28 July 2008

The Severe Downside of Being Addicted to Sinta

Ninja Kiwi, the people who made Bloons (the latest rendition of which is Pop Three), have a new game out called Sinta. Basically you run around as a little white cat, armed with bow and arrows, in a trap-filled dungeon. It's very addicting. Unfortunately, there are some serious flaws with the game.

1. Unless you have extremely well-coordinated and dexterous left fingers (which I don't), it requires three hands to play - two on the keyboard to run and jump, and one on the mouse to shoot. It would work a lot better if shooting was also a keyboard button, such as the spacebar.

2. After you acquire your fire arrows, the game gets extremely lagged. It is impossible to get through the entire game without fire arrows - and because of the lag, it's also very difficult to get through the game with fire arrows.

3. Layout of the page it loads on is unspeakably bad. The game itself ignores scrolling, which is bad because the bottom part is cut off in every browser I have (Firefox, Safari). So, no idea how many lives I have, what my health is, how many arrows I have, how many stars I've collected, etc. Opera's true zoom function can zoom it down enough so that the entire game is within the window - but the game is unplayable in Opera because the keyboard buttons don't work the way they're supposed to.

Some of the browsers will also load advertisements over the top of the game - and although they can be scrolled out of the way, it's tricky to find a free spot where enough of the game is unblocked.

This is a problem with all of Ninja Kiwi's games. They recently did a revamp of their site's layout, and now it's a lot worse than what they had before. Also, every game has developed a slight lag that wasn't there before, and which gets increasingly bad the longer the game runs.

Even so. I like the cat, so I keep going back to play the early part of the game - before the lag sets in. I just wish I could continue on in the Wizard's Tower to find out what happens. :(

24 July 2008

In which I belabor metaphors to their breaking points

Eric asked:
Whence Wikipedia?

I thought about elaborating on that, but every other question I came up with started to show my own prejudices; I'll leave it more open-ended and give you a chance (if you'd like) to riff on the future of Wikipedia.

Whence Wikipedia?

I think about Wikipedia in terms of the Greek Fates (or, more accurately (and this will highlight just how much of a total loser roleplayer I am), the Garou Triat of Wyld, Weaver, and Wyrm). The one who spins new thread, the one who weaves the thread into useful fabric, and the one who clips excess thread. The editor who creates new articles on interesting topics they've found or adds new content to existing ones; the editor who formats them to standards, revises them, organizes them into categories, and finds citations for them; the editor who scrutinizes them for notability and deletes or redirects the unacceptable ones.

In the beginning there was mostly content creation. Then came the other two kinds of editors, and shortly thereafter there were admins and bureaucrats - editors who wove or clipped other editors rather than articles themselves. From anarchy there arose a massive tangled bureaucracy - which, having grown organically rather than along any kind of plan, looks to the average outsider like a Gordian knot.

Hence Wikipedia?

Well, it remains to be seen whether we can have a proper balance between the weavers and the cutters - a stable, long-lasting one. In the cosmology of the Garou, the Weaver went mad with her thread and ensnared the Wyrm, who also went mad with destruction, and because of the struggle between the two, the Wyld is dying out. On Wikipedia, all the arguments about notability, citations needed, issues of format, following of procedures and protocols and so forth are driving away the spinners.

Some of the spinners are simply surprised and confused to find structure where they expected chaos, while others have trouble wrapping their minds around the prevailing paradigm (that is, it's not about editors, it's about articles). Even aside from those, however, many would-be spinners (and some would-be weavers) take one look at the Gordian knot and just turn around and go away.

Can the bureaucracy be woven into a useful tapestry that helps more than it hinders? Or do we need a hero to come along with a sword? I don't know, but I lean toward the former much more than the latter.

How Now Wikipedia?

Editting for Wikipedia is a lot like making sandcastles. At any moment, a big wave might come by and revert your masterful work of art to a pile of sand.

23 July 2008

On Ordering of Siblings

Michelle asked:
Also, from out of left field, I have a bet with myself that you're the
oldest kid in your family. As the oldest kid in my family, I see in
things you say, things that I do, particularly a sense of
responsibility for the rest of the family, regardless of whether they
appreciate it or not, and that sense of responsibility stretching out
into your professional life (I'm thinking in particular of your not
complaining about your pay rate. (Another of my good friends is also
an oldest sibling, and we've often complained about how our siblings
can still get away with murder. (laugh) )

Are you in fact the oldest of your siblings?

As it happens, yes. Not that you can tell by looking at us standing next to each other, as our heights are in reverse order. Also I look the youngest.

You might find it interesting to know, however, that within the family, I'm notorious for shirking all duty and responsibility expected of me by my sister and mother, much to their annoyance. If anyone is being dutifully responsible, it'd have to be my sister (middle child). Plus she's, uhh, bossy. Just like you. :)

22 July 2008

On Roleplay, Characters and Writing

Eric asked:
4E: worst thing ever or merely pretty awful?

The last edition of Dungeons and Dragons I played was AD&D 2nd ed., and that was back in 1992. I have no idea. :) Those of you who have it (or are looking forward to receiving it) may feel free to argue about it, however.

Michelle asked:
What's your alignment?

True Neutral.

That was what I got the last time I took an Internet test about it. I agree that it's accurate, and I like where I am.

To tie it back in with the first question, I'll add that one of the many things I dislike about D&D is the alignment system. I find that it's too artificial and arbitrary to pigeonhole people into nine categories of morality, and it's quite contrary to my preferred styles of roleplaying.

Jeri asked:
In your history of role-playing, what's your favorite character you've ever played and why? Describe the character.

Oh man... only one??? I think I'll do three. :)

1. Haywood Jablomey, a VtM vampire character in the form of an 8 year old boy (a Malkavian, for those who know VtM). His original name was John Smith, but the guy who took him in after his turning decided that it was a boring name and changed it. Said guy had a bit of a dirty mind... Anyway, Haywood is cheerful, friendly, and really not very bright at all. He's also a kleptomaniac, but don't ever confront him about it because "I don't steal! Mommy says stealing is bad!" Instead, he just "finds" things. Not necessarily shiny things or expensive things either - he'll unintentionally take just about any random thing that's sitting out somewhere not bolted down. One time he stole all the AA batteries out of some guy's TV remotes, then when the party moved on to ransack the guy's office, he dumped the batteries and took all the paper clips, and then when the party moved into a restricted lab area where everyone had to wear Clean Room suits and he was too small, he used the paper clips to make the suit fit him.

Haywood was my favorite character during the early-mid-90s, back when most of my social life consisted of tabletop roleplaying and LARPs. He's easy to play because I don't have to keep track of anything complex going on, and I don't have to think fast or intelligently. (I can think intelligently but only very slowly.) He was a hit with most groups I played him in because he made for great comic relief. In general, Haywood works best when he's actually part of a troupe, and not just running around doing stuff by himself.

2. Thomas Cougar, another VtM vampire character (a Gangrel), who started out as a Florida Seminole. After his turning, he exiled himself from his people and spent about 80 years alone in the swamps, until his great-granddaughter came along looking into her personal history, and dragged him back out. He then became a doctor who while he practiced western medicine, also knew a ton about the uses of plants (especially the ones from the swamps he was in) for medicinal purposes.

I made him for a realtime chat game in 2002. It became a solo game, and we basically went nuts with it for nearly a year. She was my best friend, and it was what we did. That game was the focus whereby she dragged me out of the abyss I was in at the time.

Later on, when we started drifting apart (as all my friendships seem to after a while), and we weren't playing as often, I started looking for something to fill the time while waiting for the game to continue, and that's how I came to RPoL in the spring of 2003. I put Thomas into a game there, and she made a character for the same game, which was called VtM: Eternal Nights. Umm. How to put it. Let's just say that it lasted for nearly a year and that there was a lot of drama. It took a long, long time before I could play Thomas in anything else (and now he's a minor NPC in a game I help run).

Thomas was also the seed behind just about all of my fiction. I made him, my friend really liked him and kept asking questions about his past, so I made an extremely detailed past (more detailed than any backstory I'd ever written for any other character). Then I made a city around him for where he was from before the start of the game. And in that city there had to be other characters of course... who were doing things of their own... and getting in each other's ways.... (For those familiar with my RPoLian history, "Detroit" originally started out as a game set in the city I made for him.)

So, yeah. Thomas was (and is) pretty important to me. ;)

3. Rumen Radomir, also a vampire, but one from the Anitaverse as described by Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. He started out as a Hungarian monk in the Dark Ages who became the victim of an experiment on whether the purest of the pure (e.g. a monk) could avoid falling from grace if turned into a vampire - a test of faith. Since the answer is no, he was really mad about that and went on a rampage for a couple centuries revelling in monsterhood. After that he got better. He became friends with a necromancer during the 1400s, and the friend eventually became a human servant. Then a few centuries later (150 years before gamestart in modern times) the servant got killed by a vampire hunter. He got really mad about that and went on another rampage, until finally he calmed down about 50 years ago. He ended up in Sacramento, became the Master of the City's second after six years, and ... that's pretty much it actually because the game is dead now.

The game was set in 1990 in Sacramento, ran from late 2003 to mid-2007 on RPoL, covered all of two story days during that time, and got deleted three weeks ago due to inactivity. :( While it ran, it was by far the best freeform roleplaying play-by-post EV4R. All of my best writing was in that game, and it was the stepping stone between the roleplay writing I'd been doing (and steadily improving), and Nanowrimo 2004.

Rumen is now my top muse. He's very strong-willed and particular about me getting him down right. With as entertaining a past as he had, there are all sorts of stories I can write about him - and I've started to, trying to fill the void while waiting for the game to continue (which now it never will). Much of my past several months have been spent quietly worldbuilding for one of the bigger ones. In some ways he's a seed like Thomas. Same general fuzzy settings, except several centuries earlier in a different part of the world.

For short blurbs about some of my other favorites, there's my response to a meme back in 2006. For more about my trials and tribulations of fiction writing, I do have a blog for that over at Hobgoblin.net. That was my main blog where I wrote down actual bloglike material (stuff about daily life) before starting this one.

Global Warming Worldbuilding

From Jeri (via Eric):
I need some sort of event that will cause immediate global warming in the course of one summer/fall - to the point that it will not freeze come winter in the arctic and it will happen so fast it will surprise the world. What sort of event can you think of, outside of deus ex machina?

Umm. What kind of story is this? You could always blame it on space aliens with superior technology.

Barring that, basically you'd have to find a way to dump a whole lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A whole lot. Enough to overwhelm all the balances that are presently in place.

I used to have a book, Out of Thin Air by Peter Ward, that explained how the Mesozoic got to be as warm as it did. I no longer have it, so going entirely by memory here, but basically it was because all the accumulated plant detritus during the Carboniferous (which was called that for a reason...) suddenly released their stored carbon into the atmosphere. I think he said it was a really big fire.

So... maybe in your case, find a way to burn every single plant in the entire world?

21 July 2008

I Got Nothing

Obviously I've not had much luck coming up with things to write about in here, for the better part of three months now, so I'm going to steal Eric's idea.

Anyone have any questions they want to ask me? :)

16 July 2008


One of the hallmarks of being a responsible moderator is that you never really know whether you're doing a good job. The second-guessing and self-critique is constant: am I being too harsh? am I being too lenient? is there a better way to approach the problem than what I'm doing? can I think of it in time to be effective? In the thick of the moment, when tempers run high from all directions and decisions must be made quickly with no time to think things through, when people you expected to count on for support and input during a difficult time instead turn on you, when even with people you can count on for support and input you still really stand alone: it's easy to fail.

Six months ago I tried, and stumbled, and failed, and wondered if I'd gotten any of it right. Three weeks ago I discovered just how much rage I still hold for how things turned out. One week ago I had cause to show the records to another moderator - one whom I highly respect and whose opinion I very much trust. She said:

"shit you're a lot more patient than I am."

Despite all the things that still remain unresolved, some peace of mind finally came. I wasn't harsh at all, and I did get it right in the end. And I think I can let go the worst of the rage now.

12 July 2008

Recent Reading

I used to be a voracious reader in my youth. So much so that it interfered with my ability to get to school on time, my grades, and my (other) extracurricular activities. My parents learned quickly to not bother giving me any money, not even for emergencies, because I would spend it on books. They were never fond of my penchant for science fiction, claiming it was a frivolous waste of time when I should be reading classical literature or weighty philosophical matter (or doing homework). Once, my mother actually tore one of my books in half.

Then, at some point in grad school when I was reading tons of scientific papers all the time, I fell out of the habit of reading fiction. I no longer had days at a time to do nothing but read an entire book all at once. At the same time, reading became physically hard on me. No matter what position I sit or lie down in, some part of me gets stiff and sore - and by rotating through lots of different positions, my whole body ends up stiff and sore. It was like that in my youth, too, but I recovered faster back then. For a while I just read magazines instead (mainly Earth (RIP :( ), Discover, Smithsonian, and Science News), but eventually I stopped reading those, too.

Now I've been trying to ease back into reading. One of the writing groups I belong to started up a book reading challenge a year ago. Basically you declare how many you'll read that year, and then you list them as you finish each one. Last year I declared 12 (one per month seemed like a good way to ease back into reading when I hadn't read a thing for years) and ended up with 10:

1. Agent to the Stars - John Scalzi (sci fi)
2. Out of Thin Air - Peter Ward (science nonfic)
3. Memory of Running - Ron McLarty (mainstream fic)
4. The Paths of the Dead - Steve Brust (fantasy trilogy 1)
5. The Lord of Castle Black - Steve Brust (fantasy trilogy 2)
6. Sethra Lavode - Steve Brust (fantasy trilogy 3)
7. Core Performance - Mark Verstegen (nonfic exercise book)
8. Hellspark - Janet Kagan (sci fi)
9. Brokedown Palace - Steven Brust (fantasy)
10. Starcraft: Queen of Blades - Aaron Rosenberg (sci-fi)

This year I declared 12 again, and so far I have:

1. Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
2. Dzur by Steve Brust
3. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
5. Thud! by Terry Pratchett
6. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

At the moment I'm working on Hogfather by Terry Pratchett and On Writing by Stephen King. Pratchett is going faster. ;)

The fact that I started visiting the local library helps; I have a deadline to read them by, and then if I'm going to the library anyway to return books I might as well get more... Their sci-fi/fantasy section is only four bookcases, but at my current snail's pace they should last me quite a while. Also, I've learned how to read only a chapter or two at a time. It's much easier to come up with the time for that than two whole days of doing nothing else.

04 July 2008

Basil Flowers

My basil has gotten a lot taller in the past couple months. "Leggy" is probably a good way to describe them now. They do get full sun in the afternoons but apparently could use more than I can provide. Aside from longer stems and smaller leaves, they've also been flowering.

May 2

Jul 4

Basil flowers are tiny and white. They've decided not to all bloom at the same time on each stalk as I'd hoped, but to go a few at a time.

Now I'm wondering if I should be trimming the flower stalks off so they make more leaves....