Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bow down before the one you serve...

... you're going to get what you deserve. You wanted me to read smut? You get smut read to you. Smutty, smutty smut.

TRIGGER WARNING for those who have sexual hangups. Or for anyone who has good taste, basically.

Here is the dramatic reading I promised.  Kindly recall that I also promised you an epic revenge

Muahahahahahahah.  Happy Halloween....

Something special is coming...

Remember how I pledged that if you hit a stretch goal I'd do a dramatic reading?  And how you guys voted for 50 Shades of Grey ?

Well, tonight you get what's coming to you.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hold on to your pants, folks...

... because you are liable to crap yourself with joy.

I have secured not one, not two, but five signed Larry Correia books for the raffle!

Now, unlike the Michael Williamson books, these are paperback. But you get your choice of the following:
  1. Monster Hunter International
  2. Monster Hunter Vendetta
  3. Monster Hunter Alpha
  4. Hard Magic
  5. Spellbound
Mr. Correia has multiple copies of these books, so it's not a first-come first-served kind of thing. If you win one of these (with a $10 ticket, natch), you pick the book you want, and not only he sign it for you, he will personalize it for you (he specifically mentioned "doing requests" in his reply). 

The Squeak or Treat raffle ends November 3rd -- that's this Sunday -- so be sure to get your tickets now!

WNW: A clear and concise explanation.

Really, it's so obvious when it's explained like this.  Why can't we have taxes and healthcare illustrated in so plain a manner?

Tip of the hat to McThag for finding this gem.

UPDATE:  I found a transcript of the technobabble!

For a number of years now, work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a transmission that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such an instrument is the turbo-encabulator.
Now basically the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it's produced by the modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive diractance.
The original machine had a base plate of pre-famulated amulite surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the panametric fam. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzlevanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented.
The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots of the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible tremie pipe to the differential girdle spring on the "up" end of the grammeters.
The turbo-encabulator has now reached a high level of development, and it’s being successfully used in the operation of novertrunnions. Moreover, whenever a forescent skor motion is required, it may also be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle arm, to reduce sinusoidal repleneration.
It's not cheap, but I'm sure the government will buy it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: The Duchess Cup

The Duchess Cup is a regatta that occurs once a year on Mora (Spinward Marches 3124). In true Imperial tradition, it is quite old; it was started in I.Y. 624, after the Civil War and just prior to the implementation of the Express Boat system.

Prior to the Xboat network, messages had to be sent via Scout or Imperial Navy courier, and were limited to a maximum of J-3. This made transmissions of critical wartime messages between the front lines and the Sector capital in Mora lengthy (12 weeks or more), and messages back to Capital took subsequently longer as well. Jump-4 was a  technological innovation late in the Second Frontier War -- too late to do any real good-- but this laid the roots for the Xboat System of 624.

It is a historical curiosity that even though the Duchess Cup ostensibly replicates a famous call for help -- "The Zhodani are invading, send reinforcements" -- from Jewell to Mora, the race is from Mora to Jewell and back. (This would be rather like re-enacting Paul Revere's ride by starting in Concord and ending in Boston.)  The explanation for this is, quite simply, that the Duchess of Mora wanted to be present at the start and end of the race, and did not wish to travel to Jewell to see either. What nobility wants, nobility gets.

Part America's Cup, part Paris-Dakar Rally, and part XPRIZE competition, the Duchess Cup was devised as a way to "crowdsource" innovations in jump technology by encouraging the use of nonstandard techniques and devices to break previous performance barriers.

The Regatta
The rules for the Duchess Cup are exquisitely simple:  Race from Mora to Jewell and back in the least amount of time. Whoever arrives first, wins. 

There are, however, rules for entry into the regatta:

  • Imperial Navy and Scout ships/crews still in service cannot compete. Decommissioned ships and retired scouts/sailors are fine. 
  • Megacorporations, while not expressly forbidden from competing, usually sponsor other teams. 
  • Each ship must allocate 5 tons of cargo for mail delivery. Naturally, this means it must also be armed. 
  • Each ship must have a way to pay its expenses (typically the costs of fuel, parts, and life support upkeep; berthing costs are usually waived by the starport). 
  • Any size ship and crew may enter. 
This last point is what makes the race interesting. If you have the funds for it, there is nothing stopping you from refitting an 1800 dton Leviathan class Merchant Cruiser and entering it in the race. There is also nothing stopping a retired scout from taking an old Type S, refitting it to Jump-6 capability, and also entering. 

More importantly, there are no restrictions on what type of systems are used. Experimental designs are highly encouraged, as any technological innovations which lead to victory are likely to be bought by the Navy and/or the Scouts (unless, of course, said innovators were sponsored by a Megacorporation -- in which case it likely already owns the tech through dense legal apparatus. This technology will still be sold to the Imperium, of course...  just at a hefty profit). Similarly, new methods of jump calculation, or psychology which leads to greater crew synergy, etc are also adopted, with the innovators being asked to teach their skills at Imperial Academies. 

In fact, it's not just the first-place finishers who win: the Navy/IISS typically skim all applicants for innovation, not just the winner. Sometime, finishing can be as important as winning, especially if the winner used a risky strategem whereas the third-place ship used something safer and more repeatable. 

This is also a chance for smaller shipyards to showcase their skills. Their size would prevent them from getting an Imperial build contract, but selling a winning design would allow them to bootstrap themselves to greater profitability. 

The Scouts love this race because it breaks the tendency for shipyard designs to ossify. Typical Imperial contractors would love to make thousands of the same ship for hundreds of years (and, in fact, have done just this when it comes to Naval design).

In the end, everyone benefits: the Imperium gets new technology without having to fund its research, the sailors get sector-wide fame and fortune (the purse is typically 20 million or so credits, to be divided among the crew, and titles of minor nobility are common for ship captains), innovators see their technology and techniques adapted by an interstellar polity, and jaded nobles get something to talk about.

Ultimately, the Duchess Cup is as much a test of  skill and of character as it is of technology.  The safest route is also the slowest, and so for a period of three months the crews of the Duchess Cup Regatta are risking their lives for a finish line they may not reach.   Ships are pushed to their breaking point and beyond, for most crews skip monthly ship maintenance in order to keep times in port to a minimum.  Risky, high-precision jumps are plotted in order to reduce transit to starports for refueling. 

Misjumps happen.  Some crews are never seen again. Others are stranded in distant systems, unable to leave due to design compromise -- ships are usually stripped of everything deemed "unnecessary" in order to make room for larger jump drives and fuel, and often that means such things as fuel scoops and streamlining. (Fuel is usually bought already refined, often pre-paid by corporate or collegiate sponsors, to reduce downtime.)

And then of course there are the pirates, who would love nothing more than to capture an undergunnedyacht stuffed to the gills with experimental technology, prepaid scrip for fuel, and potentially famous crewmembers (nobles are often aboard these ships, either as sponsors, ship owners, or particularly intrepid crew -- sometimes all three). 

The Duchess Cup.  If you live, you're already luckier than most. If you win, you will be famous and set for the rest of your life. And if you lose...

... well, you'll have plenty of company. 

UPDATE:  McThag weighs in with a concurrent race, the Duchesses' Fevrchiench,  here

Monday, October 28, 2013

Crocheted Schlock!

That's Sgt. Schlock, as in Schlock Mercenary.   Danica West (daughter of Julia and Brook, both of whom have also donated something to this raffle -- it's a family effort!) has a license from Howard Tayler to sell handcrafted Schlocks and will crochet one for whoever wins this $5 prize.

This is just an example. She will make it to your specification after you win, thereby allowing you to customize:
  • the color
  • the pose
  • the number of arms/eyes
  • the weapon (plasgun or other)
Tiny Crocheted Schlock is 4-5" tall and is a steal at only $5/ticket. 

Squeak or Treat: More pictures!

You've only got 7 days to buy your raffle tickets and then the opportunity is LOST FOREVER.   Some of these prizes are one-of-a-kind and you may never again get a chance to get them!  So buy your tickets now -- isn't five or ten bucks worth the price of avoiding everlasting regret?

But seriously, I'm begging you guys here. We are so close to our final goal, with only $200 left to hit our target.  There are so many cool things here, and it only takes one (1) ticket to win!  If everyone who hasn't yet donated would buy just one $5 ticket, we'd be there in no time!

First up, my friend Taryn K. has finished her second batch of scented soaps, this time with a Christmas theme:

Top row, from left to right (scent-wise): Gingersnap, Cinnamon Sugar, and Hollyberry. The bottom row is Christmas Spice and Hot Cocoa. I will have to get more of the Hollyberry and Hot Cocoa scents. They smell soooo good!

Second, my friend Jim Wrench has finished the Celestia and Luna BronyMecha:

Celestia, "Sola Invicta":

Luna, "Nos Custodit":

 I swear to God, you guys, if I hadn't promised these for auction I would be keeping these for myself. They are THAT COOL.

And because enough folks have made "Squee!" noises about one or the other, they will be raffled separately.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Flash Fic: Blood

Last week, I did a "Follow Friday" for my friend Jean Bauhaus, and many of you good readers responded positively to her short story Snack Machine. Some of you (God bless) even bought some of her books!.

Since the response was so positive, and because I spent my afternoon driving my father around on errands, and because she posted this on her own blog today, I figured I'd give the talented Ms. Bauhaus another boost of recognition.

Just a reminder:  throughout all of October, all of Jean Bauhaus' e-books are on sale for 99 cents, and her paperbacks are also marked down. You can get her books here:


I was a boy when the monster killed my parents. Of course nobody believed me. It was put down to a bear attack. But I know what I saw. I watched from under the bed as it fed on them. And when it was done, it sniffed me out, lifted the bed off me like it was made of cardboard. It bent down and put its big ugly face in mine, its breath fetid with the stink of their blood, and stared at me with nightmare eyes that I still see every time I sleep.

Then it left.

I don’t know why it spared me. I don’t care. It orphaned me. I’m going to make it wish it had killed me.

My entire life prepared me for this. Learning about it, studying the lore. I found others who had seen it, who had been victimized by it. I found those who knew how to track it, and how to kill it. They taught me, and when I was ready, I hunted it.

I found others of its kind, and killed them. It took a silver-tipped sword, forged by monks and tempered with holy water. Beheading worked. So did stabbing through the heart, but the heart was hard to locate, so I generally stuck with beheading. I’ve taken out five of them since I started hunting. But none were the one I wanted.

That one is here before me now. I tracked it to a back alley in Tulsa of all places. I know it by its eyes. It’s looking at me, and I see recognition. And regret.


I draw my sword. It swipes at me. I dodge, but not fast enough. Its claw grazes my arm. Not deep, but it tears through my coat and makes me bleed.

We dance like that for several minutes. Time slows, and it feels like hours. Then my sword finds its home, slices clean. The head falls, and just like that, my life’s work is done. My parents are avenged.

I hear a wild howl, and I turn. My monster had a mate, and she charges me. I raise my sword. She runs onto it. Miraculously, it finds the heart. She falls.

I pull out my blade and wipe it on her fur. I hear another wail, this one small and pitiful. It’s coming from a Dumpster.

Inside I find another one. Just a pup. An orphan now, like me. If I spare it, it’ll only grow up to be a killer. And it’ll want vengeance. Also like me.

I won’t make that mistake.

I raise my sword, but as I look in its eyes, I see only myself.

It trembles as I wrap it in my coat and tuck it under my arm. As I carry it to my car, I wonder first how it will ever forgive me. Then I wonder how on earth I’ll feed it.

We’ll figure it out, together. We’re family now, bound by our parents’ blood.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bioware, sit down. We need to talk.

     There comes a time in any relationship where you have to evaluate the good times and the bad times. You have to sit back and look at the broad scope of that relationship and see if it's at all healthy for both of you to carry on. It's a painful, heart-breaking process that requires objectivity and analysis, and can get you out of a situation that's just hurting you, or reinforce a bond that's stayed strong.

     My first real exposure to Bioware was Knights of the Old Republic. Unlike most sci-fi fans, I've never really been a big fan of Star Wars. My interest in the franchise peaked around Episode 1, but then quickly fell off again, but I've always enjoyed a good Star Wars game. I've even enjoyed a few bad Star Wars games. Knights of the Old Republic was far and away so different from anything I'd played before. I was mostly platformers, first-person shooters, or J-rpgs until I found this game. KOTOR had depth, story, and took the Star Wars franchise in directions I'd never seen it go, and really enjoyed seeing. A few years later, Jade Empire happened. An action-focused RPG set in Dynastic China, it sadly was not as well-received or remembered, but was a great experience nonetheless.

     Then came Mass Effect.

     I have never had such an emotional investment in a series as I have in Mass Effect. Commander Justine Shepard was the first time that my recurring character had a name and a consistent face. I remember slowly winning over Amazing Space Racist Ashley Williams and the first time I heard the smooth, dulcet tones of Garrus Vakkarian, who I would later test out 'reach and flexibility' with. The broad strokes of the game are stories that are easily recapped, but the emotional beats, growing to really care about these fictional characters, that stays with you.

     In Mass Effect 2, I felt the heartache as my ship was blown out of the sky. I felt impatient at Jack's rage and saw past Miranda's outer perfection to the insecurity that underlie everything she said and did. I had a moment with Garrus, and bonded a little more with Tali, who became my little sister when I shouted down the senate of her people in her defense.

     But the cracks were starting to show. Then came Mass Effect 3, and while the character moments still hit you left and right, there were these little... things that you just couldn't describe as anything but lazy. They gave you a hundred different types of weapons to choose from (and even builds where the weapons were superfluous), but you'd still be carrying the Predator pistol and Avenger rifle in the cutscenes. There were more SMGs, but the accuracy on them suffered, and you couldn't help but think "If only they'd hold them correctly, there'd be no reason for all these assault rifles." Apparently, no one in the Mass Effect universe understands the concept of a fore-grip. There was that ending that folded up all the branching differences in the story into what was essentially one result with differing colors. Letting EA keep the game off of Steam, where the other two games were and are still available. There was the multiplayer mode which, while great fun, was saddled with an in-your-face cash shop. Bioware's continued insistence to leave gamepad support out of the PC versions of their games, while still making the interface obviously pad-driven. While these things may have been disappointing, the worst part was Bioware sitting there on high basically saying "if you don't like this, too bad, you just don't get our artistic vision."

     DLC was released, first in the form of an overhaul to the ending and then later with the Citadel DLC which had a) a bonkers storyline and b) tons of content with your squad-mate family, but by then it felt too little, too late. Like bringing flowers when a relationship was falling apart. I think what I'm trying to get at with this painfully overstretched metaphor is that, Bioware, I think I'm breaking up with you. It's kind of scary knowing that there won't be that series there waiting for me with the next installment, even though you're already talking about a new one, but I think it'll be good for me to step out, try new things, play some bad games and good ones. Regret a few Steam purchases.

     Because, in the end, this relationship isn't a good one for me anymore. Shh. Don't look so surprised. To paraphrase one of the critics of ME3, it was always going to end this way.
     Doesn't mean there won't be a drunken hookup with ME4 is on sale for $5. I mean, nobody's perfect.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WNW: Adult Wednesday Addams

Every Wednesday until Halloween, there is a new episode featuring Adult Wednesday.

Here is the first.

The others may be found here.  (snap snap)

Brony Mecha!

This donation for the Squeak or Treat raffle should tempt both bronies and wargamers alike.

Mydnight's Hobby Corner (the guy who paints Thirdpower's Ogre minis)  has generously donated two professionally painted CAV miniatures. The conversation went something like this (approximately):
Him:  Hi, I'd like to donate something to the raffle. I'm a miniature painter. Maybe I could paint something for someone?

Me:  Well, that's cool, but I don't know how many people would need that sort of thing... might be better to raffle off an  already-painted mini. Would you do that?

Him:  Sure!  What kind of minis do you like?

Me:  I like mecha.

Him:  I have some CAV minis I could paint. Here, look at some pictures. I could even do one in a pony theme if you'd like.

Me: (looks)

Me: (thinks a moment)

Me: Hmm, tell me... would you mind painting two instead of one?

Him:  I think so, yeah... what did you have in mind?

Me:  (gales of wicked laughter)

Here is what is so funny:  one of the mecha  excuse me, CAVs that he is offering to paint is called the Dictator.

Now if you're a pony fanatic, and you hear the term "dictator" -- what do you immediately think of?

That's right, you probably think of this:

So by now you're probably thinking, "Gasp!  Did you, Erin? Did you REALLY?"


Yes I did.

Now it's worth pointing out that both of these are still works-in-progress. Luna still needs her cutie mark and New Lunar Republic emblem, and Celestia needs more color/highlights (because all that white is boring), but this is enough to give everyone a rough idea of what you're going to get -- painted and detailed Princess Mecha, with hex bases and terrain details.

I'm honestly not sure if I should raffle these off as a set (because they'd be more valuable that way), or as individual pieces (so that a fan of Luna can get her mecha, and a slave of the solar monarch fan of Celestia can get hers). Either way, these are definitely $10 ticket items.

If you're a brony, you want these.  If you're a miniature gamer, one (or both) would be enough to annoy or demoralize your opponent. If you're a wargaming brony, then you NEED these.

Simply donate $10 (or more) to Squeaky's surgical fund, email me the PayPal receipt, and you're automatically entered into the drawing!

I applaud your evil audacity, sir or madame

I'm LOLing here. Clearly, someone understands my readership a little TOO well.

From the "Supporters" tab of Squeaky's YouCaring site:

Well done.  *golf claps*  Well done indeed. I especially like the fragmentary sentence to offend the grammar nazis.

Right now, the total sits at $5,613.  Sure, someone could add $2 and bring that up to an even $5620, but that wouldn't get them a $5 ticket. And adding $5 would bring the total to an un-round $5,618.  Clearly, fixing this problem while still getting a return on the investment would require a donation of $7 ... which might also annoy people who like giving in increments of five.

The best part?  I did some experimenting, and it looks like when you factor in the YouCaring expenses, the total donated by the troll comes out to... $3.14.

Pi was donated. 

The audacity here is breathtaking.

Squeaky Update

From her YouCaring page:
I just received a phone call from my surgeon - the nodule was processed by a lab, and it was a lump of scar tissue and endometrium.

No cancer, no scary tumors or cysts. It was the same as the materials around the uterus that was being removed, it had just isolated itself and was merrily growing by itself.

It HAD attached itself to my bowel (in the way we'd feared), but my general surgeon did something strange that allowed the bowel to be repaired without having to remove any of it for resectioning. This means my recovery time is not nearly as long as we feared (as long as everything goes as planned), and 3 months will be the maximum time I will need to get back to where I was...or even better, since I won't have to deal with the same issues as before with regard to some stupidly basic bodily functions.

It's been 4 days since my surgery, and I'm recovering as well as can be expected. It's frustrating not being able to do much, but I've been assured by my doctor that things will get easier with time.

Thanks again for the donations, well-wishes, and items for the raffles! I am so grateful to all of you!

(Random story for you: The way my organs were configured due to my issue with the nodule was apparently so unique, my surgeon has sent photos and my case notes to a surgeon in Belgium to look over. This Belgian surgeon is a specialist in this area, and only works on my kind of cases. The question from my surgeon is if he's ever seen anything like this, before. I'm still awaiting word, but I thought it was pretty just seems natural that I would be THAT weirdo...)

It's good to hear good news! Keep it coming, S.W.!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Being Hiver

The following is a collaborative guest post by fellow gunblogger and Traveller fan Angus McThag, and Fuzzy Geff (one of his players).  Similar to my Droyne Thoughts post, McThag and Geff provide a viewpoint on a race I haven't quite been able to grok. 

Being Hiver.

It's actually not as hard as it seems even though they are the most alien individuals in the entire Traveller universe. Hivers just see the world differently than Humaniti; it comes with their all-around hexocular vision.

You ARE a special snowflake. The universe surely exists for your delight, no? It'd be Buddhist in outlook if you didn't recognize that everyone else is a special snowflake as well. That makes it wrong to wantonly destroy other sophonts. This is regarded as pacifism by other species, but mere good manners to you.

Cowardice is in the eye-stalks of the beholder, because you are special and unique the universe would genuinely diminished by your departure from it. Should not one take all precautions to prevent that from happening prematurely? Hiver are extremely prudent, not afraid. Avoiding danger is the hallmark of intelligence!

The existence of firearms tailored to fit the Hiver “hand” should put lie to the idea that they will not fight. It's never the first option they consider and they'd prefer to avoid it altogether when it's not absolutely necessary especially since they really aren't very good at it. They have a tendency to freeze in combat situations; but if pressed hard enough long enough a Hiver can implement a fatal solution to their predicament. Besides, it's far better to get someone else who enjoys fighting to do it for you; preferably as far from you as possible.

You are convinced that you are the pinnacle of evolution. Your culture alone is mature. Yes, it's racist; why do all of the less evolved races say that as if it were wrong? No, you don't mind talking about it at length. Why wouldn't you talk about it with other races? It's nothing to be ashamed of, and adults should educate the children...

Because you are special and the universe is enhanced by your existence, you should do everything you can to share your experience and knowledge with others and to absorb and learn from their experiences too. There is so much to learn and experience, yet so little time. Being active in a topical club is just a small part of being a good citizen of the Federation. By sharing your experiences you are insuring that a part of you lives on forever and by learning from others do you enhance your special status while also aiding them to live on past their lives.

Manipulation? Manipulation is the national pastime of the Hiver. How else would things get done? Trust a giant impersonal bureaucracy? Manipulation is at its core the long con taken to epic proportion. Planting ideas into minds with whispers that ultimately lead to the desired action is the height of civilization. Being caught in such a game even if one is duped by it is an honor!

If you were a biped you'd have “I was manipulated by M. Gondorff!” t-shirts printed up. Everyone involved takes some pride in being associated with a well realized manipulation. Manipulators keep score and compare their accomplishments.

Because so many things are claimed to be the result of manipulation, it's critical that a manipulator record their goals and processes before they begin. There are rules for doing so, like all games. Because the crediting of the manipulation does not occur until the goal is accomplished, virtually anything and everything going on around you could be happening because a master manipulator has set it in motion. Isn't that exciting?!?

All of this score keeping and recording ensures that nobody takes credit for happenstance. However, it's very likely that many failed manipulations are never mentioned and the records are destroyed.

The key to any Manipulation, regardless of whether the target is an individual, a small group, or an entire population, is twofold. First, you must accurately determine what motivates the target. Once you have identified the target's motivations (and all targets will have multiple motivations, both tangible and intangible), you must lead the target to the conclusion that doing what you want the target to do will help address the target's concerns, wants and/or needs.

They are goal oriented and willing to take a very long view of things. The Ithklur took over a thousand years to manipulate from savages to the happy warriors they are today, that takes patience. This is not to say they cannot manipulate on the fly in an ad hoc manner, it's just there's far less prestige for making small manipulations which aren't very elaborate or far reaching. There's nothing wrong with quickly convincing someone to do something for you so that you can remain safe.

The economy of the Hiver is baffling at times, but it's really market capitalism. The perspective shift is that a nest, not an individual is the smallest economic actor. Nests own property and wealth not individuals. The strange part is that an individual can, and often does, change nests frequently; taking little if any wealth with them when they depart. Occasionally an honorarium is paid to convince an individual to change nests, but that is paid to the nest they are leaving, not to them personally. There is a great deal of individual prestige associated with being worth such an honorarium though!

They are not an emotional race compared to Humaniti. Their emotions are curiosity, parental-instinct and personal survival. They come across as emotional, pragmatic and cold. In some ways this seems to conflict with the good manners of not harming the other special snowflakes, but in their numerous eyes it's about being a good parent. You have to let them learn the stove is hot in a visceral way; so you let them burn their fingers. “What did you learn?” is almost a Hiver reaction, although they're more likely to proactively express it as a successful manipulation whereby the subject was brought to enlightenment through a painful but non-lethal application of injury.

The Hiver seem to lack what other races would deem a “real” government. For the most part it is the topical clubs that handle tasks normally given over to government. It only makes sense to do things in this manner, who is better equipped to handle something than genuine experts and specialists? But don't think there's an automatic deferment to expertise, debate is welcome and allowed; among fellow Hivers within the nests and topical clubs. "Don't let the kids see mom and dad fighting" is a good way of putting it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Squeaky Surgery Update (and more raffle information)

Good news!  Her surgery went off without a hitch, and the doctors were able to do everything laparoscopically, which means that her recovery time has been cut in half.   Big thank yous to everyone who prayed or offered up positive thoughts in her direction!

She went home about 8 pm last night, where she immediately washed her hair before going to bed. Last I heard, she was resting comfortably.

And to thank everyone who has donated to help with her surgical costs, the Squeak or Treat raffle continues through the first weekend of November. There are lots of awesome prizes to be won, and remember -- the more times you enter, the greater the chance you have of winning what you want!

For clarity's sake, I should mention that when you enter, you aren't just assigned something at random if you win.  What I do is, first I will draw to see who wins. Then I contact the winners and tell them to give me a list of, say, their top 5 prizes.  The first winner gets #1 on his list, and the second winner gets the first item on his list -- unless the first winner claimed that, in which case he gets #2 on his list, and so forth.  By this method, I hope to pair up prizes with people who really, really want them!

Speaking of prizes -- there's a new addition! Echo Sling is offering up not one, but TWO -- one brown, one tan -- of their "tougher than a German Shepherd" slings. Each one is a $5 ticket item.

The two on the left, clearly. 

Please continue to donate!  We are only $420 away from our target goal!

Friday, October 18, 2013

More Squeak or Treat Goodies!

Squeaky's surgery is today, as I said earlier  (everyone's said prayers for her, right? If not, please do!), and as it turns out there are new additions to the Squeak or Treat raffle to entice you to donate!

Seriously, folks, can I shake you down for just one $5 ticket?  It will make a huge difference to her, and we're still $660 from our goal.

Perhaps some of these new additions will tempt your (ahem) palate:

$5 ticket items:
  • 1 set of handmade soaps in autumn molds & scents, made by my good friend Taryn K:

    Per the creator: From left to right, top to bottom... Crisp Apple Rose, Spiced Mahogany, and Spicy Apple in a shea butter base. Then on the bottom, it's Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey in a honey base, and Spice Potpourri in a hemp base. They will each be double bagged so they don't mix scents on the way to their new home.

  • Another set of soaps (no pictures just yet), but with a winter theme and scents. 

$10 ticket items:

Also, I have (finally) gotten off my butt and uploaded the pictures which are being donated by Ezra Hinson and Renee Williams!

Ezra's Pony Sketches (all are available to be won):

I'm Flim...

... he's Flam! 

Gilda the Griffin. 

Princess Cadance. 

Renee's Paintings (winner chooses one):

What are you waiting for?  If you haven't entered the raffle yet, do so!

Follow Friday: Jean Marie Bauhaus

As I may have mentioned before, Jean is a dear friend to me, and unlike me she's actually managed to write (and publish!) not one but FOUR books.  (I haz a envee.) 

Throughout all of October, all of her e-books are on sale for 99 cents, and her paperbacks are also marked down.

Please give her a chance! She's a great writer and an even better friend, and I want her to succeed.

You can get her books here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Createspace

Want to try before you buy?  Read this short story of hers, reprinted here with her permission; it originally appeared on her blog on Sept. 22.

Snack Machine

You think strange thoughts sometimes when you work the night shift. Coming home in the dark late at night, it’s easy to imagine that something in the darkness is out to get you.

If your imagination is like Tina’s, you might think how creepy it would be if the thin, dark gap between the wall and the vending machine at the end of the hall was really a doorway to some otherworldly dimension.

And then you might laugh the thought away as you grab your chips and resist the urge to run back to your apartment.

She was tired when the thought occurred to her, after a long night on her feet at the diner, and it was a nice distraction from worrying about getting mugged on the way home. Or worse.

Tina liked having the machine there. It was her one consolation when her budget had forced her to settle on the tiny basement efficiency. She almost hadn’t been able to afford even that, what with the landlady wanting two month’s rent up front. Thankfully, she’d relented. “Had a lot of trouble with drifters sneaking out without paying their rent,” she’d said, “but I guess you don’t strike me as a drifter.”

Anyway, takeout places were usually closed when her shift ended, and a bag of chips was better than nothing when she felt too tired to cook. She kicked off her shoes and turned on The Late Late Show and munched on her bag of Sun Chips. At least she could pretend those were kind of healthy. When they were all gone, she brushed off the crumbs, crumpled up the bag and headed to bed.


She needed to go grocery shopping. She debated going out for breakfast, but she didn’t feel like getting dressed yet, and decided to get something from the machine. In the hallway, dollar in hand, she stood debating between a Snickers bar or Fig Newtons when she noticed that the dark space at the back seemed a little bit wider. For a fleeting second, she thought about investigating, but shrugged it off. It wasn’t like she’d been paying close attention to the size of the gap. Anyway, so what if it was wider? The vendor had probably stocked it that morning, jostling it in the process.

It was a stupid thing to notice, let alone worry about. She told herself that as she backed toward her apartment, dollar still in hand. She felt like going out for breakfast after all.


Tina jolted awake, her heart pounding. She thought she heard a loud crash. She was just starting to think she’d dreamed it when she heard it again, out in the hall.

She turned on her bedside lamp, then thought better of it and turned it off before fumbling for the can of pepper spray she kept in the drawer. She got out of bed and shuffled quietly toward the door. There it was again. Startled, she froze in place. It was a familiar sound, and as she took deep breaths to slow the pounding in her chest, she tried to place it.

Then it came to her. The high school lunch room. It was the sound that the vending machines used to make when the football players would tip them forward and then let them fall back in place. They’d do that whenever their chips got stuck. Sometimes they’d do it just to see if they could get a free bag.

That’s all the sound was.

Except, nobody who lived in her building was big enough or strong enough to tip that machine. Her neighbors were mostly elderly. Some were women around her age. Maybe it was a visitor. Somebody’s boyfriend, maybe. Or Mrs. Woo, upstairs. She had a son in the Marines. Maybe he was home from Afghanistan. If he was still on Middle Eastern time, that would explain the three a. m. chip craving.

Tina crept softly to the door and peered through the peep hole. She saw a flicker of shadows, and held still, watching. For ten minutes, she watched. But nobody passed her door. They’d have to, to get from the machine to the stairwell.

She checked the chain to make sure it was secure. She double checked the locks. On the way back to bed, she paused, then grabbed a kitchen chair and dragged it over to the door, jamming it under the doorknob.


She saw Mrs. Woo in the laundry room the next day. “How is your son?” she asked.

A haunted look filled the older woman’s eyes. “He’s injured. I only found out this morning. I don’t know details yet. But they say he can come home in three weeks.” A faint smile touched her lips. “He’ll get a purple heart, I suppose.”

Tina stared in shock. “I’m so sorry,” she said when she found her voice. “I hope he pulls through and you find out something soon.”

The older woman nodded. “Thank you.” She went back to folding her clothes. Tina threw the rest of hers in the basket and hurried out of the laundry room. She paused upon seeing the machine at the opposite end of the hall. The gap behind it had definitely widened. She averted her gaze from it and forced herself to walk normally to her door. Her hand trembled and she fumbled her keys. Cursing, she picked them up and got the door unlocked.

As she closed the door behind her, she could have sworn she heard the sound of heavy metal scraping on linoleum.


She was getting home later than usual. Her replacement at the diner was late, so she’d had to stay to cover. Once she finally clocked out, she decided to stay and grab something to eat. It was almost one-thirty by the time she finally got out of there. She had debated volunteering to work a double shift, just so she could stay till morning and avoid having to walk home this late. But she was so tired, and ready to get home and off her feet.

The streets weren’t exactly deserted, but there were few enough people for her to be suspicious of all of them. Being out so late made her extra paranoid. She gripped her can of pepper spray, keeping it ready, and kept glancing over her shoulder. Twice she crossed the street because she didn’t like who she saw behind her. Once, he seemed to follow, and she picked up her pace. It was only a four-block walk, but tonight it felt more like four miles.

When she reached her building, she didn’t waste any time letting herself inside. She shut the door behind her and heard the automatic lock click into place, then leaned her back against the door, panting and laughing a little at herself. All she’d done was get home safe another night, and here she was acting like she’d just outrun a serial killer.

Even so, she gave the door a tug to make sure the lock held, and got her apartment key ready before crossing over to the stairwell that led down to the basement. She hummed to herself as she skipped down the steps, feeling wired up and happy to be alive. At the bottom of the stairs, she froze.

The vending machine at the end of the hall was sitting sideways, facing the wall opposite her apartment door. Like something had swung it open from the end wall like a door. And on the end wall, the vending machine’s shadow was still there, a big, black rectangle of darkness that had been branded onto the wall. It seemed to go beyond the wall, somehow, like if she walked over there she could stick her arm through it.

Behind her, at the top of the stairs, she thought she heard movement. She glanced over her shoulder just long enough to see a flicker of shadow, and then bolted toward her door. As she tried to steady her shaking hands enough to insert the key into the lock, another flicker came from the end of the hall, and the darkness seemed to somehow be reaching for her.

Tina started to chant a one-word prayer: Please. “Please, please, please, please,” she muttered in a thin, high voice, over and over until the key finally slid into the lock. She turned it and pushed the door open, slamming it and locking it behind her.

This time when she leaned her back against the door, her sense of triumph and relief felt more justifiable, albeit short-lived.

Something rammed her door. The thud reverberated through her body, and she screamed and backed away. It rammed it again. It felt like the whole building must have shook. It must be waking her neighbors. It rammed the door again. “Stop it!” she screamed, and waited, tense, her pepper spray feeling useless in her hand.

Whatever it was stopped. Tina debated whether to call the police or reinforce the door with a kitchen chair, then decided to do them both in reverse order. As she took a step toward the chair, she heard the squeak of her mail slot being opened. A dollar slid through it, and fluttered to the floor. When it landed, the deadbolt on her door turned, followed by the doorknob. The door slammed open.

Tina didn’t have time to scream.


Lorena Patton stood by, keys in hand, and waited as the police knocked patiently on the door. She knew how this went. They’d give the tenant a few opportunities to answer the door, then they’d have her open it up and let them in, because the tenant wouldn’t be there. Sure enough, that’s how it went.

Inside, they found all the girl’s things, but no sign of the girl, and no sign of forced entry.

“I don’t understand it,” said the weepy girl in the waitress uniform, the one who’d called the police. “She’s not the type to just not show up to work. And why would she leave without her stuff?”

Because, Lorena thought as the police questioned the girl, it’s a lot harder to sneak out without paying your rent when you’ve got to load all your furniture into a U-Haul. She kept the thought to herself, though. She was disappointed. Not just in the loss of income, but in her own poor judgment. Here she’d thought she’d finally gotten a decent tenant for that damned basement, even waived her two month’s rent rule. Last time she’d ever do that. Girl turned out to be a drifter and a thief, just like all the others.

She was running out of room to keep putting these people’s things in storage. The girl’s stuff wasn’t too bad. Maybe Lorena would just keep it in the apartment and rent it out as furnished. That’d let her charge more. ‘Course, that’d make it easier for people to keep cutting and running in the middle of the night. Maybe she should stop renting the dang place out altogether and just use the apartment for extra storage.

The police finished up, and she locked up behind them, then went to inspect the vending machine at the end of the hall, trying to remember the last time she’d had it stocked. Hardly anyone but the basement tenants ever used it, so it didn’t need to be serviced very often. It seemed like it never ran out of snacks. Hell, she should probably just get rid of the thing. Everything in it was probably past it’s best-by date. Still, Lorena fished a dollar out of her pocket. After the morning she’d had, she deserved a dadgum candy bar.

Squeaky's surgery is today

It's happening at 3:30 pm Eastern, aka 2:30 Central, 1:30 Mountain and 12:30 Pacific.

While she has very good doctors and doesn't expect anything to go wrong...  prayers for skilled hands and swift healing will be very much appreciated.

So please spare her a kind thought directed to the boss upstairs, would you kindly?

Thank you.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Creed, or I am an Assassin.

Gentle reader, I come today to discuss Assassin's Creed. Not as a game or a series, although I could speak at great length about it, but as a concept. As a philosophy, as a way of life. Specifically, the eponymous Creed itself. What drives these pseudo-ninja, these white-robed zealots? What motivates them to take a life? And how could that fit into a modern society?

The Creed itself is the maxim, the basic guideline of the Assassin Order that must be followed lest you be turned away from your brotherhood. First introduced in the original Assassin's Creed, these rules were reinforced in a scene in which the protagonist, Altair Ibn Al'Ahad, kills an innocent, and is symbolically killed himself in front of the entire Order, stripped of his privilege and badges of office, and forced to re-prove his worth.

I want to take a look at it, and how it might apply to a normal, non-stabby person's every-day life.

  • Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent

This is the first, and most important, part of the Creed. In any of the games, if you kill innocents, you lose. Now, political murders are less and less common these days, but there's an important lesson to be had regarding picking your targets and not lashing out against people that don't deserve anger.

  • Hide in plain sight

Getting attention and standing out is fine, but sometimes you just want to disappear. Personally, I've found it quite useful to cultivate the ability to blend into a crowd at times, and step out and act like I'm supposed to be there at a moment's notice.

  • Never compromise the Brotherhood

The people you consider your closest allies, your family, your friends. Value them, and never put them at risk.

  • The Three Ironies
    • The Assassins seek to promote peace, but commit murder.
    • The Assassins seek to open the minds of men, but require obedience to rules.
    • The Assassins seek to reveal the danger of blind faith, yet practice it themselves.

Contradictions are useful things. On paper, it's easy to forget that the real world is not black and white, a field of moral absolutes. The world works, and has pretty much always worked, on a sliding scale of moral relativism and shades of grey. Remembering these things can keep your mind open to new ideas.

The lessons taught by the Assassin Order, which are based heavily on the 1930s novel Alamut (named after the fortress the original Hashashin lived, which in turn was the base of the fictional Assassin Order) are, I believe, still relevant today. Pick your fights, and your words, carefully. Know when to stand out and when to blend in. Protect the ones you care about.  And step back and look at the bigger picture.

I leave you with the words of one Ezio Auditore da Firenze, in my opinion one of the most well-developed characters in all of gaming:

"To say that nothing is true, is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile, and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization. To say that everything is permitted, is to understand that we are the architects of our actions, and that we must live with their consequences, whether glorious or tragic."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The most succinct explanation I've yet seen

Quoting David Thoris, a friend on ze Facebookens:
So I guess Congress was able to put a bucket under the overflowing pooptube. It'll stay in place until January until the bucket also starts overflowing? Fantastic. Can't wait.

Yeah. That just about covers it.

WNW: The Sensible Horror Film

This probably wouldn't make a lot at the box office, but damn, I would go see just on principle.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Stellar Classification

One of the many ironies of running a science fiction game while being an artsy-fartsy type is that I lack the proper background in science to give the system a proper "crunch".  This is made worse by the fact that I have some degree of innumeracy -- specifically, my eyes tend to glaze over and my brain makes a droning noise whenever I see lots and lots of numbers together, especially without explanatory text.

Which is a complicated way of telling you that understanding Stellar Classification has boggled me for a while, because Wikipedia is fond of throwing out charts like this:

.. and even though I read the text again and again, I don't get it. I once had someone explain it to me using very simple terms, and I finally got it -- for a moment -- and then because I didn't immediately use it, I lost the knowledge. Which led to an embarrassing incident in my last game session, where I couldn't figure out where on the damn chart the system primary was, so I would be able to tell my players if it was a red dwarf or a red giant.

They probably don't care, but it's important to ME.  Mostly because, as I said before, I don't get the math, but I can do ambiance damn well, so setting details like "a low, angry red sun fills the sky" make the game more fantastic.

All of that is lead-in for a guest article by one of my players, Brook "Tanuki" West, who sent me a lovely article explaining how Stellar Classification works in simple terms, and now I can refer to it in the future.

In other words, Guest Post!

The following is adapted from a couple of posts I made on back in 2005, where I posted as Tanuki.

Warning - long post follows.

There's a lot of misunderstanding about stars and related stellar objects, in part brought about by problems with the star generation parts of the original GDW Book 6: Scouts.

I attempted to clear some of that up in the article that follows, and offer a set of Star Generation Tables that, while still somewhat exagerating the number of unusual stars out there, does give a more realistic spread for gaming.

Unfortunately, some of the errors in Book 6 have propagated into more or less canon atlases of star systems for play. Anyone using these atlases may wish to tinker with the balance of main-sequence stars to giants and other star types.

Main sequence stars run from very hot and bright (O, B, and many A stars) through sunlike stars (dimmer A class stars, and G stars) and down to dimmer and (relative to the sun anyway) very dim stars (class K and M stars). Main sequence stars are sometimes referred to as dwarfs in contrast with giant and supergiant stars. So you will see sunlike stars sometimes referred to as "yellow dwarfs" and class M stars referred to as "red dwarfs" -- they're relatively dim and red.

You will often see starts referred to as G2V or F5III. Stars are classified first by letters in the order (from hottest to coolest) O, B, A, F, G, K, M - which sequence may be remebered with the mnemonic "Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me." The letters are not in alphabetical order because they were assigned by astronomers who only had spectral information back in the early days of 19th century astronomy. This has been further refined by adding the numbers 0 through 9 to the letters. Thus G type stars (of which our star, Sol, is one) run from G0 through G9 (from hottest G to Coolest G). Sol is generally considered to be a G2. After G0-G9, we get K0-K9, and then M0-M9. M9 stars are the coolest stars actually undergoing fusion.

You will also see roman numerals, thus Sol is a G2V. The roman numeral suffixes indicate the relative size of stars. Type I stars are supergiants; stars that may be as large as our whole solar system. Type II stars are bright giants, type III are giants, type IV are subgiants. All these stars are in the last stages of their lives. Type V stars are main sequence stars, like our sun and this is where stars spend the majority of their lives. Others you might occasionally see are type VI stars (subdwarfs), and type VII (white dwarfs). These latter roman numerals are not used much though.

Subdwarfs (type VI) are rare stars, seen mostly out in the galactic halo, which have essentially no elements other than hydrogen and some helium (this is referred to as "metal poor") They are three to five times dimmer than expected of their spectral class, and will probably have nothing but captured asteroids or planets in their systems. They can be ignored for gaming purposes.

You will occasionally see small letters following the roman numerals. These may fine tune the classification further. Don't worry about them.

Main sequence is the state that stars spend most of their time in. Most main sequence stars are called dwarfs in contrast to all the giants out there. While giants are rare, they are so bright they can be seen for vast distances, so they were over represented by the 19th century astronomers who gave us much of our modern astronomical nomenclature.

The larger a star is, the hotter it "burns" (actually fusion, of course) and the faster it goes through its supply of hydrogen and other fusable elements. Red dwarfs burn coolest and slowest so even though they have less hydrogen by mass, they last a long, long time. On the other hand, high-mass stars are the brightest and hottest and are short-lived -- the biggest of them may spend less than a million years on the main sequence, while the dimmest stars will be there for many billions of years.

Once a star has burned a significant portion of the hydrogen at its core into helium, there is no longer enough hydrogen to sustain energetic fusion at its core. With less energy being produced, gravity begins to pull the star into its core. As it collapses, the core heats up due to compression until (if the star is big enough) it gets hot enough for helium to begin to fuse into heavier elements (otherwise it continues to shrink and to cool as a "white dwarf" until it someday becomes a "black dwarf" -- a slowly cooling ball of densely compressed gas).

Helium fusion produces much more energy than hydrogen fusion does so once helium ignites at the core of the star it expands to be much bigger than it was during its main sequence phase, thus becoming a red giant. That's when it starts baking planets. The star goes through it's supply of helium much faster than it went through its hydrogen so this phase is much shorter than the main sequence phase. If the star is around the mass of our sun or smaller, once it burns through it's helium (producing oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon) it will slowly dwindle down into a "white dwarf" and on towards a "black dwarf." This is the eventual fate of our sun.

If the star is several times the size of our sun it will produce enough heat as it collapses to fuse carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. into even heavier elements and it will expand again out to super giant size. These super giant stars will eventually reach the point where they are fusing atoms into iron at their cores -- this is fatal. Fusion into iron or heavier elements takes more energy than it produces. The reaction sucks energy out of the core of the star and within literally minutes it begins to collapse upon itself. Once everything comes crashing down into the core you end up blowing the star apart in a supernova and the remnant left behind after all the outer layers are blasted away will become a neutron star, or if the star was very large, a black hole -- surrounded by a rapidly expanding shell of gas and debris.

Those last few moments are where virtually all the elements heavier than iron are created by fusion and then blasted out away from the star to eventually form worlds and all the other non-star stuff in the universe.

Now, how common are various kinds of stars? A principle you'll see throughout nature is that the bigger something is, the fewer of it there are. Given a square mile of forest, there will be uncountable zillions of microorganisms, million of insects, thousands of field mice, dozens of rabbits, and a couple of deer.

There are more grains of sand than pebbles, more pebbles than boulders, more boulders than hills, more hills than mountain peaks, etc.

In the solar system there are vast numbers of meteoroids, billions of small asteroids, dozens of worlds and moons, four terrestrial planets, two small gas giants, a couple of successively bigger gas giants, and one star.

There are vastly more dim stars (red dwarfs) and almost stars (brown dwarfs) than sunlike stars, vastly more sunlike stars than really big stars, and the red giants and super giants are exceedingly rare.

Blue and Red Supergiants (type I & II) -- massive (like, freakin' HUGE) stars at the end of their lives. 0.000025% of stars. About 1 in 4,000,000 stars.

Red Giants (type III) -- Stars nearing the end of their lives, fusing helium, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, etc. at their cores. Average mass is about 1.2 solar masses (sols). 0.5% of stars or about 1 star in 200.

White Dwarfs -- Burned out stars, average about 1 solar mass. 8.75% or almost 1 in 11 stars.

Black Holes and Neutron Stars -- Cinders. Exceedingly rare. Perhaps .001% and .0001% respectively (I don't have actual numbers here) That would be 1 in 100,000 and 1 in 1,000,000 stars.

The rest are basically main sequence stars. I'll break those down by class:

Class O Stars (Blue Giants) -- These are so big, even as main sequence, that they're called giants. They lose whole suns worth of mass as solar winds (solar hurricaines?) blowing their outer layers off as they age. Lifespans of only thousands of years before they die spectacularly. They average about 25 solar masses. 0.0000025% or 1 star in 40,000,000.

Class B Stars -- Average about 5 solar masses. Still very hot and very short lived. Probably not enough time in their lives for planets to form out of the gas and dust orbiting them. 0.075% or 1 star in 1300

Class A Stars -- Still too hot, big, and short lived for life-bearing planets to have time to form around them -- life might get as far as oceans of yeast and stuff before they die. Average about 1.7 solar masses. 0.75% or 1 star in 130.

Class F Stars -- The hottest stars likely to harbor life-bearing planets. Average of 1.2 solar masses. 3% or about 1 star in 33.

Class G Stars -- Sun-like stars - yellow dwarfs. Average about 0.9 solar masses. 6.5% or about 1 star in 15.

Class K Stars -- Cooler and dimmer than our sun. Smaller ones will probably tide-lock planets in their habitable zones. Average about 0.5 solar masses. 13% or about 1 in 8 stars.

Class M Stars -- The smallest and coolest stars -- red dwarfs. Habitable planets will be tide-locked except under very unusual circumstances (like Mercury's 3:2 lock with the Sun). By the way, recent research suggests that tide-locked planets with a decent atmosphere can be very life-friendly -- they may be the most common kind of life-bearing planets in the universe. (But that's for another post.) 67.5% or about 2 out of 3 stars.

Brown dwarfs -- Bigger than Jupiter, too small to sustain fusion, these are very hot compared to planets (glowing red) but cool compared to stars. We don't really have a count for them since they're hard to find (so very dim compared to stars) but the proportion of brown dwarfs to stars (of any kind) is probably at least a similar ration to that of red dwarfs to all other stars -- say perhaps 3 brown dwarfs for every star.

And now, a quick and dirty set of tables using (more or less) the percentages given in the post above:

Roll two six-sided dice (one high and one low) for each applicable table (the usual 6 x 6 Traveller matrix applies here).

Table One: Common stars

11-13 -- White Dwarf (burned out star)
14-53 -- class M (dim red star)
54-62 -- class K (dim orange star)
63-64 -- class G (yellow Sun-like star)
65 -- class F (bright white star)
66 -- class A (very bright white star) or roll on Rare Star Table

Table Two: Rare Stars

11-42 -- class A (very bright white star)
43-44 -- class B (huge blue-white star)
45-65 -- Red Giant (bloated dying star)
66 -- class O (ginormous blue-white star) or roll on Rare Giant Star Table

Table Three: Rare Giant Star Table
(roll one six sided die)

1 -- class O (ginormous blue-white star)
2 -- neutron star (cinder)
3 -- black hole (really crispy cinder)
4-5 -- Red Supergiant (really bloated dying star)
6 -- Blue Supergiant (dying ginormous blue-white star)

Really, all you need is the first table and even that over-represents class A stars. The last couple of tables make the rare stars much more common than they really are but will certainly do for game play -- trying to keep things simple.

Studio Apt, all mod cons, corpse hatch, murder room

So this guy rents an apartment....

Discovers a trap door...

Opens it, finds stairs underneath...

Goes exploring, finds  a secret passage underneath...

And finds... well, go see for yourself, but I maintain that's either a vampire's crypt or a sacrificial murder room.  The soft, freshly disturbed earth is particularly terrifying.

On the one hand, this is incredibly cool, as the renter has just doubled his usable space without increasing his rent at all. And if you're a goth, or a D&D gamer, you have instant ambiance!

On the other hand, I have such a hyperactive imagination that this would scare the living shit out of me. I'd have to, at the minimum, park an anvil on the trapdoor.  Even if I don't believe in ghosts and vampires, my subconscious mind likes to entertain the possibilities thereof.  And that doesn't even take into account vermin, mold, and other nastiness which might make it's way up... and are you CERTAIN there isn't another way in?

It's very cool, but I don't think I could live there.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

And random dark acts

I just found out about this last night.

You've got until the end of business tomorrow to get your gifts to me!

You can skip the incense, though. But all the others are fine.  As are offerings of books, lingerie, and ammunition (preferably 9mm FMJ). And, of course, My Little Pony paraphernalia.

(I'd include a link to my Amazon Wish List, but you'd think I was being serious.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

This is not a remake, just a re-imagining of the original post I wrote on the topic.

     So there's a remake of The Tomorrow People on The CW network. I'm really not sure how I feel about this, either, as I've watched approximately half the episode and don't feel terribly compelled to watch it further. It just feels like a rushed, poorly-paced remake of Mutant X; pretty, pretty people with superpowers and a government organization hunting them in a world where everyone knows martial arts. Which was fine in the 90s. Everyone knew martial arts in the 90s, and every gang was made up of middle-aged white dudes with receding hairlines and chunky sunglasses. The new version even makes a point of apologizing for its own name, which is far more shameful than embracing the corny sci-fi that birthed it. It was nice to see TIM again, though, as the first remake didn't have him. Big Finish's audio did, though, and I highly recommend anything they make.

Which brings me to remakes. Tricky business, remakes. A lot of people get all up in arms over them. How dare you violate my childhood, what was wrong with the original, all that. What purpose do they serve? When is it necessary, appropriate, acceptable to make a remake of something?

I know I've mentioned the Resident Evil series a few times in my past blogs, and for good reason. It stands tall amongst horror and gaming aficionados, and has changed and grown a great deal over the years. The first game is a classic, no doubt. That said, it hasn't aged terribly well. If we're completely objective here, the graphics are primitive, it has clunky controls, and the dialogue and voice acting is abysmal. 6 years later, a remake was made, which not only introduced the new face of Jill Valentine (which has been a consistent feature since in the series) but also had gorgeous visuals, some gameplay tweaks, and a mostly rewritten script with new voice acting. It probably would have been a smash if it weren't only released on the GameCube, a moderately profitable system (which in Nintendo terms means it was a dismal failure).

The next one is probably going to earn me some funny looks. I can't stand the original Total Recall. I'm sorry, I just can't. I don't like Arnold Shcaalkwwzrenger as an actor, the tone of the film was inconsistent, and the entire visual design just screams 1980s despite it taking place in the 2080s. That said, it's looked highly upon by a lot of people. The remake, despite its consistent tone, its slick visual effects, and its actors who were actually acting, it just felt... unnecessary. Personally, I liked it, but it just didn't need to be made.

And then there's Star Trek.

Star Trek's been around for almost 50 years now. It's so old that we've lost several of the original cast. The franchise has done everything, been everywhere. There's just so much lore and history that it's impossible for anyone to enter in fresh without being completely intimidated. The various series and movies stand on their own merits (well, except Spock's Brain. And Insurrection. And all of Voyager), but in order to bring new fans into the fold or give the old fans something fresh, that reboot/remake/re-imagining/re-whatever you want to call it (riversong.png) might just have been necessary. Yeah, it's a bit shallow, but Star Trek: The Motion Picture isn't exactly a stellar (sorry) example of paced storytelling. The first one and Into Darkness have given the new films a chance to flex their muscle and show us what they can do. Now all we need is a quieter, more introspective piece, and the new series of films can easily justify their place.

So, in closing, I'd say sometimes a remake is needed. Seeing something through a fresh pair of eyes, making something more accessible, or simply using better technology and hindsight to make a superior product is a good thing. Sometimes, it's a terrible, terrible thing that shouldn't have been done. Michael Bay, please stop this Ninja Turtles reboot.

I'm still waiting on the remake of Robot Jox, too.

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