Omnium Gatherum: February 17, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for February 17, 2019

  • Paradox Teasing a Potential Third ‘Vampire: The Masquerade’ Game” — Mike Wilson, Bloody Disgusting

    “But now, it appears that the series just might get a third entry from developer Paradox Interactive.

    The questions in question involve some pretty not-so-romantic things, such as images of a bloody wall, a smiling clown, or some maggots, with the question asking you which image you identify with the most. Another question asks you about your blood type, and another your interests. Some of those interests include the Illuminati, Epicurus, thanatology, the unknown, chaos magick, sorcery, and demonology.”

  • Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Starter Set by Wizards of the Coast, from Hasbro

    Hasbro Wizards of the Coast Stranger Things Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set

    “The Stranger Things Dungeons & dragons starter set contains everything players need to embark on a Stranger Things adventure including the essential rules of the roleplaying game. It’s a great way for new as well as seasoned Dungeon & Dragons players to experience the D&D adventure Stranger Things character Mike Wheeler has created for his friends. … Prepare for just about anything, because the game just got stranger.”

  • AI can write disturbingly believable fake news. Elon Musk’s OpenAI is keeping a tight lid on the technology.” — Jon Fingas, Engadget; from the Infinite-Monkeys dept. [also]

    “AI is getting better and better at writing convincing material, and that’s leading its creators to wonder whether they should release the technology in the first place. Elon Musk’s OpenAI has developed an algorithm that can generate plausible-looking fake news stories on any topic using just a handful of words as a starting point. It was originally designed as a generalized language AI that could answer questions, summarizing stories and translating text, but researchers soon realized that it could be used for far more sinister purposes, like pumping out disinformation in large volumes. As a result, the team only plans to make a “simplified version” of its AI available to the public, according to MIT Technology Review.”

  • Apocalipsis: Harry at the End of the World [also], a video game by Punch Punk Games, from Klabater, with Nergal

    “In Apocalipsis you play as Harry, for whom the loss of his beloved was the end of his world. Now he has to venture out into the strange, unwelcoming lands to get her back. On his journey he will meet fantastical creatures, straight from the minds of artists from the 15th century Europe, and ultimately conquer his own, personal demons. Featuring the narration by Nergal, leader of the band Behemoth, with the added atmospheric new rendition of Behemoth’s music, it will be a journey to remember.

    Apocalipsis shares with the Middle Ages its artstyle and the game’s world itself is inspired by Book of Revelation and steeped in medieval philosophy and beliefs, with the story taking cues from Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”. Every location and character in Apocalipsis was inspired by classical woodcuts by 15th and 16th century artists such as Hans Holbein, Michael Wolgemut, and Albrecht Dürer. This pairing of medieval art and philosophy with video games creates something unique, like you’ve never seen before.”

  • In the age of fake news, here’s how schools are teaching kids to think like fact-checkers” — Annabelle Timsit, Quartz

    “The authors explained that fact-checkers practiced ‘lateral reading,’ meaning that they checked other available resources instead of staying only on the site at hand. That, they concluded, is a practice at odds with available fake-news checklists, which focus on the outward characteristics of a website, like its ‘about’ page or its logo, and don’t encourage students to look for outside sources.

    … the checklists available to teachers often focus on abstract skills like critical thinking, which Wineburg says is not the right way to go. ‘The people who say ‘all we need are critical thinkers,’ I’m sorry, I could […] raise Socrates from the dead and he still wouldn’t know how to choose keywords, and he would know nothing about search engine optimization, and he would not know how to interpret the difference between a ‘.org’ and a ‘.com.’’

    Ultimately, as Petrone writes, 21st-century citizens need more than a checklist—they ‘need a functioning bullshit detector.'”

  • Peeqo – A robot that responds only through videos & GIFS by Abhishek Singh; about an ongoing crowdfunding effort for a DIY RasPi robot kit

    “Meet Peeqo, a delightful little personal robot that responds entirely through GIFs and videos.”

  • Turing Tumble

    “Turing Tumble is a revolutionary new game where players (ages 8 to adult) build mechanical computers powered by marbles to solve logic puzzles. It’s fun, addicting, and while you’re at it, you discover how computers work.”

Omnium Gatherum: February 10, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for February 10, 2019

  • Tweet by Patton Oswalt

  • Ursula K. Le Guin Was a Creator of Worlds” — Julie Phillips, Humanities; about the documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin by Arwen Curry [HT Arts & Letters Daily]

    “… Le Guin chose this ‘despised, marginal’ genre, she once said, for a reason she couldn’t acknowledge to herself at the time: Because it was “excluded from critical, academic, canonical supervision, leaving the artist free.””

  • Sex Robot Cuddle Party by David Raffin

    Raffin Sex Robot Cuddle Party

    “Sex Robot Cuddle Party is presented as a lost novel by the son of the author, a pornographer and a communist. He infuses his creative work with political discourses.

    It tells the story of RainyDay Tranquility, captain of the corporate surveying vessel Queen of Space, as she travels with her crew visiting dead worlds. In the future human touch has been rendered deadly.

    Later, she is transported inside her favorite book, Cuddle Party, which she loves because, in it, two people fall asleep touching.

    Sex Robot Cuddle Party is a comedy of loneliness, desire, and longing; and a tragedy of love requited.

    A loving homage to new wave sci-fi, absurdist theater, and erotica of the early seventies; featuring existentialist philosophy, Atheism, Greek Gods, artificial intelligence, and the miracle of fungi, in which all things are possible dreamt or un-dreamt.”

  • Neuroscientists close in on the brain signature for consciousness” — Rich Maridy, New Atlas

    “The research involved over 150 subjects, who were studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Some subjects scanned were patients in diagnosed vegetative states, while others were healthy individuals. The researchers ultimately discovered four specific neural activity patterns that could distinguish a person’s place on a spectrum from conscious to unconscious.”

  • Fish pass self-awareness test for the first time, raising questions about animal consciousness” — Michael Irving, New Atlas

    “It might not seem like a big deal, but the ability to recognize that the face in the mirror is your own makes us part of a pretty exclusive club in the animal kingdom. Humans obviously can do it (from about 15 months of age), and so can apes, monkeys, dolphins, elephants, and some birds. Now a fish species has passed the mirror test for the first time, which may suggest that the animals are smarter than we give them credit for.

    While these results suggest that fish are self-aware, the team isn’t jumping straight to that conclusion – perhaps they’re using other mental processes to figure it out. The fact that the fish have aced the mirror test is so surprising that the researchers are now questioning the validity of the test itself.”

  • “Immigrant Song” (Live) – The Cybertronic Spree

    “Robot rockstars in disguise, The Cybertronic Spree pay tribute to all time greats, LED ZEPPELIN. Talk about a bunch of bots who like to stay topical am I right?

    The Cybertronic Spree is a band of Transformers who perform classic cartoon, videogame, and anime theme songs at full volume.”

Omnium Gatherum: February 5, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for February 5, 2019

  • Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs” — Linda Kinstler, WIRED

    “Every morning, Lena Forsen wakes up beneath a brass-trimmed wooden mantel clock dedicated to “The First Lady of the Internet.”

    It was presented to her more than two decades ago by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, in recognition of the pivotal—and altogether unexpected—role she played in shaping the digital world as we know it.”

  • Tweet by Dick King-Smith HQ

  • Biohackers Encoded Malware in a Strand of DNA” — Andy Greenberg, WIRED [HT Geoff Manaugh]

    “… a group of researchers from the University of Washington has shown for the first time that it’s possible to encode malicious software into physical strands of DNA, so that when a gene sequencer analyzes it the resulting data becomes a program that corrupts gene-sequencing software and takes control of the underlying computer.”

  • Secrets of Silent Streets by Monte Cook; due in February, is, afaik, the first component for Invisible Sun that’s available for purchase separately as a digital download, and not even the game itself is available separately from the premium Black Cube [also]; also due in print in March

    Cook Invisible Sun Secrets of Silent Streets

    “Secrets of Silent Streets is a guide to this vast, rich, and unique city—the epicenter of the orders of magic and, to many, the very center of the Actuality. Visit the Great Observatory of Zuin, where mystical astronomers equate the movement of the stars with the ebbs and flows of magic. Meet the Phalanx of Liquid Granite, who have turned absurdity magic into a martial art. Enter the Citrine Court, a secret conclave of vislae devoted to transforming themselves—physically and metaphorically—into famous novels from Shadow.

    These are just a few of the experiences you’ll discover as you travel the seventeen districts of Satyrine and beyond, each detailed through dozens of points of interest and illuminated through its own unique atmosphere, social expectations, and traditions. Along the way you’ll find scores of plot hooks, NPCs, creatures—and of course plenty of magic.”

    “Like any metropolis in any realm, Satyrine isn’t one city but many. Fartown, the Marquis Quarter, the Strangeglass District, the Hollows, and the vast abandoned stretches—all offer different experiences and moods as well as unique landmarks, resources, denizens, and dangers. Secrets of Silent Streets is a guide to this vast, rich, and unique city—the epicenter of the Orders of Magic and the very center of the Actuality. Travel the seventeen districts of Satyrine, each detailed through dozens of points of interest and illuminated through its own unique atmosphere, social expectations, and traditions. And along the way find scores of plot hooks, NPCs, creatures, and of course loads of magic.”

  • Humble RPG Book Bundle Numenera by Monte Cook Games is in its last day, and includes, even at the $1 tier, both of the very recently crowdfunded Discovery and Destiny core books, and lots more. Honestly, I know I probably won’t ever play Numenera, but it was tempting enough to grab these to add to what I already have. I came for the Discovery and Destiny core books, and stayed for Shanna Germain’s Love and Sex in the Ninth World

    Monte Cook Humble Bundle Numenera

    “You’re invited to the world of Numenera, a tabletop roleplaying game of exploration and discovery set a billion years in the future. The game is easy to learn and fun to play with this bundle of digital corebooks, adventures, bestiaries, maps, guides, and more. The Ninth World awaits you!”

  • Sunless Skies [also] by Failbetter Games has released

    “SAIL THE STARS. BETRAY YOUR QUEEN. MURDER A SUN. Sunless Skies is a Gothic Horror roleplay game with a focus on exploration and exquisite storytelling for PC, Mac and Linux.”

    Failbetter Games Sunless Skies

April and the Extraordinary World

April and the Extraordinary World [also] is an animated movie based on the work of Jacques Tardi [also], and is a scifi, steampunk, alternate history adventure that’s pretty epic, visually striking, and narratively complex and twisty; with a few good laugh-out-loud quips. Plus, there’s a talking cat. Let’s be honest: they had me at talking cat.

I’d added this to my watchlist a while ago, and then forgot about it. It caught my eye but I was feeling a little ambivalent about it. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by this story when I did get around to it. I think I was a little put off because felt burned by Tintin and adaptations of famous French comics and graphic novels. In contrast, this was actually very entertaining!

Also, there’s a lot going on here. This isn’t a simple, flat children’s tale; but rather a fun, twisty, and interesting narrative. One might get hints of a lot of other material in the genre, but this felt very original and unique even still.

And, there’s a heroic talking cat. Huzzah!

April and the Extraordinary World

Character progression isn’t fun

You may be playing the wrong game, at the wrong table, with the wrong group if …

You gain enough experience to level up your character, but when you look at all the cool and interesting new character and narrative driven things you could do now, you realize that none if it will ever happen in your game because everything that happens in the roleplaying game at your table is tactical wargaming. So, you give up and decide to minmax, as that’s all that matters.

Illimat Variant: The Butcher in Solitaire and Solitaire Variant Improved

In a recent stream, archived on my youtube channel, I tried to play the Solitaire Variant of Illimat [also], and hoped to actually follow the rules this time, as I had been unintentionally playing what I’ve called Easy Stockpiling. However, I ran into a bit of a pickle when I revealed The Butcher, a Luminary from The Crane Wife expansion.

The issue is that when The Butcher is revealed, the Luminary in the opposite field is discarded. However, according to the Solitaire Variant: “The goal of Illimat Solitaire is to reveal and collect all four of the Luminaries.” And if you’ve not already claimed the opposite Luminary, there are no longer four Luminaries to collect.

In the video, I muse over the question, for the result of my second game, whether revealing The Butcher ends the game with a loss, as it is no longer possible to claim four Luminaries, or could victory now still be had by claiming all possible remaining Luminaries (three, or four if The Newborn adds one more)? Or, perhaps victory is only possible if The Newborn adds back a new fourth Luminary?

Note that the Solitaire Variant also says, “If there are fewer than three cards remaining [in the draw deck] when a Luminary is revealed, the Luminary is discarded and a full victory is impossible.” This would suggest that the most proper reading of the variant is that if revealing The Butcher discards one of the four Luminaries, then full victory is now impossible.

At the table, I decided that I would try and see how it played out, but noted that I may have lost that game. I then continue to play and successfully claim the remaining three available Luminaries on the table.

After I was done streaming I asked Keith Baker, via Twitter, about this and he responded, “The Crane Wife Luminaries aren’t designed for Solitaire. The only one that seems like a good match for Solitaire is The Boat.”

Okay. Not with that attitude it isn’t. And, now, I’m going to go off on that.

First off that response didn’t actually answer my question, but rather shut it down. Way to put the kibosh on the enthusiasm of a player!

Point of order: Given that Solitaire is itself a variant, and changes the way Luminaries work, none of the Luminaries were designed for solitaire, per se.

Also, that’s weak sauce. If the response to trying to play the game with an expansion is that the expansion wasn’t designed for that, instead of trying to figure it out, then that is as much to say the expansion should be labelled as not valid for solitaire play, and I shouldn’t have bought it. Best request a refund. And, get off my lawn.

That seems also to be the opposite of what I think of as creativity and a game playing attitude.

Frankly, as a solitaire-only player, that makes me feel like I’m not welcome to play the game at all, and that the Solitaire Variant was a grudging afterthought. Perhaps it was only that. Perhaps I’m not. Perhaps solitaire players aren’t.

News from the game designer is, essentially, if you’re a solitaire player: Don’t buy The Crane Wife expansion. It’s not for you. If you want to play by the rules as designed, don’t.

Well, fuck that. That’s bullshit.

Beyond that I’m probably now less interested in trying to make solitaire work for any other Keith Baker games, and I had actually been considering another. But, even leaving other now unlikely game purchases out, I’ll have a bad taste in my mouth for any future Illimat expansions, and am far less enthusiastic about trying to participate in Society of Luminaries meta-game stuff or likely to follow through with buying several available, completely optional, Illimat tchotchkes I’d been seriously thinking about spending real money on as a would-be solitaire once-and-no-longer-future enthusiast of this game in particular.

With all due respect to Keith Baker, screw that wet blanket noise. I bought your damned game and the twice damned expansion with my damned limited and precious gold, and, by the eternally damned gods, I’m going to damned well play the freakin’ hell out of it. Moreover, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to do it now just to spite you. I mean, damn, man!

For the game and expansion I’ve got and paid for already, of course it is possible to play the game with the expansion as a solitaire player. It’s just a matter of figuring it out. It’s just a darned disappointment and dang discouraging to have the game designer say it isn’t.

Now I’m done ranting. Except in my head. I’m still mad and ranting about this in my head. Damn. Maybe I will put the game on a shelf not to be played again after all. I don’t know yet. We’ll see how I feel about it later.

On the other hand, to be fair, I think you can see why I’m single, live alone, have no friends, and only play games solitaire.

Welp. Okay then …

If you’re still here, here’s how I suggest you can play with The Butcher in Solitaire, served three ways. The first way is the closest reading to the canonical Solitaire Variant. The second is slightly more divergent. The third is my personal favourite of the three, and ultimately is my suggestion. For the third, I preface that with a suggestion about a change to the Solitaire Variant that I think improves it, makes it more fun and friendly.

The Butcher in Solitaire #1 — When The Butcher is revealed, the opposite Luminary is discarded. If not already claimed, the opposite Luminary is discarded and a full victory is impossible.

The Butcher in Solitaire #2 — When The Butcher is revealed, the opposite Luminary is discarded. If not already claimed, the opposite Luminary is discarded and a full victory is impossible unless The Newborn is later revealed in play and causes a new fourth Luminary to be made available, and all of the new four available are claimed before the draw pile runs out.

Solitaire Variant Improved — Where the Solitaire Variant says or implies the goal is to “collect all four of the Luminaries”, read “collect as many Luminaries as possible.” That means that you want to claim all the Luminaries available on the table, though that number might increase or decrease based on the Luminaries revealed. Then, you can always note how many Luminaries you claimed and if you got all Luminaries on the table before running out of cards in the draw pile, thus “2 Luminaries, Loss” or “4 Luminaries, Win”. Hey, and since we’re here, let’s also change the preamble to be less disparaging and dismissive of those playing solitaire, where it claims to exist to “provide solace” for those with “no companions” or only for “sharpen[ing] your skills when plotting revenge on a future opponent”. How about simply saying that this variant is for those who chose to have fun playing solitaire?

The Butcher in Solitaire #3 — Using Solitaire Variant Improved, when The Butcher is revealed, the opposite Luminary is discarded. This reduces the number of available Luminaries that can be claimed to three, unless The Newborn is revealed and causes a new fourth Luminary to be made available. (If The Butcher is not revealed, but The Newborn is, and causes a new fifth Luminary to be made available, that increases the available Luminaries to five.) Continue to play and claim as many Luminaries as possible before the draw pile is exhausted. If there are still Luminaries to claim when the draw pile is exhausted, you may wish to consider Solitaire Rounds to continue playing.

 

Twogether Baker The Decemberists Illimat

Summary for the month of January 2019

Here’s a summary of activity for the month of January 2019.

Finally got back to streaming, and started a couple new, hopefully, ongoing series. Honestly, it has been hard to stay motivated, and I’ve not been streaming as often, or regularly, as I had been before. But, I keep on keeping on, as one does … just slowly, irregularly.

My experiment with streaming, late last year, directly from an Nvidia Shield TV has been a disappointment, and so I’ve not been using that. I still have some hope that I’ll find a way to make it work, but unless I can afford something external to the Shield TV that enables streaming like an Elgato Cam Link or Game Capture HD 60 S … it’s probably not going to happen. The built-in streaming is just not good enough for me, in several ways, and, to be frank, I’m not sure it’s good enough for anyone. I was super excited that they added that feature back after removing it, but, nope. Can’t recommend the built-in streaming to anyone, I’m afraid. Take a look at those archived streams, and you’ll see what I mean: unstable streaming, unstable networking, bad and missing audio, desynced audio, weird apparently-hardcoded time limits for streaming, overwrites the Twitter category … Well, it was worth a try, I guess.

I’m still using the device, though not for live streaming myself; and I’ve not switched to my (truly awful) Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, regular Google Chromecast, or even my blu ray player since adding the Shield TV to my A/V mix. So, it’s been nice to have, but not quite for what I’d hoped to be using it for …

Last year I cancelled all my subscription services (Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, &c.), and had been living off free services, like specific apps with free episodes, YouTube, Epix (through my Internet provider), Hoopla (through my local library; check if your library offers it!), even trying Pluto TV, and so forth; including all the many movies and TV shows I have in the past purchased. I set up and configured Movies Anywhere which helped consolidate a ton of movies from different services, including all the movies I’d gotten through iTunes and hadn’t been able to watch at all whilst my desktop was dead unless I fired up my, significantly outdated, Apple TV. Anyhow, if you’re like me, and have a lot of digital movies purchase within a particular walled-garden, consider using Movies Anywhere to make those available using devices that are connected to different walled-gardens. I didn’t really even know about that service until I started to configure my Shield TV, but I’m glad I figured that out.

I re-subscribed to Netflix for 1 month. I waited until Jan 18th, because I figured out that was a sweet spot for a bunch of things already available and things that are releasing before I cancel again at 30 days. I’ll probably sign up again in April, when new Sabrina and She-Ra, and maybe some other stuff by then and over the next month, are available. But, it’s just not worth it, to me, to stay subscribed. And, the higher Netflix raises their monthly fees, the less often it makes sense to me to re-subscribe.

So, this last month I’ve caught up on a bunch of things, like Punisher s02, the Sabrina midwinter episode, She-Ra, The Magicians s03, Polar, and more. Tangentially, I also watched Star Trek: Discovery s02e01 for free over on YouTube, and watched the “lost Captain Sulu pilot” that was Star Trek New Adventures episode World Enough And Time. Still dislike Star Trek: Discovery, and I really should write up my thoughts about it, maybe … but, wow, World Enough And Time was way better than I expected, and how did I miss that it existed? Also, the introduction by Marc Zicree was interesting.

Welp. I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention a lot of other things this month I should, but, there it is.

Rigaroga is a technologist lost in the wilderness, having adventures in geekery and nerdy mishegoss. Odd Order is a place for Rigaroga, friends, and acquaintances to gather online.

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Posts on the blog this last month

Here’s videos and streams

Illimat Variant: Easy Stockpiling

In a recent stream, archived on my youtube channel, I describe a few possible new variants for Illimat [also]. One of those is Easy Stockpiling, because I seem to have forgotten about the rule that I can stockpile only if there’s a way to claim the pile in my hand at the time, so …

Easy Stockpiling — One can decide to allow allow looser, easier stockpiling. In this variant, one can stockpile even when there’s no way to claim the pile in one’s current hand.

 

Twogether Baker The Decemberists Illimat

Illimat Variant: Market

In a recent stream, archived on my youtube channel, I describe a few possible new variants for Illimat [also]. One of those is Market, and here’s my current idea on what that could be.

Market Variant — In multiplayer games, the card that could have been dealt to the player after the dealer as their 4th card, which they are not given in regular play, is placed into the “market”, a separate single card deck on the table, face down.

A player may, on their turn, play a card from their hand, face down into the market, to claim the current market card. This is taking their cards to “market”, following the farming metaphor of sow, harvest, and stockpile.

 

Twogether Baker The Decemberists Illimat