Archive for August, 2006

#707

3:27 am, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Well I’m back in Federal Way. While in the Tri-Cities, I read Greg Egan’s Diaspora and Fables Vol. 7. Diaspora was fantastic, though (and this is the first time I’ve had this complaint for a scifi book) he talked about physics and math a little too much. I normally enjoy that aspect of SF (i.e. the author describing how a particular starship drive works, the mechanics of an unusual star system, etc.), but Egan lost me when he started talking about wormhole physics and sub-atomic particles. Here’s a short excerpt from pgs. 120-121:

… with virtual photons, gluons, and W-Z bosons as the mouths of the vacuum wormholes involved, and the six rolled-up dimensions, to which gravitons were impervious, now playing a crucial role. Spin measured the presence of a certain kind of extra-dimensional twist in the wormhole mouth; each half-twist contributed half a unit of spin. Fermions, particles such as electrons with an odd number of half-twists, had wormholes which could themselves become twisted like ribbons; if an electron was rotated 360 degrees, its wormhole would gain or lose a definite twist, with measureable consequences. … Fermions were always joined in even numbers; the simplest case was a particle at one end of the wormhole, with its antiparticle at the other.

Aside from the too-in-depth technobabble, the story was amazing. I loved all the little details about life in the polises (communities of digital minds). The ending seemed a little sad to me, though it was probably satisfying from the characters’ perspectives.

Also while in the Tri-Cities, Jones, Paige, Robert Richter, and I saw Talladega Nights (the new Will Ferrell comedy) and played Carcassonne. Both were exceedingly awesome. The movie was really funny; as Jones put it, “There wasn’t a single five-minute stretch where I wasn’t laughing.” And the ticket price was worth it for the Borat trailer alone.

Carcassonne is a little like Settlers of Catan-meets-Tongiaki-meets-Alhambra, but a lot simpler. I dig any game that lets you build a unique map (thus my fondness for SimCity’s terrain editor and Alpha Centauri’s terraforming feature). I’m half-considering buying a second copy just so I can combine all the tiles to make a bigger countryside.

When I returned to Federal Way, I brought Looker back with me. (My parents had been taking care of her for me ever since I moved to Seattle.) She’s my old corgi; used to be a show dog. Three weeks ago, my dad and sister spayed, microchipped, and removed a mammary mass from her, so she was all ready to go. The transition’s been very easy. She’s a really great dog — friendly, impeccably housebroken, almost never barks.

Tonight’s D&D game went about as smoothly as a game can with eight players. Basic summary: We freed the avatar from the Grinning Jester dungeon, won 15,000 gp in a roulette game, bet our lives on a game of cards (unwillingly), liquidated the treasure haul (~800 gp per share, average), and invaded what I’m going to call “the Laser Dome.” There, about 1,200 feet under the ground, we fought and killed a vampire and about forty zombies. Cool stuff: I now have 23,000 XP — enough to become a 1st level Order of the Bow Initiate.

I haven’t posted any new drawings for a long time, so here are some things I’ve done over the past couple months. The ones on the right (in green) are characters from Fables.

Drawing: Bush Caricature Drawing: Travolta and Others Drawing: Various People Drawing: Fables Characters

#706

2:22 am, Friday, August 4th, 2006

Alright, I’m in the Tri-Cities now. I left late because today was Brett’s birthday and I wanted to treat him to lunch and so on. The drive down wasn’t bad at all… I listend to an audio CD I’d burned earlier in the day (songs from KT Tunstall, the Raconteurs, and Rent), then Augusten Burroughs’ Possible Side Effects audiobook, which I snagged from the bargain shelf at Barnes & Noble the last time I was here. The most interesting chapter I’ve heard thus far was about him and some friend buying signed, first edition John Updike novels while conspiring to kill him with their minds. The story about raising a bulldog puppy was pretty good too.

So last night was the second session of our weekly Seattle GURPS game. Quick summary: We made two trips to Gotha-20 (the radioactive zombie world); first, to get environmental samples and a live zombie, then to contact survivors near Mount Rainier. Ended up taking all six of the survivors’ kids with us to “Alaska” (actually, we took them back to Homeline in the parachronic conveyor).

Anyway, after the game we were all talking about GURPS stuff in the hall and Martin said something like “Well, that’s how we did it when I played with Sean.” And I go, “Sean Punch?”
“Yeah.”
     “The Sean Punch?”
“Yeah, I was in his Dawn of Magic game.”
     “Seriously?! Sean Punch, AKA Dr. Kromm? The GURPS writer?”
“Haha, yeah. I played an alchemist with Quick Gadgeteering.”

Needless to say, I was amazed. To think, I’ve been playing with a GM who’s practically a celebrity! And what’s funnier is that, after I did a little reading about his character in the DoM campaign, I realized mine’s pretty similar — they both have Roman names, both are expert engineers, and even share some personality traits (like refusing to admit fault). Weird, huh?

Okay, so here’s the promised D&D summary from Monday: We killed the dozen aberrations wandering around the coliseum, then used the ship’s 1,200 lb. anchor to bust through a stone slab in the center of the arena. After dropping inside, the portal in the ceiling snapped shut, but we managed to reopen it by figuring out the pressure plates.

The interior of the dungeon had a not-at-all-subtle chance/gambling theme. Every door (except an impenetrable silver one in the first room) had a unique playing card design. We passed some basic traps and a briefly fiddled with a metal hatch that, when unsealed, released a rose/rosemary smell (which, in Chris’s campaign, means vampires). In the last room on that level, we fought a stone golem (sculpted to look like a jester) before going up the stairs to the giant roulette wheel. (Oh, and there was a brief exchange with some trapped minotoaurs protecting a chest. We didn’t try to fight them.)

The roulette room (basically a round chamber with a roulette wheel for a floor) had only two exits and we eventually deduced that our only option for proceeding was to pull the giant lever in the center. A large steel ball fell from the ceiling and skipped around as the whole room spun. I learned the hard way that cheating (manually moving the ball to other segments) was rewarded with gouts of flame, requiring reflex saving throws.

One result on the wheel caused a ghostly blackjack dealer to appear who then demanded five party members play five hands of twenty-one. This turned out to be something like playing with a Deck of Many Things — you’d play, then pick from one of three categories of mystery prizes or misfortunes. I played one hand and beat the dealer with 19; this earned me a permanent +2 damage modifier for my longbow (which now, thanks to my strength and enchantments, deals a whopping 1d8+2d6+6 per shot — hoody hoo!). But Anthony was the big winner for that encounter: He doubled a 10,000 gp bet he placed on the last hand.

One exit from the roulette room led to a rose/rosemary-smelling sarcophagus (which we left alone), the other led to a hallway guarded by two undying soldiers and the largest warforged any of us had ever seen. That battle was rough… But I was able to flank our enemies thanks to some cunning wordplay. To wit:
Giant warforged: None shall pass!
Kreft: How fortuitous, my name happens to be None.
Giant warforged: Oh… go ahead then.

Okay, it wasn’t all that cunning. We were just lucky to catch some sub-Stormtrooper intellects on guard duty. Down the hall they guarded, we found a carcass crab squatting over a multi-colored magic portal. That thing was especially nasty — kept crashing through stone walls to get to us. And the stone debris clung to its sticky shell, increasing its armor as the battle wore on. Damn crustacean actually took my ranger to zero HP before the cleric got to me.

Through the portal we found a smaller straightforward complex containing more guards. There was a centaur and two armored men — I believe they were all constructs of some kind. The two men were definitely the most difficult opponents of the night. In fact, I think they were the toughest things we’ve ever fought. We managed to knock one into the portal they were guarding (causing him to disappear in a flash of light), the other we took down by brute force.

That’s pretty much where we ended. Brandon had gone through the portal during the skirmish, but he was kind of trapped by pools of lava.

Some cool links: An interesting somewhat Risk-like Flash dice game, and two awesome music videos by the band OK Go: Here It Goes Again and A Million Ways. Those have really amazing choreography, especially Here It Goes Again. They do some really clever things with treadmills.

Communism: It's a Party
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#705

12:33 am, Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

Monday’s D&D game went really well. Keith was absent, but only because he was off getting married (congrats!). I think our characters came closer to dying on this adventure than any other. We successfully navigated the Grinning Jester dungeon and ended the session just short of opening what we think is the archon’s sarcophagus. I’ll do the summary later, but here are the highlights: Played blackjack with a ghost, fought a huge warforged and a carcass crab, nearly woke up a vampire, and spun what must be the largest roulette wheel ever built. We got a ton of XP — I made level six and I’m less than a thousand points from level seven. My Order of the Bow Initiate prestige class is so close I can taste it!

Some neat links:

Fairbairn Sykes dagger — Series of photos showing how a Ramanon user made a very ornate knife.

Meat cake! — A really cool way to dress up meatloaf. Lots of pictures.

You are a pirate — An oddly entertaining (IMHO) video clip from Nickelodeon’s LazyTown. That pirate captain should have his own show.

And here are a bunch of pictures that caught my fancy for one reason or another.

Weird Dinner Party Ice Ship Armored Guy
Optimus Rhyme Art Walker-Tank Sky City at Sunset
Lots of Nintendo Characters Beautiful Teeth -- Orbitz Hello Kitty Darth Vader
Happy Vector Background Robot Art Top-Heavy Island
Castle Laputa High Bridge (SciFi) Angel/Devil