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[sticky post] Hello!

Oct. 29th, 2009 | 03:00 pm

Welcome back my friends
To the show that never ends!
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside, come inside!

— Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression, Part II)

Hi there!

If you're reading this, you're probably just looking at my journal, perhaps even thinking about adding me as an LJ-friend; or alternatively, perhaps I just added you as an LJ-friend, and you're curious about me now. In either case, I I'd like to use this opportunity to say a few things.

Trevor: You're skating the edge.
Æon: I
am the edge.

— Æon Flux

First of all, I tend to write freely about topics everything that matters to me; more distanced, "professional" entries may directly be followed by more personal ones (and vice versa), and I will, generally, openly write about all sorts of things, including philosophy, sexuality, politics and more. Some of my entries will be friends-only, others will be publicly viewable, too, and unlike other people, I don't use <lj-cut /> tags or specific "topic filters" (i.e., custom friends groups dedicated to specific topics) to shield people from things they may not want to see.

Well, as long as it's text, that is; I will cut images that aren't safe for work etc. (at least if I remember, which I might not always do!), since I wouldn't want for people to get in trouble if their boss happens to be shoulder-surfing at work. Text, though, is a different issue, and if you'll get into trouble for reading about certain topics at work, you probably shouldn't be checking your friends page at work to begin with.

He said, "I am told that when men hear its voice, it stays in their ears, they cannot be rid of it. It has many different voices: some happy, but others sad. It roars like a baboon, murmurs like a child, drums like the blazing arms of one thousand drummers, rustles like water in a glass, sings like a lover and laments like a priest."

— Mike Oldfield, Amarok (liner notes)

Second of all, concerning friending me: feel free to. There is no need to ask if it's OK to do so; everyone's welcome to, as well as to post comments etc. (as long as they're genuine: spammers etc. will not be tolerated, but that goes without saying, anyway). I may add you back if your journal looks interesting or if I know you, too, but this isn't automatic. If you do want me to add you back, engaging me and talking to me is probably the best way to go about it.

Please don't ask about being added back if I didn't do so on my own, either, unless I already know you well and you want to be able to read my non-public entries.

If I already friended you but you don't know who I am and haven't been in contact with me before, that most likely means I became aware of your journal somehow, took a look, and decided I wanted to keep up with what you're writing — "I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter", as it were. I don't expect you to friend me back or otherwise take an interest in me, but if you do — all the better.

If what it is to be furry you still don't comprehend
Then consider this advice, my curious friend
If you're willing to respect that which you don't understand
Then come take my paw and I'll take your hand.

— from "Furry", by Croc O'Dile of TigerMUCK with help from Tony DeMatio, June 1995

Regarding commenting, BTW, I'm always happy to receive comments. However, things like "lol" are not proper punctuation, and correct spelling and grammar would be nice as well. And of course, I expect people to not be insulting or rude, but that, again, should go without saying.

That's about all I can think of for now. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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Words That Don't Mean What You Think They Should

Oct. 5th, 2015 | 08:45 am

I was talking to a friend recently about how English can be rather counter-intuitive at times when it's not your native language. For instance, consider the following Words That Don't Mean What You Think They Should:

  • "invaluable" sounds like it should mean "worthless", but doesn't.
  • "inflammable" is not the opposite of "flammable".
  • "sanction" can be both an approval or a penalty.
  • "awful" and "awesome" are very different qualities.

Any others? Give 'em to me!

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Seven plus two Skyrim fragments, translated

Sep. 25th, 2015 | 02:06 am

As promised, here's English translations of the seven Skyrim fragments, as well as the two that followed:

Oglala yawned. The khajiit woman was sitting on her bed, bowed over a bowl of water, and regarded her drowsy reflection. In spite of herself she licked her paws and ran them over her face.

A high, clear laugh rang out behind her. A blush rose to her face, and she turned around; Lydia, who had been bustling around in the kitchen just moments ago, stood in the door and smiled. Her teeth twinkled like pearls on a string.

"It's moments like this where one can tell you're a cat", she said. Oglala's eyes narrowed to slits, and the nearest object flew in the direction of Lydia, who dodged the glove with another laugh before returning to her housewife duties.

Just earlier they had been hunting trolls, but the day was short in the snow-covered wastelands of Skyrim's north, and the night dark and cold. Oglala and Lydia lay cuddling under a heap of furs, concealed from all dangers in a hidden nook in an old ruin.

At their feet, a curled-up husky slept, his nose tucked under his tail. A quiet whine escaped him; perhaps he was dreaming. Lydia, too, was already asleep. Her calm breathing had a hypnotic quality, and Oglala closed her eyes and hid her muzzle at Lydia's neck, and soon she had likewise drifted off to sleep.

Caring for one's equipment was the most vexing part of an adventurer's life. The process was as necessary as it was dull; for hours, every single piece had to be polished, oiled, and polished again, until even the subtlest hints of rust and the slightest suggestions of notches had dissolved like smoke before the wind.

Whereas Lydia carried out the onerous duty with the stoicism of a warrior, Oglala cussed like a sailor each time and swore bloody revenge on every bandit who dared dent her armor. Lydia did not look up, but she smiled as she slowly and deliberately drew the whetstone along the blade of her sword.

"Grrrrrmlbll." That was about how Lydia would have written down the sound that Oglala made, if she had been able to write at all. If allowed to, the khajiit woman could sleep through the entire day; waking her was an adventure in its own right every time, as even half asleep, her aim was surprisingly accurate, and her claws had never lost their sharpness.

In the end, it was the promise of fried meat that convinced the Dragonborn to leave the comfort of her bedroll. Breakfast remained quiet; after all those shared years, Lydia and Oglala needed few words to understand each other.

Donning their armor, too, was done in silence. After woollen underwear came mail, boots and gauntlets of daedric make, light and yet of peerless hardness. In the light of day, the material appeared black as ink; it was only on moonless nights or deep underground that its dull red, baneful glow showed.

The blackened iron mask that the khajiit woman loved so much finally followed; now she was completely shrouded, a fear-instilling presence. Lydia still helped her into the furs that they had received from the Skaal: coat, boots, hat and gloves that provided protection against the icy cold of winter.

Oglala waited as Lydia readied herself in turn, then the two women mounted their geldings and rode off, and only the remnants of cold ash, already disappearing under the new snow, gave away that they had ever been here.

Blood gushed from the bandit's neck stump as the razor blade of Oglala's sword let his head fly, his face still distorted into a mask of pain while his now lifeless body fell into the street's dirt. Crimson slowly drenched the ground, and only the heavy breathing of the Dragonborn could still be heard.

As though in a frenzy, Oglala looked around; half a dozen highwaymen lay around her, and among them Lydia's body, strangely twisted and contorted. With a scream of pain Oglala was at her side, picked up her companion in her arms while she sank to her knees, pressed her against herself; then layed her down on the street again, gentle almost, unfastened her helmet and tried to find a whiff of breath that proved that the Nord woman was still alive.

In her backpack, she found a healing potion. The waxen seal broke under her fingers, and she wet Lydia's lips with the life-giving liquid, tried to pour the potion down her throat without having her choke on it. In the end, Lydia's lids fluttered, and she moaned. Oglala nearly cried as she prepared a make-shift bed for Lydia, from fear endured or from happiness, she couldn't say.

The robbers kept lying unregarded, their faces hidden in the dust of the street.

Warmth. Soothing, relaxing warmth. Oglala closed her eyes as she slowly waded out into the turquoise water.

She stood, took a deep breath. A shudder ran over her; Blackreach was cool, a sharp contrast to the lake in which she stood. Swirls of steam rose from the quiet surface, then faded like phantasms. Oglala knelt in the milky water; its strangely mineral scent filled her nose, and the sand under her feet was smooth as silk.

On a whim she reached down, brought a handful of sand to the water's surface. It was fine and black, like ground midnight that ran through her fingers.

She closed her eyes again and surrendered herself entirely to the feelings that streamed through her body. She did not find it easy to relax; without armor, without a weapon she was vulnerable. But she had weeded out the Falmer that prowled Blackreach, had neutralized all the dwarves' automata, and in addition Lydia was standing guard at the lake in which she now swam.

She sighed; only now did she realize how tense she had been. She washed herself thoroughly, then a second time, then a third, and knew that it was not just about the blood that had matted her fur but also about the memories she carried inside herself. It was to get rid of those that she had sought out the unreality of Blackreach, where Skyrim and its civil war seemed nothing but a distant dream.

A far-off hiss pulled her back into her body. Somewhere, steam escaped from a valve; the ancient machines of the dwarves were carrying out their mysterious tasks. Oglala dove down in the quiet lake, and then swam back and forth, and listened to the distant echoes that filled the vast halls of Blackreach.

"I hope some day we'll get to know each other better."

The remark had been casual, but now Ulundil suddenly found himself eye to eye with the tall warrioress he had spoken to as she had put her horse's reins into his hands. She was wearing a black suit of armor and an awe-inspiring mask, and his face involuntarily contorted into a frightened grin as she looked down on him now. For one panicked moment he wondered if she would kill him.

But when she answered, her voice was friendly; he almost thought he heard amusement when she replied, "I'm awaiting you in Hjerim tonight. Come alone." He merely nodded, and before he found his voice again, she was gone.

The day dragged on agonizingly, but finally evening came, and under a pretence, Ulundil set off to town while his wife remained at the stables. Hjerim was situated in the best neighborhood, near the jarl's palace, but in the seclusion of shady gardens; the few passers-by who were still out and about studiously ignored the altmer.

When he came to Hjerim, he knocked. The warrioress opened the door herself and bade him enter. She still wore her armor and the mask, and when the door fell shut behind him, Ulundil swallowed again, but soon she showed him things he would not have thought possible, and their moans echoed through the house until he collapsed from exhaustion in her arms.

The cold sea smelled of salt and fish. Waves rolled lazily across the coarse, gray coastal sand; a light breeze made the blooming spiky grass wave, and from afar, the trumpeting calls of the horkers sounded as they defended their harems against rivals.

Oglala's and Lydia's horses found their way under the midnight sun. Every now and then they stopped, for drinking or for plucking a particularly juicy stalk; their riders turned a blind eye. A bottle was uncorked and passed wordlessly from one gloved hand to another before it disappeared again in the depths of Lydia's saddlebag.

The walls that were already visible on the distant horizon slowly crept closer.

It was said that in the moment of death, one's entire life passed before one's mind's eye, but the rabbit who had been running in desperate haste just then had not felt any such thing as the arrow pierced him; just fear of the smell of cat, of the approaching huntress, and pain that slowly faded as his life flowed out of him. He already did not feel the blade anymore that cut open his skin, and the body that Oglala impaled on a stick, devoid of pelt or innards, was merely a lump of cooling flesh.

The Dragonborn did not realize any of this; her mind was elsewhere entirely, and the words of gratitude that she recited as she flayed her prey were little more than a ritual. Soon the rabbit was roasting over the fire while Oglala and Lydia talked grinning about the day's events, and when they made love in their camp, only a few bones still gave away that he had ever been alive.

Extra-special thanks to (in no particular order) canisrufus_uk , kevlarhusky and moth_wingthane , who helped me polish these translations to the point where I finally felt comfortable publishing them here. :)

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Two more Skyrim fragments

Sep. 24th, 2015 | 02:20 am

Two more Skyrim fragments:

Die kalte See roch nach Salz und Fisch. Wellen rollten träge über den groben, grauen Küstensand; sanfter Wind ließ das blühende Stachelgras sich wiegen, und von weit erklangen die Trompetenrufe der Horker, die ihre Harems gegen Rivalen verteidigten.

Oglalas und Lydias Pferde bahnten sich unter der Mitternachtssonne ihren Weg. Ab und zu blieben sie stehen, um zu trinken oder einen besonders saftigen Halm abzurupfen; ihre Reiterinnen ließen sie gewähren. Eine Flasche wurde entkorkt und wortlos von einer behandschuhten Hand zu einer anderen gereicht, bevor sie wieder in den Tiefen von Lydias Satteltasche verschwand.

Die Mauern, die bereits am fernen Horizont sichtbar waren, krochen langsam näher.

Es hieß, daß im Moment des Todes das gesamte Leben am inneren Auge vorbeizog, aber der Hase, der eben noch in höchster Eile gerannt war, hatte nichts dergleichen gespürt, als der Pfeil ihn durchbohrte; nur Angst vor dem sich nahenden Katzengeruch der Jägerin und Schmerz, der langsam verblaßte, während das Leben aus ihm herausfloß. Die Klinge, die seine Haut aufschnitt, spürte er bereits nicht mehr, und der Körper, den Oglala von Pelz und Eingeweiden befreit auf einen Stock spießte, war nur noch ein Klumpen abkühlenden Fleisches.

Die Drachengeborene bekam von all dem nichts mit; sie dachte an ganz andere Dinge, und die Worte des Dankes, die sie rezitierte, während sie ihrer Beute das Fell über die Ohren zog, waren kaum mehr als ein Ritual. Bald schon briet der Hase über dem Feuer, während Oglala und Lydia grinsend über die Erlebnisse des Tages sprachen, und als sie sich in ihrem Lager liebten, verrieten nur noch einige Knochen, daß er je gelebt hatte.

I'm working on translations for these and the previous ones, honestly. :P

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Seven Skyrim fragments

Sep. 21st, 2015 | 11:09 am

Sometimes, inspiration strikes. Here's a few fragments of what might be described as fanfic that I wrote tonight, based on Skyrim and my character, Oglala (female khajiit, in case anyone reading this doesn't know her). They're not connected to each other or anything.

Oglala gähnte. Die Khajiitfrau saß auf ihrem Bett, über eine Wasserschale gebeugt, und betrachtete ihr schlaftrunkenes Ebenbild. Unwillkürlich leckte sie ihre Pfoten und fuhr sich damit über ihr Gesicht.

Glockenhelles Lachen erklang hinter ihr. Röte stieg ihr ins Gesicht, und sie drehte sich um; Lydia, die eben noch in der Küche herumfuhrwerkt hatte, stand in der Türöffnung und lächelte. Ihre Zähne blitzten wie Perlen auf einer Schnur.

"In solchen Momenten merkt man, daß du eine Katze bist", sagte sie. Oglalas Augen verengten sich zu Schlitzen, und das nächstbeste Objekt flog in Richtung von Lydia, die dem Handschuh mit einem erneuten Lachen auswich, bevor sie sich wieder ihren Ehefrauenpflichten zuwandte.

Eben noch hatten sie Trolle gejagt, aber der Tag war kurz in der schneebedeckten Einöde von Skyrims Norden, und die Nacht dunkel und kalt. Oglala und Lydia lagen aneinandergekuschelt unter einem Stapel von Pelzen, vor allen Gefahren verborgen in einem versteckten Winkel einer alten Ruine.

Zu Füßen der beiden schlief ein zusammengerollter Husky, die Nase unter dem Schwanz versteckt. Ein leises Jaulen entrang sich ihm; vielleicht träumte er. Auch Lydia schlief bereits. Ihre ruhigen Atemzüge hatten etwas Hypnotisches, und Oglala schloß die Augen und barg ihre Schnauze an Lydias Hals, und bald war sie ebenfalls eingeschlafen.

Das Pflegen der Ausrüstung war das Ärgerlichste am Abenteurerleben. Der Vorgang war ebenso notwendig wie stumpfsinnig: stundenlang mußte jedes einzelne Teil poliert, geölt, und erneut poliert werden, so lange, bis auch die leiseste Ahnung von Rost und die feinsten Andeutungen von Scharten sich aufgelöst hatten wie Rauch vor dem Wind.

Während Lydia die lästige Pflicht mit dem Gleichmut einer Kriegerin erledigte, fluchte Oglala jedesmal wie ein Droschkenkutscher und schwor blutige Rache jedem Banditen, der da wagte, ihren Panzer einzudellen. Lydia schaute nicht auf, aber sie lächelte, während sie den Wetzstein langsam und gemessen über ihre Schwertklinge führte.

"Grrrrrmlbll." So oder ähnlich hätte Lydia das Geräusch niedergeschrieben, das Oglala von sich gab, wenn sie denn hätte schreiben können. Wenn man sie ließ, konnte die Khajiitfrau den ganzen Tag verschlafen; sie zu wecken war jedesmal ein Abenteuer für sich, denn auch im Halbschlaf war sie überraschend treffsicher, und ihre Krallen hatten seit jeher nichts von ihrer Schärfe eingebüßt.

Am Ende war es die Verheißung gebratenes Fleisches, das die Drachengeborene bewog, ihr bequemes Lager zu verlassen. Das Frühstück blieb still; nach all den gemeinsamen Jahren brauchten Lydia und Oglala nur wenig Worte, um einander zu verstehen.

Auch das Anlegen der Rüstung geschah unter Schweigen. Auf wollenes Unterzeug folgten Panzer, Stiefel und Handschuhe von daedrischer Machart, leicht und doch von unvergleichlicher Härte. Im Licht des Tages erschien das Material tintenschwarz; nur in mondloser Nacht oder tief unter der Erde zeigte sich sein mattroter, verderbensschwangerer Schein.

Die geschwärzte eiserne Maske, die die Khajiitfrau so liebte, folgte zum Schluß; nun war sie ganz verhüllt, eine furchteinflößende Erscheinung. Lydia half ihr noch in den Pelz, den sie von den Skaal bekommen hatten: Mantel, Stiefel, Hut und Handschuhe, die Schutz boten vor der Eiseskälte des Winters.

Oglala wartete, während Lydia sich ebenfalls bereitmachte, dann bestiegen die beiden Frauen ihre Wallache und zogen los, und nur die Reste kalter Asche, die bereits unter dem neuen Schnee verschwanden, verrieten, daß sie jemals hiergewesen waren.

Blut spritzte aus dem Halsstumpf des Banditen, als die Rasiermesserklinge von Oglalas Schwert seinen Kopf fliegen ließ, sein Gesicht noch zu einer Maske des Schmerzes verzerrt, während sein nun lebloser Körper in den Straßenschmutz fiel. Karmesin tränkte langsam den Boden, und nur noch das schwere Atmen der Drachengeborenen war zu hören.

Wie im Rausch schaute Oglala sich um; ein halbes Dutzend Straßenräuber lag um sie herum, und unter ihnen Lydias Körper, seltsam gekrümmt und verdreht. Mit einem Schmerzensschrei war Oglala an ihrer Seite, hob ihre Gefährtin in den Armen auf, während sie in die Knie sank, barg sie an sich; legte sie dann wieder auf die Straße, zärtlich fast, löste ihren Helm und versuchte, einen Atemhauch zu finden, der bewies, daß die Nordfrau noch am Leben war.

In ihrem Rucksack fand sie einen Heiltrank. Das Wachssiegel brach unter ihren Fingern, und sie benetzte Lydias Lippen mit der lebensspendenden Flüssigkeit, versuchte, ihr den Trank einzuflößen, ohne sie daran ersticken zu lassen. Am Ende flatterten Lydias Lider, und sie stöhnte. Oglala weinte beinahe, während sie Lydia ein notdürftiges Lager bereitete, vor ausgestandener Angst oder vor Freude, sie wußte es nicht.

Die Räuber blieben unbeachtet liegen, die Gesichter verborgen im Staub der Straße.

Wärme. Wohltuende, entspannende Wärme. Oglala schloß die Augen, während sie langsam in das türkisfarbene Wasser hinauswatete.

Sie blieb stehen, atmete tief ein. Ein Schauer überlief sie; Blackreach war kühl, ein scharfer Gegensatz zu dem See, in dem sie stand. Dampfwirbel stiegen von der stillen Oberfläche auf, verblassten dann wie Phantasmen. Oglala kniete sich in das milchige Wasser; sein seltsam mineralischer Duft füllte ihre Nase, und der Sand unter ihren Füßen war geschmeidig wie Seide.

Aus einem Impuls heraus griff sie nach unten, brachte eine Handvoll Sand an die Wasseroberfläche. Er war fein und schwarz, wie zerstoßene Mitternacht, die durch ihre Finger glitt.

Sie schloß wieder die Augen und gab sich ganz den Gefühlen hin, die ihren Körper durchströmten. Es fiel ihr nicht leicht, sich zu entspannen; ohne Rüstung, ohne Waffe war sie verwundbar. Aber sie hatte die Falmer ausgemerzt, die durch Blackreach zogen, hatte alle Automaten der Zwerge unschädlich gemacht, und Lydia stand zusätzlich Wache an dem See, in dem sie nun schwamm.

Sie seufzte; erst jetzt wurde ihr klar, wie angespannt sie gewesen war. Sie wusch sich gründlich, dann ein zweites Mal, dann ein drittes, und wußte, daß es nicht nur um das Blut ging, das ihr Fell verklebt hatte, sondern auch um die Erinnerungen, die sie sich in sich trug. Um diese loszuwerden, hatte sie die Unwirklichkeit von Blackreach aufgesucht, wo Skyrim und sein Bürgerkrieg nur ein ferner Traum schienen.

Ein entferntes Zischen holte sie in ihren Körper zurück. Irgendwo trat Dampf aus einem Ventil aus; die alten Maschinen der Zwerge verrichteten ihr geheimnisvolles Werk. Oglala tauchte in dem stillen See unter, und schwamm dann langsam hin und her, und lauschte den fernen Echos, die die gewaltigen Hallen von Blackreach erfüllten.

"I hope some day we'll get to know each other better."

Der Satz war beiläufig gewesen, aber nun fand sich Ulundil plötzlich Auge in Auge mit der hochgewachsenen Kriegerin, die er angesprochen hatte, als sie ihm die Zügel ihres Pferdes in die Hand gedrückt hatte. Sie trug eine schwarze Rüstung und eine respekteinflößende Maske, und gegen seinen Willen verzog sich sein Gesicht zu einem erschreckten Grinsen, als sie nun auf ihn herabschaute. Einen Moment lang fragte er sich in Panik, ob sie ihn töten würde.

Aber als sie antwortete, war ihre Stimme freundlich; fast meinte er, Belustigung zu hören, als sie erwiderte, "Ich erwarte dich heute Nacht in Hjerim. Komm' allein." Er nickte nur, und bevor er seine Sprache wiederfand, war sie verschwunden.

Der Tag zog sich quälend hin, aber endlich kam der Abend, und unter einem Vorwand machte Ulundil sich in die Stadt auf, während seine Frau bei den Ställen blieb. Hjerim lag im besten Viertel, nahe beim Palast des Jarls, aber in der Abgeschiedenheit schattiger Gärten; die wenigen Passanten, die noch unterwegs waren, ignorierten den Altmer geflissentlich.

An Hjerim angekommen, klopfte er. Die Kriegerin öffnete selbst die Tür und hieß ihn eintreten. Sie trug immer noch ihre Rüstung und die Maske, und als die Tür hinter ihm ins Schloß fiel, schluckte Ulundil erneut, aber bald schon zeigte sie ihm Dinge, die er nicht für möglich gehalten hatte, und ihr Stöhnen hallte durch das Haus, bis er vor Erschöpfung in ihren Armen zusammenbrach.

Apologies for not translating these, or editing them.

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Syntax vs. semantics in German verbs

Sep. 10th, 2015 | 01:39 pm

Here's a thought on the German language that occurred to me a few days ago. It's often said that there are four non-analytical tenses in German, namely present and past (both indicative), and Konjunktiv I and II (both subjunctive).

But I think it's more helpful to cleanly separate syntax from semantics and instead label the former two as Indikativ I and II, and only then observe that they are used to implement present and past — certain such tenses, and among other things.

If you do this, a lot becomes clearer. The lack of a strong syntactic distinction between the simple and continuous aspects, for instance, is not an issue anymore; it immediately becomes obvious that German expresses the continuous aspect by using optional adverbial markers, or analytically (using auxilliary verbs), e.g. "ich esse gerade" or "ich bin gerade am Essen".

Also, constructs such as futuric present ("ich gehe morgen ins Kino") or futuric past ("war morgen Probe?") cease being paradoxical, since you're not using the present or past tense anymore: you're using the Indikativ I or II, which only usually encode the present or past, and simply don't do so here.

Separating syntax from semantics and thinking about how the former implements the latter rather than directly corresponding to or being identified with it is furthermore helpful for understanding other languages, where the syntax is superficially similar but the implementation of the semantics differs from what you're used to.

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Edible dynamite

Sep. 5th, 2015 | 12:47 pm

A highly amusing quote from some ponyfic I was reading recently, cleverpun's The Elements of Excess:

And then, it occurred to her.

Edible dynamite.

You can probably guess who "she" is there, right? :P Anyhow, truth is of course stranger than fiction, and the Annals of Improbable Research blog last year dug up an actual case, from 1904:

4. Poisoning With Explosive Gelatin.—Kavalieroff reports the following interesting case: The wife of a miner who was employed in blasting with explosive gelatin, found a cartridge containing this substance in her husband&quot;s trunk and ate it, taking the cartridge for a piece of confectionary. She was taken with headache, vertigo and pain in the abdomen. Her husband was afraid that she might explode on the way to the hospital, as her abdomen had become swollen. She was admitted in a state of unconsciousness. Gradually she became partly conscious, and complained of severe pain in the [...]
Image: via improbable.com

OK, so it's not quite dynamite, but rather blasting gelatin, a mixture of gun cotton, nitroglycerine and a few other choice ingredients. The case was reported in a Russian-language medical journal, Русский врач; six weeks later the New York Medical Journal reported that the miner's wife had not, in fact, exploded:

In view of the fact that explosive gelatin [...] gives off a quantity of nitrous acid vapors while decomposing, the stomach was washed with a solution of sodium bicarbonate, and a number of bubbles of gas escaped. A dose of castor oil was poured into the stomach tube, the patient was given a subcutaneous injection of caffeine, sodium benzoate, and ergotine, and coffee internally. The patient had a copious evacuation and quickly recovered.

The symptoms, therefore, were those of poisoning with nitroglycerin, amyl nitrite, etc. The dose of nitroglycerin taken by this patient was two ounces, or six thousand times the therapeutic dose.

So all's well that ends well — but you really have to wonder. Who in their right mind confuses blasting gelatin with candy, and to the point of eating and swallowing an entire cartridge at that? Perhaps the whole episode says something about the quality of early-20th century Russian candy if gun cotton and nitroglycerine compare favorably to it. Or perhaps the Russians were just that good at making sweet-tasting explosives. Cherry bombs, anyone? :P

Also, if you do ingest delicious dynamite, make sure to not light your farts, or you might give a whole new meaning to explosive diarrhea!

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Happy 25th birthday, Monkey Island

Sep. 4th, 2015 | 12:17 pm

Monkey Island I, one of the greatest computer games ever made, has (probably) turned 25, and Ron Gilbert (the game's main designer) has a fascinating write-up. For instance, the release process was certainly rather different back in the day:

[...] Lucasfilm’s process for finalizing and shipping a game consisted of madly testing for several months while we fixed bugs, then 2 weeks before we were to send off the gold masters, the game would go into “lockdown testing”. If any bug was found, there was a discussion with the team and management about if it was worth fixing. “Worth Fixing” consisted of a lot of factors, including how difficult it was to fix and if the fix would likely introduce more bugs.

Also keep in mind that when I made a new build, I didn't just copy it to the network and let the testers at it, it had to be copied to four or five sets of floppy disk so it could be installed on each tester’s machine. It was a time consuming and dangerous process. It was not uncommon for problems to creep up when I made the masters and have to start the whole process again. It could take several hours to make a new set of five testing disks.

It’s why we didn’t take getting bumped from test lightly.

During the 2nd week of “lockdown testing”, if a bug was found we had to bump the release date. We required that each game had one full week of testing on the build that was going to be released. Bugs found during this last week had to be crazy bad to fix.

When the release candidate passed testing, it would be sent off to manufacturing. Sometimes this was a crazy process. The builds destined for Europe were going to be duplicated in Europe and we needed to get the gold master over there, and if anything slipped there wasn’t enough time to mail them. So, we’d drive down to the airport and find a flight headed to London, go to the gate and ask a passenger if they would mind carry the floppy disks for us and someone would meet them at the gate.

Can you imagine doing that these days? You can’t even get to the gate, let alone find a person that would take a strange package on a flight for you. Different world.

Indeed, entirely different, and arguably preferable. (And it makes you wonder what we'll say the same thing about 25 years from now, and what things will be locked down and tightly controlled then that are free and open now. But I digress.)

And Ron also remains baffled by just why the game isn't just popular, but enduringly so, for 25 years now:

Twenty Five years. That’s a long time.

It amazes me that people still play and love Monkey Island. I never would have believed it back then.

It’s hard for me to understand what Monkey Island means to people. I am always asked why I think it’s been such an enduring and important game. My answer is always “I have no idea.”

I really don’t.

I think I can answer that, Ron. It's because you guys did what you loved.

It's because you loved what you did.

And it's because it shows.

Good goddess Celestia, does it ever SHOW in your games! You've put so much into it, and you had fun all along the way. You never tried to make something marketable; you didn't do things the way you did because you thought they'd sell well, you did them because you you wanted to do them that way. Because it felt right. Because it was fun.

It shows, both in Monkey Island and other games of yours, and the feeling's transferred to the players. Players feel the same fun when they play the games; they feel that this is a labor of love. That's why people loved it, and why people keep on loving it.

Look at any successful game, any game that still has a following decades later (DOOM, for instance, to pick one from a radically different genre that nonetheless has an enduring and thriving fanbase) and you'll find that the same thing's true. They're all labors of love, and fun.

Simply put, it's because you were enthusiastic about the game, genuinely enthusiastic, and your enthusiasm was contagious and continues to be to this very day.

It was not too long ago that I replayed Monkey Island again, just a few months, using ScummVM on the Schneetab, just a little bit each night to wind down before going to sleep. I know the game inside and out, but I keep on coming back to it, just because it's so much fun. (And the same goes for other LucasArts adventures as well.)

So, congratulations on Monkey Island's 25th; and thanks, thanks to all of you on the team there, for making one of the greatest games I've ever played.

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Sep. 2nd, 2015 | 12:03 am

Words That Should Exist But Don't™:

grftjx n
the utterly useless letters you inevitably draw when playing Scrabble.

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Quote of the Day

Aug. 27th, 2015 | 11:52 am

From the Quotes-That-Make-Perfect-Sense-In-Context-Yet-Still-Sound-Odd department:

The Arctic Wolf is a members-only land animal that was released December 2012.

From here, referring to one of those "fools and their money are soon parted" online/mobile games.

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