The Latest COVID-19 Variant #scotland

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s science. I don’t normally discuss serious matters on this blog, but this warrants it.

May be an image of ‎text that says '‎OMG! ن The SCOTTISH VARiANT. At least you can hear it coming.‎'‎

There’s no hope for any of us.

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The Ixitxachitl Lich #science #biology #gaming #DnD #ADnD #ixitxachitl

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s (loosely) using science to imagine a D&D creature.

Funny story. I never thought I’d ever be able to spell ixitxachitl, and only recently did it stick in my brain. Now I can spell it at will. Small victories, huh?

Now, someone stat this thing.

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to, nor endorsed, the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

The Old Dangling a Cord from a Helicopter Trick #science #physics

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Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s some science from one of my favorite YouTube channels.

For the record, I got the first and third ones correct.


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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to, nor endorsed, the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Character Aging in First Edition AD&D #ADnD #DnD #RPG #biology

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I’m going to take you down the same rabbit hole my mind entered while gradually waking up one recent morning. Most (if not all) gamers have encountered those online quizzes that tell you what D&D class you are in real life. I’ve always been of the mindset that I’m probably best characterized as a monk. I’ve trained a lot in the martial arts, starting when I was 14 (almost four decades ago), and every online alignment test has pegged me as lawful good or lawful neutral (very heavy on law). All of that checks out, which is unsurprising considering I’m answering the questions about myself (which means my biases must creep in). I feel like I might be a bad monk because I wouldn’t consider my Wisdom score my maximum, but that’s my skill set. Of course, you have to suspend some disbelief here either way. We’re translating classes into a real world that doesn’t enjoy the effects of magic.

But even considering that translation, what concerned me the most is that, while my knowledge of that hobby continues to improve, my body can’t keep up. I’m old, and that’s no small matter. Everything is always injured. Usually, it’s just a strain or something like that, but at times I’ve had to take weeks off to recover, even having had my first surgery ever at age 51 a couple years ago.

Aging in 1e

All of that got me thinking about how much I like the aging rules from page 13 of the 1e DMG, but not the aging rules from page 12. On the one hand, I like the idea that characters’ ability scores change as they age. It’s yet another tool that promotes immersion in the game world, and anyone who’s read this blog knows how much I prefer that play style. On the other hand, I don’t like that age is determined randomly. These two positions create a tension. Players can game the system, setting, for example, a cleric as age, mature, to boost Strength and Wisdom by 1 with no downside. In fact, other than a magic user or illusionist who’d likely go with middle aged, what character wouldn’t benefit from that?

If the DM has draconian character creation guidelines (e.g., 3d6 assigned in order, or even slightly better ones), the characters are sometimes going to have some terrible scores, and if the scores can’t be assigned out of order, perhaps scores that prohibit playing the class the player wants to play. In such a situation, gaming the system may make an unplayable character playable, so it’s not a bad thing after all. However, in my game world, the characters will roll 4d6 dropping the lowest, and assigning in whatever order they want, so the danger of overpowered characters is greater.

Because I don’t want their ages rolled randomly, I’ll probably require that the scores as rolled stay as they are, but perhaps create my own schedule of ability score changes due to aging. I’ve noticed that imbalance in minor things like this often go unnoticed by game designers, resulting in design elements with either a benefit or a drawback, but not both (c.f., the 4e Invoker’s own powers always harming itself without any extra harm delivered to its target). No matter what I do, I’ll keep this 1e DMG rule on page 13: “The only ability which may exceed 18 due to age effects (unless age restricts this) is wisdom.”

A few days after writing this post, MerricB tweeted something relevant:

Which I’m only now publishing. I’m way ahead of schedule.

I don’t have any problem with optimism, but this is a game system, so gains in Wisdom should be accompanied by losses elsewhere, even if they make just as little sense as a rule.

Who says I don’t have an 18 Constitution?

If you’ve had a different experience from what I suggest here, please share your thoughts.

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Vegas, 2021, Part 2 of 3: The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay #Vegas #travel

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Every year without a new pandemic, I go to Las Vegas for blackjack. They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but that’s not really a problem for me. I usually don’t even drink when I’m there. This year was a little different, but still not worth hiding anything. These posts are an assortment of photos and videos from the Vegas Strip. Most of the videos are from an aquarium I visited. The images are pretty big, so if you blow them up, you should still get good resolution.

I always stay and gamble at MGM properties. My credit card doesn’t get me gas credits or airline miles; it gets me gambling comps, so everything but tips are paid for because I paid my car insurance bill, got gas, or bought food at the grocery store. The comps really add up, so I use that card for everything I possibly can. I started the trip with $1,327 in available comps ($200 added just for reserving the room, so you can get those), and that was before I sat down at a blackjack table to gamble.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

Shark Reef

Normally, I don’t do much more than eat, sleep, and gamble, but I added this stop to my itinerary on Wednesday. Here are a bunch of pictures and videos presented in the order I took them (to the best of my recollection). There’s a small bit of commentary, but these are mostly just for your viewing pleasure.

Gator? Caiman? I didn’t read the placard.

This next one freaked me out. Mostly, he kept his eyes closed but occasionally opened them. I caught him with eyes opened. Seemed annoyed.

Komodo Dragon

This one was just weird looking. I thought it looked prehistoric, so it was worth a photo.

Next up is the touch pool. You’re permitted to reach into the water (maybe 1-1/2 feet deep) and, using only your index finger, lightly stroke the rays or horseshoe crabs. These were clearly juveniles based on size.

This guy was gooey.

At this point, I realized I should be taking videos rather than taking pictures.

Why haven’t these turtles been eaten?

What the hell is the evolutionary basis for developing a saw-like appendage?

What the hell is the evolutionary basis for developing a hammer-like snout?

Tomorrow, the entire post will be dedicated to a single locale: The Millennium Fandom.

I love Vegas.

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Why Explore Space? @tweetsauce #math #space #biology

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Vsauce had once again popped into my stream, but this time I’m not sharing this video for its primary theme. I point you to the end; specifically the 17:41 mark.

To summarize, as neanderthals grew in numbers, they moved outward but always stopped when they reached a significant geographical barrier, such as an ocean, sea, or mountain range. Homo sapiens seems to have seen such barriers as challenges, so we pushed forward.

My favorite quote is often attributed to the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, but he got it from Calvin Coolidge. It’s relevant here and #1 on this list.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

So, what’s the point? Many have asked why space travel is worth the expense in such trying economic times. Most scientist give a terrible answer, reducing our need to explore to a mere psychological curiosity. Here’s the better answer: It’s because our persistence and need to explore is our best means of survival. An easy way to think about this is that our population and individual gluttony continue to grow, but our planet’s space and resources don’t. The barrier we face in dealing with this problem is far more imposing than any ocean, and focusing on our gluttony (as so many do) will only delay the inevitable. Evolution always requires that we are in a constant state of pushing forward, and that means addressing colonization of space sooner rather than later. Press on!

Don’t be a neanderthal.

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Reactive Centrifugal Force (Actually, Language [Actually, Me Being a Pain in the Ass]) #physics #science #language #pita

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Here’s a random memory triggered by an unrelated Facebook post I read.

When I was a physics major, one of my professors, referencing a carnival ride, actually said, “Centrifugal force doesn’t exist. What you’re experiencing is centripetal force pushing you in.”

I responded, “But if centripetal force exists, doesn’t Newton’s Third Law of Motion demand that centrifugal force also exist? Wouldn’t that be the force your body exerts back on the wall?”

Boy, was he pissed. Of course he knew that the “reactive centrifugal force” existed. This is the force that you exert on the wall in reaction to the wall pushing you towards the center. It’s a very real force. However, even back then, I was killing people for linguistic imprecision. I couldn’t help it. It was a legitimate question brought on by a quirk in how physicists label these topics.

“Centrifugal force” is used differently from “reactive centrifugal force,” which is stupid. All forces have a reactive counterforce, so why qualify it as “reactive”? Unfortunately, that’s the linguistic convention, but when you say “centrifugal force doesn’t exist,” it misleads people who otherwise have a grasp on what you’re teaching. Physics professors should make it clear that there is an outward force, but we experience a misperception that this outward force is acting on us. In fact, the outward force is acting on the wall (or whatever is forcing you to take a curved path). Without “reactive” modifying it, “centrifugal force” refers to the misperception rather than the very real force.

If you want more details on the physics, here’s a relatively short lecture on this topic (about 12-1/2 minutes), though it doesn’t discuss the issue I’m raising here. In fact, it makes the same mistake. I originally provided a paragraph explaining some concepts the lecture takes for granted, but that paragraph would probably have made things worse. 🙂

You may have expected this to be about science, or language, but it was really about me being a pain in the ass.

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The Squeaky Wheels: A Lesson in #Anecdotal Experience @Erik_Nowak #movie #statistics

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On April 3, 2020, I posted my observations made during the quarantine watch party of Shazam. During a resultant discussion on Facebook, I referenced haters of the film, to which my friend, Erik, responded, “I’m sure they’re out there, but I can’t think of anyone in my real life who saw it and didn’t like Shazam.” My impression is that people hated the film, but Rotten Tomatoes says otherwise: critics at 90%, and audience at 82%. This reminded me of a nearly identical conversation with Erik about District 9, and Rotten Tomatoes tells the exact same story: critics at 90%, and audience at 82%. (I’m going to try not to get distracted by how weird of a coincidence all of this is.)

Sometimes when I post about a movie, all I get are negative reactions. Sometimes all I get are positive reactions. In either case, I don’t really know whether I should view the movie in question as a guilty pleasure or myself as one of the sheeple. (Reign of Fire remains a guilty pleasure at 42%/49%.) Our Facebook and Twitter streams provide relatively small amounts of data and aren’t random sources. There’s too much commonality in our respective audiences, especially considering that, even if you feel you’re open-minded, you probably live in a bubble. I’m not just talking about political bubbles, but also social bubbles defined by hobbies and such.

Don’t let the squeaky wheel dictate your worldview. Take it for what it is: sometimes thought-provoking but rarely dispositive of anything important. You may make a mistake far greater than this one.

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Follow Erik Nowak @Erik_Nowak