Reaction to 4 Edition

I'm presently flipping through the D&D 4th Edition PHB and MM, and thought it would be interesting (for me, anyway) to record my reactions as I had them:
  • Eladrin as a race, huh?  Well, I really liked them in 3.5, so I won't argue.  I wish these pictures of them were cooler, though.
  • Ouch: limited elementals.  This is really, really disappointing, since I was all about elementals in 3.5.  Very sad.
  • I do like the additions to devils/demons.  I always liked both.
  • ...Flipping through the rest of the MM, my reactions are mixed.  They retained some particularly stupid monsters (roper, for example) and lost some really cool ones (interesting golems, say).  I like that they fleshed out some of the lower-level fodder a bit more, and I do like that every creature has tactics.  Part of me wishes they would greatly reduce the number of monsters (instead to focus on variants of a few cooler creatures), but I realize that's not in the D&D genre's canon.
On to the PHB:
  • Wow, the races are totally changed!  No gnomes, half-orcs?  Tieflings and Eladrin get my hopes up that this ed will focus on planar stuff...
  • Am I missing something, or are there no racial modifiers?
  • Warlord and Paladin sound awfully similar.
  • No Monk, Bard?  Probably a good thing.  No Druid?!?  ...Now that pisses me off...
  • I'm not sure I grok the "roles", yet.  I mean, I appreciate the concept, but wouldn't it be better if you could pick any of these per class?  We'll see.
  • So far, I think I could stand to play Clerics, Fighters, Rogues, and Wizards.
  • "If the total of your ability modifiers is lower than +4 or higher than +8 before racial ability adjustments, your DM might rule that your character is too weak or too strong compared to the other characters".  Good rule of thumb.
  • I like the changes to alignments.  Simpler is better.
  • I love the commandments on the deities.  Great idea!
  • Corellon, Ioun, Melora (!), The Raven Queen, and Sehanine (!) rather appeal to me.
  • I like the personality stuff, but this is pretty standard faire.
  • "Ten languages form the basis of every dialect".  Good.  Ten is a good number.  ...I mean, as a linguist, I like linguistic diversity and believe there should be thousands of languages per race, but in a role-playing game, ten is good.  ; )  Besides, It's well-known that technology is a catalyst of reducing linguistic diversity.  Why wouldn't pandimensional magic be the same?
  • "You can learn additional languages by taking the Linguist feat"?  Oooh, I like this idea even better.  Passive learning langauges if you take the feat?  That would be ideal.
  • "a wizard's fireball spell is an Intelligence attack against the target's Reflex defense" WTFBBQ?!?  Mages have to ATTACK now?!?  SWEET!
  • Wow, this attack mechanic is WAY simplified.  I'm liking it in concept, at least.
  • "Paragon and Epic" ... did they do away with those lame-ass prestige classes?  Please say yes!
  • High-level character sheets get too damn crowded.  I'd like to see powers/feats replacing one another as they evolve, rather than piling up.
  • "When your class table tells you to replace a power you know with a different power..."  I spoke too soon.  ; )
  • I like the idea of tiers, to push powers (like flight) off to a specific range of levels.  That makes a lot of sense to me.
  • I am surprised how positive my reactions have been so far.  I'm generally not a fan of this francise, but the decisions they've made in this edition really strike me as excellent ones, so far.  ...I have trouble believing I'm in the majority, though: so many people really love the complexity of D&D, I wonder if there is backlash.  [shrug]  Not that I have a problem with it, if there is: I'd have no problem with D&D downsizing a bit.
This post is getting too long, and I need to get back to work, so I'll leave this as-is for now.

Stop-Motion Version of The Thing, Starring GI Joe

...Unofficial fan video for a french electronic group called zombie zombie.

And: awesome.

Facebook: Feel My Disdain!

This morning, while googling for an old college crush of mine, I ended up signing up for Facebook.

So, like, if you're into that kind of thing, I'm there now.  ...I'd been resisting it from nearly day 1, but, well... I wanted to know if I had the right girl, so my hand was forced.

Of course, if it is who I think it is, she'll be just as disdainful about the damn site as I am, and will likely not reply.  So it goes.

KOTOR, again

So, recently, I've been on a really heavy Star Wars kick. I don't know why... it's just try. Aching for a good role-playing game, I decided to pull out my copy of KOTOR and try it again. My employer recently gave me a notebook PC, and I was curious to see if I could get it running. It ran.

I have to say, I really enjoyed it this time around.

The first time I played it, my opinion was basically quite negative, because I found it redundant. I gushed over the plot-twist, but the rest of the game left me yawning.

Knowing this, I turned on cheats and made myself invulnerable and gave myself super-strength and weapons with ridiculous damage. I did this because combat was boring and tedious. It worked. It gave me a chance to sit back and enjoy the setting. ...I also went through it much faster.

I decided to bring the two droids with me everywhere I went, since I was invulnerable and didn't need the jedi. THAT was worthwhile. : )

A lot of fun. In fact, I'm contemplating doing it again.

I tried to pick up KOTOR2, but I hear it doesn't run under Vista, and it isn't readily available at local stores, anyway. But when I get my new MacBook (I told work I didn't want the PC, so they obliged), I will try running it via Parallels (or some-such). I'm told KOTOR2 was less than revolutionary: just more of the same, basically. ...And, knowing that, I'll just click on the cheats and have fun in the universe...

...I would still prefer a local face-to-face game, though. : |

Zen Again

It's interesting how I snap back to Zen. It was interesting to me as a child, even... and ever since then, it's something that I move away from and come back to, in terms of its aesthetics as well as its philosophy.

The goal-setting spanking that I received last week snapped me back into a state of Zen, and caused me to pick up a book that I had picked up quite some time ago, but hadn't yet read. It's appropriate, at the moment: it speaks to the idea that goals are fine, unless we get attached to the result, rather than the process.

When I'm in these states of mind, there is an accompanying need to simplify my life. I take stock of such things by making lists of the things that I'm interested in: the things I focus on. Every time I make such lists, they get shorter. ...I think I secretly hope that one day, the list will have one item on it, and there will be no need to write it, since that item will be "living". ...But, alas, I'm not there yet: not ready to accept the idea that life is life, ba-da-da-da, life. I still see myself as a programmer, a musician, an aspiring artist, a gamer, and so on. I'll write my list and try to argue why I should let one or more of the things on it go. The process continues.

I suppose at some level, my problem is being unable to synthesize those things.

Something I did using Corel Painter's "photopainting" capabilities. Don't say "whoa": the aspects of this painting that are technically good are courtesy of Painter's magic: basically, I had a copy of the photo behind the work, to use as a guide and from which the brush always picks up color. ...Hard to explain. Trust me: this was easier than it looks. It took me about 45 minutes.

Anyway, that's my sister-in-law on her wedding day.

More Mind Tricks

As a friend of mine likes to say (well, paraphrased), "there's more going on here than we're aware of."

I think he's right, but for very different reasons. Here's a video of another bloke (Keith Barry), who, like Derren Brown, has the ability to show us what this means:

On Second Thought: Nah.

So the whole, "express the universe, sage, blah blah blah" thing just isn't working for me.

I just believe far too strongly that over-achievement is over-rated, and that simply existing well is the key. I believe this so strongly, that it's really hard to convince me that "going for it" is worthwhile, when "getting by" can be so satisfying. I don't believe in any higher purpose to serve, nor in destiny, nor in any prize for those who accomplish more than the next guy.

At the same time, what I said about hedonism is quite true. A person does need to feel like they have made their contribution to the world, even if their particular cog is quite small. Being a selfish bastard isn't that satisfying. Perhaps not everyone feels this way, but I do, so taking what I want at the expense of others is pointless for me.

Well. This kind of puts my personal goal-setting exercise in the shitter... but I think I've learned something because of it, and that makes it worthwhile. Now I have to figure out where this watered-down philosophy leads.

Ultimate Evil

What do you think qualifies as "the ultimate evil*" ?

I'm interested in hearing your perspective.

I'll start with mine, just to give an example: I think abuse of power is the ultimate evil. Whether it be bullying the smallest kid in the class, playing to people's desires to get them to buy your products, or something as dark as rape: the abuse of power is what gets my embers glowing.

And you?

* allowing the phrase to be subjective.

Why -> Must

There's a big difference between "I would like...", or even "I should..." and "I must."

...Namely, I tend not to be motivated enough to do the things I would simply like to do, or things I probably should do. Sometimes, but not always.

But when I come up with reasons that I must do something... it gets done. These are things for which avoiding the consequences and reaping the rewards far outweigh the pain of getting them done.

I must brush my teeth. I must pay the bills. I must earn enough money. I must have a Flying Star eclair.

Point being, when you really want to accomplish some goal, make it a must.


I've decided that the most succinct way to frame my ultimate goal is this:

I must realize my own potential in the scope of the universe.

With that in mind, I had to choose some path that captures this... something that suits what I've already done, who I currently am, and where I would like to head. Personally, I like the idea of becoming a sage. Of course, the definition of "sage" becomes somewhat like jargon: a specific contextual meaning. But the word is evocative for me: I like the image of someone with a modicum of wisdom, but who is always searching for greater truth. Not a leader, but an adviser. Someone skilled in both arts and sciences. Someone understanding of diverse ideas, but adamant that not all ideas are correct. Imparting wisdom by way of story-telling.

That's where I must head, if I'm going to make the most of what life I've got left.

UPDATE: This didn't work out.


Because much of it strikes me as silly, I'm not really fond of memetics. I do want to make one point from the "field", however.

The reason species survive over time is evolution: variation within the population, some of which provide advantages over another, causing an adaptive radiation of those traits.

Ideas need to be the same way. In order to survive through time, they must exhibit the flexibility that allows variation over time, to adapt to new cultural contexts. A rigid idea is less likely to survive, given that culture changes over time.

I am, of course, presently considering this in the context of religion, though it clearly need not be restricted as such:

  • "conservative" beliefs are less likely to express longevity;
  • science-as-pseudo-religion is likely to survive quite a long time because of its inherent flexibility.

By the Way: Hair

For the record... a few weeks ago, since I'm working at home and no one had to see the "awkward stage", I decided to grow some facial hair:

The frustrating thing about this is that the hair is effectively blond! I have no idea why, and it pisses me off. I think it would look half-decent if it were dark. I was kinda hoping to get a Gordon Freeman thing going on...

Go ahead, laugh. I am baby-faced. : |


Knowing why you want something is more important than knowing how to get it. Probably far more important.

Recently, I've been trying to re-evaluate my personal goals. It wasn't going well. I had a simple enough time coming up with ideas of what I wanted to do, but none of them were really grabbing me, making me jump to action. Then it dawned on me that I had been neglecting the whys.

I have to admit, this is something that the religious types have as an advantage over the rest of us. : ) "Doing God's work" is a powerful motivator. The ostensible secular response, "because it makes me feel good" is just hedonism. There's a basic human need, I think, to contribute to the world, not simply take what we want from it.

But I do have a kind of faith: a faith in the universe itself. Particularly its creative aspects, its tendency toward beauty. I think my "why" should be a reflection of this: try my best to realize my own potential in the scope of the universe.

Sounds a little cheesy, sure, but I think dramatic goals require dramatic whys. : )

Another Bloody Good Question:

Are we searching Google, or is Google searching us? [via]


I thought maybe I should back up my bit about hallucinations. ...And who better to do that than one of my personal heroes, Derren Brown? : )

Derren Brown-The Invisible Man - on MetaCafe


Here's a theory: people love a good story.  ...And here are some extensions of that, each their own little theory:
  • People are most convinced about one point or another by the most compelling* story.
  • If a story is compelling enough, people believe it.
  • Our cultural past is kept alive primarily (and until recently, exclusively) through stories.
  • Story-telling is prone to exaggeration, to make the story more compelling.
  • Most information is best conveyed using stories, particularly analogy.
  • People store a majority of their information in the form of stories.  These may be the story of how they learned something, the story that made it significant for them, or--perhaps most commonly--analogy.
  • People tell stories to explain the things they do not otherwise understand.  These stories are subject to revision, of course.
  • Stories form the framework of human cognition.
Complete conjecture, based on this train of thought:

How many religions of the world began as bed-time stories?  Imagine, if you will, parents telling their children something Santa-Claus-like, meant to still an overactive mind.  But those stories ended up believed, and told to the next generation as truths.  And over time, more was added to these stories, through analogy, misinterpretation, confirmation bias, mass hallucination, or deliberate abuse of power, until a critical mass was reached and the story graduated to a belief system?

And a bonus question:

If pictures are worth a thousand words, what is an experience worth?

* I'm using an ambiguous word precisely because the criteria for what is "compelling" depends entirely on the prior experiences and disposition of the subject.  That's why no one story will convince everybody, ever.  : )

Wonky Wacom Tablet (jumping cursor with short strokes)

You probably don't want to read this message unless you landed here with a Google search. This is a message of hope to all of you Wacom users that are experiencing this very bizarre behavior with your Graphire or Intuos tablet on a Mac. (I'm using a Graphire... for now...) That said, I hear it's also a problem with Cintiq tablets. Here are the symptoms:

  • When you draw short strokes, the cursor jumps back to the beggining of the line for a fraction of a second.
  • At first, this seems like a lag problem, but it's not... it's specific to short strokes and always involves the cursor jumping back.
  • Thus, if you draw a series of short strokes (for example, writing words), your lines will stutter and be all over the place (and look horrible).
  • It works fine on a PC.
  • It doesn't do the same thing with the (Wacom) mouse.
  • Problems are worst in Photoshop or Painter, but they actually do exist elsewhere in the system (it's just not really noticeable much).
The problem is that you have your "Double-click distance" too far. ...I found the solution, after much searching, on an Adobe forum. The solution is to go to your System Preferences, Pen Tablet, Pen, Double Click Distance, and pull the slider all the way to the left (older versions of the driver may even let you turn this off). ...Of course, it doesn't need to be all the way to the left... you can experiment with what works, but... you get the idea.

Basically, the driver is causing the cusor to jump back to the beginning of your line in anticipation of a double-click. This strikes me as a driver error, but I'm not holding my breath for Wacom to fix it.


So, I discovered that Painter allows something called "Photopainting". Essentially, it's like the "painted" filters in Photoshop, but on steroids... and then you can easily paint over the results. At first, I thought... god, this is cheating... there's no skill involved here!

Then I said... wait a second, this is exactly the effect I was going for in my older stuff.

So I decided to give it a shot. And in 15 minutes, I had something better than any of those older pieces (click to embiggen, of course):

There is actually a good amount of painting involved, here. The basis took all of five seconds (totally NSFW source)... the 15 minutes was spent defining the image and adding detail (with a "brush", not filters).

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, it's certainly the result that matters. ...This image, and thousands more like it, are what I've been aching to get out of my head and onto the screen (or paper, or canvas). I'm just not sure how I feel about how easy it is with Painter.

Strangely, it makes me a little sad. I've been working really hard at learning to draw... and with this tool, I could completely skip all of that.



I watched Cloverfield tonight, since my wife is on a trip.

Incidental details that may have influenced my opinion:

  • I was alone.
  • I watched it on a TV (reducing nausea-cam effect).
  • I was bored when I put it in.
  • I fast-forwarded through the whole intro. ...Essentially, I started the movie at the first "earthquake".
  • I went into it expecting to see this (and looking forward to it):

I liked Cloverfield. A lot.

I do, however, wish there were more action and less interaction. The latter was lame. My reaction to the actual monster was mixed: I thought the image above was really cool... but I think they made it a lot more... freakishly demonic. Evil, rather than just dark/lovecraftian. It immediately brought the Doom mythology to mind.

Go ahead. Make fun of me for liking it.

Magenetic Movie

Magnetic Movie from Semiconductor on Vimeo.

Guess it's a big night for posting cool movies. Sorry!

Creepy Grace Jones Gets Creepier

Here, have a really creepy video for your Friday (or perhaps late Thursday) amusement:


After repeatedly finding myself frustrated with the lack of "feel" that Photoshop gives with the tablet, I bit the bullet (not saying all that much, since I got a huge education discount) and bought Painter X. Here's my first "real" sketch with it:

It's definitely far better to use than Photoshop for this kind of thing. It gives you some modicum of a "feel" for what you're drawing, with much better sensitivity for pressure and speed. Also, PS happens to "stutter" while I'm drawing, which made it very frustrating. That doesn't happen with Painter (and I was quite afraid it would).

Anyway, I like it. Hopefully, this will get me drawing more. Unfortunately, it has me wanting a bigger, better tablet. And those start at around $700.

Collaborative Map / Drawing

There's a GWT-based application on the web that allows anyone to draw on it.

I think it's kinda neat... For about 10 minutes.

It helps that I have a Wacom tablet, however.

Dr. Who's Awesomeness

...We see this clip playing in the background in one episode. Now we can hear it.