Disposing of GMOs

The rice we grow in one of my lab's greenhouses.
The rice we grow in one of my lab’s greenhouses.

Yesterday I was working out at the greenhouse for my rice genetics lab.

I was getting rid of some old rice plants that we’d collected the seed from and no longer needed.

If a plant got to this point in a garden you’d normally throw it in the compost so it would be useful next year.

That’s not allowed for the rice we work with in my lab because it is an untested transgenic line.

Some members of the public dislike altering the genetics of food crops to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are a couple of logical reasons for this and a couple of illogical ones.

Logical reasons include: religious objection, lack of crop diversification, cross-species allergens, and the strengthening of agribusiness monopolies that often accompanies GMO crop use.

Illogical reasons often have something to do with safety or not knowing what is in a product when you purchase it at the grocery store.

I could go on about this a lot. GMOs are a complex topic with a lot of ground to cover, but that wasn’t why I was writing this post today.

Because of the fear of GMOs, they need to go through extensive testing before they are declared legally safe. This testing can take up to ten years.

We don’t do that for every strain of modified rice in our lab, so certain precautions need to be taken.

Yesterday I cut off all the excess seeds on the old rice plants. The seeds go into a plastic bag.

The seed bag and the leftover portion you can see above both go into an orange dumpster at the center of the greenhouse complex.

All the stuff in the orange dumpster then goes into a special oven that ensures the modified crops won’t somehow get into the wild and start growing there.

After the special oven, called an autoclave, has destroyed the genetic material in the rice it can go into a normal dumpster or be used for compost.

Just another little glimpse at my job!

-Mister Ed

An Overview of Gurutama Part 12

D&D Races

Previous: An Overview of Gurutama Part 11

I lied! There was one more Gurutama Overview of Races post left.

Dawn of Worlds has a slightly different game definition of what a fantasy race is.

In D&D a fantasy race is any genetic group similar to humans in shape, intelligence, and power (no angels or demons).

In Dawn of Worlds a fantasy race is a construct for influencing the world.

A Dawn of Worlds race doesn’t even strictly need to be people. It could be something like a combination of computer programs.

What this means is that some of the typical fantasy races in D&D were not created in our Dawn of Worlds game.

Orcs, halflings, gnomes, gnolls (dog people), etc, were not created as official races in the Dawn of Worlds game that created Gurutama.

That doesn’t mean those races don’t exist in Gurutama!

All that means is that we decided the world’s history already had enough forces influencing it with the races we had created.

So what place do the other races have in Gurutama?

It depends on which race you’re asking about.

Halflings and gnomes exist in Western Hearthland, the dwarven continent.

The halflings and gnomes are also buddies with centaurs that live in that area.

Goblins (smaller versions of hobgoblins) live all over the place, but have a large concentration within the Turashtegal Jungle.

Orcs live all over the place too.

We’ve been discussing the placement of other races within Gurutama such as gnolls and bugbears, but nothing concrete has been decided yet.

My plan is to hammer out the timeline over my next few posts on Gurutama and then get into the specifics of other parts of the fantasy world.

I just wanted to let you all know that the other races were not left out. They were just not heavy-hitters in our Dawn of Worlds baseball game.

-Mister Ed

An Overview of Gurutama Part 11

The Grez inhabit or threaten any place covered by ice.
The Grez inhabit or threaten any place covered by ice.

Previous: An Overview of Gurutama Part 10

And I’m finally on the last race to cover in Gurutama, the Grez.

The Grez are the destroyers of the Trimurti theme we had for races in Dawn of Worlds, but in the traditional way we think of destruction.

The Grez don’t tear down buildings, or set people on fire, or wreck art of any kind.

The Grez are wraith-like beings that live in the frozen north and all they want is to expand their ice-covered territory.

The ice in the north started spreading out of the Grez’s home in the mountains of Glacierstone and as you can see, it now covers a decent amount of the top half of the Gurutama map.

The Grez can only live in extremely cold places. The Grez wish to expand where they can live, but in doing so they make territory uninhabitable for all other races.

The Grez are similar to the Walkers from Game of Thrones. They are cold beings from the north, expanding south using undead servants.

The Grez are ruled by a god figure called Reesrevo.

The Grez have come into conflict with the humans and the dwarves.

The Grez attack whenever a country looks weak, taking advantage of that weakness to add to their territory.

The Grez present an obvious villain in our Dawn of Worlds campaign. Everything they do is evil, even if it is necessary for them to do such things to reproduce/live.

Unfortunately, no nation has come forward in opposition to the Grez. They continued to expand south in the Dawn of Worlds game up until the very end.

The Grez also had a unique naming convention for their cities and the race itself.

Grez is Zerg backwards.

For those who have played Starcraft a lot of stuff probably clicked just now.

The ice is creep. Reesrevo is Overseer backwards and he is the Overmind from Starcraft. The undead servants are infested Terrans. You get the idea.

The cities, Reesrevoton, Ksilartlu, and Ksilardyh are Not Overseer, Ultralisk, and Hydralisk spelled backwards.

The Grez while a functional race in Dawn of Worlds are unlikely to be a PC race once Dawn of Worlds starts functioning as a campaign world in my group’s D&D campaigns.

-Mister Ed

Next: An Overview of Gurutama Part 12

How I Drink Water

The nutrition facts and ingredients on a fruit punch Gatorade bottle.
The nutrition facts and ingredients on a fruit punch Gatorade bottle.

I like to drink water out of Vitamin Water and Gatorade bottles.

They hold a lot of water and the top is perfect for drinking without that “Glug-Glug” noise or spilling.

I can cap them for taking on hikes and their shape is just right for fitting in my back pocket.

I reuse the bottles. I only buy a new one when I lose an old one or when one melts in the dishwasher.

I keep a few of the bottles around my house and fill one up whenever I’m thirsty (often).

While on my vacation in Sacramento I left one of my bottles in the hotel room while I was at the festival.

When I came back my bottle was gone! The cleaning staff had removed the bottle when they changed the sheets, thinking it was trash!

The cleaning staff had the further audacity to think that the money I left on my desk was a tip and leave a tip envelope! (That was sarcasm. Hard to convey on the internet, I know).

I tipped them and gave up the bottle as lost forever.

I needed a new one though! I got the one pictured above today!

I took a picture of the ingredients label specifically because I noticed something new.

Gatorade previously had corn syrup in it. Now it just has sugar!

I am allergic to corn. It makes me itch a lot.

I love Gatorade though. I used to drink it all the time, but I would suffer for it.

And now I don’t need to!

I foresee a fridge filled with Gatorade soon.

-Mister Ed

Sacramento Music Festival 2014

I went to the Sacramento Music Festival for a vacation this Memorial Day weekend with my wife and my parents-in-law. Here are some pictures of all the stuff that was going on there.

Here’s what our hotel was like.

The Governor's Inn where we stayed had birds named after the Reagans.
The Governor’s Inn where we stayed had birds named after the Reagans.
First time I got room service with my wife!
First time I got room service with my wife!

We went on a walk along the river by our hotel.

Here's a bridge in Sacramento by our hotel.
Here’s a bridge in Sacramento by our hotel.
There was this weird water thing in the river.
There was this weird water thing in the river.
An abandoned boat out in the river by our hotel.
An abandoned boat out in the river by our hotel.
The abandoned boat was an anomaly. Most of the boats were sailing around like this one.
The abandoned boat was an anomaly. Most of the boats were sailing around like this one.
The Rusty Duck Restaurant is quite rusty as it has been abandoned for awhile.
The Rusty Duck Restaurant is quite rusty as it has been abandoned for awhile.
An abandoned PG&E block building.
An abandoned PG&E block building.

And we went to the festival where my father-in-law was playing.

We were stuck in line for one of the music sets, but there was a polevaulting event outside to watch!
We were stuck in line for one of the music sets, but there was a polevaulting event outside to watch!
Here the girl is going over the bar.
Here the girl is going over the bar.
The girl did not make it over the bar.
The girl didn’t quite make it over the bar. She hit it on the way down.
A bunch of Hawaiian kids played some covers on the street to earn money for college.
A bunch of Hawaiian kids played some covers on the street to earn money for college.

The College Fund band that we saw on the street has a Facebook page. Here’s the link.

My father-in-law's band playing some 20's jazz.
My father-in-law’s band playing some 20’s jazz.

My father-in-law’s band is called the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra (RSJO). You can check out their website here.

And that was my weekend! Lots of music and lots of fun!

-Mister Ed

An Overview of Gurutama Part 10

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Previous: An Overview of Gurutama Part 9

If you know your Latin roots then you can already guess what type of people the Rana of Gurutama are.

Rana is Spanish for frog and the Rana are frog people.

The Rana live in and around Tonsil Lake and joined the Hykman League.

The Rana are pacifists, but they recognize that the violence that threatens the world can often only be countered by violence.

In order to meet violent threats without direct intervention, the Rana have a tradition of forging amazing swords and other weapons.

Chances are that if an adventurer finds a magic sword it was made by a Rana and gifted to a hero in the past to bring light in dark times.

The Rana are also accomplished artists and doctors.

A Rana organization called the Monks of the Gossamer Waves functions like the Red Cross in Gurutama. They provide aid to whomever requires it.

Because of their amphibian biology and passive nature it is rare to see a Rana far from Tonsil Lake or the Hykman cities surrounding it.

Rana that travel far afield are either Monks on missions or outcasts due to their rejection of the Rana’s pacifist culture.

Because the Rana do not often leave their home country they have had little influence on world affairs as a whole.

However, within the Hykman League the Rana are always involved in the betterment of all people, big or small, rich or poor.

Recent events in the Hykman League have caused some Rana to act against the Hykman government. This is due to a resurgence of Navillus worship in the Hykmans.

But more on all that in the forthcoming timeline posts!

-Mister Ed

Next: An Overview of Gurutama Part 11

An Overview of Gurutama Part 9

The picture of a Hobgoblin from one of the D&D Monster Manuals.
The picture of a Hobgoblin from one of the D&D Monster Manuals.

Previous: An Overview of Gurutama Part 8

I’ll be covering the Hobgoblins of Gurutama next.

The Hobgoblins are the offspring of a dwarven curse cast at the beginning of the dwarven invasion of Najar.

The dwarves asked the Bwarlor people to assist in the invasion, but the Bwarlor humiliated the dwarven diplomats (Beard shaving!).

The dwarves, not to be outdone, cast a terrible curse upon the Bwarlor.

Every firstborn Bwalor human was taken away by a black mist that covered Bwolo Isle.

The curse was worse than that. For centuries after the black mist, every firstborn of the Bwarlor would be have the body of a dwarf instead of a human.

These dwarf children formed a community of second class citizens in Bwarlor culture. They called themselves the Bastards of the Book as the curse that affected them originated from the dwarves magical Book in Hearthland.

The Bastards shared a common hatred, but not for the Bwarlor that outcast them. They hated the dwarves that had cursed them initially.

Eventually a group of Bastards came together with the aim of violence against the dwarven community.

Unfortunately for them the dwarves were safe within the Metal Tier mountain range of Hearthland.

But the dwarves had friends…

The Bastards of the Book cobbled a fleet together and sailed against the elves at Shianosoth.

They attacked, pillaged, and raped the city.

The offspring of the mixed cursed human, dwarf, and elf blood formed Hobgoblin babies.

This was the darkness that afflicted the Halusho Forest that I wrote of earlier.

The Hobgoblins were a savage and violent race, matching their origins, until the Hykmans civilized them.

The Hobgoblins adapted to civilization and organized government quickly, but their violent ways never left them.

A few decades after joining the Hykmans the Hobgoblins revolted to form their own nation.

That’s about it for the Hobgoblins. They live in the northern half of the Halusho Forest and in the Mandible mountains along the northern coast of the Lower Maw. All the cities in that area are Hobgoblin cities.

-Mister Ed

Next: An Overview of Gurutama Part 10

An Overview of Gurutama Part 8

The elves of Gurutama live in the Lower Maw.
The elves of Gurutama live in the Lower Maw.

Previous: An Overview of Gurutama Part 7

The elves of Gurutama joined the dwarven invasion of Najar, but when their beachhead at Cyflenwi was captured, the elves abandoned the cause.

What happened to the elves after that?

A dark presence entered the Halusho Forest (more specifics on that later when I pick apart the timeline of Gurutama as a whole).

The darkness joined several of the “evil” races together. Hobgoblins, orcs, trolls, and giants all started ranging through the wood.

The elven cities of Prestounasi and Shianosoth were overrun.

The remaining elves retreated to their capital at Crodolan and hid behind the city’s magical defenses.

The elves feared the evil races, led by the Hobgoblins, would penetrate their defenses, so an escape route was built.

The elven constructed Freedom Road connected the western sea of the Lower Maw to the eastern canal.

Freedom Road was protected by the same magic that kept Crodolan safe.

The elves then built the Homestone Bridge over the Great Canal.

On the Bridge the elves placed a powerful enchantment, preventing any Hobgoblin from ever crossing.

The elves built a new city south of Hykma named Rotandean.

Rotandean developed a good relationship with Hykma and eventually joined the Hykman League.

The elves who stayed behind in Crodolan petitioned for aid against the Hobgoblin menace.

The Hykman League sent a stunning force that defeated the Hobgoblins at Crodolan, recaptured Prestounasi, and rebuilt the city as a western port for trading with Hearthland.

The Hobgoblins were amazed by the Hykmans and asked to join the League. Their request was swiftly granted.

The elves argued against this decision, but the humans in charge of the League insisted that building alliances was wiser than keeping enemies.

Some elves could not accept this judgement and split off to form a rebel faction known as the True Arrows.

After this the situation became quite complicated as more forces influenced the growing Hykman League from the outside and from within. I’ll talk more about that when I start posting the timeline of specific events in Gurutama.

Only three descriptions of races left to go. The Rana (Preservers in the Trimurti), the Grez (Destroyers in the Trimurti), and the Hobgoblins (an extra race created outside of the Trimurti theme).

-Mister Ed

Next: An Overview of Gurutama Part 9

An Overview of Gurutama Part 7

The elves of Gurutama live in the Lower Maw.
The elves of Gurutama live in the Lower Maw.

Previous: An Overview of Gurutama Part 6

Last time I mentioned that the elves allied with the dwarves against the human Najar Empire.

Elves are typically enemies of dwarves in high fantasy. Which is strange because they are both “good” races in D&D.

Tolkein started this trend by making dwarves and elves good, but having them disagree on nearly everything.

Tolkein’s dwarves and elves disagree on how to wage war, on how to act socially, on what professions are honorable, etc.

I controlled the elves and the dwarves in our Dawn of Worlds game, so I decided to change that rivalry into a partnership.

But first! Where did the elves come from?

Our first four races were based around the four elements. Water for Merfolk, Air for Avians, Fire for Humans, and Earth for Dwarves.

The second set of races only had three positions in it. One of my friends became too busy to keep playing the game and dropped out (resulting in his race, the Avians, becoming a subject population).

The new set of three was based off of the Hindu Trimurti, Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer.

The elves represent creation. Everytime I had the elves do something I always tried to tie it into creation.

The elves built many of the wonders of the world that exist in Gurutama.

This also allowed me to stay within normal elf stereotypes. They live in the forest, are good with magic and bows, and they make beautiful things.

In our Dawn of Worlds game, the elves showed up and began expanding through the Halusho Forest, seen above.

The elves joined the dwarves against the Najar humans because they also thought it was the right thing to do. Demons should be sent back to Hell after all!

The elves created the port city of Cyflenwi at the upper left of the posted image. This city supplied the dwarven invasion of Najar.

The city was subsequently taken over by the Merfolk and handed back to the Najar humans under some treaty or another. The details on it are a little hazy, just like everything else when you look too closely at the Dawn of Worlds game.

After Cyflenwi was taken over the elves became more independent from the dwarves. I’ll talk more about the rest of the elves history in my next blog post on Gurutama.

-Mister Ed

Next: An Overview of Gurutama Part 8

Recent Survey on Attitudes Towards Jews

One of my Jewish friends posted a New York Times article on Facebook recently.

The article is about a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League over the past year and released last week on world-wide attitudes towards Jews.

I encourage you to look at the survey results yourself at this the link.

The results can be looked at in an interactive Javascript or in PDF labeled as “Executive Summary” at the top right of the page.

The results were a lot of fun to look at, but nothing was particularly surprising.

The main point of the survey was to discover demographic information about anti-Semites.

Anti-Semitism was gauged by seeing if people surveyed thought 11 statements about Jews were “probably true” or “probably false.”

The statements are all vaguely anti-Semitic. If a surveyed person answered “probably true” to 6 or more of the questions then the survey considered them anti-Semitic.

The results of the survey show that the greatest predictor for anti-Semitism is location.

Anti-Semitism is common in the Middle East and North Africa, probably because Israel is an an enemy of practically every country in the region.

No other region of the world had high rates of anti-Semitism, but the highest besides the Middle East and North Africa were Europe and The Americas.

Europe and the American continents were likely higher because of legally supported anti-Semitism in the past.

The data supports that conclusion as well, with older people “from the past” having higher rates of anti-Semitism than younger people.

One of the facts discovered by the survey that interested me most pertained to education.

In most of the world, a higher education level correlated with a reduction in the rate of anti-Semitism.

In the Middle East and North Africa, a higher education level correlated with an increase in anti-Semitism.

I’d figured more education would universally reduce anti-Semitism, but I guess that isn’t true.

My first thought was that there might be something wrong with the education system in the Middle East and North Africa.

When I thought about it more a different idea seemed more plausible to me.

In an area with lots of anti-Semitism, people are rewarded for being anti-Semitic (social rewards, career advancement, etc).

If someone becomes educated, they’ll realize that being anti-Semitic is advantageous and exhibit the behavior more often or to greater degrees.

This also leads to avenues for reducing anti-Semitism. Make it so the behavior isn’t rewarded and it will stop.

Course, the means of doing that in regions where anti-Semitism is deeply entrenched are a mystery to me.

Regardless, the survey has a lot of cool data in an easily accessible format. I’d suggest looking at it yourself and talking about what you found!

-Mister Ed