Previously, in Trip's Life...

31 March 2017 - Friday

Our documentation contractor is leaving for a full-time position, so we had a going-away party with a cake. Today is our CEO's birthday, so we had a birthday party with a cake. Our exciting new product version will be released any minute now, so we had a release party with a cake. Parties can be combined, but cakes cannot.

Red Knight Falling and Glass Predator (Craig Schaefer) are books two and three in the "Harmony Black" series, about a heroic(?) FBI agent in a world of occult conspiracies and horror. (It's a spin-off of Schaefer's first series, about a criminal sorcerer in Las Vegas, but not exactly the same genre.) The plot of book two is not entirely dissimilar to one arc of Hellboy, so that's good. Book three dives deeper into the government conspiracy angle, because letting three-letter agencies have access to magic is even worse than letting them have access to computers.

This might not be quite how it is in Eclipse Phase, but in EPWorld, uploading from a meat brain means destructively analyzing the brain neuron-by-neuron. The stored ego might not be a raw synapse map, but it's not much more abstracted than that. A cyberbrain, then, is not just a small computer but a single-purpose device that doesn't do anything except simulate a brain based on a stored ego. Since the ego isn't code, you can't hack into it to change what it thinks or remembers except with very sophisticated attacks like basilisk hacks or language. You can get into the sensory, motor, or endocrine interfaces through the muse, but you can do that on most meatbrains as well, since who doesn't have a muse?

I'm not sure where this leaves AGIs. Do they have to be neural nets too? Or do they request a morph with a compute core rather than an actual cyberbrain? That would mean they can't load into a meatbrain at all, so maybe they are neural nets.

Ape-based uplifts are probably pretty close to human in brain architecture, but cetacean ones are less so, never mind avians or even cephalopods. That's why cyberbrains run the simulation at such a low level. (There are probably proprietary inner-system ego formats and cyberbrains that run better but assume human architecture, because uplifts and AGIs don't deserve nice things, and separatist systems similarly optimized for specific classes of uplifts or AGI codebases, but that is probably too much detail for a game.)

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29 March 2017 - Wednesday

How do we play 13th Age, again? Apparently I have forgotten, since Anwë was actually useful in a fight this time! And a good thing, too, since we were facing both a mind flayer soul flenser and something that claimed to be the offspring of two icons. Fortunately after we took the soul flenser down in one round, the other guy decided not to mess with us right then.

Then, while assaulting the Necropolis, Anwë ran into a trap that externalized all her good memories and self-image to attack her, so she had to murder her vision of herself as a high elf. I'm not sure exactly how that's going to end up, but I did take one relationship die away from the Elf Queen and add one to the Three (technically, the Four, since she has the blood of the Green inside her). Perhaps K'Tangs will manage to get the dracolich of the White out of the Necropolis on this trip, and it can be the Five again! Or the Rainbow Wyrm!

The Collapsing Empire (John Scalzi) is roughly what it says on the tin, although in this first book we only get to learn about the impending collapse, and see the poor schmoes who will have to deal with it. They may even be hapless, some of them, because even though the doom is real, Scalzi is inherently a humorous writer. Bonus points for the importance of peer review!

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28 March 2017 - Tuesday

The weekly all-hands meeting actually happened this week, so I went to the far office and ate strange objects with Asian protein filling between two flat rice(?)-based bun things. Then I commuted all the way back to San Jose, bleah.

The last episode of ACCA has simulcastalated, so Marith came over and we finished the series. That was not the ending we were expecting! Also I'm not sure it was sufficiently set up in advance. Then we tried watching the first episode of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, about an ex-con who wants to become a rakugo comic storyteller. It's a little like a martial-arts anime, with the obstreperous master and the rival master and the rival master's daughter, only without any direct competition. (Being an ex-yakuza is really no help at all.)

Mary: The Summoning and Mary: Unleashed (Hillary Monahan) are about some teenage girls who call up that which they cannot put down and suffer ghostly attack, trauma, death, and historical research. They are not that great, but I think they are the first books she wrote.

Hillary Monahan is secretly Eva Darrows, and thus the author of Dead Little Mean Girl, which I liked much better, even though it is also about teenage girls not getting along. The protagonist gets a surprise step-sister, who tries to ruin everyone's life by being terrible in every way and then dies. (She does not return as a zombie.) Feelings may feature prominently in this book.

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26 March 2017 - Sunday

PAD&D5! The Heroines of Red Larch investigate the underground part of [SPOILER], but after winning the first encounter they have to retreat back aboveground, where they are promptly captured by [SPOILER] for the horrible crimes commited in a previous episode. (These crimes were in fact so horrible even the diabolist had to frown, although Lam still maintains they were totally asking for it.) After some interrogation which is foiled by my complete inability to remember what happened last month, the HoRL are hauled away by their captors to stand trial. On the way, they are attacked by a bunch of [SPOILER], but since we got to run one Heroine and one captor all working together to fight them off, it was not too difficult.

Next session: [SPOILER]!

Kase-san and... (Hiromi Takashima) is very cute high-school yuri manga about a clumsy girl who likes flowers and a tall athletic girl. It reminds me of Whispered Words a little, but is even cuter.

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25 March 2017 - Saturday

  • My Little Pony 6: That is a pretty awesome monster. Also, Twilight Sparkle is more terrifying every time her horn lights up.
  • Durarara!!x2 6: He may be terrifying, but I think he's outmatched.
  • Vision of Escaflowne 12: Genetic drama! Also, invasion!
  • Otorimonogatari 1-2: That is the most obnoxious apparition yet. Not the most dangerous or upsetting, perhaps, but definitely obnoxious.
  • Steven Universe 2.4: The "Uncle Grandpa" crossover episode. Buh.
  • Steven Universe 2.5: Aw, so cute! But there is something about Rose Quartz's voice.

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24 March 2017 - Friday

Today I read some random short pieces from Tor.

"Come See The Living Dryad" (Theodora Goss) is not actully SF, but is a retroactive murder mystery kind of. "The Deepest Rift" (Ruthanna Emrys) is definitely SF, with alien language and bonus poly. "Extra-Curricular Activities" (Yoon Ha Lee) is awesome because it is in the same setting as Nine-Tail Fox and full of skullduggery and conflicting strange customs and conspiracy.

I also stayed up too late finishing Infinity Engine (Neal Asher), which is the conclusion to the trilogy about the malevolent(?) AI Penny Royal and its extremely complicated plan. It suffers from many of the allegedly superhuman intellects not coming off as smart enough, but is generally action-packed space opera, in which many of the people who end up dead had it coming.

Eclipse Phase has a bunch of pregen characters, but I think they're too specific to use as playbooks. "Academic" might be too broad for a playbook, but "Xenolinguist" is probably too narrow. Blargh.

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22 March 2017 - Wednesday

No gaming, Ken has to catch up on life after being in Blatimore for days and days. At least he was not blizzarded to death!

Flowers of Luna (Jennifer Linsky) is about a young woman who goes to Luna for fashion college and finds yuri romance. The author has obviously watched Paradise Kiss, because fashion! And cosplay duels! And did I mention the yuri romance?

Stayed up too late skimming the Eclipse Phase morphs book. As I remembered, they mostly fall into a few categories: generic human, human but optimized for a group of stats, human but optimized for a job, uplifted Earth animal, alien animal, humanoid robot, robot animal, industrial machinery. And swarmanoids.

Physical stats aren't much of a thing in EPWorld, so we can ignore that. Mental stats either, mostly, and I'm not sure I buy a morph modifying mental stats anyway. To its credit, EP acknowledges that "downloading into" a morph with a meat brain means rebuilding that brain to match the original, but then it's not clear what the morph could have to improve mental stats more than smart drugs would.

Pod brains are allegdly somewhere between meatbrains and cyberbrains, but mlrgh. Cyberbrains for everyone! Although I'm not sure whether it's creepier for asyncs to only be able to use their powers from a meatbrain, or to do it even as pure software.

EP has two rolls and the potential for bonus mental hit point loss when you resleeve, which is clearly too complicated, but one roll to properly integrate and accept a sleeve is good. I don't know what stat/personality trait it would use, though.

I had originally considered making one of the stats Wired, which expresses how good your Muse is/how good you are at working with it/how well you can treat a machine as part of yourself, but even though having a high score it would say something about your personality, it's still more like a skill.

I like groups of stats that can be shifted around but can't exceed a total, and the obvious one here is Human/AI/Exsurgent, but although AI would be the same as Wired, and Exsurgent would be what asyncs roll, I have no idea what Human would do. Social interaction, maybe, but there's no reason infomorphs or uplifts can't be good at social stuff, and I'm not sure I want all social stuff combined into one. Human, AI, Freak, Monster? No, no.

Maybe the roll to resleeve is just K dice minus a die for each box of mental harm you have filled in.

Braining: still hard.

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21 March 2017 - Tuesday

I've set a new personal record for greatest number of years lived without crumbling to dust! Go me!

Some people sent me very nice birthday wishes. My coworker got me flowers and a balloon, which was also very nice but what do I do with them?

Blades in the Dark has something called Stress, which isn't hit points, and isn't quite fatigue, but it's what you spend to get extra dice or greater effect, or to make rolls to resist harm. (Moxie is the Eclipse Phase equivalent. I'm not sure which name is better.) I think anyone who has been uploaded/forked/restored from backup has a few points less of Stress/Moxie, to make "no" a more plausible answer to the setting's important question of, "is this brain scan being emulated inside a robot octopus a person?". (In practice, this means the Jovian and maybe the Uplift have more Stress/Moxie than other playbooks.)

Since Stress isn't really an in-character resource, there doesn't have to be an in-character reason for this, but if one is needed, it could be any or all of:

  • Uploading isn't perfect
  • When you personally experience that your self is just data, your survival instincts unwind a little
  • Human-style minds really work best as an integrated unit with a body

The last one suggests staying in one morph for an extended period should get you some of the stress back, which is fine. How often is that going to happen anyway?

Happy happy belated Tripday! by marithlizard (Fri Mar 24 02:31:32 2017)

You are still my favorite space parasite!

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20 March 2017 - Monday

Admire how I walked right past the ice cream joint without buying anything! Admire, I say!

Yay, Avalon is still doing well! And hugs!

I actually managed to write a little, or rather rewrite. Wheeee.

My main character's family needs to be less supportive, I think. Or at least have drastically different ideas about how she should live her life.

Hana & Hina After School vol 1 (Milk Morinaga) is very cute yuri manga, although it still weirds me out how much is forbidden to high school students. I mean, I guess it's not compulsory, but... Anyway, the main characters work in what is pretty much the cutest shop for selling cute things in the entire history of cuteness.

Dreadnought: Nemesis (April Daniels) combines the doom of being trans with the doom (and occasional glory) of being a superhero, and is fairly awesome. Our heroine gets the body she always wanted, and also Superman-level powers, and yet it does not make everything okay, because humans! And supervillains, but they just want to rule the world, being awful to trans people doesn't rate. Anyway, I quite liked it, and hope it does become a series.

Naturally, a character sheet for anything Eclipse Phase-like has to have two sections. Personality, skills, rep, wealth, SAN loss, and all that go on the primary, Ego, sheet, and trivialities like what kind of body you have and its capabilities (in tag form, not meters and seconds or even hexes and rounds) go on the secondary Morph sheet that gets swapped out as necessary. In EP, every morph has modifiers and caps to the D&D-style stats that go with the ego, in a way that is not very convincing to me, but we can ignore that since we're using personality traits as stats. (Yes, body affects mind (to put it mildly), but if you're making a body to put pre-existing minds into, I'd think you'd want to build the interface so as to avoid messing with the customer's mind too much.)

Apocalypse World has Cool, Hard, Hot, Sharp, and Weird as the stats. EPWorld feels like it should use more formal language, though, so the first two are Patient and Ruthless. Weird is for psychic stuff, so it becomes the optional stat Async. Hot and Sharp almost seem like they want to be split up. Charming and Intimidating, Alert and Analytical? Positive/negative and immediate/in-depth, anyway.

Blades in the Dark doesn't use hit points, it has text fields for level 1/2/3 harm, where you actually write in "broken arm" or "punctured spleen" or "possessed by ghost that never shuts up" or whatever the harm is. (If all your boxes for the level of harm you take are full, it rolls up, and if you take level 4 harm you're toast). EPWorld would have separate sets of boxes for Ego and Morph harm. Asyncs fill in one Ego harm box in pen.

There's no need for the long list of morphs each with slightly different stats that EP has. There's a standard biomorph that you can find anywhere you might egocast to, which is externally close to human but modified to better handle low/microgravity, radiation, high/low pressure, oxygen levels, naturally-evolved pathogens, etc. Then, if you spend more rep/cred*, you can add tags. Fashionable, aquatic, reproducing**, vacuum-hardened, whatever. Synthmorphs and weird things like the sun-whales are more variable, not sure what to do there.

*Rep (and wealth, for those poor schmoes under the capitalist thumb of the inner planets) should be properly exponential: if you spend less than you're rating, you're fine; if you spend equal to your rating, the rating goes down by one (or more on a GM move).

**I don't think hardly anyone in EPWorld is having kids. Jovians do, and some other bioconservatives, and of course some scum and brinkers (because the statements "some brinkers X" and "some scum X" is true for any physically possible value of X), but usually, if you need another, you just fab up a morph and sleeve an infugee or a fork of someone you already know is useful into it. Oh, Barsoomians probably have kids. Extrasolar colonists plan to, but probably won't until they also get biomorphs adapted to the environment.

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19 March 2017 - Sunday

Ayse and Jus and Nonny made it back from Roseville! I went over to entertain the kids for a bit, and Ayse kindly shared pizza with me. It's okay to have two slices if they're really small and have pineapple, right?

But then she infected me with Swipe Brick Breaker! The fiend!

Also I need to find more pad games for Nonny and Jus. We tried something involving raising dragons to fight Vikings, but it seems complicated.

Avalon is busy with kid stuff, so Marith and I watched some more ACCA but then were foiled by the fact it is being simulcast and only 10/12 episodes have appeared! Woe!

Blades in the Dark is like Eclipse Phase in that it's about a small team of criminals performing discrete missions in a mostly-artificial environment full of corruption, secret cults, and other lurking nastiness. Ghosts and possession are important to the setting, so it even has some notion of souls causing trouble without being attached to the original body. I also like the mechanic of taking the single best result of a pool of dice, because it only asymptotically approaches guaranteed success or failure.

However, BitD is about a more closed environment, where the PCs spend most of their time in the same places, dealing with the same people (or at least people in the same positions) for the whole campaign. Also, the freeform approach to a lot of things works for stuff that gamers have at least seen on TV, but the EP setting might benefit from some more quantification.

The other game I want to rip off draw inspiration from, Apocalypse World, is at least post-apocalyptic, and the specificity of the moves is great for highlighting the setting ("When you sleeve into a new morph, roll...", "When you analyze something of inhuman origin, roll... on a 7-9 at least you don't get any of it on you.", ...). I also like that the stats are about the character, not so much about their abilities, but on the other hand, EP is a complex setting in which people have to specialize, so it seems wrong to have everything go off just a handful of values.

I guess the correct way to handle specialization in PbtA is in playbooks, though.

Braining is hard, let's die in a pit.

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18 March 2017 - Saturday

The bus betrayed me by being early, so I ended up walking about 5 miles, half of it with groceries dangling from my hands. Ow, shoulders.

Then I took a nap, because otherwise I might have accomplished something today, and we can't have that.

No anime, because Ken and Dave and Ayse and Jus and Nonny are all out of town in various directions, and Pierce and Aimé don't know the Netflix password.

Volumes 2-3 of Happiness (Shuzo Oshimi) continue to make vampirism not look like a good deal at all. Hallucinatory and sometimes exciting, but definitely not good.

It turns out that Hillay Monahan, the author of Snake Eyes in the "Gods and Monsters" shared world of ancient mythologies causing trouble in the modern world, is the same person as Eva Darrows who wrote The Awesome which I liked a lot. And, I liked this book a lot too. Subvert the gender binary with snake monsters! Also, huge bonus points for depiction of Gorgons.

Good Enough to Eat (Jae, Alison Grey) only subverts the gender binary by being lesbian paranormal romance, but that's plenty! Also, how to unintentionally unethically pick up hot chicks at AA meetings while not describing what kind of drinking you have problems with.

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17 March 2017 - Friday

Oops, forgot to wear green and take up drinking for St Patrick's Day!

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16 March 2017 - Thursday

Still no writing, but I did manage to clean up some emails that called for action (and also play too much Marvel Puzzle Quest). Bah, I suck.

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15 March 2017 - Wednesday

Avalon was almost asleep (curse you, time zones!) but I got home just in time!

No writing, mostly only tumblr and Marvel Puzzle Quest, but I did a tiny amount of game design because I still want to make Eclipse Phase powered by the Apocalypse. Or something like the Apocalypse, anyway; my current thought is somewhere between that and Blades in the Dark. Probably it will all be horrible, of course.

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14 March 2017 - Tuesday

Marith and I watched episodes I think 4-7 of ACCA, in which many things are explained. Whether everything will be explained is still an open question, especially since I think this show is still simulcasting. Was it wise of us to start watching?

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13 March 2017 - Monday

Monday the 13th! -13 to all luck-based rolls! Also, all brain-based rolls.

Fortunately Avalon and I planned a date in advance, so we didn't take the penalty.

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12 March 2017 - Sunday

No gaming, because today's session was held last week. (Admire our efficiency!)

I did a little writing, and some going-outside-and-moving-around, but mostly huge piles of Tumblr. Because I suck.

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11 March 2017 - Saturday

Cleaners were late again, blargh.

Ken made Giant Fajita Feast. It was feasted upon.

  • My Little Pony 5: Tonight's lesson: don't be friends with jerks who think they're cool. Also, mild electric shocks are fun!
  • Durarara!!x2 2.5: Shizuo's brother and his scary girlfriend are back. Also Mikado is acting weird enough to worry Anri.
  • Vision of Escaflowne 10-11: Uh oh, Dilandau has figured out who his real enemy is! Freid has figured out who their real enemy is not, though.
  • Steven Universe 2.2-3: Connie is awesome. Steven's weird teenage friends (how old is Steven, anyway? He seems to be smaller than them, so preadolescent?) are not as cool, but not terrible. Just not as awesome as Connie, because hardly anyone is.

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10 March 2017 - Friday

Avalon is crushed by work again. It is very sad.

I am wasting my precious hours of life on Tumblr. Maybe having too much work would be better. (No, it wouldn't.)

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9 March 2017 - Thursday

Marith is still not being properly appreciated by the business world, so she came over and we watched some ACCA, which is political intrigue, audits, and smoking, in a non-fantastic secondary world.

Magic For Nothing (Seanan McGuire) is the Nth book in the "inCryptids" series, in which we finally get to see the youngest sibling and her great dislike for her big sister's lack of commitment to the cause, and how hosed she is because she's not lame like that. Oddly, there are not many explosions. There is heartbreak and betrayal and trapeze action and suggested alternate careers for anthropophagous non-human sophonts, though.

Re: ACCA by marithlizard (Mon Mar 13 15:05:26 2017)

You forgot the bread!

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8 March 2017 - Wednesday

Brooks is no longer enplagued, so it's time for 13th Age!

We can still start gaming before 20:00, although I don't think that's going to last very long as Jus's bedtime ritual moves later and later.

No fight this time, so Anwë was just useless at skill checks. Also we lost the Emperor and part of Li's wife (although only like 10% by mass).

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7 March 2017 - Tuesday

Avalon is crushed by work, because work is awful. I blame capitalism.

"Mira's Last Dance" (Lois McMaster Bujold) is nominally the fourth novella in the "Penric" series, but really it's the second half of "Penric's Mission". Poor Penric, getting all the wrong kinds of laid (but hilariously).

X-Risks is the Eclipse Phase supplement for all the things that Firewall worries about. There are chapters on exhumans, the TITANs and their remains, the creepy gooey Factors, the exsurgent viruses and what it turns people into, and misc. Project Ozma is mentioned but really not explained at all, by design. Also, a bunch of things on exoplanets that want to eat gatecrashers (but the Pandora gates get a whole supplement of their own) and an assortment of alien fungi.

Yah, transhumanity is pretty much hosed.


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6 March 2017 - Monday

Oh look, it's a Monday. What is it good for?

I did write some, but it's still awful.

I was afraid writing in a Macish WYSIWYG editor would be too weird, but it's actually not bad. I only sometimes randomly hit Esc or start to type "</p>" at the end of a paragraph. I always hit Enter twice after a paragraph, though.

A Festival of Blades is a quickstart adventure (IE, containing basic rules and pregen characters) for the upcoming Cavaliers of Mars. As an adventure it's pretty thin, and it doesn't show off any exciting features of the setting. It could be any fantasy city with nobles, goons, and literal social stratification.

The system seems to be a derivative or cousin of Cortex Plus (itself a descendant of Dogs in the Vineyard among no doubt many others). The main stats are "For Honor", "For Love", and "For Self"; and "With Cunning", "With Force", and "With Grace"; pick one from each list for your action and maybe get some other dice too. Fancy combat uses a pool of d10s which are each both initiative and part of the action. There aren't hit points, but there are conditions you can suffer from a conflict: "Exhausted", "Injured", "In Love", "Presumed Dead", "Trapped", and "Vengeful". It might still be a bit abstract, but it definitely expresses the genre.

Despite the adventure not being that great, the odds of my getting this game when it comes out seem pretty high.

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5 March 2017 - Sunday

Next week's PAD&D5e: now this week!

The Heroines of Redlarch interrogate the one prisoner they were able to extract from the inferno of [SPOILER], but mostly learn that there is an underground area that is too high-level for them. They take their prisoner to Yartar, where he is dealt with by the authorities. By great good fortune, there is a folding boat available for the low, low price of all their cash, and since waiting around for riverboats to pass is a pain, they buy it and hire the ex-pirate tempest cleric Bob Ishmael to do the sailing since none of them know from boats. Mobility achieved!

Finally they go to [SPOILER], which is apparently where they were supposed to go first except that they already had enough leads for things that were causing obvious current problems. The ninjas are able to not only scout the [SPOILER], but return with evidence that these are in fact villains deserving of Just Smiting. Since the Heroines of Redlarch are overleveled and on the offensive, for once they can steamroller the opposition and take the entire [SPOILER] without anyone even getting knocked out. Supreme Victory!

Because the hireling gets a half share of XP, we are now tracking it in increments of 1/39th. Because we are crazed.

Next gaming in three weeks, bah.

Hail! Or maybe sleet, since it was tiny bits of ice mixed with liquid rain, but either way much more weather than we usually see in Palo Alto!

Avalon is still oppressed by work and biology, but not completely crushed. When I complained about not getting enough written, she made me say I will start writing again as of tomorrow. We will see what happens.

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4 March 2017 - Saturday

Going grocery shopping in the morning(ish) is definitely more convenient, even if it means I can't get double energy in Walkr. But I still didn't actually accomplish anything useful today.

Everything was a mess, but somehow we had dim sum to watch our Chinese historical drama with, and no one was crushed by falling tables!

  • Nirvana in Fire 10-12: The plot thickens! Rival factions in the Empire try to stock the bureaucracy with their pawns! (Mei Changsu's plan there seems good to me, but I have no idea how it seems to Chinese.) Also, finally, Mei Changsu and Nihuang finally talk about The Thing!

Thunderbird (Chuck Wendig) is the fourth in the series about a woman who can foretell people's deaths and always gets mixed up in crazy shit. In this book, she has quit smoking, which makes her even less sensible, much to the regret of terrorists and other bystanders. Maybe next book we'll get some explanations?

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3 March 2017 - Friday

I guess I did some work stuff, but really my accomplishment today was writing an answer for a Dungeon World question on the RPG Stack Exchange and getting it accepted and upvoted.

It's like being famous on the Internet, only without the fame.

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1 March 2017 - Wednesday

Ken recovered from last week's plague, but now Brooks is out. Nevertheless, we played 13th Age (and ate Thai food)!

As usual, Anwë was useless in the fight because she doesn't have either defenses or hitpoints and in the roleplaying because I can't talk over Mike. But hey, we did figure out that the Archmage is in league with the Lich King, so that's something.

So, last month I wrote approximately nothing, because I suck. I can't even quantify my failure, because I don't have a good way to convert editing to equivalent new-writing word count.

In conclusion, I suck.

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