Work related posts have been moved.

9 November, 2010

My work and computing related posts are now at

If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.

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More wardstone pics

13 December, 2015

Just some pics of Andy’s game on Monday.

Human trafficked sex slaves.

29 November, 2015

This: Religious sisters to expand fight against slavery to 140 nations

LONDON, Nov 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An army of religious sisters who rescue victims of human trafficking by posing as prostitutes to infiltrate brothels and buying children being sold into slavery, is expanding to 140 countries, its chairman said on Wednesday.

John Studzinski, an investment banker and philanthropist who chairs Talitha Kum, said the network of 1,100 sisters currently operates in about 80 countries but the demand for efforts to combat trafficking and slavery was rising globally.

The group, set up in 2004, estimates one percent of the world’s population is trafficked in some form, which translates into some 73 million people. Of those, 70 percent are women and half are aged 16 or younger.

“I’m not trying to be sensational but I’m trying to underscore the fact this is a world that has lost innocence … where dark forces are active,” said Studzinski, a vice chairman of U.S. asset manager The Blackstone Group.

Dark forces indeed.

The sheer innumeracy of these hysterics is mind boggling. (Innumeracy is hallmark of people who believe in Noah’s ark and the exodus).

Of course, there’s weasel words here – 1% is trafficked “in some form”. But the sly intent of this dudes speech is to gloss over that and to suggest that 1% are trafficked for sex.

So let’s run with this. Let’s say 1% of all people – on average – are human trafficked sex slaves. The sex-slavery hysterics typically quote impossible figures for how many clients these sex slaves see: five a night or some nonsense. That means that every night, 5% of the world’s population are having sex with a human trafficked sex slave. Assuming it’s mainly men who do this, we are talking 10% of all males. Since we are talking only about 1) adult men; with 2) at least some money, we are talking – say – 20% of that subgroup.

In other words: if a) 1% of the worlds population is a human-trafficked sex slave; b) servicing five clients a night; and c) adult blokes with jobs are maybe 25% of the world’s population; then every adult bloke with a job IN THE WORLD is seeing a human trafficked, probably underaged, sex-slave in a suburban dungeon somewhere about once a week.

And that’s not including the regular hookers. It’s a mystery how the porn sites stay in business, considering that between the underaged human trafficked sex slaves, the regular hookers, and the wife, every man in the world must be pretty much tapped out most of the time.

It’s ludicrous.

Oh, and a thousand or so nuns are going to fix this. Why not start with something easier, like poverty and disease in Calcutta? I hear that even with an actual catholic saint on the job, it’s still as bad as ever.


15 November, 2015

There are the pics of our wardstone, including ones taken on game night.

No, I will not lend you my fucking lighter.

14 November, 2015

The fuck is this, dude? It’s 3AM in a deserted, dimly lit car-park. Are you a mugger, or just an idiot? I smoke. I buy a lighter. I just do not understand smokers that don’t.

“Box of matches is 30c!”

A box of matches is 30c? A pack of cigarettes is fifty bucks! If you have enough money for smokes, then you have enough money to exercise ordinary prudence and buy yourself means to light them. What were you thinking? “I’ll just rely on other people for free shit to the absolute limit I can”?

People begging for shit. They are all your absolute best mate in the whole fucking world; unless you don’t give them what they want, in which event you instantly become a “cunt”. I just can’t help feeling its all a little false, you know? Just makes me a little sadder each time. It’s why I don’t go to Civic.

The fact that I have stuff and you don’t does not entitle you to my stuff. No-one takes care of me. I do my own laundry, pay my own bills, and because I choose to smoke take care to have what I need to do that with. The day I simply run out of money, I’ll hang myself. It’s the only manly thing to do.

No, I will not lend you my fucking lighter. Sick of this shit.


28 October, 2015

I’m sure this is completely wrong and anachronistic with respect to the actual 13th age history. And I’m taking liberties with other people’s characters again. But whatever. :)

A battlefield. The victorious army makes pyres for its dead, and buries the bodies of its enemy – thus do their comrades ascend to the overworld, and their enemies are consigned to hell.

The vanquished are the usual – goblins, hobgoblins, a smattering of orcs. The victors humans and elves. The humans wear the devices of their clans – the dragon of the overking, the lion rampant, the chevron argent, the three mallards. The elves wear no insignias. Excepting those few – human and elf alike, who bear no weapons, and wear a simple robe bearing the sign of the lotus. Between the three camps is the careful politeness of allies by force of circumstance.

The leaders are conferring in a muddy pavilion, examining a map. “The bulk of the remainder of the orcs are here, to the north. The scouts can make it in a day, but it will be at least three days to move the army. Four would be wiser.”

“Agreed”, replies Sir Grace. “And Geoffrey, will you bring your troops, or will you stay and take your new barony in hand?” The man with the mallards replies “Of course I will bring my men as agreed. We will all extend the overking’s lands and drive these orcs out once and for all.”

An elf quietly interjects, “to the border of the forest”. “To the line between the peak of CloudHome and New Falls, yes.” replies the man in the dragon surcoat, somewhat carefully. “Your Queen was wise to lend us aid – we will not forget that what we hold we hold because the the Queen helped us take it.”

The moment – passed.

But there was another source of tension in the pavilion. The monks of the grandmaster had been even more silent than usual. “And to the grandmaster, too, we must extend thanks”, he said, inclining his head to the elf of indeterminate age at their head.

“We welcome this effort,” said Mis’than’ar, “your course is a course of honour.” There was a curious stress on the word ‘honour’. It was not lost on the men at the table – fighters and politicians to a man. “Mis’thanar”, said Sir Grace – stumbling a little over the name – “If there is a difficulty among us, then we must resolve it before proceeding. “There is no difficulty.”, said Mis’than’ar, at which one of the younger monks, a human, spoke up. “The men with the birds on their chests have named the adept ‘bloodstone'”.

Sir Geoffrey Mallard shot a look a his sergeant. “Is this true, Wilks?” “Aye milord,” he replied, “for his fists – like stones, you see, and covered with orc blood.”

Sir Geoffrey considered for a moment. “You understand, Mis’than’ar”, he said, taking care to pronounce the name correctly, “that the men mean to do you honour.” The elf nodded, but said “Is an ill-aspected name. We do not eat blood, nor use weapons that draw it.”

Sir Geoffrey declined to mention the gushing compound fractures that Misthanar’s fists tended to inflict. “Nicknames among fighting men are earned, not chosen. If the men have named you Jasper,” he said – shooting a no nonsense look at the sergeant, “then Japser is how they will call you.”

Mis’than’ar considered for a moment. “Jasper is acceptable.” A small sigh of relief escaped everyone, and Wilkes nodded his understanding. “I will see to it, my lord”.

“Well, that’s sorted out then!” said Sir Gravel. “We’ll clean out the rest of these orcs, and then a christening at Geoffrey’s castle.”

There’s more to tell about Sir Geoffrey du marais des colverts, later Baron Geoffrey (he had the ‘marais’ changed to ‘lac’), first of his line. Despite the careful formality in that pavilion, he was rough around the edges and a notably dirty fighter. Oh, and he married a young witch. They were very happy – four kids.

He was a pretty good baron, as these things go. Well-liked, charismatic, and his lady had a knack for bookkeeping. It worked out well. Times were rough, and there was always plenty of fighting to do.

The barony was extinguished long ago, but his family line lives on.

The First Dryad

6 October, 2015

Andy asked us to write a story involving our character. I suppose I have disqualified myself, because this isn’t directly related to James, but it’s the thing I decided during session that it would be cool to write.

Anyway. This is an origin story for the dryads. Like most things I write, it makes complete logical sense. I have attempted to write it in accordance with the conventions of, shall we say, a certain specific genre.

Should I actually post this? Is this a good idea?

Fukkit – let’s do it.

Long ago, sometime near the dawn of the world, a shepherd went on spirit quest.

His name is not important, and would only sound uncouth and strange to modern ears. He was shaggier than men today, not as tall, his jaw and brow more pronounced, and more heavily muscled – cords and cables across his back, chest, down his legs and arms. He walked upright and barefoot, scanning the land about him. He wore only a raw leather strap around his waist and between his buttocks, holding a pouch in front. He carried a sling, and spear tipped with bone. His weapons he knew well. Many times he had wielded them against wolf and other predator come for his flock, many times had he protected the new lamb. But he carried no fire nor any means for making one, for he was on spirit quest.

He had been walking since the dark of the moon. The weather was warm and mild, for it was spring, and as the the moon drew to fullness it lit his way long into the evening.

His path took him to the valleys of the deep forest, where such as he did not normally tread. The tall oaks, the silent places. As the trees grew closer around him, he felt fear – but it was a right-feeling fear. Had he known the word, he would have called it awe. For days he wandered beneath the oaks. He ate acorns and strange fungi unknown to him. He drank water dark with tannin, tasting of peat and oak. No wolf troubled him, nor did he see any animal, not even birds as he went deeper. The trees whispered in the wind, the hanging moss dripped water on him, the whole forest warm and humid. He began seeing visions – movement where there was none, the words of the whispering oaks almost understandable. They drew him onward, deeper.

On the fifth day, just after the sun set and the full moon began her circuit of that night’s sky, he found the clearing. The oaks had drawn back, and in the centre was a single she-apple tree. She was young and slim, but had flowered these past three seasons. A bird had dropped her seed far, far from the shores where apples grew, and she had grown alone this oak grove, and so she had never fruited. She was in full bloom now, for it was spring, and the clearing was sweet with the smell of apple blossom.

As he approached, the breeze rustled her new spring leaves, her mostly bare twigs. An odd, dry, woody sound


He set his sling and spear aside and approached. She was a little less than twice his height, her trunk perhaps a span and a half across. He began searching in the moonlight for a place about her roots to sleep for the night – he had long since ceased to worry about being attacked as he slept. His bare feet stepped lightly around her, his hands feeling for a suitable place. The moss about her was thick and soft. Her bark was fine, smooth, unblemished.

Curious in the moonlight, or perhaps for the tactile pleasure of it, he began to explore more of her trunk. He measured the span of her with his hands, he reached up to where her branches began, exploring the hollows and the joins of the shape of her. He lightly scratched her bark, and smelled her sap-smell, her apple smell. She swayed lightly in the breeze, her twigs whispered


He drew back, feeling somewhere a warning, a reminder. Here in this holy place he was close to transgressing a boundary. There was something forbidden here. He looked around him. Perhaps he should leave, transgress no further. Again the feeling of fear came to him, that we would name awe. But he quest called to him, or something did. The oaks all around silent, revealing nothing.

He explored her a little more. He felt down the length of her and found, perhaps three feet above the ground, a knothole – a place where she has shed a branch in previous seasons. It was small, oval, the edges of it curiously thickened. In the moonlight, he traced the shape of it with the pad of his thumb. As he did, the she-apple exuded an odd, thin resin. A thread of scent from it tickled somewhere in the roof of his nose – there was apple in it, the tang of resin, something earthier, darker, more demanding, more necessary. As he ran his thumb around the knothole more and more resin been to drip, his fingers coming away wet and sticky.

The breeze picked up, and now the apple tree began to creak lightly as she swayed. She whispered “Ssseeeeee, ssseeeeee”, and the shepherd felt himself begin to quicken. He pressed himself to the apple tree, then held her, arms around her trunk as she swayed in the breeze, warm animal to cool wood, her top branches beginning to whip in the wind. It was not enough. He freed himself and joined with her, heedless as resinous, fragrant sap ran down his thighs and matted his hair. He abandoned himself to his spirit quest. “Ssseeeeee, ssseeeeee!” the apple tree cried in the breeze, her limbs and trunk creaking and groaning. She swayed and yielded, she trembled in the wind, moonlight streaming down on all until, at last, he gave her his gift.

In the morning, the shepherd awoke among the roots of the apple tree. He was covered in apple blossom petals, as was the ground all around. The tree’s blossoms had shed their petals, every one. Her limbs were bare now, save for shy green buds at intervals. He rose and looked about him. All was still. The oak trees remained at a respectful distance, inscrutable as before. The apple tree stood mute in the warming morning sun. The knothole was still there, and some evidence that he had not imagined the previous night. He decided that his spirit quest was probably done, and that he should return to his tribe and never say a word. He retrieved his spear and his sling, and – why, I do not know – laid his hand against the belly of the apple tree, silently wishing it his blessing.

Then he turned and left.

The she-apple bore no fruit that year. Instead, in autumn from her trunk she bore a daughter. Her name was Orlene, and she was the first dryad.

Wardstone with arduino

28 September, 2015

It ain’t finished yet, but here it is so far. I’m doing the electronics and the panels, Bevis is doing everything else :) .


I was concerned that the LEDs wouldn’t be bright enough, that it would be “is that turned on?”

Holy shit.

You can’t look directly into them. I mean, you can, but then its several seconds before you can look at anything else. With a nice orangy-yellow, this thing looks molten.

The main thing is that you cannot drive something like that off a digital out – you will fry your arduino. I am driving these with the 5v off the arduino board via a darlington pair array. This means that power is coming off the regulator, not off the microprocessor.

Darlington pair array chips are designed for stepper motors and will happily handle 24v. They switch fast and have almost no resistance when driven (otherwise driving a motor would let the smoke out). The arduino analog out is pulse-width modulated, so no worries. Don’t need to use the flyback diodes, because the load is not inductive.

The darlington array shorts its output to ground when driven, so this means using common-anode LEDs.

Wardstone-layout-1I will etch some eldrich runes into the panels with the dremel. The idea is that not only will this catch the light, but with 2 differently-coloured LEDs in the base, different parts should catch different bis of the light. The arduino has six analog outs, so the LEDs are wired up as two sets of four on opposite corners.

I used single-core hookup wire for the loom, which was probably a mistake.

As for code – I just bodged something up this evening. light cycles between reddish and yellowish every second or so, using a slightly different period for the two sets. Won’t really know how it looks with the runes until we have runes. May need to make the colours more dramatic.


  • move electronics onto a bit of veroboard, provide a controller of some kind – on/off at least. Might be nice to provide a pushbutton to make it strobe white, maybe some kind of “Oh Noes! The wardstobe has been corrupted!”. Our DM is being cagey, unfortunately, so I can’t be sure what he needs.
  • build obelisk that has been broken. Scribe runes first – we want the broken base to have enough runes to look kind of cool.


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