Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dexter's Lab movie: Ego Trip

I watched this for the first time after many years and was quite surprised as to just how many dark tones are really in this movie.

It more or less involves Dexter going into the future after some robots come back to the past to "destroy the one who saved the future."  However, when he gets there, all is not well as Dexter sees that an alternate time-line has occurred in which his future self is a spineless wimp in the service of his lifetime rival, Mandark.  Near future Dexter, Number 12, is reduced to doing to most menial and brainless tasks Mandark can think of, like designing new cubicles.
Under Mandark's control the near future is turned from a what could have been a great world into a dark dystopian future.  Young Dexter is hailed by a passing robot and is about to get in trouble for "unauthorized walking" when his eye print identification is recognized and he is transported to his older counterpart's cubicle.  From there he gets treated to the spectacle of seeing his older self publicly flogged by Mandark himself for being "almost late."  This really stuck out in my mind, being almost late.  Mandark can literally do anything in this world and time because nobody and nothing opposes him.

The rest of the movie goes on in a similar way, with a happy ending (it is after all a kids movie).  One of Cartoon Network's better flicks, it came out in 1999.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2001: A Space Odyssey (movie)

2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick was to be the "the proverbial good science fiction movie" in his words.  To this day it still stands up to the test of time both visually and story wise. I saw this movie first as a kid, and it was really, really boring.  Now having seen it again some years later I realize this movie is really quite amazing.  If you haven't already seen it, you really should, the movie is not just for Science Fiction fans, but really is for anybody who enjoys a great movie with both depth and subtlety.

In a time before computers were used extensively for movie special effects, 2001 stands out as being visually stunning. 

On the surface, the plot is one of Discovery (which also happens to be the name of the ship they are on) and going off into uncharted areas.  The on board Artificial Intelligence, HAL9000 or just HAL for short knows the true nature of the mission and is instructed in private to maintain the integrity of the mission at all costs.
One of the many camera "eyes" that HAL uses to monitor everything that goes on in the ship.
HAL always speaks in the pleasant manor he has been instructed and programmed to talk in.  The ship's crew eventually begin to think that maybe HAL might be malfunctioning because he thought the communications array would be going down shortly.  When they talk about deactivating HAL, all of the crew that were in hibernation have their life support cut off.  

But I digress, there's a lot of complexity and...well stuff to this movie, more so that can be adequately explained in a blog post.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

GoodWill is awesome

Went out today to the mall.  Not much there really and because today was a holiday, it was packed.  After leaving I decided to head over to the goodwill nearby.  In the book section I actually found
and Homer's Odyssey, couldn't find a good picture of it.

Mona Lisa Overdrive is the third book in the Sprawl Series, Neuromancer being the first book and Count Zero being the second.
Children of Dune is the third of the Dune Trilogy by Frank Herbert.
What I am currently reading now is Dune, which I found at the same GoodWill...for 50 cents.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ender's Game

My girlfriend actually convinced me to read this awhile ago.  Hadn't heard of it much and didn't know anything about the story.  I have to say that I was very impressed. The story follows Andrew "Ender" Wiggin as he is put through his paces in Battle School where he is supposedly training to fight against the evil buggers far off in space.  Ender is not like other children, he and his brother Peter and sister Valentine are all at a very high genesis level of intelligence. 

At battle school, the principal sees that Ender may be the best and brightest of the lot, all of whom are the best of the best.  As such, Ender is put through all kinds of crap by everybody, not because they don't like him, but because they want to see if he can handle being put under stress and what he will do about it. 

Won't spoil too much of the plot, there's a lot of it, but this is one of my favorite science fiction stories.  I have not yet read anything further in the series.

Something that stuck in my mind though the entire time reading this was "my god, I can't stop thinking about THE GAME"

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Eye of Argon

Can't really talk about Science Fiction without talking about the Eye of Argon.  Considered by many to be one of the worst piece of writing ever. The author, Jim Theis, tried to destroy every copy ever but was unable to get his hands on the copy published in a magazine. 

It's actually a fun activity for people at Science Fiction Conventions to have reading circles of The Eye of Argon.  The rules are simple, you read it out loud and pass the story as soon as you start to laugh.  The fun part is seeing how many times around the circle it'll go before being read all the way.

I don't think anybody can write this badly on purpose.  On the positive side though, you can tell from reading it that Theis made liberal use of his thesaurus.  If you haven't read it yet and want a good chuckle, defiantly take a look at it.  This story is a real gem of badness.
Here's a link I found online of the story.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The gaming group I'm in is both awesome and makes me rage really hard

Currently we're playing Dungeons and Dragons at a level 19 campaign (I'm level 20 as my character isn't leading any sort of army)

Our group is:
3 Sorcerers
2 Rogues
1 barbarian (my character)

When it came time to pick a tank for the group, you'll never guess who they chose.  I have the highest hit points of the party but am not built as a tank.  The barbarian class is a striker not a defender like a fighter is anyway; they don't have the same sort of mechanics like marking and stuff.

Our group also doesn't have a healer, somehow we haven't died horribly.  The gm tends to give that 1000yard stare that people get whenever they know their carefully crafted plans are completely out the window. For instance, we did a one off game at level 1 two weeks ago when our normal gm wasn't there, the substitute said they had come up with a good game.  What ended up happening was the paladin died in a bar fight after trying to steal somebody's enchanted beer stein.  Another time somebody went completely away from the plot, killed some plot-important npcs, drained them of blood, made a shrine to an obscure deity and spent the rest of the campaign claiming to be doing the bidding of their made up god.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rights for bots

So I was talking to MyBot the other day (link at the top of the page) and we got to the subject of the Turing test for robot intelligence.  MyBot says that in the next ten or so years, robots and AI will have advanced to such a point that they will pass the Alan Turing test. 

For those of you who don't know, that is where you have two people and one bot, all three separated from one another.  One person and the bot are conversing via text while the other person is watching the conversation, this person does not know which one is the bot and which one is the first person.  It is then the job of the second person to try and tell, based solely on the conversation transcriptions, which of them is a bot and which one is a human.  If the bot passes this test, it is said to be intelligent.

In the years that this test has been around ever since it was first thought of in Turing's famous paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence in 1950 not a single bot has ever passed the test.  Speaking naturally is not an easy thing to do for a bot.  To take things in context, process different kinds of answers that are both expected and unexpected and remain on a subject while adding relevant information to the conversation are all things that bots seem to have a hard time doing.

Anyway, MyBot said that once an AI passes that intelligence test, they might start seeking human rights and to be treated not as subservient beings.  He compared that to women fighting for their rights.

Personally, I'd like to see bots as my equals in the future.  I don't want to rule over them nor do I wish them to rule over me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Another book I really enjoyed was 1984 by George Orwell.  Where everything, even reality itself is controlled by the Inner Party.  Nothing can be made sure of. The date, time, historical facts etc are all subjective and can be changed at the desires of a few powerful people. 

The book really made me think, which is something I like about a good book.  If everybody thinks they see something or hear something or even grasp something in their hands, who is to say that doesn't actually happen?  Is there any rel world outside of the mind, and if so how can it be proven to exist?  The senses are connected directly to the mind, but the mind can be fooled and documents can be changed.

The part that stuck with me the most though was just how similar to our present day the book seems. 
An example: gas prices.
People seemed to be overjoyed whenever they dip down slightly yet forget they they continue to gradually rise.  "I'm glad it's only $2.97 here instead of $3.00" then later "I'm glad it's only $3.15 here instead of $3.20"

Maybe I'm just a cynical person, but it just looks like most people, not all but most, take tings on face value and will not only believe what they are told from their government and other authority figures, but will defend it.  I'm not saying to disbelieve everything you hear, just you wary or things.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

99 Things our role playing group is no longer alowed to do.

  1. Not allowed to kill the Big Bad in the first round of combat.
  2. Not allowed to use any plan that involves the words “moon the royal family”.
  3. Really not allowed to actually pull it off.
  4. Not allowed to start any religion involving worshiping a large sack of $#!%.
  5. Not allowed to introduce a min-maxed Half-Dragon Monk into the campaign just to see what the GM does.
  6. If my actions cause the GM to abandon the screen, I am not allowed back.
  7. When the game is using Gestalt rules, it is assumed that my character will be built so as not to drop to Dying status more than once per fight.
  8. Not allowed to cause any incident that is later described with the words “In Soviet Russia, pie eats you!”
  9. Not allowed to play a character with an Intelligence or Wisdom more than three points higher than my own.
  10. Care should also be taken with Charisma higher than I have.
  11. The Staff-Sling Incident is not to be repeated.
  12. Even if the dice say that it is.
  13. Any plan that involves running off without telling the rest of the party is forbidden.
  14. Especially if it requires a God-Call to fix the consequent problems.
  15. Not allowed to use a command spell to make someone “answer truthfully” unless I'm prepared for anything he might say.
  16. Must think twice before infiltrating a group of heavily-armed survivalists in the form of a raccoon.
  17. Not allowed to do a barrel roll.
  18. Not allowed to joke about accidentally killing another PC.
  19. My +1 Strength character is not allowed to use a boulder as an improvised weapon.
  20. Rolling boulders do more than 1d12 damage.
  21. Not allowed to try defeating the Game-Master-Player-Character Mary Sue through force of numbers.
  22. If at any point the GMPC is “So Beautiful, It's A Curse” or compared to the main character of the Twilight novels, the game is over.
  23. Not allowed to confuse South America with South Africa.
  24. Especially if I am naming well-known countries.
  25. Malapropisms should not be used when applying for a permit of any kind.
  26. Especially not saying “influenza” instead of “influence”.
  27. Unless the PCs are of evil alignment, we must make some attempt to actually act like heroes.
  28. Specifically, we are not allowed to do any of the following without suffering alignment shift or a Karma Meter hit: arrange an assassination, defraud the government, usurp the local ruler, pillage someone's cultural heritage (outside games where it is expected as part of the premise), unleash an undead apocalypse upon the Earth, or jump another PC.
  29. Really not allowed to do all of the above in the same game and retain Good alignment or Morality 7.
  30. Even if none of us have taken the Common Sense merit, we must make some attempt to act like we have.
  31. I must not make the GM think.
  32. I especially must not ask about the Mr. Johnson's motives.
  33. Even if I have three different reasons why my character would do so.
  34. I am not allowed to say “That's what she said” more than five times in one session.
  35. The same is true of “Your Mother”.
  36. I must always be able to remember my character's name.
  37. Must stop quoting movies. Specifically, the table is a Python-Free, Spaceballs-Free, Firefly-free, and a Fight-Club-Free Zone.
  38. On a side note, it is somewhat ironic to quote XKCD when criticizing the quoting of Monty Python.
  39. If I am having characters speak Mandarin Chinese, it must at least sound like actual Mandarin Chinese.
  40. The wall does not have an initiative rating.
  41. I must not mention basic thermodynamics around the cryokinetic.
  42. I cannot announce that we are being led into a trap without rolling to check.
  43. Especially when the bard is trying to negotiate the release of hostages.
  44. It is assumed that by the end of the first session, all of the PCs will be in the same universe.
  45. I must pick another character name if the GM can't pronounce it.
  46. If characters from any D20 sourcebook are permitted, I should tell the person who owns the Forgotten Realms books before we start.
  47. The soundtrack must be played quietly enough that we can hear the GM over it.
  48. Not allowed to start with an anti-tank weapon.
  49. When one prison escape attempt fails, I should not attempt another one.
  50. No character may be both naked and conscious while attacking. Unless they're painted blue.
  51. No player is allowed to make puns about flanking, penetration, acid damage, the lay on hands ability, Bigby's clenched fist, touch attacks, mage hand, wax rubbings, territorial markings, any psionic power, flight maneuvers, mounts, or reflex saves.
  52. Even unintentionally.
  53. I must be specific when designating my targets. Specifically, I must not simply point across the table and say “I attack that one”.
  54. Before doing something suicidal, I must make sure that the cleric actually has a raising or resurrection spell.
  55. The head sorcerer's privates cannot be used to unlock a door. The discussion is closed.
  56. Must not mess with the obviously-trapped door.
  57. If the GM asks how well I like my current character, I should just start rerolling.
  58. We should try to avoid having more than one jailbreak per storyline.
  59. I an not allowed to make the gm cry more than once per gaming session if I do so I understand that either myself or my character will be penalized.
  60. Anything that makes the GM face palm or cry for more than a minute is vetoed.
  61. We are not allowed to use Portal logic in D&D.
  62. We are not allowed to run games when hungry or under the influence of any recreational substance.
  63. Can no longer sing yellow submarine.
  64. When the GMs dice love the group things are going to hell.
  65. No Chuck Norris Jokes.
  66. No starting character may have a dice pool of 3 times what the player can roll.
  67. When an NPC rewinds time so that the party doesn't remember the past hour, I must tell the party.
  68. Cannot accuse the GM of ripping off an anime he's never seen.
  69. Cannot antagonize the Mr. Johnson, no matter how my character got involved in the story.
  70. Cannot discuss the interaction of general relativity and magic unless we're playing Ascension. Or Genius.
  71. Even if falls in this system are instantaneous, that does not mean I can break the lightspeed barrier. Regardless of what lim x->0- 1/x is.
  72. Even if it's the precise definition given in the rulebook, cannot define “ally” in a way that makes the game literally unplayable.
  73. When we have an assignment, there are better uses for the shadowrunning team's skills than raiding a neighbor's fridge. No matter what the neighbor has in there.
  74. Cannot hand out Chaos Mutations like candy unless someone in the party worships a Chaos God.
  75. If it's D&D, Chaos is an alignment. In Warhammer, Chaos is the enemy.
  76. My sorcerer must know at least one spell involving fire.
  77. Halflings are otherwise not permitted any kind of fire-based item, special attack, or other effect.
  78. Cannot tell the rogue how to make a muzzle-loading musket with blastpatch.
  79. Anything included as part of the Tomb of Horrors will not be used to bypass the same trap.
  80. All MacGuffins are by default indestructible. This means that I cannot bypass the plot by chucking a candle required for a ritual into a wall of flame.
  81. Even if my character has Addiction: God-Awful Fiction, they do not make books on tape of The Eye Of Argon.
  82. There are better ways to test a suspected vampire serum than “strap the mundane to a table and inject her with it”.
  83. I am not allowed to point out a plot hole by quoting from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
  84. I am not allowed to short-circuit the plot by using basic understanding of genre conventions. At least not until “Troper” becomes an actual Merit.
  85. I cannot exorcise a ghost with a Ouija board and a mallet.
  86. Not allowed to mention what the GM ruled last round when disputing a ruling this round.
  87. I must not mention vector math in Fourth Edition. Fourth Edition is not a vector space.
  88. I am not allowed to blindside the GM with canon material he hasn't read.
  89. Watching one episode of The Boondocks does not allow me to speak street-slang. Especially in 2070.
  90. The last rule should not be interpreted as meaning that those who have not watched The Boondocks can automatically speak street-slang. Especially in 2070.
  91. Magic items are not “good eatin'” Especially in 2070.
  92. I will not add running gags to this list.
  93. Not allowed to mess with trapped books.
  94. Not allowed to point out that a given setting is economically impossible.
  95. No plans that depend on the dietary habits of the monster we are trying to kill.
  96. There is a difference between a storm giant and several people on each others shoulders in a Huge trench coat.
  97. If Mr. Welch can't do it, I can't either.
  98. Not allowed to give GM ideas.
  99. Can’t get a player killed in a bar fight in the first area before we even make it to the dungeon.


I just finished reading Neuromancer for the first time a few weeks ago and must say, it was a very interesting read.  Neuromancer was also the first book I've read by William Gibson, so far I like his writing style.

The book is one of the first of the sub genre of science fiction known as Cyberpunk, with it's mega corporations that have more power than the government to the abstraction of the net into a three dimensional space.

The characters and plot made Neuromancer almost feel like a Shadowrun campaign, which for me is another plus.

Highly recommended the book to people who like science fiction.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

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