Previously, in Trip's Life...

31 January 2012 - Tuesday

Has anyone seen my motivation?

Ken made us mushroom and pea-greens stirfry, which was yummy. We did not successfully watch anything because we didn't know I had to leave so early because there was confusion about whether Marith was going to show up.

Cat Report: Twelve paws!

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30 January 2012 - Monday

Nobody likes Mondays, not even other Mondays.

Eclipse Phase: Sunward: The Inner System is pretty much what it says on the tin. It covers from the Sun (which is inhabited, although barely) through Mars (which is pretty much the new homeworld), and the hypercorp sleazebags and their wholly-owned subsidiary "government" who run everything in the inner system. There are lots of exciting locations for PCs to have described to them before they blow them up to save transhumanity, and that's not even counting Earth and the unlabelled blockade around it.

Cat Report: Marmalade decided to chew a hole in the plastic bag of sunflower seeds. I'm not sure if he thinks I'm being a bad cat-dad, or if he actually likes sunflower seeds. Fortunately they don't seem to be bad for cats.

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29 January 2012 - Sunday

Monsters that are scary when you're 6th level are not as scary when you're 14th level, but hopefully it was satisfying to crush them. The real fight was a lot harder, but it did have the good bit where half the party was down and I was wondering whether I could justify capturing them instead of immediately sacrificing them... and then Damaia got an action and it was all okay again.

Requests for next session include living opponents, air ducts, and things to hide behind.

Everybody Scream! is another visit to Jeffrey Thomas's Punktown, or at least the outskirts. This time, all the action is at a carnival, which is not substantially different than a modern carnival, and only slightly more grotesque. But human(oid)s provide plenty of horror even without the interdimensional subplot.

The multiple intersecting personal dramas of failure and doom make me think of Fiasco.

Cat Report: No medicine yummies for Ghirardelli! He is down to half of one every other day, and his coughing gagging does seem to be better.

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28 January 2012 - Saturday

I finally reread all the earlier volumes of Rasetsu (Chika Shiomi), and read the volumes I hadn't previously owned, so I could read the final volume. It was actually a pretty good ending! I am pleased.

I should hunt up Canon and Night of the Beasts.

Monstrocity is a novel set in Jeffrey Thomas's "Punktown" (also featured in some other novels and a whole bunch of short stories). Punktown is in the future on a distant planet with aliens and robots and rayguns, but in most ways life there is just an exaggerated version of late-C20 US urban life. The SF elements are invoked in service of Thomas's real genre, which is Lovecraftian horror. In this case, it's seriously Lovecraftian, complete with the Book by the Man, evil geometry, secret cults, horrible transformations, and hot alien babes.

Other than reading, I spent most of today looking at the D&D Compendium going, "Nope, that monster doesn't fit. Nope, not that one either. This one? Nope." Good thing no one has any expectations of my GMing.

Cat Report: Twelve paws!

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27 January 2012 - Friday

Yay! I'm not on call this weekend! And the person who is on call can probably handle things that come up!

Cat Report: So fuzzy!

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26 January 2012 - Thursday

My feets were happy that I worked from home today, although my productivity wasn't. But the cats got to help!

So far my new shoes, although less sturdy, are a lot more comfortable.

Gatecrashing is the Eclipse Phase supplement for the wormhole gates of doom and the doom that lies beyond them. Specifically, the doom of alien artifacts, any of which could be an evil AI plot to finish destroying transhumanity, or just an alien plot to keep competitors down. But they're so useful! And interesting! And creepy. Like the gates, really.

Bonus points for so few of the exoplanets being habitable by unmodified Earth life (most of them are more like Mars or prebiotic Earth). 500 light year penalty for FTL comms based on quantum entanglement.

I had forgotten how much more cleavagetastic Rasetsu is than other shoujo heroines. Also, kind of obnoxious. But cute!

  • Fractale 9: The forces of evil and evil are massing for the big showdown! It must be time for the heroes to do something abysmally stupid!
  • Baccano! 11-12: It's not enough for Ladd and Vino to outfight each other, they must also out-crazy each other.
  • Rocket Girls 6: Avionics are for wimps.
  • Red Garden 1-2: I had forgotten about the singing, and the opening and closing. But not the SAN loss.

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25 January 2012 - Wednesday

Okay, I have had it with these shoes. One expects, or at least allows for, new shoes to be uncomfortable for a while, but these are getting worse instead of better. Fortunately, I have saved the receipt, and my feets are too sore to go in to the office tomorrow anyway, so I will see if I can do better.

Dead Iron (Devon Monk) is entertaining steampunk/fantasy (subgenre Wild West rather than London). It is not deep, but it is exciting.

Cat Report: I have cats! They are furry!

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24 January 2012 - Tuesday

I see why people compare Alexei Panshin's Rite of Passage to Heinlein juveniles (favorably).

For some reason, Ken was insecure about his beef shortrib pasta stuff. I'm not sure why.

The Battle of Red Cliff is 5+ hours of John Woo doing Romance of the Three Kingdoms. We only saw about an hour, but it was pretty epic. No doves, though.

Hello, cats! Hello!

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23 January 2012 - Monday

The Dream of Perpetual Motion (Dexter Palmer) was not entirely to my taste. It was a story of Progress's Inhumanity to Man, and also too mainstream in that the main character was pretty much a loser. People who are not me might like it. Or not.

Eclipse Phase is a very modern sort of hard SF: computationally intensive, with wormholes and nanotech. It is a lot harder and grittier than Sufficiently Advanced, enough to be in a different subgenre (post-cyberpunk, maybe).

The setting is ten years after someone put military AIs on the positive feedback loop of self-improvement, which went about as well as Ken Macleod would expect. Fortunately transhumanity had already established a strong presence throughout the solar system, so Earth being laid waste was only a severe population bottleneck, not actually extinction. (The game test consistently uses "transhuman" in place of "human", and it's probably justified: in this setting, not only are uplifted animals and AIs considered people (sometimes), the spud on the street can have their mind uploaded, copied, run on-line, and downloaded into a wide variety of bodies with near-perfect reliability, death is a temporary inconvenience, etc.) The PCs work for a top-secret, independent, totally well-intentioned organization that tries to deal with threats to the existence of transhumanity as a whole: replicant nanoweapons, the interstellar wormhole gates, bad memes, and of course seed AIs.

Besides interplanetary/interstellar adventure vs evil corporations/crazed anarchists, there's also a strong horror element to the game. Before they went away, the TITANs did many bizarre and unethical things, which are still floating around the solar system (like a series of plagues that can translate from computer virus to real virus to nanotech and back, and do 1d3 of the following: mind control + SAN loss, transformation into monster + SAN loss, or grant psionic powers + SAN loss). The wormhole gates may or may not have been made by the TITANs, but are definitely creepy, and lead to places that start from perilous and discomforting and go downhill from there. And why are there only ruins, never any actual aliens (except the slimy blobs that showed up in a starship and said to never ever use the wormhole gates)?

Contrary to Internet rumor, the system is not an abomination. It's not great but it's no worse than Call of Cthulhu, and in fact pretty similar to it, plus Earthdawn-style damage (except that SAN loss is handled with the same mechanics as physical damage (but doesn't go away when you resleeve)). Personally I'd replace it with either Hero (if I wanted solid mechanics) or maybe something like Technoir (if I wanted to skip technical details), but I'm sure it's entirely playable as-is

Marmalade so opaquely helped me upgrade to OS X 10.7!

Now all my apps are broken because PPC executables are no longer supported. But my cats are still fluffy.

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22 January 2012 - Sunday

I must have done something today, but apparently whatever it was wasn't worth remembering.

Cat Report: Still twelve paws!

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21 January 2012 - Saturday

Note to self: Don't disagree with Ken, it never works out (because I suck).

Oh, I guess I am on call this weekend, because I'm always on call. I don't know how boss G has not exploded yet.

Fortunately I was able to fix the customer reasonably expediently.

Tenbin wa Hana to Asobu (Tsukasa Unohana) is another entry in the "philosophically convenient diseases" trope: one character is neither male nor female biologically but has to drink human blood every couple of days and at 18 will become whichever sex they drank from more. (I think it's the hard timeline that makes it philosophically convenient, unlike real biology which happens whenever the hell it wants.) I think the shoujo-ai label does apply anyway.

Ja Baby ate so much vegetable sushi at Hanamaru!

Cat Report: Twelve paws!

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20 January 2012 - Friday

Yay! I'm not on call this weekend!

The House of Discarded Dreams (Ekaterina Sedia) is straight-forward magical realism. House that sets to sea, no problem. Housemate with a pocket universe on his head, no problem. Vampires from African urban legend... only a practical problem. It reminds me a little of Cory Doctorow's Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town.

My shoe has such a hole worn in the sole that the ground came through and ate my sock. I don't think I can put off buying new shoes any more.

Cat Report: Poor Aspen, oppressed with pettins!

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19 January 2012 - Thursday

Coronets and Steel (Sherwood Smith) is an exciting story of fencing, dancing, lost princesses, royal imposters, handsome princes, mysterious Eastern-European kingdoms, and derring-do. Also, ghosts.

It's very difficult to find out what humans think about sex just by asking them, because they rarely admit to any desires they think would make them look bad in front of their tribe. But now, we have the Internet (and its purpose) so clever researchers can get vast (suitably anonymized) data sets of what humans actually look for, which is probably a reasonable approximation of what they want, and some of the people on the Internet aren't WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) so there's some hope of getting a more universal understanding than most psych experiments.

In A Billion Wicked Thoughts, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam put this together with data from plethysmograph experiments and the like and attempt to determine what it tells us about human sexuality. Their findings of what humans want aren't news, especially not to anyone who's been to the Internets. In general, men are triggered by visual cues, mostly for youth and gynoid fat (but there does not appear to be any age bracket or body type that no men find attractive) but sometimes for feet or random fetish objects, and novelty; in general, women are triggered by emotional cues, for dominance and aggression. (Gay men also are trigged by visual cues, and often by youth, but obviously prefer brawny chests to bouncy ones (as applicable — I guess bears correspond to MILFs, in a way?).)

How did humans come to have these particular patterns of desire? That's several good questions, which can only be addressed with speculation at the moment. Evo-psych (or sociobiology or I'm-not-with-those-guys or whatever you want to call it) has a tendency to find that the current social order is exactly how humans evolved to live, but Ogas and Gaddam have already established that I am made of 100% fail[*], so they have some credibility. Women indisputably take a lot more risk in spawning than men do, which undoubtedly drives some of the differences, but, for example, do straight men react to penises because humans engage in anatomical sperm competition? Maybe, maybe not. Clearly-labelled speculation is important, though, so I can't complain.

[*] Actually, 87% fail and 13% EPIC FAIL.

  • Rocket Girls 4-5: ZOOOOOOOOM! You can tell the original story comes from a rocket enthusiast.
  • Fractale 8: Centralized authority always leads to depravity, doesn't it?
  • Gosick 23-24: I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be a happy ending, as opposed to a dying hallucination. But either way, it wasn't our timeline.
  • Baccano! 10: The doom unfolds, splashing messily.

Cat Report: Twelve paws!

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18 January 2012 - Wednesday

Finally, an evening with no socialization! I did not manage to buy new shoes, but I did manage to return library books and do a small load of laundry.

Cat Report: A small load of laundry does not give Marmalade a warm comfy throne to lounge upon!

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17 January 2012 - Tuesday

Cow orker A is back in the office, and now beating me at foosball. I'd accuse him of having a special training montage, but I can tell my game is off compared to last week.

Still no Marith, because her management structure is LAME, but Dave's Mom (who Ja Baby calls Tabby) again. No pasta, but bread and cheese and cheese and cheese and soup. No Dominion, but Lucifer episode 9. Yes, it is just as bad as Hae-in thinks. Also: mysterious new character!

Cat Report: Apparently tonight it is Aspen's turn in the Basket of Warmth. Do other cats take turns like that?

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16 January 2012 - Monday

Someday I will learn to express my weekend indolence by going to bed three hours early, not getting up three hours late.

Why are you laughing?

Cow orker M is sick, Cow orker A (who got no calls during his first on-call weekend) is working from home, and Boss G appeared briefly but then took his germs home in case he did bring enough for everyone. Sadly I cannot think of any good way to take advantage of being the only person in the Support Fort. I guess I'll have to do work.

In a surprise instance of socialization, we (except Marith, but plus Dave's Mom) went over to Ayse and Ken's place to eat broccoli raab pasta, watch a bit of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and play some Dominion. I think we must have played wrong, because even though half the kingdom cards were Prosperity and we had Colonies and Platinum, the high score was only 41 points. You can get that in a classic game!

Cat Report: Twelve paws!

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15 January 2012 - Sunday

Dave's Mom came to brunch and gaming, because she could. Apparently our lifestyle is bizarre and interesting to normal people!

I managed to get the party back together without invoking more coincidence than was humorous, but first I had them do parallel fights on opposites sides of a wall. They did manage to get together (what 14th-level party can't get over a 30' wall?) but not before both sides got pretty beaten up. It looks like the defenders and casters do need each other after all.

Everyone oohed and ahhed gratifyingly when I revealed that the buried city they're in actually is connected to the goal of their quest, and now they are eagerly charging into untold danger in hopes of finding Clues. That's pretty much what you want from an adventuring party, right?

Dave's Mom appeared pleased by how much fun we were having, so maybe we are gaming right after all.

On the way back from gaming, we stopped by Michael's so Dave's Mom could check out their impending big sale (she does lots of craft stuff) and I picked up some wooden disks to replace the ragged cardboard bits I've been using for size large and huge monsters. After all, I have a spiffy new battlemat that Jeremy and Rachel gave me for Hanukkah New Year's MLK Day!

Cat Report: Ghirardelli indeed gobbles his prednisalone chews right up, like a good kitty. Because he is a good kitty!

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14 January 2012 - Saturday

Cat Report: Marith is a Hero of the Veterinary Revolution, but I think that makes her a villain in the eyes of the Oppressed Feline Class.

Capturing Aspen was easier than I had feared, but I was too impatient and did not wait for Marith to be available to open the carrier while my hand were full of Sullen Beautiful Kitty, so there was a brief action sequence while I undid the latches with my feet. I was not too badly damaged, and Aspen was only mildly traumatized.

All my cats are good! Their weights are stable, their temperatures are good, none of them have forgotten how to breath, or anything! Ghirardelli and Aspen hunkered down and waited for the horribleness to be over and then slunk back into the carrier, but Marmalade sniffed all over the exam room and leapt up and down and gave us the benefit of his opinion at some length, because he is Leapy Turkish Angora With Orange Stripes. (Also I wonder if I'm not giving him enough mental stimulation. Maybe I should rearrange the entire apartment. Or just clean it.) Ghirardelli has some medicine for his coughing and gagging, but it is in the form of tasty cat treats, so I can probably get him to eat it.

Too much (or maybe just the right amount) of Korean TV drama has made Ayse and Ken want to go out for Korean barbecue and drink soju. Dave's mom was willing to sit at their place and keep an ear on the monitor while she knitted, so finally they were able to fulfill their desires! Yelp said that the best place in the area is Tobang in Santa Clara, so that is where we went to feast upon the barbecue of Korea. There was kind of a wait, which we deserved for showing up randomly, but otherwise the service was very good, the meat was meaty, and the side dishes were plentiful. There were two kinds of kim chee, superthin pickled radish, broccoli, potato, salad, kim chee soup, some kind of soft tofu/savory custard thing, and probably a lot more that I'm forgetting. For meat, we had thin curls of beef, pork belly, and steak, and a few different sauces to dip them in. I'm not sure how the pork belly could be too fatty when I eat bacon, but it was. The non-fat bits and the rest of the meat was tasty, though. Even Marith ate some and did not die.

Ayse and Ken got so tipsy on soju that Dave had to drive home.

Okitsune-Sama de Chu is terrible, and not the good sort of terrible.

I was supposed to spend today preparing D&D, not eating Korean foods.

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13 January 2012 - Friday

Wow, who would have thought that 2012 would contain two Fridays?!

Cat Report: Twelve paws!

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12 January 2012 - Thursday

Dave's Mom (who has a name, but we all just call her Dave's Mom) is visiting Dave, so we had surprise extra person for Thursday Night Anime and pizza. I don't know what she thought about the anime, coming in in the middle (or almost at the end for Gosick, but she treated us to pizza.

  • Rocket Girls 3: Apparently Matsuri only bought up her Perception roll, because it's cheaper than Int, and spent the points on physical stats.
  • Baccano! 8-9: Oh no, it's the Rail Tracer! Maybe it'll do in Ladd? We can hope.
  • Gosick 22: I wonder if the writers plan to pull off a non-tragic ending somehow.
  • Fractale 6-7: The anti-Fractale people would be more plausibly heroic if they didn't shoot down random civilians at the drop of a hat. Maybe Clain hasn't figured this out because he's not used to reality being real?

Godplayers (Damien Broderick) is a little bit like Amber (Surprise! Interdimensional family!) but it's modern SF (Matrioshka brains, grey goo, information-based physics) instead of fantasy. It was okay, but some things from early on were never really followed up, and although we are told the love interest is awesome, she doesn't actually do anything after she hooks up with the hero.

Cat Report: I can tell I haven't been trimming Marmalade's claws enough!

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11 January 2012 - Wednesday

Two customers caught fire this morning. It was great!

Cat Report: Aspen is still utterly appalled by my very existence. It's going to be fun trying to get her into the carrier on Saturday.

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10 January 2012 - Tuesday

The designer's notes at the end of Sufficiently Advanced have a list of standard SF tropes that are not in the game because this is hard SF. Unfortunately, one of the basic civilizations is as unlikely as anything in that appendix. Making a human mind more logical by taking out all the emotions is like making a human body more athletic by taking out all the cells. It might be possible to make a mind without emotions, but you'd have to start from scratch and the result would bear at most a superficial resemblence to humanity.

Speaking of cells, pretty much every other human-derived intellect in Sufficiently Advanced is horrified by the Cognitive Union (the civilization where everyone[*] has control implants), but if bacteria had emotions, that's probably just how they'd feel about multicellular organisms. "Throw off your nuclear masters and return to the natural unicellular lifestyle!"

[*] Yes, everyone. In canon, there is no privileged class without implants.

Hearts of Smoke and Steam (Andrew P Mayer) is the sequel to The Falling Machine, in which the villain's plan, only slightly impeded by the heroes' efforts, proceeds seeming inexorably toward the next book!

After a game of The Red Dragon Inn in which Ayse took all our money so we ganged up on her and split the loot, but then I got knocked out and Ken and Dave fought it out to the bitter end ("Bard take nap? That good idea. Gog take nap too."), we managed to decide on watching an episode of Slayers Revolution while there was still enough time to do it. In episode 5, Lina and Gourry have a Brilliant Plan, Amelia fights for Justice, Zelgadis obsesses over returning to his fleshly form, and the fist-eared rabbit-thing gets crushed to Amelia's cleavage.

Marmalade is such a snugglecat at night. (I'm sure it's partly because I'm warm, but the heater is down by my feet and that's where Ghirardelli and sometimes Aspen sleep.)

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9 January 2012 - Monday

The bus schedule has been changed again, to be even less convenient for me. VTA, why do you oppress me so?

Cat Report: I finally found where I had put the cat dancer Cat gave my kitties for Christmas. As expected, Marmalade completely ignored the fake bug and leapt on the STRING! YUMMY YUMMY STRING! He was not pleased when I put it away, but I mollified him with some regular string.

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8 January 2012 - Sunday

The customers were quiet, so I was able to spend much of the day playing FAangband, taking library books back, and otherwise being unproductive. In the evening, I watched Blood Simple, the last of the Four Perfect Fiasco Movies. I didn't like it as much as the others, I think because the motivations seemed lacking. (Why did Laughing Guy betray Brooding Guy? It obviously wasn't out of an aversion to violence.)

I finally finished rereading the first four volumes of Cat Paradise (Yuuji Iwahara) so I could reread the fifth and final volume. Yep, that was a plot twist! But a good ending. I should find out what Iwahara has done besides King of Thorn and Cat Paradise.

It was definitely better than To-Love-Ru (Hasemi Saki and Yabuki Kentaro), which I for some reason read all 162 chapters of. I think this goes back to my innate failure as a human being. They do get points for reusing wacky inventions instead of letting them vanish after one episode.

The Falling Machine (Andrew P Mayer) is steampunk old-school superheroes. They have random origins, they have a public base, they have steam-powered gadgetry, they have random lunatics showing up to try out for the team. They do not have great writing, but they do have a surprisingly scary robot guy who might save the day despite suffering from extreme anti-mechanical prejudice.

The ending is a cliffhanger, but the library has already delivered the sequel, Hearts of Smoke and Steam, into my clutches.

Cat Report: None of my cats have manifested superpowers beyond furriness and opacity. Oh, and Aspen's unbleedingness.

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7 January 2012 - Saturday

Marith and Dave and I went over to Monkeycatland to eat bacon and fried-egg sandwiches (there was a tragic shortage of eggs so we had to substitute toast) and bacon with Ja Baby. Marith forgot to bring her ginormous lizard to play with Ja Baby, but the underhiders proved to be an acceptable substitute.

Apparently when using cards from Dominion: Prosperity, you're only supposed to use Platinum and Colonies with probability prosperity_cards / total_cards. Without them, scores are less horribly extreme, but still higher than Classic. Also, a game with both Goonses and Torturers will become a gruelling slog because no one can ever get anything done.

There was a little customer interaction, but I was able to get rid of it pretty quickly.

When Ja Baby awakened from her nap, we took her to feed upon the sushi. Undeveloped immune systems aren't supposed to be exposed to raw fish, so Ja Baby had avocado nigiri and edamame, but everyone else had the full sushi experience. Then she went to bed (babies sleep like 16 hours a day, it's kind of alarming) and Dave went home, but the rest of us played even more Dominion. Using Bishops to convert Estates into a more durable form is definitely worthwhile, and even converting Duchies isn't bad. Also, Hoard FTW.

Cat Report: Ja Baby can meow like Aime, and meow like Jinian, and they are different meows. Perhaps she will be able to translate for us.

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6 January 2012 - Friday

Oh look, surprise on-call. Again. Maybe I should add up the number of weekends of on-call everyone has had for the past few months so I can brandish it next time someone thinks it's my turn to be on call.

Future Science (ed Max Brockman) is a collection of eighteen essays about new exciting fields of research written by people working in them. (Eight of the essays are by women, which is good.) There are a couple of biology and physics essays, but most of them are about humans and/or human brains.

A couple of the essays explicitly mention the middle-class white elephant in the room, which is that most pysch/socio/econ experiments are done on Western college undergrads (because they are conveniently located in large swarms right outside the researcher's office and will do all kinds of tricks for beer money). One researcher went to the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Africa to find out what people who don't watch TV think about attractiveness (unsurprisingly, even among the Hadza, being cute helps a lot). The other just discussed some of the ways in which even our very basic assumptions don't apply across cultures. For example, there are cultures which don't have left/right/forward/back! Instead of "it's just behind your left foot", they'd say "it's just north of your eastern foot". There is apparently some indication that chimpanzees also orient according to the environment rather than to an individual's body, so this may be the normal behavior for primates.

Two of the others were about how human brains make moral judgments. I had not previously been aware of the concept of "moral luck", which is more or less the difference between intention and outcome. That is, consider a person who gets drunk at a party, decides to drive home anyway, and crashes into a mailbox, while another person, equally drunk, decides to make an equivalent drive, but crashes into a little kid. They behaved exactly the same way, making the same decisions, but one is going to prison for years while the other is just losing a few points off his license and paying a fine. Is this actually just? It turns out that most of the population surveyed think so: they're willing to judge someone's moral worth based on their intentions, but think punishment should be based on the actual outcome.

Anyway, it was pretty interesting. I think it would be cool to have a collection like this from every year.

Cat Report: Twelve fuzzy paws!

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5 January 2012 - Thursday

In Sufficiently Advanced (Colin Fredericks), the PCs work for the universal Patent Office, which is (not-so-)secretly run by AIs from beyond time who want humanity to become worthy companions. They only have limited bandwidth to manipulate their history to accomplish this, so they can't explain their recommendations, but it probably really is all for the best (eventually).

As you can guess from the name, this happens in a distant future, where humanity has wormholed across the universe and formed strange new societies based on advanced technology. They are still pretty human, though, even the uploads and the society where everyone has control implants. There is an alien race, but they're made of dark matter, and some human-built AIs have bootstrapped up to brains the size of planets, but it's not clear they care about humans any more, so it's effectively a humans-only universe.

What characters can do is pretty loosely defined, which is probably the way to go with a sufficiently advanced setting. You have five scores in the five main technologies of Biotech (applied biology), Cognitech (applied CS), Metatech (applied pyschology/memetics), Nanotech (applied chemistry), and Stringtech (applied physics), which both indicate how much of each you have bred or built into you and serve as traditional stats (Con/Str, Int, Cha, Perception/Dex, and Fighting, respectively), and two or more fairly broad professions, and that's about it. Usually you roll a d10 for one Capability and a d10 for one Profession, multiply each die by the corresponding score, take the higher value, and if you beat the target number, you succeed in whatever you were doing.

You can pick the ratings for Capabilities and Professions as you please in the range 1-10, limited by the tech levels of your home civilization and the maximum lifespan that much Biotech gets you, but the higher the numbers you assign, the less player-level narrative control you get, and the more you have to suffer to exercise it.

You also have four Core Values (Tradition, Secrecy, Wanderlust, Life, Independence, Pleasure, Invention, ...), two from your civilization and two personal, which again you can set anywhere from 1 to 10 at your discretion, keeping in mind that high values make you kind of crazy. These give you bonuses when you follow them, or against people trying to persuade you to go against them, like you'd expect.

Finally, there are Themes, which are what you want to have in your character's story. The available Themes are Plot Immunity (negate problems), Intrigue, Empathy (friendship), Magnetism (leadership), Comprehension, and Romance, and you get as many as 9 or as few as 5 points to distribute among them, depending on how wild you ran with the ability to set your stats and skills as high as you like. Each one you assign a score to you have to also give a descriptor to, indicating how the Theme applies to your story specifically.

When you spend a Twist through a Theme you have a score in, you make a change to the setting or story of up to whatever magnitude is appropriate to your score. Were you last seen being packed into a suitcase and thrown into a black hole? With a Twist and high enough Plot Immunity, you can be back in the next scene without a scratch. Captured by Cargo Cultists on a primitive world? One Twist and a good Magnetism and you can end up leading them into battle against your real enemies. However, you only get one Twist at the start of a session, and to get more you have let the GM hose you extra, worse the higher your stats are.

I think the only problem I really have with this game is that I don't feel the conflict. Even the creepy weird civilizations that don't like each other seem to be pretty peaceful. The setting probably just needs some PCs added to stir up trouble, though.

First Thursday Night Anime showing of the year! Start of a new series!

  • Fractale 5: I guess this counts as a character development episode.
  • Gosick 20-21: Kuujo got Victorique back, but we're so close to the end of the series that it doesn't seem likely to last very long. Well, maybe Avril can console him.
  • Baccano! 7: Finally, backstory!
  • Rocket Girls 1-2: This is very silly, even compared to the original novels, and cheesy CGI is cheesy, but it is cute.

Cat Report: Cats! They are fuzzy!

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4 January 2012 - Wednesday

It doesn't seem like you could go wrong with gun spirits vs train spirits for control of the frontier lands between civilization and the far edge where the world is still resolving from Chaos, and indeed The Half-Made World (Felix Gilman) is pretty cool. Because it is such an echo of the late-C19 American West, though, some bits seem kind of problematic. The natives of the frontier region are naked, painted, atechnological, and mystically connected to the land, which is a lot like Magical Indians (although they could also fit into the Elves slot, which may or may not be better), and the notion that the parts of the world that honkies haven't visited don't completely exist is also kind of dubious.

Ten years ago, or even five years ago, I wouldn't have noticed anything except the gunslingers with demon guns vs the dystopia of demon locomotives.

Cat Report: Fuzziness levels remain nominal.

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3 January 2012 - Tuesday

I knew it was a mistake to go back to bed after gooshy-food during vacation, but I did it anyway, and now I am paying the terrible, terrible price.

Fortunately(?), Marith is avoiding Monkeycatland on account of germs, so I can avoid doing an extra hour and a half of walking and staying up late while being only a slightly terrible friend.

In the future, all nanoswarms will have maid costumes.

Cat report: Twelve fuzzy paws that work very hard to help me sleep!

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2 January 2012 - Monday

Today is a company holiday, since the 1st was already a day off, but tomorrow I must go back to slaving in the number mines. I must do laundry so that I do not have to enter the number mines naked (no one wants that!), but it turns out that the middle of the day is a good time to find empty laundry machines.

Otherwise, I did pretty much nothing except sleep in and play FAangband very badly. Hurray for backups of savefiles!

xxxHolic is still good at volume 18, but I am shallow, so I find Watanuki being cryptic and granting wishes less entertaining than Yuuko doing the same thing.

From somewhere I had the title Parker (Darwyn Cooke) as an example of a good adaptation of crime fiction to graphic novel, so when I saw it at the library I picked it up. The production values are interesting: from the outside it looks like a regular library hardcover book, and on the inside it's tinted paper and 1960s-period two-color printing (blue/yellow). Someone obviously thought highly of it, but after reading it, all I can think is, "This was during the Cold War, so couldn't all these people have died in radioactive fire? Please?".

All hail Marmalade, King of the Laundry Throne!

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1 January 2012 - Sunday

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (Offer not valid in some calendar systems.)

Despite the sad lack of Dave, we played D&D. I think I overcompensated on the wimpiness of the monsters, but apparently a good time was had by all the PCs because their clever onyx pomegranate plan worked. The dwarf and his owlbear plummeted into an underground river and were swept away, but it seems likely that the others will go after them. I'll have to figure out how to get Dave's character back into the depths with them.

The cats mock our division of time along any criteria beyond "sleep time", "eat time", and "play time".

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