Thursday, December 21, 2006

News of the Weird

Check out this story of a Japanese man who survived 24 days in cold weather without food or water. Apparently, he went into hibernation. Besides being amazing in its own right, the story seems to imply that suspended animation in humans is quite possible. Cold passage for long voyages through space? Maybe.

Elsewhere on the BBC: a woman with two wombs gives births to triplets (here) and a lizard experiences a virgin birth (here).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Holiday Update

I'm very excited that the holidays are almost here. There is something special about experiencing Christmas with a young child. Last week when we were decorating our Christmas tree, our son finally overcame his fear of the large green monster that we had just brought in from the "outside world" and started to grasp the concept of placing ornaments on the tree. Of course, for him ornament and toy were pretty much the same thing. But it was all very cute. And though he's still too young to grok Santa Claus and the whole spectacle of Christmas commercialism, it will be nice to be there when he's forming his earliest Christmas memories. Giving him the chance to see the extended family will be especially nice.

These past few week have been crazy -- gee, what else is new? Mommy and child have been sick. Since daddy has escaped this round, I'm wondering if it was what I had before and after the marathon. Having to stay home to take care of the little boy has been hard, though it has provided a few more days that I could use for Christmas shopping. Alas, those extra days haven't helped all that much. I still feel like a shopping incompetent. After four years, I still don't think I've mastered the art of buying gifts for my wife. Toy shopping for the boy is easy. Attempting to buy smelly soaps, clothing, or jewelry for the wife is another matter entirely.

In other news, we completed our most recent Slaying Solomon episode. The previous time we attempted Dungeon Crawl, yours truly came down with an asthma attack and we had to break for a trip to the emergency room. Wow, that was embarrassing. I haven't had an attack like that since I was about 10. Weird how I can run a marathon suffering from a respiratory infection and I can't be in the same room as a couple cats for more than a few hours.

Anyway, I hope we can wrap the fourth season by summer... when baby #2 is due to arrive! Yep, my wife is expecting. I'm more than a little apprehensive about having another child. Having one is hard enough! But we really wanted two children, so I'm sure we'll find a way to adapt. It will be hard at first, but it should get easier as the children grow older.

Friday, December 08, 2006


In an effort to squeeze more productivity out of my limited personal time, I have been looking for software that could organize my creative process. I experimented with mind maps like The Brain and eventually settled on KeyNote, which I have been using successfully for over two years. But what I have really been looking for is what I just found over at Lifehacker. TiddlyWiki (and it's GTD TiddlyWiki variant) promises to be just what the doctor ordered. I'm hoping to use to organize all my RPG development and it looks especially promising for keeping track of convulted continuities. My only concern is that my file will collapse under the weight of everything that I hope to put into it.

The 'Verse in the Multiverse

Rumor (wired, slashdot, scifi wire) has it that the beloved TV show Firefly is about to reborn as a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game. Shiny! Of course, I'm a bit wary. Most games based on licensed properties invariably suck (like Matrix Online). But there is a sliver of hope. Maybe I'll actually have time to play this one when it comes out. Then again, probably not.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

And You Thought Tear Gas Was Bad...

Wired has just posted an article about a new *non-lethal* weapon that is about to go into service in Iraq. Eeek. I'd hate to be caught in the path of one these suckers. of course, it beats getting your head shot off. More details of the testing on US civilians here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Single Parent Blues

My wife is in Europe for the week and it's time for me to experience life as a single parent. My wife's been traveling a lot throughout the fall, but this is the longest trip by far. More importantly, it's the first time she's been gone for two consecutive weekends. Weekends are doubly difficult because without extended family to help out, I basically don't have any time for myself (except for a short time after the little boy goes to sleep).

That being said, this weekend was an excellent time to bond with my son. With excellent weather, we made two trips into the District. The boy's too young to really appreciate museums just yet, but I was able to meet up with out-of-town friends who also have children. And having just started walking within the last few weeks, my son was having a ball wandering around the American Indian Museum. Today, we had even more fun at the zoo. Since I didn't have to worry about anybody else keeping up, I was able to quickly motor his stroller to all the big animals that I know he'd appreciate (and little animals too... he loved the small mammal house).

Alas, there is a still a part of me that is struggling with the demands of parenthood. Even with my wife home, I've lost most of the time I used to use for creativity. I find that I'm having a really hard time finding the time/energy to prepare for games, do personal technical projects, blog, and even continue studying my Chinese (which, I'm sorry to say, I haven't touched in months).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Will It Blend?

Just because I haven't posted something goofy in a while... check out the extreme blending at Blendtec.

File It Under Adventure

Ok, it's taken me almost a week but I think I've finally recovered from last Saturday's Richmond Marathon. As I had previously mentioned, I had been quite sick over the preceding two weeks. But the race seemed to start well anyway. At the half-way mark, I was flying along ahead of my goal pace. The weather was cool and the course was beautiful. But then the sun came out and my respiratory infection started to catch up on me. At the 20 mile mark, I was about 3 minutes off my best 20 mile training run. The remainder of the race was pure, utter hell. But I finished and I finished well, all things considered. My total place was 90th of 2918 (I had previously thought it was 89th but someone chipped in ahead of me, even though I finished first). I finished 80th among men and 18th in the 35-39 age group. Best of all, I qualified for the Boston Marathon. Now, I just need to decide if I'm going to run it in 2007.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Living On Borrowed Time

I am supposed to be running the Richmond Marathon tomorrow. I was going to run it last year, but I sustained a leg injury several weeks before the race and was unable to run. This year, my training has been going extraordinarily well. Just three weeks ago, I ran my last 20 mile training run at nearly race pace (too fast, according to Hal Higdon's program, but I felt really good). Then, as if the Fates couldn't possibly let things get too easy, my entire family came down with a really, really nasty cold (possible RSV). I've been feeling marginally better in the last few days. I ran 6 fast miles two days ago and spent about 10 minutes coughing afterwards. But i finally feel like I just might be able to run after all. This morning's easy two-miler felt comfortable... least until I was hit by a car!

Yes, I was hit by a car this morning. I was running across an intersection about two blocks from my house and thought this guy saw me. Obviously, he didn't. As he blew through the stop sign, I had to vault the hood of his car. It happened almost in slow motion. The whole time I wasn't thinking about serious injury. I was just thinking, "Crap! I have my race tomorrow!"
Well, it looks like I'm ok. I wound up on the curb with my heart racing a hundred miles an hour. But I don't feel any i pain. The guy was obviously very freaked out and he gave me all his contact information. But I really think we both escaped a potentially bad situation - serious injury for me and a whole host legal troubles for him.

So I will be running tomorrow. Hopefully, I'm done with my pre-race scares.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mice and the Fountain of Pinot Noir

As a follow up to this post on caloric restriction in monkeys, there has been a swirl of media coverage on the recent study of the effects of resveratrol (found in red wine) on mice with "McDonalds diets". Apparently, it seems to mimic the effects of caloric restriction in mammals. Studies on humans can't be too far off. More details can be found in this CNN article.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dresden Dolls

Other than a nasty cold that seems to be holding the entire family hostage, things have been good around here. Good, but very busy. Blogging has fallen down on my list of priorities. But I did want to mention that this past weekend, Christy and I celebrated our fourth anniversary by going to see the Dresden Dolls in Philly. I have only recently discovered the band, though they've been on my radar for a while. Essentially, they can be described as Cabaret-Punk. They consist of a woman who sings and plays piano and a man who plays drums and sometimes guitar. The music is great, but their live performances are really what makes them special. There are true performers who try to make shows special with dancer, costumes, and audience participation. They don't just get on stage and play music. And they have this amazing sex appeal that is kind of hard to describe. Anyway, if you get the chance, I do recommend that you check them out.

Immortal Monkeys

Here is a great article from the New York Times about slowing the effects of aging through caloric restriction. Because actual caloric restriction might be too difficult for most people, scientists are now working on drugs that mimic the effects. One researcher in the article estimated that with the help of such drugs, humans could have 112 healthy years and some might even reach 140.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


News item from the RPG Blog...
Looks like the folks at Eden Studios have not been able to secure a renewal of their Buffy/Angel license with Fox. That sucks. The Buffy RPG was a very well done product and it is a shame that this is effectively the end of the line. Of course, it won't really effect our long-running BtVSRPG series, Slaying Solomon . I haven't bought a new Eden release since the excellent Magic Box. There just hasn't been a need. Since we are not constrained by licensing agreements, Slaying Solomon still has plenty of life left in it (at least a season or so more).

Get Out Your Tinfoil Hats

Ok, I have a confession to make. I haven't been all that worried about electronic voting so far. But my office-mate is convinced that the door has been left wide open for election fraud on a major scale. This article over at Ars Technica (found via Slashdot) has pretty much convinced me that he is right. My only hope is that we'll be safe this election because it is too soon for hackers to exploit the numerous security holes. But something will have to be done soon. Will it take the discovery of fraud to fix the system? 

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Coolest... Whiteboard...Evar

Check out this MIT whiteboard demo over at Digital Journal. Seriously, I said whiteboard demo. It's so cool that it caused me to return from my blogging absence (forced by some major computer recovery and a nasty schedule) to tell you about it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Spaceship For The Rest Of us

There's a preview of Virgin Galactic's new commercial space program over at Besides showing off the cool aesthetic, the article reveals some really interesting tidbits:
  • Test flights should begin late next year.
  • Spaceship 2's passenger seats will rotate to provide the best angle for absorbing the high-G ride.
  • The White Knight 2 mothership will have an identical cabin and will be used for passenger training flights (by that, I assume the mean "vomit comet" rides).
  • Flights will feature 5 minutes of weightlessness.
  • Virgin plans to offer lotteries and a reality TV show to provide access for those of us who can't afford the $200,000 price tag. (Woot!)
  • Virgin eventually hopes to develop the technology for orbital flight and 1-hour London-Sydney flights.

And on the subject of X-Prize technology (Spaceship 1 won the X-Prize for commercial spaceflight last year), there's a new X-Prize for genetic research. The Archon X-Prize will pay out $10,000,000 to the team that is the first to decode 100 human genomes in 10 days. Furthermore, the X-Prize foundation plans to announce two new prizes per year starting in 2007.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm Still Here (Mostly)

I've been super busy as of late. My wife has been out of town most every day in the last few weeks, so I'm starting to feel like a single parent. As a result, I'm accumulating a back-log of things that I want to blog about. Of course, I don't even have time for a detailed post right now. Juggling getting Finley to daycare, marathon training, and getting to work on time in the morning has been difficult at best. To manage, I have to get to sleep by 9:45 or so.
Briefly, I did want to mention that I had an amazing weekend of gaming... not this past weekend but the weekend before that. Wow, I really am overdue for a post. Anyway... on Thursday the 21st, we finished our Risus Dragonspire game. It took three hours, but we did it. Boy, did it go out with a bang! Now if only I could find time to post the final update...
On Saturday the 23rd, we had one of our best Slaying Solomon episodes in a long time. Fortunately, I'm not on the hook for the writeup. But A Woman Scorned went so well that I definitely want to let everyone know when Jodi posts the episode summary.
Finally, we had a very good D20 Dragonspire game on Sunday the 24th. We were missing two of our players, which sucked, but we did manage to finish the first story arc. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I reach story breaks in my games. Again, I hope to post updates before our next session (Oct 22?).
In other news, Christy and I finally saw Massive Attack! I've been waiting years to see them and the September 29th show at the 930 Club was fabulous. It's so rare that the two of us can get out now, especially with the cost of babysitters. I was almost starting to forget what it was like. To bad the smoking ban hasn't kicked in yet... maybe I'm getting old, but the fog of cigarette smoke was the only thing that made the night less-than-perfect.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Silly, But I'd Still Love to Live There

A friend of mine tipped me off to this little development in Oregon: The Shire. Ok, so maybe living there would feel a bit like becoming a permanent resident of Disneyland. But hey, it still resonates strongly with my inner nerd. Thank goodness I don't live in Oregon (otherwise I'd be seriously tempted).
The sit has other uses. I love to gather floor plans for gaming purposes, and this site has a bunch of cool pseudo-medieval houses and town homes that might be appropriate for some cinematic fantasy games that aren't so firmly grounded in historical accuracy (like Dragonspire, for example).

Microsoft Office

No, not the business software. It's David Brent from the BBC's Office giving tips to Microsoft UK. Get it on Google video while you still can.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Time For A Photo Update

More pictures from Finn's first birthday start here.
Aside: Somebody needs to invent a way to squeeze four more hours of work into a day. I have a bazillion things that I'd like to post and no time to do it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

His Majesty's Dragon

I just completed the third book of Naomi Novik's new Temeraire series. For those of you who are unfamiliar, they tell the story of an alternate Napoleonic war... but with dragons! Think Master and Commander meets Dragonriders of Pern. The amazing Ken Hite sums up my thoughts on the books: "I hope the books sell in their millions; Novik has truly hit the sweet spot between lame and recondite where All Is Forgiven."
And good news for Temeraire fans. Peter Jackson of LOTR fame has just secured the rights to the books. He describes his interest in the book in this interview over at AICN .

Friday, September 08, 2006

GM Concept Car (Hydrogen Powered)

From my friend Steve...

Check out this video of a GM concept car that is
hydrogen powered.

Pity that we will have to wait 10-20 years to see
something like this go into production.

Wow, finally something interesting coming out of Detroit.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More Medical Hype

This article in The Independent makes a convincing case that a new technique called RNA interference is about to revolutionize medicine. Of course, there is always some major breakthrough knocking on the door. Something as revolutionary as antibiotics is hard to imagine... but not impossible. We seem to be about due for such an advance. Stem cells and gene therapy all hold similar promise, but this new technique may beat them to the punch.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Out of Town

Just a quick update from Michigan...

We're here visiting friends and family and tomorrow we will be celebrating Finn's first birthday (about a week early). The little boy is having a great time exploring his grandparents' houses but he could probably do without all the car-seat time. Mommy and daddy are having fun as well (and yippee, they were able to go to a Michigan football game for the first time in ages).
We'll be back in VA soon. Look for more updates then.

Monday, August 28, 2006

More Photos

Our boy has only been crawling for about three weeks now, but wow... he sure seems to be growing up fast. We have new photos posted here (the first since the beginning of summer). Not to be missed: "When Frogs Attack (And Little Boys Fght Back)". I'm also very fond of the shot of me and Finley at the zoo.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Long Overdo Dragonspire Update

We're having our fourth session of Dragonspire (Dungeons & Dragons version) on Sunday. It's been a while since I last updated the site and it's been weighing on me. So I finally bit the bullet and posted up-to-date session logs and character sheets. It might seem like I'm excessively anal, but I like having up-to-date character information for the players in case anybody leaves their sheet at home. The session summaries help me (and the players) keep the continuity straight.
We had another Risus Dragonspire session last night. That game is going well, but it is so painfully slow to play online. I'll post updates over at the Risus Monkey sometime before the next session.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Nerd Post Backlog

Since I've been too busy for daily posting, I've been accumulating a bunch of cool science/geek-related tidbits that I had been meaning to share. Quickly (because I'm at lunch and need to get back to work), here is what I found:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

GenCon Update

Well, I'm back. GenCon 2006 compared very favorably to GenCon 2005. It did seem to have a different vibe, though. Perhaps it was because I knew so many ENWorlders going in this time? Perhaps it was because I just knew what to expect? I dunno, but it did seem more relaxed (odd, since I hardly slept).

Unlike last year, I stuck with ENWorld pickup games and only paid for one event: True Dungeon (fun, as always). This years crop of games are described on this thread over at ENWorld. On Thursday morning, I played an antisocial government agent in Buttercup's Damnation Decade. The game was fun, but it did result in a Total Party Kill (TPK). Thursday night was time for Rel's brilliant Sky Galleons of Mars. I played Tex as a hyperactive hick last year, but I believe that I had more fun playing the imperturbable Captain Umbridge this time around. Friday morning's game was Old One's outstanding Blood Alter of Wodan (Grim Tales). As Leudonus, I finally got to play the brick and had a blast wading through Saxon mooks. Saturday's Risus game was cancelled (on account of a very late night TBR excursion), but I was very honored to be a part of PirateCat's all-star game of Mutants & Masterminds: Antiheroes. As "Killswitch", I was supposed to be the smartest man in the world. I fear I didn't do him justice, but I was just happy to bask in the "perfectness" of all the other player characters. I was especially fond of Kisnit's Migraine and the amazing exchange between PirateCat and KidCthulhu as Knockout's clueless parents. Finally, there was Alenda's Halfling Musketeers game. Of all the games, I may have had the most pure fun in this one. As the party swashbuckler in a swashbuckling game, I was able to pull of some really sweet moves. And playing alongside PirateCat really made my con.

Beyond the gaming, I will say that once again, I was inspired by the people I met and saw. On the one hand, I observed every negative stereotype one would associate with gamers. The people made me thankful that I am fit, healthy, successful, and have an exciting life outside gaming. On the other hand, most of the people I interacted with were fantastically cool people who inspired me in so many ways to be a better person.

In the dealer hall, I was happy to come away with only a few purchases (I spent way too much in the previous years). This year's purchase was limited to a onesie for my son, some new dice, and Qin: The Warring States. The later is a fantastic wuxia game set in late Iron Age China, just as it was being unified for the first time. I don't know if I'll ever use the rules (which do look very playable), but I certainly hope to use the setting at some point, even if it is just for one-shots or dimension-hopping games. The book is absolutely loaded with excellent historical information about ancient China (which dovetails nicely with my studies of Chinese). It also doesn't hurt that the book is really, really handsome.

Lastly, I will also say that were were blessed with fantastic weather, which made my two marathon training runs very enjoyable. For some reason, I find Indianapolis to be a really cool city. I've known about the canal walk since my first year, but this year I discovered the trails along the river (one of which skirts the edge of the zoo).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I'm heading off to GenCon. I'll post an update shortly after I get back.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Vat Brains

Another genre convention is the idea of a brain in a jar. A related item is the vat brain computer, a computer composed of biological material rather than conventional silicon. This article in Wired described how scientists are actually playing around with primitive versions of these "animats". What is especially cool about this research is that they will help us understand the underlying cortical algorithms, which will be useful in treating brain disorders and building thinking machines.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More Sci-Fi Tech First Seen In Games

Anybody remember GDW's 2300 AD? I had both versions, as well as the space combat board game. While I loved the setting I never actually got to play it. I've never been able to get a science-fiction game off the ground (not counting cyberpunk), probably because I was intimidated by the scale (and too fond of swashbuckling melee combat). But I did love the hard science-fiction setting. Aside from the obligatory faster-than-light breakthrough (which was handled particularly well), most of the tech was based on conservative extrapolations of existing technology. If anything, these extrapolations were too conservative, but that just made the setting feel that much cooler. It was possibly the only RPG setting that came close to capturing that Aliens feel.
Why bring up 2300 AD? Well, I remember that they had this soft body armor that would harden upon impact by kinetic energy weapons. This article in Business Week talks about how it may soon become reality.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Dragonlance Movie?

Here's an odd bit of geek news, courtesy of RPG Blog. Apparantly, there is going to be an animated Dragonlance movie. I'm skeptical, especially considering some of the names in the cast (Keifer Sutherland as Raistlin?), but they do have an official site that looks rather official. We'll see...
But it would be pretty darn cool, if it were done right. And the fact that it is animated means that the curse of the previous Dungeons & Dragons movies can hopefully be averted. I have fond memories of the initial trilogy and I owned most of the original modules. I loved the feel of world and the characters seemed to resonate with me some how. and my current Dragonspire campaign is inspired, in part, by the original trilogy. Alas, I never read the subsequent Raistlin and Caramon series (mostly because they were my two least favorite characters). But perhaps I'll catch up before the movie comes out?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Quantum Leap

Today's tech news brings us a fascinating (and very optimistic) article about the future of computing in Fortune magazine. I can't get enough of this stuff, even though most of the predictions are nothing new. A companion article on Googling the Brain is also at Fortune.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Geek Humor

Inspirational Posters for the Geeks:
To quote Homer Simpson: "It's funny because it's true."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Amazing Screw-On Head

Based on a comic by Mike Mignola, the Amazing Screw-On Head will be appearing soon on the Sci Fi Channel. The pilot will run on July 27th and, theoretically, the show will get picked up if it fares well. You can also watch this "hilarious send-up of Lovecraftian horror and steampunk adventure" at their webite, which I highly recommend. Of course, I'm a sucker for anything that is "hilarious", "Lovecraftian", and "steampunk". It also has Mike Mignola's wonderful aesthetic and some wickedly cool lines (like "he was abducted by two horrible old women and a monkey").

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ENNie Award Nominations

As a nominee for last year's ENNie Awards for Slaying Solomon, I feel it is my duty to help spread the word about this year's ballot. The nominees can be reviewed here and you don't need to register to vote here. If you are like me, you may not be terribly familiar with many of this year's nominees. Fortunately, many samples have been provided. Hmm, I think I need to free up some funds for a few of these excellent products.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dragonspire Update

We had a great session of D20 Dragonspire last Sunday. I've been meaning to write about it, but I had been hoping to update the site content first. I haven't posted a session summary yet, but I have started work on the character pages. More characters will follow as the players give me their updated sheets.

I am quite pleased with how my first Dungeons & Dragons campaign has started. The action has been fast and furious, thanks in large part to my use of character cards for organizing combat stats and initiative order. I've also set in motion (what I hope to be) an epic plot based on the five chromatic dragon types (if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you are not a D&D geek...move along). Originally, my intent was to run this epic plot with the online Risus Dragonspire group, but it is flat-out impossible to cover enough ground in online play (even using Risus). My revised goal is to have the face-to-face group cover the main plot, with the online group creating some important background events.

I'm also having a good time with adventure design. D&D provides a lot of built-in-structure, which is kind of liberating for someone who is used to much more open-ended systems. It's ridiculously easy to scale encounters and balance the awards given to each player character (though the baby dragon that the party has found has complicated that... more on that in future updates).

One final note: I can't recommend Tact-Tiles highly enough. A good grid system seems to be a requirement for D&D. Tact-Tiles are much easier to manage than a conventional Battlemat.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Inflatable Space Hotels?

Hotel mogul Robert Bigelow is looking for ways to expand his business... into space! Check out this article about the launch of a prototype of his inflatable orbital hotel module. His goal is to have a space hotel by 2015. That would make me 45 and not even old enough to claim a seniors discount. How cool is that?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Baby Robots

Today's tech-related item comes from MIT. Specifically, it's a followup to this post about Professor Deb Roy's experiments on raising children. According this article and this NPR story, MIT has a baby robot named Ripley. This robot is learning about it's (limited) world in (apparently) the same manner has a human child would. Listen to the NPR story, it's fascinating. It makes me wonder what kind of AI architecture they are using and if Jeff Hawkins' theories could be put to this kind of test.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

D20 Dragonspire

I'm in the process of creating a D20 Dragonspire site to support our new Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The site has actually been up for a while, but I'll (hopefully) be adding last session's summary and character info before tomorrow's session. The online Risus Dragonspire campaign is still chugging along nicely, though we did miss last Thursday's game.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ooo, More Maps!

A friend pointed me towards another great RPG map resource. contains many top-quality maps for the HârnWorld setting and they could easily be adapted to other fantasy worlds.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ooo, Maps!

The coolest thing about the Wizards of the Coast D&D site is that they make their art and maps available for download. Thanks to them, I have a whole database of maps that I can use for my games. Check out this example gallery from their Mysteries of Moonsea supplement.

D20 GM Cards

Getting ready for my second session of D20 Dragonspire (site pending the completion of all PCs), I have started making use of a wonderful resource from The Other Game Company . They have kindly made their Blank D20 Cards able to be edited and saved with the free Acrobat reader. This is going to save me a huge amount of time. D&D/D20 really benefits from index cards for player characters and NPCs (for initiative and general reference). I was going to do it all by hand, but TOGC have saved me the trouble. Their well-formatted and printer-friendly  SRD handouts are really handy as well.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cyberwear Breakthrough

I haven't posted cool tech items for a while, mostly due to my reduced Internet access. But this item on BBC news is cool enough to break my silence. Researchers have found a way to attach bionic limbs directly to bone. This will (someday) allow the cyberwear to be controlled directly by the nervous system,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Behold The Shatner!

Check out this clip of Shatner performing at the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for George Lucas in 2005. Youtube is a beautiful thing.
(Thanks to Chris Roosenraad for the tip)  

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Photos as Promised

Here are the photos from our recent trip to Maine. Please ignore the boy's pasty white father. And I especially like this shot of our little adventurer.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Back From Maine

The family and I returned from our week-long vacation to Maine yesterday. Pictures will be posted shortly, but I will spare a few moments for a brief summary of our trip. Finn had the poor timing to decide to come down with a nasty daycare disease just before we departed. Running a severe fever, I was uncertain if we would even be able to go. But the fever broke and his first airplane ride passed without incident. We arrived in Ogunquit on Saturday night and enjoyed several days of spectacular weather and quality time with Finn's grandparents, aunt, and cousins. The daycare disease left him with a highly visible rash ("Mommy, that boy has spots!"), but the boy was in high spirits as he enjoyed daily swims in the pool and his first tastes of Cheerios, string cheese, and even lobster. The second half of the week saw us traveling north to Bar Harbor. The weather took a turn for the worse, but we still managed to squeeze in a seal-watching cruise, a kayak trip around the bay, and a foggy hike in the Acadia forest.
Now that we are back, I'm going to try to get back into my routine. Alas, my Internet access has been severely curtailed. My corporate overlords have instituted a draconian electronic surveillance policy, so I can no longer make blog posts or even check my personal email from my work computer. All my personal use of the Internet will be confined to the time between Finn's and my own bed time (as well as weekends). I'm hoping I can at least manage semi-regular posts. I have a lot to talk about. I'm starting a new game ( D20 Dragonspire), I'm reading a fantastic new book (A Game of Thrones, by George R.R . Martin), and I'm considering another attempt at marathon training. And in August, I'm off to GenCon again.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blogger On the Mend?

Looks like Blogger may be back to normal. Some of my old posts have finally been posted and the link to Circvs Maximvs is now visible in the list of links. Whew! I was worried that I was going to have to move to other blogging software. Until these recent problems, I have had nothing but good opinions of Blogger.

Alas, my posting for the next week or so is still going to be sparse due to a family vacation. But I hope to pick up where I left off when I return.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Blogger Problems

Blogger has been acting wonky all week. That is why I have (until now) been unable to post anything. It is doubly frustrating given that I suffered an unrelated web-server crash last week.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Circus Maximus

My Charlottesville gaming friends first clued me into ENWorld, the RPG site that is the place go if you are at all into D&D or D20 games. Alas, even though I've met some amazing ENWorlders at GenCon and Game Days, I've never been one to hang out on the boards much. I simply don't play D&D/D20 enough and I really don't have time to troll the message boards when I should be a) working, b) preparing for actual games, and c) having a life with my family.

Interestingly enough, I'm starting to get sucked into Circvs Maximvs. CM is an uncensored ENWorld spin-off that seems to have a slightly tighter community. Rather, I should say that it is a community that seems to include most of the ENWorlders that I actually know from previous interactions. They are good people and the CM message boards are lively and interesting. Because they allow discussions of politics and religion, I find myself wanting to jump into discussions about things that really seem important. I mean I like talking about gaming and all, but most threads in gaming boards have absolutely no relevance to my games. Controversial topics, on the other hand, really get me riled up. And for some reason I can't stop playing the song game.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I Am Not Worthy

Ok, I thought I was hot stuff when I duplicated the diet coke and mentos experiment for my nieces and nephews. Looks like I'm only a hopeless science geek poseur. Check out what these guys have done with 200 liters of diet coke and 500 mentos.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Important Science Update

In this post, I mentioned that a fun little experiment involving mentos and diet coke. Well, here's a photo of the resulting carnage:

Fun With Science

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Technical Difficulties

I haven't posted in a while due to a server meltdown. It's back up, but I've lost some data (including a bunch of new pictures from memorial day). Everything should be repaired this evening.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hitting the Beach

I haven't been around to update the website because the family and I have been in New Jersey for Memorial Day weekend. Not much to report, other than the boy really enjoyed hanging with his cousins, swimming in their pool, and playing at the beach. His parents finally got out to see another movie ( Mission Impossible III, which was very fun). His daddy also found the time to complete Christopher Priest's The Prestige (soon to be a major motion picture), as well as get well into Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides. Both books are loaded with cool ideas that I hope take advantage of in future games that I run (especially the Powers book... I really need to run a pirates game at some point).

For friends and family, we have more pictures of the boy posted here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Singular Challenge

CNN has an article about Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity Summit that was held a few weeks ago. For those familiar with Kurzweil and the idea of the Singularity, it's pretty standard stuff. However, it did mention that the DARPA Challenge was a particularly good illustration of how quickly technological change is accelerating. In 2004, the competition was kind of a joke. None of the robot vehicles could even complete the course. Last year, twice as many cars entered and four cars finished in good time. The most amazing thing is the the 2007 challenge will be held on city streets, where the vehicles will need to obey all traffic laws and avoid collisions. Now THAT is a pretty cool challenge.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

One More Step Towards a Neural Interface

This is what I want for my next video game controller. Actually, that's not strictly true. I'd be perfectly happy with an interface that is slaved to my actual body movements through motion sensors. Obviously, I'd need a special place to use it (it's hard to jump kick or swing a pretend sword at your desk). But it would be super if I could get a workout while playing video games. I hate the claustrophobic nature of most console controllers. I prefer mice and keyboard over the thumb-rending XBox/PS2 controllers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Holy Power Quads!

Did you know that Christianist nutter Pat Robertson can leg press 2000 lbs? Well, it says so on his website that promotes his holy fitness shake. Where's the video of him leaping tall buildings in a single bound?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Treasure Tables

Ok, a new RPG resource just opened up. It's called Treasure Tables, and it has a wiki that looks very promising. The site as the potential to be a great place for one-stop "shopping" for free RPG resources. I hope they keep up the good work.

Monday, May 22, 2006

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Gratuitous remixed movie-trailer here. Gotta love the Internet. :)

Unintentional Parody

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has made a couple of television commercials that seek to counter calls for regulation in the effort to halt global warming. The first, called "Energy", is like one of those fake ads they run on Saturday Night Live. If you wanted to do a parody of lame anti-regulatory public-relations campaigns, you couldn't really do worse than this add.
"CO2: They Call it Pollution, We Call It Life."
The best bit is how they try to scare people into thinking that if we regulate C02 emissions, it will somehow harm the environment. Video available at their site.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lab Rats

Thanks to our awesome Slaying Solomon web content crew, updates from the last session have been posted here . Wow, I'm doubly pleased with how the session went. Like I said before, I was feeling a little rusty. It had been a while since I had been in the Buffy GM mindset. But despite not getting an extra three hours of prep time that I wanted, the session really did play well. I was thinking that somebody had to do an episode about a psche experiment gone wrong, and the plot where a supernatural character wakes up in a mundane universe is a classic sci-fi cliche (done at least in the real Buffy and Deep Space Nine).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Learning from Children Learning Language

Something very interesting is going at MIT's Media Lab. Associate Professor Deb Roy, head the Media Lab's Cognitive Machines group, has decked out his house to monitor his own child's acquisition of language. The surveillance equipment will watch for every stimulus that the child receives and try to piece together how people move from simple utterances (like my own boy's "ba-ba" and "ah-duh") to more complex grammatical constructions. I'm very curious as to what they will learn from this experiment. Since my own child is approaching 9 months, I'll be conducting a smaller-scale version of this experiment of my own... albeit without the expensive video equipment and computer processing. Here's hoping that this research is a step towards computers that actually understand language.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Move Along

Nothing to see.
Actually, I mean it. I've been focusing on life stuff and getting more Risus Monkey updates. Speaking of which, I am now honored to be hosting Dan Suptic's second work: Arcadomai. Best... Risus... fantasy... supplement...evar.

Monday, May 15, 2006

SNL Visits Alternate Universe

I missed it on Saturday night, but SNL offered a glimpse at that parallel universe that was created in the wake of 2000 election debacle. Check it out here (courtesy of Crooks and Liars), it's a hoot.

(Be patient with the link, it's getting a lot of traffic)

Singularity Summit

Responsible Nanotechnology is one of many sites that have posted on this weekend's Singularity Summit . I sure wish that I could have gone. To some, the idea of the Singularity seems like crazy science-fiction, a "Rapture for nerds" if you will. But it is undeniable that the rate of technological advancement is accelerating. Simply extrapolating on these trends, as Kurzweil does, leads you to some pretty wild predictions. While I don't think a Singularity event is inevitable, I do buy into many of these predictions. As an AI developer, I am the most skeptical about our ability to produce sentient AI any time soon. This is not because we won't have the computing power (we certainly will), rather I think this is a software problem that will require some sort of breakthrough. Super-fast computers or networks aren't just going to "awaken". Somebody's going to have to design intelligence. Of course, Jeff Hawkin's On Intelligence may be planting the seeds of this breakthrough.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Now That's a Cool Science Project

According to Wired News:
A 16-year-old high school student has invented a new way of producing electricity by harnessing the brawny power of bacteria.
How cool is that? As the article says, "inventing a new clean and green source of electricity sure tops the old papier-mâché volcano".

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mutant Polar Bears

This is kind of interesting. I wonder if climate change is forcing polar bears into grizzly bear areas, thus increasing the chances of such hybrids.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Net Neutrality

I've following the latest developments in the "discussion" of Network Neutrality with a sense of dread. The idea that the telecoms and cable companies might successfully push for a tiered-internet that favors commercial interests over public interests seems implausible, but just plausible enough to give me the willies. It's not that I'm not sympathetic to the idea that they should be able to use "their pipes" in the manner of their choosing. But they can't ignore that the there is a huge public interest in keeping the Internet equally open to all users. And there is just not enough competition in the broadband market to give consumers a choice of selecting a more neutral provider. Wikipedia has a good primer on the history of Network Neutrality and the terms of the current debate.

Super Mice May Cure Cancer

Science Daily reports that a cancer-resistant strain of mice has been developed. Better yet, white blood cells from these mice have been used to treat cancer in ordinary mice. Money quote:
"The transplanted white blood cells not only killed existing cancers, but also protected normal mice from what should have been lethal doses of highly aggressive new cancers."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Weekend Update

This past weekend, my wife and I took the boy hiking for the second time. This weekend's excursion was to Harper's Ferry. It was wonderful to get outside with the family, and I am very encouraged that the boy seemed to get such a kick out of it. Of course, he did have the luxury of riding up the mountain on his daddy's back, but I'm not complaining. I love the steepness of the Maryland Heights trail (and we used it extensively for our Kilimanjaro training).
Saturday night was the grand finale of the D&D game that I occasionally play in. Kudos to Hans the DM... that Red Dragon masquerading as a Black Dragon was a really cool trick. Of course, we still made short work of the beastie. Word to other D&D players... 11th level monks really kick ass.
On Sunday, I ran my first episode of Slaying Solomon of the season. It's been a while, and I feel like I was a little rusty and under-prepared. But the session was still a heck of a lot of fun. Updates from the previous session are available here

Friday, May 05, 2006

Word of the Day: "Weenus"

This post on the Panda's Thumb really made me chuckle. After a particularly crazy week, it was particularly nice to learn a new euphemism for my naughty bits. Having fun at the expense of those wacky creationists was just icing on the cake.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More Star Trek Tech

This article in the Guardian tells of how scientists have developed a plausible "cloaking device". Sweet. Granted, it doesn't sound quite as useful as one would hope (alas, no Harry Potter-esque sneaking around places you shouldn't be), but it does have some potentially interesting real-world applications. Of course, the military is interested.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Da Oreo Code

Professor Pope has a great take on the whole Da Vinci Code phenomena. He likens the book to a certain mass-produced cookie of dubious nutritional value. For the record, I agree completely. I was sucked into reading both the Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. I knew that I was reading crap. My wife can verify that I would curse the books at loud as I read them. But I also tore through the books at a blistering pace, which means that I must have been enjoying them on some level.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

European Pyramids

Well, this is pretty darn cool. Apparently, researchers in Bosnia (?!) have discovered evidence of a pyramid that is a third taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Earlier research on the hill, known as Visocica, found that it has perfectly shaped, 45-degree slopes pointing toward the cardinal points, and a flat top.  Under layers of dirt, workers discovered a paved entrance plateau, entrances to tunnels and large stone blocks.
Even if this is total bunk, it's still fodder for an modern occult roleplaying scenario. Cyclopean ruins? Evidence of previously unknown civilizations? Underground tunnels connecting it with other pyramids? The mind races with ideas.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

For the Fashion-Conscious Astronaut

Scientists at MIT are developing the next generation of space-suits. Finally, a space-suit that approaches those depicted in science-fiction games and movies. Check out the awesome gallery of concept artwork.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Today's Longevity Link

Exciting new research into an aberrant protein that seems to contribute to aging. Finding a way to block this protein could possibly lead to revolutionary anti-aging treatments. Of course, more research needs to be done. All is explained in this article at

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fun with Geographic Information

A friend of mine just clued me in to the most most amazing use Google Maps (or similar service) that I've seen. Zillow allows you to enter an address and then view estimated home values superimposed on a satellite photograph of the neighborhood (along with the values of all the other houses in the neighborhood). It's a major time-suck, as I couldn't resists checking out our house, the homes of people I knew, and the neighborhoods where we are hoping to move. Fantastic.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Euston Manifesto

Ok, I'm dipping my toe into politics... but my first post on that topic should be fairly uncontroversial. I have recently discovered The Euston Manifesto, a call to arms for progressives who are tired of being associated with the irrational anti-Americanism of the radical Left. While written by British Leftists who no-doubt hold views that I disagree with, I can find very little to quibble with in the actual manifesto itself. Indeed, it comes very close to completely summarizing my own political views. If the Democratic Party leadership were to clearly embrace the principals of this document then we might finally restore a healthy balance between Right and Left.
I would describe myself as a left-leaning moderate. I lean right on economic issues and I strongly support free trade and responsible budgetary policy (something that used to be called conservative). On social issues, I lean a bit much more to the left. As you might imagine, the Bush years have been particularly hard on me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

There there, Tongue Tongue...

...He weeps for he has but one small tongue with which to taste an entire world.
I just couldn't resist quoting (or paraphrasing) Dr. Mung Mung when I saw this article that describes the military's efforts to  use the tongue as an interface for new battlefield sensory data. Mmmm... tastes like a sonar contact!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dear Leaders (a catalogue)

The Sunday Washington Post had a great collection of articles (here, here, here, and here ) on the world's super-villains. As a gamer geek, I immediately thought "cool! I can use the evil bastards in a contemporary roleplaying game". Alas, other than Slaying Solomon , I'm not planning on running such a game any time soon. But I definitely want to file away these sociopaths for future reference.

Back from the Carolinas

I am happy to say that this weekend's trip to the Carolinas was well worth the effort. It's kind of hard to travel with an infant, but he seemed to take it well and he really enjoyed meeting our friends in South Carolina. Indeed, we can now add yet another state to the list places he has been.  
I also really enjoyed making the trip into Raleigh for NC Gameday. The weather made the early-morning drive somewhat hellish, but it was so nice to be able to talk to Professor Pope that I didn't mind so much. If I had some time to write a longer post, I'd write about some of the thing we discussed... but alas, this week is going to for catching up work, sleep, housework, and workouts.
Once in Raleigh, I ran my first convention game and was pleased to catch up with EN World friends. The game itself was a hell of a lot of fun and reinforced my love of Risus. The week leading up to the trip was rather stressful and I didn't get to prepare as much as I would liked. But ultimately, it didn't matter one bit. With Risus, it's easy to improvise. I'm bummed that we couldn't stay for other games, but there will be time at GenCon (crossing my fingers...) to play in some of those games.
Ok, that's more personal stuff than I usually write about. For those of you that could care less, here's a great gaming blog that I just discovered.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Invention Machine

As I head out of town for the weekend, I leave you with this excellent article about using Genetic Algorithms to develop inventions that can be patented. Pretty cool stuff. I so want to experiment with using Genetic Algorithms, but I just don't have the time to hack around after work anymore.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Air Scooter

Back in the day, futurists used to predict that we'd all be commuting to work in flying cars. Even as recently as Bladerunner, flying cars figure prominently. So far, these visions have failed to materialize.
But that could be changing. I just caught a cool clip of the new Air Scooter on (look in the video section). It's a personal helicopter that will retail for the cost of a Lexus. Best thing about it is that it is classified as an ultralight... which means you don't need a pilot's license to fly it. Check out their website here for more details.

Done with Buffy

Well, this has been a crazy weekend. All of my son's aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents came down to visit for a combined Easter/Baptism celebration. I love my relatives, but with the return of the little boy's ear infection, I was getting pretty stressed out over his well-being and the chaos in our house.

But now that everyone has left and my boy is on the mend, things are settling back to normal. Last night, my wife and I watched the only Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode that we had missed. Strike that, it was probably the only episode that I had missed. I'm fairly certain that she hasn't seen every episode. Strike that again. I'm fairly certain that she doesn't know if she's seen every episode. I'm the true geek in the family and I am the one who can actually identify the episodes by season and title.

The episode was the Lies My Parents Told Me. It featured various Spike flashbacks (Victorian England and 70's New York). Since we were such big fans of the character, I'm surprised it took so long for us to finally get to the episode. We've had the 7th season DVD for almost 6 months now. I guess I blame it on Netflix and the new baby. Every time we finally have time to watch something on TV, it's usually a movie on Netflix that we failed to see on the big screen.

Anyway, did anyone else notice that Spike's mother's doctor was Dr. Gull (from the various Jack the Ripper conspiracy theories)? And what was up with the actress who played Nikki Wood? Was she the same actress that was in Fool For Love? She had a vary odd look about her.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fun with Science!

Today's science experiment involves 2 liters of diet coke and a pack of mentos. I have a bunch of nieces and nephews coming into town this weekend, so I've gotta try this out for them. There are many videos of this experiment on the Internet, but the one at this site is the best that I've found.

Weird Dream

If I had realistic ambitions to be a writer, I would look to my exceptionally vivid dreams for inspiration. Last night's dream was especially ripe for possible story development. In the dream, I remember having this mystical ability to manifest special tattoos when touched by other people. These tattoos were elaborate and beautiful and always communicated some kind of unique insight into the past, present, or future of the person who touched me (in the location where they touched me). I remember being exhilarated at the thought of having this ability, yet having to go into hiding for fear of being swamped by people who would come to me for answers about their lives. There was also a romance angle, but I won't really get into that here.
Anyway, I hereby give permission for other writers out there to develop this into a story. Just be sure to let me read it.

Is Synthehol Possible?

And do we want it?

For the uninitiated, Synthehol is a Star Trek creation - an alcohol with none of the negative side-effects of real alcohol. In this article, Professor David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist at the University of Bristol in the UK, believes that there is no scientific reason why it cannot be created now.

I must admit my thoughts are mixed on the subject. In general, I'm all in favor of technological solutions to problems. And the problem of hangovers, liver damage, and memory loss due to alcohol consumption should be no exception. But if we had an alcohol with none of the side-effects, I suspect people would drink more. This would increase drunk-driving incidents and I have no idea what Synthehol would do to alcoholics. I'm not one to moralize about chemical recreation, so long as it doesn't put other people in danger. But it's probably going to happen, so I should stop worrying. And we've had many years of really educating people about the dangers of driving drunk, so perhaps this wouldn't really add to the problem?

For myself, I wonder about the effect on taste. It doesn't sound like you make Synthehol beverages in the same way as good old-fashion alcoholic beverages. I don't expect fine syntheholic wines or beers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sweet RPG Blog

The Velvet Edge has been focusing on technology and futurism issues as of late, mostly because it is easiest for me to blog on those topics while at work. But gaming is still one of my primary interests. The generically named RPG Blog is what the Velvet Edge might look like, if I had more time to write about general RPG cool stuff. Today's topic is the PDQ System, a rules-lite system that would have really excited me before I discovered Risus. As it is, the system is still very interesting.

The Power of Regeneration

Sign me up for cool Regeneration Powers!

This article in the NYTimes (registration required) surveys the work to exploit the power of regeneration that is present in most animals, to some degree. Oddly, it fails to mention the exciting work done with the Murphy Roths Large (MRL) mouse, which has a Highlander-esque ability to recover from injury. Not familiar with Connor MacMouse of the clan MacMouse? Check out this article on the BBC.

Photo Update

Family & Friends: Check out the Photos section for new family photos. I especially like the one of me and the boy at the Cherry Blossom festival.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lost for Free

I haven't got into the online watercooler talk (much), but I am a big fan of ABC's Lost. Great news for fellow Lost fans (and those who like other ABC shows) - episodes will be streamed for free the day after they air on TV. For those of us without DVR or Tivo, this is fantastic news.

RoboToys for Tots

The latest and greatest robotic toy: Pleo. My son's a little young for a pet robot, but I imagine that I may have the urge to buy him one at some point in the future. I think it must be the gadget-lover in me. I could never justify buying a robot toy for myself, but having a little boy gives me a great excuse to mess with the technology.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Building Gods

Ok, if you need a primer on Transhumanism and the issues raised by accelerating technology then you must see Building Gods (a rough cut of a new documentary available on Google video).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Vat Meat... Yum!

Ok, I can see it now. The frankenfood-phobes are going to go nuts. But greens and people who are interested in health and animal welfare should cheer the efforts to produce lab-grown meat. This article on talks about one company that is trying to make the rotisserie-chicken version of a breadmaker. I think this a great idea. I just hope that it tastes like the real thing.

Low-Cal Longevity

A bunch of news reports hit the web last night that talk about the results of a recent study that seems to offer proof that a calorie restriction diet will increase longevity in humans. It has been known for a while now that caloric restriction can dramatically increase the longevity of lab animals. Until now, the efficacy of such a regimen in humans was only theoretical. Well, technically, it still is. This study only measures certain indicators. Measuring true longevity gains will take longer. I also imagine a long-term study will be difficult because keeping humans on such a diet over a long period of time will be tough. I think that even I would have trouble with such a strict diet, and I'm very much into doing whatever I can to increase my lifespan. But this kind of diet would be an order of magnitude tougher than my current low-sugar, good fat diet. Fortunately, some people are working on drugs that will mimic the effects of caloric restriction. Let's hope they are affordable!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Organs Made To Order

Soon... soon  we will be able to replace our failing organs with lab-grown versions that are young and healthy. Another step towards this eventuality is described in this article (New York Times). Scientists have grown new bladders for seven children. Amazing.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Robot Revolution Will Start in South Korea

If you don't believe me, read this article on the New York Times (possible registration required). Here are the money quotes:
The government, which succeeded in getting broadband Internet into 72 percent of all households in the last half decade, has marshaled an army of scientists and business leaders to make robots full members of society.
If all goes according to plan, robots will be in every South Korean household between 2015 and 2020. That is the prediction, at least, of the Ministry of Information and Communication, which has grouped more than 30 companies, as well as 1,000 scientists from universities and research institutes, under its wing.
"My personal goal is to put a robot in every home by 2010," said Oh Sang Rok, manager of the ministry's intelligent service robot project.
Well, I find their goals to be a little ambitious... and I wonder at the focus on robots-for-robots-sake. But at least they have ambitious technology goals that they actually fund with real government money. Go South Korea!

And How Is This Bad?

According to this ZDNed UK article, Google is being accused of being "biggest threat to genetic privacy" for its plan to create an online searchable database of genetic information. Moreover, it's accusers go on to say that "Google, in cooperation with Craig Venter, are developing plans to make all of our genomes Googlable to facilitate the brave new world of private genetically-tailored medicines". From what I understand, nobody would be forcing you to input your genome into Google. And for the chance to have genetically-tailored medicine that could enhance or extend my life... well, sign me up. Obviously, there would be privacy concerns about employers and insurance companies getting a hold of this information, but that's going to be an issue regardless of what Google does. Google won't be the only one doing this.

Time Enough for Love

I haven't posted in a few days because I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the tasks that I've taken on. In addition to doing my share of parenting duties, I've been trying to maintain a vigorous fitness regimen, learn Chinese, keep the house clean, get started reading a new book, set up a new role-playing campaign, and plan for running a game down at NC Game Day. In the midst of all this, I found time for a weekend getaway to Havre de Grace, MD with my wife to celebrate her birthday. No computers. No Chinese books. No pressure to workout. No house to clean. Just some quality time with my family and some rather amazing weather. Boy I needed the break. It's good to just step back and remember what matters in the world.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


On Sunday, I finally got around to watching Mirrormask. As huge fan of Neil Gaiman, I was not disappointed. I found that the film had Neil Gaiman's fingerprints all over it. It was dreamy, weird, creepy, and beautiful. The visual stylings of Dave McKean were indispensable to the film. I can't imagine a more perfect visual artist for working the Gaimanesque magic. There were many moments that felt like I was watching something right out of The Sandman.

Despite the amazing effects, the film had a very "indie" feel. That's good and it's bad. It was more imaginative and thought-provoking then a mainstream movie, but it also seemed to lack something in the energy department. It was almost too dreamy. Then again, I was tending a fussy little boy at the time I was watching it, so I couldn't give it my full attention. Under ideal viewing conditions, my praise would likely have been unqualified.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Slaying Solomon Update

Slaying Solomon has been updated and is current through Episode 4.3. For the uninitiated, Slaying Solomon is a long-running Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG campaign set in a fictional college town in western Massachusetts. It is, hands-down, the best roleplaying campaign in which I've ever been involved. The website is managed by Greg Pearson and much of the content is provided by Jodi Roosenraad (Drew and Sam in the game, respectively). Their work earned them an ENnie Award nomination in 2005 for best fan site. It is because of their efforts that I will most likely create campaign websites for all future games that I run.

Friday, March 24, 2006

This Is Depressing

Moving on from zany comedians impersonating wacky religious presidents to pollsters identifying the wacky (and not in the "ha ha" way) prejudices of the religious American public. I haven't made the leap to full-fledged atheist status (I'm comfortably agnostic, thank you), but you could see why I'd be concerned that non-believers and skeptics fare worse than any other minority group in this study by the University of Minnesota. Sad.  

Bush On Global Warming

Well, not the real Bush... Will Farrell as Bush. Only loosely related to what I've been blogging about lately, but I'll file it under "Culture" and just call it a Friday funny. Here's the link.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Future of Computing

Nature magazine has special web focus on the future of computing. I love it when scientists speculate about future. Usually, it seems like they leave that to the futurists. I also love how 15 years seems like such a long way out, as far as technological development goes. Not so long in my personal life (I'll only be 50 in 2020). But 15 years ago, there was no world wide web (and the Internet was still mostly underground). Now, I can't imagine life without having web access. What's going to happen in the next 15 years? I never tire of reading what smart people have to say on the subject.

One Step Closer to the Diamond Age

Here's a report from the cutting edge of nanotech research. Looks like scientists in Japan have created the first nanomachine composed of two smaller molecular machines. Pretty exciting stuff.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Moore's Law for Razors?

I was just having this same conversation the other day, and now someone else has gone and blogged about it. Drat! Anyway, check out Avram Grumer's post on the correlation between razor blade marketing and the Singularity.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Consequences of Longevity

William Saletan has an excellent article that appeared in this weekend's Washington Post that can now be found here on Slate. He points out that government entitlement programs are in for a world of hurt as medical advances continue to increase our life expectancy. Ultimately, he seems to favor abolishing age as a standard of fitness for Social Security. Not a bad idea, though I wonder how you would implement the testing for eligibility while minimizing the occurrence of fraud. There's also the matter of healthy people putting more into the system than they take out. But isn't this the way regular healthy insurance works right now? Regardless, these issues need to be discussed.

Look Out Steve Austin

Thanks to this discovery of super-strength artificial muscles, were one step step closer to the bionic man and super-soldiers in power armor.

Friday, March 17, 2006


I must admit that I don't play very many video games anymore. With a new baby and other interests, I just don't seem to have the time. It's not that I don't want to play video games. It's just that I haven't seen any that would make me set aside time in my schedule to play them.

Spore will be such a game. Check out this video of Will Wright giving a demo at last year's GDC. I must buy this game when it comes out.

(Of course, I'm assuming I'll be able to run it on my two year-old laptop. If not, I may need to play it after hours at work.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

That Ubiquitous Game System

I have mixed feelings about Dungeons & Dragons, and it's Open Game License sibling, D20. I have fond memories of getting my first taste of D&D in the 80's with a magenta Basic Set, followed soon after by the original AD&D hardcovers. It wasn't that the gaming was all that good (I was too young for that), but the potential was amazing. I remember spending hours rolling up characters, mapping out castles on graph paper, and dreaming up worlds that never were. But when I discovered my first real gaming group in my junior year of high-school, we quickly left D&D behind for systems that agreed with our sensibilities at the time. Middle-Earth Roleplaying, Rolemaster, James Bond RPG, and Warhammer FRP were big winners for us. But the biggest for us was GURPS, a game that I would continue to run and play continuously until just a few years ago.

I loved that in GURPS you could create any type of character you wanted. I also loved the way that its combat system actually seemed to reflect the action of what was going on in a fight, whereas D&D had cheesy notions such as armor that could help you avoid blows, or hit point totals that made it impossible for most characters to be killed by anything short of ridiculous amounts of damage. But the best thing about GURPS was that the magic system was capable of being fit to more interesting models, ones that actually reflected literary or occult source material better than D&D 's antiquated Vancian model. I especially loved the magic system that was introduced in GURPS Voodoo and later perfected in GURPS Spirits. To this day, it is one of may favorite magic systems.

So, throughout most of the 90's, I was a bit of a system snob. I looked down on D&D and those that played it. Things started to change when I realized that gaming is, first and foremost, a social activity. The people you play with are more important than the systems you use. One of my friends was running an AD&D 2nd Edition game and I eagerly joined. I still hated the system (and 2nd Edition AD&D is the worst incarnation of that game...ever), but the game was pretty good and the company was excellent. Slowly, my snobbery was falling away.

What finally killed my anti-D&D prejudice was the simultaneous release of D&D 3e and the gathering of a new group of friends to play it in Charlottesville. My good friend Nakia is a excellent game master. He proved that even though 3e retained some things that annoyed me, a really good fantasy game could still be run using it.

That brings me to the present. I have a new favorite system to run (Risus), and my long running Slaying Solomon game uses the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. But I'm also a part-time player in a D&D 3.5 game and I am considering running a D&D/D20 version of my Dragonspire game. While preparing for this new game, I have been forced to confront many of the things I don't like about D&D. Things that have stopped irritating me as a player still really get under my skin as a GM. But it's not my old gripes that bother me so much as my new gripe: it takes too long to prepare D&D games. I've been spoiled by Risus and BtVSRPG, and even GURPS would probably annoy me now.

I'm persisting, mostly out of my desire to prove to myself that I can run a D&D game that is as cool to my players as Nakia's game was for me. That, and I'd like to be comfortable running D&D when I get a chance to participate in "round-robin" games with the cool ENWorld folks at GenCon or Game Days.

When Sharks Aren't Enough...

According to this article on the BBC, the US Government wants to "to create an army of cyber-insects that can be remotely controlled". Ok, this seems a bit wacky... but the article is interesting. The sidebar has an interesting tidbit about the use of dolphins in Vietnam.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Those Images Up Top

People reading this blog (anybody? hello?) may or may not be curious about the images displayed under the title. To satisfy your curiosity (and to give me something to talk about on a slow day), they are images pulled from a variety of sources that are in some way significant to me. If you've been paying attention, you will have noticed that I do change them every now and then.
The current crop includes:
  • A found image of a snow covered mountain (because most of my adventure travel revolves around snowy mountains).
  • A clip from the Castle Falkenstein supplement, Sixguns & Sorcery. Not only is it very relevant to my Silverlode game (which I'll be running at NC Game Day), but it also depicts an Anasazi cliff-dwelling (which also relates to some recent adventure travel).
  • The third clip is a gloomy castle from a Brotherhood of the Wolf wallpaper. Not the greatest of films, it was nevertheless very inspirational to me and wound up influencing numerous roleplaying projects.
  • Replacing an image of the Golden Compass from the first His Dark Materials novel (one of the best fantasy series ever), is a clip from the cover of Neil Gaiman's Smoke & Mirrors. Neil Gaiman's work is hugely important to me. In fact, I think I can say with confidence that he is my absolute favorite sotryteller, whatever the medium.
  • Finally, there is a Christoper Shy image from a GURPS Transhuman Space supplement. Besides representing a fine gaming supplement with a well-imagined future history, the image also stands in for my deep and abiding interest in transhumanism and the promise of accelerating technological change.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Call for Action on Anti-aging Research

This article presents a very well-reasoned call for anti-aging research in the U.S. Careful not to sound like wide-eyed techno-optimists who believe immortality is around the corner, the authors set a very reasonable goal of increasing life expectancy by just seven years. I think this is too conservative, but I welcome any kind of a goal in this area. 

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Liquid Water On Enceladus

Found this article on slashdot...

"We realize that this is a radical conclusion -- that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms."

Wow. This is potentially huge and important. It makes funding NASA robotic exploration missions even more important.

Learning Chinese

It's been a goal of mine to learn another language for some time now. My wife, expert world traveler that she is, can speak French, Spanish, and bits of German. Whereas my knowledge of foreign languages has been limited to two years of high school French and phrasebook knowledge of Russian, Italian, and German. But languages have always interested me. In high school, I tried to learn Elvish from the appendix of The Lord of the Rings. I tried to pick up Esperanto for a game of GURPS Riverworld. I tried to learn Welsh for a brief Celtophile (is that a word?) phase. And I've been very interested in natural language processing and constructed languages for fantasy worlds [see this site for the coolest conlang site on the web].

But thus far, I can't say that I actually know another language. I want that to change. I want to travel to a foreign country and be the one to converse with the locals. I also think that knowing a language is an important part of being a good global citizen. To that end, I've decided to study Chinese. Why Chinese? Because I think the 21st century is going to be the Chinese Century (just like the 20th was the American Century). Chinese is spoken by something like a quarter of the world's population and may even open up some interesting career opportunities in the future. Chinese culture is cool and interesting (and I can study the language while watching kick-ass wuxia films). If my son picks up some Chinese with me, then that he might have some exciting opportunities as well.

How am I going about this? I bought Rosetta Stone for a start. This CD ROM immersive course is really cool in that it jump-starts your comprehension of the language right away. The draw-back is that it offers no reference material for studying grammar or vocabulary. For that, I am relying on Chinese for Dummies (I'm so embarrassed). I also picked up a book on 250 important Chinese characters, since learning the written language is so very important to understanding the spoken language. I suspect that next year I will enroll in an actual class.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Don't Forget to Bathe

Hat tip to Nakia for this little gem: Stephen Colbert on D&D Online.

It's not the first time that Colbert's brought up his geek credentials. Here's an interview in GameSpy that talks about his gaming history.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Alien Rain

Something make me very suspicious about reports that two months of blood-red rain over India in 2001 were actually showering extraterrestrial material onto the subcontinent. Apparently, some scientists are taking this very seriously. If true, it would be the first confirmed discovery of extraterrestrial life (other than possibly the Antarctic martian meteorite). it could also lend weight to the theory of panspermia . I'm not holding my breath, though.

Robo Mule

This article in NewScientist describes an advanced robotic quadruped that is being developed for the US military. Ok, no big deal, right? Well, take a look at the video clip of the mechanical beast. I was floored. It moved so realistically that I found myself feeling sorry for it when engineers repeatedly kicked it. They were trying (unsuccessfully) to make it fall over. Wow.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

You know, I have one simple request

"And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!"

Well, apparently the US government also thinks this a great idea. Well, perhaps without the lasers just yet...

Elevator to the Stars

I've been aware of the idea of a Space Elevator since the 80's, when I read about in the 2300AD roleplaying game. Until recently, however, I'd never thought I'd live to see one actually built. This article on makes one believe that the concept is becoming more science than science-fiction. Advances in nanotubes are the key, and serious money is flowing into the field. According to some estimates, I may only be 50 years old by the time cars are carrying cargo and people into orbit.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More Book Stuff

Over at his blog, my good friend Nakia talks about Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree. I confess that I've never actually read Hornby, though I imagine I'd like his stuff. Movies based on his work were a mixed bag for me. I loved "About a Boy" but disliked "High Fidelity". Anyway, Nakia posts the following quote:
"All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. . . With each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not." (125)
I have to say I mostly agree with this. My book collection does come pretty close to communicating who I am as a person. To get the full picture, you'd need to see what I've been listening to on my iPod and check out the athletic/outdoor gear in my closet. But the books get you most of the way there. Here's a small sampling of what's on my shelves:
  • Almost everything by Neil Gaiman, prose and graphic novel, including the coplete Sandman collection
  • Alan Moore's Watchmen, Promethea, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and others)
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (red leather collected edition)
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (leatherbound collected version)
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: A Novel, by Susanna Clarke
  • The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova
  • A leather bound collected edition of Dracula and Frankenstein
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein.
  • The Baroque Cycle, Cryptonomicon, and Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson
  • A collected version of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser stories
  • The recent Harry Potter books (I borrowed the earlier ones)
  • Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond
  • A History of God, by Karen Armstrong
  • The Age of Spiritual Machines, by Ray Kurzweil
  • An enormous rpg collection featuring many books for GURPS, Vampire, Dungeons & Dragons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Castle Falkenstein, Warhammer FRP, and In Nomine