Tuesday, February 24, 2015

De/Vision Greatest Hits

In 2013, after their latest full length CD release (Rockets + Swords), De/Vision released a retrospective, 25 Years - Best of Tour.  It has 33 tracks on it.  I'm a pretty big De/Vision fan, and I have all of their regular albums, and manymost, evenof their CD singles and remixes, although I don't necessarily have all of their compilations, live albums, and there's a remix or two out there that I haven't tracked down yet, no doubt.

Anyhoo, I've created my own Greatest Hits list, and because the original CD limits itself to 33 tracks, so have I.  For some songs, I'm picking specific remixes which qualify.  In some of these cases, the remix substantially changes the tone or feel of the song, so another version cannot be assumed to substitute for the one I picked.  Anyway, this is just a semi-random music post, just for fun.  All songs are in alphabetical order by song title, and where it comes from is listed as well.
  1. "Be a Light To Yourself [Paralyzed Remix]" - From The Mix 3.0
  2. "Binary Soldier" - From Rockets + Swords
  3. "Blue Moon '99" - From Remixed (Ltd 2-CD version), but also appears on Blue Moon '99 single
  4. "Boy Toy" - From Rockets + Swords
  5. "Brothers In Arms [Extended Version]" - From Brothers In Arms single
  6. "Deliver Me" - From Monosex
  7. "Digital Dream [Electroclash Mix by DJ Ram]" - From Digital Dream EP
  8. "Dinner Without Grace '98" - From Zehn
  9. "Drifter" - From Monosex
  10. "Drifting Sideways [Gigi D'Agostino Viaggio Mix] - From Underconstruction 3 Remix
  11. "Flash of Life [Melancholic Mix]" - From Popgefahr - The Mix (German version)
  12. "Flavour of the Week" - From n00b
  13. "Foreigner [Original Version]" - From Void
  14. "Hear Me Calling" - From Monosex
  15. "Heart-Shaped Tumor [Neurotic Mix]" - From Heart Shaped Tumor single
  16. "I Regret" - From Fairyland?
  17. "I'm Not Dreaming Of You" - From 6 Feet Underground
  18. "Life Is Suffering" - From n00b
  19. "mAndroids" - From Popgefahr
  20. "Plastic Heart [Renegade of Noise Floor RMX]" - From Popgefahr - The Mix (German version)
  21. "Rage [Mesh-Tantrum Mix]" - From Popgefahr - The Mix (curiously, this version is on both the German and the North American releases)
  22. "Ready to Die [Hearhere Mix]" - From Popgefahr - The Mix (this one is also on both releases)
  23. "Silent Moan" - From Two
  24. "Slaves to Passion" - From Monosex
  25. "Subtronic" - From Subkutan
  26. "Take Me To The Time [Memphis Mix]" - From Remixed (Ltd 2-CD version)
  27. "Try To Forget '98" - From Zehn
  28. "Turn Me On [Rename Vocal Club Mix]" - From Turn Me On  single
  29. "Twisted Story [Rob Dust Remix]" - From Popgefahr - The Mix (both versions)
  30. "Until The End of Time" - From Popgefahr
  31. "We Fly... Tonight [Night Flight Remix]" - From We Fly... Tonight (Remixes) although I have it as a bonus track on my version of Monosex (which for whatever reason, when I ordered from Amazon, I got the Japanese, not the German version of the CD)
  32. "What's Love All About [Kant Kino Remix]" - From Popgefahr - The Mix (North America version)
  33. "Your Hands On My Skin [Sonnet Shuttle Mix]" - From Remixed

Monday, February 23, 2015

Neanderthals in Dark•Heritage

I've done it. I'm trashing the race selection a bit in DARK•HERITAGE and replacing changelings and Neanderthals both with a totally different mechanic.  Both are no considered to be merely cultural differences of the same race.  And both use a slightly modified version of an m20 Orc mechanic that I found and adapted.  I feel that both of the mechanics that I did have didn't really focus enough on the core concept of the race, which now focused through the lens of this Neanderthal Predation Theory as described by Danny Vendramini.  I'm not very interested in his take on the evolutionary psychology aspect of the theory (plus, I find the r/K-selection applied to human evolutionary psychology much more convincing.  I don't necessarily believe Vendramini's theory at all, although I do find it attractive from an aesthetic perspective as applied to fantasy.)  Let me summarize the salient points:

  • Our view of Neanderthals--both from behavior and from appearance, is colored by a strong anthropomorphized lens.  In reality, the Neanderthals were a different species of humanoid, and our attempts to render them as human is flawed from the get-go.
  • In terms of appearance, we have generally done a poor job of rendering the skeleton as if it were any other prehistoric animal, and instead used criminal forensics techniques that are suited to reconstructing humans, not humanoids.  To whit:
    • Neanderthals eye sockets are much larger than humans, meaning that we've made their eyes all wrong in reconstructions.  This also suggests that Neanderthals might have been much more nocturnal in their habits, and could see better in the dark.
    • Neanderthals eye sockets are in a much higher position on the head than in humans.  And their skulls, in profile, have a much more "great ape" like profile than human-like profile.  They look like big-brained chimpanzees.  All of these features combined mean that Neanderthals almost certainly wouldn't have looked very human-like.
    • There's no reason to believe that Neanderthals would have lost their body hair.  No other primate, except humans, have ever done so.  Since Neanderthals lived in the same environment as woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos, cave bears, etc. they almost certainly had thick fur of their own.
  • Although Neanderthals don't have out-sized canines, like most other primates, due to environmental necessity, they were almost certainly nearly obligate carnivores rather than omnivores or gatherers.
  • Although shorter, in general, than humans, they have a much more robust skeleto-muscular system, and were almost certainly significantly stronger.
  • Neanderthal cannibalism is well (although newly) documented.  Their inclination to predate on humans, then, seems easy enough to accept, albeit somewhat speculative.
  • The notion that Neanderthal/human interbreeding is the result of sexual predation is also speculative, but not hard to believe.
I've decided that the Neanderthals of the Cavusto Steppes and the wildlings of the Shifting forest and other temperate forests of the north are merely cultural expressions of the same race, in the same way that kurushi and terrasans are.  Why not?  They're both expressions of the same general idea; savage, dangerous, wild men who are in a sense subhuman.  Having the wildlings be watered down werewolves or the Neanderthals being guerilla fighters can all be done as cultural.

I'm going to say that due to generations of wife-stealing from human populations in the forests up north, that genetically the Neanderthals of the north are less ape-like and more human-like in their appearance, although they maintain a purer cultural approximation to the Neanderthal ancestral position.

Also; Neanderthal is a name that is rooted in the real world, being named, of course, for the actual Neanderthal, or Neander Valley, Neander being a Grecized version of the German name Neumann.  Neanderthal literally means Neumann's Valley, and of course, makes no sense as a label in DARK•HERITAGE itself.  Names used to describe them in setting include woses (especially wood-woses in the north, where they are boreal in habitat most often), sasquatches, wildlings, and man-apes.

The revised rules in m20 (which means that I'll need to update the document again, sigh) are as follows:

  • Neanderthals, regardless of place of origin, gain a +4 to their STR stat and -2 to their MND stat.  They also gain as well as a +1 to their Survival skill, and -1 to their Communication skill.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Neanderthals in the setting

I've long had Neanderthals as a race available in DARK•HERITAGE.  I've long gone for a very anthropomorthic interpretation of Neanderthals, which is the default, really.  Images published recently by National Geographic and others support this view.  See below:

But what if that's wrong?  What if that's optimistic, in fact?  What if the Neanderthals were very, very different?

Not sure if I will change the interpretation of Neanderthals in my setting or not, but I have to admit, this new interpretation is... really, really interesting.  I might!  The only reason I would maybe consider not doing it, is that it essentially overlaps the wildling race that I already have.  I'm not sure that I have a need for both.  But that was already kind of true anyway.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New m20 Iconics: Faraaz Al-Hasib

Jann in Porto Liure are somewhat rare.  Many of them are more associated with the port's rival city, Sarabasca.  But many pirates, merchants, and other assorted adventurous types call no port home, necessarily, and thus jann do wander the streets of Porto Liure in small numbers.  Often sticking together, they are not politically important, but due to their exotic accents, cuisine, dress, and their association with a rival super-power to the eastern end of the Mezzovian, they often tend to attract more attention than they'd wish.

This is not the case for Faraaz Al-Hasib.  Al-Hasib is comfortable being the center of attention, and in fact, that is his favorite place to be.  He's been in Porto Liure since he was a very young boy, actually, and has never called anywhere else home, although he was brought on a ship from Sarabasca by his mother at some point, who was fleeing a husband who had decided to have her and her son killed so that he would be free to remarry.

It turns out this did not help in the long-run, as her husband was publicly humiliated by her flight, due to the cultural traits of the jann in Sarabasca.  His influence faded, his desired new bride was spirited away from him by her family, who no longer wished to ally themselves with him.  He was forced to spend much of his fortune tracking them down in an attempt to regain sufficient honor to recover socially in Sarabasca.

But Al-Hasib's mother was not idle.  On arriving in Porto Liure, the first thing she did was spend the portion of her fortune that she was able to abscond with having young Faraaz trained by master fencers, politicians, and others--trained to navigate treacherous waters.  He was also enrolled in religious schools, and even swore vows and was ordained as a minor vicar or curate.  It took five years, but in Faraaz's 16th year, his mother was found by a bounty hunter.  By now, Faraaz was a skilled fencer, among other things, and he killed the bounty hunter in a fiery duel fought in the streets and witnessed by many.  Three months alter, Faraaz's father himself came searching for him, and Faraaz was forced to kill him in a duel as well.

That was now nearly ten years ago, but as a still young man in his mid-twenties, Faraaz has enjoyed his reputation about town as a dangerous fencer.  On the death of his father, a not inconsiderable fortune was passed to him, although he has gambled or some of it away, spent a good deal more on an elaborate funeral and mausoleum for his mother when she passed away of natural causes a few years later, and the rest he keeps saved, living off of interest and speculation when he can.

Alone among the group that fights The Shadow, he is neither overly afraid of it, nor is he touched by any tragedy or trauma.  Although he practices his religious vows very little, he feels confident that his vestments offer him some degree of protection from the supernatural.  Manoel Vaz do Camões is worried that Faraaz is overconfident and reckless, in particular with his use of some sorcerous incantations, but so far he has kept his worries mostly to himself, and Faraaz is too head-strong to listen to his warnings anyway.  However, Manoel keeps a careful eye on Faraaz, to make sure that he doesn't slip over into becoming one of the group's targets if he falls from his place.

Character sheet:
Name: Faraaz Al-Hasib
Class/Level: Fighter 3
Race: Jann
Sex: Male
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 185 lbs.
Hair Color: White
Eye Color: Yellow
Skin Color: Red
STR: 10 (+0)
DEX: 18 (+4)
MND: 11 (+0)
Hit Points: 29
Armor Class: 21 (medium armor)
Athletics: +6
Communication: +3
Knowledge: +3
Subterfuge: +3
Survival: +3
Melee To Hit: +8 (using light weapons)
Ranged To Hit: +8
Magic To Hit: +4
Wealth on Hand: 33 gp, 20 sp, 4 cp
Weapons: Rapier 1d6 damage
Dagger 1d6 Damage, 50 ft. if thrown
Pistol 2d6 + 1 damage 300 ft.
Other Equipment: Breastplate (medium), glass bottle, candle, priest's vestments, noble's outfit, flask, ink, inkpen, hooded lantern, lock, mirror, sealing wax, signet ring, spyglass
Spells: Peal of Clanging Woe, Eye of the Mi-Go, Cushion of the Shantaks, Voice of the Ghost, Grip of the Bloodspawned

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Heh.  Nice.

The Academy at Porto Liure

The Academy is one of the districts, or neighborhoods, of Porto Liure, the signature setting of DARK•HERITAGE.  It is, of course, a place of learning, but it is also more than that.  It is also an entire community.

Established by a charter almost 150 years ago, when Porto Liure was still a newly christened independent city-state, having won its independence through attrition from a tired and disinterested fading Terrasan Empire, the Academy is one of the oldest institutions in Porto Liure.  The "Father of Porto Liure," Jacobo Bernat, saw the Academy as one of a few key elements necessary in the long term to establish the legitimacy of Porto Liure as something more than a pirate haven, a "wretched hive of scum and villainy," and he made very generous offers to notable academics and experts in various fields to emigrate to the city to help found it.

In addition, he saw the Academy as a tool that could benefit the city more directly.  The children of young elitists, the core of the new nobility of Porto Liure needed to be taught in Geography, History, Military Theory, Politics, Theology and more.  There is also a cadet department, where the soldiers and sailors who represent the city itself are trained.  For the most part, this is now where the officers of the Watch and the Navy are trained.

Each of the subjects above has their own Hall on the Academy grounds, which are surrounded by a wall, and are secured by armed guards.  Each Hall has offices, lecture halls, and a library.  Most of the faculty live attached to their Hall as well, in spacious dormitories.

In addition to these facilities, there are a number of dormitories for students.  More and more, students are elitists, the children of rich industrialists, shipping magnates, or the nobility, and more and more they come from all over the Terrasan sphere of influence to study at the Academy.  To be fair, most of these students aren't necessarily interested in furthering their education, but going abroad to study is a prestige activity, and signals to their peers that they have the money and influence to send their sons--and sometimes even daughters--to Porto Liure to enroll in the Academy.

In addition to the departments, there are a handful of "independent" professors and researchers on staff, many of whom teach one-off courses in more esoteric fields of knowledge.  And there are even some who teach nothing, but who have managed to become almost "celebrity scholars" who do research that brings a great deal of prestige to the university. One example of the latter is the explorer Barral Pessagnoz, who spent six months trapped in Isin, first described the Wose Basin and the Tether and explored ruins near Eltdown.  His colorful travelogues have been published all over the Terrasan sphere and have been very popular.

Although it's kept officially quiet, rumors persist that there are "hidden colleges" within the Academy; a college and faculty devoted to sorcery and witchcraft, for instance, with a Hall that is based underground in spacious tunnels and caverns.  To most, this is part of the charm of Porto Liure, the Port of Ghosts; the notion that superstition and rumors abound.  Of course, to others, the threat is best taken more seriously.  It is true that spoiled and entitled students are prone to get involved in all kinds of things that should be left alone, and that the dregs of Porto Liure are lives not worth much to the officials of the city, or anyone else, but are sacrifices really made in chambers below the Academy meant to summon daemons from the Realms Beyond?  Despite official denials, the rumors persist.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Correcting the propaganda about the Crusades

Great article.  I always love a good historical treatment.  And I'm not even Catholic!  Although I find myself more and more sympathetic to Catholics in recent years than I used to be.


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

An interesting facebook exchange...

Normally, I don't do these kinds of posts, but .... man, I just can't resist.  Don't be this guy.  Please.

In a discussion about vaccinations on Facebook, this is the last part of an exchange.  The name of my .... fellow discourser is changed to protect the pitiable.

Let me set the stage.  First off, I'm in favor of vaccines.  I like 'em. I have 'em.  My kids have 'em.  But I'm not in favor of ignorance or propaganda, especially when, as we've seen in the news recently, it's being used as a peer pressure bludgeon, or to influence public debate in such as way as to cede more of our freedom to the bureaucratic tyrants of the government.

So, I pointed out the following:

Joshua Dyal To add more grist to the debate; measles cases in the US dropped 91.5% in 1960. TWO YEARS before the vaccine was available. 

The notion that the vaccine led to the near eradication of the disease, sadly for proponents of government coerced vaccinations, is not supported by the evidence.
5 hrs · Like

Joshua Dyal http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/.../189/Supplement_1/S1.long

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5 hrs · Edited · Like · Remove Preview

Joshua Dyal  AND.... in spite of the scary pictures, I've spoken with about half a dozen people who have memory of the time before measles vaccinations in the last day or so. All of them said getting measles was a right of passage; almost everyone got it, and it wasn't much scarier than getting the flu.

Polio, on the other hand, was scary.
5 hrs · Like

Some Guy  "Although the first 2 elimination efforts did not achieve elimination, they resulted in a substantial reduction in measles incidence: An average of 1.3 cases per 100,000 population was reported during 1982–1988, compared with an average of 313 cases per 100,000 during 1956–1960 (figure 1). Nevertheless, a resurgence of measles occurred during 1989–1991, again demonstrating the serious medical burden of the disease. More than 55,000 cases, 123 deaths, and 11,000 hospitalizations were reported [7]. Two major causes of this epidemic were vaccine failure among a small percentage of school-aged children who had received 1 dose of measles vaccine and low measles vaccine coverage among preschool-aged children. "
2 hrs · Like

Some Guy "On the basis of the lessons learned from the measles resurgence and the first 2 elimination efforts, the elimination strategy for the third effort was refined. Four major lessons were learned. First, high coverage with the first dose of measles vaccine is required by age 2 years to prevent measles in preschool-aged children. Second, school students require especially high levels of immunity because of their high risk of exposure to measles. Higher immunity can be achieved with 2 doses of measles vaccine. Third, well-implemented state requirements for immunization are very effective in achieving high 1-dose measles vaccine coverage among students (requirements that were amended to achieve high 2-dose coverage). Fourth, molecular epidemiology is a powerful tool for tracking measles virus strains and for identifying potentially endemic strains [10]."
2 hrs · Like

Some Guy Your study Joshua....
2 hrs · Like

Joshua Dyal What about it? I did the math based on the numbers presented. Did you? The number of cases reduced over 90% prior to the introduction of the vaccine. Therefore, the measles vaccine can hardly be credited with the elimination of the disease. Some selective quoting doesn't change that.
2 hrs · Edited · Like
Some Guy it's not selective. It's vital. You ignoring the actual findings of the study and pretending it supports your claim. Which a quick read of the study shows that it does anything but that.
2 hrs · Like

Joshua Dyal No, I'm reacting to the data and ignoring the commentary. You're doing the opposite.

One is the scientific approach. The other.... well, it is not.
2 hrs · Like
Some Guy sure thing
2 hrs · Like

Joshua Dyal Fine. Then answer this: if the vaccine is so crucial to the containment of measles, explain how the number of cases dropped by over 90% in the ten years or so PRIOR to the introduction of the vaccine. Rather than focusing on the red herring of what happened since then, just explain that phenomena.

I'll tell you one thing: the answer is NOT in the study. It made no effort whatsoever to address that. Your reading of the study has nothing whatsoever to do with the reason I linked it, which was to highlight that particular data point. You're distracted by the study's commentary and ignoring the actual crucial data point, which it doesn't discuss.

But it's there nonetheless.
2 hrs · Edited · Like

Some Guy Have you read a scientific survey? The written part explains the numbers. The two are not independent. Try reading something before posting it and making yourself look like a fool.

    The study says that nutrition and improved healthcare are the reasons for the decrease.
    2 hrs · Like

      Joshua Dyal Heh. Yes, frequently. Have you ever interpreted data, or do you always simply rely on the canned interpretation provided to you? I promise, although you may not see it, I am not the one looking like a fool. The logical formula is quite simple: 1) over 90% of the reduction in measles cases occurred between 1956 and 1960. 2) the measles vaccine was not available until 1962. 3) unbelievably, I have to spell this out apparently, but ergo it is impossible to credit the measles vaccine with the reduction in measles cases. At best, it can be credited with cleaning up the little that was left after measles had already been rendered a non threat in America. That may not have been the point that the author of the paper was attempting to make, but it is clearly an unavoidable conclusion of the data anyway.
      2 hrs · Like

        Some Guy Wow you found something that is so obvious that even the scientists who wrote this survey didn't see it. You should call their academic institutions and report them for making super basic mistakes.

        Face it, you're making stuff up in a sad attempt to save face.
        2 hrs · Like

          Some Guy What figures or charts are you referring to?
          2 hrs · Like

            Some Guy Where are you getting these numbers that are so radically different than those who performed the survey reported?
              2 hrs · Like
              Joshua Dyal Are you for real? Are you sure you read the study? Or did you just skim and and gloss over the numbers and the dates? You're now demanding that unless I reproduce them in graphical form--preferably in bright primary colors, no doubt--that you will refuse to understand it?

              Let me spell out in childishly simple terms the thrust of my argument, backed up with numbers from the article I linked (which was the reason I linked it, foolishly believing that those who read it would have a reading comprehension greater than your average box of rocks):

              1) Prior to 1956, per the introduction to the study, roughly 4 million Americans contracted measles each year.

              2) Between 1956-1960, just over half a million cases were reported annually. Surely, even you can see that is a dramatic drop.

              3) Similarly measles related deaths plummeted from an average of 5,300 annually between 1912-1916 to 450 annually between 1956-1960; the 91.5% decrease I referenced earlier. And that is unadjusted for the substantially higher population--adjusted, it's much higher (but I'm not going to bother with it, because the lower number is still sufficiently dramatic to prove my point.)

              4) In 1962 the measles vaccine is introduced and approved by the FDA.

              5) The study references three measles eradication efforts and subsequent spikes that postdate the advent of the vaccine. NONE OF THESE SPIKES ever rise to anywhere close to the 1956-1960 numbers. In fact, in the 1989-1991 "spike" he refers to as the worst of them, the numbers are, averaged per year, 18,000 cases reported and 41 deaths. Again; compared to over half a million and 450 respectively during 1956-1960 and 4 million and 5,300 respectively in the Teens.

              6) In 2004 this paper is written, discussing the efforts to use the vaccination to eradicate the last few percentage points which remained after over 90% of the cases had ALREADY been PERMANENTLY REMOVED FROM THE SYSTEM SEVERAL YEARS PRIOR TO THE INTRODUCTION OF THE VACCINE. The author makes NO EFFORT to explain away the fact that measles had already had a greater than 90% retreat PRIOR to the vaccine; he merely points that out as a matter of historical context.

              7) A few hours ago today, I post a link to this study, not to discuss the efforts to eradicate the disease--even though admittedly that is the main point of the paper, but to point out that it had already had an incredible decrease PRIOR to the advent of the vaccine, which proves conclusively that the vaccine cannot be credited with the reduction in the disease in the US, barring some kind of time dilation that's unknown to our current understanding of physics where the vaccine eliminates the disease BEFORE the vaccine even exists.

              Normally, I wouldn't mind just pointing this out to anyone who doesn't see the implications on their own in a friendly manner, but you've been so unrelentingly smug, arrogant, and condescending, plus for some reason you decided it was a good idea to call me a liar, that I'm happy to take your petard, which you've so blissfully ignorantly offered me, and hoisted it away. All of these numbers are in the first (admittedly longish; maybe you got distracted) paragraph of the article. I hesitate to speculate, but I can only presume that you skimmed through the article, glossed over both numbers and dates without even registering them at all, read the efforts to reduce the last few percentage points of measles cases and--rather spectacularly, I might add--jumped to the fallacious conclusion that I was somehow making up both my numbers and my analysis, because you are either incapable or unwilling to understand data, numbers, dates, or even most text, and can only chew on pre-digested commentary spoon-fed directly to you.

              I freely admit that some schadenfreude, even of those who are REALLY asking for it isn't exactly a Christ-like attribute. But I never claimed to be perfect. I merely claimed to be able to read, and make logical conclusions from the information I read.
              50 mins · Edited · Like

                Some Guy You are a lost cause.
                25 mins · Like

                  Joshua Dyal Sigh. I'm wasting my time. Even at the elementary school level summary, you're not tall enough for this ride.
                  13 mins · Like

                  Tuesday, February 03, 2015

                  Balshatoi = Kozaki

                  I'm going through the setting, adding information to the Google Site.  One immediate change that I made is that I'm changing the name of the balshatoi ethnicity--a name which I've become more and more unhappy with over time--to Kozaki.  This is, more or less, a more "true" transcription of the word that renders in English normally as Cossacks.

                  Of course, the balshatoi aren't really the Cossacks.  If anything, they're more meant to represent something akin to the early Rus Khaganate; Vikings living among Slavs, creating a syncretic culture with elements from the two.  For simplicity's sake; rather than delving too deeply into the esoterica of it, I'm willy-nilly borrowing names, institutions and cultural mores from the Volga Cossacks and the Vikings, and throwing them together, and calling that the Kozaki ethnicity.