Dec 3, 2009

Time Flies Like A Banana

I'm currently trawling the archives of James Maliszwicz's Grognardia, and came upon this:

"You Know You're Old When...

...other gamers unironically talk about the release of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia in 1991 as "back in the day."
That's the entiretey of the post, by the way, though the comments are also interesting.

What struck me is, not only was I at the tender age of 3 at the time, the Soviet Union fell that very year. This, to me, isn't just "back in the day" - it's history on par with WW2, just as "old" and far-gone, though the objective distance is far shorter.

In that time, I practically left my diapers behind and started blogging and paying bills. Well, I probably wasn't wearing diapers still, but you get the picture.

Time sure flies, eh? And it seems to go faster and faster. Feels like December 2008 and my original introduction to the wonderful world of RPGs, via the World of Darkness, is just a couple of months ago.

[If you're wondering why I'm apparently suffering from some form of writing-diarrhea today, it's because I just finished my exams and am bored.]

Player Handouts - How To Make Them Look At home

Michael Curtis over at the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope recently posted on a nifty little program that can turn your own handwriting into a usable font for your computer, making those little kustom details on your handouts that much easier to tweak to satisfaction.

In that regard, I'd like to share a dirty little secret: I've never used custom fonts for my handouts. Or, indeed, much of anything. As a rather fresh GM, I have primarily run Dark Heresy, a system built on the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay rules but set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000. In that setting, I've personally gotten very good results simply typing up my documents in Notepad, which gives a very retro-technological, bureaucratic, somewhat clunky feel to the text. I started using it as much out of convenience and lack of a proper word processor on my computer as anything else, but later I started receiving compliments from my players on the quality of the handouts, specifically the font.

So, there you have my dirty, little secret: Notepad. It makes a pretty fine Imperial font - simple, free, and preinstalled. Just watch the spacing; line wrap-arounds aren't pretty.

Why Learn a Second Language? - part 1

Some of my enormous and devoted horde of readers (disclaimer: Since human beings consist of multiple organisms, and several partake in the undertaking of reading, it has been scientifically determined that a single human reader constitutes a "horde") may wonder why one should go to the effort of attaining a second language. Først og fremst fordi hvis ingen gjorde dette, ville denne bloggen se slik ut, and secondly, because it is a mind-expanding experience.

How so?

Well, any new language you learn is likely to include a vast amount of words for concepts that do not even exist in your mind yet. As you're reading this, you are already familiar with English, one of the languages with the largest vocabularies in the world, but this doesn't mean that there exists such a thing as a language without new concepts to explore.

Below followeth a partial list of a few examples, which I will update as I recall new ones. Keep in mind that the bdelow are only very rough translations:

overimorgen - the day after tomorrow
forigårs - the day before yesterday
døgn - 24-hour period, on Earth, or the local equivalent cycle
stusselig - this is to a situation what a "loser" is to an individual. That's a very rough summary, so I'll give you two examples: "Stusselig" is celebrating Christmas without your family, or being 87 while your wife/husband died at 60
hyggelig - part of a subset of Norwegian terms which translate as "nice". This particular one means "nice in a socially inviting way". "Koselig" means "nice, as in lacking hostile qualities", or as in "cute and fuzzy in a metaphorical way". "Trivelig" means "nice in a manner which fosters mental well-being".
kassere - quite simply to throw something away as garbage
orke - nope, nothing to do with orcs. "Orke" means "can be bothered to, has the energy to, or feels up the the task of".
fag - subject or area of specializations, used both vocationally and for subjects at school
skare - a layer of ice on top of snow, which can be of any thickness or strength as long as it still looks like snow. (One of my father's favorite sayings: "When the skare carries a man at St. John's Eve, the spring will be late".)
lumsk - insidiously creepy and malevolently sneaky

In return, Norwegian e.g. has no word for "cookie", having to make do "biscuit" or "small cake", or just borrowing the word "cookie".

D&D Oddity - Water Pool

In the D&D 3.5 Monster Manual 2, there's a type of monster called an "Elemental Weird". These come in ye standarde four elemental flavours, each type keeping residence in a separate type of elemental pool. These are described in meticulous detail. Here's an excerpt from the text on the Water Weird's pool:

Water Pool: This pool is filled with bubbling, swirling water. Any creature within it that cannot breathe water immediately begins to drown (see The Drowning Rules in Chapter 3 of the Dungeon Master's Guide). Any creature without the ability to swim cannot move through water, except by falling. A water weird's pool may be affixed only to a horizontal surface, and it may appear only in a right side up position (such as on the floor of a cavern).
I kid you not. In describing an elemental creature, they found it necessary to describe the completely ordinary pool of water in which it lives, complete with the basic properties of normal water. Why is this unnecessary? 10 points to the first person to come up with the right answer...

(Hint: Humans consist mostly of water, and interact with it on a daily basis.)

Language Changes - The Amusing Part

Ok, so we all know that "gay" had... slightly different connotations back in antiquity, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and "computer games" meant acting like one. But more than just that changed:

Now, that is one confounding mistake. I mean, anybody, anybody a-tall, would immediately realize that that's not a red costume. What happened? Didn't they proofread? Did the colours get screwed up in printing?

Well, no. Language changed, that's what happened. See, in the merry Old Time(tm), that colour was red. Pink only became a recognized primary colour later in the 20th century - my guess would be the late 70's or early 80's. Sure, somebody from that time might describe the costume as "pink", but they'd likely be doing so in the same manner that we nowadays might describe the green one as "emerald". Pink was a flower, which gave its name to a particular shade of red, which then became recognized as a primary colour.

This leads me to the following conclusion: Don't be hatin' on the pink. It, too, fought long and hard for its rights, and only won them in the late 20th century. It's still discriminated against.

(Note: I'm not pink, just supportive. Well, my skin is kinda pink-ish, but no conclusions can be drawn from that. Not that I'm colourist - some of my best friends are pink. I just wouldn't want my non-existent hypothetical daughter to marry the colour.)

[Picture from]

Dec 2, 2009

Order of the Stick: Book 4 announced

The fourth/sixth installment of my very favourite comic, titled Don't Split The Party is available for preorder. Finally. Now, to save up some money...

And don't spoil me! I'm one of those weirdoes who wait for the print version.

Only one question remains: Why pink?

Nov 29, 2009

The Paradigm of Self

Chances are you've seen this video:

Chances are you've seen it, because chances are you are either somebody I've told about this page in real life, or that you came here because I linked to your blog. If I linked to your blog, you blog about the kind of stuff that would lend itself naturally to having seen it, and if I told you about it, you're a person I'd want to see this and whom I'd believe to be interested in this kind of stuff, and thus there's a chance you might've seen it. At this point, I've linked twice and told two people about it. Chances are I'll get one single view for this post within this year. Never say never, but more is improbable.

How you came across this post is of little consequence. You might have followed a link here, you might have Google'd me, you might have come across a reference to my blog in the Wayback Machine or whatever equivalent will exist in the nebulously defined future. You might be viewing a hardcopy, freshly printed or stumbled across in some dusty attic years after the timedate stamp. You might even have come across it during historical or archaeological studies in some form. That is not the point. The point is you found it. It has served its purpose.

Its purpose? To be read. By you. By anyone. Years ago, before the dawn of the internet, before the first monitor flickered on, before the first spark flew through the first vacuum tube, bringing the first computer to life - a harbinger of things to come, like a butterfly carried on the breeze before the storm of its own creation - an identity had to be maintained face-to-face. An identity only existed, in those early days, to the extent that you communicated it to others, and after you died, your identity lived on only in memory. Then came writing. Writing changed the paradigm of self in a way never before since the very idea of self was founded in the very first language. Now, an identity could be forged - carefully built up and maintained through letters and writings. Suddenly, the dead never quite died - Hammurabi lives, inasmuch as his Code can still be read. Without writing...

The census came. Names and information systematically recorded, ostensibly for the benefit of rulers of historians, but really, they benefitted the individual - for how else could the names of the people of ancient China - the most basic particle of identity, otherwise completely forgotten by now - have been preserved?

Even the census, however, was not enough to fully preserve the self. an identity can only exist so long as a personality can be assigned to it. Personality, in many - but not all - ways, is interchangable with identity. Autobiographies also came into being at some point, another way to preserve an identity after death brings the identitee into non-existence. Still, how many of the world's literate population ever wrote an autobiography, and how many had biographies written about them by others? For every 100 biographies on Hitler. a million souls are left without any biography at all.

Cometh the internet, the true topic of this post. In the beginning, the net was small - limited. Only available to students and faculty of a minute set of institutions of learning within the United States, the netizens of this early period forged their online identities as an extension of their normal ones, in digitized versions of everyday face-to-face interaction. Mailing lists and the basic forms behind what we now know as chats and forums, as well as the first few online games, led to an environment where a three-minute conversation with one's classmates regarding bacon could now be recalled perfectly a year later, and quoted. It was clear that this changed the rules of interaction, but not how. 1993 came, and with it the Eternal September.

The Eternal September influx led to a mass-scale proliferation of home pages. Originally, these were basically facts sheets about the netizens - short "My name is, born in, interested in, studying/working as" blurbs - and special-interests pages, such as "How to grow the perfect hortensia". These merged, leading to multiple-page sites with a great variety of content. But, for all the newfound freedom of publishing these pages offered, they were still ultimately static, with cumbersome formatting and coding making adding content a needless chore. Further, I suspect the idea that such a page wasn't "finished" once the article on hortensia growing was written was still strange. As a book or a newspaper doesn't change, I believe the original home pages may have been regarded as such, too.

Enter the Web 2.0.

The home page is basically dead. Some still exist, but the format is still cumbersome, despite new tools having been released, and it is also expensive. More and more, devoted web pages are the purview of groups, mainly of the commercial and/or informational types, and individuals.. what?

Well, the individuals have moved on- I guess MySpace should have been a warning sign. We moved on, to social networking pages, MMOs and the blogosphere. We now forge our identities in a new way. We now combine the best of writing and the socialization-based kind of identity-creation, leaving us with a living and ever-growing network of people which nevertheless allows for near-instant, effortless and flawless recall of whatever is desired, as well as the nice bonus it is to allow the use of sound, video and pictures in normal interaction - from smilies to the one embedded below.

We are not the same as we were. We are now digital creatures, co-existing within the spheres of the internet and real-life, forging permanent and lasting identities in a brave new world. The development hasn't stopped. The evolution doesn't end here. It may, in fact, still be accelerating. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Many parts of society have still to catch up to this. In particular, old forms of copy-control and intellectual property management are rendered not only obsolete, but near-impossible to enforce, a topic on which Shamus Young is much more eloquent than I.

As we prepare for the dawn of a new decade, one thing is clear:
We have to rethink some things.

If you read all that, you're a hero.

While We're At It - The Alexandrian

A sadly seldomly-updated page, The Alexandrian, by the redoubtable Justin Alexander, is a page that focuses mainly on theatre - which is not my cup of tea - book reviews, and very deep, in-depth analyses of RPG design. It is fascinating and very well-written - less straight-out funny than Young, but very thorough and well-thought-out.

I recommend it, even though the update schedule is disturbingly reminiscent of my own.

Twenty Sided - A Confession

I have added another link to my sidebar. Yeah, I know, the foundations of society tremble...

Twenty Sided. a blog run by American Shamus Young, is my personal favorite repertoire of interesting stuff on the web, complete with insightful and funny commentary on whatever new stuff he's got on his mind. Seriously, the man writes about FPSes and I lap it up, eager for more, because the writing's just that damn good.

So, enough with the me yakkin'. Y'all wanna click that link, now, and see his blog. It's superior to mine. But, of course, you already knew that, his being famous and all.

Dragon Age - How The Dwarves Met Their Fate

Recently I played - and enjoyed quite a bit - Bioware's recently-released Dragon Age: Origins, which can best be described as a cross between Baldur's Gate and Mass Effect. The NPCs are particularly well-written, with what seems like hundreds of different, unique personalities, most of them convincing. It feels less like Fun With Excel or Pong 2009, and more like a novel - a rather well-written one, at that.

Which leads us to my main complaint about it - the enemies. Now, the enemies are rather typical fare - evil, twisted monsters, bandits, Ladies & Gents Of Questionable Morals, animals, and the like. Problem is, the world feels real - and so my real-life morality kicks in quite heavily. I found that the main fault of the game was that I had to kill these people and animals, most of whom didn't really deserve it. I felt less like "Hey, whatever, I'm gonna level up!" and more like "But... I don't wanna kill him! Let me talk him down... He attacked!"

This is particularly bad because the game follows the good, ol' tradition of having more enemy NPCs than friendlies - as such, during my murderous rampage through Ferelden, my kind, compassionate, goody-two-shoes ended up murdering more people in her heroic quest than she saved by completing it. The Dwarves, in particular - their numbers already depleted to the pain threshold - suffered, as I killed the 2/3 of their numbers that consisted of criminals. Without getting any choice, because the main quest would not advance until they were dead. Sigh.

Bioware, you guys make great games, but... pacifist option, please?

Aug 17, 2009

Undercoating - Do It

Had my first Chinese lesson today - was pretty much what you'd expect. Mandarin seems to have 5 identical consonants, but somehow the teacher still manages to hear when I use the wrong one. Oh, well - it was exciting understanding my first proper Chinese sentence, and I can now say "hello", "thank you" and "goodbye" in addition to my old arsenal of "go away", "draw swords" and "yes". Less likely to start a fight with a gang of Chinese ren-faire equivalents unintentionally this way.



This post will be about undercoating - that mysterious act of getting miniatures white or black before painting proper, also known as "priming". I've been stunned recently to learn that otherwise intelligent and reasonable people paint their miniatures without doing this. This is a bad idea. The paint will not stick properly, the pigment will take on a greyish tone from the plastic or metal of the miniature, colours will go flat, cats and dogs will rain from heaven. What I'm getting at is, it's a good idea to prime your miniatures. "But, guy, I don't have the space, I don't have a well-ventilated area to spray, I don't..." Well, you don't need to spray-prime 'em. Sure, the spray is better, but even just giving it a one-over with your brush, loaded with black or white, will function as a primer. It's not hard, and it gives a much better result, I'm sure you'll agree.

This is the Mimes of Moria Public Service Announcement System, signing off.

Aug 12, 2009

Clickipedia Count

In the spirit of this blog post, I'll now go clicking through Wikipedia, using the Random feature until I find a subject that interests me moderately, and then one which interests me a great deal. Let's count...

1. Skag (disambiguation)
2. Bluemont, Virginia
3. Simon Tanner
4. The Great Depression (book)
5. List of Lakes in South Africa
6. Piet Ooms
7. Jacaré River (Rio das Cinzas)
8. Pope Adrian V

After 8 clicks, we have our first mildly interesting page: Pope Adrian V, a seemingly totally unremarkable pope except for having the name of a little brother of a friend of mine.

Moving on:

9. Colman nepos Cracavist
10. Komanovo Municipality
11. Wrapping
12. The Tracking Satyrs
13. The Man Who Could Work Miracles

Lucky 13 - we have finally found a truly interesting page. The Man Who Could Work Miracles is a 1936 fantasy-comedy involving superpowers and the use of them, in the vein of Bruce Almighty.

I'm now gonna stop writing links, and start counting - we're going in for a long haul: We're gonna find one of my heartland interests in this manner!

*clickclickclickclick etc. etc.*

After 56 clicks, I found myself on the page of the Khwarezmian language. Hmmm, interesting... never heard of it before. An extinct language, killed by Islam, with a half-finished dictionary orphaned at the writer's death.

We're gonna go on.


D&D. Yes, click #58 took me to a D&D page - the first on here I might actually have searched out myself - Mimic (Dungeons & Dragons).

And, thus, our journey is over.

Aug 8, 2009

The Fourth Great King

Yesterday, I came across this:

YouTube - The Dark Lords of Hattusha.

It's quite interesting, isn't it? An entire superpower rises up, becomes recognized, and falls - and then is forgotten completely. "The empire that fell due to greed and arrogance" is a familiar theme for most of us, but most of us also kinda assume that any great superpower-empire would leave enough behind that it would be kinda hard to just forget all about. Well, not in this case - Hattusha left behind only just enough that after it was stumbled across by chance, a dedicated team of archaeologists spent the better part of a century learning anything about it.

And the "stumbled across by chance" part is also quite an accurate description - the only reason Hattusha was discovered was that 1) - a mysterious individual was named "Great King" by pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt, a title reserved for the leaders of Egypt, Ashuria and Babylonia but here used for somebody who was not, and 2) - a strange city of unusual dimensions was discovered in the mountains, far away from any location of interest or import.

Still - "Great King Hattie"?

Aug 5, 2009

Language Changes

I see it quite often - somebody uses a form that somebody else dislikes, and that somebody criticizes it, and yet another person comes in and says that the controversial form is, in fact, quite acceptable, because language changes. The answer is inevitably "Bullshit!"

The truth is, it does. Proof is easy enough to find - from the more obvious ones, such as "thee" and "thou" being gone, to the more subtle ones, such as the phrase "an apron" having become grammatically correct - the original form, of course, being "a napron", to go with "a napkin". I see the auto-correction even underlines the term "napron" with red, which illustrates quite remarkably quite how far this chane has gone, rendering the original completely unused except by nerds like me.

But that's not the only change - witness how the term "bridd" metamorphed into "bird", with the original form being extinct, or how the word "if" had lost its meaning of "since" entirely, which it retained long into the 1800s. Other changes is that once "silly" meant "blessed" and Buxom" "obedient". Try using them with this meaning now!

If thou no doubt hast payed Attention, being the buxom Reader that thou art, thou shouldst with no Problems discern the Truth: Language doth change.

Aug 3, 2009


WARNING! Rant follows!

Did you know I'm a member of the Church of Norway?

Neither did I. Nor dd my mother or my father, who are both non-members, my father being non-baptised, just like me, and my mother having withdrawn her membership decades ago, long before I was born. So why am I a member of the Church of Norway? I have my suspicions:


The Church of Norway has a habit of claiming more members than can be proven, because the Norwegian government gives out currency for every member of the Church of Norway. Apparently, His Chosen Spokespeople on Earth consider the Ten Commandments, specifically the one that goes "Thou Shalt Not Lie", to be secondary to the holy and righteous goal of earning some quick bucks. People like that make me sick. And the fact that I have tributed to their coffers, potentially for over two decades, makes me angry. This is theft of government money - or, more accuately, fraud. They lie, cheat and steal, and they've used me to do so.

A message to the Church of Norway: I'm not your member. I've never been your member. I never will be your member. So give that money back to the government, dammit! Or, even better, donate it to Habitat for Humanity, where it'll actually do some tangible good.

Rant over.


I have discovered the reason why I, and several other non-Christians, have been unpleasantly surprised in this manner - upon the establishment of a membership registry for the Church of Norway, as a "cost-cutting measure" - which I suspect was, at least in part, informed by the fact that they would then receive subsidy from the state - they didn't bother going to the church-books for their lists of parishioners, but instead quite simply used the Norwegian census. This means that, as of 1998, every single Norwegian citizen was officially a member of the Church of Norway unless they specifically withdrew their membership after this date. This includes people, like my mother, who had quite specifically withdrawn their memberships before this point in time. This is dishonest business practices at best, methinks. Do I smell a scandal in the making?

Aug 2, 2009

GW Price Differences

Yesterday, while browsing the Games Workshop homepage, I decided to give the localized Norwegian site a try. Lo and behold, it displays prices in NOK instead of £. Happily skipping along on this, I took a look at some products, and everything was peace and happiness. But something nagged at me, so I returned to the British version and looked up the same product I'd been viewing in the Norwegian site. Then I entered that into a currency converter, and looked at the Norwegian price. Then I did that for all the localized versions except for those within the Eurozone, where I only tested twice. The results:

Country - cost:
GB - 100%
US - 103%
SW - 111.5%
EU - 116.5%
NO & CA - 133.5%
DK - 137%
AU - 170.5%

The lesson? If you live outside GB, you pay more for the same stuff. Let's, however, look at the same product sold at a different site:

Maelstrom Games - 92%

The lesson is clear, and I've taken it to heart myself: Buy your stuff from independent online stockists, not from GW. Maelstrom Games is hardly alone in offering better deals than GW, though it is the one online stockist I personally can vouch for. There are only two cases where I still buy my stuff from GW: If Maelstrom doesn't carry it - which happens distressingly often - and if I want a specific model (Say, if I want Dark Elf Assassin #2, and Maelstrom only offers a random one). (Of course, if you poor, unlucky bastards live in Australia, even this much may be extravagancy. In that case, eBay also offers cheap and useable GW minis.)

"But, Somebody," you ask, "what about shipping?" Maelstrom Games apparently ships for free worldwide. Yeah, I know, I didn't believe it myself. But enough of the sounding like a Maelstrom Games shill for today.

RIP Warpstone

Warpstone, the independent Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP), announced in their last issue, issue 28, that issue 30 will be the last. This is bad news for the WFRP community, as the magazine is both well-written, informative and very interesting. I myself have had the misfortune of getting onto the bandwagon late, having missed most of their issues, but I have been greatly impressed by it - especially the recent article detailing the little-known Chaos Dwarfs and their even less well-known cousins, the Tainted Dwarfs, was excellent.

Best of luck to the magazine's editor, John Foody, and the rest of his staff.

Warpstone's sister web publication, Legion, looks like it's still going strong.

News and trivia - I do not guarantee the accuracy of the below, but I believe they are probably correct:

In other news, a mysterious white spot has been spotted on Venus - apparently not an uncommon occurence, but this time the ESA hopes to be able to analyze the spot and discover its make-up. [Source: ABC Nyheter]

Several vaccines against cancer are apparently nearing readiness, and may be available within the next 5 years.

It has been confirmed that heart cells do, in fact, regenerate, but only very slowly.

And a groundbreaking new design of wheelchair for children has been designed, intended for use by children below the age of 6. The design incorporates proximity sensors, in order to help the child avoid any crashes. [Source: Illustrert Vitenskap #11 2009]

Jul 31, 2009

Hiding Under the Table

Marking my return to properly updating this blog, I'll relate this story from my first-ever RPG campaign. I think it's funny, and I hope you'll agree.

The game was a Hunter scenario, where we were otherwise normal people with unsuspected paranormal abilities, which we rolled up randomly from a list of 20 at chargen, each getting two powers which the GM wouldn't reveal until we triggered them. We were a party of four - a secretive gunslinger with mafia connections, a gentleman butler with somewhat disconcerting hidden skills, a huge, tattooed Maori warrior and myself, a street doctor with kickass Kung Fu expertise - brought together by a mutually-distrusted employer for unclear reasons, and given tasks to perform. In this particular case, the mission was "Enter CEO Goldman's office, look for anything that can be used to incriminate him, and get out without raising a fuss." The plan was to dress up as the washing personnel, infiltrate the building, pick the lock to the office, rummage, and leave. Ah, well - the best laid plans...

We made it in without any problems, even getting so far as to making it to the second-highest level with only a single close call, but there we got stumped. Security in the "executive level" - the top floor - was top-notch, with cameras and all. There was no way we'd be able to sneak in. So we arranged to be let into the top floor by convincing the guards we had business there. No problem, they let us in, and we got to the door. It was locked, of course, but this was expected. What wasn't, however, was that the lock was electronic. Damn. And not one of us had the necessary electronics skills to open it. Well, never ones to be stumped, the butler organized a distraction by locking the Maori warrior into a room a few levels down, and calling security to get him out. Well, they did, and the butler took that chance to swipe the guard's keys, which he brought to me with the instruction to enter Goldman's office and take a look.

No problem, there. One of the keys worked, and I entered his office, where I proceeded to manage to guess the password of Goldman's computer correctly on the second try by inputting the signature from a child's drawing, something the GM hadn't expected. I discovered child porn on the guy's computer, which disgusted me enough to send off a quick mail to the police, from Goldman's computer, containing all the pictures I had found. I then deleted the original folder, and started downloading Goldman's C: drive onto a portable hard drive I'd brought with me. Then I took a drink from his bar.

And then I heard somebody start fiddling with the door. Oh, shit! I turned off the monitor, turned off the light, and hurried into an adjoining room in the hope of finding a hiding place.

A vain hope, it'd turn out - that room was a conference room, and all it contained was a conference table.


Footsteps in the main office - only one thing to do.
I hid under the table.

Somebody who were trying to be quiet were now walking through the main office, and I was hiding underneath the conference table. Then the footsteps stopped, then they started again, then the door slammed. I waited. No sound. I waited. No sound.

I crept out from underneath the table, and slowly, carefully, I crept over to the door and listened. No sound. Still. no needless risks, eh? I his underneath the table again.

The footsteps began again, even more quietly now, and this time they were moving towards the door, and then the person in the main office began opening the door - slowly, slowly. He entered the conference room, and stopped.

"What do you do?" the GM asked.

Well, what's there to do? I sat as still as I could, hoping the sneaky guy'd go away. Instead, he crouched down, brought a gun down into my field of view, and made as if to look under the table.

"What do you do?" he GM asked again.

"I crouch down, make myself as small a I can, make no sound, and I cross my fingers and try to make myself invisible."

There were 20 abilities. Each of us rolled up 2 random ones, not knowing which ones we got, and one of mine was . . . invisibility. The moment was perfect.

Jul 15, 2009

Science: The Verifiable and the Falsifiable

So, I got access, of sorts, to the internet - for now. There probably won't be many updates throughout the next weeks even so. However, I do have a thought I wanted to churn about a bit, so here goes:

I've been thinking once again, and it seems to me that science deals with two markedly different types of questions - the verifiable and the falsifiable. These aren't the only questions science concerns itself with, of course, but they are still interesting. They can be summed up thus: A verifiable question is either true or unproven, but can never be disproved, and a falsifiable question is either false or undisproved but can never be proven.

This is really quite obvious, if you think about it - does there exist one or more gods? This has never been proven, and never been disproved, but think about it - what is required to prove the existence of a god? An event that could under no circumstance take place in a universe without any gods - a miracle. How can it be disproved? By combing each and every Planck unit of space and detecting no trace of anything supernatural? But that wouldn't be good enough, would it? There could still exist the deist "watchmaker" god, non-interfering by nature. This question is thus verifiable, but not falsifiable. My hypothesis is that no such question can exist - if it can be verified, then it can't be falsified.

Then we have questions like "is the speed of light immutable?" - a question that can easily be disproved, by measuring the speed of light and finding it to be different in two or more cases. How can it be proven? By measuring the speed of light in every photon ever created throughout its entire lifespan, and even then it could simply be that the conditions necessitated for the light to alter speed hadn't arisen yet. Now, we know that the speed of light is mutable - among other things, it slows down significantly in conditions of extreme cold. This question is thus verifiable, but not falsifiable.

What's intriguing about this is that the two types of question lend themselves to a search for truth quite differently: a scientific hypothesis has to be falsifiable, and therefore can't be proven, ever - it can only be subjected to extremely rigorous testing and survive it all undisproved, in which case its status is elevated to "theory", which means that all facts seem to corroborate this explanation of events after rigorous testing; a verifiable question therefore can not be a scientific hypothesis or theory, but it still has its place in science - these are the vaunted "hard facts" that we base our worldviews around - the speed of light in a vacuum, etc.

This, of course, only applies to yes-no questions - if there can be any other answer than, "yes", "no" and "maybe", this doesn't apply. And, of course, science also involves multiple-choice.

If anybody can see any flaws in my logic, please post a comment and tell me.

Jul 7, 2009


This blog will be inactive for about a month due to vacation. If I find the opportunity to post, I will, of course, but it's unlikely. Despite the unfortunate timing, only two days after start-up, the blog will most likely continue to be updated according to the rigorous and demanding update scheme I outlined in the introduction.

Meanwhile, enjoy one of the web's most amusing webcomics: Darth and Droids.

Jul 6, 2009

The Order of Colors

One or two of the multitude of people (Read: Three. Including me) likely to ever read this line will probably have heard of a chap called Homer. Or a gal. Theories abound. Though (probably) illiterate, this bloke (/woman) wrote some works that have achieved a certain degree of recognition. Those of you familiar with shis writing may have noticed hes peculiar habit of referring to certain entities as being a color generally not associated with them, such as the ocean and sheep, which are both considered red, and the sky, which is described as bronze. Was the good gentleperson colorblind?

The answer is "maybe, maybe not, but if se was, eh would still likely use the right words". The reason why Homer described these things like seh did was because ancient Greek lacked several words for color, such as blue. In fact, Aristotle considered all colors to be variations on black and white, and separated between 7 nuances, meaning that he only recognized 7 out of the 12 basic colors (Black and white are here considered to be colors, even though they are technically not). English and Norwegian both recognize 11, the twelfth being light blue. Russian and Italian both recognize all 12.

There is an interesting pattern to this: Every single known natural language in the world contains between 2 and 12 basic color words, and these emerge in a very set pattern. Both English and Norwegian happen to recognize the same 11 basic colours, because every single known natural language that recognizes 11 basic colors recognizes the same 11. There are seemingly no exceptions to this. This is quite interesting. In fact, there is a specific, set pattern in which colors appear, and there appear to be no deviations from this. Every language has words for "dark" and "bright". These are the 2 basic colors, and evolve into white and black as the others emerge. The 3rd color to emerge is always red. Then follow green and yellow in no particular order, and when both exist, but not before, blue emerges. Wikipedia informs us that: "All languages distinguishing six colors contain terms for black, white, red, green, blue and yellow." [Color term, Wikipedia, (07 Jul 2009)]

All languages. That is quite significant. I'm normally loathe to use the term "all", as it is too unnuanced, but it seems to apply quite eminently in this case. Interesting, isn't it?

After this, brown is always the 7th color to emerge. Then follow, in no particular order, pink, purple, orange and grey - in fact, English only added the color orange in the 20th century, and it was earlier referred to a "yellow-red". The last color to emerge is azure, or light blue. This hasn't yet happened in Engish, but from now on I will personally endeavour to use it as much as possible.

The Wikipedia page on this subject contains a definition as to what constitutes a basic color term.

As of this post, I'm adding Wikipedia to my links.


This is an urgent message to all internet denizens: Visit! The link can be found in the right-hand bar, under "links". It is, I think, a fitting candidate for the first link I post, as it is my favorite web page. Do not be fooled by the name - it doesn't only revolve around TV. It also contains material on [deep breath] video games, movies, music, literature, comics, tabletop games, web fiction, web pages, culture, urban legends, mythology, newspapers and real-life events of interest.

The basic conceit is that of a wiki devoted to gathering all those things that you've seen happen over and over in different media - and in reality - and categorizing them in an amusing and informative fashion. Have you ever seen a villain proclaim a chain of completely unpredictable events to be "all part of my plan"? Have you ever walked away from the TV during a commercial break, only to suddenly think "Hey, that didn't make sense!" about something you just accepted ten minutes ago? Have you ever come across a depiction of Nazis with implausibly advanced technology? Then you're not alone.

It's generally a good read, but be warned: If you go in there to read a single page, be prepared for sudden realizations of "Oh my god, it's been 13 hours and I'm supposed to be at work ten minutes ago!"

False friends

Whatever learner of a foreign language hasn't been faced with a false friend or three? You know them: Words like poisson, gift or embarazada. I, myself, have made some... unusual remarks on occasion, owing to this (Did you know that Norwegian phrase "grei kar", pronounced almost exactly like the English phrase "grey car", means "nice guy"? Once upon a time, I made tha mistake in reverse).

While most of them may be chalked up to coincidence, some have a more interesting history, such as the Norwegian word "gift". This word, contrary to what you might expect, does not mean "present". Instead, it has two meanings - "married" and "poison". Once upon a time, however, it apparently did mean "present" - but then it came into use as a euphemism for poison, and the original meaning was lost. Its use for "married", I can not account for, despite the claim of certain less-than-grave accounts that it came from the meaning of "poison".

The Norwegian word for divorced, "skilt", also means "signpost". This, however, is derived from the verb "å skille", meaning "to separate", while in the meaning of "signpost" it is apparently derived from the Norse word for "shield".

"Skill", meaning "separate", is another false friend, with the English "skill". And the English "poison" is a false friend with the French "poisson", meaning "fish"

Some more false friends:
En. "stock" and No. "stokk" - n, stick
En. "mat" and No. "mat" - n, food
En. "fan" and Sw. "fan" - n, Satan
Ger. "öl" - n, oil and Sw. "öl" - n, beer
Sw. "rolig", adj. fun and No. "rolig", adj, calm
Sw. "artig", adj. polite and No. "artig, adj, amusing
En. "recommended" and No. "rekommandert" - v, returned to sender
En. "fag" and No. "fag" - n, subject of study or specialization

And many, many more.