Old News: February 21, 2005 to March 19, 2005

2:01 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
19 Mar. 2005 (Sat); Post #566
Beefy, Hanwool, and I played Alhambra this evening. Very fun. It's by Uberplay, who did Tongiaki (which has been a favorite in our group for the past few months). Alhambra is vaguely like Settlers of Catan, but incorporates an interesting tile-placement system, has a greater emphasis on monitoring/betting-against your opponents, and has three scoring rounds like Pimp (though each round is worth more and more points, so there's real competition throughout
the entire game). Got German Game of the Year 2003.

Oh yeah, I wanted to mention that ppl who use no-right-click scripts on their web sites are total douchebags. It really messes up those of us who depend on mouse gestures for navigation. If I had the patience, I'd fish their lame JPGs out of my cache and post them on random forums.

NW Underground Utilities is really unreliable. No one answered their business number when I called at 2:00 pm. Managed to get the owner/manager on his cell though. He told me they'd have delay the work till Monday morning because they didn't know the job would involve digging a ditch (WTF?). Despite the fact that I met with two NWUU workers Wednesday morning right where the trench was to be dug and discussed the project in detail. Oy. They're still infinitely more competent than the idiots at Cross River Interiors though.

Big GURPS game at 4:00 pm today! Everyone try to be on time! Here's a picture I snapped of this evening's sunset (as viewed from Argent near McLoughlin at around 6:00 pm).

Sunset in West Pasco. Click image for larger version (1280x960; 155 KB).

5:08 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
16 Mar. 2005 (Wed); Post #565
Saw a neat collection of animal skulls I consider link-worthy.
Came across the page while working on some cleric stuff for the Jovia setting.

Also in my blog file from earlier this week: A verse from a song from The Mikado ("I've Got a Little List"):
Then [there's] the idiot who praises
With enthusiastic tone
All centuries but this
And every country but his own
I'm finally getting coaxial cable run all the way to my house (now I can scrap my current modem-in-a-bucket/300-feet-of-CAT5-strung-through-trees kludge). I met with Charter's underground guy this morning (apparently they subcontract these jobs to a company called NW Underground Utilities); they should have the trench dug either tomorrow or the day after. It'll be awesome... no more connection problems due to moisture creeping into the line, no more worrying about my modem dying because of sub-zero temperatures, and I can finally get cable television.

Hey, didja hear Gmail is now (sort of) open for everyone? About 1 in 20 visitors to Google.com will see the link displayed near the bottom of the page that allows them to register.

Episode 46 of Sealab 2021 was very good. The bit with Hesh and Debbie's box of stuff was epsecially funny. Robot Chicken 1x04 was okay... the best part was their Behind the Music spoof about Electric Mayhem (the band from The Muppet Show).

Did you know pangolins are not related to armadillos at all? And their tongues are longer than their bodies. ZOMG, facts.

1:59 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
14 Mar. 2005 (Mon); Post #564
Happy Pi Day! GURPS was interesting... big zombie fight, Belfast lost a leg, lots of magic items salvaged and sold, lots of skills picked up during a four month skip, and yet another crash in the city of Terenak. Session ended with Talric critically failing a spell roll from just within Belfast's Sanctuary.

I noticed a lot of failed requests for _vti_bin/owssvr.dll and MSOffice/cltreq.asp so I made the directories and renamed some empty text files to avoid having to see the errors when I check my error log. Apparently those requests are made whenever someone uses MS Frontpage or IE with "web discussions" enabled to view my site. Good to know I guess.

The Home Movies Season 2 DVD comes out on May 31st. Seasons 1 and 2 weren't that good IMHO, but I think I'll pick them up for the commentaries. Hanwool, Beefy, and I watched a few episodes after GURPS last night and couldn't stop laughing. Jason's "Pepopowitz at Ellis Island" puppet show was extremely funny.

Happy Pi Day

1:45 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
12 Mar. 2005 (Sat); Post #563
I was messing with my MP3 player and realized that, given the bitrate it records at, I could record an entire GURPS session (and then some — it would have a capacity of about 15 hours). Might be something neat to try. Speaking of GURPS, I wanted to make a special note about the optional Buying Success rules we'll be using: you can't buy success on attacks (though you can buy critical failures down to ordinary failures) or anything with a large penalty when it's essentially voluntary. The latter condition is meant to prevent certain kinds of abuse that could result from PCs auto-succeeding at extremely difficult tasks without risk (e.g. "Hey, see that speck of dust that's -18 to hit? Betcha 100 gold I can peg it with this knife at 5 yards.").

Some of you may have seen this site's custom 404 error page. Well, I noticed quite a few 403 errors popping up in my Apache logs, so I made a page for it too. It uses a neat PHP script to log IPs and referrers.

I've been occasionally messing with this life game to try to make far-spreading "lifeforms" from as few cells as possible.
Might be something to do for a few minutes if you're bored.

I've been meaning to mention S. John Ross' Medieval Demographics Made Easy page for a while now. It's been very useful in my current campaign. Great worldbuilding tool for any realistic fantasy setting.

Downloaded the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith trailer off BTEfnet (torrent link; 43 MiB). I thought it was pretty awesome. But then, I like all the Star Wars movies (unlike some ppl). Will definitely see it May 19th. (BTW, did you know Serenity's been pushed back to September 30th?)

jacked-up Delorean
Jacked-up Delorean.

7:16 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
9 Mar. 2005 (Wed); Post #562
Quick note to my gaming group: Having considered the relatively high rate of death for PCs in our current campaign (five deaths since Jan. 22
/7 sessions), I'm adjusting the Influence Success Rolls optional rule (B347) once again. Like before, we won't use the Player Guidance rules at all, but costs for Buying Success will be reduced to their original values. Buying critical successes will not be permitted, however. If any failure is changed into a success, the margin of success will be assumed to be 0. Also, the player must declare he/she's buying success quickly after failing a roll. You shouldn't be able to see the effects of a failed roll and still change it (of course, in some cases, the result will be obvious, e.g. when making a death check).

While on the topic of house rules, we're going to go back to my old pure-integer initiative system. Basically, to refresh everyone's memories: multiply your basic speed (plus any initiative bonus, like that from Combat Reflexes) by four and add the sum of 2d. A roll of 2 always goes last, 12 always goes first.

I've collected all my GURPS 4th edition house rules on this page. BTW, I realized we haven't been observing the Rule of 16 (B349), so we'll need to pay attention to it in the future.

Some non-GURPS-related stuff:

Here's a neat gallery of things overgrown with kudzu.

I was listening to Coast to Coast on 610 AM last night and heard a guy mention an interesting Martin Luther King Jr. quote I hadn't heard before: "If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." It's kind of inspiring, but I don't think I agree with it. The idea that the value of someone's life is defined by their willingness to sacrifice themselves doesn't sit well with me. Sure, it's probably a noble thing, but I think a better measurement of "worth" would be based on the amount of happiness one's brought others. Or how frequently one has done what's morally or ethically right. Or, maybe to rephrase that: How much someone's done to help society work smoothly while attempting to minimize discomfort for others.

Anyway, I guess any serious discussion of someone's value as a person (or their relative "worthiness of life," however you want to say it) is intrinsically presumptuous and arrogant. Taken literally, I don't think it's really what MLK meant to say; he was just trying to make a point that it's important to be passionate about something. It's likely that if you put it into its original context it was simply a statement designed to encourage people to stand up for racial equality in the 60s.

Did you know it's traditional for Portuguese women to wear black for the rest of their lives after being widowed? Saw that on a travelogue on PBS the other night. It was one of those Rick Steves ones.

Chugworth Academy #172 was pretty funny. I don't check their site often enough.

Radical Edward - iHack: 10,000 times cooler than you'll ever be
Radical Edward (a la Cowboy Bebop) iPod spoof wallpaper. Click here for full-sized version (1024x768; 102 KiB).
(BTW, someone email me if you know the source of this — image just says "created by sara.")

3:02 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
9 Mar. 2005 (Wed); Post #561
I was going to mention SaveToby.com,
but it looks like the site has gone down. Not all that surprising; when I visited, PayPal had stopped supporting donations for it. The basic premise was that this guy had a really cute rabbit and he said he would butcher and eat it unless he received $50,000 (USD) by June 30th. When I saw the page, he said he had so far received $17,000. Anyway.

Saw an interesting post on Slashdot by ajs318. I forget what the original topic was, but odds are it had nothing to do with heroin. Here's an excerpt (grammar and punctuation definitely not mine):
The reason why heroin is so highly addictive, is because it reduces your body's capacity to manufacture endorphins {naturally-occurring opiate analogues which perform bioregulatory functions}. Heroin withdrawal causes extreme sensitisation: you actually feel your bones moving past one another when you bend your joints, you feel your ribs moving when you breathe, you feel your heart beating and the blood flowing through your arteries, you feel the sweat coming out of your pores. You feel your oesophagus pushing food down to your stomach, you feel your digestive products working their way along your intestines. You feel your bladder swelling as your kidneys clean your blood.

It's very hard to get used to all this at once, and there is no way to block off just some of the sensations; so many people find it easier just to go back to heroin.
I don't know if it's true, but it's entertaining.

Here're some amusing personal ads.

I visited suprnova.org a few days ago to see if they had a link to a more recent FAQ, SilentDragz' suprFAQ having been taken down and me being curious about how things had possibly progressed since the site's removal. Anyway, now they're pimping this new P2P program/network, eXeem, which has been described as BitTorrent without trackers. How this differs from Gnutella, I don't know. I'll have to give it a try sometime when my bandwidth's not saturated BTing documentaries from the History Channel.

Speaking of BitTorrent, apparently the 4.0 client is out. Also, TvTorrents is back up.

I was getting so many MP3 requests from ppl that I had to stop sending them out without reciprocation. So far, everyone I've traded with has made good on their offers, even though they'd have nothing to lose by lying or leaving me hanging. That kinda surprised me.

Last Saturday's GURPS game was eventful. To sum things up: Jones introduced his new cleric of Grilkos (Belfast, cousin to Korbixnot) and Paige returned with a human bard (Siani) who once served on Zerinien's crew when she was pirating with the Dragonrunner in late 4731. The party quickly left for Mordine to do some battlefield looting on the plains between Chervitz and Skooda disguised as clerics. While camping after a 140-mile ride, Talric cast Decapitation on Eiland and ran through the forest smacking his head into trees. Eiland petitioned for divine intervention and received it — Talric tripped and was himself decapitated; his body picked up Eiland's head and attached it. Eiland ran away and Talric later cast Shapeshifting on himself (at -6 for a lack of gestures and foot movements) to come back to camp as a garter snake. Where Belfast stomped him into a pulp. Talric survived though.

Belfast then had a series of unfortunate encounters with Eiland's headless body and Talric's bodyless head which resulted in some bouts of fainting and the acquisition of a new quirk. Eiland took off with Jorget pronto upon realizing he had lost his powers. Session ended with Hugh, Zerinien, and Siani surrounded by zombies and ghouls and Belfast about thirty yards away. Since the combat looked like it'd take a while, we postponed it till this coming Saturday (the 9th).

Earlier this evening, Beefy and I had a solo session for Eiland. He'll return to the group sometime after the 10th of Verox (the rest of the group is still on Yrneh 1st).

So-so episode of Law & Order: SVU tonight. It was too obvious from the beginning that Martin Short's psychic character was the bad guy, but the fact that his wife was in on it and had stolen their baby was a bit of a surprise.

Some very difficult-looking sheet music. Click here for full-sized image (327 KiB).

11:01 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
3 Mar. 2005 (Thu); Post #560
Just finished watching Law & Order: Trial by Jury. I really liked it. Bebe Neuwirth (played Lilith on Frasier and Cheers) is good for the lead part. It was neat seeing Lenny Briscoe again, but I wonder how they're going to handle the actor's death. The way they were talking, it sounded like he decided not to retire after all and joined a different precinct or something. Anyway, I think the idea of the new series, focusing exclusively on the trial, is a good contrast to regular L&O and SVU. Sometimes they never even get to the trial! IMHO, the cop ("order"?) part of the shows is seldom as interesting as the trial. Frex, I did not care for this week's episode of Special Victims Unit. Forty minutes of mostly boring interrogation followed by a little police work and the umpteenth tense situation where Stabler almost kills someone cuz he's so angry.

You might notice I changed the site template some... in the menu at the top, Main became Blog, Games became Gaming, and the Search and Ppl links were deleted (the Ppl I Know page is still linked in the Misc section). Also replaced the Email link with a Contact page.

You may have heard about the Millau Viaduct; it's this really amazingly high/long bridge in France. I was talking to some ATers about it and collected some interesting links on the subject. I had a PowerPoint slideshow that had some great images of it, but I can't find the email it was attached to ATM.

Robot Chicken's second episode was better than the first. "Voltron Gets Served" was actually pretty funny. Since the episodes only weigh in at 114 MB, I guess I'll keep DLing them.

Oh yeah, I meant to say something on here about Equilibrium a while ago. Saw it with Beefy some night and liked it, though the premise was fairly absurd. The way they used religious terms and styles (special operatives called "clerics," public buildings built like cathedrals) in what seemed to be a totally secular government was clever. Gave it a strange atmosphere, really reinforced the "exotic future" feel. The fight scenes were the way I like them: short. The only movies where I really like to see drawn-out duels (or one guy kicking a ton of ass) are ones where they use fantastic wire-fu combat styles, like Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

I've been talking to fellow ATers on the unofficial AnandTech Ventrilo server the past few nights. There're some really funny ppl on there. (And some gigantic nerds.) Really getting caught up on my ATOT memes.

Traded my MP3 player for a slightly more recent model: The Creative Muvo TX FM. Same capacity, but this one is smaller and can be disconnected from its battery module (in the picture below, the black part comes out of the white part), gets FM radio, and can record voice or radio.

Creative Muvo TX FM
New MP3 player.

9:39 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
28 Feb. 2005 (Mon); Post #559
I finished the first Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things trade paperback last night. Really, really good. I've also got vol. 3, but I don't want to read it till Dan gets vol. 2 in for me. It moves pretty fast. Anyway, it, Dr. Blink, and Pirate Club were all pretty good. Dr. Blink #1 wasn't as good as #0. It's in color now, which helps explain why it took so long to come out. Seems like they made the daughter older. Skeleton Key, an obscure Canadian comic I picked up, looked good but apparently sucks hard. Should've expected that, what with it coming from Canada and all. Dippy highschool drama, really lame.

I'm not going to buy PS238 any more. It was okay before (I really liked the two-parter about the robot who used the weather-controlling super to escape the govt. lab), but Williams introduced this character I absolutely can't stand. Mostly because of her dialogue. Here's a sample from issue #15: "We gotta bond goin' or sump'n. Anyway, dis is a great idea you thunk up, T-Bone! I think we gots us a science project!" Yech. And apparently she's going to stay a main character. At least Nodwick's still good.

Found this site, The Box O' Truth. Gun nuts shoot things. With commentary and pictures. More interesting than it sounds.

I can't stop playing Nanaca Crash. Quite addictive. It's mostly in Japanese, but it's easy to figure out anyway. Click and hold to select angle, release to select power. Then you can click at certain times to give the projectile aerial boosts or to initiate combos. Different characters will give boosts, alter the angle, or slow the projectile. So far, my high score is 4850.13 m.

Now, a Futurama quote and a funny want ad.

Leela: What's the mission?
Prof. Farnsworth: Collecting honey. Ordinary honey.
Leela: That doesn't sound so dangerous.
Prof. Farnsworth: This is no ordinary honey!

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me.

10:24 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
27 Feb. 2005 (Sun); Post #558
Played a lot of games this past week. Thursday I played Munchkin and Starfarers of Catan with Ryan and Beefy. Then Tongiaki and Starfarers with Hanwool and Beefy Friday. Then Tongiaki, Burn in Hell, and GURPS yesterday with everyone.

Burn in Hell would be more fun if the game play weren't so complicated. Just checking your own cards, the Pit, and your opponents' cards for Circle possibilities takes forever. Then you also have to be aware of cards' special abilities to figure out which souls of yours are in danger and how you could arrange chains to nab the ones you need. While factoring in Hell's countdown to zero degrees. You could probably compare BiH to a combination of Gin Rummy and Go Fish if one expanded the usual deck of cards to seven suits and played with a timer. I really like the basic idea. Maybe some more games will help me get comfortable with it to the point where I don't have to spend five minutes per turn planning and calculating.

But at least I'm finally starting to get the hang of Tongiaki. It seems to put greater emphasis on chance than most strategy board games we play. I've been looking at some of Uberplay's other board games; New England and
Alhambra both look pretty good. I think I'll see if I can get a good price for one or the other on eBay.

GURPS was fairly exciting on Saturday. Beefy, Hanwool, and I had roleplayed their ten days in Terenak separate from the whole group on Wednesday night using Skype (a free voice-chat program that allows conference calling). (BTW, speaking of Skype, I'm on there as "aytchjayohthree" if anyone needs to get ahold of me.) Here's what happened in the face-to-face session: Talric was arrested for torturing/murdering a bandit who'd begged for mercy; he would've gotten four days at the pillory, but the judge caught him using magic and sent for a wizard from the Keldan Thaumocracy. Talric made a break for it with a combination of Invisibility, Lockmaster, and Spasm. He got a nasty cut from a guard while escaping and collapsed for two hours. Almost bled to death, but managed a nat-three two points from a death check. After hiding out in a stables for a day, he made his way to the ship and sort of made up with the clerics. During this adventure, Korbixnot threatened the mayor and began a smear campaign against him. This ended badly when he was lured into an alley and stabbed with a poison dagger. The rogue kicked him when he fell and ran off. He got up, took a few steps and lost consciousness. Very dramatic. Unfortunately, no one found him in time and he was holding on to Talric's staff, which was (presumably) stolen or hidden somewhere. Towards the end of the session, Zerinien let Hugh and Talric in on her plan to profit from the recent war between a couple city-states in Mordine.

Anyway. Here's an interesting page on the translation of Chinese in Firefly. It's fun to try saying the phrases yourself, but it's hard to do the tonal stuff right and still speak smoothly.

Ever wanted to make a shortcut for the "Unplug or Eject Hardware" applet in Windows? I needed one because I use ObjectDock and hate having to close and re-run it just to copy a file off my thumbdrive. To make the shortcut, just use the following string for your Target:

%windir%\System32\RUNDLL32.EXE shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll

Big thanks to Jeff7 from the AnandTech forums for help with that.

I won Starfarers. Haha.
Beefy and Jones losing at Starfarers of Catan last Thursday. Haha, chumps!

11:14 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
21 Feb. 2005 (Mon); Post #557
We had GURPS on Saturday like usual. There was some party conflict, but it was the result of everyone roleplaying their characters well (aside from some unnecessary torture/murder). The session was pretty exciting, I think. Here's a brief synopsis:

Eiland crit-failed a piloting roll and crashed the ship into an apricot orchard in Terenak, Arnor. Dan (a crewman) went overboard at 35' up, but Talric saved him with Slow Fall. The band manager for the Lilting Stirges, Barthas, broke his leg badly in the fall, so Korbixnot performed first aid on him. And crit-failed. The guy died from a fat embolism (but this is TL4, so an attending cleric just called it "shock"). The band wanted the Dragonrunner to chip in for a grave plot, but the captain refused.
That, plus the theft of $1100 from their quarters (by Talric), helped them decide to find new transport. The party met with the mayor (who's also the orchard owner). He basically told them he'd waive the cost of the damaged trees and keep repairs going on the ship (though they'd have to repay him for that) if they retrieved a Tarksot Book of Grudges from a dwarven hall 120 miles away.

So they buy a wagon, some oxen, hire a couple teamsters, and head out. Along the way they run into a small group of bandits who they end up killing/torturing. Eiland (a cleric of Altrusia) saves two from the merciless treatment of Talric and Korbixnot. One gets his leg amputated. The party travels on to the dwarven hall. The tunnels had been abandoned for 80 Jovian years (105 E-years), so the haul consisted only of a couple amazingly-preserved weapons, a handful of gems, a stein of Bauric, and a golden wand. Hugh's Shape Stone comes in very handy for melting a slab protecting the elders' crypt and opening the stone coffins. They grab the book, but trigger a trap that causes the bottom of a coffin to drop down a deep shaft and lose the Bauric stein. Korbix ropes down the shaft with Hugh's help and finds a tunnel that used to be a passage for an underground river.

On their way out, they decide to open a bricked-up tunnel that (apparently) contained a horrible black spider/crab thing. They run off before they even get a look at it, the screeching and scrabbling of claws being enough to get everyone moving. Korbix turns to hold it off at the entrance while the wizards escape, but faints when he sees it. Talric comes back and saves him (after the captain'd gotten sliced up quite a bit) with Continual Light on his staff. The wizard drags him outside the cave while fending off the monster. Hugh and Eiland are on the wagon, already fleeing. Eiland hazards a glance back and sees Talric standing over the dwarf's bloodied body. He urges the teamsters on, but Hugh tries to convince them to turn back. Eventually they begin casting spells on each other -- Eiland resists the Flesh to Stone and Hugh succumbs to Sleep. By the time Hugh wakes, they're 40 miles away and Korbix and Talric are nowhere to be found.

That was much longer than I meant it to be. And I just realized I changed tenses in the second paragraph. Argh. Here's what I shoulda written: Ship crashed, wagon travel, bandit fight, looted dwarf hall, fled from giant spider-thing, wizard and captain stranded.

Anyway, here's some more GURPS stuff: From now on, new characters will use Luther's Weak IQ house rule in the Jovia campaign. Beefy started a thread (on the SJGF) on the TL4 Physician conundrum we ran into last week and I submitted some Campaigns errata. Added info for Grilkos to the Jovia clerics page. I hope to add a page on basic history, mythology, doctrine, and customs for each god/church this week. As is, clerics don't have enough information to really roleplay their faith beyond the self-imposed mental disads.

Hey, didja hear Maddox is writing a book? I'll buy it. Oh yeah, and Hanwool mentioned the Outpost Nine Editorials. They're a little like Maddox and the Tardblog. Funny stuff. Speaking of written works, Beefy finished a book. Yes, you read correctly: Beefy. Finished. A book. The literature in question? Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk. Probably my favorite book, BTW. At least in my top five anyway. He said he'd finish American Gods next, but I just laughed. We'll see.

MySpleen went down, kind of. Xavier's asking for mucho donations to rent a new server. I might feel compelled to help out, but the SOB never promoted me to "Donator" status the first time I sent them money, even after a few PMs to him and Piett. Besides, ppl kinda stopped posting new stuff on there. BTEfnet, OTOH, has been consistently awesome. Them I wouldn't mind contributing to.

Had what seemed to be a major virus problem this morning. AVG kept throwing up all these warnings saying tons of unrelated files had been infected and none of them could be healed or moved to the vault. So I went to restart in safe mode and I got a "ntoskrnl.exe missing or corrupted" error. Popped in the Win2K SP4 CD, did an emergency repair, got into safe mode, and ran a full system scan. Had a bunch of Java install files that were infected, but they all moved to the virus vault okay. No more problems so far. My data-safety paranoia's been at a high level lately; been burning lots of DVDs. Prolly gonna set up some kind of software mirroring between the G: and L: drives.

I'll leave you with this: Hi-Ho (253 KB).

Wayne Brady Jaffa
A Stargate SG-1 ep. featured Wayne Brady as a Jaffa. For some reason, that cracks me up.

Venture Bros. running
And here's an animated GIF of the Venture Brothers running. Why not?

"The world is my lobster." — Henry J. Tillman