Candles

Here's the right side of my desk with some movies, a candle, my armchair, and a world map.
Here’s the right side of my desk with some movies, a candle, my armchair, and a world map.

I’ve been reading this book lately that suggests lighting candles to focus.

I read several books at a time. I hop between each book as I go. I once read a book over three years because I kept hopping between it and dozens of others.

Right now I’m reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, The Cartoon History of the Universe Part 3 by Larry Gonick, and The Anabasis of Alexander by Arrian.

The last book is the most interesting of them. It’s an ancient history of Alexander the Great written around 100AD, 400 years after Alexander died.

Anabasis is the Greek word for a journey with an element of conquest/violence. The best translation I’ve come up with is incursion for this specific usage. Alexander invades Persia and continues further and further east until his troops mutiny and he is forced to retreat from India.

Anyways, those candle things. I got a few to try them out.

Can’t say it helped me focus very much. The Happiness Project recommended scented candles, and the one I’m using has only a very faint scent.

I’m not used to scented candles. My family AND my inlaws don’t use them due to allergies. The scent just makes us sneeze.

It’s a nice idea though. I think I’ll try it again sometime.

I’ll need more matches though. I’ve only got two tiny match books. With electric stoves, I’ve never light anything in my apartment until the candle thing.

If you’re interested in The Happiness Project the author, Gretchen Rubin, has a blog of her own by the same name. Check it out at www.gretchenrubin.com

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed

An Overview of Gurutama Part 2

This maps shows the vast trade area influenced by the Merfolk in Gurutama.
This maps shows the vast trade area influenced by the Merfolk in Gurutama.

Previous: An Overview of Gurutama Part 1

The Merfolk inhabit the seas, islands, and coasts of the flat world, Gurutama. At the edge of the world the sea runs off, so the Merfolk stay in the central seas where no such threat worries them.

The Merfolk have two basic sub races within them, true Merfolk and landwalkers.

True Merfolk dwell within the sea and leave their saline environment for extended periods of time. True Merfolk speak two languages, one for the water and one for above it.

Landwalkers are a race of Merfolk that can breath air just as well as water. They seen publicly far more often than True Merfolk, leading many people to think that there is only one race of Merfolk.

Landwalkers serve as the intermediates between True Merfolk and other races. Without them it is unlikely that the Merfolk would have the significant impact on the world that they do.

The Merfolk leadership was never described in our game of Dawn of Worlds, so that remains to be written. However, we did create an active and present patron god of the Merfolk, Drolfo.

Many of the tools and skills that the Merfolk have are attributed to Drolfo. He built the Great Canal. He tamed the animals of the sea for the Merfolk. He gave them ships. He modified the True Merfolk to make the Landwalkers. Or so the stories say.

Other fantasy worlds would make these stories fact, but we prefer an open interpretation. Whoever decides to DM with those myths as plotpoints may choose which way they go. Still, the stories remain and our characters can debate about which version is true and which version is false.

Along with the Avians, the Merfolk were one of the first races to develop a civilization. The two civilizations soon came into contact and conflict.

The Avians attempted to win the conflict by building a large nest on the Lower Maw. The nest is marked on the upper left of the Lower Maw as Nanatok.

The Merfolk prayed to Drolfo and Selcatnet, the giant octopus, tore apart the nest, causing the Avians to flee.

The Merfolk used their superior knowledge of hydraulics to flood the eastern half of Rontu-Aru, creating the swamp it is today.

The Avians are a jungle people and they could not adapt to the swamps fast enough to fight back against the Merfolk.

The Merfolk won the day and the Avians have essentially be a slave race ever since. If a slave is encountered in Gurutama there is a significant chance that the slave is an Avian with clipped wings.

Recently, a resurgence of religious zealotry entered the Avian jungle. More and more crusaders for the Avian god, Izquitl, joined the fight against the Merfolk.

The Avians retook the Fluren Peninsula from the Merfolk and rechristened Tortuga as Hubru-Peche.

From Hubru-Peche, the Avians flew across the Neck to the Halusho Forest in the Lower Maw.

The Merfolk retook Tortuga, but the Avians have become a force in the world once more.

That’s about all we got on the Avians from the Dawn of Worlds game, but there’s lots more to come about the Merfolk in the Maw!

-Mister Ed

Next: An Overview of Gurutama Part 3

An Overview of Gurutama Part 1

The map I made of Gurutama using Campaign Cartographer.
The map I made of Gurutama using Campaign Cartographer.

Starting off the posts on Gurutama will contain information my D&D group has already written.

After we’ve covered that background information I plan to post more indepth descriptions of places or cultural aspects. Religion, art, holidays, monuments, military, civil administration, all these things were touched on but not explicitly described in our Dawn of Worlds game. I’ll do what I can to get those ideas fleshed out here.

So first up, what are these continents we’re looking at on the map? There are four continents on Gurutama, Glacierstone, Hearthland, Rontu-Aru, and the Maw.

The Maw is split up into four sub continents, the Upper Maw, the Eastern Maw, the Lower Maw, and the central islands (islands aren’t really a continent, but inner oceans are still defined by tectonic plates).

Rontu-Aru, the southern continent, is inhabited mostly by bird people called Avians.

Avian culture is loosely based off of Aztec, Mayan, and Inca cultures. Avians build ziggurats like the Aztecs and Mayans did. They live high in the mountains like the Inca did. They sacrifice intelligent beings like the Aztecs and Mayans did. I avoided the term human sacrifice, because in there are more races than humans in our fantasy world.

The Avians came into contact with the Merfolk early in our world’s history. The Merfolk are fish people that live around the islands in the central sea of the Maw.

This map shows the Avian continent of Rontu-Aru and the central islands of the Merfolk.
This map shows the Avian continent of Rontu-Aru and the central islands of the Merfolk.

The Merfolk wished to make trade easier with the southern sea, The Neck. They prayed to their god, Drolfo, to open up a quick path to the Neck.

Drolfo summoned a giant octopus named Selcatnet which dug a trench through the mountain range on the northern edge of the Lower Maw. This trench became the Great Canal that separates the Lower Maw from the Eastern Maw.

The Merfolk came down to Rontu-Aru and set up trading outposts with the Avians.

The Avians were resistant to the outsiders. Eventually a prophet rose up and formed an army to attack the Merfolk.

War raged for many years and eventually the Merfolk won. The fish people enslaved the bird people. Now intelligent beings are exported along with goods from the jungles and marshes of Rontu-Aru.

The Merfolk are in an excellent position for trade at the physical center of Gurutama. They trade with all the civilized races of our world, humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, and the Rana. Rana are frog people that live in the Eastern Maw.

There’s more to get into, but that feels like enough for one blog post. That’s all for now!

-Mister Ed

Next: An Overview of Gurutama Part 2

How I Played Dawn of Worlds

The map I made of Gurutama using Campaign Cartographer.
The map I made of Gurutama using Campaign Cartographer.

Dawn of Worlds can take awhile to play and time is valuable.

My friends are spread out all over the state. We get together in person very rarely and when we do, we want that time to be well spent.

While Dawn of Worlds is fun, it isn’t the most fun we can be having when we are together physically. We played Dawn of Worlds over the internet instead.

We set up an email thread for each of the three ages as we played. I am the usual DM and organizer for our group so I managed the email thread and game while we played.

I rolled the dice to decide how many points each person got and to decide the order in which we’d influence our growing world.

I also created a map which was updated to match the events of each turn.

I created the map using a cool program specifically designed for creating fantasy maps called Campaign Cartographer.

We played slowly over a couple months and by the end we had several thousand years of history for our world.

I’ve told you a little about the world and I plan to tell more in future posts.

Just a short post for tonight though! That’s all!

-Mister Ed

Dawn of Worlds

The cover on the 12 page PDF of the rules for Dawn of Worlds
The cover on the twelve page PDF of the rules for Dawn of Worlds.

Dawn of Worlds is an interesting game my friends and I have played a few times. The rules can be found at the website of Legends, the creator, if you’re interested.

Most games have a set goal to win the game. Having all the money in Monopoly, having the highest score in Scrabble, getting all your pawns home in Sorry, etc.

Dawn of Worlds is… different.

The game was designed not to be competitive or even really to be fun. The goal of the game is to create a fantasy world as a setting for a novel or a roleplaying campaign world.

My friends and I used this to create the world for our next campaign.

How does the game work? It’s really simply actually.

Each turn you get 2d6 points to spend on the world. There are ways to get bonus points as well.

The points are used to add things to the world or to influence already existing entities in the world. I can use my points to add a mountain range. On my next turn I could also use my points to infest the mountain range with dragons.

Everyone else is using their points to create or change things in the world as well.

The game has three ages. Different actions cost different amounts during the different ages.

The first age makes creating terrain features cheap and makes other actions expensive. You’re supposed to be building the physical world at this point.

The second age makes creating races and cities cheap. You build up a civilization during this age.

The third age makes changing races and cities cheap. The game encourages conflict between the players at this point.

The third age is probably the most interesting due to the conflict between parts, but this conflict is different than other games.

In Scrabble I fight with my opponent for the triple word score bonuses at the edge of the board.

In Dawn of Worlds, the conflicts aren’t really about having my civilization “win.” I just want a more interesting story for the game.

I found myself most often in conflict with one of my buddies whose internet name is Throgg. He developed a civilization of humans while I developed dwarves.

Throughout the whole game the humans and the dwarves fought. In the end neither side won the war, it was still ongoing when we ended the game.

Why would we end the game with the conflict unresolved?

Because that was the point! Now when we play D&D within the world there are issues threatening the peace and security of the world. Issues that our characters can attempt to solve, avoid, or survive.

Will our characters try to end the conflict between the dwarves and humans? Will they try to repel the undead scourge coming out of the north? Will they journey into the southern jungles looking for the first civilizations of the bird people?

We could eventually do all these things over a series of different campaigns. But Dawn of Worlds allowed us to create a world together with a history that we all know and had some impact on.

Gurutama is the name of the world we created. I think we’ll enjoy playing in Gurutama much more than in any other campaign world because it’ll no longer be a world where only the DM has the full picture. Now everyone will have some input.

I plan on posting more about Gurutama for awhile. The basics of the world were fleshed out in our playing of Dawn of Worlds, but there are many specifics to still fill in. I’m going to use this blog as a tool for writing down those specifics and getting input from the general public as well if there is any input to give.

That’s all for now!

-Mister Ed

Acceptance Wall

Normally I’d post something about D&D on Monday, but this week I’ll be showing off something that came in the mail recently.

My first graduate school acceptance letter.
My first graduate school acceptance letter.

I got into graduate school! Hurray! Validation!

This year I only applied to local schools as my wife is in the first year of a two year program for her teaching credential.

I applied to two programs at the college I got my undergraduate degree from and a third program at a nearby CSU (Sac State).

I’ve been rejected from one of the programs and have yet to hear back from the other one, but Sac State has accepted me! Woohoo!

Assuming the other program doesn’t accept me, I will be driving to the capital every day to learn and research science stuff.

The professor I’ve been placed with studies salmonella. I haven’t read up a lot on it, but what I saw on the papers she’s published was interesting.

Salmonella typically hurt your body in many ways one of which is by attacking your macrophage cells. Macrophages are the part of your immune system that eats bacterial invaders.

The salmonella bacteria don’t like being eaten by macrophages though. They protect themselves by putting poisons into your macrophages.

The professor has helped discover how this process works and she is attempting to harness the power of salmonella for good, not evil!

You see, if salmonella are so good at invading macrophages and killing them, they can also be used to invade macrophages and help them.

We can modify salmonella to make it deliver medicine to macrophages. This could do a number of things.

It could protect against auto-immune diseases like HIV. It could also super charge the immune system to assist the fight against other bacterial infections. These two things are some of the most sought after effects in medicine right now.

HIV is a huge problem throughout the developing world, so the interest in that is obvious.

The second effect, of boosting the immune system is even more amazing in my opinion.

Bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, STIs, and many others are currently treated with antibiotics. But bacteria can evolve and become immune to these antibiotics.

Researchers can come up with new antibiotics, but in a few years the disease will have evolved immunity to it again.

But what if you treated the disease just by making the immune system better? The bacteria can still evolve past this, but it takes much longer to do that than to develop antibiotic resistance. Possibly long enough that the disease can be eradicated entirely? That would be astounding.

While my original goal was to get entrance into a PhD program, working on making people immune to disease doesn’t sound that bad either. I think I’ll be quite happy at Sac State.

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed

League of Legends Map Part 3

https://i0.wp.com/ddragon.leagueoflegends.com/cdn/img/champion/splash/Nocturne_0.jpg

League of Legends Map Part 2

In this post I use the word champion a lot. A champion is the character a player uses within League of Legends. There are over a hundred champions to choose from. The picture above is of one of my favorite champions, Nocturne.

How do people actually play on the map for League of Legends? Why have I described all these turrets and minions and monsters?

The reason is the one of the in game currencies, gold.

League of Legends has three in game currencies, Influence Points (IP), Riot Points (RP), and gold.

IP and RP aren’t used when actually playing the game. They can get you new champions to play with or new looks for those champions. They also get you minor bonuses in game called runes.

Gold is used for purchases while actually playing the video game. Gold starts at 475 at the beginning of every game, enough for one small item.

For a bit of perspective, short games often end with each player having 6,000-9,000 gold. An average length game ends with each player having 12,000-15,000 gold. A long game ends with 15,000-20,000 gold for each player.

Gold buys items. These items can do tons of different things.

They all provide a few basic statistics, making your champion stronger in particular areas. Attack damage makes your attacks stronger, ability power makes your abilities stronger, armor and magic resist prevent a bit of damage to your champion. Health lets your champion take more damage over all. Speed makes your champion faster. You get the idea.

The big items also provide a few special bonuses. One of them lets your champion freeze in place for one second and ignore all damage during that period. Another gives extra strength to all the other players on your team. Another makes your attacks hit three enemies instead of just one. There are dozens of other cool little bonuses.

But how do you get more gold to buy items? There are four basic ways, killing things, having items that give gold, destroying towers or other large objectives, and just waiting (everyone gets a certain amount of gold per second no matter what).

First, killing things. If your champion gets the last hit to kill a minion, monster, or opposing champion, then your champion gets a certain amount of gold.

The amount of gold from kills is decided by how hard it is to kill the target. Champions give the most, followed by the big monsters at each monster camp. After that are minions, with the small monsters at each monster camp being last.

There are a few items that give you more gold just by having them. The ways they give you gold vary. Some give it when you are close to someone else who kills a minion, some give you more for each thing you kill, etc.

Destroying towers or other large objectives is the point of the whole game. Taking down one of those gives a bunch of gold to the whole team. Often the team of five people will gather up to take down a specific tower or objective.

What are the other objectives? Remember the Baron Nashor and Dragon I mentioned in a previous post? Those are the other objectives.

Baron Nashor and the Dragon are two large monsters that sit in their camps adjacent to the River. They are effectively as big as a turret and can deal nearly as much damage as one. Because of this the whole team or close to the whole team is usually required to take them down as minions will not be taking the laser shots like they do at towers.

Killing Baron Nashor or the Dragon gives the whole team a buttload of gold. Baron Nashor has the additional benefit of giving a buff to your whole team, increasing all of their statistics. This buff lasts for four minutes.

The Baron respawns after seven minutes while the Dragon respawns after six minutes.

A lot of the gameplay of League of Legends requires teamwork. I’ll describe how a team is chosen in another post.

If reading this has gotten you interested in League of Legends you can click this link to download the game for free. Doing so also gives me a little boost in game, so we’re both winners! League of Legends Signup Link

-Mister Ed

League of Legends Meta

Taking the Bus

The college-run bus stop a few blocks from my house.
The college-run bus stop a few blocks from my house.

Because my bike was effectively unusable for the past three weeks I have been taking the bus.

I’ve never really taken the bus before. When I was in elementary school I lived a block from my school, so I just walked.

I was homeschooled for the second half of elementary school and I biked to my middle school and high school.

At college I’ve always biked or walked to class. The bus was for rare occasions when I had a poster board too big to carry on my bike.

I rarely took public transportation anywhere else besides school either. I’d bike, drive, or walk. I do this because I don’t like waiting for the bus. When I transport myself then I can go wherever I want, when I want, and I can leave in the same fashion.

I did take the train every day to summer school one year, but that is the extent of my knowledge of public transportation.

From what other people have told me, public transportation is not a pleasant experience. There are crazy people on the bus or train that yell at you. There are thieves and creepy people who seem like they’ll jump you when you get off at your stop.

There’s also the fact that someone has probably peed in your seat at some point before you sat in it. Sure, it’s been cleaned by the bus janitor, but how well did they clean it? Did they use sanitizer or did they just wipe it off with a pee sponge that has never been replaced?

Do you talk with the person next to you on the bus? My wife’s experience with this is if you do then it’s rarely a good conversation.

When I took the train for that one summer I talked with the person next to me and often had good conversations. That’s probably just coincidence though.

Taking the bus was an adjustment for me. I noticed a couple things.

I am a large man, so people don’t want to sit next to me. If I sat in a seat, it was typically one of the last few to receive another passenger.

Nobody talks on the bus except friends who got on together. There aren’t any crazies on the bus route I rode, but there aren’t any “friendlies” either.

I spent most of my time on the bus playing Candy Crush, writing notes on my iPad, looking out the window, or reading from my pocket copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

My sister says she takes the bus because its like an extra twenty minutes of time each day while someone else drives you to work. I guess that’s true, but I still prefer freedom from the bus schedule on my bike.

That’s all for now!

-Mister Ed

Bike Tire Problems

My old bike tire is behind the new one.
My old bike tire is behind the new one.

I finally figured out why my bike was getting flat tires so often. There was a hole in the tire itself instead of the tubes I put in them.

I grew up in a town where bikes were used all the time to get places. I then went to college in a town that encourages bikes to the point that the town logo is a bike. There’s even a bike museum downtown.

My point is, maybe everyone is not as aware of how bikes work as I am.

Bike wheels have three basic parts, the wheel, the tire, and the tube.

The wheel is the metal part with all the spokes on it that attaches to the bike frame at the center. If there’s something wrong with my bike wheel, I take it to my dad to fix it. Every other Saturday my dad repairs bikes for a charity, The Silicon Valley Bike Exchange.

The tire is the rubber wall that incases the tube. The tire is the part of your bike that actually touches the ground.

The tube sits between the tire and the wheel. It’s also made of much thinner rubber than the tire.

The tube inflates and presses against the tire wall, giving it a firm shape that still yields to bumps and debris in the road. This allows a bike to ride over the various cracks in the road without giving the rider awful saddle sores.

When you get a flat it is usually because of a hole in the tube. The tube is essentially a balloon, so it can pop if treated to roughly. Thorns are a good way to rupture a tube. I have a road bike, so hopping curbs will also cause problems for me.

Over the past three weeks or so I have replaced my bike’s front tube four or five times. One of them popped while it was just sitting outside my house. Another as I was replacing it. Another popped on the first ride I took it on.

I eventually decided to sit down, inflate a tire, and then watch it to see what caused it to pop spontaneously.

As I waited I noticed the tube beginning to swell out of a hole in the side wall of the tire. A one centimeter bubble formed on the outside of the tire and then popped.

So now I knew what the problem was! My old tire had rubber for the section that contacts the ground, but the sidewalls were made from interlaced thread instead.

These threads had slowly come undone until a hole formed that was big enough for the tube to blow out through. Without the tire keeping pressure on the tube, it exploded like an overinflated balloon.

You can see the frayed threads around the hole in the picture above.

Finally realizing what the problem was, I got a new tire and replaced that along with the burst tube.

My bike is all fine now and I’m taking it to work instead of the bus.

That’s all for now!

-Mister Ed

League of Legends Map Part 2

https://i2.wp.com/img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131205125131/leagueoflegends/images/4/49/Summoner%27s_Rift_jungle_map_with_monsters.png

League of Legends Map Part 1

Today the focus will be on a specific part of the League of Legends map, the Jungle.

The Jungle is the space between the lanes and the river. There are four different sections of the Jungle formed by the X that the River and the middle (mid) lane create.

Each of the four sections contains three monster camps. Each section has a few names in the game. The top section is called purple top because it is close to purple’s top lane. The right section is called purple bottom (bot) Jungle for the same reason. The bottom section is called blue bot and the left section is called blue top.

The sections have other names that are used more often that refer to the specific monsters within them, so lets take a look at those.

Purple top and blue bot are mirrored and contain the same three monster camps in identical places. The central camp is the Lizard Elder and his two Lizard buddies. The Elder attacks with his nasty sword while the little Lizards shoot fire from their staves.

When a player kills the Lizard Elder they get a buff that lets them deal a little bit of extra damage every time they hit a minion, monster, or another player. This buff has a visual effect of red runes circling the player who has it. This red effect is why the section of the Jungle with the Lizard Elder is sometimes called the red Jungle. The two different red Jungles are differentiated by calling them “their red side Jungle” or “our red side Jungle.”

The other two monster camps around the Lizard Elder are the Golems and the Wraiths.

The Golems are two big rocky brothers. One is an older brother and is thus bigger than his younger brother.  The Golems attack you by smashing you with their rock hands.

The Wraiths are four ghostly looking things. One of the Wraiths is bigger than the other three. The Wraiths attack by shooting out little ghost lights from their hands.

The purple bot and blue top Jungle sections are dominated by the Ancient Golem at the center who also has two Lizard buddies. The Ancient Golem is the huge father version of the two Golem brothers in the red side Jungle. The Lizard buddies are just like the two that hang out with the Lizard Elder.

When a player kills the Ancient Golem he receives a buff, just like with the Lizard Elder. The Ancient Golem’s buff has blue runes instead of red runes. The player with the blue buff can use more of their special abilities and can use them faster. The blue buff gives these sections of the Jungle their name, blue side Jungle. Just like with the red side Jungle, the two sections are differentiated by which side of the river they are on, our side or their side.

The two monster camps around the Ancient Golem are the Wight and the Wolves.

The Wight is a recent addition to the Jungle. The company that makes League of Legends, Riot Games, updates the game all the time with significant updates at the beginning of every year. 2014 saw the addition of the Wight to the Jungle along with a few other things.

The Wight  is all by it’s lonesome in the Jungle. It is bigger than all the other Jungle monsters except for the Ancient Golem and the Lizard Elder. The Wight looks a lot like the Wraiths and attacks in the same way they do which is why the Wight is sometimes called the Big Wraith. I find this a little confusing because there already is a big Wraith in the Wraith camp itself. I’ll keep calling it the Wight and hoping that everyone else changes.

The Wolf camp has three Wolves, a mama Wolf and two baby Wolves. You can call the baby Wolves Romulus and Remus if you want. The Wolves attack by biting (obviously).

The monsters are a lot like minions, but different in key ways.

Minions walk down the lanes, but if attacked will follow the attacking player out of the lanes. The monsters don’t leave their camps. If you hit them and lead them away from their camp, the monsters will head back to the camp and quickly return to full health.

Minions spawn every thirty seconds. The monster camps only respawn if all the monsters in them are killed. The respawn times are 50 seconds for the Golems, Wolves, Wraiths and Wight, and 5 minutes for the Ancient Golem and Lizard Elder.

The monster camps do not respawn until all the monsters in them are killed. This allows a clever player to kill the Ancient Golem or Lizard Elder on their opponent’s side and waltz away with the buff, leaving the Lizard buddy scraps for the other team to have.

There are two more monsters on the map above, Baron Nashor and the Dragon. Those two are different than the other monster camps, so I will describe them another time.

There’s a lot more to tell you about how the map is played, so I hope you keep reading to learn it all!

If reading this has gotten you interested in League of Legends you can click this link to download the game for free. Doing so also gives me a little boost in game, so we’re both winners! League of Legends Signup Link

-Mister Ed

League of Legends Map Part 3