gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
Sitting on this barstool talking like a damn fool
Got the twelve o'clock news blues
And I've given up hope on the afternoon soaps
And a bottle of cold brew
Is it any wonder I'm not crazy? Is it any wonder I'm sane at all
Well I'm so tired of losing- I got nothing to do and all day to do it
I go out cruisin' but I've no place to go and all night to get there
Is it any wonder I'm not a criminal?
Is it any wonder I'm not in jail?

The joys of being retired, sick and recovery from minor surgery at the same time. I'm bored. I have things to do, but between the thankfully lessening pain of the incisions and the general yuck I've picked up, I'm well out of spoons after doing nothing. Even playing Civilization VI seems out of reach today. I've tried doing some writing and research on Task Force Singh, but nothing's there.

To make matters worse, we're currently a one-car household until we can Kirsten's car fixed in a few vital spots. That's happening this weekend, hopefully. But it means that right now I'm at home with no wheels.

Is it any wonder I've got
Too much time on my hands, it's ticking away with my sanity
I've got too much time on my hands, it's hard to believe such a calamity
I've got too much time on my hands and it's ticking away from me
Too much time on my hands, too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands

But even if I had the truck, where would I go? I suppose I could go sit in the library and read graphic novels, but I'm tired. I'm going to want to lie down in a bit and nap. I do that a lot these days. Dealing with the whole back epic, and trying to get work down on the trailer, and waiting for news about Baycon panels . . . it's all contributing to a spoon deficit that I never make up.

I'm even falling behind on the little housework I do here. I have to get one load of laundry down today. But I feel like the gravity has been set on high here. I am in one of those stages where doing anything at all has become an epic chore. Even writing this, even with the big chunks of song lyrics, is a battle.

Well, I'm a jet fuel genius - I can solve the world's problems
Without even trying
I have dozens of friends and the fun never ends
That is, as long as I'm buying
Is it any wonder I'm not the president
(He's not the president)
Is it any wonder I'm null and void?

While I'm sure there will be better days, the fact is that right now I'm in a bad place physically and mentally. I keep getting reminded that I'm disabled. That sounds odd, I know, but most days I'm at least marginally functional. I can get through a day with a few errands, some creative work, and a little housework. I still have a spoon left when I go to bed, or at least enough of a spoon remnant to make it that far.

But these last few weeks? Whew. Too much happening. And that has forced me to scale back my activities, which causes stress when I see what isn't getting down, which causes spoon loss . . . you can see the cycle.

But this is the reality until we finish with my back. Which will be several weeks at this rate. I'm going to have stitches after every biopsy and removal. Meaning pain, not much activity, and more boredom. I've gotten quite good at adjusting to the new normal. I just don't have to like it.

It's 1537. I guess I'll start the laundry and watch old Law & Order episodes on Sundance until it's done. Then it's nap time. Tomorrow is another flipping day. I'll try for a good night's sleep, see if I can't raise the energy level a little, but as with everything, it's hard.

Is it any wonder I've got
Too much time on my hands, it's ticking away at my sanity
I've got too much time on my hands, it's hard to believe such a calamity
I've got too much time on my hands and it's ticking away from me
Too much time on my hands, too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands

It's funny. Years ago when I got my job at PODS I wrote a piece like this using Styx's "Blue Collar Man" in a similar fashion. Who knew that this would be the band that wrote the themes of my life.

"Too Much Time On My Hands" written by Tommy Shaw, 1981
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Naming things, characters, places, even entire stories, has always been the bane of my creative existence. If I were an artist working in a visual medium, you'd see a lot of "Landscape No. 12" and "Unfinished Portrait of a Chihuahua No. 3" hanging on gallery walls. It's just part of my existence.

A big part of the problem is that I've always had trouble remembering names. For as long as I can remember this has been the case. Unless that name was presented to me daily over a period of months, it would slip away. This even goes for things like schools I attended. So, faced with the need to name things for the novel, I try to take the easy route so I can focus on the important things like the plot and the tension caused by the game of blind chess the two commanders will be playing over dozens of star systems.

There are several tools at my disposal. For example, there are dozens of great websites that generate names for you from any number of cultures and races, real and fictional. Using one geared to naming conventions of the Indian subcontinent has allowed me to name both my protagonist, his wife, and a few other characters of note. Other crew names are more generic Indian. I don't worry too much about mixing northern and southern names, as these people have been living on a different planet for centuries. Things have most likely gotten blurred and mixed in that time.

Other non-Indian names are needed. Both for the characters who are part of Task Force Singh and for the opposing forces. As the main opposing force is a UN flotilla, I can draw inspiration from pretty much the whole spectrum of human names. My main antagonist, for example, is a Zulu. I can use several generators to quickly name the critical characters and even the minor ones and the spear-carriers with ease. A few of my favorite name sites even allow you to select how odd you want the name to be. Very helpful.

The system Task Force Singh is going to be trying to reach is a failing set of Chinese-settled worlds, so I'll need to do research on Cantonese naming conventions. I'm trying to get it right. They are in a situation analogous to the threat faced by the Ottoman Empire in terms of the Russians, so I may make that threat a Manchurian interstellar state that is also facing instability, and wants the traditional shirt, victorious war to prop their government.

Finally, last year when we were fund-raising for the Istanbul trip, we promised to Tuckerize people who pledged at a certain level. I still have that list, and those names will be used, never fear.

Personal names are pretty easy, so long as you do the research to make sure you're getting the naming conventions for each language right. Things, however, open a whole new can of worms. Take ships.

Ships are kind of important in a military science-fiction novel about a tense set of fleet actions. Sadly, the Indian Navy doesn't really have the kind of names I could steal. More research is needed. Searching on Hindu legends and gods, I find Vajra. Vajra is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond. Additionally, it is a weapon worn in battle which is used as a ritual object to symbolize both the properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and a thunderbolt (irresistible force). Perfect for the first of a new class of battleship! Which gives me the theme for the rest of the fleet, heroes and legends.

For the UN force, I've already identified the battleships as the Continent-class. Starting with Earth's continental masses, later builds would use land forms from UN-controlled worlds. I've also made it clear that a class of heavy missile cruiser is named for large cities. I can follow the naming conventions of the US and Royal Navy here for convenience.

Now worlds. Doing Beta Hydri was pretty easy. The first three worlds, small and unusable, I wanted to have whimsical names. So I cam up with Mongoose, Cobra, and Rat, all eternally chasing each other. For the others, I picked great leaders and martyrs of the Indian independence movement. So far, so good.

But I wanted something special for the main world. I picked the Hindi translation of "New Home" as a placeholder. I'm still mentally working out how this place was settled, so the name might reflect a challenge of or hardships. Given how I described it, I might look to see if there is a famous system of canals in India to name the planet after. But what ever happens, New Home is probably changing.

Lucky for me, most of the action will take place in systems with little or no population, so I'm good there. Fewer planets to name.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
The setting for my novel is really starting to gel nicely. After much searching, I've finally settle on where the main character hails from. As I worked, many details about the planet, it's culture and history, and the form of government came together.

I had originally wanted to put my system in Epsilon Eridani. But that was soon discarded. The system isn't right, and far too close to Earth for my purposes. E.Eri might show up as a setting for some important scene or the other, or just be discarded. What I ended up with was Beta Hydri, a type G2 IV star some 24.33 light years to our Galactic south. A very old system, with on;y 500 million years left before expansion and death, but time enough for humans. It's much brighter than our Sun, and as I generated it, has eleven planets.

The first three are airless, tidally-locked rocks all within 1 AU of the star. They are named Mongoz, Kobara, and Chooha (Mongoose, Cobra, and Rat.) There is occasional mining and scientific operations, but the tiny worlds are pretty useless. Moving out, all the worlds except the main world of the system are named for heroes from India's fight for independence from Great Britain. Lakshimbai is a sub-Jovian world with a small family of moons, and is the headquarters of the Hydran Navy's operational arm.

Naya Ghar (New Home) is home to the bulk of the system's 7.9 billion residents. Slightly smaller than Earth, with .77g of gravity and an atmosphere 1/5th as dense as ours, the surface is nearly half water, with the planet carved into a series of landmasses separated by channels and small seas. There is life, mainly in the oceans. Land forms are mainly plants and smaller animals. There is considerable evidence that the world once had a thick atmosphere for a long period.

Cities are a combination of underground warrens and sprawling surface facilities. Going outside on a summer's day requires a respirator and emergency oxygen supply. The days are 18 hours long, a year is 2.13 standard years. or 1,037.6 local days. Older cities tend to be named for Indian cities on Earth, while newer settlements are named for local terrain features.

Naya Ghar has two moons, both of which are in fairly distant orbits. Their tidal forces are relatively weak, with the exception of those times when their orbits cause them to exert a tidal pull on one side of the planet. "Flood days" are a well-known phenomenon and are seen as part of life on the shores of the many waterways.

There is an ongoing effort to terraform Naya Ghar. Working with the powerful firm Planetary Development Incorporated efforts have begun to thicken the atmosphere in hopes of reaching double the current pressure with an oxygen level that would allow people to walk outside freely. Critics point out the amazing diversity of life already on the planet and the probability of this life being destroyed.

Next out, at 2.78 AU, is Khan, a small Mars-like world wracked by near constantly dust storms. Virtually worthless, it has become home to a colony of Punjabi Sikhs who tired of the Hindu majority on Naya Ghar. Despite near poverty, the colony has become something of a tourist destination and the Hydran military has a strong Sikh component.

The next four worlds are all large gas giants, all with smaller than normal sets of satellites. Chandrasekhar, Bismil, Lahiri, and Bhagat all support vibrant Helium-3 scooping and refining operations. The system's hyper-limit as at 11.04 AU, between the orbits of Bismil and Lahari.

Finally, the is frozen Bahdur, 41.4 AU from the sun. A sub-Jovian, Bahdur has been judged as too distant for economically feasible scooping operations. It has become the main training ground for the Imperial Hydran Navy due to, in the words of one Admiral "It has plenty of worthless rocks to blast into worthless gravel." The planet and it's immediate surrounds are marked as off-limits to unauthorized vessels.

The central star, Beta Hydri, is either called Hydri or just Ravi (Hindi for "Sun") by the residents. As most of the population lives in sealed cities and rarely see the sky anyway, the name doesn't matter to them much anyway.

The system's population is primarily from the Indian subcontinent. After the spasms of the mid-21st century and the Warpox plague, reducing the excess population of India became vital. Later waves of immigrants came from North America and Central Asia. Hindi and English are the languages most spoken, with Hindi being the official language of the state.

Tomorrow, the Great Hydran Empire! Or the Mahaan Haidraan Saamraajy (The Raj, to most people.)
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
I was ranting a few days ago about how comics never change. Nothing affects the status quo. Death, dismemberment, crippling injuries, nothing is permanent. Even in cases where we see the damn body, where it is absolutely clear that the character has died, inevitably he comes back, good as new in a matter of months.

Take Green Lantern, for example. Simple enough concept.. Hal Jordan is brought to the side of a dying Abin Sur who tell Jordan that he is heir to Sur's position as a Green Lantern. Jordan gets a ring that gives him power limited only by his imagination and strength of will. The ring needs to be recharged on a regular basis. Series goes on for a few decades, with Jordan stepping aside as the Lantern once or twice. Then he goes crazy, becomes a being called Parallax, tries to destroy the sun, is defeated, becomes uncrazy, and dies. Dies. Dead. We have the body. Open casket funeral. Jordan's spirit becomes The Spectre, a major magical being on the DC universe. Pretty cool, huh? We had a new Green Lantern, An established hero had gone on to become one of the most powerful beings in existence, and other characters had to deal with the aftermath of all this happening.

Until DC changed everything back.

Now I understand why the comics companies do this, they are heavily invested in the established mythologies they've created, and changing things brings up the threat of losing fans. But just think what it would be like if the threat of death and the ravages of time were very real in these settings. Take Batman, as an example.

Batman first appeared in May, 1939. Let's say that he was 27 at this time. That would have made him around eight when his parents were killed. Plenty of time to train obsessively and build an arsenal of weaponry. Robin first appears a year later as a boy of 10 or 11 years. Being completely insane, we'll give Bruce a 25 year career as the Batman before he realizes that time is catching up to him. Bruce Wayne is still a very spry 52, and Dick Grayson would be in his mid-thirties and ready to take over as Bats. But after that?

Well, since Bruce Wayne had suffered seeing his parents die at his feet, he was well-known for his philanthropy when it came to the needs of orphans and other children in need. The Wayne Orphanage (est. 1943) was hailed as one of the best facilities of its type. Later becoming the Wayne Fund for Children, Bruce was a vocal advocate for extending a helping hand to the kiddies. That, and he was looking to train his eventual successor. By the time that Bruce hangs up his cowl in the mid-60s, his team (and he'd need one) has become very good at selecting and training promising candidates and instilling in them the vigilante mindset. Even the ones not selected to be Robin would be more likely to wander off and set up shop as a street level hero. In my universe, Oliver Queen was an angry kid who found a home at the Wayne program and an outlet for his anger in archery... At the worst, Wayne has an corps of trained reconnaissance agents on the streets. At the best, the kids stop minor crimes in the way they were taught.. quickly, quietly, and without being seen. Most of these actions are attributed to Batman, only increasing his legend. The kids who are recruited tend to earn scholarships to prestigious universities and fund jobs waiting for them at Wayne Enterprises.

Today we're on our fifth Batman. The people of Gotham are aware that ever so often there's a new person filling the role, but they don't care. The various parts of the Wayne legacy are run by Dick Grayson, although he's turning over more and more of the day-to-day operations over to younger executives. Industry watchers have noted how insular Wayne Enterprises (and the Wayne Family Trust) is, with very few executives coming from outside the corporation. Wayne Manor is the headquarters for the Trust and the charitable activities, and is also where Bruce Wayne is buried. A good number of people suspect that the Wayne empire and the Batman are closely linked, only only a select few ever learn the whole truth. Even the recruited kids are led to believe that the Wayne family worked with the original Batman. When a new Robin is selected, he gets told the whole truth. Retired Batmen serve as advisers to the new guy.

Then we have the Joker, one of the most enduring villains in comics, having plagued the DC universe since 1940. One thing about the Joker is that he is not buff. Indeed, most portrayals have him being thin unto being cadaverous; yet he has survived multiple bouts of hand to hand combat with the Batman with no long term injuries, and has even fought actual metahumans (including Superman) and not only survived but shown no long term effects. He's also insane. The Joker's schemes run from the pathetically silly to the horrifically deadly, and he himself is shown as not knowing much about his past.

Could it be that he vat of chemicals that bleached the Joker's skin also gave him a healing factor that makes Wolverine look like a piker? The Joker's body is constantly rebuilding itself.. including his brain. Normal people have fairly stable brain structures, with new connections being made only when necessary. The Joker is constantly rebuilding, which results in muddled memories and a short-circuited decision making process. The one thing that does stick in his head is that he wasn't always this way and Batman is to blame.

The Joker may well be immortal. Short of actually blowing him up or burning the body in a crematoria, he'll heal and come back to Gotham time after time (indeed, at times he may not remember there is anything outside of Gotham.)

So, what happens when a Batman retires or dies? The Joker needs a focus, he needs someone to blame. He'd probably not care about the changing chins underneath the cowl, all he knows that this is the Batman, the one who made him the Joker. In time, the Joker would even come to truly believe that the new hero was the original one who pitched him into that vat.

I can even see where one of the reasons for keeping the Bat motif is to keep the Joker focused on the Batman, so he doesn't go off on innocents.

Just my two cents.

(large portions of this were previously published in my journal.)
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
I'm really pleased by how well my proposed D&D campaign was received the other day. Having several people say "I want in!" is a refreshing change. I'll start finding maps and doing the research to make this game a cool reality.

If it does happen on roll20, I might ask for players to help fund a gamemaster's membership for me to help make for the best experience. This would allow me to get all the goodies that make online tabletop games great. Based on my current experiences with roll20, I'd probably want to use Skype for communications.

But I do have a complaint. "D&D meets Twilight: 2000" was a way of giving a quick analogy for the game's setting, not a promise to mash two entirely dissimilar games and settings together. The setting I'm planning is a take on the Battle of Manzikert, fought in 1071 between the Byzantine Empire under the Emperor Romanos IV against the Seljuk Turks under Arp Arslan. In the real battle, Romanos was betrayed and captured. Arp Arslan asked his royal captive what he would do if their roles were reversed. "Kill you, more than likely." was the reply. The Turkish warlord told Romanos that he was going to something much worse: let him go.

Historians point to that battle as the point where the Roman Empire began its long slide into ruin. It's also a great setting for the type of game I want to run, a game where the characters are already established, and have an immediate, pressing, need to work as a team to survive.

Thinking about it, the campaign could take several paths, all of which could run into each other with some meta-plots running in the background.

First of all we have The Long Road Home. This is the most basic concept. The characters, after coming together in the wake of the rout, decide to work their way back to civilized lands. It's a reasonable goal, and would make for a fine episodic campaign. The push is obvious, survive to reach home. The pull could be a desire to expose Constans Logios as a traitor, or to raise a new army, or to just get back to normalcy. All sorts of fun roadblocks to throw here, and a recurring foe in the agent of the enemy sent to hunt them down.

Secondly, the players could decided to be the Merry Men of Cappadocia. They steal from the evil and give to the good. The area where the battle took place still has many humans, now enslaved and forced to farm and labor for the enemy. They need heroes to save them! Again, this would a good episodic game. The characters would need to find a safe hide-out, gain allies, and then begin striking the enemy where it hurts. This would also lend itself to a running villain. I like boss fights at the end of a campaign. This one would require a more detailed map of the area the players will be operating in.

Next, is the Lawrence of Cappadocia option. Forget raiding, raise an army among the locals and wage guerrilla war against the oppressor! I think in this case a more constant style would work as the characters work to recruit their army from local nomads and lead them to victory. While fun sounding, this one might bog down into a wargame, and I haven't read the mass combat rules yet. But still, it would appeal to players who want to change things on a larger scale.

Then there's the "Run In The Wrong Direction" possibility. Like the first, it involves getting away from the battlefield and heading home, but in this case, the characters are forced further and further into unknown territory until they have a much longer road. I really like this concept, because it gives me a chance to really do so world building on a grand scale in a fantasy realm. Keep pushing east and you come to places like India, Southeast Asia, China, and beyond. How do you ever get home? Admittedly, this option is the hardest for me as a game master, as it would require a ton of creative work. Plus, the players have to agree to a railroad for the first couple of adventures. Still, if you like road trips. . .

I can absolutely see these ideas merging. The campaign might start off with trying to get home, then coming to the defense of a small village and sticking around to protect the locals, who eventually form the nucleus of a resistance. If that resistance is shattered, the crew might find themselves many leagues from any known landmark and hunted by an army.

All good stuff. I'd be interested in seeing what people like from these ideas.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
We meet my hero, two brothers who will be a big part of the "below decks" plot, and a truly evil (to snot-nosed midshipmen, anyway) Crown Warrant Officer.

"The ship should be shaking."

The comment wasn't supposed to be overheard, Aman Singh realized. It had come in one of those rare moments on the Vajra's bridge where everyone had paused for breath at the same moment. Smiling, turned his command couch to face his very junior aide.

"Shaking as the guns roar out bolts of lightning to pummel the fierce space pirates? As the heroic captain -- that would be me I suppose -- rallies his crew with a stirring speech while waving his laser cutlass around?" Aman chuckled. "Sorry, Lieutenant Metz. I read those same books when I was younger. The reality is that if the Vajra is shaking, we have some very serious problems."

Aman glanced down at the repeater mounted on the left arm of his couch. Their target, an ancient freighter refitted as a target drone was on it's last legs after getting pounded by the big grasers for more than two hours. Time to finish this exercise. With a little change in plans he thought as he stroked his beard.

Aman touched the all-hands button on his display. "Attention. For the remainder of the exercise, Sublieutenant Metz has command. Captain Singh out." Unbuckling his restraints, Aman stood and offered the command position to the shocked young officer. Aman noted that whereas the lad had been pink with embarrassment a few seconds ago, he was now an alarming shade of white.

"There's nothing to it, Brendan," Aman said quietly as he helped with the straps, "pick one turret to finish the target off, listen to the targeting crews, and give the order to fire. You did this in the Academy simulators, you can do it now."

Even though Metz was taller than his captain by a double handful of centimeters, he seemed to shrink in the couch. Then, swallowing hard, he spoke up. "Turrets one and three, cease fire. Turret two, continuous fire until further notice." Confirmations quickly showed up on the command screens. "Helm, please keep turret two in optimal firing position. Guns, range to target?"

Commander Kapur, obviously amused by being addressed in such a familiar way by a man twenty years his junior, replied in a perfectly professional tone. "Captain, range is just over six light seconds. Targeting in the main tank." The holographic display in the center of the bridge went from showing the general tactical situation to a detailed look at the target, still driving to reach the hyper limit. Ahead of the target drone was a multi-hued teardrop showing where the ship was likely to be when the graser bursts reached the vicinity. At the center, stretching from the rear tip to near the middle was the cool green of highest probability. Around that as yellow fading to red as the targeting computer and the human operators evaluated what their opponent was capable of in terms of maneuver and acceleration.

Evidently pleased with what he had seen, Metz tried to nod knowingly before fumbling briefly with the communication panel. "Turret two, you may fire when ready." Aman shared a grin with his executive officer at the gunnery station. At least the boy's voice hadn't cracked.


"Well, did'ya hear that? Sounds like your brother has seized control of the ship!" Crown Warrant Officer Nigel Linnet cackled evilly. He always sounded evil, Midshipman Morgan Metz though gloomily. His Middie cruise was not nearly as fun as he hoped it would be. He continued staring at the Secondary Turret Control panel like it contained the secrets of the universe.

"Well now, since Captain Metz" another chuckle from the depths of hell "has given us the honor of blasting that junk pile into very small pieces, it seems only fair that I continue your education by giving you command." Linnet was now the model of formality. "Mr. Metz, what are your orders?"

Morgan sat speechless for a very long second. Before Linnet could begin one of his training speeches, Morgan remembered what to do. As he began to work, he remembered that he was supposed to explain what he was doing at every step.

"OK, targeting display is up. Based on previous data and range, I'm placing the shots here," he said, using a stylus to mark the desired target point, "and locking the guns on that." What next? Right! "Both chambers show good cans loaded, system primed, all boards green." He picked up the old fashioned hand microphone. "Clear the bay for firing." Down below, the gun crews moved to their shelters, signalling the control booth when everyone was clear.

Morgan reached up for the pistol-grip trigger above his head, pausing to look at the CWO. Linnett gave the bare hint of a nod. "Firing," Morgan said, and pulled the trigger hard.

Inside the turret, there was the slightest hint of a rumble as fusion explosions took place in both firing chambers. Inside each of the canisters, the tremendous energy released by the explosions was channeled and focused by precisely formed rods until most of the energy was in the form of gamma rays flying down the barrels, where the energy was compressed and focused even more by gravitic generators. An outside observer would have noticed a brief purple flash from the muzzles as the guns fired.

Six seconds later, the twin bolts reached the target hulk. Two blasts of 200 gigajoules each turned to heat when they impacted, ripping the already weakened ship apart even further. High temperature ceramics shattered, steel vaporized, and more of the ship's infrastructure was melted to slag.

"Good hit!" Linnett chortled. "Now we do it again, yes?" The gun crews were already making sure the next two cans were in place and safely sealed. Morgan ran through the procedure two more times, only needing to be reminded once to make sure the crews were clear, before getting the ceasefire from the bridge.

"You did good, Mr. Metz. We killed an enemy of the Coalition. Or at least pretended to do so." Morgan allowed himself a smile. "But next time," Linnett said thoughtfully, "next time I think I disable the targeting repeaters. Make you figure it by hand. That will be fun, yes?" Morgan groaned and buried his face in his hands. The man is evil. Pure evil. Over Linnett's laughter he could hear his brother standing the ship down from battle stations. Of course Brendan got to sit on the bridge and give orders. He was so lucky!


"Captain, we are secure from battle stations and have resumed Condition 3 cruising. No damage or injuries to report. Is there anything else, sir?" Brendan tried to keep from sounding like he was pleading. Thankfully, Captain Singh was in a merciful mood.

"That will be fine, Lieutenant. I have command. Good job, your first command and it was the Vajra! Now, if you will be so kind, I'm having a small dinner for senior staff, please make the arrangements and layout my undress uniform, Dismissed." Brendan acknowledged the orders and moved to the lift station as fast as he could without running. All he could think off as he pushed his way down the zero-g tube was his annoying little brother running Turret 2. Loading cans, pulling the trigger, and not having the entire command team plus the Captain staring at you while you worked. He was so lucky!
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
I've had an idea for a D&D campaign I'd like to try out for a local group, if possible, and if not locals then on Roll20. Here's how it goes.

The Emperor had called for a great crusade to throw back the monsters pouring out of the east. Half the empire was now under darkness, as orcs roamed freely while other, more dire creatures lurked in the shadows. Leo III declared that he himself would lead the army, and what an army it was!

Every noble landholder pledged his due to the war, legions of leather clad spearmen, some on horseback, some afoot, marching alongside their lords in their fine armor and gleaming ancestral blades. Those unable to fight, or needed at home for vital business, paid for mercenaries to take their place. Fierce barbarians from the west and north, corsairs off the Middle Sea, even bands of elvish warriors fighting for their own inscrutable reasons.

The center was given to the legion of dwarfs seeking to regain their homes in the eastern mountains. They marched with grim purpose, never singing or making merry at camp. Near the Emperor were the representatives of the Gods, clerics and holy warriors bearing relics of great power. Their prayers and blessings were a constant source of strength for the ever-growing mass of troops heading east.

Even the mystics of the magical guilds agreed to participate, although everyone agreed they hadn't done it without exacting a price. Their wagons rolled along with apprentice and journeyman mages keeping anyone from annoying their masters with trivialities.

Behind this horde came the usual camp followers. Tradesmen, entertainers (or all sorts), baggage trains and engineers; all drive east with one goal in mind: liberation of the empire's rightful lands!

Leo III was a wise man, and had planned carefully. All along the route great depots had been stocked with grain and fresh water. Huge bakeries were just waiting for the word. There was no scouring of the countryside to feed the army. There was a little looting, but that was expected.

Finally, the great force reached Caesarea, the last fort held by loyal forces. Now the work began in earnest. For the next few weeks, victory would follow victory as the Army of Vengeance (as the troops had taken to calling themselves) sent the foe flying in each encounter. Leo declared that the army would take Samosata, a once great city, and winter there.

That is when disaster struck. The army was advancing on the enemy drawn up in front of the city in a howling mob of orcs and goblins. The center was led by Durgar the Ironcrown, leading his division of dwarfs with their axes gleaming. The left, mostly heavy cavlary, was lead by Constans Logios, Leo's uncle and trusted adviser. One the right flank, the honor went to Mithander the Red, an outlander mercenary general who had proven himself in many fights.

Battle was joined, and it seemed at first that the disciplined ranks of the imperial forces would once again shatter their foes. Arrows rained down on the enemy center, weakening it greatly. On the right a great melee was taking place, with the enemy being pushed back step-by-step. The Emperor Leo, observing from a captured sentry tower, saw an opening and called for the Lord Constans to charge the weakened enemy center.

Instead, betrayal! Lord Constans' horse troops wheeled from the fight and fled at a full gallop. The enemy fell on the now undefended flank with howls or murderous joy. Two dragons, before this concealed in the city ruins, flew out to add to the devastation. The imperial army dissolved in a full rout, with many thousands killed as they ran for the dubious safety of the distant mountains. What became of Leo, no one knows.


So that's the start of the campaign. The characters will be survivors of the disastrous Battle of Samosata. They'll have to work together to survive and find their way back to civilization. Or perhaps become a guerrilla force of their own against the foul evils. In case you don't know the place names I used, this battle takes place in what is now Southeast Turkey (the city ruins were flooded by a dam built in 1982.)

If you ever played Twilight:2000, you might recognize this start. I like the idea of dropping characters into a situation with no real choice but to move and stick together to survive. I'll be working on all sorts of fun distractions and side quests, but this is going to be campaign where gold is far down the list of priorities. Friendly cities and temples with be rare. Every hand against you, nowhere to hide.

I like the idea. How about the rest of you?
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Ever thought about what you'd do with three wishes? Found that magic lamp or ring, got the djin in a good mood, and the universe is yours. Congratulations, you are so screwed.

See, traditionally wishes are the worst thing you can get in traditional folk tales and more modern fiction. Because magical creatures of such power tend to be either overly literal or annoyed at having to serve such inferior creatures as mankind. There's plenty of warnings in Irish folk stories about the insanity of dealing with the Gentle Folk in way other than backing away as fast as possible.

Let's take a great example from fairly recent (compared to the source material) story, Disney's 1992 "Aladdin". Once he realizes what is being offered, and being head over heels for a princess, his wish is "make me a prince."

This is where the movie goes wrong. See, there were so many ways to twist this wish. Aladdin becomes a prince of Agrabah, Jasmine's older brother. Since he's now the heir, Jasmine can be married off to some random noble in another city. It's not like Aladdin could marry his own sister! Oh, and since he's the heir, Jaffar is now going to be trying to get him out of the way as well.

Or Aladdin becomes the prince of a city that has warred endlessly with Agrabah for decades. Now not only is Aladdin more than likely going to be charged with killing his lady love, she's going to hate him on sight. Good times.

So many ways to twist these things. I'll admit that my experience with phrasing wishes comes from playing role-playing games with sadistic game masters who twist every word. I recall the player in our Fort Benning game who got a wish for his fighter. Unknown to us, during the week he went to the Army's legal aid office and got several Army lawyers to draft his wish for him. It was ironclad, they had fun, and the game master allowed it.

But that's the thing. A wish changes the nature of reality completely. There are plenty of stories about the unintended consequences of this sort of wish. You need to be very, very precise in your intent and wording. One slip and you face the aftereffects of an overwhelming power giving you exactly what you asked for.

There is a way to get a mostly risk free wish. That's to perform some service for an entity capable of granting one. But then you have to ask, if you are dealing with a being that can twist reality on a whim, what does he need you for? Beware the Sidhe that asks for help!

I've often wondered what I'd wish for if I was given the traditional three wishes. I haven't consulted any lawyers, but these are my rough drafts:

1. "I wish that the next lottery ticket I buy for the California State Lottery or the multi-state Power Ball be the sole winning ticket for the draw it is part of." Just wishing for money is bad, because the wish can be twisted. Wish for a million dollars and your spouse dies, and she had a million dollar life insurance policy. Or it turns out that the money was part of an embezzlement scheme. Wish for a sure-fire way to get the money in an accepted way.

2. "I wish that all the damage done to my body by illnesses, injuries, genetic disorders, and any and all treatments be repaired; bringing my body to normal health while not adding any new conditions." Wishing for perfect health and immortality is a fool's game. So many ways to screw with that. What if perfect health burns out your immune system? Immortality? Next day you're hit by a cement truck and paralyzed from the neck down. Stick with fixing what's wrong with you.

3. "I wish that I was a highly talented juggler." Always go for something simple. Juggling is cool.

That's it. Money, health, and a skill I can use on Playa at Burning Man. No Trump bursting into flame, no dirigibles coming back into style, just a couple of life changes. I could have wished for a more successful military career, or to have been a Hall of Fame ballplayer, but those would have eliminated parts of my life that I like. Like being married to Kiri.

If wishes were horses, dreamers would ride, so goes the old saying. But those dreamers would be screaming in horror as their wish-horses turned out to be dragons.

Put the lamp down. It's not worth it.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
And here comes the rain again. Ever get something you really need, and then get too bloody much of it? That's California and water this year. After four years of severe, devastating drought, we finally got the good news that the storm doors had opened!

Blown off the hinges, actually. We had the wettest January and February in the state's history. Buckets of rain and, in the higher elevations, snow came crashing down. Joy at the possible end of the drought turned to concern then to fear as water kept deluging our dry hills and valleys. In many places, hillsides stripped of trees by the past few fire seasons gave way, leading to landslides all across the state.

And still the rains came. Reservoirs that had been nearly empty filled with such speed that hydraulic engineers, facing this problem for the first time in decades, had to deal with dams bursting at the seams. At Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, the main spillway crumbled under the rushing waters, sending multi-ton chunks of concrete tumbling down to the Feather River. The emergency spillway, which had never been used in the dam's 50 year history, was opened up and nearly collapsed itself as the raging waters eroded away decades of growth and top soil.

It was all too much! Everywhere you looked there were streets filled with standing water and blocked storm drains. A fish hatchery had to evacuate over a million baby salmon lest the debris and silt pouring down the Feather River kill them all. All over the state our aging infrastructure gave up the ghost and stopped functioning. At least two levies failed.

There was so much water coming down the various river systems in Northern California, and so much silt and debris in that water, that San Francisco Bay turned brown and was briefly considered to be a freshwater feature. There was a warning issued to all mariners operating in the bay or coming through the Golden Gate to be aware of debris up to and including large trees and portions of buildings.

And still the rains came. Even here in the usually dry Santa Clara County, the waters were causing havoc. Anderson Dam, to the south of us, couldn't be allowed to fill completely due to needed seismic upgrades. Yet as was the case everywhere else, the reservoir was rapidly rising. In a stunning breakdown of communications, water was released into Coyote Creek too quickly, and without evacuation orders going out to residents along the creek banks. The result was the worst flooding seen in the county in a very, very long time.

An amusing side note to the Coyote Creek flood, a gold course grounds manager discovered just how many homeless people were living on his course when he took a boat out to inspect the damages and found 50 people up trees.

Not that funny, I know, but you take it where you can find it.

The sad thing is that even with all the rain we've gotten, and even with the record snow pack up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, we're not out of the woods yet. California has been draining the subterranean water table almost everywhere to fuel our state agricultural juggernaut. It would take several years of weather like this to recharge it. I suggested in all seriousness that the state should have opened levies all across the San Joaquin Valley and in other agricultural areas once the size of the runoff became unmanageable. Flood millions of acres of farmland with water rich in silt and (let's face it) dead biomass. Recharge the soil and the water table a bit. As usual, my voice wasn't heard.

Yeah, I think we're all pretty done with the rain for this year. On the upside, the waterfalls in Yosemite are more stunning than usual, and should remain flowing through August. But that's a minor plus to a series of devastating storms. We now face a race to rebuild and repair not just the Oroville and Anderson dams, but our water infrastructure all around the state. We put it off for far too long.

The real nightmare, though, is that this year was an anomaly. A blip in the weather pattern caused by a series of factors that lined up perfectly, and that next year the rains will stop again. Because despite living in a place where droughts are common, Californians still have goldfish brains when it comes to water conservation. They see a wet winter and immediately go back to wasteful ways, and we can't afford that. Because the next drought is right around the proverbial corner, right behind the storm door that can close any time.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Some spoilers for Iron Fist lie ahead. Be warned.

So I've just binged the first few episodes of Iron Fist on Netflix. Despite the professional reviews dissing it, I'm having fun with the realization of one of my favorite characters from the strange pool of ideas that was Marvel in the 1970s. But that's not to say I don't have some issues.

For those not familiar with the character, Iron Fist is Danny Rand, a young man raised in the mystical city of K'un-L'un. The comics and the TV show differ on how young Danny gets there, but the end result is the same: dead parents and years of training in the martial arts. As Iron Fist, Danny is able to channel his chi into one fist, making it "unto a thing like iron."

Danny returns to New York, where he eventually teams up with Luke Cage in Heroes for Hire, Inc., and later the Defenders. He is very much a street-level hero, better suited for fighting more mundane threats as opposed to the Avengers, who can take on huge threats.

My issues with the series start with them keeping the "scion of a billionaire family who returns from the Mysterious East with amazing abilities" trope. Seriously, this is the biggest cliche in comics. It's the regular attempt to recreate Batman in a different suit. Even on television, we currently have Green Arrow having the exact same background. Chang it up!

Then we have the fact that some of the Netflix shows have a terrible sense of story pacing. Danny arrives in New York shoeless and shaggy. He sleeps in a park while trying to prove that he is in fact this kid who was reported dead 15 years ago. Regaining who he is could have been the first season. It would have given us a longer arc of him becoming a hero for the homeless and ignored. It would have established who Daniel Rand is in our minds, this man who has the values of a mystic warrior monk.

Instead, by the 4th episode, he's already in the corner office with 51% control of his family business. Too quick! I hate that nobody wants to do a striptease with the plot reveals anymore. It took Babylon 5 two full seasons to fully reveal the threat!

I do like that the writers did play a bit with the idea that maybe this "Danny Rand" was crazy, but let's be honest. This is New York City a few years after the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Harlem has been devastated by the Hulk and Abomination, A major tech fair was attacked by flying drones and defeated by Iron Man and War Machine, and an entire alien army led by a Norse God beat the shit out of lower Manhattan! It is publicly accepted that a WWII hero was frozen in ice for 70 years and that one of mankind's greatest defenders is another Norse God!

You would think that mental health professionals at this point would be slightly more accepting of the possibility that the young man in front of them did in fact spend 15 years in a mystic monastery.

But the one thing that has a lot of people talking is the fact that Danny Rand is a white guy. A white guy who uses Chinese martial arts and speaks fluent Mandarin. There have been cries of whitewashing and cultural appropriation leveled at the series. Some have questioned who do this series at all?

First of all, you can't whitewash a character who was originally conceived, written and drawn as a blond white dude. The characters' who point is the place he was trained only opens to the outside world every fifteen years, and was brought in to save his life. Is the idea that this master of the arts and the power of Iron Fist a white guy racist? Possibly. But remember that at the same time Marvel was also riding the martial arts craze with Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, a Chinese character. This was also the birth of Luke Cage, Power Man among other more diverse characters. Marvel was trying to be better about race and gender representation in their books.

Cultural appropriation? Where? Again, from the age of about 9 or 10 to 25 Daniel Rand lived in this mystical place. It was his culture! He had no choice, he didn't decide to watch his parents die and become a monk. Ridiculous charge.

Lastly, as I mentioned above, Marvel is planning a Defenders series for Netflix in the future. As many of the comic-book Defenders (and there have been many line-ups and versions of the team) are either tied up in legal problems or wouldn't fit with the lower-budget Netflix projects, it was decided to reunite Iron Fist with Luke Cage for the series. Perfectly reasonable. It took us half a dozen feature films to get to the Avengers, after all.

I'm liking Iron Fist. I just hope the rest of the season is paced better, but I was spoiled by how well Luke Cage was produced.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
So yesterday I wrote about my on again, off again relationship with comic books. Boiled down, I liked them, but factors like expense and storage space, plus the lack of any real character movement, led me to be a somewhat edge consumer. Now that I've learned just how much infighting and office wars are behind the rather bizarre changes we've seen, I understand a little better why things get so wonky.

But I do love superheroes and physics-defying worlds they live in. For a long time, I've fed my jones through - wait for it - role-playing games like Champions and Villains & Vigilantes. The latter is enjoying a new life with an upcoming third edition headed by some of the original designers. This makes me happy. Iron Horse may yet ride again!

The other outlet was TV and film. Like everyone else my age I was enthralled by the first two Superman movies with Christopher Reeve as the the Man of Steel, quietly crept out of the theater during the third, and drank heavily when they announced the fourth film. But other than that, and some rather disappointing TV efforts in the early 80s (Greatest American Hero being an exception, and where's the reboot we were promised two years ago, huh?) we had to wait until 1989 for a truly great superhero movie to come along.

Tim Burton's Batman. Dear gods, this movie was great, even if I found many pieces a bit over the top. Great casting, great action pieces. It was a fun film that got the Dark Knight *right.* Then DC proved it couldn't pour piss out of a boot while reading the directions on the heel by releasing a series of increasing horrible sequels. Are you sensing a trend here? But still, most of them were pretty, and I will claim that Jim Carey got screwed by having his Riddler share space with Two-Face and a writing team that didn't know what actually constitutes a riddle.

But we soldiered on. In 2002 we got the first of the three Spider-Man movies starring Tobey McGuire. These films were good for the first two, then fell flat. But then, at the end of the decade, comic book move fans hit the jackpot. Iron Man was released in 2008, and it was something new. There was a plan to release films that worked together in an extended plot that would bring the heroes together in a way that made sense. So we got Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger; all of which led up to The Avengers.

This was good and amazing. We also got the "unfilmable" Watchmen movie, which was very pretty and I like it and you can fuck off with your whiny complaints about the space squid and Tales of the Black Freighter. It was a GOOD MOVIE, a movie with enough glowing blue dick for everyone.

Sorry. I'm a bit passionate about that film.

But that was just Phase 1 of Marvel's three-part plan for their movies. Phase 2 ended with Ant-Man in 2015, and we're well in Phase 3 with many more movies to come! This is reason to keep living! To say that I squeed like a fanboy when Doctor Strange was announced is an understatement. The Sorcerer Supreme has always been a favorite.

Not content with the big screen, Marvel also decided to conquer the small screen. "Agents of SHIELD" has been not only a fun show, but it's been a magnificent way to both set up and continue the story lines from the movies. Netflix has several great shows giving us some of the lesser-known characters like Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones; all of whom tie back into the big meta-plot. I'm curious to see how they handle Iron Fist.

DC, while failing miserably in the movie department, has quietly put out some pretty damn good TV. Green Arrow and Flash were the first, and both have benefited from very strong casts and a willingness to address the logic holes in the superhero business. Supergirl, which started on CBS and migrated to the CW, has been a bit more hit and miss, but is solid. Sadly, Legends of Tomorrow has lost me completely. There's just no chemistry on that set, which makes it look like a bunch of people cosplaying rather than heroes traveling in time.

The one thing all this that make me very, ver sad is that no one has ever made a Fantastic Four movie. Nope, It has never happened. Ever. I will claim this until I die. Claims of FF films are fake news.

gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
I was just on the phone with my mom, and asked her what I should write about. As I had just been encouraging her to watch the special musical episode of The Flash next week, she suggested comic books. Good topic.

I can still remember what was probably one of the first comics I really read, That was Avengers #160, featuring the Grim Reaper invading Avenger Mansion. There was another comic, probably bought for me on a long car trip or flight to Milwaukee, that was a Spider-Man comic where he was battling in the Museum of Natural History and all the dinosaur skeletons came to life. (It was an illusion.)

Comics were an occasional thing for me as a kid. I never really got into following them mainly because I played role-playing games, and that swallowed my weekly allowance whole. Every week I'd do my chores, walk down to the bus stop to grab Line 27 and a day pass, ride into Los Gatos where I'd pick up either Line 60 or Line 62 and head for Campbell and the legendary Game Table. Where I'd buy something for Traveller or the latest issue of Dragon magazine.

All of this for $10, including a stop at a taco place.

No, for me comics would wait until I was stationed in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks. The on-base recreation sucked, and Honolulu was too expensive, so I was left with Wahiawa - the town just outside Schofield and Wheeler Air Force Base - for my amusement. That's where I found the most amazing comic store ever. Central Oahu is made up of knife-edge ridges and deep ravines. Wahiawa has several ravines running through it. To get to this store, you had to walk down three flights of wooden stairs to a lanai that looked out on lush rainforest with the sound of a stream rushing nearby. There was the store. I went in that first time looking for gaming stuff.

I came out with issue one of The Dark Knight Returns. I was hooked. I began reading more and more, storing what I could and selling back what I couldn't. I gravitated to the best artists; Alex Ross, George Perez, and the like, and loved the so-called Iron Age of grittier heroes. At one point, my weekly order was about 25 books, plus Comic Relief magazine. Boy, we could use that one back these days.

But slowly I began to grow troubled with the comic universes I was reading. There was no consequences to any actions. Death, a fairly serious life event, was temporary even when we had the body. DC cleaned up their messy multiverse with an epic event with their Crisis on Infinite Earths, then immediate started messing it up again. Change was forbidden.

The RPG GURPS even poked fun at this in their Infinite Worlds campaign. There's a timeline where superheroes exist, but every thirty years their stories reset and change slightly. That really accurate.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me was the bullet that broke Tony Stark's back. Stark, the Incredible Iron Man, had been dating a Hollywood starlet who turned out to be a bit deranged. She shot Tony, leaving him paralyzed from the sternum down. I will note that no time did they mention the actual effects of this sort of paralysis, like needing a colostomy bag and assistance breathing. Being dead from the chest down has severe life consequences. Strike one.

"But great," I thought, "Tony is a known alcoholic. This might drive him back into the bottle. Or he might become addicted to the Iron Man suit since it allows him to walk normally! There are all sorts of great story lines we can get from this!" But know, within a year - 12 issues - Tony had magically repaired his own nervous system using an alien nanovirus. Good as new, story never mentioned again. Strike two.

Oh no! The alien nanos are killing Tony! In a moving deathbed scene he leaves everything to longtime pilot and sidekick, James Rhodes. The he dies. The Iron Man is dead, long live Iron Man! "This is really going to be great this time!" I once again thought, "A new Iron Man, a very different character, and the stories about him adjusting to being rich and the owner of Stark's empire will be fascinating!"

Not so fast. Rhodey was Iron Man for the Secret Wars miniseries, and a limited run of the main book, but then it was revealed that Stark had faked his death while he fixed himself again. He's back, and wants all his stuff again. I was waiting for Rhodes to say "No, you lying SOB, it's mine. Get out." But no, he just passes everything back and goes back to being the bloody sidekick! Strike three, and I was out.

I still read selected comics. We both loved Transmetropolitan, and Mike Grell's "Green Arrow: The Long Bow Hunters" remains a classic. But for the most part I ignore comics these days. Expect for in movies and on TV, which will be another post.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
Well, it's that time again. March Madness. When America grinds to a screeching stop so we can pretend not to bet on a college basketball tournament. Even though i won't be doing my part by wasting billions of dollars of productivity following the games, I've filled out my brackets.

Two of them, actually. One on ESPN and one on Yahoo, both of which will mark the only time I use those accounts all year. The annual Filling Out Of The Brackets has become a holy ritual, with some people spending more effort determining whether Seton Hall has a better free throw percentage than Xavier than they will on their taxes. Which explain much about this nation.

By the way, I'd totally pay more attention to college basketball if "Xavier" was actually the school from the X-Men comics. I mean, is it traveling if you fly with the ball in your hands? But alas, that dream must stay in the realm of the comic book that I demand be on the shelves pronto.

There's even a term for this national obsession with obscure schools you've never heard of: "Bracketology." If you listen to sports radio in late February you will hear grown mean discussing how to fill out your bracket in the way I was told how to save my life if I was exposed to nerve gas: in great detail and deathly serious. For eight years the President of the United States would host ESPN in the White House so he could reveal not a secret plan to send Rush Limbaugh to Mars, but his picks for the NCAA Tournament. It was a show! And boy do I miss that guy right now.

But I'm not a basketball fan in the least. Despite being a total sports goober basketball never appealed in the least. Even though I grew up in the glory days of Dr. J, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and witnessed the deification of Michael Jordan, I was just never into the game itself. Too many weird fouls, I suppose. It would be action action action *tweet* and everyone marches to the other end of the court.

I also blame my mother. As was required by law, our house had a basketball net mounted on the garage. This was put up despite one kid being legally blind and the other two being sports-adverse. But on warm summer nights we'd dutifully file out for a game of Horse. If you're not familiar with the game, one person shoots a basket. If they make it, the next person has to replicate the shot or get a letter. Spell Horse and you're out.

Which would be fine, except my mom was an undiscovered basketball prodigy! She'd nail hook shots, jumpers through the horrible sap-ridden tree branches, and even from the end of the driveway! And then I'd be handed the ball and told to try my best! Ha! There's a reason I became a dedicated bookworm.

There you go, the reason why basketball and I aren't friends. We just don't get along well, and I think we're both good with that. I cheer for the Warriors when I hear about them, and can name at least three team members; although I have to admit that comes from listening to news radio all day, not actual interest.

But I did fill out my brackets. On both I picked Duke to win because I heard someone say that Duke was the bookmakers' favorite. So of course Duke will be beaten in the first round just to screw up my entire bracket. A more likely scenario is I'll have a good first round, get my hopes up, and then watch the entire thing burn down, fall over, and sink into the swamp.

I know everyone reading this is dying to know my secrets to picking a bracket. Do I compare stats? Check the teams comparative records? Examine the coaching philosophies? Seek out the wisdom of wiser heads and heed their advice?

No, most years I pick almost at random. I usually go for the higher seeded team unless I like the other school more. For example, I always pick Wisconsin to do at least moderately well, due to family ties and the fact that I like badgers. My other method is to play Mascot Deathmatch. Which mascot would win a fight? This is why in the years Stanford has made it to the tournament I've never picked them to win. Their mascot is a tree. Trees are terrible fighters.

Go brackets! Do me proud, and I'd like to apologize to Kirsten for my annual descent into March Madness.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
More novel stuff inspired by the book Dreadnought, by Robert K. Massie. Thanks again to Bruce Norbeck for suggesting it to me. This isn't going to be a major character, but a man moving things behind the scenes.

The Coalition's Foreign Ministry was housed in a chaotic series of buildings known to everyone as the Labyrinth. Office towers, meeting halls, and support structures were placed seemingly at random, leading to much confusion in visitors. A common joke was that the impenetrable layout was a commentary on the often muddled foreign policy issued from its depths.

But to those who worked there, there was one room known to all, even above the office of the Foreign Minister himself. That was H-72, the office of the First Foreign Secretary of the Political Division. For decades the office had been held by Mathura Chheda, a gray man who arrived every day promptly, unlocked his office himself, and sat down to work. He refused all the perks of his office. There was no receptionist, not fawning aides. Chheda worked solidly, reading and commenting on the reports from embassies and agents that came into his office, writing memorandums and policy notes, and sending them out by email or through the messengers that were his only visitors most days.

Chheda was the Grey Eminence of the Foreign Ministry. Even his fellow First Secretaries sought out his approval before submitting plans. Many directors of foreign intelligence complained -- quietly -- that Chheda had better sources both at home and abroad than they did. His reach was so universal that inside the Ministry "72" became the whispered warning that the walls had ears.

From his quiet little office on the 7th floor of Building H, just two floors below the Minister's suite, Chheda had watched a parade of Chancellors, Ministers, Ambassadors, and functionaries come and go. Every day at the noon meal, a tray would be delivered promptly and left on the office's side table. An hour later, the tray would be left outside the door of his office to be collected, usually with a brief note commenting on the quality of the food. Those notes could destroy careers.

The lights in H-72 burned long after most of the other members of the foreign service had left for their homes. Chheda spent long hours making sure that he and he alone held the strings in the Ministry. He had refused promotion many times, he knew exactly where his power lay. Ministers soon learned that to cross the man in H-72 was not worth the trouble, and removing him would be suicide for the Ministry.

His work finally done, Chheda would secure his office, and walk a short distance to (restaurant name) where a private dining room was reserved for him. Every so often, a favored coworker or diplomat would be invited to join Chheda in his evening meal. There they learned that the Grey Eminence had one passion beyond his work, fine foods. It was not uncommon for his suppers to encompass seven courses, and several bottles of wine. But he never showed any signs of being drunk.

Even at these meals, or on the rare occasions he attended a social function (he avoided most of the capital's social calendar by claiming a lack of proper clothing) Chheda was still the spider at the center of his web. People said that he always seemed to be calculating, evaluating everyone in sight and noting the patterns of movement in whatever room he was in. Attempts to engage the First Secretary in conversation usually failed, unless he needed something from the other party.

His meal done the grey little man in his nondescript suit would leave the restaurant by a private exit and make the short walk to his quarters. He refused the open use of Ministry bodyguards, although he knew a handful always lurked nearby when he was in public. Entering his modest, three room suite. Chheda followed the same routine: he would lay out clothing for the next day, shower, read for a short time, and then to bed.

They called him many things at the Foreign Ministry: The Grey Eminence, the man in 72, the shadow minister. But there was one title rarely used. Mathura Chheda may have been the image of a career bureaucrat, but inside he harbored a deep sense of vengeance. Chheda never forgot a wrong, and never forgave. He would destroy careers and lives over the slightest insult. He was rumored to have had failing agents killed out of hand to preserve his place in the bureaucracy. New arrivals at the Foreign Ministry were warned to watch their step and what they said, for this Labyrinth was stalked by a Minotaur.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
What is the goal of a war? Why are you committing your blood and treasure to a machine that will consume both? Unless your leaders and population are mad, wars need to have goals, and a reasonable expectation of achieving them. The problem, of course, is the state you go to war with has it's own ideas about your goals, and will resist them if what you want disagrees with what they want. Such is human history.

In the mid-19th century, Central Europe was in flux. The map had been torn apart by Napoleon I, and glued back together by the Congress of Vienna, and in every state the effects of the Industrial Revolution was being felt. Onto this stage strode one of the true giants of world history, Otto von Bismarck. Son of a minor Junker landowner, and possessed of an iron will, von Bismarck climbed the rungs of the Prussian state until he was the effective head of the nation. But he wasn't satisfied. By winning two wars he had no right to win against the vastly superior Austrian and French Empires, he forged a new united German state.

And then he stopped making wars and turned to diplomacy. Because von Bismarck understood what I stated above, that wars have to have a reason and a goal. The Imperial Chancellor hated wars, as they were something that was out of his control. But he still kept them as a possibility, as an instrument of state policy if needed. But even for this master statesman who created and ran Germany for 40 years, there was one line he would not cross unless forced: Russia.

Speaking to the German Ambassador to Vienna in 1888, Bismarck stated that one would not actually defeat the Russians. “The most brilliant victories would not avail; the indestructible empire of the Russian nation, strong because of its climate, its desert, its frugality, strong also because of the advantage of having only one frontier to defend, would, after its defeat, remain our sworn enemy, desirous of revenge, just as today’s France is in the West."

Which is relevant to my novel, as I'm writing about a massive, multi-sided war out among the stars. But we don't live in deep space, we live on planets. And what von Bismarck had to say about Russia applies ten-fold to taking an entire world. Unless there is only a small colony present, or the inhabited body is incapable of supporting life and can be threatened with destruction of life support facilities, an invading force has only two real options.

The first is the doctrine of total war. Since you can't control the planet, render it useless to the enemy. Destroy orbital facilities, cripple the surface by hurling projectiles at a small fraction of the speed of light at vital points (as energetic as a nuclear device, with no radiation. So your colonists can move in when the dust settles.)

This doctrine is needlessly destructive, and is usually only resorted to by desperate commanders or in reprisal for similar attacks by the enemy. No, if you want to hold a world, exploit it, rule it, you have to put boots on the ground.

But we just established that conquering a planet is impossible! True, but you can control enough of it to maintain effective control of the rest, just like a police officer can neutralize a comabative subject with the right twist of a wrist. This is called nodal warfare. The idea is simple. Control or disrupt the important points that allow a civilization to function (the nodes) and you gain control by proxy over the rest of the planet.

Some nodes are obvious. Government centers, major cities, transportation hubs. Others may be less obvious. Gain control over the communications network, and you not only can make sure the population hears what you want them to hear, but you also make it hard for resistance cells to operate. Control the sources of food and water and rebels face a desperate choice. There are others, but I think the idea is clear.

This invasion and occupation would be supported by one or two orbiting cruisers, or perhaps a small squadron of destroyers. They're they to both coordinate efforts on the ground, and provide retributive fire if needed.

The final key is popular opinion. If the previous government was oppressive, the invaders may be greeted as liberators . . . or not. (See George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq, 2003.) If the occupation is handled well, and a strong propaganda campaign is in place, you might turn popular opinion your way.

But still. Don't invade Russia. It's a bad idea.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
This changed course mid-writing.

I love words. I love their history, their construction, and how a word can cover so many meanings. I love the flow of words in the hands of a master, whether it a Shakespeare sonnet or Vin Scully calling a 5-4-3 double play. I am fascinated by the evolution of languages and how the clash and melding of different tongues created languages as beautiful as French and as confusing as English.

This comes from being the son of an Englishman, and a bit of a wit himself. My dad was determined that we would know our British roots even as we grew in California in the 60s and 70s. So along with Enid Blyton novels, we watched a lot of PBS. See, back then the local Public Broadcast station was the only source for shows imported from the BBC. So we watched Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Two Ronnies and Dave Allen At Large. Later, we watched BBC comedies like Good Neighbors, To The Manor Born, and Are You Being Served. This viewing left many American viewers convinced that there were twelve actors in England at any given time, and three of them were Penelope Keith.

Then there was The World At War. This 26 episode masterpiece from Thames Television ran in 1973-74 and was quickly snatched up by American stations. My father survived the Blitz and the bombing of Coventry, I was an Army-mad ten year old. We spent many Saturdays watching archival footage and interviews as Laurence Oliver narrated.

That was my early exposure to the idea that the same language could diverge from the root. These BBC shows (which grew to include Doctor Who, The Starlost, Blake's 7, and Survivors) were in English, but a very different English. I began to read up a little on how languages worked. It's been a minor passion ever since.

One of my favorite books here on the history shelf is "The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History". It's not a ponderous tome, like so many others (I'm looking at you, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire!) but instead a slim volume that show boundaries not based on states, but by the languages spoken. It's an amazing way to look at the progress of history, and really affected how I look at the world.

Hence one of the things that makes me cringe in fiction and role-playing games. The concept of a "common" language that everyone speaks. Especially in societies lacking things like fast communications and printing presses, linguistic drift is inevitable. English is the "common" language of the United States, but accents and regional variations mean that you could have a hard time getting residents of Alabama and Maine to understand each other. Take away TV, radio, and telephones and the drift speed opens up.

Even past universal tongues faltered. Latin was the official language of Rome, but leave the Italian peninsula and the only people speaking it are military and civil officials, tribal chiefs who had been educated in Rome, and the occasional educated merchant. When Rome faltered, and Constantinople became the center of the empire's power, Latin held on for a time, but eventually Greek became the language of an empire that called itself Roman for a thousand years after the fall of Rome.

Latin ended up a sacred language in the Roman Catholic Church, and the source of torment for generations of English children. French and English have made bids to be universal, but still, they aren't really common. We met dozens of English speakers in Istanbul, but that's a city that's been a center of trade and tourism for almost 2,000 years. I'm sure if we had been Polish, we would have found rug merchants able to cheat us in Polish.

So what do we do about the idea of the common tongue? Throw it in the dustbin. Historically, travelers, soldiers of fortune, explorers, and agents of the state have learned to speak the languages of the people they interact with. That's more interesting, in my opinion. Make your world live with different linguistic families, regional dialects, sacred tongues and secret cants. If you must have a common tongue, it's probably going to be limited in scope of use and utility.

Think of the phrases you find in tourist guide books. Hello, goodbye, please thank you. Where is (blank)?, how much, offer, and other simple words and phrases. That's going to be your trade tongue. If you want to have an in depth conversation, learn the local language!
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It's about 1800 on Saturday, and already it's been a long weekend. Coming off a long week, I am pretty smoked. But we're getting shit done around here. Which is good, activity keeps my brain and body working. Anything I do to force my brain to keep making connections, and anything that works the decaying nerves in my legs a little harder equals a longer and better life for me.

Spring-like weather has arrived here in the Santa Clara Valley, and that means that sleeping in was possible due to it not being under 40 degrees in the apartment. All of you who live in places where frozen water falls from the skies can roll your eye all you like, I no longer handle cold well. So it was a good morning to snuggle with my Kiri and the mountain of teddy bears.

Firs thing on my agenda was the bi-weekly D&D game. We play on, and use Skype for communication. It's a fun group, with my friend Allen Shock running things. We're on to a new campaign after the Total Party Kill we experienced in Ravenloft a few weeks back. I'm playing a half-elf barbarian named Digenis Akirtas. The name comes from an epic tale written in the 8th century about a hero born of a Byzantine father and an Arab mother. The name literally means "Two Blood Border Lord", and I figured it was a good for a man born of two races. We're starting at 7th level. This time we remembered to bring some clerics along! Fought and killed a Frost Giant, squeezed through some gates, and found treasure. We start exploring this abandoned Dwarfhold in two weeks. Really happy to be gaming again after such a long break.

After that, a nap. Kirsten had gone out for a blood draw, and wanted to lie down for a bit. I joined her. Because bed. I sleep a lot more than I did before the stroke. It's kind of disturbing because it is one of the more subtle changes I've noticed. It's all related to my mental endurance, I'm sure.

But we rose, because we had to go work on the Free Trailer Beowulf! It was still parked inside Kirsten's warehouse. We had a couple of goals for the day: Remove the back pieces of the platform that made up the bed area, inspect for more mold, install two leveling bubbles (little carpenter's levels screwed into the frame of the trailer, so you can adjust for a level interior when you're camping), and mark out where a really nice window we were gifted was going to go.

Well, we found mold. It was pretty dead, due to our leaving a dehumidifier in the trailer for the past few weeks, but it was there. The awesome man who runs the door and window shop next door to Kiri's work told us the best way to get rid of it. Which meant yet another trip to Home Depot. Luckily, it's not far. We found what we needed, along with one of their job buckets. Back to the warehouse.

I mixed the TSP (Trisodium phosphate) in our new bucket, put on some thick rubber gloves, and went to work with a shop towel. Dear gods, you could almost hear the mold shrieking "I'm melting! What a world!" as I swiped.Where has this stuff been all my life? Hopefully, this is the last we'll see of the mold, as Chris, the door guys, has offered to stain and seal the raw wood parts of the interior. And install the window. He's kind of awesome. Even if he is an A's fan.

After some drama with a stuck drill bit, we got the levels installed in a "close enough for rock and roll and Burning Man" way. RVs need to be leveled for pumps and drains to work properly. We just don't want the inside to look like a villains lair in the 1966 Batman TV show. Most;y level works. This was also the day we tested out two of our leveling jacks. We have four, one for each corner, and their rated for far greater loads than we could possibly get into that small space. They are a good thing.

Tomorrow, we're going to do some exterior work. We have red reflective tape that's going down both sides for that "Little Black Book" Traveller feel. We'll also look for signs of more mold, and clean up a little. Nice thing is, we don't have to tow it back to storage tomorrow, it can wait until Monday, as Tony needs to double check the electrical hook ups again.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
What a day! I knew earlier this week it was going to be a busy one, but I'm really surprised at how much we accomplished. Especially considering how fried I was over the whole Facebook meltdown. And having a biopsy. It's been a stressful week.

But we had things to do, so rather than hitting the snooze button several times, we were up and out the door soon after 0700. Our first goal was the storage yard where we keep the Free Trailer Beowulf. For the locals, We live in Santa Clara and the yard is in South San Jose near the 101/85 interchange. So a bit of a drive. After a stop for breakfast at Jack in the Box, we proved to ourselves that we are getting moderately decent at hooking the trailer up to the truck.


Anyway, Kirsten had drive down, so I took the next leg of driving. Back up 101 to her office in Santa Clara. Normally, this freeway is a parking lot at that time of the morning, but I guess a ton of people were taking advantage of the sudden spring weather to head to Tahoe for some skiing. Very little traffic along the way.

Although there was a little odd movement at first, we quickly concluded it was the road surface causing it, and not the trailer fishtailing. It was steady as a rock back there. I'm happy to have spent so many years driving 34' flatbeds . . . my lane-changing instincts are conditioned to expect the need for a wide opening in the lane I'm moving into and I have the habit of signalling long before I move. This pays off. Hell, I signal in parking lots when I'm the only car there. Good habits, people!

Anyway, the main goal of the day was getting the wiring looked at. Remember, the Beowulf was somebody's shop project, and it shows. It's why we got it cheap. The main concern was the wiring from the truck connector to the tail lights looked sloppy, and the 110 volt power cable that ran inside to two power strips was both hanging loose and had a connection held together by electrical tape. Tony, one of Kiri's coworkers and a fellow trailer enthusiast, has been more than happy to take part in the project. In fact, everyone at Earthbaby seems to be pitching in.

Once we had Tony set up, I headed out to do my "job." There's some weird program that if you are disabled and can get a company to pay you $5 a month to do something, it makes keeping you benefits easier. Don't ask me. But my job is collecting recycling from the break room and taking it to the recycling place. I keep the proceeds. Did that and headed back.

When I got back to the warehouse, work was proceeding apace. It was decided that a run to the nearby Home Depot was needed for a few thing, so Tony and I jumped in the truck and headed over there. To say I got my walk in is an understatement. Find what we need, pay, and head back to the office. Where I need to sit. I was frankly becoming burned out at this point, as it was a tough week for me.

But there was more to do, and this is about the time awesome happened. Next to Earthbaby is a custom door and window place. I've met the owner, a really nice guy, and of course Kirsten knows him pretty well. We had been talking about staining the inside of the trailer. He takes one look, and tells us exactly how he's going to do it. For free. Then he looks at our sad little Plexiglas window and says "I got something." Goes back into his warehouse, and comes back out with an actual window and frame, with frosted privacy glass and just leans it up on the trailer. It means cutting into the trailer wall to make a hole big enough, but damn!

Sometimes even a cynic like me has to admit there are good people out there.

I wasn't just an observer and chauffeur. I helped! One of the first jobs done was adding a new metal support bar to the trailer's tongue. Kirsten had sprayed it was black Rustoleum but wasn't sure if he had gotten a good covering. Being skinny, I shimmied under the body to spray the parts that had been missed.

Even though I wanted to stay to the end of the day, I was beginning to show obvious signs of burning out. Kirsten took lunch so we could go back to Home Depot for an exchange, stopped at Subway for lunch, and then dropped me back here at home. Tonight, I sleep the sleep of the accomplished! Tomorrow, Digenis the Barbarian raids the Sword Coast! (D&D game.)
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
Screw Facebook, screw the internet. We got along JUST FINE without them as I recall from the hazy days of my youth! Hell, let's dump telephones, telegraphs, the printing press and the ability to make paper, and go back to the Roman way of communicating, scrawling graffiti on the walls. It worked in Pompeii, after all.

What brings this Luddite rant on, and yes I appreciate that I'm using another form of social media to spread it, is the last 24 hours of my Facebook account. See, I was quite dim and trusted things to work as designed. Silly me, you think I would have learned my lessons before!

But no, I had to assume that a multi-billion dollar company would have decent tech support, and that a publication vetted by the Departments of Defense and the Army would be careful picking vendors when it came to managing their web content. I laugh now, of course. I can still remember how sloppy their were in vetting the taco truck guys at Fort Benning!

So here's what happened: yesterday, while doing my daily reading of the Book of Faces, I found a story on the Army Times page that was interesting. Even though I've been out for 30-odd years - and some of them were very odd years indeed! - I still follow stories about the Army as an interested veteran. In this case, the article was about a proposal before the Sergeant Major of the Army concerning facial hair.

See, the Army bans beards, unless you need to wear one for religious reasons or have a medical profile stating that you can shave. Even then, those beads need to be tightly trimmed and neat in appearance. Mustaches are allowed, but they can't extend beyond the edge of the mouth and again, must be neatly trimmed.

I think they allow mustaches just for the giggles senior NCOs get watching 19 year old PFCs trying to grow a decent 'stache. Gotta find amusement somewhere!

But I digress. The argument against beards was uniformity of appearance, being able to properly wear protective gear like helmets and protective masks (what we call gas masks), and the usual "why change?" crowd. The pro side was countering with the experience of our NATO allies, who do allow facial hair without problems, the fact that the US Army hasn't been gassed since 1918, and the fact that up through WWI beards were just fine in the service.

Interesting stuff, and there was a poll attached. Three questions on the subject. Being a noisy bastard, I took the poll, and because I have many friends who are veterans or military service all over the world, I posted the link to my Facebook. By Patton's Pistols, that was a mistake.

My initial post was cloning itself every three minutes. Copy after copy. With no way to stop it! At one point last night Kirsten was seeing 54 distinct posts of the same thing. Which meant almost everyone on my friend's list was getting spammed by this damn thing, as horrific a breach of etiquette as you can find in the more polite end of the ol' interwebs.

In between marathon deletions of the offending post, I was trying to wave down someone, anyone, to help me with this nightmare. Apester, the company that was handling to poll software at least got back to me, and I submitted a trouble ticket with them. I emailed the webmaster at the Army Times to tell him that there might be a bad code issue with the poll, and never heard back. And Facebook? I laugh because murderous rampages are really tiring.

Ever needed help with something on Facebook? Good luck. Rather than actual help you are faced with page after page of FAQs on common issues. No human, not even a helpful script to be found. Of course, my issue was decidedly uncommon, so not a single option they had applied. There's no email address for or the like. No toll-free number you can call. Just a sad little web form that still tries to force you back into their self-help pages before admitting you have a problem. No idea if anyone reads those submissions.

I ended up disabling my Facebook account to prevent everyone from getting buried in my opinion about soldierly beards. Which pisses me off now end, as Facebook is my primary way of staying in touch with friends and family. This stupid error also adversely affected my sleep as I was worrying about losing years of photos and information.

The happy ending. Sort of. One of Kirsten's contacts explained the nuclear option of deauthorizing all apps on my page. It worked, and my page is back up. A bit crippled, but it's there.

Now, If y'all will excuse me, I'll be writing a strongly worded letter of complaint in cuneiform on this clay tablet.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
Who built the Batcave?

I love superheroes, and used to have a standing order at my local comics place that would choke a horse. I understand that comics require some suspension of disbelief, but these are questions that I've wondered about for some time.

Take Batman's iconic headquarters. The location came at zero cost, as Wayne Manor has traditionaly been show as being perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. Isolated, and which a ready made huge cave underneath. Batman has a great place to hide from the world and build all his wondrous toys. But there are so many questions!

At it's most basic, the cave has had several elements. Parking and repair for several vehicles (Bat-themed cars, motorcycles, boats, and aircraft), an arsenal, extensive computer banks, and storage for costumes and trophies from notable encounters.

Now I used to work in the construction industry. Just that basic build is months of work for several dozen specialists in iron working, electricians, plumbers, and the IT specialists there to make sure that the Bat-computer works correctly. That's at a minimum. Dozens of trucks, workers, materials deliveries, taco trucks, etc., all coming to build a huge complex under Wayne Manor.

Even with non-disclosure agreements, people will talk, and most contractors are going to ask to see the permits for the work before starting a job for liability reasons. But let's assume that Wayne Industries has the resources needed, and Bruce Wayne pays all the bills. You are still going to have a huge security risk here. All it takes is one mouth delivery driver (me) commenting over dinner at Chili's that he has to drive in to a bloody cave filled with bats every damn day, and the word is on the streets.

Then there's the Batmobile. Almost from his first appearance, Batman has been driving increasingly complex, nigh-invulnerable cars around Gotham. The latest versions are loaded with military-grade sensors, weapon systems, and armored hard enough to stop Superman from punching his way in (at least for a minute.) And everyone has been obviously bat-themed. So, Assuming Bruce Wayne did learn to be a master mechanic and body fabricator when he was off learning to be a ninja, who builds these cars?

I can easily see a couple of shops getting the orders off the books, and paid for in cash, but again, you have people outside the immediate circle around Batman who are in on it. Just one guy owing money to the wrong dudes, and the Penguin knows where Bats buys his wheels.

The Christopher Nolan helmed "Batman Begins" had probably the best explanation for this; in that series 90% of Batman's gear was borrowed from Wayne Enterprises' convenient pile of discarded military prototypes. They even had someone able to put two and two together and guess who Batman was! There's a reason those three films are my favorites. Right after the Lego Batman Movie.

So Batman's secret lair and stash of goodies are hardly secrets. The only logical answer I can come up with is that his suppliers and builders know exactly who Batman is, and keep quiet out of either pride that they are helping the Dark Knight keep Gotham safe, or out of fear that one slip while lead to a dark figure swooping out of the night sky to extract vengeance. Or a combination of both. Hell, all of Gotham has probably figured it out by now, but don't want to spoil the one thing that makes Gotham safe.

I must admit that my all time favorite piece of Batman-related paraphernalia came from the 1960s camp TV show. That Batmobile had an "emergency bat-turn lever" to popped two drag chutes (both with the Bat logo) and put the Batmobile into a 180-degree spin. After Batman raced off back the way he came, a panel van labeled "Batmobile Parachute Pickup Service" would roll out from behind some bushes. I just loved the idea that Bruce Wayne was paying for a fleet of vans to sit around waiting for that lever to get pulled.

The sad thing is that if the Batcave was a real place, it would no longer have bats in it. Bats are incredibly sensitive to heat. A small group of spelunkers in a cave used by bats can raise the temperature enough to disturb the colony. Now imagine the heat put off by the server farm, all the lights, engines, people . . . no more bats in that cave! Which means at least that Alfred doesn't have to clean guano off everything all the time.


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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