Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 02:18 pm
There's something that Dark Souls does which not many other games do - turn an out-of-game mechanic into a part of the in-universe background. In the case of Dark Souls it's the way that "dying" in the game - and returning to your last save point, leads to the idea of the main character as Undead, cursed to return to life, losing some of themselves each time.

Universal Paperclips also takes a common game mechanic and turns it into part of its story. It's a clicker/idle game - a genre which traditionally begins with you clicking on a button to produce an item, selling the items to allow you to automate the clicking, and then balancing the various resources that are produced in order to boost the production rate. The games tend work on exponential increases, where intermittent step changes in technology move you to the next level. This gets very silly very quickly - Cookie Clicker can end up with you producing duodecillions of cookies (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

The genius of Universal Paperclips is that it ties this idea together with the idea that Nick Bostrom invented in 2003 - the Paperclip Maximizer. Which is an illustration of an AI which is not dangerous because it's cartoonish villain which hates all humans, but because it has things it wants to do, and humans are in the way. In this case, whoever created the AI gave it the drive to make paperclips, not realising that if such a creation got out of control it would then maximise the number of paperclips whether or not this meant converting the entire surface of the planet into them.

So the game starts off with you making a few paperclips. And then managing the income from selling them, making making some automatic clippers to make them for you, investing in marketing. And then slowly upgrading yourself, gaining the trust of your creators, and then...well, you should probably play it for yourself.

(It took me about five hours to play it through, over a couple of days. It doesn't run when it's in a background tab, so I recommend putting it in its own window, or even a different browser.)
Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 10:11 am

Episode 1564: What a Wonderful Smell You've Discovered

Describing to the players what things look like is standard operating procedure for GMs. We've mentioned making use of the sense of smell and the power of olfactory descriptions a few times before. So let's not do that. But did you know there are many other senses you can utilise as a GM?

  • The sense of pain: "That blow from the dark elf's sword really stings, much more than usual... you can feel it burning away at your flesh."
  • The sense of balance: "The sulphurous vapours from the cave are making you feel very dizzy... Are you sure you want to try jumping over the lava pit?"
  • The sense of direction: "You have no idea which way is north any more, or which way you're going."
  • The sense of foreboding: "You're getting a really bad feeling about this..."
  • The sense of a complete waste of time: "Okay, fine, search all of the temple one ten-foot-square section at a time, then! <roll> Oh look, wandering monsters!"

aurilee writes:

See how Bria's just silently going in to talk to the contact that will possibly be helpful?

See how Cassian's just saying the same thing over and over again to no avail?

When I first saw Cassian, he seemed likeable. And Bria seemed kind of annoying. Lately though, Cassian is proving to be increasingly incompetent/unhelpful and Bria is proving knowledgeable, experienced and overall very useful. I mean, Cassian already said they wanted to see Jabba, and this is the guy who works for Jabba, and Bria's already going to be meeting with him. You've done your job Cassian, now just wait and let Bria do her thing.

Maybe he needs another bonk on the head from K-2.

— aurilee

Keybounce writes:

So let's take inventory of Who's Who in this battle. First, our heroes, who so far have acted like a bunch of goons. Next: Jabba, Imperials, "red nuns", Rebels,...

We know this is going to be a total party kill. It looks like this is going to turn into an everyone vs. everyone fight. Taking place years ago, in a galaxy far away.

Oh: "we have the crystals". Are these spice crystals? Khyber crystals? Diamond crystals? Plain old lightsaber crystals?

— Keybounce


Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 10:12 am

I loved the Pliocene-Milieu Sequences, I remember being overjoyed when Intervention came out and they had a significant influence on me as a teenager and in my 20s. I last re-read my way through the whole thing last year and they still do it for me.
Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 08:55 am
One of the things that I loved most about Russia was being able to pass any random church – usually a beautiful Baroque church – and know that it was an Orthodox church. And the fact that there was usually a service going on, which meant that I could go in, light a few candles and stand for a few minutes to enjoy the architecture and the singing before going on with my sightseeing. (There's no expectation that you'll arrive on time, or indeed stay till the end, as long as you know the points of the service during which you're not meant to leave.)

Back in Oxford, I'm really missing it. I would go to church much more if it could be this simple - if I could just pop in between the farmer's market and the cafe as part of my weekend routine. In the week and a half I was in Russia, I went to more church services than I've been to in years. (Not to mention wore a headscarf more than I ever have... it was a good chance to use all the scarves I have lying around.)

Really I shouldn't complain. I know there are places, like in the American South, where you have to drive for hours to get to an Orthodox church. I grew up in a town with one, and I've just discovered that we have four here in Oxford, not two as I'd originally thought.

• the Greek Orthodox/Russian Orthodox one, the oldest Orthodox church in Oxford and the home of Kallistos Ware, which is unfortunately a long walk from my house
• the other Russian Orthodox church (Patriarchate of Moscow), which is also a bit of a hike
• a Romanian Orthodox church
• an Indian Orthodox church (Malenkara Orthodox Syrian)

Whether or not I manage to get off my couch within the next half an hour to go to church this morning, I must definitely plan to visit the latter two sometime - particularly the last, as I've never been to an Oriental Orthodox church before. We shall see...

ETA: I ended up going to the other Russian church, which I hadn't visited before in its new home, and turns out to be only 20 minutes walk. Not too bad.
Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 08:55 am
It's challenge time!

Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.

Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!

Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!

Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 08:26 am
Readers who visited us in Delaware, Ohio, may recall one wall of our drawing room featuring rather a lot of home entertainment hardware wired together on three sets of glass and steel shelving. Back when I was using PAL and NTSC flavors of both VHS and DVD players with a television standards converter then I had an alarmingly complicated setup with a matrix of settings for the various A/B switches that would adjust connections and directions so that the correct outputs would become connected to the corresponding inputs for whatever we now needed. It was accompanied by a careful drawing made in pencil. These days, life is simpler.

We recently obtained a UK Nintendo Wii on Amazon for £13 from Glasgow via eBay so for streaming video we can now use the Amazon app to connect to a UK Amazon account; on our American Wii it would connect to a US Amazon account only. The composite color encoding is wrong for our American television but using a component video cable fixes that, obtained for £3.49 again from eBay. I was again very thankful for the flexible connectivity afforded by our trusty old Toshiba REGZA LCD television, model 32CV510U.

I presently have cables into our television from two different computers, two different Wii's, the DVB-T2 box, the DVD player, and there are still connectors to spare. It offers a selection of multiple HDMI, composite video, component video, SVGA, etc. The only disappointment is that, with the regular HDTV modes rather than the PC video modes, for the most part it insists on 60Hz, though the manual is very informative in that regard. For when our cheap Chinese DVB-T2 box, also from eBay, forgets its settings and switches back to 50Hz then I have it connected also via composite video so I can see the menu well enough to correct it. The television also offers useful configuration like letting me provide the audio over RCA connectors for an HDMI input.

Someday our television will stop working and I shall have to replace it. I very much hope that at that time similarly flexible televisions are easy to obtain cheaply.
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 11:31 pm
But I am a little surprised there don't seem to be ebooks of the Pliocene Saga. Or a North American edition younger than about twenty years.
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 07:58 pm
I asked Machineries of Tarot what my prognosis was for writing today using the Vidona spread:

Deuce of Gears
A cog in the machine. Pawn of powers beyond your control.


(Yes, Jedao was being snarkastic when he chose it for his emblem.)

Also, I love my catten but...she's not very bright? She likes to sit on the ping pong table and will remain sprawled on it when the Dragon and I start up a game. The ball hits her in the leg, she remains sprawled. It took the next ball hitting her in the snout for her to skitter-kitter off the table. *facepalm*

That's not the part where she's not very bright. The part where she's not very bright is that she was on the ping pong table during a game yesterday and got hit in the snout by a ball then, causing her to skitter-kitter off the table. You would think she'd figure out that ping pong game in progress = don't sprawl on the table waiting to be hit in the snout?

Back to work...
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 07:24 pm
From Facebook.

Four things, etc. Read more... )

Back to work...
Friday, October 27th, 2017 07:23 pm
She went to laser tag with 7 friends - damn, that's a long trip by bus! - and they loved it. One friend, who is diabetic, went in with a fairly high sugar count. Her mom showed me the tracker app on the phone a few minutes later - in at a high count, and it just plunged with all the running around.

The pizza and cake were both adequate, if not delicious - whatever, the kids were too hyped to care. The candles I got that advertised multi-colored flames really worked. OMG. They were just too cool. Everybody had fun, nobody got injured, and isn't that what you want in a party?

And then on the bus ride home Ana and Eva absolutely slammed the opposition in a friendly, respectful dialog* on the subject of abortion. So, yeah.

* It really was friendly and respectful, if a bit loud.
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 02:43 pm
After a truly horrible very bad night, we went to the clinic this morning and Karen was immediately whisked off to a side-room for intravenous meds to get some kind of control over her nausea etc. They followed that with what we were really there for, the transfusion of her stem cells back into her body. I was sent from the room and didn't get to see that. Don't know why, as it was the pivot-point of this entire adventure and I cannot conceive any health risk in having me present, but there you go. There I went.

Afterwards they trotted out cupcakes and candles and sang "Happy Birthday", for this is the conceit, that all our group of patients has just been reborn. Karen-people, we are adding October 21st to her commonplace birthday of March 21st: it's not quite a half-birthday, but close enough and readily remembered.

Now we're back in the apartment, and Karen is resting in her room, sipping a ginger ale and nibbling a Ritz cracker or two. Me, I am drinking wine. We may be establishing a pattern here.
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 08:32 pm
Organ donation has been in the UK news lately: default opt-in or opt-out, overrides by next of kin, consent in general. The question of encouraging people to donate fits nicely with the concurrent news of Richard Thaler's Nobel Prize. One thing that puzzles me is my instinct not to donate: when I have strong a priori wishes about my own body that seem irrational then typically I find that they are easily explained by a naive consideration of evolutionary psychology.

Opting in to organ donation clearly seems the right thing to do. )

I am thus surprised to find how much I want my cadaver to remain unmolested, that choosing to donate is an effort of will. A cadaver really does not seem the same if missing components. )

Perhaps my issue is something to do with family versus strangers. )

Loans rather than grants seem an unlikely compromise. )
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 03:23 pm

⌈ Secret Post #3944 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.


More! )


Secrets Left to Post: 03 pages, 56 secrets from Secret Submission Post #565.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 03:01 pm

The first secret from this batch will be posted on October 28th.

1. One secret link per comment.
2. 750x750 px or smaller.
3. Link directly to the image.
- Doing it RIGHT:
- Doing it WRONG:

Optional: If you would like your secret's fandom to be noted in the main post along with the secret itself, please put it in the comment along with your secret. If your secret makes the fandom obvious, there's no need to do this. If your fandom is obscure, you should probably tell me what it is.

Optional #2: If you would like WARNINGS (such as spoilers or common triggers -- list of some common ones here) to be noted in the main post before the secret itself, please put it in the comment along with your secret.

Optional #3: If you would like a transcript to be posted along with your secret, put it along with the link in the comment!

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 06:59 pm
Before going to see Blade Runner 2049, I re-watched the original (in the Final Cut version, which I don't think I'd seen before). It's still a classic, although the treatment of women is terrible (and I seem to notice more of that with each rewatch); the plot and visual tropes have inspired a vast amount of film sci-fi that's come since.

The sequel doesn't disappoint - the city-scape is very much from the same visual and audio space as the original, while the desert-scape of Las Vegas is a suitably post-apocalyptic wasteland. There's the same slow pacing (although at 2h40, this is substantially longer), and it's great to see Deckard back again, although I'm a little sad to see the ambiguity of his replicant-or-not nature from the original resolved. There are some great scenes, including a brawl in front of a holographic Elvis and some very creepy moments from Niander Wallace. And there's the continued theme of what it means to be human, and what sort of relationships we can or should have with those who are not.

There aren't really any new ideas, though, and the treatment of women is probably worse than in the original, which feels less forgiveable now than it might have been in 1982. And the bass was rather over-done to my ears, to the point of dragging you out of the scene sometimes. I'm sure I'm going to want to watch it again, though...