30 December 2009

The Gathering Storm

I consider this book one of my Christmas presents, though my mom actually gave it to me just before Thanksgiving. I didn't actually start reading it until Christmas Eve, so I'm tying it to a tradition we used to follow of opening one present on Christmas Eve, and the rest on Christmas morning. I knew that if I started reading it while the semester was still on, I wouldn't get my papers written or my students' homework graded.

I wasn't sure what to expect. Hopefully everyone knows that after Robert Jordan's passing, Brandon Sanderson took over the Wheel of Time series. It was originally slated to be one book. Sanderson wound up breaking it into three, and Gathering Storm is the first installment. I'd read Sanderson's book Elantris, and enjoyed it, but that was his own world; here, he had to take over the reigns of someone else's world. I was quite impressed with his handling of it. It wasn't perfect, but that's not really a surprise. I have a few specific nitpicks with handling of some characters, but nothing worth pointing out here. Sanderson has the WoT world down pat, and also most of the characters. That's quite an achievement for a series that was already eleven books long.

The style, of course, is not the same as Jordan's. Sanderson is much more prone to explain the things a character does, rather than leave the reader to guess what's going on. This is both a plus and a minus. I miss Jordan's subtlety, but at the same time, it was often frustrating when he was too subtle. I think Sanderson, himself a WoT fan before being recruited, felt some of the same frustration, and decided that he would make things clearer. It's also nice to see some long-running threads resolve themselves, and to see hints to how some of the others may resolve.

I'll mention one of those hints. I don't consider it a spoiler, exactly, as I'm mostly speculating from what was given in the book. However, it might imply a spoiler or two, so you've been warned.

Lews Therin comes out with a hint as to what went wrong when he and the hundred companions sealed the Bore. In order to seal it, they had to touch the Dark One directly with their power, and this is what tainted saidin. Also, we see an unexpected character wield the "True Power" (the Dark One's power), accidentally. How this is possible is not explained, unless it has something to do with the former taint on saidin. Still, since the "True Power" comes directly from the Dark One, it can't become any more corrupt by touching the Dark One directly, and if it can be wielded by someone trying to seal the Bore, then maybe there's a way to seal it without tainting any other forms of power. However, this solution does not really fit with the way the book ends, so it may be completely wrong.

One minor complaint about the ending: I think the sentiments were good, but I think Jordan would have done a better job getting them written down without coming across as ridiculously maudlin or sentimental. It's a place where his subtlety was needed. Still, I don't think anyone but Jordan himself could have done a better job than Sanderson on the book as a whole, and it's a bloody relief to know that the rest of the books are on their way, with no illness to make the wait time drag on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on...

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25 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

This is what Jilly would do were she ever to be brought to Santa Claus. According to LOLcat parlance, I guess Jilly is a basement cat (i.e. she's black), but all of my kitties were born in the basement, so they're all basement cats in imo ... except maybe the new one, Tux. She's mostly being tolerated by the other cats now, so long as no one is surprised. Jilly, predictably, is still the least tolerant. Somewhat ironic given that she's named after Charles de Lint's easygoing, supertolerant character, Jilly Coppercorn.

Anyway, Happy Solstice Festival of Glittering Trees, Overeating, and Overspending.

The Christmas Eve service last night was actually enjoyable, as it was about 90% music, 9% story-telling, and only 1% nonsense. Also, I was pleased that I managed to find the bass part (an octave higher) on the chorus of "O Come All Ye Faithful." It seems they finally have a pastor who understands what the Christmas Eve service is supposed to be. It should be a fulfillment of Mircia Eliade's notion of "sacred time," where the past comes alive in the present. When taken as the last word, Eliade's idea has some problems, but here I think it works perfectly.

Also, with it 90% music, I can distract myself from the nonsense bits by trying to find non-melody parts in each song (and probably annoying my mom no end when I can't find them and start making them up).

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20 December 2009

One Down...

As usual, I was roped into turning pages for my mom for her church choir's Christmas Cantata. The music was less objectionable this year than in years past, but the narration was absolutely horrid. The last thing you want to think of during a Christmas cantata is a "used car salesman," but that's how the narration came across: as a sales pitch. Blech. Last year Kim suggested leaving out the narration, and everyone objected. I doubt Robin would have thought of leaving it out, but it would have been vastly improved that way this year.

As for me, I'm perfectly happy to see Christmas as a solstice celebration, with a "rebirth of the sun" theme that Christians take to a rather odd extreme. Something that still puzzles me... If there is only one Deity, and if that deity created everything, then if someone worships something other than said Deity, that something must have been created by the Deity ... so how can there ever be such a thing as worshiping a false deity under those premises? There's plenty more that puzzles me, but I'm not in the mood for making a list, let alone checking it twice. ^!^

It's only "one down," btw, because I also have to help turn pages at the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I like the candles, and generally the singing, depending on the carols chosen. The rest I can do without.

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18 December 2009

Some Things Are Best Left Locked

Okay, the major part of the IC dispute has played itself out, so it is now safe to post this. Last night, we started with the post-long-rest-plot playing itself out. We made it to another encounter after that, but we're not even halfway through it, so I'm not going to post anything on that. I will comment that, both IC and OOC, I did think things were going too far, and Dovra's actions reflect that. Her plan didn't work, but I didn't honestly expect it to. I was hoping to irritate the gods enough that they would actually show up; Dovra's probably just as happy this did not happen, though Fibonacci told us that they were on standby in case things went completely pear-shaped. Apparently what the rock said when it set Shenron on fire to wake him up was, "Dovra just attacked you! She must die!", but it didn't roll high enough to force Shenron to attack her. Oh, the long conversation between Dovra and Allonar was an actual IC conversation, so John/Allonar deserves credit for his own lines. I fixed one minor error (Heian is a full elf, not a half-elf), but otherwise left them as they were. Anyway, the tale is below the fold.

Dovra slept uneasily after they managed to open the chest. It wasn’t the chest itself that haunted her dreams, but the screaming that had come afterwards. One scream in particular played itself over and over in her mind: the girl they had rescued from the cells below had died, and for no good cause at all. With every breath, Dovra breathed in the ashes from the fire that had killed her, had nearly killed all of them … except Shenron. No, the one who had foolishly started the fire had not been hurt at all. Naturally, he was immune to fire damage. But Dovra and the others, already hurt from dealing with the chest, had not been so lucky, and it had been enough to kill the poor frog-girl. It seemed strange that someone so capable in battle—Dovra still remembered the banshee cries as the grabbed the nearest monster and bashed it into the floor—would be so fragile, but the fire had killed her instantly. Shenron had tried to rescue her from his idiocy, but it had been too late. They had never even learned her name.

The scene froze as Dovra stared down at the dead girl, and then the dream started over from the beginning, with Heian and Dovra just beginning to work on the chest. It had seemed like a good idea. Dovra had always been curious about the halfling’s ice chest and everyone else seemed to be hoping there was treasure inside. It was a challenge to her magical skills, and she always enjoyed such challenges. While she and the rogue worked on the chest, the others had to fight off the monsters it kept summoning. The monsters were semi-transparent as if they weren’t quite fully there, but the wounds they inflicted were real enough. For the most part, Dovra was able to trust her allies to take care of the monsters while she remained focused on the chest. The black dragon’s screech, though, had drawn her attention. Thankfully Allonar had been able to unsummon it without fighting. Dovra started paying more attention to the battle in case anything else would be too much for the group to handle with everything else around them. A while later, there was a horrid stench that nearly made her gag. “Troglodyte,” someone said and went to go fight it. That she hadn’t worried about unsummoning, but the giant blind thunder lizard, which had barely fit in the room, was another story. That one she had unsummoned herself before returning to the chest.

While Heian worked his way up and down the dial, listening for whatever it was that told him when the correct number was being turned to, Dovra tried to ward the dials and gather information the only way she knew how: through magic. Sometimes the chest was able to block her, and she reeled from the backlash of its psychic attacks, but sometimes she got a tiny hint of information to make Heian’s job easier. Then, finally, she knew exactly what the first number of the combination was. The number 13 had appeared in her head, and she felt the chest’s awareness reel back, knowing it had lost the battle on that dial. As she summoned the mage hand to turn it to 13, there was almost a sizzling sound. One down, three to go, and the battle continued around them.

They had barely started on the next dial when a strange song began flowing through Dovra’s head. It was a wondrous, beauteous song, and it drew her towards its source. The source, though was an insult to the beauty of the song. The song needed to be freed from the horrid half-woman half-bird who had stolen it. The harpy had drawn every one towards it, so that it was surrounded, and it was dead before Dovra could do more than think about destroying it. It hadn’t stood a chance with enemies flanking it on every side. As if coming out of a trance, Dovra realized that a summoned Shadar Kai had also been drawn towards it, and was now adjacent to her. She tried to unsummon it, but the chest’s hold on it was too strong. Dovra muttered a prayer to Corellon under her breath. As if in answer, the room flickered. She sensed that the chest had been weakened somehow, and tried again to unsummon the Shadar Kai. This time it went easily.

Most of the rest of the creatures wound up in mortal combat with Shenron, with the strange new power he had picked up that forced a creature to fight him and only him. This kept them from attacking the rest of the team, so they could focus on weaker creatures or on the chest. Horgta stuck close to Dovra and Heian, pulling them away from the chest before its cold could overcome them. They almost had the second dial figured out when Dovra felt the numbers rolling in her head: the chest had overcome the ward she had placed on that lock, and she sighed, knowing it was going to change the combination now … but something strange happened. As the numbers spun in her head, they seemed to get stuck. The number 19 flashed in her consciousness and the second lock sizzled and opened. Dovra wasn’t sure what had happened. 19 had been their candidate for that lock anyway; possibly the chest’s attempt to change it had gotten stuck on that number. The last two dials went more quickly: most of the fight seemed to have gone out of the chest now that two of its locks were open. Heian thought he had the last two numbers: 14 and 16. He set the dials and tested the lid. It opened easily, and the remaining creatures vanished.

Dovra looked into the chest and wasn’t sure what to think. There was a clear crystal chalice and some sort of rock frozen inside it. Everyone gathered round, trying to figure out what it was. Dovra sensed a presence from it, as if the rock had some rudimentary awareness. She thought that, whatever it was, it might be dangerous, and was certain she’d never even heard of anything like it. Why had Phoenix kept it locked in a frozen box? Why had he had a sentient pet rock at all?

Shenron seemed drawn towards the rock in its chalice. “Hey! I bet my fire breath could thaw it out!”

The dream froze. Dovra had all the time in the world to look around the room and note all of the spilled potions and acids and chemicals. She turned and grunted in her sleep, knowing now how flammable they all were. Dream-Dovra tried to shout a warning, though she’d done no such thing when it had actually happened. Heian and Allonar did caution the dragonborn about thawing the rock at all, let alone thawing it with fire. Shenron ignored them. The preparatory inhale seemed to take forever, and the fiery exhale moved millimeter by millimeter towards the rock, and it spread millimeter by millimeter through the entire lab. When the fire reached Dovra, setting her on fire, time started moving normally again. In reality, she had moved towards Allonar, helping douse his flames. In the dream, she moved towards the doomed girl, hoping somehow to shield her this time, but it was no use. The girl shrieked once and died.

This time the dream didn’t start over. The shriek echoed and repeated over and over and over in Dovra’s head … and another scream from the depths of her memory rose up and joined the chorus. The new scream finally drowned out the girl’s dying shriek, but it wasn’t much of an improvement. “Moiah…” Dovra muttered in her sleep, and saw her not-quite-human friend plummeting into the chasm. There’d been nothing she could do but hope that their pursuers thought that Dovra had fallen with her. She hid and waited, trying to hold back the sobs. All of fourteen, she was only just learning how her powers worked, and she’d forgotten to warn Moiah that one of the planks in the suspension bridge was an illusion. It was her fault, her own bloody fault, that her friend had fallen to her death. One careless moment, and everything had changed. Just like Shenron’s careless flames had snuffed out a life. The dream switched back to the lab on fire. This time Moiah sat in the doomed girl’s place, and, as she burned, she stared into Dovra’s eyes.

Something touched Dovra on the shoulder, and she barely bit back a yelp. It was just Shenron, waking her up for her watch. She glared at him. She might have gotten a friend killed, but she hadn’t set the rest of her friends on fire doing so. He didn’t seem to notice. He seemed distracted and strangely bloated as he collapsed into sleep on what was left of the halfling’s work table. She wondered if he’d found more gold to eat. Then she noticed that the rock was no longer in its chalice on the table, and was no where else in the room. Surely he wouldn’t have eaten that, would he? She wasn’t sure. Regardless, he needed to take responsibility for what he had done. Dovra didn’t know what she could do, but something needed to be done. She kept a wary eye on him, and sighed. He had defended them against everything the chest had thrown at them. Without him, they might not all have survived. But he still needed to learn some caution and respect.

About halfway through the shift, she felt an insistent presence in her mind. The star around her neck began to give off a faint glow. She let it guide her to a bit of rubble that had somehow escaped the fire. Of their own accord, her hands began digging through it. At the bottom was a small vial. Her powers told her it was a frost grenade. It was interesting, but not obviously useful. ::You’re going to need it,:: Correllon’s voice said in her head. She was certain that, had anyone else been awake, they would not have seen the faintly glowing elf who appeared leaning against the wall across from her. ::And I need to point out to you that Shenron is under Bahamut’s protection. If things go too far…:: Correllon grimaced and made a throat-cutting gesture.

::Things? What things?:: Dovra tried to ask, but the image faded without responding.

She spent the rest of the watch trying to figure out what Corellon thought was going to happen. Just before it was time to wake Horgta, she heard a sharp, “Pst!” She looked around for Corellon again. “What?” After a moment, she figured out it was only Allonar. He motioned for her to come closer. Dovra did so bemusedly, wondering if she looked even half as confused as she felt. The deva gestured at Shenron, and Dovra grimaced. Was this what Corellon had been trying to warn her about? Surely they had to do something about the dragonborn.

“What he did last night,” Allonar said softly, glowing eyes strangely muted, “that can’t be ignored. He almost got us all killed. I specifically told him not to use his flame on the ice, but he did it anyway.”

“That he did,” Dovra agreed. “And he got that poor girl killed.” Dovra sighed, hearing the screams again. “We never even found out her name.”

“Indeed. I will not needlessly injure those who claim to serve good, but I'm beginning to doubt his 'goodness'. Her death needs to be Avenged. It is my calling.”

Dovra couldn’t read the deva’s eyes, and the rest of his face was under that strange mask they all seemed to wear. “I don’t know about the whole ‘good’ thing, but what he did wasn’t right. What did you have in mind?”

“I'm not sure what the end result should be, but he has to be forced to listen. You are capable of causing a forced sleep, correct?”

“Yes, but he can resist. I would prefer to have as strong a chance as possible of it working. He will only be slowed if it fails.”

“Hmm, what if he is asleep when you use it, would that cause him to wake if it fails?”

“No. I tried it on the Blue Dragon, and it failed, and he did not wake up right away. We just won't be certain it has worked without trying to wake him.” Dovra thought quickly. Surely Bahamut wouldn’t object to his paladin being put to sleep, but what else did Allonar have in mind?

“Very well. We will try it, then send the rogue to remove his weapons. Once he has taken (and hidden, the weapons), he can begin to remove the paladin's armor: that is sure to wake him if he is not supernaturally held. What say you to this idea?”

“Count me in.” Without his weapons, a violent conflict would be less likely. Hopefully Bahamut wouldn’t object to a peaceful solution.

“What is your desired restitution against this creature?”

Dovra thought for a moment. What did she want? “I wish for him to know the same pain and isolation that the girl knew. I wish for his power to diminish until he has learned his lesson and has found some way to put this right.” That seemed fair, though she had no idea how to make it happen.

“Very well. I will speak to the Half-Orc and also wake you and the elf before the Dragonborn has wakened. If he wakes, we may yet set upon him to teach him a lesson.”

“I will support you in this.” Yes, removing his weapons before dealing with him would be one way to avoid bloodshed. That might keep Bahamut from interfering.

“Very good. May your rest be satisfying until our plans come to fruition.”

“Yours as well.”

Dovra watched as the deva went to wake Horgta for the last watch. She lay down, but kept her ears open as the deva and the half-orc continued their plotting. The more she heard of their plans, the less she liked them. Yes, disarm him, yes teach him a lesson, but Dovra would not agree to humiliate and rob him. That would do nothing to bring the girl back or to heal their wounds. This was sounding less like it was about teaching Shenron a lesson and more like it was about out and out revenge. She wasn’t sure that the half-orc and the deva wouldn’t kill him, given half a chance. As she drifted into sleep, she decided that the plan needed a few alterations. She thought she felt Corellon wince at some of the ideas she had, but she ignored it. If he had a better plan, he could just tell her.

Horgta woke her sometime later and put his finger to his lips. Dovra looked up at him and nodded, feeling strangely giddy about what was to come. Everyone was quietly gathering around Shenron. Allonar was trying to change the plan at the last minute and have Horgta knock Shenron unconscious instead. She had to act now. She stepped back and cast the sleep spell so that it would hit everyone but her. They’d made it easy for her by circling around the sleeping dragonborn. Allonar looked at her reproachfully and shrugged it off, but she’d half-been expecting that. It hit Horgta and Heian, but it would take a few moments before it knocked them out. Shenron was sleeping so she wouldn’t be able to tell—except as soon as the spell reached him he burst into flame. Dovra stared in disbelief. “What in Correllon’s name…?”

The dragonborn bolted upright and stared around, realizing that he was surrounded. He gave Dovra a wide-eyed look, though she was not even adjacent to him to pose much of a threat. He seemed to be muttering to himself; more than that, he seemed to be arguing with himself. The only word Dovra could make out was, “No…” If he had gone insane, her plan would have even less chance of working, but it was the best one she had. Allonar and Horgta postured and made their threats. Heian slumped over, asleep. Wonderful. He would have been the most useful one to leave awake, and he was the only one the bloody thing had worked on. Dovra took a deep breath and began weaving the sound illusion that she hoped would end this. It began with a rumble of thunder. Then she wove in what she thought the voice of Bahamut should sound like, almost blending in with the thunder. It said “Shenron…” Her star grew cold against her skin, as if Corellon were warning her. For a moment, she thought she heard his voice again, saying, “No, don’t smite her.” She hoped she’d imagined it.

Shenron looked around confusedly for the source of the voice. He considered for a moment, but he seemed to trace its source to Dovra. Blast. This wasn’t going to work. She tried anyway, tried to get him to swear an oath that would be bound to Bahamut that any damage he inflicted on the group would be doubly inflicted on him. Allonar would have none of it. “That was not what we agreed to, and you attacked us,” he told Dovra, turning his back on her. Dovra frowned. Humiliating and robbing Shenron was not what she had agreed to. The deva had little room to complain. Given Corellon’s warning, it seemed best not to overdo things against Shenron, and she was convinced that the deva’s plan was nothing but overkill.

For no obvious reason, Shenron moved jerkily toward a wall, as if moving weren’t his idea. He inhaled and produced a larger flame than Dovra had ever seen from him. It filled the room, burning everyone but Shenron. Dovra irritably rubbed the soot from her arms. At least she hadn’t caught on fire this time. Allonar and Horgta moved to flank Shenron, and Allonar’s ghostly double appeared, blocking any escape for the dragonborn. They began attacking him with all they had. Dovra wasn’t going to attack anyone, but she did send her mage hand over to try and get Shenron’s sword off his belt. He reacted too quickly, and the hand wasn’t strong enough to overpower him. Maybe now would be a good time to create an illusion of the girl’s face in front of him. Was the dragonborn capable of guilt or remorse? That would be one way to find out.

Before she could try, Shenron began coughing violently. It reminded her of the way he had acted when he’d eaten all the gold. Finally, something came out of his mouth and landed improbably in his hand. It was the rock that had been frozen inside the chest. Allonar became even more enraged. “Drop your weapons, or die,” he said. Shenron complied, dropping everything but the rock. He tried to drop the rock, but his fingers simply would not release it. Dovra realized it must have enhanced his flame ability, and remembered that Phoenix had kept it encased in ice… “The rock, as well,” Allonar said, deliberately refusing to recognize that Shenron had been incapable of doing so.

“I may be able to help with that,” Dovra said. Everyone looked at her suspiciously, but she didn’t care. “Corellon led me to a sort of ice grenade last night, and I think this is why. I think if I can hit the rock with it, Shenron will be able to let go of it.” She moved in closer, ignoring the wary looks they gave her. She missed the rock, but the grenade hit Shenron instead. That was enough. His fingers slowly opened and the rock fell to the floor. Horgta started to poke at it with a sword but Allonar stopped him. Dovra summoned the mage hand once more and it grabbed the rock. As soon as it did, she felt its presence in her mind. “Let’s play!” it said. It tried to control her mind, but she was able to resist. The mage hand carried it back to the chest. As soon as it was inside the chest, Dovra dismissed the hand and gently closed the lid. “I just want to be friends!” the rock called to her faintly. Dovra shook her head. That kind of friend she did not need. The chest hadn’t locked again, but hopefully the rock couldn’t control anyone while it was out of sight and untouchable.

They took a long rest, and Dovra was mostly ignored, though she finally convinced Allonar to let her help him with his filth fever. He still had a cough from it, but so far it wasn’t getting any worse. She kept him stable, but was still unable to get him all the way over it. When he thought she couldn’t hear, he would glance at her and mutter about her going against the group consensus. Dovra looked over at Shenron, seeming rather pitiful without his armor on. Horgta and Allonar had insisted that he lose his armor if he wanted to live, and had taken his sword and replaced it with a wooden toy. That would only make him more foolhardy, and lessen his value to the group, as far as Dovra could tell. There had to be balance, yes, but overdoing things did not put them back in balance. She’d worked for evil wizards and good wizards, and on the whole she preferred the evil ones: they, at least, were under no illusions about what they were actually doing. This did nothing to avenge the girl’s death. If anything, it was an insult to her memory.

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16 December 2009

All done but the Grading

I was the first to finish both of my philosophy finals. Language took roughly an hour. Science took a bit over an hour. On both of them, I had reached the point where I had answered everything as best I was going to. I could have sat there and fiddled with wording for a while, but there didn't seem to be much point. I thought of one thing on the Science final that might have made a slight difference, but that's it, and there's no guarantee I would have thought of that if I had just stayed sitting there. I think I did decently on both of them.

As for papers, I did not care for my Philosophy of Science paper at all. I thought it was shallow and poorly conceived. It got an A. I thought my Philosophy of Language paper was much better and stronger, and I had a lot of fun with it. It got an A-. Whether that means anything beyond "different people have different reactions to things," I don't really know.

Since I got done early anyway, I stopped over at Galaxy to check on my laptop. I may not need a new one after all. It was a problem with the cable to the monitor that was causing the flickering. The cable will cost $30, which isn't bad at all. As for the random dying, they defragged the hard disc and fixed something else that I can't remember, but it was all basic maintenance. I'm still happy to have almost every file on it backed up, now. And I may spend the money I'd been expecting to spend on a new laptop on getting this blasted desktop running decently. It is ridiculously slow and the sound has never worked right. At the very least it needs more RAM. A faster processor would be nice. That might be enough to straighten out the sound if the only problem is low memory.

Anyway, I have two sets of tests to grade, and I'll do those tomorrow morning, then submit grades and be done. I've got one mystery no-show on a final, though. A student who had been doing very well did not show up to take the final. This dropped her from an A to a D. I haven't submitted her grade yet, in the hopes that she'll contact me and we can work out an alternate time. I've also got an extra final that someone took with my 025 students. I presume he was in someone's 025 class, but no one has claimed him yet. Oh well.

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Random Pre-Philosophy-Final Thoughts

(1) Rereading an entire semester's worth of both Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Language in 2-3 days is an effective way to make yourself go mad.

(2) LOLcats are an effective remedy for this sort of madness.

(3) Slow computer is sloooooooooooowwwwwwwww.

(4) Despite having spent less time on the material, I feel more prepared for the Language final than the Science one. I suspect this is because Pelleti's lectures are more organized, so it's very clear what he thinks the important points are. It is not so clear for Wahl.

(5) That is all. For now.

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14 December 2009

'Tis the Season to Get a New Laptop

...unless repair costs for this one are going to be significantly under $300. A new HP netbook is currently going for $350 at CostCo, and this one also needs a new battery. All in all, I'm suspecting it will be much cheaper to get a Netbook. I've already pulled most of my files off of this one and put them onto an external 500gig hard drive (I calculated the other day that I'd paid roughly 13 cents per gig for the thing).

So what is my laptop doing? It started with the screen. When I adjust the angle, the screen will start reflecting across itself and producing overlapping duplicate images, which are completely useless as far as navigating the screen goes. There's just enough detail that I can see that it's a duplication/reflection thing, but not enough detail to use it while it's doing that. I finally found a reasonable angle to put the screen and figured out that, so long as I didn't adjust the angle at all, there was no problem. So no more shutting it to keep it out of the cats' way while I'm gone.

Yesterday, it started doing something worse: randomly dying after being on for about 30 minutes. I think it may be overheating, but I'm not really sure. No clue if this is connected to the screen or not. The screen may just be a loose cable, and the trick is to find a position where contact is maintained in spite of this. The randomly shutting down...? The only connection I can think of is if the loose cable is resulting in excess heat, overheating it, and shutting it down. That seems a bit of a stretch, though not impossible. So it's likely there are 2 separate problems to fix, plus the thing needs a new battery. I strongly suspect it will cost more than $350 for all that, which will result in me getting a new netbook.

ADDENDUM: As of late this morning, the laptop will not run at all. It tries, but never gets past the "loading your settings" screen. So it is now at Galaxy awaiting diagnosis. I'd been hoping to hold onto it until Thursday, but there's no point if it's not running at all. One caveat on the netbooks: no optical drive. For not quite twice the price, I can get a slightly bigger HP that does have an optical drive, and twice as much memory. That might be worth it, but it does up the "allowable repair cost" range.

I may hear back from Galaxy tomorrow as to whether or not the thing is even worth trying to fix. I got all but a few downloaded pictures off of it, and those are eminently replaceable. My only concern is if there was still a hidden cache of word processing files from the last time it had to be repaired. I think I moved all of those to be with the regular ones, but I'm not sure. Everything else is programs that can easily be reloaded (at least, easily reloaded if there is an optical drive...).

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12 December 2009

Fire, Ice and a Chest

I've got a start on my account of our D&D group's adventure with the chest. There's a problem, however, and I don't think I should post anything specific on it until the problem is resolved. Short version: in-character disputes. A longer version will have to wait until some resolution is reached, hopefully at the next meeting.

ADDENDUM: Oh, yes. Two of us were at the concert last night (Philip to perform; I think I spotted him amongst the crowd of Camerata singers), and between us complaining and the current situation, the DM, aka Fibonacci, decided we needed to have everyone there for what is going to happen next. So last night John/Allonar was going to lead them in a one-time dungeon crawl, with gladiatorial overtones from what I picked up on the message board.

RE-ADDENDUM: I seem to be posting more now that lectures are done. I think I've just been too exhausted to post much here lately.

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Acoustic Eidolon, plus Carols

Last night was the ISU symphony's Christmas concert. It was quite enjoyable, especially since the first half featured Acoustic Eidolon. This is a husband/wife duo. The wife plays the cello (apparently one made by someone here in Pocatello) and the husband plays guitar and "guit-jo". The guit-jo is an instrument he designed that looks like a guitar with two necks. One neck is almost a standard guitar, with one extra bass string. The other neck is strung with a different kind of string that gives it a much higher, harp-like sound. He can play both necks at once.

I thoroughly enjoyed their performance, but Marky and my mom both thought that they were toning themselves down for the orchestra, and liked the two encore pieces (with no orchestra) better. I liked it all.

The second half featured two symphony pieces sandwiching a carol-singalong. I get rather tired of the carols when all seven five (seemed like seven) verses are included, but apparently the current director really likes the end verses of "The First Noel." I don't. I think the early verses bother me less because I can see them in a meta-mythological context that I am capable of finding inspiring, rather than nauseating. Still, the singing was fun. My preference would be for fewer verses and more carols, however.

I would have linked to a video of Acoustic Eidolon, but I'm not finding one, so here's their newest album: River of Fire. There should be an option to listen to samples there.

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11 December 2009

Gunnerkrigg Court

I found the comic Gunnerkrigg Court through a D&D tips web-site. It took maybe a week and a half to race through the archives. It is awesome. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman's style of story-telling. This may have something to do with both authors being British. There are stories within stories within stories so far, but the gist of them all is trying to figure out what this world that people find themselves in actually is. There is a technological half that seems to be all city (even the seemingly outdoor parts in it are enclosed). There is a wild, magical half that seems to be all forest. Why this is still isn't clear, though there have been tantalizing hints.

At any rate, it's well worth checking out (and has preempted Garfield Minus Garfield from occupying 'G' in the list; it is now at 'K').

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Poster, Please!

This is from today's Schlock Mercenary. It would make an awesome (de?)motivational poster!

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I seem to have acquired another cat. She's not quite full grown, and is what they describe as a "tuxedo cat", meaning mostly black with a bit of white on the chest. I saw her hanging around the yard in the fall, kind of getting along with my cats, and fairly friendly towards me. Two nights ago, I went out to change the cats' litterbox and saw her again, meowing plaintively from under my car. I guessed that she was hungry, and opened the garage and put a can of food in there for her. She gobbled it up in under 30 seconds, so then I put out a bowl of dried stuff for her. I saw her again the next day, and showed her the rest of the dried stuff she'd left behind, and gave her another can of food last night.

This morning, she rather insistently barged into the house. It's about -10° out there, so this is understandable, though it was actually colder yesterday. Anyway, I was most worried about how Dovienya would react, but Dovi just ignored her. Pouncer seems mostly interested, but cautious. The two girls, Princess and Jilly, are rather unhappy about her. They've been having staring contests all morning. I think I'd better lock Tuxedo (hopefully a temporary name) in a separate room while I'm gone, as I'm not sure what they'll do without me around to mediate.

She's got the same snub nose as Princess, and similar ears and facial features to Dovi, so I'm wondering if she's possibly related to Dovi (same mother?). If so, this might explain why Dovi wasn't worried about her.

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09 December 2009

End of Semester Observations (with Rant)

I think I've decided that taking two full classes while teaching full time is too much. The schedule just wore me down continuously through the semester. On the, er, ambiguously positive(?) side, I suppose, next school year that won't be an issue, "barring a change in administration." I need to get applications in for grad school over break, if at all possible.

As far as I can tell, anyone who actually gives a damn about undergraduate education despises what the Frank Burns administration is trying to do, and anyone with actual experience in such matters knows full well that ISU is not going to become the MIT of the midwest (which is a misnomer anyway, since the midwest is further east than we are). I'm not sure how I feel about the situation at this moment in time. But my strongest reaction is still relief that I'll be out while Burns sends ISU down the toilet.

It will be interesting to see what happens when I put in my math program application. On the one hand, there's not much Fisher can do about the administration's machinations; on the other, he still needs instructors. As a grad student, I would teach one or two courses (they didn't have much choice but to up the load), which would still lose them at least three overall.

They've also been playing fast and loose with the definition of "full time" for faculty, as an excuse to decrease insurance benefits. At this point in time, I really wish I could send one of my evil fictional characters to go play with Burns and his cohorts for a while. Of course, then I'd have to find a way to get them back out of the real world, and, well, I created them, so I know they wouldn't cooperate. *sighs*

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08 December 2009

Rockapella Christmas Concert

It certainly wasn't my favorite performance of all time, and it's not the kind of music that I would buy and listen to at home, but if you ever have the chance, Rockapella is a lot of fun. It's currently five male vocalists who provide all their own accompaniment, including one guy who is the drum set and another who is often the bass ... but also does an interesting Whitney Houston version of Silent Night (I could try to explain, but I don't think it's worth it).

At one point, they pulled a member of the audience up on stage to "help" them with "Santa Claus is Comin' To Town." They may have gotten more than they bargained for. She was a middling elderly lady, but she stood out by wearing a sequined santa hat. When they asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she replied, "Well, I'm single..." They convinced her to make do with one of their CDs instead. ^'^ She would get along well with the Coffee Gals in Akron, I think.

Anyway, Silver Bells was probably my favorite of the evening. This is the YouTube version that seems to have the same lineup of people as those who performed here:

Direct Link to YouTube
Alternate Silver Bells Line Up

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06 December 2009

27-degree Rain?

From the weather forecast for Pocatello at NOAA:

Now, if it does rain on Thurdsay, and the high is only 27° F, I'm pretty sure it would actually come out as "Freezing Rain," not just "Rain." The forecast in words also said merely rain, so it's not a case of a mere typo in the picture coding.

Now I'm trying to think how it would work for it not to be freezing rain... The ground temperature would have to be above freezing, despite having no highs above freezing in the past week, or the rain would have to be saturated with something that would lower the freezing point below 27° F (probably further down than that, since that's the high). That just doesn't seem likely to me.

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05 December 2009

Antiremembrance Hazards

I managed to forget that, in addition to checking on my mom's cats, I was also supposed to be checking on my dad's cat and dog. He wasn't gone, but he's a bit forgetful about these things. I made it over Tuesday, before the stomach issues hit, then completely spaced it until I talked to my mom tonight. They were both fine. Ji'e'toh still had food in her dish, though it was a bit low, and a bit of water. Buster gets more immediate attention, anyway, so he was at no real risk. So, no harm done. Thankfully.

My mom also said that her heating pad died en route to Las Vegas. Apparently it worked when she left home, but not after she got to the hotel. She's assuming the flight killed it. Not sure why the flight would have any effect. Presumably the heating pad would have been exposed to rather cold temperatures, but surely that wouldn't mess up the circuitry; it probably got shipped to Wal-Green's at similar temperatures. So...security scan, maybe? Could that have affected the electronics in the turn-on switch? If so, I'm not finding anything about it online. It was a few years old, so maybe something was just loose enough that rough handling or cold jogged it out. *shrugs*

Oh, and I finally got my Christmas tree up this afternoon. I'd meant to do it during Thanksgiving break, but other things took precedence. Other things still take precedence, but I wasn't actually up to doing them. Tomorrow I've got to get a philosophy of science paper written, and polish up a 99% done philosophy of language paper. As I was not up to writing philosophy today, I figured I might as well get the tree up and get some more D&D tokens printed out. It struck me while I was punching them out that you could use them as decorations on a very small Christmas tree. They would be rather odd decorations, saying "bloodied" and "dazed" and "petrified" and the like, but they would also be quite colorful!

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04 December 2009

Odd, Long (Oblong?) Week

My mom's out of town, going to a class to keep her accounting license current, so I've been taking care of her cats. Meanwhile, I've had a slight cold or weird allergies or something, on top of some* food item disagreeing with me sometime prior to Wednesday morning, so I haven't eaten much in the past three days, and it's starting to catch up with me. Still, we finally got the chest open in D&D tonight, so now I have to figure out what all Dovra saw. She was mostly focused on the chest, except when the harpie summoned everyone closer to it (rather idiotically as it turned out), and when Allonar took a crack at the chest for one turn, so she finally got to use her Healer's Mercy.

Inside the chest? Some sort of fire-elemental-in-a-rock, as far as I can tell. No clue why Blue Cheese put it in there. It's friendly, and can enhance flames (though Dovra doesn't actually know that yet), but I suspect it may turn out to be more trouble than it's worth. As we quit for the night, it had lured our dragonborn, who was supposed to be on guard duty while the rest of us slept, out to go "hunting." The DM assures us that they won't actually find anything to hunt, but... *shrugs*

There were other activities going on at the meeting place (a sort of weekly gathering that some of the group go to independently of D&D), but lack of food was massively catching up with me, and there was nothing non-poisonous there to eat. So I went shopping instead. At 10:00 pm. Eggs tend to agree with my stomach no matter what, and I was out of them at home. Now that I've had a semi-decent meal (two scrambled eggs and an apple), I feel considerably better.

*AM UPDATE: I am about 99% certain that it was the turkey stew I made from my family's leftover Thanksgiving turkey that upset my stomach. I did not eat any on Thursday, and had no major problems on Friday. I ate a small portion on Friday, and had some problems today. I'm not sure if it went bad in the fridge, as it caused no problems at the beginning of the week, or if there was just too much of something-or-other in it and my body got oversaturated with that. Either way, the stew is now going in the trash.

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27 November 2009

Pirate Victory

I'm not sure what brought this song to mind today, but I decided to track it down. It's from The Pirate Movie, which is basically an '80s rock opera version of The Pirates of Penzance. Some of the songs coincide, but some are new, and some are the old ones turned into rock opera. It was one of my favorite movies when I was little. This song isn't actually from the movie proper; it's before Mabel falls into the ocean and starts dreaming up the rest of the movie. Still, it's a fun one. I give you, Victory!

Song only

Jack Sparrow montage + Song (parts well done, other parts...meh...)

And finally, horriby misspelled lyrics!

Unfortunately, the only versions with footage from the actual Pirate Movie wouldn't load for me, or I wouldn't have bothered linking to the PotC one.

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26 November 2009

Further Piecrust Adventures: Cookie edition

It's traditional in my family to make three pumpkin pies, so technically I only need three crusts, but I just double the two-crust recipe and have enough for four. The rest get rolled out into pie-crust-cookies. You roll them out, just like for a pie, then cut them into roughly cookie size pieces, and sprinkle with a mix of cinnamon and sugar before baking. They're quite tasty, and usually I make them at the same time as the pies, but it was late last night so I put the rest of the dough in the fridge to use this morning.

Well, the dough I make handles much better warm, so I was trying to cut the one large ball into several smaller pieces so that they would warm up faster. There was a lot of resistance to the knife, so, to get more leverage, I held the dough in my left hand with the knife in my right and started trying to cut through it. You can probably see where this is going... When the knife was almost halfway through, the whole thing suddenly gave way. The knife whooshed straight through the dough and into the middle finger of my left hand. It dug out a small chunk of flesh, maybe 0.25x0.5 cm at the extremes. Despite this, it didn't hurt much at first. It started to hurt when I started to wash it off. Anyway, it's quite interesting to roll out pie-crust dough while trying to keep pressure on a finger to stop the bleeding. I had to throw out one cookie, as I bled on it. I would have eaten it, but I figured my mom would have a fit about it.

The finger did eventually stop bleeding. It's still a bit sore, unsurprisingly.

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Piecrust Adventures

A few interesting conundrums whilst making the pumpkin pies last night.

(1) I had only one pumpkin from my garden. It was fairly small, and, when I cut into it, I discovered one part of it was rotten. I had my mom get some canned pumpkin as backup. I got 2 cups from the good parts of the real pumpkin, and had to fill in the rest with the canned pumpkin. Annoying, but workable.

(2) I could not find my pie-crust-bag. It was not on the top shelf of the closet where it's supposed to be, nor in any of the other places I thought I might have decided to put it. If it doesn't turn up, I'm going to assume it got thrown away accidentally and order a new one. The problem is that gluten-free crust is extremely delicate. You need the plastic to hold it together long enough to get it into the pan, and even then there are almost always cracks and holes to patch. So I improvised. I had some jumbo-size ziplock bags. I rolled the first crust inside the bag and then cut two of the edges open so I could extract it, then rolled the other crusts with the bag slit open. It worked better than I expected. I think the crust didn't stick to the ziplock as badly as it generally did to the pie-crust bag. However, the pie-crust-bag is reusable many times over, whereas the ziplock would need to be replaced each time, and the jumbo ziplocks are rather pricey.

(3) I ran out of sweet rice flour on the first crust. It's what Bette Hagman recommends be used for sprinkling on the inside of the bag to help keep it from sticking. I sighed, thought a moment, and used corn meal instead. Actually, I think it worked better than the sweet rice flour. I think the idea with sweet rice flour is that it's supposed to stick together better than other GF flours, so it should help the crust stick together. The problem is that rice flour is dry, and so the more of it you use for rolling, the more you need to add more liquid to the dough. The corn meal seemed to be better at keeping the dough from sticking, and it didn't dry out the dough as much. We shall find out today whether it causes any general weirdness in the eating. If not, I may just switch over to cornmeal for piecrust dusting.

And now, I have cornbread, coffeecake, roasted pumpkin seeds, and piecrust cookies to make.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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25 November 2009

Mad Munchkins

No actual D&D this week, as our thief is out of town and we kinda need him to finish opening the chest, so we got together and played other games instead. Two of them I had never played before. The other, Othello, was a way to pass the time until the rest of the players arrived. Despite not having played against anything other than a computer for a very long time, I managed to win at Othello. It was a near thing, as I was nearly boxed in, and decided now might be the time to give up a corner in order to salvage something from the situation ... and wound up taking all the corners instead, as I was able to take the opposite penultimate corner slot and stop Fibonacci from getting the corner I had intended to give up.

Anyway, on to the games I hadn't played before. First, the Mad Magazine Game*, which is a Monopoly spoof where the object is to lose all your money. The spaces on the board have instructions like "everyone move one chair to your (left|right)", "switch money with a player", "roll the dice three times and go that many spaces backwards around the board", etc. It's a hoot. John/Allonar (since there's another John who comments here, I figure I ought to specify) wound up winning, due to fortuitous money shifting and landing on a space where he got to lose more money than he currently had.

Then John/Allonar also brought Munchkin**, and we played that. I'd never played it before, though I'd read some descriptions. It's basically a D&D parody. You start out as a classless human. If you draw a class or race card, you can choose to become that, at least until you get cursed out of it. Every time you defeat a monster, you go up a level. If you can't defeat the monster, you can get help from a fellow player ... but watch out, as they will only do so if it benefits them. The first person to reach Level 10 wins. John/Allonar won the first game, despite us valiantly trying to sabotage his last fight with as many curses as we could muster (cooperating to stop someone else from winning seems to be a given), and I squeaked in as winner on the second game. Amusingly, Andrew agreed to help with what seemed like it should be my last fight, expecting to sabotage me at the last minute with a "Drop 2 levels" curse card...except I had the wishing ring and made the curse go away. Something else had happened so I didn't win on that fight, but on my next turn, I was up against a Level 1 something-or-other, and everyone had used up nearly all their curse cards trying to sink other last efforts. Someone had a +3 to play on the monster, making it Level 4, and Abe had a "mate" card, so that put it to Level 8 total ... and I was sitting comfortably at 15 (17 -2 from another curse), including all the item modifiers I had.

Thus a fun time was had by all, but I suspect Allonar and I will be ganged up on the next time we have a non-D&D gaming night. ^!^

*The Mad game is out of print, but there are "collectible" versions for sale for $84 on up at the Amazon link if you really want a copy.

**There are over a dozen varieties of this at Amazon, but, afaik, we were playing the original card game version.

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21 November 2009

Random Holiday Rambling

(1) Pouncer had a cold for a few days this week. I can't remember ever seeing a cat with a cold before; it took me a day or so to realize that's what was going on. First I noticed he was drooling a bit, and seemed to be leaving his mouth open more than usual. He also wasn't his usual "First!" self. I noticed that he seemed to have a bit of a runny nose and he was wheezing a bit, and then made the connection to his keeping his mouth open: he was breathing through his mouth because his nose was stuffed up. It lasted 2-3 days, and I just kept an eye on him and made sure it wasn't getting worse. It may have just been good timing, but it started to go away shortly after I shared some roasted chicken with him and the other cats. Probably coincidence, though it would be nice to think I cured him.

(2) I was beginning to think I wouldn't get any turkey this Thanksgiving, but my mom found a free-range Norbest turkey, which specifically said "gluten free," and their web-site indicates that all of their whole, uncooked turkeys are also soy-free. Gluten-free we had covered, but soy free is tougher, since every turkey I looked at had unidentified "natural flavors" in it. Technically "natural flavors" can include stuff made from wheat, but I never had a gluten-reaction to anything labeled that way. I have had several soy reactions. As far as I'm concerned "natural flavors" is equivalent to a skull and crossbones symbol.

(3) Apparently three weeks away from push hands was good for me, as Don and Mark both commented on how much more relaxed I have been the past two Saturdays. It seems backwards until you've tried it/experienced it/felt it, but being relaxed makes your attacks and defenses much more effective. Hmmm... possibly I should experiment with my dice and see if relaxed tosses produce higher rolls than tense tosses. Somehow I suspect that won't be the case, but it doesn't hurt to try. ^!^

(4) We still haven't finished with the chest in D&D, and we won't finish this week since our thief will be out of town. So even though I may start writing a narrative version of it, there won't be much point in posting it until we actually finish with the chest and I can include a conclusion.

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19 November 2009

Vampiric Pizza Delivery, Seaside Edition

Very odd dream snippet from last night:

Fibonacci had ordered pizza, and was trying to offer me some. I asked if it was gluten-free, and it wasn't, so I told him he'd have to eat the whole thing himself. Despite the pizza already being there, there was a knock at the door, and it was a group of people there to deliver the pizza (counterwise pizza delivery, maybe?). There were four of them, and they started in on an odd sort of street theatre performance. Eventually I realized they were vampires, because they could move in ways that no human could. Also, there was some sort of "vampire look" in their eyes. They weren't threatening us; just dancing/performing for their tip, I think.


There are footsteps in the sand at the bottom of a shallow sea, and apparently human bones litter the floor, following the footsteps. A master vampire in black with a cape tenderly picks up the skull and sends some sort of magic into it. The bones partially reassemble, and the flesh/clothing reforms on those bones, revealing the face of a woman. The magic is not enough to bring her back; the light goes out of her eyes and the vampire screams his frustration into the sea.

[End Dream]

It was a fairly odd and eclectic mix of elements. I was not reading about vampires any time yesterday, though I did make some GF English muffin pizzas on Tuesday. *shrugs*

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15 November 2009

A Thought on Conspiracy Theories

But the point is clear. The same people that peddle this crap are the ones who also assure us that no government program would work because it's so incompetent. Maybe they should just hire one of the many conspiracy groups who seem to be able to pull off extremely subtle and complex schemes without any trouble -- and even without any of us knowing about it (except for all the people who seem to be in on the secret and are blabbing it all over the internet).

~Revere at Effect Measure

My astrophysics professor once commented that the problem with supposed government cover-up of aliens was, well, that the same government was unable to cover up much more mundane scandals. The source article links to a longer article making much the same point. Still, there may be a related lesson to consider: if people put as much energy into finding solutions to real problems as they do into making up imaginary explanations for past failures, we might have a better functioning world, with fewer such failures to encourage ridiculous explanation. Or we might not, but it's an interesting idea all the same.

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14 November 2009

Driving Lessons

I'd missed Saturday taiji three weeks in a row, twice due to my bout of flu (though the first time I didn't realize that's what it was) and once because Don had to have his knee cut open again. So, despite the inch and a half of snow and my lack of snow tires, I drove up there today.

I think these were the worst roads I'd ever driven on without snow tires. I hadn't really appreciated how much of a difference they make. I was cut down to 35 mph or so in some places, and never really made it above 55 mph. I tried once, and immediately slowed down again. It was an interesting drive. Also strangely peaceful and relaxing, except when idiots zoomed around me. I like the challenge of driving on slick roads. Why? I have no idea.

Still, I do plan on getting my snow tires put on this week if at all possible. Just because I like the challenge doesn't mean I don't want to be careful about it. ^!^ And the roads coming back were much better. Not quite bone dry, but pretty close.

As for Don's knee, apparently there was another, smaller tear in a tendon. The doctor wasn't sure how long it had been there, but I can only assume that it started to bother him during the time I was unable to come. His best guess was that it happened when his leg was dropped shortly after the first operation, as there had been a great deal of pain then. He's back in the wheelchair, but more cheerful than I expected ... that or he's good at putting on a cheerful front (based on prior experience, I expect it's the latter). It was more or less a seminar class, with Don critiquing here and there.

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13 November 2009

Among the Shaman

I seem to have started a trend. With John's permission, I'm posting his IC explanation of his character's multiclassing.

Among the Shaman

Allonar stumbled forward in a cold sweat. The dream had come again. While he respected, feared, and served the Raven Queen, he was still living, and his dreamy jaunts into the world of the goddess of Death left him shivering; what with he was not quite certain. The dreams had become more constant, more vivid every time he channeled the divine power of the Raven Queen.

The dreams themselves weren't what disturbed him most. The existence of death was a natural process, one he had come to accept as merely another step in the life of a Deva. It was what was in the land of the dead. Not all of the things that are dead are good, and far fewer of them are content with their circumstances. He could feel himself slipping. Every hour as he had moved through the labrynth, and even now as climbed the staircase to meet the chaotic wizard, memories flooded to his mind of his life before. Like a series of torches glimmering in the distance, and as seemingly eternal as the steps he now climbed, spiralling upward, so were the lives he had lived, tracing their way dimly back to his time as an eternal being. But they were just that: dim. The thousands of years of good and kindly lives were darkened by the bright shine of memories that were his most recent life. The life purged from the brink of corruption.

He had been invested in the dead then, too. His desire for power had seduced his heart into making pacts with things far removed from the good he was to be seeking. The flame of love and kindness he had known and sought for generations had grown colder and colder still, until only a faint glimmer of truth kept him from the ultimate fall his kind had known. Like a drug, the control of the dead had made him become something far closer to the evil he had fought so hard remove than ever before: a rakshaza. Had it not been for the foresight of a fellow Deva -who saw what he was about to become and pierced his darkened heart to release the glimmer of light it still contained- his rebirth would have been an event of sorrow and pain for the world, rather than the joy and happiness he had brought once again.

But the pull was growing stronger. The door into his mind that was opened by his divine service to the Queen had become a battering ram into his mind, a hole in which evil could slip in and exercise itself in thoughts of bloodshed: not only of the evil, but of the wild, the wierd...perhaps even... the innocent.

He could not allow these thoughts to continue. His hunger for dark powers grew out of his previous life. It was like withdrawals of a drug, he yearned to feel it again, to know the service of good and evil alike, enslaved to do his bidding. He yearned for an earlier life, searched the line of torches and knew there was a hero against darkness in his distant past. But he could not be heard, not for the clammering of his dark life, for the clash of memories that cascaded and called him to be more than a servant of good.

But there must be another way. Why was it that only evil seeped in from the land of the dead. Surely the good rested with the Queen as well. Perhaps it was that the good rested peacefully, uninterested in the lives of the living. But perhaps they could be called. Invited to partake in the sufferings of his troubled mind. Brought back to reteach a Deva in need of truth, of wisdom, of perfection and inspiration.
He would be a servant! NO! A friend. He himself would serve the memory and teachings of the hero who had lived many generations ago. He who was the same being, the same entity that was Allonar himself, but from a purer time, and brighter time.

Allonar called. He had opened the door in his mind, this time travelling willingly into the world that belonged to the Raven Queen. He spoke, first timidly, then powerfully, calling forth the Spirit that both was him, and was not him at the same time. He began to lose hope. To think that perhaps it was not to be possible. Perhaps he should just give in. Lose the fight, allow a stronger being to emerge, to fill the hole he had left in his mind. These thoughts overwhelmed him.

But then a slight glow dispelled the evil that had crept upon him. There before him stood the image of a Deva. Fair of skin, and fairer still of demeanor. But there was power there as well. A heart and mind of such purity, it shamed him to think he had ever considered the chaotic path. Together they returned to his mind. He had hope. He had brought it with him back to the land of the living.

Allonar realized what he had become. They called them Spirit Talkers. Creatures so in-tune with the dead that they are able to physically manifest their presence, and who were able to seek the guidance of beings from the millenias past. Though weak in his abilities still, he was very clearly one of them. He was among the Shaman.

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We're Here to Rescue You

(but who's going to rescue us...?)

Good session last night. Dovra even managed to fail one death-saving throw, but thankfully she had one more healing potion on her that could be poured down her throat.

I closed this as we started to work on opening a chest, because we're not even halfway finished with it, and it seemed like a reasonable place to close off this narrative. The chest started out with 6 dials, but that's been whittled down to 4, largely because it was taking longer than the DM anticipated.

Dovra woke with a start, surprised to realize she'd drifted off again while watching over Allonar. She still had the Orb of Imposition, so the puzzle hadn't been a dream, at least. She found herself reaching compulsively for the Star of Corellon in her pouch. Maybe she needed to get a piece of leather and keep it around her neck. It was strange to think that a deity actually cared about her, or, well, that anyone actually cared about her. Other than some temporary alliances, she'd been on her own for as long as she could remember. She wasn't quite sure what she was doing with this group of heroes. She'd followed them into the cave more out of curiosity than anything else, and now, good or ill, she didn't have any way back. Her hand crept into her pack for the other object that she cared about, but she wasn't ready to pull it out yet. Maybe not ever. She wondered if it was sacred to Corellon as well, if that was why he'd taken an interest in her.

She noticed someone else up and moving around. It was Shenron, and he had removed the cupboard that was blocking the tunnel below the lab. Dovra wondered what had come up out of the tunnel, and what it had done to Phoenix Darksoul, poor Blue Cheese. When he wasn't getting carried away with his experiments, he'd been likable enough. Of course, he'd been getting worse and worse, and then there was that business with the cats... At least making the dwarf photosynthesize might have been useful. Potentially. Maybe. Okay, it was completely silly and pointless, but it had at least been interesting, unlike all the hybrid nonsense. An odd sort of munching emanated up from the tunnel and brought her back to the present. She wondered what hybrids Phoenix had been working on down there. Shenron, at least, seemed determined to find out. Some of the others were starting to wake up as well. Oh, there Heian was. She must have been asleep by the time he made it back into the lab.

"Heian! Shenron didn't eat you!" Dovra called out.

"What?" Heian said, giving her a startled look.

"Well, you know, you were arguing, then Shenron came back, and you didn't, so I thought..." Heian looked at her like she'd gone insane. Maybe Not Evil people didn't generally eat one another. She filed that bit of information away.

"Yeah, er, call of nature and all that." Heian seemed to consider this sufficient explanation and turned back toward the tunnel.

Dovra considered what he'd said. She didn't think he meant that he'd been called into beast form; as far as she knew, he was just an elf. Perhaps he'd needed to get outside the tower and back into the more natural cave, though it seemed strange that he would risk running into the blue dragon for that. It must have been a very strong call indeed. Perhaps this was what he and Shenron had been arguing about. What would Heian do when they were further up inside the tower, with no way back down to the cave? Possibly they would need to start tying him up while he slept ... but that was a concern for later.

Right now, everyone was converging on the trapdoor that led to the tunnel. Dovra wondered who had brought the ladder back in, as she had simply left it by the balcony. Well, she supposed it was time to find out what her former cohort had wrought down there. Or rotted, perhaps. There was a rather unpleasant smell. She was one of the last down the ladder, which was perfectly all right with her. It put her out of the direct line of fire. It also meant that she couldn't see very well, but there seemed to be cells on either side of the hallway as far as she could see. Heian took point and began sneaking down the hall. When he got to the first set of cells, he stopped and motioned for everyone else to stay back. Shenron and Horgta ignored his warning, and the elf seemed exasperated as they came up beside him. Allonar came up behind them and hid his sunstick under his cloak. Dovra crept up as well, just to where she could peek into the cells. The one on the right was empty, but the one on the left had an odd, floating creature that seemed to be all eyes, mouths, and tentacles. The mouths gibbered constantly, though it was mostly unintelligible. Then she heard it say, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?", before dropping back into gibberish. It didn't seem to have noticed them yet.

Dovra's ears pricked up as she recognized Deep Speech coming from two cells down on the left. It had been a long time since she'd been around anyone else that spoke it. She was a bit rusty, but she thought it said, "What is it? What is coming? Is it food? We hope it's food. We're very hungry." Dovra spoke as quietly as she could, "Uh, whatever's in the third cell down is hungry and thinks we might be food." Heian sneaked closer to that cell, and almost made it past, but one foot suddenly caught on a bit of rubble. Now that Dovra thought to look, she could see that there was a lot of rubble at that end of the corridor. Had something broken out of one of the cells down there? It was hard to see from here, and Heian didn't seem happy about whatever was in the cell closest to him.

Dovra let the others move up before she did. There were some oddly dark shadows in the cell next to the gibbering thing. Suspiciously dark, in fact, but nothing was moving there. There were also some glowing red runes on the wall between the sets of cells. She examined one, and realized that pushing it would open the cell next to it. There were similar runes next to all the cells. When she could see into the third cell, there was another floating thing. Only one mouth this time, but with lots and lots of eyestalks, most of them pointed at Heian right now. Dovra decided she might as well try talking to it since it knew they were there. "Uh, hello? What happened that put you in this place?" At least, she hoped that was what she said. Several of the eyestalks rotated to point at her.

"There was this little runt of a wizard," it said.

Hmmm, so this wasn't one of Phoenix's constructions. It didn't really fit his style, but neither did keeping this thing in a cage. "Ummm... is there any way we can, er, help you?"

The thing seemed to grin at her. "Yesss... you can let usss out ssso we can eat you and your frrriends."

"Er, no. I can't do that."

"Yesss you can. Jussst pushh the niiice red runessss."

Dovra sighed. Talking to it wasn't going to help. The creatures would probably just get worse as they went further down the corridor. They might as well turn back—

"Hello? Is—is somebody out there?" A female voice came out of the fifth cell on the right. It sounded very faint, and very scared. Before Dovra could decide what to do about it, a giant spider emerged from the shadows in the cell between the two floating eye things and spit acid at her and Allonar. It burned, and seemed to keep burning. Dovra ran towards the female voice, more to get away from the spider than for any other reason, and made it past the second thing with all the eyes just before it attacked Horgta. The gibbering thing hadn't seemed to like light, so maybe casting light on this thing would make it go hide. She tried it. It responded by attacking her, and the world went black.

Sometime later, a surge of healing rushed through her, and she looked up at Shenron's scaly face. A moment later the acid burned through her again and she lost consciousness again. She woke up to the same awful taste as with the crossbows. Surely Phoenix could have made his potions taste, if not pleasant, at least not nightmarish. Then again, she remembered his adventures in cooking, and one memorable night when he'd had to coax the dinner out from behind a bookshelf after it was cooked. She hadn't eaten much that night. For now, though, they seemed to have gotten the girl out of her cell, and had her most of the way down the hall. This seemed like a good time to make an Expeditious Retreat. The world blurred around her as she shifted past the cells at double speed. When she stopped, she noticed Horgta was carrying a green cloak. Maybe it belonged to the girl. Only, the girl had Heian's cloak wrapped around her. No, wait. Dovra had seen the green cloak before. The day she'd met up with this odd band of heroes, the one the trolls had grabbed had been wearing that cloak. What had his name been? Feta? No, Theta. John Theta. He was what had brought the heroes here.

She waited for the rest of the group to make it back to the ladder. The gibbering thing gibbered at them, and seemed to daze several of her companions, but they were headed out anyway. As they wrapped the girl to carry her up the ladder, Dovra noticed that her skin seemed to be covered in some sort of slime, like a frog's. She sighed. Phoenix again. What had happened to the fun projects that didn't really hurt anyone? Dovra very much doubted the girl had wanted to become part frog. They'd gotten the dwarf's permission before trying to make him photosynthesize, though he might not have really understood what he was in for. Maybe Dovra just hadn't been any good at being evil. She didn't seem to be much better at being Not Evil, however, as she'd been completely useless down in that tunnel. Everyone had made it out in one piece, but no thanks to her. She'd been a complete and utter liability.

They rested for a while after returning to the relative safety of the lab. The girl didn't say much, and Dovra couldn't think of anything useful to say to her. What could she say? "Sorry for helping Phoenix work out how to give mammals amphibious skin?" "Look, it made sense to have dogs that could work in a marine environment, sorry he decided to try it on you?" No, better not to say anything. The others seemed to be uncomfortable around her as well; at least, no one went over to try and talk to her. Dovra wondered why the girl couldn't move on her own. There was nothing obviously wrong with her legs, and the amphibious skin procedure shouldn't have affected her legs. What else had Phoenix done to her? Chances were that the girl didn't even know.

Just as Dovra was trying to work up the nerve to talk to her, Allonar's voice echoed out from inside a cabinet. It was the same cabinet Dovra had slept in before they'd gone down into the tunnel. "Ah-ha! I thought there was something peculiar about that panel." Dovra went over to see what he'd found. Behind a panel in the cabinet there was a chest with six four dials on the front of it. "I remember that chest," Dovra said. "Blue Cheese used to put his lemonade on it in the summer to keep it cold." There was some sort of cold spell on it, but that was all she really knew about it. She'd never seen Phoenix open it.

"There also appears to be some equipment behind the chest," Allonar said. Horgta and Shenron went to go look at it.

"These belong to our friend, John Theta," Shenron said. The three who had known him well looked somber, but at least the gear was all intact. Dovra wondered what Phoenix had really wanted with Theta, and how human he would be when, if, they found him.

For now, though, they needed to focus on opening the chest. It wasn't going to be easy. Heian moved towards the chest as if in a trance. "The chest is going to fight you," Dovra told him after checking it out as thoroughly as she could. "Even if you find the right number, the chest can change the combination while you're working on it. I think I may be able to lock the dials in place, but the chest will probably fight us on that, too." Heian groaned, but still seemed happier than Dovra could ever remember seeing him. "Oh, I think it may also be able to summon monsters." That dampened his spirits a bit more, but Horgta, Shenron and Allonar formed a protective ring behind Dovra and Heian as they settled in to work on the chest.

Shenron interrupted for a moment and commanded the chest to open in the name of Bahamut. Nothing happened. For good measure, Dovra commanded it to open in the name of Corellon, with similar effect. Good. No gods were going to interfere. Comforting as her star might be, Dovra was used to being on her own.

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10 November 2009

Strange Students

As part of the correspondence stats course I helped develop over the summer, I get various things to grade. I had one student e-mail me with a long harangue about what she didn't like about the course, and didn't even realize that she'd attached her first nonautomated assignment to the thing. Then she sent the long harangue again the next day. And the next. I stared at it, and decided to ignore it, still not noticing that she'd attached an assignment to this nearly incoherent rant. So...that assignment was late being graded, and my partner in crime, who did most of the actual work developing the course, is going to take over grading the rest of her work. I'm both relieved and annoyed by this development, but, given that I just cringe when I see her name on an e-mail heading, it's probably for the best.

FYI: the assignment was also nearly incoherent, but not incoherent enough that she didn't pass. You could tell that she thought big words were impressive but had no idea how to actually use them. If this were an English class, that would have had more of an impact on her grade. As it was, I docked a point here and there for the more egregious absurdities, and otherwise just hunted for the relevant information.

I have now reached the point of the semester where I'm ready for it to be over. It usually happens late October, but I was a bit too busy being ill to notice it then. One symptom of this is that I'm quite happy to see Christmas displays popping up like weeds in stores.

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06 November 2009


tendons break, joints creak
scalpel carves continually
caustic uncontrol

*sigh* Don had to have his knee operated on again. It had been coming along well, though he had complained of a sort of indent where he wondered if a tendon had come loose again. So no taiji tomorrow, and no idea about next week. He still sounded groggy on the phone, but that's rather understandable.

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02 November 2009

Gargoyles, Walking Crossbows, and a Rat (Oh, my)

When Dovra hit level 4, I had her take a Divine Channeler multiclass feat. This gives her a healing spell, but requires IC explanation. I was a bit disappointed that the full group wasn't there, but there was one IC witness, and one OOC witness. I'm expanding it a bit from what happened in game, but not by too much.

For a change, I'm trying to write it out in narrative form, and it wound up rather long, so it's below the fold. It is very nearly unedited, so think of it as a "stream of consciousness first draft." A few OOC notes: Abe/Shenron was late, and Heian/Philip didn't make it at all.

After being pulled into the death snail's repulsively attractive aura, Dovra felt sickened, disgusted, and even angry. She kept wiping at her arms, trying to remove the feel of contamination from them. She followed the group as they went into what was left of poor Blue Cheese's lab, and managed to confine herself to muttered grumblings as they searched it. She knelt in the wreckage for a while as one by one her newfound allies departed. Only Horgta remained, and she could take it no longer. "That was the most disgusting thing I've ever felt. That, that thing had no purpose but death. Do you realize that I've killed more hings since becoming Not Evil than I ever did when I was actually evil? Do you? Look at all this." She gestured to the mess of the lab, and started picking up items at random, not really looking at them. "See this? It's to make it easier to kill something. And this?! And this!?! All for killing! The only thing in this place not designed for killing are those blasted healing potions over there!"

She continued ransacking the already ransacked lab, while Horgta the half-orc just stared at her. The more damage she did, the more agitated she became. "This, and this, and—" Suddenly the object she'd grabbed began glowing, and she stopped and stared up at it. It was a star, silver and with eight points. She recognized it as Corellon's symbol, and the light spread down from the star and through her body. She could no longer see the lab, so bright was the light surrounding her. She heard a voice whispering faintly to her. It said, "Heal... Heal...," and she felt a new power grow within her, a power of mercy that would allow her to do more than just kill in the midst of battle, but would also allow her to provide aid and comfort.

The glow faded, but the calm sense of peace remained. Dovra's hand closed on the star and she tucked it carefully into her belt pouch. She noticed Horgta still staring at her. "Anyway, shall we keep searching the lab, see if there's anything else useful here?" Horgta gave her a funny half-smile and slowly backed away from her, keeping a close eye on her as if he thought she might be dangerous. Dovra was puzzled by this, but before she could think to ask, she heard a muffled cry for help. "Did you hear that? It sounds like someone's in trouble. Where's the rest of the group?"

Horgta stared at her for a moment before deciding he believed her. He rushed out of the lab. With the door open, Dovra could see Shenron and Heian off in one corner, arguing. Where was Allonar? He'd tried one of the wizard's atheletics potions and gone bounding up on one of the balconies. The stairs had burned when the fire snail got too close, but hadn't there been a ladder in the lab? Yes. She grabbed it and got to the wall just as Horgta pulled himself up the hard way.

"You could have waited for the ladder," Dovra said, trying to be helpful.

Horgta stared down at her from his perch on the wall. "You mean you're not crazy? I thought you were crazy with all the yelling and glowing."

Dovra gave him a confused look but decided to shrug it off. She climbed up the ladder and they both turned to the right, to the narrow corridor that led off the balcony. There was a small room at the other end. Dovra caught a whiff of a very expensive poison gas before she saw Allonar standing dazedly next to a large key on the floor; he was surrounded by what appeared to be living stone gargoyles. Around the room there were also things that looked like walking crossbows. He croaked out a warning about the gas before becoming stunned. The gargoyle creatures took the key and placed it on a square further back where all eight of the could surround it. The crossbow-creatures seemed to lose interest once the key was guarded, but there was still the gas in the room.

Rope. Both Dovra and Horgta had rope. They tossed one end towards Allonar and Dovra summoned her mage hand to tie it around him well enough that they could drag him back. He came to after a few minutes. For once, it was a relief to see his oddly glowing eyes. Allonar explained that he'd thought he could just jump in, grab the key, and jump back out—he suspected the athletics potion might have affected his judgment in this matter—but the gargoyles had come to life the instant he touched the key, and then the crossbow-creatures had begun emitting the poisonous gas. "Even worse, when you're dazed, those gargoyle creatures are no longer visible to you. But I think we need to acquire that key. It may open the door on the other balcony."

Dovra was dubious, and pointed out that no one had slept since dealing with the dragons. The creatures weren't doing anything now that they had the key again, and Blue Cheese's lab was probably safe enough. They needed a long rest. "No, no. We need to get that key first." Dovra muttered to herself, but the gas had cleared enough that she could get close enough to the key for the mage hand to tie a rope on it. She held her breath as it began tying knots, but the gargoyles didn't react. The other end of the rope was around her waist, so as soon as the key was tied securely, she ran for all she was worth, dragging the key behind her, and drawing the rope in as she ran. Allonar untied the key and ran off with it while the gargoyles and crossbows started following. He and Horgta made it out of the narrow hallway relatively intact, but Dovra was hit multiple times by the crossbows and fell unconscious.

She felt something being poured down her throat. It tasted horrible, but she could feel her strength returning. She could sit up. Someone, presumably Horgta since he was next to her, had pulled her out of the way. The creatures didn't seem interested in them so long as they stayed out of the way. They only cared about the key. Across the way, they could see Allonar on the other balcony. From the looks of things, he must have jumped the gap. He was almost to the door, but he suddenly stopped. "There's no keyhole!" He turned abruptly and ran the other way, jumping down from that balcony to the main floor before disappearing into the wizard's lab.

Dovra didn't remember anything with a keyhole in there, either, but she was a bit too distracted to worry about it just now. The walking crossbows were shuffling past her and toward where the stairs used to be. Where were the gargoyles? She saw Horgta fighting something that she couldn't see down on the main floor. Wonderful. Well, she could see the crossbows at least. She let loose a shock sphere at the two still on the balcony. They turned and fired back at her. One of them hit, and she groaned. She still wasn't feeling well from their last attack, but they kept moving forward. There was a crunch as they moved off the balcony and hit the floor, but it wasn't enough to slow them down much.

She stayed on the balcony and kept lobbing spells at the crossbows. For a short while, her mind cleared and she could see the gargoyles again. She cast light on the nearest one. Almost immediately it targeted her with some sort of spell, and she could no longer see them, but she could see the glow given off by the one she'd lit up. She kept targeting the crossbows. When her mind cleared again, she saw that the gargoyles were all headed into Blue Cheese's lab. They had to be trying to get the key back. She was no match for them, especially not when she couldn't see them, so she held back, and hoped Allonar had the sense to give up the key if cornered.

It seemed to take forever to take out all the walking crossbows. Horgta fought in and amongst them, while Dovra provided covering magical fire. Just before they finished them off, Allonar burst out of the lab and began desperately trying to hold the door shut. Well, he was alive, at least. Where in the blazes were Shenron and Heian? Shenron suddenly materialized from the staircase that led back down to the caves and the labyrinth, but there was still no sign of the rogue. Maybe Shenron had eaten him. It seemed unlikely, but Dovra wasn't entirely sure how trustworthy dragonborn were about such things. He'd eaten all that gold, after all.

With Shenron back in the game, it didn't take long to finish off the crossbows. Almost at the same moment, the gargoyles pushed their way past Allonar's hold on the door and burst back onto the main floor. One of them now had the key. From the looks of things, they were trying to get it back to the room it had started in. Dovra climbed down to the main floor, but she was quickly hit by another dazing blast that hid the gargoyles from her. Thankfully, Shenron seemed to be immune, and other allies were missed, so they could tell her where to direct her attacks. She didn't need to aim her thunderwave so much as point it in the right direction. Presumably they were whittling down the ranks of the gargoyles. At least, the ones who could see them were still fighting, and seemed to change targets regularly. Finally the dazing wore off and she could see them again.

Allonar was busy pursuing the gargoyle with the key. When maybe half the gargoyles were gone, he managed to grab the key and run for the door again. This time he tried pointing the key at the door, and apparently there was a keyhole now, since he inserted the key and turned. Dovra looked towards him as he froze in place, threw the key in, and slammed the door shut again. "Rather large rat in there!" he called out. Judging by the look on his face, it must have been even bigger than the dire rats they'd run into in the labyrinth. A loud thump at the door sounded more like a bear than a rat.

More fighting. The gargoyles knew the key was behind the door, and they fought their way to it, and opened it. The rat ran past them and attacked the first thing that got in its way. It was the size of a small bear. Dovra muttered to herself. She'd told them to take a rest before playing with the gargoyles and crossbows, and now they were all exhausted, and here was a bloody great rodent to top it all off. It seemed like only a moment later that she realized there was only one gargoyle still moving. It was badly hurt, but it still had the key. Dovra didn't pay much attention to who was fighting what, but when that gargoyle was dead, she moved close enough for her mage hand to come in and grab the key. Chances were good that Blue Cheese wouldn't have made a key that large that did nothing more than open a door. She'd have to take a closer look at it after the battle.

The only enemy still moving was now the rat. Everyone but Shenron wanted to barricade themselves in and let it wear itself out, but Shenron wouldn't listen to anyone, and kept fighting. Dovra sighed. She could throw phantom bolts at it from a distance without putting herself at any risk. Shenron and Allonar had it trapped on the balcony with the door, after all. Still, her heart wasn't really in it and most of her attacks missed. Finally she got fed up and scored a critical hit against it. It was only a tiny drop in the bucket, but it cheered her up a bit. When the rat was finally dead, she glared at the idiot men around her and stalked back into the lab. She was tempted to barricade the door against them, but decided against it. She did barricade the trap door with one of the mostly intact cupboards before climbing into a different cupboard and drifting off into a much-needed sleep.

Someone tapped on the cupboard just as she was starting to wake up. It was Shenron. "Er, are you any good with healing? Allonar got bitten by that rat thing and his filth fever's getting worse." Dovra sighed and sat up with Allonar while the fever raged through him. It took two tries, but she managed to pull him back out of it. To pass the time, she played with an orb puzzle that Blue Cheese had laying around, only puzzle wasn't the right word. It gave mostly useless information and then she had to make a guess. She managed to pick out one orb correctly, but the other three were destroyed. Still, an Orb of Ultimate Imposition was a nice find. She looked around and realized Heian was still missing. Maybe Shenron really did eat him.

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31 October 2009

Swept Under the Rug

When I took the course on Existentialism, we read some Heidegger. If you can slog through the word-salad of his book, there seem to be interesting and even useful ideas in it. Even before we started in on it, though, Dr. Levenson warned us about Heidegger's history, and commented that generally when Heidegger was mentioned in public forums, the conversation tended to degenerate and focus solely on what he called "The Catastrophe," rather than on Heidegger's actual ideas. The Catastrophe was that Heidegger, whose philosophy seemed to offer a broad and nuanced view of humanity, fell in with the Nazis.

For a while, the tendency was simply to claim that, well, he had no choice. He was an intellectual in a Nazi-run country, so of course he had to appear to conform to the mode. Sometime in the '70's, that view was overthrown by some of Heidegger's own writing and speeches coming to light. These were not merely spouting the party line, but willfully and cheerfully advocating it. Complicating the picture, Heidegger apparently engaged in a long, torrid affair with a Jewish woman, who ardently defended him.

Dr. Levenson, himself a Jewish rabbi, said that the thing that troubled him most was that Heidegger never recanted any of his pro-Nazi propaganda. He also claimed that Heidegger was against the extermination camps. So Levenson tried to take what he saw as the good in Heidegger's philosophy, and mention, but otherwise ignore, the fascist tendencies. I have a few problems with this. First, somewhere I ran across a claim that Heidegger's primary work (Being and Time) was translated into Japanese and used to justify the extant fascist regime. Second, the English translation is, as I said above, mostly word salad. If you think you find a thread of an idea, you can then look for it in the rest of the salad and probably find similar enough threads that you think you're justified in thinking that thread was intentional. I don't know if the original German is any better, though Dr. Pelletti claims that it's just as bad, but the English translation... I saw some of the parts with threads that seemed to suggest a near-humanist philosophy. I also saw some that could much more easily be taken as fascist.

I don't feel like beating my head against the wall of his text to go dig up examples, but I suspect that the truth of the matter is that the apparent humanist strains were accidental, artifacts of the difficulty of translation and Heidegger's own peculiar use of language, and the fascist strains expressed Heidegger's actual ideas. I could be wrong. Possibly he himself was confused, and reasoned to something more humanist, but simply couldn't get past his own fascist tendencies. The result is a confusing, beguiling text, with hints of greatness obscured by darkness.

There's a great deal of irony to think that a fascist helped shape, and even begin, a philosophical movement that is very much humanity-based. What brought all this to mind this morning was an article discussing new revelations about Heidegger and his Jewish mistress. Some of its claims directly contradict Levenson's. I don't have the source-material to know which is the true account, but I suspect Levenson is determined to give Heidegger the benefit of the doubt, due to the positive threads he sees in his work, while others without that axe to grind are likely to be more objective. HT: Evolving Thoughts

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