Monthly Archives: December 2005

The graveyard of stillborn blog entries

Yep, it’s another one of those Fridays where I wake up at noon, spend an entire day reading the web, and generally mess up my inner clock by not even looking out the window or talking to a human. Then, at 2AM, I am seized with the need to do something so that the day won’t be a total write-off, and… post something to my blog.
Because that would make it a worthy day.
And since I can’t be bothered doing something worthwhile (like a recap, or a review of all good/bad media consumed this year), I am just going to clean away my “drafts” – unpublished weblog posts that I entered but never finished or published. This is going to be short.
Geek stuff:

  • Perl best practices, an article by Damien Conway that is probably worth reading even if program in a different language.
  • Becoming familiar with a too-big codebase? – I ran across this discussion in PerlMonks which touched a nerve. I shudder to recall the hairy code I was handed, and how long it was before I learned to use the perl debugger, which is pretty easy (compared to some of the C++ debuggers I’ve had to use) and very useful.
  • One day I should read this online book, called Text Processing in Python. God knows I’ve had to process some text in my time…
  • I meant to link to an utility called SlickRun. Well, now I did.
  • The Open JavaScript Archive Network is an attempt to do for Javascript what CPAN does for Perl. CPAN is probably the most amazing thing about Perl (beyond the language itself); a single, central repository for libraries and extensions, filled with wonderous stuff, that seems to have just the right thing you need for, well, anything. Almost.
  • The Internet keeps taking to me about AJAX, which is the technique of using Javascript to load stuff from the server without reloading the whole page. A couple of months ago, I helped upload and debug a trivial web form that someone (Guy Weiner, I think) managed to write using AJAX (and XSL!) instead of simple CGI. I shuddered at the wrong-headedness of this. That’s probably why I thought this was really keen: AJFORM, a simple javascript library that lets you make normal web forms “AJAX-enabled”, while still let them work normally as a fallback. I thought this could be a good way to try and gradually convert a regular CGI application to a more responsive AJAXish interface.
  • A list of CSS tips. You can never have enough CSS tips.

I also made a list of books I read more-or-less over the past year. Actually, from sometime in May to about a month or two ago. Somehow it looks too short. I think there are gaps. Or maybe I don’t read much.

The king of Elfland’s Daughter (Lord Dunsany)
Ash (Mary Gentle)
In Search of Zarathustra (Paul Kriwaczek, non-fiction)
Dread Empire’s Fall: The Praxis (Walter Jon Williams)
Down and out in the Magic Kingdom (Cory Doctrow)
Singularity Sky (Charlie Stross)
Atrocity Archives (Charlie Stross)
Once on a Time (AA Milne)
Rapture of the Nerds (Charlie Stross and Cory Doctrow)
The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass (Philip Pullman)
Anubis Gates (Tim Powers)
Darwin’s Children (Greg Bear)
A scattering of Jades (Alexander C. Irvine)
Lucas Kasha (Lloyd Alexander, Hebrew translation)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince (JK Rowling)
A Fine and Private Place (Peter Beagle)
The Gate of Worlds (Robert Silverberg)

And look, here’s a free soundtrack from a Conan computer game! Great if you need moody music and have over-used the Basil Poledouris masterpiece.

Other stuff, random passing fragments embedded in blog like woodchips in amber: I wanted to lament about losing the iGo Juice universal power supply I had for my laptop when I moved, and having to buy a new power supply for my weird Dell laptop. But since then, the laptop with its newly-bought power supply have been stolen. I wanted to rave that my brother was one of the winners of a big animation contest; I wanted to rant about assorted roleplaying theory posts I read, and what they make me think about my gaming in general and Il Nostro Gioco in particular. I wanted to write about going to see Suzie at the end of a kind-of bumming day back in July, and being overcome with emotion and beauty – that entry had just this opening line: Candyfloss clouds grazing in a watercolor sky, sunset shadows cutting across golden fields, waves of greenery breaking by the side of the road. Such a beautiful day, I drove to see Suzie.)
And finally, I once wanted to blog this funny quote from Nick Locking’s LJ:

I just made [[his girlfriend – DD]] watch The Empire Strikes Back, the undeniably best Star Wars film (seeing as it doesn’t contain ANY dodgy bits at all and has some of the best action scenes in film history, and I was expecting a bit of her trademark charming inability to understand nerd things as a result of being extremely Italian, but nothing really prepared me for her pointing at the AT-ATs majestically stomping over the snowfields of Hoth in puzzlement and asking “what animal are they supposed to be?” I can’t even begin to understand how her mind works. It’s like she’s from an anti-matter universe or something.

World without blood, world without tears

Maclean’s : The end of the period

In 2006, a new oral contraceptive called Anya, developed to “put women in control of when or if they want to menstruate,” is expected to hit the Canadian and U.S. markets. Manufactured by Collegeville, Penn.-based Wyeth Pharmaceuticals — and currently pending approval by Health Canada — Anya is the first low-dose birth control pill designed to be taken 365 days a year, without placebos (the hormone-free sugar pills taken at the end of every 28-day cycle). Early findings report that Anya is just as effective in preventing pregnancy as traditional oral contraceptives (98 per cent). And as an added bonus, since Anya provides a steady stream of hormones, it promises to quash a woman’s usual cyclical fluctuations, virtually wiping out all the irksome symptoms of PMS.

“irksome” symptoms, indeed.
Imagine how they they must be for women.

(Apropos our in-party discussion of “rabbits and menstruation” – I.’s research and Wikipedia say that only primates menstruate; rabbits have “estrus”).

Metaphorical Landscape, with Indians

And hot cold on the heels of one, two, three and four, comes session five, below the cut.

… But before we get back to our heroes, a few points about administrative things:

  • We started playing with Bo (soon knocked out by my coffee, after being knocked out by KFC last session; we are starting to detect a pattern) and Israel, and were joined by Miller later – obviously, when the action picks up.
  • System-wise, since last session we’ve sort-of twisted the Anti-Pool variant we’re using so much it’s now a pretzel. Briefly, you can’t spend any dice from your pool to augment your rolls; only other players can give you more dice for a roll. Also, I’m not sure if we keep the dice on a win or a lose, or if donating dice is “gambling” on someone’s actions and you get dice back, or a bonus. But if you can only gamble dice, not use them, what’s the point of hoarding them?
    I think we need to work on the reward mechanic – what is the incentive, what is the behaviour we are trying to promote in ourselves? Cool stunt descriptions, I think, isn’t a motivation Bo wants to get behind.I think we got the hang of the system by next session

So, the session.

They’re in a car, on a dirt track, when from the morning mist comes the wife of one of Slade’s buddies, let’s call him Jimmy Brown Fox (and let’s call her, oh, Ellen?), saying They’re all dead. As Slade rolls down the window to ask what happened, they smell the smoke.

Turns out the shack out back, where Brown Fox kept Davreux, has burnt down. Ellen (I’m not going to keep calling her “his wife”) tells Slade that Davreux and both his guards were asleep in the shack at the time.

They dig through the rubble, where some neighbours are trying to help out, but find no signs of any person – they find Davreux belt buckle, and the remains of Brown Fox’s shoe, but no bones or human remains. Slade consoles Ellen, tells her that her husband and his friend probably survived, and takes her indoors.

Once indoors, Slade contacts the local Shaman (Weissefedder, a German expatriate whom the tribe has adopted, and who was reachable online via Jabber), and he comes over and together they try to cook up some ritual that will allow them to contact or locate Davreux and the two missing Indians. OK, actually Weissefedder brings over the drugs, and Slade guides Ellen in an act of automatic drawing, trying to picture where her husband ended up.
She draws an angle, like the corner of a box, but this quickly becomes a hillside studded with fir trees, and the coulds above become airships, and there is a trail of smoke rising from the hillside…
Slade wakes up Jack, who has fallen asleep on the sofa, and Alex, who is still sleeping in the car, and he tells Jack Say your magic word.
They appear on the hillside and the air smells like the Metaphor (Israel came up with this term for the book-reality; it rocks). Soon they find Jimmy Brown Fox and Hank Gray Owl, Slade’s friends, who just recently managed to loosen their bonds and start a small fire. Jimmy tells Slade that they were in the shack, guarding Davreux, when all of a sudden there was someone else in the room with them, and they got hit on the head, tied up and came to on the hill. Apparently their assailants included a woman (or two), and they somehow flagged down a passing airship and left.
Slade leads them in constructing a big X on the hillside, and pretty soon they flag down another of these airships. The airships are very similar to the one they encountered in the desert of Daath, right down to the flying-carpet platform rafts they send down, and the red robes of the crewmen. They also speak telepathically. However, these crewmen are human, not birdlike aliens.
The locals take them up in their airship, a cigar-shaped thing made out of delicate metal fretwork, an open frame that is still somehow pressurized despite having no visible skin, and which is propelled with no visible power source or engine. The crew offer them refreshment, tell them that they’ve contacted another ship, which reports that it has indeed passengers matching the description of Dominique and co. The crew say they will meet this ship just as soon as they do some delivery along their route.

[ Here we break and pick up Miller ]

The airship approaches one of the Gates (like the Sapphire gate and the stonehenge thing we had last session). Below, they can see a group of people waiting, with a heap of crates to be loaded onboard the airship. But as the airship descends, another airship emerges from the clouds above, where it has been lurking unnoticed. It doesn’t respond to signals, and is getting dangerously close, so that it will ram the airship they are on. The crew members begin evacuating, and signal Slade, Jack, Alex and the Indians to join them. They clamber onto the last lifeboat (well, flying-carpet like platform), which is dangerously overloaded. Jack contemplates staying onboard and experiencing the crash first hand, but Slade convinces him he isn’t that invulnerable.

As the escape-raft totters away to the ground (or maybe before, not sure about this), Alex spots another of these flying rafts descend next to the gate and a couple of folks get off it and run into the gate while everyone is trying to get away. The two airships collide, horrifyingly slow. They don’t explode, just crash into each other and sink down. The escape raft lands, everyone takes cover, and the two entangled airships smash down onto the gate, sending giant shards of splintered metal flying everywhere.

Slade, Alex and Jack rush to the gate; there’s a giant dust cloud blocking the way, and when it clears they are confronted with a huge heap of giant metal pick-up sticks (dookim). They start digging and moving. Eventually, a rescue team arrives and starts clearing things out using giant floating discs (like Tenser‘s). In the meantime, there is some exposition by the crew of the other airship – apparently, their communications personel and pilots were disabled by their newly-acquired passengers, and the ship was sabotaged.

Eventually, the gate is cleared; Slade talks to the door and ascertains that Dominique passed through it; they step through.

It is dark, wet, raining. They are in a strange town, still in the metaphor; Alex’s super-senses pick up the smell of strange chickens, and also Dominique’s scent (he never smelled her before, but what-the-hell, if Slade can talk to doors, Alex can sniff them). They follow the scent to a pub. The people inside aren’t human, but those blue birdlike aliens. Except that to Alex they smell human, which is clearly wrong to him. They ask about Dominique, and are told she can through there, and asked directions to the Doctor’s tower.

They head to the Doctor’s tower, a 4-story building towering over the other buildings in this rustic village. They enter, hear voices coming from the top of the stairs. Leaving Jimmy and Hank below, they climb up.

The top room is the doctor’s study, filled with shelves, scrolls, a fancy desk, statuettes, a big telescope poking out of the window, and a tied-up and bruised birdlike Doctor in one corner; Davreux is arguing with Dominique, who is ignoring him and rifling through the shelves; her personal assistant is huddled in the corner, crying and in shock; Wang is facing the stairway and sees them coming in.

Slade, his white suit now as filthy as it could possibly get (ash, dust and rain all over it) walks past Wang and demands that Dominique explain herself; Jack hurried to untie the Doctor. Alex smiles at Wang. Dominique tries to ignore Slade, denies she was trying to destory the world, and eventually gets so exasperated when Slade actually tries to grab her arm that she stares at him and says: Die!

Slade’s face bursts into flame. Well, not really, because he dodges, perhaps repelling the wave of heat with a facial chi-shield. In a smooth continued motion, he throws Dominique against the wall. Wang reacts to the onset of hostilities by exploding; in a flash, there’s a giant metallic lizard standing where he did before, with a vicious tail swinging. Alex whips out his Cornice and slices at the tail, which is lopped off and thrashes about. Slade calls up the cannon-fodder Jimmy and Hank, and they rush up the stairs, allowing him to use Chi to bring down the floor beneath the Wang/Monster’s feet.

Except that Wangzilla does a split and stays standing. So Jack leaps on his back and twists and snaps his neck. But just as he does, the lizard explodes again, and becomes this viscious and vicious jelly that tries to engulf him. So Jack, enveloped by Jelly, leaps out the window into the rain, hitting the ground four stories down.

Slade turns to Dominique and tries to appeal to reason. There’s no need to keep fighting, he tells her. If she’ll tell them what she’s looking for, they’ll try to help her. She just has to stop hurting people. What are you looking for?

Dominique considers this for a moment before responding.

I’m looking for my name, she says.

And cut.