gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
[personal profile] gridlore
As anyone who has spoken to me for more than five minutes knows, last year Kirsten and I traveled to Istanbul for our 25th anniversary. Amazing trip. Let me tell you about Istanbul.

Istanbul has 39 Districts. The mayor is Mevlut Uysal. The city's area is Urban 1,539 km2 (594 sq mi), Metro 5,343 km2 (2,063 sq mi). The population is 14,804,116 as of 2016, with an average population density of 6,970/sq mi. The average annual income is $22,765 (US Dollars.)

That was informative and totally useless when it comes to describing what Istanbul was like to experience. It tells nothing about the crowded cobblestone streets of the Fatih District, or the magnificence of the Hagia Sofia and the Süleymaniye Camii. It doesn't give you the smell of the sea, or the taste of the food, or the alien sound of hearing the first call to prayer of your visit, which soon fades to a background noise, just part of the city.

The numbers don't do anything to truly immerse the reader in the Queen of Cities. So why do we, as the designers and writers of science-fiction role-playing games, spend so much time on these pointless details? As an old-school Traveller player (and one who also love FGU's Space Opera as well) I've spent endless hours with a notepad and a scientific calculator calculating every detail of a world down to excruciating detail.

Details which almost never get used in play. Much in the same way that I never cared about the details of how Ataturk International worked, just that it was there and my flights landed and left without incident; a designer needs to focus on details that make the game move. The things that players will notice. The things that affect the game.

As an example, let's say I'm planning an adventure where the party gets wrapped up with a criminal group and ends up fleeing across a world that used to be a booming mining colony, but has gone bust. What do I need to know?

1. The basic nature of the world. Can the characters breathe unassisted? How hard is it to survive on the surface? Are there unusual threats that make this planet "sing"?

2. Who lives here? What are the people like? Are they gruff and suspicious of outsiders, or do they bring strangers in without question and offer food and shelter? What are the social codes that may not be apparent? To go back to Istanbul for a moment, we learned the hard way that you are supposed to sit in the front seat of the Taksi (Taxi); to do otherwise is an insult to the driver. Little errors like that can change attitudes quickly.

3. What's the local government and law like? Who is in charge at the level the characters will be acting? The style of government and the harshness of law don't necessarily correlate. A benevolent dictator loved by his people might have a very light police presence, whereas a republic might have an extensive secret police force. Think of Hoover's FBI in the 1950s.

4. What is the local sustainable level of technology? Go to Afghanistan and you'll see that everyone has cell phones, and pilfered US laptops are on sale in the souks. Afghanistan depends on imports and outside technicians to sustain their cell network and computers. So what can this world actually build, and what does it need to bring in? This can be a huge issue if something high-tech breaks.

5. What is the economic situation? Istanbul is a rich city, and it shows. Lots of new construction in the New City, lots of newer cars, full store shelves. Sail to Athens, and you see a very different picture. So how the world is doing is a big part of the picture. Is the local starport sprawling and busy at all hours, loading and unloading cargo shuttles? Or is it nearly deserted? If there is an interstellar currency, how much can it buy locally? A bad economy might also mean that there is a Doom Trade in people trying to emigrate, willing to spend anything to get out.

There, a five-paragraph essay that gives a useful guide to a planet. I tend to use bold face on important keywords that can really impact play, like "high gravity" or "many areas off-limits to heretics." Any of these sections can be expanded if needed.

The same system can be used on anything normally given over to gearheading. Starships, vehicles, big pieces of equipment, all can be described rather than designed down to the last decimal point. You can also use this to record details of recurring setting and characters. A favorite bar, the broker they use when in town, whatever.

Game Masters and designers unite! You have nothing to lose but your calculators!

I missed Global Cat Day Monday

Oct. 20th, 2017 03:45 pm
neonvincent: For posts about cats and activities involving uniforms. (Krosp)
[personal profile] neonvincent
And my Facebook friends that I work with reminded me that I had. So, here is the description from National Day Calendar.

Global Cat Day is observed annually on October 16.


Use #GlobalCatDay to post on social media.


Global Cat Day (2017) takes the place of National Feral Cat Day which was initiated by Alley Cat Allies in 2001.

Krosp approves.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
mike (short for "microphone")

Should I ditch my plans and plunge into a day of current events?

Eva's 12 today!

Oct. 20th, 2017 09:01 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly

Friday's strip

Oct. 20th, 2017 06:13 am
madfilkentist: Krosp, from Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio. (Krosp)
[personal profile] madfilkentist posting in [community profile] girlgenius_lair
It's like a revival meeting! Ivo is wrestling with Sin!

I'm tilting at windmills today!

Oct. 19th, 2017 01:26 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Emailed three different news sites asking when the hell they intend to start moderating their comments. Seriously, a free-for-all where everybody shouts as loud as they can is not conducive to free speech.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
But it's pricey! The total cost was going to be near $2000, with a six-day-a-week commitment.

Then I realized I can just pay for the labs, which is the only part I really want anyway, and that's a third the price and a one-day-a-week commitment.

She said she'll consider it.

It's not necessary for her to take a Regents in August (fully nine months earlier than any of her peers...), I'd just like her to.

Also, finally figured out what cake I'll bake tomorrow for her birthday. How does rosewater and ginger sound? If I ever find my rosewater, I mean. It's because I read this article, but anyway, it's a good idea. I've been rocking the rosewater lassi lately that I get at the supermarket.


The Microbes That Supercharge Termite Guts

For ornery shelter cats, 2nd chance is a job chasing mice

What Star Wars taught scientists about sperm

Inside The Weird Texas Tradition of Enormous Homecoming Corsages

Book's challenge: Can you do squats like Justice Ginsburg?

Why a New Zealand Library’s Books Kept Vanishing, Then Reappearing (Happy ending!)

How Domestication Ruined Dogs' Pack Instincts

Star Wars themes, but with the major and minor reversed. (This is like the Mirror version of the music, I guess? I can just picture evil Tom Paris on classic movie night in the Holodeck, rubbing his beard as he watches this version of the trilogy, the one in which the mighty emperor defeats the puny rebellion.)

Hero dog: 'Animal guardian' saves 8 pet goats, orphaned deer from wine country fires

Filling the early universe with knots can explain why the world is three-dimensional

Baba Yaga on the Ganges

Why Parents Make Flawed Choices About Their Kids' Schooling (My experience tells me it's close to impossible to explain to people that a school that starts with high-performing kids and ends with high-performing kids is not doing as much as a school that starts with low-performing kids and ends with kids that are in or approaching the middle. They just don't understand, or want to understand. Also, Stuy is overrated.)

Judge orders government to allow detained teen immigrant's abortion (Only read this second link if you want to be stunned and horrified by the world's most ridiculous anti-abortion argument ever.)

Understanding the coevolving web of life as a network

Fish Depression Is Not a Joke (Sad ending. Journalist should've rescued Fish Bruce Lee.)

After victory in Raqqa over IS, Kurds face tricky peace

Despite potential trade sanctions, Kurds continue with exports

China Is Quietly Reshaping the World

Lawsuit: Bighorn sheep threatened by domestic sheep grazing

As anti-drug push's toll grows in the Philippines, so does church's pushback

The true cost of a plate of food: $1 in New York, $320 in South Sudan (Sorta - the prices are adjusted in a weird way to account for different spending power)

Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics

Why Are Prosecutors Putting Innocent Witnesses in Jail?

The Crazy Flood of Tech Revelations in the Russia Investigation

The Russian Troll Farm That Weaponized Facebook Had American Boots on the Ground

No, US Didn’t ‘Stand By’ Indonesian Genocide—It Actively Participated

The Trump Administration Is Letting Americans Die in Puerto Rico, Nurses Say

Trump’s Dangerous Spin on Puerto Rico’s Suffering

Hurricanes Make the Need to Dismantle Colonial Economics in the Caribbean Increasingly Urgent

The Danger of President Pence

A Gun to His Head as a Child. In Prison as an Adult.

Chilling Photos of the Hundreds of Thousands of Rohingya Fleeing Burma

Puzzle Boat 4

Oct. 18th, 2017 05:21 pm
[personal profile] dr4b
So many things I want to write about but as usual I just don't have the energy to do it.

I was kinda lazy in organizing Puzzle Boat 4 this year but I somehow ended up getting a decent team of 8 anyway (me, Chris, Eric M, Eric T aka Koi, Ken, Richard, Corey, Melinda). The only requirement I had was that people were able to attend in person on the first Saturday, and Richard attended via videochat because he was in Reno for an escape room crawl.

I can't write much about it without spoilers, obviously, but the structure of the hunt this time was similar to last time (100+ puzzles, lots of metas, gotta figure out which puzzles go with what meta) but had some extra twists. I'm looking at while not logged in to see what I think is fair game to mention. You can see that the theme is the Amazing Race, so we were going around the world. Most puzzles were "Route Info", and metas were Pit Stops, and then the two new things this time were Roadblocks and Detours. Detours, you would get at a special place and get a choice of two puzzles, and do one of them, to progress further. (And later on you'd get U-Turned and have to do the other one). Roadblocks were non-puzzley activities that you had to do, that would result in some letters and a photo; the catch was that each member of your team could only do N of them (where I'm assuming N was determined by team size, which is why you couldn't add team members after starting). N was 2 for our team, and I unfortunately took the first roadblock just to see what it was, which meant I had to bother people to do a lot of the other ones all the time because I didn't want to use up all my roadblock slots.

Pace-wise, like I said, everyone was around on Saturday, and we officially went from 10am to 8pm (this is mostly because Ken and I were going to contra dance, Richard was doing escape rooms in Reno, Eric was going to the Stanford football game, and Corey and Melinda had a babysitter until early evening) and we made pretty good progress, solving around 50-60 things on the first day? Though some of those were roadblocks/detours.

Sunday was slightly less attendance -- me, Chris, Koi, Eric until mid-afternoon and Ken from mid-afternoon onwards. But, we pushed through a lot in spreadsheets, and Richard did a bunch remotely too as stuff would just show up solved suddenly. By the time I went to sleep on Sunday -- and by the way *I* solved our first meta by guessing the right phrase with the letters given -- we had about 100 puzzles solved and 2 metas.

Monday night we got together in a conference room at Google, where "we" was really me, Koi, and Richard. Ken was there for a little while but we basically solved like one puzzle together and then he left. We attacked metas with a vengeance and got through almost all of them -- by the end of the evening we only had 3 metas left.

I spent a bunch of time taking bronze/silver hints on puzzles to try to get some more answers to fill in metas while others stared at metas.

We only had one meta left by Tuesday evening. Nobody got together in person that day but we all were on a spreadsheet (I didn't get home until 10pm or so from contra dance that evening even) when the final meta fell, and then we got the final final meta meta, and stared at it for a few hours, before Chris figured out what was going on, and we finished around 12:09am Wednesday morning, putting us at 10th place overall.

I can't say much about the puzzles themselves, of course, or even really about any specific solving, which is hard. But I wanted to remember that we did this event and people managed to come together surprisingly well even though a lot of it was remote solving in a spreadsheet (well, a lot for me). I also suspect we spent a lot more time together in person than a lot of teams did as well, and I really think that time together was a lot more valuable for solving, because bouncing ideas off people really works well (like, for one of the metas, no spoilers hopefully here, but say, one of the aspects was a kind of word, and one of the aspects was a pattern in the words, and another was how to fit those into the paper puzzle given with it, and literally, Richard noticed one part, Koi noticed another, and I noticed another. I think any of us could have figured it all out on our own but together it went really quickly.)

Next weekend we're doing the Hunt for Justice puzzle box (likely just me and Chris...) on Saturday and then the Palantir Hunt at Stanford on Sunday and then that might be it for puzzles until MIT Mystery Hunt? I guess we have some escape rooms in the area to look at sometime but I feel so lazy about it. It's sounding like Chris and I will be here over Thanksgiving so maybe I'll see if I can get a group of people together to do some rooms then or something, who knows.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Dear god, that street has a lot of cats in varying degrees of feralness. One house with a large lot has at least a dozen hanging out there at any given point of time. Another house with a small lot has its own colony, at least three adult queens and two litters of kittens at distinctly different ages. Somebody is feeding these cats, but they're not doing anything to reduce the surplus population.

I kinda want to TNR the lot of them. Or, rather, I want to T them, have a rescue organization handle the N, and then give them an address to R them back to. (Except the kittens, who'd get rehomed, not returned.) With good timing the whole process wouldn't take much longer than a few weeks. But there's the iffy issue of setting up traps on other people's property....

(Plus the other issues of not having the time or energy to do any of this, let alone the cash. Can't save 'em all.)

Maybe I can put in a call to a cat rescue organization that does TNRs anyway. They might be willing to wade in and handle this. If they're not overwhelmed. (LOL. Of course they're overwhelmed.)

Deleted scenes from iZombie

Oct. 22nd, 2017 01:35 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Liv talking to her mother and brother. JFC, we should've seen some of these in season 2. They should not have been deleted! But maybe we'll get some family closure, finally, next season, now that zombies are officially a known quantity.

Sweetheart is getting bolder

Oct. 21st, 2017 06:37 pm
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
She's been trying to get in the front door. Today she tried to slip in the back - at least until she was repelled by Callie!

Jenn referred to her being "home" the other day, meaning being on our porch.

We've got to get her moved, and fast. If we keep talking like that, she'll be our cat.

Now, last week she disappeared when it was time to grab her to go to the van. Next week, won't let her do that.

Also, Bookriot has a $500 sweepstakes to spend at whatever bookstore you like.


How a Single Mom Created a Plastic Food-Storage Empire

'A New Rosetta Stone for Astronomy'

The Tomato Pill Craze

American cricket gets ready for take-off

Family dog emerges alive and happy from wildfire aftermath

Beyond XX and XY: The Extraordinary Complexity of Sex Determination

How Amish produce gets to Whole Foods—without the internet, tractors, or phones

How a Seed Bank, Almost Lost in Syria’s War, Could Help Feed a Warming Planet

Whales and dolphins have rich 'human-like' cultures and societies

Doctor's research could buy time for snake bite victims

The Surprising Problem With Star Trek’s Most Celebrated Episode (And really, why not take that character back to the future or something?)

Charlie Brown's Greatest Misses: Every 'Peanuts' Football Gag Comic

An Anarchist Is Teaching Patients to Make Their Own Medications (Sounds risky, especially if combined with self-diagnosis.)

Diwali Fireworks Are Limited In India Over Toxic Smog Concerns

Rohingya refugee influx inspires Bangladeshi aid - and worry

2-year-old denied kidney transplant from 100% match dad because of probation violation (UNFUCKINGBELIEVABLE.)

How can US rapist win joint custody of minor victim's child?

Jeff Sessions consulted Christian right legal group hate group on religious freedom memo

Before You Hit 'Submit,' This Company Has Already Logged Your Personal Data

Did Monsanto Ignore Evidence Linking Its Weed Killer to Cancer?

Iraqi forces enter Kirkuk as Kurds flee

We don't need the 2nd Amendment — we need a real debate about guns

Are Millennials Moving Right on Guns?

Three fake holidays for 10/16

Oct. 16th, 2017 09:15 am
neonvincent: For posts about food and cooking (All your bouillabaisse are belong to us)
[personal profile] neonvincent

Over at my main blog, I wished my readers a...

Happy National Liqueur Day! I could have also wished my readers a Happy National Dictionary Day or a Happy National Department Store Day when I wanted to take a break from recapping the News and Documentary Emmy winners, but I decided to do something easy and familiar. If my readers wish to celebrate those other days instead, they can go right ahead.

I'll wish my readers here a Happy National Dictionary Day and a Happy Happy National Department Store Day anyway.

Watched Discovery

Oct. 16th, 2017 03:06 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Don't remember who asked me about the tardigrade, but here's what happens )

Other thoughts: 1. Tilly needs a role other than being Michael's teddy bear.

2. We have got to learn the names of some of these people on the bridge, ffs.

3. Klingons torturing people are the worst Klingons, with or without implied rape.

4. Yay, gays!

5. Creepy scenes would be just as creepy without the dramatic "don't touch that dial!" music cluing us in.

[personal profile] rivendellrose has an interestingly plausible theory about our new character. Spoilers, naturally.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
It is intensely adorable.

(Also, happy Diwali, guys!)


Video: The women breaking taboos in Mali to become puppet makers (I haven't watched this yet, I'm just trying to adjust my good news : bad news ratio)

A New History of the First Peoples in the Americas

From Prejudice to Pride: The Ainu

The Futurism Industry’s Blind Spot

Texas Inmates Donate US$53,000 of Commissary Money to Houston's Hurricane Harvey Victims

A Bakery in a War Zone

How a Seed Bank, Almost Lost in Syria’s War, Could Help Feed a Warming Planet

Obesity Thrives in the Suburbs

Meet The "Young Saints" Of Bethel Who Go To College To Perform Miracles

With OK From EPA, Use Of Controversial Weedkiller Is Expected To Double

Americans are moving less than ever, but that fact masks a deep divide between the affluent and the disadvantaged.

Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?

This Company Is Trying To Disrupt The Braces Industry And Dentists Are Fighting Back

Child brides in India: Sex with minors now considered rape but enacting verdict isn't easy

ISIS setbacks reported in Syria

As Xi Jinping gets a second 5-year term, Chinese wonder if he’ll be another Putin

Austrian elections: Young, conservative Sebastian Kurz's People's Party wins poll

The growing use of mandatory arbitration

California 'horror' fires kill at least 40, deadliest in state history

Despite clear risks, Santa Rosa neighborhood that burned down was exempt from fire regulations

Desperate Puerto Ricans are drinking water from a hazardous-waste site

'Katrina brain': The invisible long-term toll of megastorms

LGBT activists worry about Trump impact in Africa

Finally Something Economists Can Agree On: Trump’s Debt Talk Made Zero Sense

White House’s decision to stop ACA cost-sharing subsidies triggers strong opposition (Keep opposing it!)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pulls out of brutal drugs war and accuses EU of plotting

Kurds say reject Iraqi warning to withdraw from key junction south of Kirkuk

The U.S. government might have been spying on attorney-client meetings at Guantanamo Bay

I am in Guantánamo Bay. The US government is starving me to death

More Than 800 People Have Been Shot in America Since the Las Vegas Massacre

How We Learned Not To Care About America’s Wars

Despite Suicides, Jails Replace In-Person Visitation With Video Screens

Yemen's cholera outbreak now the worst in history as millionth case looms

Signal boost

Oct. 15th, 2017 04:59 pm
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Both House and Senate have bills to prevent the President from launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike without a congressional declaration of war. They're both called the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 - Senate, HR 669 - House.) Passing those bills may literally save the world.

How to save the world:

1. Contact your representatives in Congress. Ask them to co-sponsor the bill NOW, before it's too late.

2. Contact EVERYONE in Congress who might want to prevent a nuclear war. Usually people only speak to their own representatives. But with the fate of the entire world is at stake, it's worth contacting everyone who might listen.

3. Promote the Pull The Football campaign on social media. Trump isn't the only one who can use Twitter. Get on it and start tweeting #PullTheFootball.

There is more information in the original link by [personal profile] rachelmanija.

I created a feed for my other blog

Oct. 15th, 2017 10:52 am
neonvincent: Ambassador Vreelak from DS9 (Fake!)
[personal profile] neonvincent
Unfortunately, I didn't really know what I was doing, so I gave it the wrong name.  It's [syndicated profile] neonvincent_feed  instead of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.  Sigh.  I tried to change the name by entering the URL again and it just sent me back to the already existing feed instead of letting me set up a new one.  Live and learn.  At least it exists and any of you can subscribe to it.

I've been vaccinated against the flu.

Oct. 19th, 2017 06:15 pm
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
I hate getting shots, but I hate getting the flu more. Got it once in high school. NEVER AGAIN. Even our bout with rotovirus doesn't compare.


How to make the cosmic web give up the matter it’s hiding

Get to Know Your Japanese Bathroom Ghosts

When Sonar Doesn’t Cut It, These Bats Crawl to Hunt Prey

Surgeon aims to diagnose deformities of extinct saber-toothed cats

Mountain Lions Are Way More Social Than We Thought (Didn't expect to hear that, but still... not surprised. People are bizarrely wedded to this idea that All Cats Are Loners, but it's not true for housecats, so why do we expect it be true for mountain lions?)

Hogwarts Express rescues family stranded in Highlands

A to Z of English usage myths

Fighting racism: Teaching kids to identify individual black people can reduce racial bias

How a Quarter of Cow DNA Came From Reptiles

Rotten Apples That Will Last Forever

The Secret History of the Female Code Breakers Who Helped Defeat the Nazis

Old-school news: sensational, moralistic and, above all, sung

Jeremy, The Lonely, Left-Twisting Snail, Dies — But Knows Love Before The End

Birds gone wild: Resurgent turkeys spar with human neighbors

Google Will No Longer Allow Users to Skirt Paywalls Using Its Search Engine (Not exactly. Google will no longer penalize companies for not allowing users to skirt paywalls, but it won't stop them if they choose to allow it.)

The Underclass Origins of the Little Black Dress

Pythons are invading Florida. Meet the scientists fighting back.

The Secret Lives of Leonardo da Vinci

When the Larsen C ice shelf broke, it exposed a hidden world

How Stalin Hid Ukraine's Famine From the World

The scientists persuading terrorists to spill their secrets

9th Circuit Rules There’s No Constitutional Right to Sell Firearms. Will the Supreme Court Care?

Poll: Majorities Of Both Parties Favor Increased Gun Restrictions

Analysis of 141 hours of cable news reveals how mass killers are really portrayed

The less… umm… fewer the better (Gotta laugh so you don't cry)

U.S. House approves disaster funds as Trump criticizes Puerto Rico

The Trump Administration Is Preventing Undocumented Immigrant Minors From Getting Abortions (More)

The Constitutional Counting Crisis

What Facebook Did to American Democracy

To Save Her Children, She Pretended To Be Crazy

Courts Sidestep the Law, and South Carolina’s Poor Go to Jail

Trump administration reduces support for prisoner halfway houses

Penguins die in 'catastrophic' Antarctic breeding season