Sunday, December 16, 2007

Small World

There is an interesting thing I've seen a few times now on the internet, where the world is shrunk down to 100 people. It then goes on to say how "only one person would own a toilet" or whatever. Now even though it's usually wrong (Snopes Says So Here), it does make an interesting read, and eliminates the "problem of scale" I keep talking about in this blog.

Now I want to use it to do something else. I want to use it to demonstrate disparity.
If the world was shrunk to two people. What would it look like? I would argue that the more distant these two people are, the less our world can claim to uphold "equality".

For example, if our world was divided into just two people.
One would expect to live till 60. One would expect to live till 77.
(This is a very rough estimate on my part, but you get the idea).

I would like to see income for one.
In 2000 according to this article it would be the following:
1 would own a total of $403.
1 would own a total of $39'919.

Another idea could be to divide it into 3. That way we get rich man, middle man, poor man.

Another good thing that we could use it for is demonstrating the scales of problems.
If we reduced the Muslim world to 1000 people, only 1 would be a terrorist.
Yet 6 would have been killed in Iraq. 11 seriously injured.
~70 women would be wearing a Burqa. The other 430 women wouldn't.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Trial Run DMing

Well I did a trial run of a dungeon today that I think went really well.

I put together a "maze" for a hack and slash dungeon crawl. Minimal storytelling. Just to see if I could get the numbers to work, and how easy it would be to guide the party around.

I managed to fit in 10 of the encounters I planned (out of 15), and definitely got all the interesting ones in.
Favourite encounter of mine was the hydra. I think we'll be seeing another one of those in the campaign. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New DnD characters!

Well well well. I've been busy making characters for different campaign one offs we've decided to have until I host in January.

Here's a rundown of the campaigns we're doing, plus the character's I've made for each.
1) Colossal Red Dragon!
My character: A Level 20 Cold/Water Cleric. (Although possibility of adding in anything which keeps or adds to my caster level).
Tower Shield: +5 with 40 Fire Resist, possibly Mithral.
Weapon (Type undecided): Dragonbane, Icy Blast, Corrosive Burst, Keen, Holy, Wounding, +1.
Mainly he'll be a caster, with plenty of spell penetration to get through that nasty spell resistance, not that he'll be awful in melee.

2) Gargantuan Black Dragon!
My Character: Ranger 12, Beastmaster 1, Animal Lord (Serpents) 7.
Pet: Mountable Level 20 Colossal Constrictor in "Chain Shirt" with Holy, Wounding, Dragonbane, +? Armour Spikes. Some Acid resist would be nice.
I'm in a Mithral Chain Shirt, Plenty of Acid resistance.
I have 2 Scimitars. Keen, Wounding, Holy, Dragonbane, +?

The wounding weapons here are what I'm going for. Plummet his fortitude saves and hitpoints, then really lay into him with poisons to finish him off.

3) High level campaign (3 sessions).
I'm not sure what character I'll use here. I have 2 very interesting options.
Option 1: Karma Kender. I'm thinking Fortunes Friend(5) + Cleric of Destiny and Luck(15). Then all the luck feats I can muster. Ending on something silly like 15 rerolls per day, and some interesting spells.
Option 2: Octopus Prime! Warforge, 5 Levels Druid, 5 Levels Warshaper, 10 Levels Blighter.
With some choice feats, I can polymorph into a huge, Adamantine, undead, flying, Squid, still capable of casting blighter spells.

4) Babylon 5:
I'm playing a level 1 scientist. Computer whizz, technology whizz, and general repairman. More skillpoints than I could actually spend.

5) My own campaign... I'm not even gonna begin to give you my character list for that. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Science and Religion

There has been much discussion in the last 10 years of science and religion. Practically every large forum on the internet has to have a section dedicated to the topic to keep the rest of the forum clean.

The real shocking thing though is how little people know about the topics before they start debating them. From the very beginning people have no clue how to even approach such topics. All sides are elitist, all sides are running on emotion, not fact.

Secondly, there is no reason the two cannot co-exist. The problem is that people are using "science" to say what every other religion says. "MY beliefs are better than yours". It's an elitist attitude that makes people emotionally want to call themselves something that is different, to distance themselves so they don't have to apply their own criticisms to themselves. Muslims for example say they don't convert they "Revert" or "Reconvert" back to the natural state of Islam. Atheists often say "Deconvert" to mean the same thing.

For starters, Science is "A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe". This is usually easy to get people to agree with. If you say "Science is a religion", you get people angry. Even though I lifted that definition directly from Religion on

It does require faith, not just the rudimentary kind. If you want to say "I believe in science", you shouldn't say it with such an elitist tone. If you believed fully in science, you believe contradictory statements. You believe "In the beginning, there was nothing... which exploded", you believe it is possible to have a rotational symmetry of 1/2, you believe the laws of physics change depending on whether or not you're paying attention to them, and more besides.

This is not the same kind of faith that says "I have faith the sun will rise tomorrow". These are big anti-intuitive leaps of faith. *Especially* if you've not done the experimentation yourself.

"But science doesn't cause half the problems Religion does!"
That sentence, in one way or another comes up.
For starters, it's irrelevant to whether or not Science is a religion. Something being "nicer" has no bearing on whether or not it's true.
Next, it's unfair, you're comparing *a* religion to all other religions combined.
Third, you're still lying.

Evolution was used to justify the Holocaust for example. Up to 6 million dead.
"Evolution was just used though, it wasn't the cause".
The same can be said in Israel-Palestine, which started with Orthodox Jews opposing the move. Religion in most cases is used as a tool for people who wanted free land. The UK effectively told the Arabs they could have a free Palestine and told the Israelis they could take over the land. If we're going to blame religion for being a useful tool, it's only fair to judge science in the same way.

Hiroshima. Nagasaki. Cherynobl. Global Warming. Ozone Depletion.

"But science has given us so much compared to religion!"
Again, irrelevant to whether or not it's a religion.
Again, an unfair comparison.
Again, you're still lying.

Islamic contribution to Mathematics, Philosophy, Architecture, (and Science) is what brought Europe out of the Dark ages and into the Renaissance.
It established Women's rights (Including but not limited to: Right to education, The right to refuse marriage, the right to divorce, the right to her own money and property) etc.

There could be a whole other section on misinterpretations in science/religion causing problems.
"Lol all Muslims are Terrorists"
"Lol all evolutionists think monkey's turn into people!".

However, I think I'll stop there. this post is getting far too long for it's own good. This is far from a complete post. There should be plenty to talk about in this and handles a *ton* of different topics, the one thing that is undeniable however, is that science, like it or not, is a religion.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fraud at Fraud Factor

Lets make this quick. is claiming Israel has experienced the equivalent of 23 September 11s.

This is done by making every Israeli death count for 60 American deaths to "adjust for scale".

The problem here is an issue of scale. If 4/5 people die in a car crash, that is not the equivalent of 80'000 September 11s when "adjusting for scale", yet using the above methodology, it is.

What annoys me here is that he is using it to push forward one side of the argument with mathematical wizardry. Ignoring important points such as that there have been more deaths in Palestine than in Israel, and that Palestinians in Palestine are an even smaller group than Israelis. (Hey does that mean every Palestinian death is worth 1.4 Israeli death? I wonder if he still uses the wizardry in that direction).

There are times when this sort of math is appropriate. In terms of economics for example, it matters more how much money each person has in a country rather than as a whole (A population of 1 million will not have the same amount of money as a country 300 times bigger). When it comes however to comparing the value of human life, it's not the same thing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

DND Campaign for January

To The Noble Allies of Alaeth,
Under the Authority of the Senate Grand,

At the behest of High Senators

The Mighty Kojuk, High Senator of War.
The Wise Brittlewisp, High Senator of the People.
The Lawful Dashiel, High Senator of Justice.
The Divine Krikt, High Senator of Faith.
The Voice Arala, Speaker of the High Senate.

Your presence is hereby formally requested at the meeting of the Senate
Whole, one week preceding the Aleathian Half-Moon celebrations.

You shall be expected to bring a token of your fealty to Alaeth.
You are called forth as a representative of your people and any agreements bound by you shall also bind those you represent.

You shall be expected to reaffirm all current oaths and bonds to Alaeth.
Should you be unable to attend, a replacement shall be provided for your presence. Should you fail to appoint a replacement, all current agreements with Alaeth shall be unbound.

Your messenger has been given all information deemed necessary for your visit. You will be expected to bring your own guard of no more than two persons, and any provisions they may need. You are also allowed to bring a single companion. Adequate provisions have been given to your messenger for yourself and one other, however you may enrich this as you see fit. Consider this document your official rite of entry into the Grand Hall when you arrive.

Yours in Honor,
Voice Arala, Speaker of the Senate Grand.


Other details:
Characters start at level 6.
Characters start with 13'000Gp.
Each Character is given a free item of the DM's choosing.
Each character is given a free home worth 1000g in a homeland somewhere in the world.

Current Player Characters:
An Awakened Dog (Ranger/Fighter).
A Mindspy. (Not definite).
A Dwarven Defender or Minotaur Barbarian. (He's undecided).
A Swashbuckling Pirate/Rogue Half Elf.

The already given magical items are: A Handy Haversack, An Adamantium Dagger, A ring of Fast Healing 1, Hand of Glory, and "Schroedinger's Box" (Summons undead cats). Oh and a free "Glamered" enchantment on one piece of armor.

Dungeons and Dragons

Well, I'm hosting a DnD game finally, and the preparation has turned out to be more than I expected.

I figure I'm going to use the blog to weekly update on the progress of the party. For now though I'll start with the setting. I didn't want your stereotypical good vs evil campaign, so the "theme" is law vs chaos.

The setting is in the midst of a war between two empires.
The first empire is led from a City-State called Alaeth.
A Chaotic Neutral Democratic State, based loosely on Mayan and Greek history.

The second empire is led from Raccassamedi. Another City-State. Lawful Neutral Monarchy.
Based loosely on Middle Eastern / Ancient Egyptian history .... as imagined by Jules Verne.

The population of Alaeth encourages the breeding in between races. All people are not equal in Alaeth and the more diverse your background, the more esteemed you are.

The population of Raccassamedi views it the opposite way, feeling that more is lost than gained from such relationships. Socially it is entirely unacceptable to be a half breed, however officially they are at no disadvantage.

I have a globe I've set up so the entire world is a playground for the party.
There is potential for sea travel, there are several different potential environments they can trek into, each is basically done in enough detail that I can keep them busy for 2 weeks until I can build up the rest of the environment they're exploring.

About 1/4 of the map is ruled by Raccassamedi.
About 1/4 is ruled by Alaeth.
About 1/4 is Neutral.
About 1/4 is Sea.

There are 4 Metropolises completed.
There are 3 dungeons.
There are at least 40 set encounters spread throughout the map. About half are move able.

Friday, August 17, 2007

On a less serious note: DnD

Ok, enough philosophy for a while.

One of my Hobbies is D&D. I effectively have my DM on speed dial. Stop laughing.

My favourite part being character creation. The downside of this is I'm not always honest with my DM, and it doesn't nurture an atmosphere of trust. For example, I might ask something simple like "Can I ride my animal companion?" I might neglect to mention my animal companion is something like a sparrow and I'm a Half-Orc. That's a bit extreme, and I think the DM might actually hurt me for doing that, but you see my DM is generally a bit hesitant to take back things he has said ok to. So tricks are often worthwhile.

Right now I have a pretty kickass character riding a large wolf animal companion.
The wolf is the animal companion equivalent of a level 10 Druid.
I'm level 9.
I have no ranks in Druid.

This was garnered from quite a few "Hey would it be alright if I ....." without fully explaining the consequences. Needless to say, my wolf recently fought an undead Tyrannosaur and won.

Something fun I might try next: Artificer/Alchemist
We run simultaneous scenarios so that more people have a chance to DM.

We usually boost characters up to level 6 rather than start at the beginning and we usually spread out 13'000gc. What I plan to do next is basically ask if I can use up my "Free XP" I get from Artificer levels, to create items to put in my backpack. (Articer would get 650 "Free XP"), which to me just means about 15 uses of dust of dryness in the pouch in my Handy haversack.

Change that to 1 big ball of used dust of dryness and you have 1500 gallons of water you can instantly unleash, (That's about 42 bathtubs worth, or 100 kegs of beer, and would weigh about 3.5 times as much as your average car), all just waiting for the next time a Tyrannosaur tries to swallow me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Human understanding part 2.

Introductory philosophy 3) Causation.

There is a lot of confusion about causation and how it works.
The issue isn't under debate. Things cause other things, that's all pretty straightforward. There's a logical flow to it.

The problem comes when you're not analyzing it and how people talk about it.

Problem 1: Correlation.
When things correlate, that doesn't mean one causes the other.
For example (to take an old example) there has been a reduction in the number of pirates over the years that correlates with global warming.

The two are unrelated, but they correlate. It's a coincidence. There is no causation. (FSM followers feel free to disagree, just do it in your heads).

Problem 2: Links, Proof, Evidence.
If there's correlation that is evidence of causation (and incidentally, evidence of a link).
Not proof.
Not a link.

There may also be a link, without evidence and without proof. (I.e. There's a link, but we don't know about it. If we know about the link, there must be evidence).
There cannot be proof, without evidence and a link.

These are 3 separate words that are used interchangeably when there shouldn't be. Proof means it has become fact. Evidence means it is just possible that one causes the other. A link again means a possibility that one causes the other.

Problem 3: Direction.
Even with a complete proof of causation, that does not necessarily mean we know which way the causation is occurring.

For example, lets say there is a proven link between depression and alcohol.
That does not necessarily mean we know if depression causes people to turn to drink, or if drink causes people to be depressed. It could be either, or both.

Problem 4: Deceit.
People, Politicians, Lobby groups all take advantage of these other to try to push agendas and issues that they want to see changed. This might not always be with bad intentions. Someone might philosophically feel the only moral choice is ______ and then go out of their way to find anything at all to support their case.

This could be for religious reasons. (Banning a sensitive movie perhaps).
This could be for political reasons. (Belief in Free Trade, Democracy, Capitalism, a specific constitution).
This could be for monetary reasons. (They get some personal gain).
This could be for family reasons. (Boosting the spending on medical treatment may save a family member of theirs).
This could be for any ideal. (Belief in Freedom of speech, getting rid of the death penalty, etc).

People may feel any of these (or many more) are worth lying for, because the ideal itself is philosophically sound. Someone could (understandably) believe the death penalty to be wrong no matter the crime or effect on society.

Problem 5: Proof of Absence.
Just because there is no proof does not mean it is false. No proof means we don't know.
People sometimes say "There is absolutely no proof whatsoever" to try to say there is no link, or there is no causation. The truth is we have not devised a reliable test for it yet. That's all. In the meantime, there may be evidence and a definitive, demonstrable link.

There even may be proof of causation but they may add in deceit yet again and say "There is no proof that X causes Y" to make it seem like there is no link, when in reality, only the direction is in dispute, and everything else is fully established.

I think that's it...

Human understanding.

Introductory philosophy 2) Empathy is the greatest component of debate.

Theists and Atheists have a tendency to argue. Whilst they have a lot in common, there are several fundamental differences which creates a barrier between the two sides.

A specific example might be the use of the word "Faith".
Theists use it to mean a different thing than an Atheist.

That's fine. You don't have to necessarily use the same terminology, or you might disagree over the "true" meaning of the word.

What is idiotic, is the way define their opponent's word for them. "What you mean is......".
You are no wiser, your opponent isn't swayed. You made yourself feel good with a PR trick and fooled yourself into thinking you've won.

"My cat climbs trees"
"What you mean by cat is a gray thing with flippers. Cats cannot climb trees."
"Yes they can......"
"How can they hold on with the flippers?"
"I call that thing a Dolphin.... what I mean by cat is..."
"Shut up! I use the correct terminology so that's what you must have meant."

You can have the same conversation with the word Dolphin and Cat swapped. The point is not who is correctly using the words. The point of empathy is determining what your opponent means, not necessarily what he is saying.

In the case of faith, I have never come across a regular theist who does not apply the word faith in a different way to how every atheist I have ever met defines it. Furthermore, they enforce that definition on others.

That's why theists say atheists have faith(type 1).
That's why atheists take great offense and deny having faith(type 2).

That however is not the point of this post. This post is to say, pay attention to what your opponent is saying. Pay attention to how he is using the words. Figure out what they mean. Then go about the argument using *their* definition, or concede that you misunderstood what they meant.

You are not entitled to your opinion.

Introductory Philosophy 1) I believe in essentially a discrete, rather than analog universe.

Everything can be summarized as right and wrong, black and white, once the complexities have been dealt with individually. I don't believe you can justify anything by saying "That's my opinion".
Saying "I don't think _____ hurts anyone" for example, is never an opinion. It either hurts people, or it doesn't. Just because we don't know the answer doesn't stop the thought being either true, or false.

I'm not saying people shouldn't have freedom of speech. I'm not suggesting we are capable of discerning the truth out of every situation. I'm saying that the only "valid" opinions are those that have no bearing on a truth value.

Deciding what food is the tastiest, what color is nicer, those are opinions.
Taking complex issues, fudging them, then answering them half-ass and defending that with "Well it's just my opinion", is the equivalent of guessing maths answers because the sums are too hard to actually do.

That's fine for personal use. Maybe I don't care how close I get to the real answer so my guess will do. Forcing my guess on other people on the other hand.....

In short, you are not entitled to your opinion. Go away, and come back when it's not an opinion anymore.

Introductions are in order.

Well, this is going to be my personal blog.

I suspect it's going to be your typical blog where I whine about things as they annoy me to give me an outlet for my frustrations. Those things in question are likely to be Middle East politics, religion, work, the usual suspects.

I'll try to limit my complaints to subjects I know about though, although I doubt that'll actually work. (As we all know, people on the internet are experts on everything).

I suppose introductions are in order. My name is Omar, I live in Dubai and I work with Telecoms investments.

I suspect all that I complain about will center around a few key philosophical points. I'll make those my next blogs.