Friday, December 10

Happiness Defined

I recently wrote a reply to someone else's Facebook post that said:

"The source of modern unhappiness is, as it always has been, the belief in happiness."

Which is pretty much wrong.

I mean, there is an element of truth in there, because to a certain extent what you believe matters, however, there are also other ways to be unhappy that have nothing to do with your mindset, for example, (and this is something you can test) you can stub your toe. You could also break a leg, fall off a cliff, or convince someone to punch you in the face, all of which can be pretty unhappy.

Regardless of your mental outlook, pain is unhappy.

(For most people. Yes, there are people that have mismatched wires that think pain is super, but there are also all sorts of people with mental health issues, so for sake of argument, let's just assume that pain is a type of unhappiness.)

So let's define a couple of relationships then:
  • Physical Happiness = Pleasure
  • Physical Unhappiness = Pain
Seems pretty straightforward. Of course, this begs the question, what about the converse relationships? What about the non-physical realm? Well first off, let's use a better term for "non-physical;" I'm partial to "abstract." So what would we call the flip sides of these coins?
  • Abstract Happiness = Triumph
  • Abstract Unhappiness = Grief
Let's give these a closer look so that it's absolutely clear what I mean by these words. When I say "triumph," I am using that word to describe any situation where you have some sort of abstract happiness, like if you just got a great new job, you made a bunch of money, or you just graduated college. Maybe you just solved a problem that had been irking you, or wrote an excellent poem. Your baby nephew might have just been born, your favorite football team just won the Super Bowl, you just became President, or one of an infinite number of abstract situations that you feel victorious about.

On the flip side, grief is a mental unhappiness, from the loss of a great job, to losing it all in the stock market, to getting kicked out of college. Maybe you gave up on that problem because it was too difficult, or you just realized your poetry is horrendous. Your nephew might have just been killed in a car crash, your team went 0-16, you lost the election for class president, or one of an infinite number of abstract situations that you feel terrible about.

(I am aware that situations that can cause triumph and grief can and often do invoke pleasure or pain. For example, if a loved one dies, not only do you feel the mental anguish of them passing, but you also feel physical pain from that grief. This is because these labels are not mutually exclusive, meaning you can take pleasure and triumph from something, just as you can take pain and grief from something. Just be aware that because there is a link between the physical world and our minds, so too is there a connection between these emotional states.)

Let's add one more piece to the puzzle:

Assumption #1: There is nothing outside of Physical + Abstract.

What this means is that I am assuming that there is nothing outside of our existence that matters for the purpose of this discussion. I'm pretty much saying, "If you can't sense it or comprehend it, then who cares?" So that said, let's add up what we've thought about so far:

Happiness = Physical Happiness + Abstract Happiness
Happiness = Pleasure + Triumph


Unhappiness = Physical Unhappiness + Abstract Unhappiness
Unhappiness = Pain + Grief


Now, you may be saying, so what? What's the point?

Well, for starters, I can fix my Facebook post to mean something more truthful. Something like:

"The source of modern unhappiness is, as it always has been, pain, and the belief in triumph."

Which leads me to the third state of being, which I will leave for another post.

Tuesday, December 7

Where is All the Dark Matter/Energy?

I've been thinking about Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which is to say that I've been speculating possible reasons for why we have no idea where most of the matter and energy in our universe is. Just take a look at this graph:

This pretty much means that 96% of the mass/energy in the universe is not visible to us. Which is sort of confusing. I mean, we can see stars, we can see gas, we can see the rocks and matter all around us, but for some inexplicable reason we are unable to visibly see 80% of all matter, or even observe, let alone harness most of the energy in our universe.

Let me combine this idea with my previous post about a super advanced alien civilization:

For sake of an analogy, pretend we are fish. We are swimming up a river, and bam, out of the blue, we hit this barrier where we can't go upstream anymore. Our fishy senses are confused, because hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have programmed us to want to swim up this stream, but for some reason we are blocked. Something hard and impassible obstructs our way, and we are unable to continue, unable to advance up this river, all because of a dam.

Now imagine a super advanced civilization of aliens. Perhaps these aliens evolved in another universe, somewhere trillions or quadrillions of years in the past from our own universe. Maybe they developed a way to travel through space and time, and even between universes, and they have been skipping between universes, colonizing as they go. Perhaps these technologies require unthinkable amounts of energy, possibly the energy from many stars, from many galaxies, from many universes, all acquired by this supremely powerful species.

(Just like how we have dominated the resources on our own planet, and would absolutely ransack the resources of nearby planets, if we could only figure out a cheap way to get there.)

So imagine this alien species is here already. Perhaps they have already harnessed 95% of the matter/energy in our universe, possibly with a super advanced version of a Dyson Sphere, that blocks all outgoing radiation with a super thin mesh of nano-robot solar panels. They could place these megastructures on any star, at any point in time, at the exact moment of a star's birth, to maximize the efficiency of their consumption.

What if we can't see most of the matter and energy in the universe, for the simple explanation that they are already being harvested by someone else? What if there is a fifth level to the Kardashev scale, where an alien civilization has not only consumed all of the energy of their universe, but has moved on to dominate millions or billions of other universes, including our own?

If this is true, then I would alter the Zoo Hypothesis to something much more humbling, something more fitting of our proper place in the universe:

I'd call it the Fishbowl Hypothesis.

Sunday, November 28

Alien Hippies

Where are all the aliens?

This is the fundamental question behind the Fermi paradox, which in essence states that we should see some evidence for extraterrestrial life, given the large number of stars in the observable universe (70 sextillion, woo!).

So I am going to flip the question around, and assume some possible scenario where an alien civilization might rise up out of the galactic muck and see our universe as its own plaything.
  • Assumption #1: There is or will be a supremely advanced species. This civilization should do any of the following: spontaneously generate matter and energy, is immortal, and can perceive and travel through space, across dimensions, and even between universes.
  • Assumption #2: Time travel is possible and has been mastered by the species in Assumption #1.
  • Assumption #3: The species in Assumption #1 is aggressive. Not necessarily in the sense of being destructive or bloodthirsty, but willing to expand to fill other niches, like every form of life on Earth.
So if all three of these assumptions are true, then one of two options opens up: either this advanced population is an alien race, or is us at some point in the future.

If it's the former, then why are we still here? If a hostile alien race that has existed for many lifetimes of other universes can time travel, then it can surely jump to when we were defenseless single-celled organisms and destroy all life on Earth for the entire existence of this universe. Or perhaps they can foresee that we are not and never will be a threat, either because we mushroom cloud ourselves, or some natural disaster like a comet destroys all life on Earth, or at least all sentient life.

Let's look at the other option: the most advanced species in the entire history of all universes is us (or at least, an evolved version of us.) I find that rather difficult to believe. Not only are there untold numbers of stars and planets in our observable universe that are older than our sun and Earth, but we are just scratching the surface with our predictions for other possible universes, which could be nearing an infinite number that may have existed for near an infinite amount of time. The likelihood that we are or will be the most advanced species ever is pretty slim.

For sake of optimism, let's reject that we (or some other species on our planet) will blow ourselves up, and that we will not be able to foresee and avert possible natural disasters. Let's also assume the anthropic bias that lets us be the center of the known universe is also incorrect.

So therefore, if both options are unlikely (either aggressive aliens or us), I think that at least one of my three assumptions is invalid. So either:
  • Counter-Assumption #1: There will never be a supremely advanced species.
  • Counter-Assumption #2: Time travel is never possible.
  • Counter-Assumption #3: The advanced species in Assumption #1 is not aggressive.
Of the above, I find that counter-assumption 1 and 2 are the most likely to be eliminated . If there are countless universes with countless galaxies with countless solar systems with countless ways to create sentient life in ways that we can only dream of, then the probability of at least one supremely advanced species that can master the laws of the universes becomes almost a certainty.

Also, the very idea that time travel is not possible is pretty silly, especially considering the idea that monkeys barely out of the jungle have theorized that space and time are perpendicular sides of the same coin.

So let's look at #3. Why are species on our planet aggressive? Why are they genetically programmed to reproduce, and fill an ecological niche at the expense of another species? Why do tigers have fangs and claws, rose bushes have thorns, and people kill each other in all sorts of creative ways?

Easy. Scarcity. Life on our planet evolved with limited resources. Every species on this rock fights tooth and nail for every scrap of food, which most likely is some other species that we happened to tooth and nail to death. We are bounded by our evolutionary heritage to kill or be killed, and either dominate our environment or have our environment dominate us.

However, what if the advanced civilization in Assumption #1 has already fixed their problem with limited resources? What if they have solved all hunger, have no need of land, can generate any sort of matter or energy at will, and have tinkered with their own genetic code to limit their own exponential population growth?

What if they are no longer aggressive, either because their evolutionary track was not as cutthroat as ours, or because their technology solved the problem of scarcity ages ago, and thus no longer need to dominate the universe, let alone us?

Notice, that I'm not saying that the species in Assumption #1 is benevolent. I don't imagine they would be particularly thrilled to have competition, at least not from us if we cannot conquer our version of scarcity. Though perhaps they would at least be interested to see our evolution from single celled organism to universe traveling civilization, if we can control our unchecked aggression first so we don't annihilate ourselves in the process.

So if there is an advanced civilization, and we want to meet them someday, then I suggest that the number one priority for our civilization--besides not blowing ourselves to smithereens--is to master our control of available resources without exceeding it, and figure out a way to transition ourselves from an aggressive dominating civilization to a non-aggressive, non-dominating one.

Thursday, November 25

200,000 Years in the Future

It all started with prosthetics.

Once a person could completely replace an arm or leg (and eventually any organ) with a cybernetic lookalike that was in all ways superior to their original body part, people clamored for new and better ways to replace themselves.

We aren't talking bulky metallic machinery, but sleek nanotechnology that can mimic flesh, while having the strength of a superhuman. That was just the start, of course, because as soon as you could replace one limb, why not add another? And another? Why not have three or four or ten arms?

Heck, why not have remote arms? It was one additional step to remote bodies, and one more step to the brains in vats stage, where everyone controlled bits of things removed from themselves, while encased in their life support system.

What was the point of even having biological arms and limbs and digestive tracks and lungs and eyes and skulls? After all, eating and moving around and breathing became expensive with 100 trillion people crammed onto planet Earth. It was much more cost effective for everyone to live as brain and spines encased in giant neural networks.

The virtual melded with the real, as awareness shifted to peripheral perception devices. A "person" could "see" with computer video cameras, hear with microphones, and touch with robotic arms that could be anywhere in the world. Not to be outdone by natural selection, humans could also sense every other frequency with additional nanocomputerized instruments.

Banks upon banks of humans, stacked a billion to a square mile, neatly organized in rows and tended by automatic drones, thought and thought and thought, a mind of minds.

When Earth became metasentient, it decided to procreate. It made Mars and Venus and everything in the nearby solar system in its image. Now the Earth was a metaspecies. Its cells were people, and it metathought with a metabrain of brain-neurons.

Not to be limited to one solar system, Earth learned space travel, and dominated nearby systems. Each planet became a new host, filled with trillions of brain vats, and each new Earth could metathink, and metafeel. They could go on metadates, buy each other metadrinks, and eventually, if they metaliked each other, they could have metasex and make little Earth babies.

Though it evolved to be something unlike the original Earth (just as simple cells evolved to complex cells over 1.8 billion years) the metaspecies prospered. Having spread to the farthest reaches of the Milky Way, Earth was not content, and so decided to dominate nearby galaxies, so that Earth might spread to everywhere in the known universe.

It was at that point that the metaalien known as Universe-348 went to the doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics specifically designed to fight off an Earth infection.

Wednesday, November 17

How to Detect Equilibrium

I've been thinking about water, and how it has no taste.

I mean that's weird right, something that covers about 70% of the surface of the Earth, that is absolutely inseparable from life as we know it, and we are even made of it, or at least 50-60% of us is made of it, and the sense capable of detecting things that we ingest is incapable of identifying it?

I mean, if something was so important, don't you think we would have evolved to notice it? Sure, we can distinguish other substances in the water, like sugar, salt, or alcohol, but the actual water flavor remains elusive.

On a similar note, what does air taste like? Sure, we can detect a lot of poisonous gases, mostly fumes we may have experienced in the wild, like smoke or methane, things that could have been dangerous had we stayed in them for too long, but the air we breathe, moment to moment, is an undetectable phantasm.

So water and air, two substances that we are 100% dependent on, we cannot sense. Isn't that completely counterintuitive? I would think that we would be able to detect both of those, in addition to everything else, not everything else minus those two things.

Granted, we can see and touch water. However, the simple explanation for that one is that we've evolved to fit in another environment, one that is surrounded by air. We can't see air, and we can't feel air unless we move or the air moves. If we were fish, I'd wager we couldn't see or feel water either.

So once we moved on land, and being surrounded by water became a hazard for us, we quickly evolved to sense water by sight and touch, but we remained blissfully ignorant to how water tastes.

Now that I mentioned environment, let's move on to something that isn't a substance. Let's talk about temperature. Can you feel heat and cold? Certainly. Can you feel what a comfortable temperature is? No way. In fact, we don't even have a word for what that would be. Is it warm? Cool? Lukewarm? Nope. All of those indicate some amount of either positive or negative from your base temperature.

So we can't taste water or air, we can't feel motionless air or an ideal temperature, and we can't see air. What does this tell us about ourselves? When we can't physically notice the things that are most essential to us, when the fundamental structure of our perception excludes perceiving the very nature of our existence?

What ramifications does this have? I mean, we can only experience gravity if we jump. So what about space? What about time? Can we ever see, taste, or touch either of those? Would we have to be a fish out of water, or rather a person out of space and time in order to sense those? These yardsticks that we consider intrinsic to our nature, can we only ever truly sense them if we transcend those dimensions?

Leaping from philosophy to psychology, can we ever genuinely experience contentment? Notice, I'm not talking happiness here, but the type of personal equilibrium that is the equivalent of not tasting water. Is that state of being the enlightenment that many have searched for, but few have ever found? Is this what the Buddha meant when he talked about the void?

Does the path to true enlightenment (or contentment, or fulfillment, or whatever word you want to call it) require realizing that everything tastes like water?

Tuesday, November 16

Why Star Wars Sucks as an MMO

Star Wars is a great space opera. The original movies, regardless of whether they ripped off Akira Kurosawa or Battlestar Galactica, are as fresh today as the day they came out. The extended world works for people, as do the prequels to a certain extent. Single player video games have the potential to be awesome when set in the Star Wars universe, as evidenced by Knights of the Old Republic. They can also be pretty bad, as Force Unleashed 2 proved.

However, there are two major hurdles that any Star Wars MMO must overcome in order to be a successful when multiple people are involved, and both of these obstacles are inherent to the game world itself. I first experienced these when playing the old tabletop d6 RPG, and they will continue to be true even as Bioware releases a shinier version of the same concept.

1) Star Wars is a Dead World.

This means that anything that happened in the movies, books, or the extended storylines is unchangeable. If you decide you want to kill Darth Vader, or go out with Princess Leia, you are on your own. Anything set around the same time period as the movies must somehow adapt to that history, or it "doesn't count." This means that your character is bound by the vision of the developers, and the developers are bound by the vision of George Lucas, and even Lucas is bound by the layers and layers of history that have already been told about the Star Wars universe.

Anything not set around the time period of the original movies is fair game, however, which is why an MMO set either way before or after the movies could possibly work. However, this too is a gamble, as a developer has nothing in the game world to work with, since Luke, Leia, Darth Vader, etc...are either not born yet, or dead.

The Bioware MMO is taking that bet, by releasing a game set in the far past of the Star Wars universe, where they can make up whatever they want, with the downside that none of it has any relevance to the content we are used to. (For example, we can't go hang out with Han Solo.)

2) The Force Sucks

I'm sorry to say, it does. It's great for movies. It is absolutely horrible in a game.

Oh, they've been trying to spruce it up, make it flashy for the kiddies. They've been upping the ante on the Force, where at first it was really hard to chuck some rocks, while now Force users can jump around like rabbits or make people explode.

However, you've got this science fiction world, you don't have magic, or psionics, or mutations, or any cool alien races. Instead, you have two factions: dudes with lightsabers that are OMFGWTFBBQultrapowerful, and wimpy dudes with blasters. Like when Darth Vader pwns Han Solo without even trying.

Now that said, in a game they can easily tweak it so that lightsaber characters are as strong as blaster characters, but that is not entirely the point. Force users get all sorts of neat abilities that non-Force users don't get. What do the normal people of the world gain in exchange? Yay, they can repair a droid, use a jetpack, or ride a tauntaun. Woo.

The Force is further limited by #1 above, because the game developers can't let it do anything. They can't let you shoot fireballs, summon monsters, teleport, time travel, go invisible, or one of the many, many things that you haven't seen in the movies that don't fit the "vision" of the world.

Not to mention that any discussion of the Force is inherently linked to the morality of the Force, because that's the way the game world is set up. Like you can't use Force lightning without being a bad guy, because that is a bad guy power. Even though hacking people in half with a laser sword is just fine. I mean, you've got a bunch of so-called good people that can't be emotional at all, can't have sex, can't have relationships, and there are plenty of those dudes running around. Then you have the evil dudes, who constantly let their desires run rampant, and none of them got it on with a hot Twi'lek? Right.


In short, everyone wants to play a kickass Jedi/Sith with awesome powers and a lightsaber, and nobody wants to play a second-class normal person. You've got a crappy source of "magic" with crappy rules attached to it, in a dead world where everything neat has already happened, and your character plays second fiddle to the NPCs, and you play third fiddle to other players if you happen to play a non-Force character.

One Sentence Movie Reviews #2

Barton Fink
When they say you should only write about what you know, that doesn't mean that writers should write movies about writers that write movies about writers.

La Dolce Vita
Some Italian dude does a bunch of stuff for three hours, and if you can survive the boredom, you might decide this is one of the greatest movies ever, and decide to write a college thesis on it.

Son of Rambow
Societies are comprised of tenuous relationships between individuals in order to protect those people from other societies, at the cost of their individual freedoms...also: French people are cooler than the British people.

Let the Right One In
Vampires have feelings too...or, she's going to train him to be a serial killer and eventually eat him later: your call.

La Jetee
The catalyst for the development of time travel is some horndog's desire to hit it with a chick in the past.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird
Only one man can kill this many Japanese.

One of the best action movies ever, and the action sequences suck.

Bubba Ho-Tep
Elvis doesn't know what a safe deposit box is.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
If you are about to marry a hot blonde, never blow up your future brother-in-law with an air strike.

The Color of Magic, p 1&2
Terry Pratchett's books are a guilty pleasure of mine, so when I say that this movie is crap, I mean it with the best possible intentions.

Sunday, November 14

One Sentence Movie Reviews #1

I have streaming Netflix now, which means I am stuffing my brain with the culture of the past 50 years or so. I've decided to condense these films into as tiny of a space as possible, because after all, Brevity is the Soul of the Internet.

(Warning, I use spoilers regularly, because only innocents are regularly surprised by anything, and if you are using the world wide web, I highly doubt you are innocent.)


A monopoly uses clones for forced labor, and the clones are sad.

Who is Harry Nilsson?
Some dude gets famous, has a neat singing voice that lots of people dig, then drinks himself to death in front of his wife and five kids.

God is ticked off at us because we are supposed to be nice to each other, even though He sends lots of zombies and an asshole with razor wings to come slaughter us, and when we win, we have learned our lesson, so we carry around lots of guns and ammo in the back of our station wagon.

Year One
Even douchebags could score in the Old Testament.

Walmart employees can stop time and take off your underwear, but it's okay because they're artsy.

Alice in Wonderland
If you are imagining shit, and you just dumped my rich son in front of all of our family and friends, you aren't crazy, and we'll let you sail our boat to China.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Terry Gilliam is a fucking genius.

If you let Dexter replace your brain with nanites, you might be an idiot.

Annie Hall
Awkward smart people can talk a lot about nothing in particular, eventually have sex, and Woody Allen thinks it's probably worth it.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
A dead mad scientist can make giant robots, dinosaurs, and a hot android chick, but two jocks and a blonde can't figure out how to bomb a nuclear missile with their airplanes.

Eden Log
A European security guard goes spelunking, is brainwashed into an environmentalist by plants, then has sex with a tree and cries about it.


Friday, November 12

Fight Fire With Ice

I wrote this after I was called out for using the word "irregardless" in a forum post:

Some people might be interested in this link. Or this one. Or this one.

Then again they might not. They might believe it is their duty to point out any flaw in any person at every opportunity, irregardless of the circumstances, especially in a thread devoted to an entirely unrelated issue, in the hopes that their efforts will exasperate the discussion, and bring the entire enterprise crashing down in flames.

Luckily, I am made of ice, and do not care one whit how I spell things, or what people think about how I spell things. I realize that you are trying to help me learn how to spell, because it is obvious I am in dire need of such services, however, I am perfectly capable of finding an online dictionary myself. So thank you for your trouble, and let's endeavor to keep this discourse on track.

Thursday, November 11

Hey Woody, You Sound Sick

My kids have both Buzz Lightyear and Woody at my parent's house. I think my mom got them at garage sales after Toy Story 1&2, because that's generally how she gets all my kids' toys. These are the foot tall, talking ones, and when you press the buttons on Buzz, Tim Allen's voice says things like, "I'm awake from hypersleep, and ready for action!"

So my four year old pulls the string and Woody says, "Reach for the sky!" Only it's not Woody, it's some other guy. Not to knock the voice actor, but no one can replicate Hanks' southwestern drawl, or his characteristic twang. He has a one-in-a-million sound to his voice, and I'm sorry, but this Woody is not Tom Hanks.

My son says, "Hey, that's not Woody."

I think for a second, and I do what every parent should do in this situation: I lie. "Yeah, it's Woody, he's just sick," I say.

My two year old says, "Woody's sick!"

I say, "That's right. Woody's sick."

She nods sagely and says, "He gotta feel better."

Now I understand that Tom Hanks' time is pretty valuable. Obviously, spending 15 minutes saying 5 lines for a toy is tough when you are a big time movie star. I can see that.

I can also see that whoever made the toy probably didn't have the profit margin to pay Tom Hanks for his valuable time, and so in order to lower the price of the toy, they used some schmuck off the street. Perhaps there was hand wrangling going on, with people in suits haggling over how much that 15 minutes would cost, and buckets of lawyers writing contracts and managers disapproving them. Perhaps there were meetings upon meetings, taking up countless hours of time, with backroom negotiations that fell apart at the last moment, while a guy with a leather chair and an important looking phone screams at an intern to bring him some coffee.

That's all well and good. I'm not really trying to blame anyone. It's not Tom Hanks' fault. It's not the fault of any one business. It's not even the fault of the lady who bought the cheaper toy in the first place, and then resold it to my mom for a fraction of the cost. (It's not her fault either, by the way.)

However, something broke along the way. Somewhere along the line, the system failed, and Woody wasn't Woody for my kids. He was some other dude, some other cowboy that my kids didn't know.

So when my kids left my parents house, my son dragged Buzz Lightyear into the car, and we were off to defeat Emperor Zurg, while Woody was left behind in the big green toy bucket. Neither of my kids wanted to bring him along.

After all, Woody was sick.

Tuesday, November 9

What I Was Going to Post

So I was writing on the Dungeons and Dragons forums, and a troll appeared. He said this:

"but by that you do admit that knights ARE indeed optimizable, therefore the basis of your argument is false and as my esteemed colleague states"

My first instinct was to write this, which I think might have been against their code of conduct, so instead of replying with it, I'll instead post it here:

Your esteemed colleague failed at reading comprehension, and now you are implying that knights are only optimizable with builds that contain one race and/or one feat?

Okay, great! Good answer! Of course, I already knew that, and nowhere in my post is the assertion that knights are not optimizable with a half-elf or mark of storm, but of course, that would require reading, which I realize is an ambitious request in this day and age. Perhaps I could flash a lot of bright lights, maybe bang some drums, and then it will be easier for the inattentive among us.

Or perhaps you aren't saying that, and are instead jumping to conclusions, because you would rather see the simple answer rather than anything complex. Which I understand might be taxing on a brain's mental processes. Whew! Let's not think too hard! This is exhausting!

Or maybe you are trying to start an argument, which won't work either, because I'm not particularly prone to caring about what other people on the internet think about me or what I think, though of course, the more you can show me that you can spend more than 5 seconds considering something I've said, then I might be willing to entertain the notion of exchanging information with you.

Of course, I did not follow your youtube link, just as I didn't follow your colleague's link, because I lack a sense of humor, and because one day, in the distant future, all communication might one day be like this.

Though I'm sure your link is humorous!

Friday, October 29

Granting Immortality to Children

I had a conversation the other day where we started with science, then moved into genetics, then lifespan. Or rather the future of all of those things.

I wonder about the humans that are currently tinkering around with our DNA, like how someone would putter around in their garage on their old Chevy, and whether they will someday succeed at granting Humanity the long sought after gift of Immortality.

Just as a brain exercise, let's imagine what such a breakthrough would look like:
  • I'd imagine that it would have something to do with our genetic code at a base level. I highly doubt that you could hand someone a drug and freeze their body in time. Perhaps a type of chemical solution could keep someone alive longer, but over time, I'd think the natural programming of our genes would take over and shut everything down. This means that most likely, it would have to be something you would alter before conception. A baby would be born immortal, birthed by scientists and rich patrons.
  • Definitely--It would also be expensive. New technologies almost always are. Maybe over time the price would drop, but think of the supply vs. demand equation, and we are talking .0001% of people on Earth who could afford it. A middle class salary isn't going to cut it. Just think how things work in catastrophes, and you have your answer about who would live for a time, and who would live forever.
  • It would redefine everything. There would be those with everything that would risk other people for their own gain. Indefinitely. Those people would become a separate species, only bound by their everlasting nature. They would share something in common, however--birthed into great wealth, they would be the children of money. They would be the immortal Princes and Princesses of industry, bred for the nobility of money.
Nations rise and fall, and power changes hands, as one leader dies, and another, less capable, or less ambitious leader fails. If that first leader lives forever, then will power every change hands again? So I wonder, not whether someone should "cure" aging (because if that is at all possible, it will happen), but rather, when scientists cure aging, can we trust the Children Who Live Forever?

Why PCs Shouldn't Summon Lackeys

Written for this thread.

Picture this:

You are sitting around the gaming table. Through the dim light you see Big Dean toss his d20 with one meaty hand, and growl, "My dwarf rolls a 19. I hit AC 27. Eat that goblin scum." Smoke flitters past the table fan as a puff of light shines from behind the DM screen.

Pages rustle as a raspy voice grates across your ears: "You hit. The goblin's eyes widen as the blade of your axe severs his head from his neck. The body crumples to the floor as the head rolls several feet, and the beady red eyes blink in amazement, then peer into oblivion." The DM coughs, and puts out his cigarette. He reaches out from behind the screen and places something on the battlemap.

It fills up a 3v3 area. That is huge! As his bony hand slowly creeps back, you hear a gasp from Christina. You turn your head to figure out what the commotion is, and your eyes are mesmerized by the miniature. It's a red dragon! It has fire coming out of it's mouth and little plastic grass that has even been scorched. Little bits of body parts have been strewn across the base, and you see blood. Blood everywhere.

All eyes turn to you as cast your gaze down to your crisp new character sheet. You preordered Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, just so you could atone for your last three characters that have died. (Two of those times weren't your fault!) This time, yes this time, you will conquer. You will prevail. This must be overpowered, right? It's new afterall. WotC wouldn't sell new stuff that's suboptimal.

You will show Big Dean with the hairy arms that you too can read message boards and select optimum feats and items. You will show Christina that you too can roll high when the situation demands it, and when she sees the imaginary bloodied carcass on the ground, she will know that it was you that tipped the miniature over, and maybe she will draw a picture of your character in her notebook.

Finally, you will show the DM that his miniature, that he probably bought off of Ebay because he's a cheapskate, is worth less than the might of your newly printed character.

You turn the page with triumph, and as you slide your fingers down the page, you stop and read your saving grace, your redemption...

"Todd." The skeletal DM hand gestures toward the miniature. "It's your turn, dude. Go."

You look up. You see Big Dean, eating a chicken salad. You see Christina, dear Christina, who is texting (probably her boyfriend), and lastly you see the gleaming miniature, as the cigarette smoke caresses its ghastly claws.

You say, "I summon...I summon...a Spined Devil...Lackey."

Big Dean snorts, "A spined devil what?"

You deflate, "Lackey."

"Couldn't you cast something more, um...useful?"

"It is useful," you are getting pissed. You glance at Christina. Is that pity in her eyes?

The DM says, "Just let him cast it, My raid starts soon."

You place your puny miniature under the nose of the red dragon, you pick up your faded d20, and you think, "Please, please, please, let this be the time. My time. Let my lackey pwn this boss."

You roll, and the die spins, and everyone at the table leans in, and it finally stops on...

A 1. A freaking 1.

You stare in disbelief as you vaguely hear dice rolling from behind the screen, and it's as if you are underwater when the DM says, "The dragon eats your lackey. Christina, your turn."


That, my friends, is why Hexblades should not summon lackeys.

Thursday, October 28

Not a Total Slacker

Just to show that I've been doing more things than I give myself credit for:

I've written two guides to League of Legends. If you are into that sort of thing, you can read those:

Zen Malzahar
Sun Tzu Teemo

I've also been writing random guides for Dungeons and Dragons. Things like:

Dwarf Pitfighter
Half-Elf Knight


I've been trolling random forums, stirring up the craziness in people, and periodically helping those in need of my mystical knowledge of the gaming arts.

I think that watching this video has got me thinking on how to be, if not proud of my pastimes, at least content in knowing that in the right place and time, they can be appreciated. Now the question remains, how do I get myself from where I am to where I want to be?

Well Hello!

It's been awhile since my last post (well, my second to last post). I think it's because at some point I ran out of things to say. I could have keep talking, but really, why blather on about nothing? My wife knows that I have difficulty speaking at times, and that can apply to creative endeavors as well.

They say that the only way to be good at this stuff (and by this stuff I mean the act of creation) is to keep doing it over and over again until something you make doesn't suck. (I'm paraphrasing.)

Hopefully I can find the balance between productivity and drivel, and not subject anyone (mostly myself) to thoughts and ideas that are better left unsaid.

Toddler Wisdom

Harmony (my two year old): "I love everybody!"
Justin (my four year old): "I love spoons!"
Harmony: "I love spoons, too!"
Me: "You love spoons?"
Harmony: "We love spoons today!"

Wednesday, June 16

How to Dissolve a Brain

My mind is pretty melty at the moment.

I mean, I spend every waking moment in the company of children, and by "children" I mean cute yet stupid little monkeys. Here are a few examples from Justin (4.5 years old) and Harmony (almost 2):

Justin: "Harmony, stop sticking your shoe in your butt."

Harmony: "Here's booger." (wipes it in my hand)

Justin: (while in the hot tub) "Dada, when I stick my penis in the bubbles it feels funny. Try it!"

Harmony: (fully nude except for sandals) "Ready to go!"

Everything I thought about in college is gone. Whenever I repeat "Eat at the table" or "Come here" or "Keep your hands to yourself" or "Look with your eyes, not with your hands" over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, I can feel my brain leaking out the edges: my skull is a glazed donut, and the filling is squishing through the cracks.

I keep thinking that when I talk with other adults that they can see my brain oozing out. I feel like rationalizing it to them, "Sorry, don't mind me, apparently you don't need that particular organ to survive. Who knew all of that grey matter was a waste of space? I thought for sure I'd have psychokinesis or telepathy by now, but instead I can barely remember what I did two days ago. See ya, I'm going to disintegrate further!"

A dormant part of me wonders if there is some evolutionary reason for children being so annoying, as if the repetition has developed over millions of years to kill the parent, one brain cell and heart attack at a time. I mean, these things I've spawned are going to replace me, by any means necessary.

Hell, at least while they're liquefying my consciousness they're cute too.

Friday, June 11

Made a New Song From Threads

Finally set up a home work station where I can make some music. Here is the first spider to emerge from the cobwebs:




Monday, May 24

Can I Come Out Now?

Since it's nearly June, and my nerves have kicked into full gear, I suppose it's time to write something. The stewpot has been simmering, and what were once ashes have rekindled into a roaring fire.

The little one is bigger, the big one is bigger, I've lost more hair. An almost two year old is hanging off her chair, with her sunglasses on and no pants, and she's saying over and over again, "Need flower, need flower, need flower," which I suppose is code for happiness in toddlerspeak.

I yell at her as she draws on the chair. She looks like she's about to cry, and as I turn my head, she draws on the chair again. I yell again, "Don't. Draw. On. The. Chair." She's got a pouting lower lip, and I'm the bad guy. I laugh at her. She points at me and says, "No!"

"You can't draw on the chair." I notice her paper is full of scribbles. "Do you need more paper?"

"Yes, please." I give her another sheet of paper, and everything is happy again. All it takes is a sheet of paper.