the word "dead"). So, for example, "he was tall" or "she had blue eyes" would be used, rather than "he is tall" or "she has blue eyes".
So, if someone's dead, then use the past tense, and, by the contrapositive, if the speaker is using the present tense, then the subject is not dead.
The problem is that a lot of people seem to assume that the converse and inverse are also true. That is, they assume that, if the speaker is using the past tense, then the subject is dead, and if the subject is alive, then the tense will always be present.
I happen to find it a bit annoying when this happens. I use the past tense when I'm referring to something in the past, but sometimes I'll be talking about something in the past and it happens to involve a human and a listener will assume that I'm talking about someone who's dead. Why? I don't know.
Does this ever happen to you?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

You Might be a Geek If... GadgetHovel edition

First of all, I made a Google doc with all of my original "you might be a geek if..." submissions. Here's the link.
You might be wondering what that is. Well, @Aron1701 (henceforth "Todd"), the guy who does the GadgetHovel webcomic, also does a "podcast", called the "Toddcast". Recently, his 100th episode was coming up, and he asked listeners to submit "you might be a geek if..." phrases/jokes. It's a bit like the "you might be a redneck" stuff, but for geeks. Y'know, the opposite of rednecks. ;)
Todd cheated and had a co-host on the show, by the name of "Matt". They went through the "you might be a geek if..." submissions, to see what they got and what they didn't. Since they indicated that they wanted feedback, I figured that I could provide it in this blog post. So, here it is, a per-item list of my "you might be a geek if..." submissions and how they both fared.

You might be a geek if... know what a "mummorpuhguh" is. "Mummorpuhguh" (spelling it pseudo-phonetically - I've only heard it pronounced) is a sort of tongue-in-cheek term to refer to an MMORPG, as used by Yahtzee at Zero Punctuation.
Matt couldn't figure this one out, but Todd managed to, even if he did stumble over the words. However, neither one of them managed to figure out that it was a reference to the aforementioned Zero Punctuation.'ve visited The KLI is the Klingon Language Institute, and is their site.
Matt & Todd both got this one right. Todd also has a Klingon dictionary. I'd also like to point out, per their tangent on J.R.R. Tolkien, that Tolkien was actually a philologist. can correctly spell any of the following words without looking them up: nuqneH, bat'leth, Qapla'. Obviously, this one was based on the idea that the list would be read on the air, so you wouldn't just see the spellings of the words. These are some extremely common Klingon terms.
They mispronounced "nuqneH". Matt somehow couldn't pronounce "bat'leth". They managed "Qapla'" pretty well for humans. I couldn't actually test their ability to spell these, of course. ;)'ve read at least 2 more RPG books than you've played. This should be pretty self-explanatory. Myself, I've read quite a few more RPG books than I've gotten to play.
Matt passed this litmus test, but Todd didn't.'ve applied the system from one game to the setting of another. This refers to taking the rules/mechanics from one RPG and applying them to the setting/universe of another. I present you Don't Rest Your Spirit of the Century (not mine), which takes the amazing system for Don't Rest Your Head and applies them to Spirit of the Century.
Though neither of them seems to have actually done this, Matt actually knew what I meant, whereas Todd did not.'ve invented your own race, class, or feat/aspect/power/spell/special ability/whatever for an RPG. This refers to making one's own race (species) or class in an RPG, or, also in an RPG, making a feat, aspect, or similar thing.
Todd apparently invented a race for a game so that his player could play a droid. Matt claimed to have done it, saying that it's necessary in the Hero system, but I don't know enough about the Hero system to say whether that's really what I was meaning. To compare, I wouldn't count Godlike as necessitating the creation of powers, even though one usually does combine powers, simply because the new powers created are just a mix of existing powers. I'm trying to explain this briefly, and not doing too well, possibly because it's 0100. Let's move on... own at least two dice of each 20, 12, 8, and 4 sides, and at least four 10-sided dice. This is a reference to polyhedral die sets, though one could obtain the dice individually. Basically, one could read this as "you own at least two polyhedral die sets". Each set has two 10-siders, which is why I insisted on 4 of them. I ignored 6-siders because people regularly have at least 4 among various board games.
It sounded like both Todd and Matt had at least that many dice. own at least 72 six-sided dice. I came up with this number because 5mm (I think) dice usually come in a box of 36 (four 3x3 layers). Two such boxes would yield 72 dice. For the record, I've purchased 3 such boxes, for a total of 108, not to mention all of the various other 6-siders that I own (including those from polyhedral sets).
Todd didn't have this many, but ... did Matt say? know what it means "to tank", "to pull aggro", and "to buff", and not in the sense of polishing things. For those who don't know, these are MMORPG terms. "To tank" means "to soak attacks/damage." "To pull aggro" means "to draw aggression", which is MMORPG speak for "to get monsters to attack oneself instead of others," which has to do with party/group/fellowship play. "To buff" means "to give a boost," such as +1 to attack, +5 to damage, or +2 to armor class.
They both knew this, and given how much Todd talks about WoW and Champions, I'd be disappointed if he didn't. always know where your towel is. A good hitchhiker always knows where his towel is.
They both knew what this one meant, though neither said whether he actually always knew where his towel was. Also, Todd managed to screw up "hoopy frood". For the record, I regularly carry around at least one towel on my person. know that "Him Who Must Not Be Named" could kick Lord Voldemort's ass. The Unspeakable One trumps any mere wizard.
They couldn't figure it out, even with their Google-fu. I am very disappoint. give away gifts at your own birthday party. This is a reference to how Hobbits celebrate their birthdays. This one may have been a bit too subtle.
They had no idea. know why that last one is on this list. Well, I couldn't very well expect people to actually give away gifts at their own birthday parties, now could I?
See above. know what Goblinization Day is. Goblinization day is the day in the Shadowrun timeline when several humans forever changed into trolls and orcs, leading to the existence of those races in the Shadowrun universe.
Matt knew; Todd didn't. know what the AADA is. The American Autoduel Association is of course a reference to Car Wars.
They couldn't figure it out, and with hilarious results. For further details, see the next entry. know what the "Free Oil States" are, and which ones they are. The "Free Oil States" are Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, after they secede from the United States of America in the Car Wars timeline.
They couldn't figure this one out, either, until they Google'd it. Naturally, as they're both Steve Jackson properties, the result of this was "something to do with GURPS".

...happiness is mandatory. This is from Paranoia, a great darkly humorous RPG, which takes place in a facility known as "Alpha Complex".
Matt got it down to "internet meme", and I think that Todd knew it, though he wasn't able to remember the name of the game. don't have clearance for that, Friend Citizen. This is another Paranoia reference.
They had no idea. Todd actually surrendered. XD've died during character creation. This is a Traveller reference. For those who don't know, in the original Traveller, character creation began with determining one's character's career prior to the game, which included a mix of choices and random die rolls. There was also something of a push-your-luck mechanic: the longer that one's career went, the greater his possible rewards, but also the more opportunities to die, causing the player to have too start over.
Neither said that he'd ever had an actual during-creation character death. Also, the hypothetical scenario that Todd devised wouldn't work in D&D (which it sounded like it was). Starting Con mod never goes below -3, and one doesn't roll for initial HP, so even a Wizard or sorcerer would get at least a 4 on the die. regularly say "gorram", "frak", or "frell". "Gorram" is a replacement for "damn" from Firefly. "Frak" is a replacement for "fuck" from Battlestar Galactica. "Frell" is a replacement for "fuck" or "hell" from Farscape.
Todd and Matt passed this one with flying colors, though Todd bungled the pronunciation of "gorram" sometimes. can recite either Mr. Freeze's opening monologue or his closing monologue from "Heart of Ice". "This is how I'll always remember you: surrounded by winter, forever young, forever beautiful. Rest well, my love. The monster who took you from me will soon learn that revenge is a dish best served cold." I just typed that from memory, though I suppose that you'll have to take my word for it. For future reference, "Heart of Ice" was an episode from the truly great Batman: the Animated Series. It's probably best remembered among Batman fans as the instance where Mr. Freeze changed forever, as he was previously just a generic cold-themed villain.
Well, Matt at least knew that "Heart of Ice" was an episode from Batman: the Animated Series, so there's that. ... moving on... know who Elim (the tailor) is. This is, of course, a reference to Elim Garak, from DS9.
FAIL! sometimes read sequential art right-to-left. This is, of course, a reference to Japanese manga. If you sometimes read manga, then you might be a geek.
Todd knew that "sequential art" means "comics", but considered the whole thing a puzzle. Matt had it figured out. know what "Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu" is, and watched it in broadcast order. "Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu", better known as "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" here in the states, is an anime series famous for being broadcast in non-chronological order.
Todd had no idea. Matt at least knew what it was, but assumed that I meant "while it was being broadcast".'ve dressed up as a video game, anime, manga, or western print comic character, and it was neither Halloween season nor a costumed ball. This basically means "you've cosplayed", but limited to the particularly geeky things. I also didn't want to give everyone who's ever done Halloween a free pass.
Todd hates costumes. Matt had some weird story about wearing tights. answer uncertain questions with "42". This is another Hitchhiker's Guide reference.
They got it.

I actually sent in another "you might be a geek if..." at the last minute, but it apparently wasn't soon enough to make it onto the show, so I'll avoid mentioning it here just yet, just in case it gets mentioned on the next episode.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sudden Short Story 3

"Look, I'm not saying that they definitely exist. I'm just saying that they might exist, or at least might have at some point."
"Well, the same thing could be said for sasquatch or elves. They might have existed at some point, theoretically, but we generally assume that they didn't, for lack of evidence."
"Right, but those were always anthropomorphizations. I'm talking about something quite different, something much closer to other extant lifeforms."
"Well, you don't believe in unicorns, right? So why would you believe in deer?"
"Well, a unicorn would be unexpected. It's only supposed to have one protrusion, centered, but with an asymmetrical twist to it. That's not to mention all of the mystical properties ascribed to it."
"Aren't these alleged deer a bit mysterious, too? They have these big, branching horns coming out of their heads, but they're supposed to live - or at least have lived - in forests? And they could disappear for extended periods of time, even in areas purported to lack caves? And why hasn't anyone seen one since ancient times, anyway?"
"Well, that's why I'm open to the idea that maybe they once existed, but don't any more. And as for the other things, well, stranger things have been found to exist in the fossil record. Plus, it's not like every single thing from the old stories will turn out to be true. Remember Chiroptera gargantum? They turned out to be real, but without those short, useless forelimbs that they allegedly had."
"I wonder if the head-ornaments will turn out to be the same way. After all, not all accounts of deer include those. ... Well, when you get right down to it, we can't confirm that they existed until we find a specimen, living, dead, or fossilized. Still, I don't even know of any path that might lead to such a thing. It sounds more to me like something that was invented back in the day when humans were still trying to pilot vehicles manually. They provide a good excuse for accidents, don't you think? They're a bit like Disney lemmings in that regard - suicidal, but not enough to make them extinct."
"Yeah, that behavior does seem a bit silly. That's probably the best evidence that deer never existed, after all."

NOTE: Holy crap, I totally forgot about this one. I started it back in February, apparently. Well, at least it's finished now.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Squirrel memories

I had an idea just now. I remember, in the past, when I was younger, hearing stuff about how squirrels bury lots of acorns, etc., but only dig up a few, and presumably forget where many of them are buried. I've devised an experiment.
Let's say that we have a population of squirrels that typically digs up 30% of its buried nuts. The experiment would be to dig up half of a given squirrel's buried nuts when it's not looking (do squirrels hibernate?).
We fully expect the squirrel to dig up some spots where it originally buried nuts, and find them missing.
If the squirrel successfully digs up only 30% of the remaining nuts, then it probably only remembered 30% of the original.
If the squirrel successfully digs up 60% of the remaining nuts (or twice whatever its original percent was), then it probably remembered all locations, but only needed a certain number of buried nuts.

Experiments about this have probably already happened, but I just happened to think of it, and I haven't been blogging enough!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If Fry Really Awoke in the Year 3000

I had a passing thought about what would happen if someone like me woke up from cryogenic stasis far in the future. This took a funny route, and became what would happen if Fry (from Futurama, for those who don't know) really woke up in the year 3000. It entered my head as a comic, but I can't draw for crap, so here's the dialog, with a few notes:
Actually, I forgot how it started. It somehow got to this point. (Somehow, I had included the notion that extensive genetic intermingling led to that middling skin color for everyone.):
Thawed Guy: So that means...
Others: That's right. You're now the whitest man on Earth.
Thawed Guy: NOOOOOOOOO-- [Khan-style] Wait, does that mean that my lifestyle is, on average, better than everyone else's?
Others: Nope.
Thawed Guy: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! [Khan-style] Well, I guess that I'd better go look for work.
Others: Actually, we live in a post-scarcity state.
Thawed Guy: *blinks*
Others: Nobody has to work. Ever.
Thawed Guy: Yes!
This was much better when it was abstract, and in my head.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Side Project: If you liked Portal, then you'll love Paranoia

Recently, watching those Portal 2 trailers/previews got me thinking: "I could sure go for some Paranoia right now." You know, Paranoia, the game where The Computer controls everything, and is your friend, and where you could easily die due to your own stupidity (you should have known that that corridor was full of invisible lasers) or as just one subject in The Computer's experiments.
The first edition was published in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
I realized that people who liked Portal would probably like Paranoia, as far as RPGs go. Admittedly, if they don't already play RPGs, then Paranoia is probably a bad introduction to them, seeing as how knowing the rules is treason, but that's beside the point.
Anyway, that got me thinking: Given a video game, what RPG would a person who likes that probably also like?
If you liked Portal, then you'll love Paranoia.
If you liked DDO, then you'll love D&D 3.5.
That's all that I've got so far. I'm working on a list, which you can find here. If you have suggestions for VGs that I forgot, RPGs that I forgot, connections that I missed or didn't do justice, or whatever, then leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, or hit me up on twitter.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pokemon: All Natural Challenge

I've got a special challenge for all of you Pokemon trainers out there. The short version of it is quite simple:
Don't use TMs.

Now, I'll tell you a story.
Back when I was playing the original games, starting with Blue version, I didn't use TMs, basically because they're one-time use, and I didn't want to use one inappropriately and get messed up. There were some that could be purchased, but those cost money anyway, and I kind of naturally hoarded it. Remember that this was back before repeat battles and Amulet Coins.
Of course, you can still get all of your favorite TM moves. After all, lots of Pokemon learn TM moves. For instance, in Pokemon Ruby, Pikachu learns Thunderbolt and Thunder by leveling up, and those are both also TMs.
Thus, breeding can be important. I'll give you an example.
Want a Rhydon with Iron Tail and Thunderbolt? Breed a male Aggron with Iron Tail onto a female Rhyhorn, and get a male Rhyhorn with Iron Tail. Breed that onto a female Pikachu to get a male Pichu that knows Iron Tail. Evolve that into a Pikachu, and level it up until it learns Thunderbolt. Breed that onto a female Rhyhorn, and the hatchling Rhyhorn will know Thunderbolt and Iron Tail. Well, that last part only works assuming that Bulbapedia is correct. I'll double-check.
Holy crap. The one that I'm planning will know Thunder, too. XD Yes, I'm actually still following the "All Natural Challenge" to this day. It keeps things interesting.

"But wait!", you say, "That will make it harder to make a competitive team."
That's why it's a challenge. ;)

P.S.: Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kinekt Gear Ring

Apparently, I get an additional entry in this contest for this Kinekt Gear Ring if I blog about it, with a link, and comment with a link to this post. Since I want that ring... well, here you go.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Economy is Out to Get You

No, I don't mean that the economy has become sentient and decided that you're its enemy. That's not quite how it works. Here's what I mean.
As you're probably already aware, inflation is bad. In short, inflation is bad because your money is weaker, so the same amount of money gets the consumer less stuff, or the consumer has to spend more to get the same stuff. Thanks to inflation, a dollar doesn't go as far as it used to go.
So, the opposite of inflation - deflation - must be good, right? Well, that's not quite true. When deflation occurs, the average consumer has less money to spend. Thus, while the money might go as far as before, there's less of it to spend.
Admittedly, deflation might help a specific individual, if that individual had a steady job and a stable income. That is, it could help if inflation were truly the opposite of deflation. It has come to my attention recently that deflation does not mean that prices actually go down. Rather, deflation occurs when less money is spent on a given commodity. So, when layoffs hit an area, and people have to find lower-paying jobs, they're less likely to spend money on unnecessary things, and they're likely to spend as little as possible on necessities - buying generic brands of foods, for instance. Thus, the market value of a given general commodity - bread, beans, butter, that sort of thing - goes down, while the prices that manufacturers stamp on their products remains the same.
Basically, inflation's bad for each person individually, and deflation means that the economy is doing poorly.
I'm sure that I could have articulated this more clearly, but I think that you get the point.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Doctor is Human

I've thought about this before, and yesterday, I figured that I should blog about it. The Doctor, from the SF show Doctor Who?, is human.
"But wait," says everyone who knows anything about Doctor Who?, "The Doctor is a time lord." You are correct*, and the time lords are human. It seems most likely that the time lords are the result of the evolution of an isolated human population. They seem morphologically and physiologically so similar to humans that their arising completely independently of Earth's biology would have to occur astronomically improbably. And, of course, being evolved from humans means that they are humans.
Let's compare and contrast. On the one hand, time lords have two hearts** and can regenerate. On the other hand, time lords are bipedal plantigrade pentadactyl tetrapods with opposable thumbs, fingernails, two forward-facing color-vision eyes set in closed ocular orbits in skull-enclosed heads with hinged jaws bearing white, bony teeth, pink, fleshy tongues, and soft, pliable lips, altogether capable of speaking human languages, ostensibly with the assistance of vocal chords. They also ingest food through this forward-facing face-holes and apparently have taste buds, too. Time lords also have fleshy, dish-shaped ears on the sides of their heads, hair that grows out of the tops of their heads, along their eyebrows - and, by the way, eyebrows - and reduced or absent hair elsewhere. Also, time lords have skin in that variegated sepia range (dark brown to pale peach-ish) that humans have, as opposed to, say, green or orange. Oh, and time lords can be killed by untreated cyanide poisoning.

That's basically my argument for why the time lords are human. There are other things, but I haven't actually seen proof of them. For instance, I'm assuming that time lords have spinal chords enveloped in vertebrae, which would make them chordates and vertebrates, respectively, but I haven't actually gotten a look at The Doctor's back well enough to tell if there are vertebrae there, so I didn't list them above.
Anyway, if you see anything that I should have included in my lists, then leave a comment below, but, more importantly, if you see someplace where you think that I might be wrong, then leave a comment below.
That's all for now.

*as long as you didn't add a clause asserting that The Doctor is not human
**The fact that time lords have hearts is a similarity, by the way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Daylight Wasting Time

I was recently thinking about how, a long time ago, I deduced that Daylight Saving Time is actually quite wasteful. So, I tried to go back and re-deduce my previous logic.
First of all, DST obviously doesn't change, in either direction, the amount of daylight that there is. The clouds don't part, the Earth's spin doesn't change, and Earth's sun doesn't brighten or dim based on how we've set our clocks.
Moreover, though, DST makes us have to deal with nighttime more. Think of it this way. Imagine that, on a certain day, sunrise would be at 0600. This is just to make the math simple. Let's say that you would wake up at 0600. In that case, you would get up at sunrise. But wait! What if it's DST? Well, we set our clocks 1 hour ahead. Now, sunrise is at 0700. If you're anybody besides a farmer (or hunter-gatherer), though, then your schedule isn't based on sunrise; it's based on the clock. So, if you're waking up at 0600, then you're waking up 1 hour before sunrise. This can be applied to any time, of course. If you'd get up at 0615 - 15 minutes after sunrise - then you'll get up at 0615 - 45 minutes before sunrise.
I noticed this back when I was going to school, since it increased the frequency and extent to which we would have to travel to school in the dark. Of course, this also affects teachers, bus drivers, and parents who have to get their kids ready for school. This also tends to affect anyone who works an 8-5 job, which is probably at least half of all workers.
I mentioned farmers, so I've probably gotten someone thinking "but DST was made for farmers!" Well, that doesn't really make sense. Farmers don't care what time the clocks say. Sunrise could happen at gobbledygook mcsquigglepants and it wouldn't matter.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Survival Mode Tweak

I've come up with a tweak to what I'll call "Survival Mode" in this post. Survival Mode, for our purposes, is a mode in a video game (usually a first person shooter) where each team (usually 2, possibly more) has a certain number of lives, and the first team to run out of lives loses. (Problems arise with 3 or more teams. Does the game end when 1 team is out? (presumably, whoever has the most lives left wins) Or do you keep going until there's one team left with lives? (creating a player elimination - or in this case, team eliminatiion - mechanic))
But what if the teams have different numbers of players? For instance, what happens in a 5v4 game? Well, usually, each team gets the same number of lives. In some games, though, the larger team might have an advantage, as 5 people are better at killing 4 people than 4 people are at killing 5 people, all things being equal. Here, I propose a tweak to this sort of gameplay.
Instead of counting deaths, count spawns. In this way, the team with 5 players uses up 5 spawns right away, while that with 4 players only uses up 4 spawns. Of course, this shortens the game unless the base level of "lives" is changed, but that's up to each game, anyway.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Inuyasha and the Lord of the Jewel?

OK, so, a while back, I saw a parody of The Lord of the Rings and of Inuyasha that used Inuyasha clips and its own dialog. Basically, Inuyasha & pals = fellowship, sacred jewel thing = one ring, etc. I think that it was called "Inuyasha and the Lord of the Jewel", though I could be wrong about this. Sadly, while I can find other, similar, shorter parodies, I can't find this one.
So, if you know where I can find it, or even if you just know a little detail, like that I got the title wrong, then leave a comment below, or send me an e-mail. That's all for now.

Friday, February 12, 2010

... No Evil Shall Escape My Might ...

So, yesterday, I was thinking of something. This probably came about due to looking at Amazing Freaking Grace on TV Tropes. I'm pretty sure that whatever I was thinking used the "common meter".
Basically, I was thinking of a song or poem in English whose first two lines end in the /ait/ sound, i.e., "-ite"/"-ight". I was thinking that it would be amusing if the third line, as I continued reciting it, went "No evil shall escape my might", which does not belong there, of course, but would continue the rhyme and meter.
I can't remember what the first two lines that I was trying to use were, though. If you can think of it, then leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Conversations Regarding Conversation Hearts

So, we got some conversation hearts recently, and, as usual, some of them struck me, but this time, since I'm trying to blog a bunch this year, I figured that I'd blog about them.

"Marry Me"
Forward much? This is either a very forward proposition for a conversation heart or a very poor choice in marriage proposals, unless you met at a NECO fan club or something.

"Adore Me"
Note that this does not, in fact, say "I adore you", but rather says "adore me". The giver is instructing the receiver to adore him or her, which works just about as well as saying "love me" or "have the same interests as I do".

"Tweet Me"
Oh, I see that twitter has become mainstream now. Well, that's going to be about as effective at stopping me as the mainstreamness of blogs is at stopping me from blogging.

P.S.: It's a short post this week, as I forgot about what subject I had originally intended to blog.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Vulcans and Spock

I've thought about this in the past.
Vulcans generally treat Spock, who is half-Vulcan and half-Human (for which I just turn off my understanding of evolutionary and developmental biology), as having a disadvantage toward being as disciplined and logical as other Vulcans. Supposedly, this is because the Human component makes him more emotional and less rational.
This makes no sense.
I don't say that because I think that Humans are extremely rational or anything like that. The thing is that, as I understand it, Vulcan logic is cultural. Specifically, Vulcans developed their logical culture as a reaction against their extremely chaotic and destructive nature. Becoming logical allowed Vulcans to rise up from their very real savagery and become a very well-developed intelligent species.
So, innately, Vulcans are a bunch of savage brutes, more so than Humans, and their culture, reacting against that, has allowed them to become extremely rational, more so than Humans. The thing is that culture is not built into one's biology. A half-Human half-Vulcan, raised as a Vulcan, should be just as logical as any Vulcan. Indeed, a Human raised as a Vulcan would actually have an advantage, since his urges would not be nearly as strong as those of his Vulcan counterparts.
Well, that's it. For any of you who know Star Trek: What do you think? Am I wrong? Did I miss something? Or am I right, and there's a big hole in the Vulcan treatment of Spock?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Crazy Idea: Double-iPad

I had an idea on the day that the iPad was announced (yesterday, I think). Imagine 2 iPads, next to each other, touching, longer side to longer side, facing the same way. Now, imagine that they are connected by a hinge, and that they could close together all the way, such that the screens face each other, similar to how a laptop closes screen-to-keyboard. Finally, imagine that these two devices are the same device, rather than two separate devices tacked together. I think that this device - which I will tentatively call the iPad DS - would be good. It's like a cross among an iPad, a conventional laptop (or perhaps a tablet PC - I don't know much about them), and a Nintendo DS.
This layout has some advantages over the other devices:
-The maximum potential screen area is double that of an iPad.
-With the right settings, one vertical, landscape screen could act like a normal laptop screen, and the other screen could function as a keyboard. Thus, it could effectively be a laptop with a touch-screen, but it adds versatility, since it doesn't have to be.
-The ability to close it means that the screens are better-protected than that of the iPad.
-It would potentially be very nice for reading newspapers or books. Think of holding a laptop book-wise, with the keyboard replaced by another screen.
I estimate the cost for the basic version of such a device at $1000 if it's made by Apple. The cost of $500 per iPad is a good guideline, and there is added complexity, but at the same time, the hardest part of development is already finished.
I have no plans to buy an iPad, for many reasons. I don't have a job yet, I already have a computer that's new as of 3 months ago, and I like using my computer on my desk (keyboard down and monitor up). However, if a double-iPad were released, then I would seriously consider buying it once I have consistent work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Haiti, RPGs, and Value Determination

On Monday, I heard about something interesting. Apparently, I could donate $20 to Haiti relief via, and I would get over $1000 worth of products. This sounds great. I investigated it, and the money specifically to Doctors Without Borders (a.k.a. "Medecins Sans Frontieres", excuse lack of accents since my keyboard makes those nearly impossible) and their Haiti relief effort.
Before I go on, I'd like to point out that I don't need convincing. On Tuesday (when I looked), I donated the $20. I had been meaning to donate, and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so. For various reasons, they say to leave 1 business day to process (by now, mine should be done) and another 1 to 2 business days to get the e-mail saying that the downloads are ready.
I started mulling this over in my mind. Theoretically, donating to the relief of Haiti is already a good thing, but can I prove it? In a much more concrete manner, my transaction has produced value. My $20 has not ceased to exist - it has gone to Doctors Without Borders, who are in turn helping Haiti. However, there are suddenly $1000 worth of legal downloads that did not exist before. Note that I did not necessarily generate information - the files already existed and were already downloaded by countless others - but I did generate value.
To put it into terms of the two entities directly affected by this: I lost $20 in capital and gained $1000 in market value of electronic products, and Doctors Without Borders has gained $20 in capital. Thus, they netted $20 and I netted $980, in capital and market value, respectively.
Of course, that explanation has a clear flaw. While $1000 is the market value of products that I will receive, if I do not actually use any of them, then it is $0 gross gain and -$20 net gain for me. For this cause, I consider that acceptable, but that does not actually explain anything.
My true net gain will be -$20, plus the market value of each product that I eventually use. I obviously cannot determine that before I even receive the products, but I can estimate. The products in the bundle are listed on the site, so I will go through that list and try to determine which products I will actually use:
17 Archer Feats/17 Bard Spells/17 Magic Shields/17 Monk Feats/17 Plants/17 Rogue Feats: $0.99 each - (d20 system) I expect to be able to use at least 2 of these. $1.98
Adventure Essentials: Holy Water: $1.99 - (d20 system) $1.99
Adventure Essentials: Rope: $1.99 - (d20 system) $1.99
Apocrypha - Myths of the World: $0.00 - (no system) This sounds handy for inspiration for lots of things. $0.00
Basic Poker Playing Cards 1: $0.50 - (no system) These sound fun/handy to have. $0.50
Bits of Magicka: Pocket Items: $4.50 - (d20 system) I'm fairly confident that, at some point, I'll be running a game where a player wants to pick pockets, and I'll want to make it interesting. $4.50
Book of Races: $8.00 - (D&D 4E) Odds are good that I'll play or run 4E at some point, and that this will be handy either for a race used or for reference. $8.00
I'm going to pause here for a moment. I've reached the bottom of the second page of the list, and there are 12 pages total. My total estimated value is $(1.98+1.99+1.99+0+0.50+4.50+8.00) = $18.96. Unless the remaining 10 pages of listed products are unusually dry of useful material, I expect to at least double that amount, resulting in about $18 of net profit on my end.
Well, that was an interesting exercise, even if I didn't finish it.
If there's a lesson to be learned from this, I'd say that, if you want to donate to Haiti and also like RPGs, go through RPGNow to do so. You'll help Haiti, produce value, and possibly profit. If you want to donate to Haiti but don't like RPGs, then donate through whatever means you prefer.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Star Trek: Online: Here are the Keys to Your New Ship, Ensign

OK, so, I got a Star Trek: Online beta key. I've been trying to play it when I can during the open beta. I'm going to briefly go over a few key points about the gaming experience so far.
-By default, any open slots on an away team (i.e., not filled by players or officers) are filled by red-shirted security officers.
-There are tribbles.
-Common enemies include the Borg *and* the Klingon.
-It uses the original timeline, so Vulcan is still there.
-Most missions include time in space and time on a planet or space station.
Space combat:
-It's pretty cool and also challenging.
-Auxiliary power to port shields!
-Fire all phasers!
-Fire photon torpedoes!
-Full power to shields!
-Evasive maneuvers!
-Yes, you can do all of those things in this game.
Ground combat:
-It's also pretty fun.
-It can be hard. Never let a Klingon with a bat'leth anywhere near you.
-There are red-shirts!
Special stuff:
-I like the open team formation system. Basically, if two people who have "open teaming" turned on enter the same system (read: dungeon), then they join together as one team. If a third person who is similarly open teaming also enters, then they'll be on the team, too.
-I know why the federation uses phasers instead of disruptors.
I like Star Trek: Online. Once I get a job (to provide money and to give me a routine), if I feel like paying for an MMO (DDO is free for main content), then I'll seriously consider this game.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Twitter: It's Over Five Thousand!

As I'm writing this, I'm about to hit 5,000 tweets on my twitter account. According to, I've been tweeting for 1 year, 9 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, and some change. I started on March 23, 2008. It's not quite two years. Now, I'm fairly certain that the utility either checks when the account was made or checks when the first tweet was tweeted, so there's little regard for frequency, so you'll have to just trust that I've been tweeting mostly at a steady rate ever since I got the account. Anyway, I'm writing this post about my experiences with and on twitter.
Initially, the concept seemed quite useful. Twitter asks "What are you doing?" as its proposed question, and one answers in 140 characters or less. Applications using twitter were in development (and new ones continue to be produced), so my plan was to get onto twitter, wait for things that would allow my twitter account to interact with AIM/MSNIM/YIM/Gmail Chat/Pidgin, and interface them so that I'd have a one-stop shop for my current status, rather than having to edit my status on each of those things separately.
Well, for various reasons, that didn't quite work out. Among them was that twitter has become a social network of sorts. I can follow people, basically saying that I'm a fan of theirs or that I consider them my friends. People can follow me, saying that they're fans of mine or that they consider me their friends. And, of course, mutual following amounts to mutual fandom or friendship. For those who don't know, on twitter, one's main page has a feed of one's own tweets plus tweets from those that one follows, lined up in temporal order. Unfortunately, if I want "mentions" of me, including those from people that I don't follow, I have to go to a separate thing. It's easy to miss communications that way, but I'm in the habit of, rather than refreshing the page, clicking the replies link, then clicking the home link again, to check both.
As I'm writing this, I'm following 108 people and I have 140 followers. Also, to the best of my knowledge, I've only been blocked by one user, for reasons unknown. Wait, I'm following 108 people? That sounds like a lot. On reviewing that list, though, I see a few things. First of all, accounts can belong to companies and organizations, so I'm following, for instance, @CERN and @diradio (belonging to CERN and, respectively). Also, some people don't tweet that often, so following them doesn't clutter up my feed that much.
Some features have been added to twitter since I signed on. For one, retweeting has been quite popular, where one says "ReTweet @UserName ", or "RT @UserName " for short. However, that only works for tweets that are shorter than [135 - [UserName.length]] characters long. To "solve" this dilemma, twitter itself added a "ReTweet" feature, which works alright, except that it doesn't allow the addition of comments to the ReTweet, which was one of the advantages of the old way with very short original tweets. The other notable new feature is lists. I follow various people for various reasons. Now, I can sort them into lists, if I wish to look at a specific topic for some reason. Also, other people can follow these lists to follow a whole group of people at once. Among other things, I have lists on the topics of atheism, steampunk, conventions, and scifi. I will say, though, that I have yet to follow someone else's list. I've seen only a few, and they generally either include people that I don't want in my feed or include so many people that I fear an overcrowding of my feed. Also, I've just checked, and all of my lists are followed by either 0 or 1 users. I'm also on 9 lists, but 4 of those are my own.
Of course, the question is also begged: How did I get 139 followers? Well, I'll admit that several of them are spam accounts. I stopped bothering to remove them a while back. Basically, I think that they follow people in the hopes of getting followed back so that they can direct message them. (Direct messaging is only available between people who follow each other.) So, they don't actually hurt me, and I don't feel like culling my followers regularly. Of course, plenty of my followers are legitimate accounts who follow me because... actually, I don't know why. I guess that they just like what they see.
I've followed people and I've been followed, sometimes by the same people and sometimes not. I've made lists and I'm on lists. I've met people and people have met me. I've entertained people and I've been entertained. Overall, this twitter thing has been a positive experience, even if it didn't work out for my original plans.
I'm planning to announce this blog post for tweet number 5000.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

General Update: January 2010

So, I haven't been blogging much and, in general, I've been doing a lot of other stuff. Here's what's up:
Back in October, my computer died. Since then, I've gotten a hard drive enclosure, so I can access my files from that. I've started moving things off, though I've hit a snag in that my bookmarks from Google Chrome seem to need a special treatment. Anyway, I'm working off and on on moving stuff off of there, and I plan to eventually format the drive to use as an external storage drive.
I've also recently found out about a free MMORPG: Dungeons & Dragons: Online, a.k.a. "D&D:O" or, for some reason, "DDO". I downloaded and installed it and got an account, at the behest of some friends who also play it. So, I've been playing that a bit, too.
I'm also working on organizing and consolidating my wishlist items, making a reading list for this year, and catching up on my webcomics and other things that got slowed down when my computer died (and also by the holidays).
So, I'll be working on the above things for a little while.

Resolutions for 2010

So, since New Year's is an occasion on which people customarily resolve to accomplish within the next 12 months, I figured that I might as well make some resolutions.
My first resolution is to blog weekly. So, I'm already losing at that one. I could limit myself to full weeks, so that the week of the 1st & 2nd doesn't count, or I could blog twice today, but frankly, if I have at least 52 blog posts this year, I'll be pretty happy, considering how little I usually blog.
Secondly, I'm working on a resolution on some web stuff of mine. I'm not being specific on it because I'm still not sure on the details of what I'll do with it. I'm planning to schedule various things over the course of the year. Also, there's a piece of hardware for me to get before I do anything with it yet.
Thirdly, I'm resolving to read several books this year. The list hasn't been finalized yet, but among other things, I expect to get around to finishing The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
I thought that there was something more, but I don't seem to remember it, so I'll just leave that there.