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Some really fascinatingly-alien deep-underground life. [13 Dec 2018|12:49pm]
Per this article in The Guardian, scientists at the Deep Carbon Observatory have discovered some really nifty life forms deep underground.

What I find fascinating is not just that these organisms are living deep underground (where "deep" is measured in kilometers; this is well below dirt levels), but the adaptations that this low-energy environment means as far as timescales. Some of them -- and these are microbes (it's not clear if they're singlecellular or multicellular) -- live for thousands of years, barely moving. One methanogen is described as using the tiny amount of methane it can produce "[not] to reproduce or divide, but to replace or repair broken parts." The rocks move on geological timescales, and so, it appears, does the microscopic life living on them.

Other interesting datapoints are that we're only recently discovering this because of a combination of advances in deep drilling and "improvements in microscopes that allow life to be detected at increasingly minute levels". The depths where the scientists have found life are only limited by the depths of the boreholes, though they've currently not found anything that lives in places hotter than 122C.

Oh, and based on their numbers, they're estimating that this deep-subsurface biomass is about 3-4% of the total biomass on the planet. It's not just a tiny bit of stuff.

There's a bit more at "Science Daily", too.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comment count unavailable comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.
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Small things that give me happy feelings. [07 Dec 2018|12:27pm]
I am visiting a dear friend this week. The morning after I got here, I was adjusting the shower water, and noticing that the knob is one of the sort that one turns about a turn and a half to get to "hot", and then turns it back some amount that's really kind of dependent on the vagaries of the particular valve to get to the right temperature. So, I made a guess as to what would be right, and turned it there.

Then I noticed that, just a little bit off from where I'd turned it, there was a small blue pointy sticker. And so I thought, "Aha, I know what this means," and turned it to that point, and indeed a moment later the water was at the perfect temperature.

This makes me very happy.

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Finding interesting people on Dreamwidth [03 Dec 2018|10:47pm]
So, Tumblr has started taking down icons with nipples sold itself to the Russians declared intent to start taking down photos of nipples and everything else they deem an NSFW photo or movie ("But not art! And not non-female-presenting nipples!" they say1), and demonstrated that they're doing this with an AI that is clearly illustrating all the well-known reasons why doing this with a current-tech-level AI is problematic. It's quite the train wreck, and many fandomly people are responding by saying "we know how this story goes" and establishing community in safer places. This train wreck is also not quite the subject of this post, merely a cause for a cause of it.

What this post is actually about is, with people from Tumblr joining in droves: How does one get a Dreamwidth reading page that's full of interesting people writing interesting things? I started answering this on [personal profile] gallusrostromegalus's introductory post, but I figured it might be useful more widely.

I'd also like to hear other people's thoughts on the matter in comments -- this is just me tossing out some ideas for things that have worked for me, but I've had pretty narrow experience mostly from years ago, and fandom changes quickly sometimes.

Anyway, with that said, here's what I had to say in the comment:

I mostly found interesting people by commenting on other people's posts (which, unlike Tumblr, stays on their post rather than being a separate post on your page) and then following other people who made interesting comments on people's posts. That means there can be an advantage to going back and looking at older posts -- usually from the last day or so; things seem to taper off a bit after that unless a really interesting conversation starts -- to see if there are new comments. Also, if an interesting conversation starts or a post looks likely to spawn interesting conversation, you can click the "track this button" (which looks like a little bell in my default style; I'm not sure how universal that is) to get notifications when people make new comments on it.

Unlike Tumblr or Twitter, there isn't really any way to see all the comments that a specific person is making -- but you can see their "reading" page using a link like http://brooksmoses.dreamwidth.com/read (or click the "reading" link on their main journal page) to get an idea of what the people they're subscribed to post. That won't include private posts that you couldn't otherwise see, and if they use a lot of circles to have specific narrower reading pages it won't show you what those are, but it is still pretty useful in finding other interesting people.

Finally, on things I have actual experience with: I'd note that my friend [personal profile] jenett does weekly "salon" posts which are basically just forums for people to have conversations in the comments. The most recent one is at https://jenett.dreamwidth.org/1794110.html, to give you an idea -- and you could either join the conversation there if it looks interesting and looks like a group of people you want to join, or you and other people reading this could start your own if the idea looks useful but there's less community overlap.

On things I don't have experience with, Dreamwidth also has communities, which are essentially communal journals where multiple people can post -- those were a big thing in fandom in the LiveJournal days and I believe still are here now, but it's been a long time since I've had time to seek those out. There are also the "interests" lists in people's profiles, which become links to lists of other people with that interest listed.

[1] Yes, this proclamation on their part led to creation of at least one community where people are posting things like a photo of a naked nipple with two eyes and a very distinctive mustache inked onto the surrounding (rather large) breast to make a cheery face. Obviously.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comment count unavailable comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.
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Why is "morsepunk" not a word? [01 Dec 2018|01:59pm]
I was explaining elsewhere how I had gone down a small research rabbithole and discovered that although "early 1993" is a reasonable date for the birth of the Web given that the software was made available for open royalty-free use then, the first server was actually turned on in 1990. Except that I made a typo, and said "1900" instead.

This led me to imagining circa-1900-ish web servers, which would obviously be Morsepunk, along the lines of steampunk and such. But apparently nobody else on the web has used the word yet.

So, here! Morsepunk should be a thing! We already have real-world stories of telegraph operators starting friendships and romantic relationships via Morse code, as well as the paradigm shift of how cables changed the world by making instantaneous communication a thing. Certainly there is fertile ground here, for something that uses electrons and wires and radio waves the way steampunk uses steam and clockwork.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comment count unavailable comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.
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Small child is delightful. [31 Oct 2018|12:12am]
There is a certain "things being right in the world" feeling that comes of watching our two-year-old happily pushing the Kik-Step stool across the floor to the other room, and doing the occasional half-stumble that happens when one is small and leans slightly too hard on a Kik-Step stool and it stops rolling for a moment.

(I have many emotional memories tied up in Kik-Step stools, apparently.)

Also, I'm told that once she got it into the other room, there ensued this conversation:
T: I on tep tool!
S: Yes, you're on the step stool.
T: I tall! I taller dan you!
T: I taller dan cat!
T: I taller dan Mama. Dan Mommy! Dan Papa Brooks!
S: You're really tall!
T: I taller dan Papa! And I jump on youuuuuu!

A bit before this, she'd also come into the dining room to carefully fetch the large heavy book of Christmas songs off the dining table -- it was just at the edge of her reach, and also heavy enough that it took most of her small-child concentration not to drop it -- so that she could play the game she invented of picking random pages in it and asking Suzanne to sing the song thereupon. Which, as far as Suzanne is concerned, is the best game ever.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comment count unavailable comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.
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Random artistic scribbles [11 Sep 2018|12:14am]
[ mood | cheerful ]

A while ago, I bought an inexpensive computer drawing tablet to use for making random computer art. It then sat next to my desk, in its box, for quite some time, as such things tend to do for me.

This week, though, I have been setting up a new-to-me computer [1] as a "creating things" workstation, and meanwhile [personal profile] green_knight had mentioned that Clip Studio Paint was having a 50% off sale, and more-importantly said that "this is, by far, the best application for drawing and artistic endeavours I have found." Half-off was only $25, so I bought a copy, installed it on the new computer, hooked up the tablet, and had just enough time to play with it for a few minutes before bedtime.

One of the great things about having kids is the reminder that one can enjoy doing artistic scribbles without doing Great Art or even doing anything particularly skillful, and that there's no shame in doing that. Also the reminder that, if one doesn't know what to draw, houses or stick figures or stylized animals are a good starting place.

Collapse )

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Dreams are frustrating [26 Aug 2018|09:57am]
[ mood | wistful ]

Ah, that feeling of waking up from a really amazing Broadway-style song at the end a dream, and realizing that not only can you not remember enough of it to recreate it and so will never hear it again, but the the bit you do remember from the peak of the crescendo in the chorus doesn't even actually scan.

The lyrics I do remember are mocking me about this. "Nothing's ever truly lost, nothing's ever gone." The melody is roughly (with some tweaks to make it scan) C C B C high-C C B, A B high-B B A.

I would also like to know how, when you're having a sing-along of a newly-written Broadway song while riding in a car, the composer who's sitting in the back seat with two other people can manage to have a piano with her. I don't think that bit actually works either.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comment count unavailable comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.

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Chronicles of Cal the Bard, episode 2 [24 Aug 2018|09:26pm]
(Continuing the tales from my gaming sessions from the last couple of years....)

Well, most of us woke up on the pile of straw in that room of the catacombs. Enwe, being Countess of the Eldrich Mists and thus not a commoner like the rest of us, woke up in an adjacent room in a marble niche, with several of her organs in nearby canopic jars. She took this somewhat better than one might have expected, which is not to say that she took it well, but.

K'tang's did confirm that they were indeed her organs, and they were still functionally involved in keeping her alive, and her health didn’t appear to be affected by the removal of her organs to the canopic jars, and beyond that if we asked any more questions we did not obtain any more answers.

So Enwe peevishly gathered up her canopic jars, and the rest of us gathered up our wits, there being nothing else for us to gather up, and we set off to try to find a way out of the catacombs and also find out where exactly "out" might take us to.

I don’t remember a lot of details of the initial exploring, but we did fairly quickly find out from some ghosts that we ran into that we were inside the Stone Thief.

Which ... I see that I need to back up, and explain a bit of this setting. As I put it in a comment on a post before I started writing all this up:
There is a class of living entity in this universe ... that is, as far as I can tell, made primarily out of non-Euclidean geometry and probably magic. I don't mean that it exists in a realm of non-Euclidean geometry; I mean that its presence in the world as perceived by "normal" beings is basically just bubble-like warps in space. Also, it generally lives underground and surfaces every so often to swallow cities somewhat like a Sarlacc swallows bounty hunters, and is capable of manipulating sizeable chunks of rock or city within itself so that entire buildings or city blocks may end up within it unharmed or may be combined into absurd and strange new architectural edifices.

Luckily, there is no more than one of these in the world that is large enough to swallow cities.
Unluckily, there is one that is that large....
Basically, this is 13th Age's variant of D&D dungeons, with explanation of why they're full of bizarre stuff and treasure and monsters, crossed with being an epic monster.

It transpires that this is not the first time the rest of the party (except maybe Claire?) have been inside this beast. K'tang's even has a book from some people who were inside of it many ages ago, describing what they found there. Er, here. Also he seems to have a voice in his head from someone who may have been one of the authors of that book? It's not entirely clear, but what is clear is that he effectively has several other people in his brain, and given that he's a necromancer, one can't really rule out the idea that they're more than figments of his imagination. Especially when they sometimes seem to give him useful information.

So, we found our way out of the dungeon, and through a number of other creepy rooms, including one that was guarded by lines of some kind of mold in the floor that would release toxic and probably hallucinogenic spores if touched, and another that looked like a church but with rows of stone troughs of some sort of embalming fluid containing cadavers and also a lot of jars containing angry no-longer-sane ghosts. K'tang's was quite disturbed by the ghosts -- particularly by the fact that there was neither time nor space and materials for him to do the appropriate rituals to put them to rest. He did bring a few along with him, and Cal brought a couple of dozen more and fed them into his diplomatic pouch as fast as it would take them (which was maybe two or three a day) for headquarters to take care of.

I am sure I am omitting many other creepy things as well. It was pretty clear that the Stone Thief had a very strong sense of the macabre, and we were pretty sure there was also at least one ancient necromancer down here that was providing influences as well. Luckily we didn't run into him directly.

At a different point in this exploration, we did run into a small chapel-room that appeared to be a tiny enclave of D&D "good"-alignment in the middle of all this. In there we found a large paladin laid out on a bier, in suspended animation that even K'tang's was unable to easily lift. With some exploration we found what appeared to be the remains of a co-explorer, and in his pack we found a scroll of lifting of suspension spell. There was some debate among the party about whether to use the scroll to revive the paladin. White they were debating, Cal in proper spy form attempted to make a forged copy of the scroll on grounds that it might be useful later, and rolled a critical success on it, and I've been waiting for two years since then for a chance to use it since I'm pretty sure a critical success means he got a working duplicate out of it.

Anyway, we did use the scroll and revive the paladin, and thus a new PC joined the party. He turned out to be very pure of heart and somewhat empty of mind, in the stereotypical "the muscle of the party" way, and IIRC the mini we used for him (in the few fights where we used minis) was a prepaint that was actually supposed to be Thor from The Avengers. He was fairly helpful at swatting undead, which was good as that seemed to be his calling in life. His player only stuck around for a couple of sessions, though.

And I shall stop this post here, because at this point I am not entirely sure I remember the sequence of what happened next, and will need to ask my co-gamers if they remember!

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comment count unavailable comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.
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Chronicles of Cal the Bard, episode 1 [24 Aug 2018|09:01pm]
In which actual plot progression happens!

Once Cal joined the party and introduced himself, we all went wandering off to Minister Li's house to see what was happening there, as the rest of the party had just reached town and apparently this was a bit of a "home base" for them. What was happening was primarily a lot of people bringing by politically-expected gifts for Minister Li on this occasion (I believe, in addition to the wedding, he had just been promoted to Prime Minister Li), and so his wife and concubine were having to deal with accepting all of those and finding places to put them and so forth.

If I'm remembering correctly, Vattu used some sort of magic to skip the line of people trying to get in, and we got directed around back to the servants' entrance, with the clear implication that we were certainly not reputable enough to use the main entrance. We rested, and Cal made introductions and determined whether we could be of any assistance with the gift-wrangling. Cal was also introduced to Enwe's tree, which was a twisted viney carnivorous thing that kept trying to eat the gardener, and which Mrs. Li had clearly put in the least-visible corner of the garden. I don’t recall if it was then or later that Cal learned that if Enwe were to be killed, the tree would regrow her a new body in a week or so.

The party also buried the diamond in a reasonably good hiding spot in the garden, guarded by the tree, because carrying it into the wedding would obviously not be the thing.

The biggest bit of gossip around the Imperial Wedding was about who the Emperor was going to marry. This was being kept a tremendous secret -- only a very few people knew, and we were not in that group of people. We were fairly certain, but not entirely certain, that the (young, a bit inexperienced) Emperor was one of the people who knew. Speculation included a number of the other Icons -- the Blue Dragon, the Elf Queen, the Black Dragon, and the Diabolist were the ones I remember as prime contenders. The Priestess was in charge of arranging the ceremony, so it seemed unlikely (but plausible) that she was the bride.

We then got sucked into helping out with minor arrangements, helping Claire -- who was all in the thick of this, being a cleric of the Priestess -- with some various things and thus also being able to avoid all the crowds getting into the ceremony when it started.

And then, at the start of the gaming session where we (the players) expected to be playing out the actual wedding, we (the characters) instead found ourselves walking up on a pile of straw in a dark catacombs, with no recollection of anything since the previous gaming session.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comment count unavailable comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.
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Gaming: Chronicles of Cal the Bard, episode 0.1 [23 Aug 2018|11:26am]
This is still introduction, I suppose. Next episode will have things actually happening!

The initial pretext for Cal meeting the rest of the adventuring party was that he was assigned by the Dwarven Diplomatic Apparatus to guard them. Or, more precisely, to guard a treasure they were carrying and make sure it got to its destination -- they had a head-sized diamond which was the temporary resting place of a guardian stone-spirit that they had recovered, and they were returning the guardian spirit to the Dwarven city it had long ago been stolen from. For some reason they seemed particularly attached to the diamond, however, and were unwilling to entrust it to the Dwarves for the transport. And, as the Dwarves did not have an appropriate alternate vessel to hand, this remained the status quo.

Furthermore, for inexplicable reasons, this adventuring party was insisting on bringing this diamond into the capital city -- Axis -- on the eve of the Emperor's wedding. Everyone and their assassin was in town, so of course the party had to be there too, but it was clear that appropriate measures needed to be taken to ensure the safety of the guardian spirit.

According to Cal's briefing, the party members were:
  • Enwe, Countess of the Eldritch Mists. Sources were conflicted as to her heritage; she claimed to be a High Elf, but she looked at least as much like a Drow, and had a large draconic tail that was distinctly not elven at all. No strong entanglements with the Elven Court, but well positioned.
  • K'tang's 83rd Error, informally known as "K'tang's". A dragonborn necromancer of indeterminate but long age, who held the position of Mandarin of the Dead in the Emperor's court. Well-respected, but typically from somewhat of a distance on grounds of his being a bit creepy. Dwarven sources have been unable to identify who K'tang is or was, and have found a few older references to the same person as K'tang's 84th Error and, prior to that, K'tang's 85th Error.
  • Vattu. A halfling sorcerer, well known for his power (reputed to be the most powerful of the age by many), and for his attention to parties rather than studies while in college. The professors had grudgingly let him graduate -- he did, after all, have undeniable talent, and it was also the most expedient way to keep him far away from the remaining flammable portions of campus.
  • Claire. A cleric of the Priestess of Light. Sources suggested she had particular devotion to her cause, and her connection to the other three was not entirely clear; perhaps she had adopted them as being in need of a guiding hand, as clerics often do. She had also studied law, and contracts in her hand were exceedingly thorough.

The party was also closely connected to Prime Minister Li, the Emperor's right-hand man (and occasional quasi-PC played by the GM). It seemed that one cynical Dwarf assigned to research his weaknesses had considered him a personal affront, as they had gone to great lengths to find any evidence of corruption that he could be blackmailed with, far more than the job warranted. As a result of that investigation, though, the Dwarven Diplomatic Apparatus considered him to be essentially the last remaining completely honest bureaucrat.

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Gaming: Chronicles of Cal the Bard, episode 0 [02 Aug 2018|10:15pm]
Like [personal profile] eeeeka, I ought to make a gaming usericon someday. But today isn't that day; today I shall write up the starting bits from the game that I've been playing for the last couple of years.

The setting is 13th Age, which was designed by the lead designers of Dungeons and Dragons 3rd and 4th editions, and has been described as basically "here's all the neat stuff we wanted to put in D&D 4th ed but couldn't because it didn't fit with the established game." It's generally standard D&D subspecies -- humans, elves, dwarves, halflings -- and character classes, with a few outlier quirks. The large-scale cultural structure is loosely based on Imperial Chinese history, with Ages roughly comparable to Dynasties. The Dwarves and Elves are particularly longstanding societies that fight like two stereotypical siblings, always squabbling but woe betide an outsider who thinks to ally with one against the other. There are a dozen or so "Icons": beings -- mostly humanoids and dragons -- who are have apotheosized into essentially demigods, including the Emperor, and in the current age the Elf Queen, the Dwarf King, and others. Player characters have various allegiances and/or troubled relationships with these that influence play occasionally.

My character, Cal, is game-mechanically a Dwarf Bard. He's actually a career intelligence agent, inspired both by James Bond and Charles Stross's Laundry Files. (As I put it once, in-character but out-of-game-continuity, "Spy, bard, it's basically the same thing. You tell people stories. Sometimes they believe them.") The character sheet describes him as "Small and wiry (or perhaps just scrawny) for a dwarf. Graying hair, scraggly beard. Wearing the sort of tough-looking clothes you’d expect from a not-particularly-undercover enforcer type. Has good stories about being a roadie for a metal band." Of course, that's all a carefully affected look for this job; on the next job, he'll look entirely different.

One of the interesting things of how 13th Age does backgrounds is that characters have "one unique thing" -- a snippet of entirely freeform characterization that distinguishes them, specifically, from everyone else. For example, the wizard in our party has the "one unique thing" that he's the most powerful wizard of the Age. Not the most skilled, or the best ... just the most powerful. Cal's is this:
Back in the day, Cal received an official military commendation from the Elven Court … while working as a double agent for the Dwarves. It’s notable what a scrawny dwarf dressed like a stout halfling (with the help of occasional disguise spells from a very high-level handler) can get up to in a remote Elven outpost. And it’s a shame the halfling died in a tragic accident shortly thereafter.

For what it’s worth, Cal also got a medal from the Dwarves. If you read between the lines of the commendation that it came with, it says, “We don’t have the clearance to know what you did, but the head spymaster says you should get this medal.” Even that much is classified; the commendation letter burst into the traditional flames after Cal read it.
Over the course of the game, I've come up with a reasonably sizeable mythos for the Dwarven Diplomatic Apparatus, which is the approximately CIA-and-NSA-and-State-Department-all-in-one organization that Cal belongs to. Officially, they are the diplomatic wing of the government and deny all knowledge of being involved in anything like spying. In reality, they are remarkably shadowy even for dwarves, who as you know live underground in dark caves.

They are generally committed to the good of the Dwarven people, but they also have a strong institutional conviction in their own righteousness, which means that it is standard procedure to determine what the Dwarf King (and or his council, regional governors, etc.) should do about any given bit of intelligence before reporting it to them, and then spin the reporting or not-reporting of it so that they will do that thing. The government budget of course provides them with what they believe the Dwarf King would provide them if he had a full and true understanding of their value, although since you can't trust politicians and kings with that sort of knowledge it all comes from a thousand overages and surpluses here and there.

The Diplomatic Apparatus also has access to substantial magical power, due to treating it much like the NSA treats cryptography. This is nominally a world in which fast communication is exceedingly rare -- there are one-time-use teleport scrolls available, if the Archmage (one of the Icons) or his high-level apprentices owes you a large favor, and a handful of point-to-point teleport circles, and a few ways of magically entangling items such that breaking one will cause a signal at the other, but that's most of it. In this world, the DM and I have established that Diplomatic Apparatus has the resources to equip all of its field agents with a "diplomatic pouch" that will immediately teleport any small item placed into it to a receiving room at headquarters, at a rate of a few per day. This is usually used for reports, but I've also sent a few interesting objects back with it as well.

And so that's basically the background. This game had been going on for some time (two or three years, I think?) when I joined, so I was joining an already established group of characters -- and thus we established that I had been given the assignment to guard them. The reason the Diplomatic Apparatus considered it worth assigning a senior agent to guard them, and what he was guarding them from, is the story for next time.

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I really ought to start writing up more of my tabletop gaming sessions. [01 Aug 2018|11:07pm]
[ mood | cheerful ]

This bit, though, I just have to share. We ended tonight's situation on a bit of a cliffhanger, as we'd just discovered some orcs that started shooting at us, but there wasn't time to actually play out the battle. And also a bit of a cliffhanger in that our wood elf was literally hanging off the side of a large rock. As I explained it in chat afterwards:

Our DM has put us in this underground basalt cavern. Lake of lava at the bottom, stairs curving around the side of the cavern from near the top where we are down to a bit above the lake, and then there's a bridge across the lake from there to a giant door (carved with a demon face, naturally). There are foggy fumes rising up from the lake, to about eight or ten feet above the bridge.

Our wood-elf ranger-type went first, and got halfway across the bridge before bits of it started floating off with her and nearly dumped her off, and about that point some orcs that had been hiding under the staircase somewhat away from the bridge starting shooting arrows at her.

Meanwhile, I have established that there is a clear surface to the top of the fumes (which is relevant, as I have magic boots that can "walk on any surface"). I have also established that the fumes are largely vaporized rock.

I am a Dwarf Bard.

This means I have two major strengths in magic. Rock, of the musical sort, and rock, of the stone sort.

And I note that this is a cavern, which means it echoes.

My plan is to find a spot on the staircase that's near the end of the bridge at at a point that will focus echoes on the orcs and is down in the vapors, pull out my axe, turn the gain on it all the way up, and play the "sonic blast" spell that I have renamed to "power chord".

And assert that I amplify it with the stone magic such that the sound waves compress the vapors into walls of stone crashing into the orcs.

We shall see if the dice let me get away with this, but my dwarf is having an 'I have trained ... all my life ... for this exact moment" feeling right about now.

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This should be easier than this [13 Jul 2018|11:23pm]
[ mood | tired ]

A while ago, one of our bathroom over-sink light-fixture shades fell and cracked a hole in the ceramic sink. I put a temporary waterproof-tape patch on it, which was good for a while, and bought a replacement sink (conveniently, we knew the previous homeowners had bought everything from Home Depot, so I could find an identical one), but it took me a while to get around to actually doing the replacement.

A "yay" thing: I finally got around to starting on that this evening!

A "boo" thing: This is a sink that is basically glued to the underside of the countertop with caulk, rather than going in from the top. To assemble it in the first place, the factory assemblers (I'm pretty sure this was a pre-made unit) cut a hole in the plywood cabinet top just a bit bigger than the sink, and then screwed some plywood support blocks onto the bottom of it to make ledges for the lip of the sink to sit on. They then sat the sink on those ledges, which left the top of the sink about level with the top of the plywood, and glued the ceramic countertop to the plywood cabinet top, trapping the sink in between.

In a reasonable world, the plywood support blocks would have been screwed on from the underside, so I could have simply unscrewed them. However, they were screwed in from the top, which meant the screw heads were trapped between the plywood and the glued-on ceramic countertop.

A small "yay" thing: The screws were slightly longer than the two layers of plywood, so I could at least see where they were by the tips sticking out of the bottom layer.

A "yay" thing: The local Lowe's Hardware Store was open until 10pm, so I could go and buy a small hole-cutting saw (imagine a tube with saw teeth on the end, that goes into an electric drill), and I was able to use that to cut around the screws and get the support blocks out that way. I could then unscrew the remaining little cut-out plugs off the screws and break off the ends of the screws.

Another "yay" thing: I had been wondering how to do this without having the sink basically drop on my head when I removed the plywood support pieces -- and how to hold the new sink in place while the caulk dried. Conveniently, the internet provided an answer -- put a 2x4 scrap across the top of the opening, and drop a pipe clamp from there down through the hole in the sink to hold the sink up. This worked perfectly, at least for getting the old sink out, which is as far as I got.

A "boo" thing: It then took me a half-hour of looking to find my caulking gun, because my tools are currently in semi-packed-up disarray due to another project (namely, cleaning the space where they go and creating organizational stuff like pegboards so eventually I can find them all easily).

Another "boo" thing: Once I found the caulking gun, I discovered that my unopened-but-old container of silicone caulk had hardened in the tube.

So, tomorrow I go get more caulk, I guess, and see if I can get the new sink in place.

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Five things, June 10th. [10 Jun 2018|11:16pm]
1.) T. had her second birthday party yesterday, and her actual birthday today. It was a fairly low-key party; the five of us plus the two kids, and another family from around the corner, went out to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo for the morning and had a picnic and the kids played on the playgrounds and rode the rides and peered at the meerkats and capybara and fed the goats. Much fun, and I took quite a lot of photos and discovered that my camera's autofocus cannot keep up with kids going around in circles on rides, and got rather a bit of a sunburn on my forehead. And I did get some in-focus photos on the rides by picking a spot, setting the focus there, and waiting until they came around to that point.

2.) Also from yesterday, I was amused by M.'s proclivity for making friends. One of the circular rides has bugs that bounce gently up and down and have forward-facing seats on the front and rearward-facing seats on the bug. Morgan struck up a conversation with a girl who was in the seat facing her and T., and by the end of that ride they wanted to go again sitting side-by-side, and they did that twice, and at that point they appeared to be best friends. (And were very sad when the other girl had to go off to the other birthday party she was there for.) I am rather inspired by how she does that.

3.) Last week I built a couple of hanging shelves in the garage, 8 feet long and 16 inches deep, sized to hold 32 (!) of the plastic boxes that I'm using for organizing tools and things. I was a little concerned about whether I'd need to be careful about putting heaving things on the shelves, since they hang from the ceiling but by the time they were done I realized that I could comfortably lean all of my weight on them to hammer in the last few nails, so I think they will do just fine. And this gives me space to put tools that is (a) easily accessible and organizable rather than just stacks of stuff, and (b) isn't in the office room in the house. So that will be very helpful. Right now, though, it's mostly full of boxes of tools-that-need-to-be-organized.

4.) I made chili -- or quasi-chili, depending on your opinions on what does or does not count as such -- for dinner tonight. It was simple and quite tasty -- one large onion, diced and sauteed in the soup pot, along with some chipotle powder and cumin powder. Then one large green pepper and two small orange peppers (cheaper than red peppers at the store this week), likewise diced, each put in once I got done dicing them. When those were nicely cooked, I added a 28-oz can of tomatoes, two 14-oz cans of black beans, and two 14-oz cans of pinto beans. That didn't look like enough tomatoes, so I added another 14-oz can of those. This then simmered for a half-hour or so, and somewhere in the middle I salted it to taste with soy sauce -- I've come to the conclusion that for many things of this sort, it greatly improves the flavor to use soy sauce rather than just salt. And it seemed to want something else, so I added a spoonful or so of dried marjoram, because it is tasty and we don't use it that often. It came out quite well.

5.) I found a laser barcode scanner in the personal-electronics-recycle bin at work last week. It's a proper professional one, with the laser line and a chirpy beep when it recognizes a barcode, and it has a USB plug and as far as the computer is concerned it's just a keyboard. And so now I have a question: Why is it that I now feel compelled to find things around the house with barcodes and scan them, and why is there such glee in scanning them and having this thing make its chirpy beep and seeing the numbers appear on screen? I feel sort of like a chipper mad scientist, wanting to go muah-ha-ha and shoot things with the laser and giggle. And it's not just me; [personal profile] suzannemoses also had this reaction to it....

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In which T. is almost two. [10 Jun 2018|12:24am]
She will be two tomorrow. We had a small birthday party today, involving going to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo and having a picnic. I took many photographs, which I will need to sort through, but I wanted to go ahead and post this one:

She was only standing that way for a second, but even so! And this was without a parent nearby and the only encouragement being watching M. doing it a bit earlier.

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Today's installment of Excessively Thrifty Recipes [14 Apr 2018|01:32pm]
Step 1:

* When making fried eggs for 5-year-old who will only eat egg whites, separate the yolks into a small tupperware kept in the freezer.

Step 2:

* When making lasagna, thaw out the accumulated dozen-or-so yolks and add them (along with some dried basil) to the cottage cheese for the filling, thereby adding extra yummy richness.

Step 3:

* To make a nutritious breakfast from a mostly-emptied fridge, take leftover cottage cheese and egg yolk mixture that didn't fit into lasagna, and cook in a frying pan until it simmers, thereby making a thin cheese sauce. Place in a bowl, and let it cool somewhat. As it cools it will revert to a cottage-cheesy texture. Eat by dipping toast spears into it, like fondue.

Accompany with a ripe avocado from where someone didn't pick up their farmshare delivery at work. (Unclaimed bags are up for grabs after 8pm; this was two days later.)

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Today's random discovery [25 Jan 2018|02:03am]
"[In] Great Britain, many Victorian-era locomotives were specially equipped to prepare tea."

Because of course they were. You're driving a thing that is basically a large tea kettle, obviously you will want tea at some point, a convenient solution is obvious.

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Random linkage [14 Jan 2018|09:16pm]
A costume designer who raises Monarch butterflies as a hobby uses a bit of rubber cement and spare butterfly wings to repair the wing of a butterfly that severely damaged its wings coming out of its chrysalis -- and it works.

I had no idea this was possible. Apparently neither did she until a friend sent her a video of someone else doing it, but now we know!

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So, those "Autumn Gold" appliances from the 1970s.... [11 Jan 2018|12:24am]
[ mood | amused ]

I know that we tend to mock them a bit (along with the Avocado Green ones), but I just came across a picture on Tumblr that shows some of them in context, and in context it's clearly the right color for them to be.

Actually, now that I think about it, it's possible that mocking Autumn Gold appliances was a 1990s thing and I'm just way out of date with it and they've now hit a point where they're alluringly retro instead. But anyway. I have to share, regardless, because this kitchen is so great and I love it.

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Quite a surfeit of turkey [25 Dec 2017|09:10pm]
[ mood | happy ]

We had a fairly large Christmas feast this evening -- it was going to be ten people (counting the two kids), but ended up with eleven at the last minute. And so I thought, "Aha! This would be a good time to use the turkey that I put in the deep freezer last Thanksgiving."

Last Thanksgiving, we had some last-minute uncertainty about whether we were having a large dinner or a small one, and there were other details and reasons that I don't entirely remember, but I think what happened is that I was doing last-day shopping and there were two turkeys left at the butcher shop and I took the larger one because the other person looking at them preferred the smaller one, and then I decided it was too large for the quantity of people we had then, and put it in the deep freezer and went to a different store to buy a smaller one, or something like that. As I say, the details are hazy. But the result is that there was a 26.8-pound turkey in our deep freezer, waiting for an appropriate opportunity.

I expected that there would be some leftovers. This turned out to be an understatement.

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I may not buy a similarly large turkey in the future. But at least if I do, my expectations are now suitably calibrated. And I now feel like we have a cultural-narrative-ly appropriate quantity of leftovers -- and it is pleasing to have gotten this much goodness out of making broth and such alongside the main cooking.

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