Sinister Rabbits

Earlier, I had a post about sinister carnivals. Here’s a post about sinister bunny rabbits.

  1. The rabbit in Donnie Darko. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I.K. recommended it. It’s now in my queue.
  2. Jimmy Carter’s killer rabbit. See also this. (And here’s a YouTube video of cute, warm, fuzzy Swamp Rabbit Babies.)
  3. The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog (Monty Python). LOL 😀

  4. Bunnicula. One of the reviews mentions another movie in which a menacing rabbit appears, but I haven’t seen that movie. (It isn’t in my queue.) Bunnicula was made into a cartoon back in 1982 (YouTube video clip); the sound effects remind me of Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
  5. The Zodiac Rabbit.
  6. The Clifton Bunny Man. In 2004 or 2005, I attended the 48 Hour Film Project‘s local DC competition/showcase, and one of the entries was a short film on this legend; that’s how I first heard of this legend. Apparently, the Bunny Man’s haunts have extended to the DC area. Yikes!

Hugo the Abominable Snowman: Just what I always wanted. My own little bunny rabbit. I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him… (113 KB MP3 file).

Also: 39KB WAV file; 112KB WAV file

Addendum (02/15/09): look into my eyes (superbomba on Flickr)


Cthulhu and Shub-Niggurath

For S.J.F.:

From Wikipedia:

“Despite his notoriety, Cthulhu is not the most powerful of the deities, nor is he the theological center of the mythos. Instead, this position is held by the demon-god Azathoth, an Outer God, ruling from his cosmically centered court.”

Another Lovecraftian entity that I mentioned last night was
Shub-Niggurath, a.,.a. “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.” (For some reason, I remember the name being slightly different, Shub-ish-Niggurath, but that seems to be incorrect.)

According to my copy of Deities & Demigods (James M. Ward with Robert J. Kuntz; Lake Geneva, WI:TSR Games, Inc., 1980), Cthulhu has 400 hit points, is armor class 2, has 30 attacks per melee round, doing 1-10 HP damage (times 30!), is 100′ tall, and is chaotic evil. And he also has the powers of a 20th-level magic-user/illusionist.

See also: A Lovecraftian Bestiary.

Here’s a Lovecraftian MTG card: Cosmic Horror.

Published in: on 25 January 2009 at 6:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Archimedes: The Method

A long-lost text indicates that Archimedes was developing the foundations of calculus, almost 2000 years before Leibniz and Newton.

I just love those ancient Greek philosopher guys. They were really smart.

The problem of preserving ancient documents reminds me of a book by Geraldine Brooks entitled People of the Book. I’m just starting to read it.

Also consider the Antikythera Device. It’s like one of the magical mechanical devices you might see in, say, The Golden Compass (the spy fly, or the alethiometer), or Harry Potter. They should make an MTG artifact card entitled Antikythera Device.

Quotes About Card Games

Last summer, I bought a book in Helsinki entitled Winning Quotations, by Markus Wartiovaara. In the chapter entitled “Game”, I found some quotations mentioning card games, which amused me since I really enjoy a certain card game. I especially like the quotation attributed to Jawaharlal Nehru.

You play the hand you’re dealt. I think the game’s worthwhile.

— Christopher Reeve

Has fortune dealt you some bad cards. Then let wisdom make you a good gamester.

— Francies Quarles

A man’s idea in a game of cards is war, cruel, devastating, and pitiless. A lady’s idea of it is a combination of larceny, embezzlement, and burglary.

— Finley Peter Dunne

The game of life is not so much in holding a good hand as playing a poor hand well.

— H. T. Leslie

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.

— Jawaharlal Nehru

In other words,

L = D + F

where L is life (a game of cards), D is determinism, a constant (the hand that is dealt you), and F is free will, a random variable (how you play the hand dealt you).

This last quote doesn’t have to do with card games, but I couldn’t resist sharing it since it’s about video games:

One of the best lessons children learn through video games is standing still will get them killed quicker than anything else.

— Jinx Milea

Published in: on 19 January 2009 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Akashic Records

For E.N.

The term Akashic Records refers to a sort of non-physical (metaphysical?) record of all human knowledge and experience; I guess that since it’s non-physical, some people now call it the Akashic Field, suggesting that it is all around us and permeates the very vacuum of space. It is a very New Age idea. One of America’s most famous psychics, Edgar Cayce (pronounced kay-see), the “Sleeping Prophet”, claimed to be accessing these records when he went into one of his trances. Although the idea of the Akashic Records may have pre-dated Cayce, I think (not 100% sure) he’s the one who introduced the notion to the public at large.

Dan SimmonsHyperion SF series had something like the Akashic Records. In the Hyperion universe, evil artificial intelligences have seduced the human race with the promise of immortality. But this denial of death comes at a cost: it is destroying the non-physical store of human knowledge and experience (if I recall correctly, Simmons doesn’t actually call it “the Akashic Records”, but that’s essentially what it is). Catholics might not like this series, since the RCC has been co opted by the evil artificial intelligences in the story; but I don’t think Mr. Simmons intended this to be an attack on the RCC. The Hyperion series has a lot of Christian allegory, complete with a half-human half-divine savior of the human race, the crucifixion of this savior, and redemption via her blood. It may also be a metaphor for the dangers of subordinating wisdom (human race) to science (evil artificial intelligences). (Reminds me of the very interesting distinction that Dungeons and Dragons makes between Intelligence and Wisdom.)

The topic of the Akashic Records makes me think of the fabled (very most likely fictional) Hall of Records, which is supposed to be a physical store of ancient knowledge buried beneath the Sphinx. Unfortunately, the entrance to the chamber containing the Records is lost, and is now waiting for some adventurous archaeologist to rediscover it. This could be the basis of an Indiana Jones movie. (And lost stores of knowledge reminds me of the Library of Alexandria!)

Sinister Carnivals

For S.F. and I.K. Follow up to the topic of (evil) carnivals, which arose last night over coffee. I forget how our thought chain arrived at this topic; do either of you remember?

I haven’t read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, but my understanding is that it’s about a sinister carnival that comes into town. I’ll put it on my list of things to read.

I mentioned that there’s a Philip K. Dick short story that involves an evil carnival. The short story is entitled A Game Of Unchance, and it’s one of my favorites. Martian colonists are visited by a sinister carny ship that promises to entertain them with “FREAKS, MAGIC, TERRIFYING STUNTS, AND WOMEN”. The (male) colonists are strangely drawn to the show, as if they’re being beckoned by the Song of the Siren. They become entranced, and allow themselves to be swindled by the carny. The story may be an allegorical comment on manipulative advertising, which can cause people to do things contrary to their best interests; e.g., the old lottery tag line, “You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play”, encourages people to bet their money on an outcome with a negative expectation, which (it can be argued) is especially harmful to poor people. You can find this story online via this web page; go to the bottom and click on the link “Show full text: 990,314 characters”. Then search the resulting page for the second occurrence of the word “unchance”; this places you right at the beginning of the story.

There’s also a short story by H.P. Lovecraft entitled The Festival.

And then there’s the Festival of Charles Stross’ Singularity Sky. Yeah, it’s not truly “evil”; it’s a totally different way of organizing a civilization, more like an ecology, or even a living creature (like James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis). But before I read far enough into the novel to find out what it really was, the Festival seemed kind of sinister. They promise to give you anything you like, as long as you entertain them. It sounded fishy to me, too good to be true; there must be a catch somewhere, it must be a Faustian bargain! Maybe I had the PKD short story in mind. Maybe that’s exactly the impression that Stross was hoping to get across; perhaps he has read PKD’s Game of Unchance.

And have you noticed that a lot of carnival music is downright creepy? E.g., check out this YouTube video: Creepy Carnival Music. Or check out this music. Also consider the theme from Gremlins (1984).

The Perfect Match

For S.F.

Maybe in the future one can make an exact duplicate of oneself for a spouse, complete with life experiences and cultural/academic tastes? Maybe using a matter duplication device? Might not work for heterosexuals though. 🙂

Check out this humorous poem about clones.

In Rudy Rucker‘s 2001 book Saucer Wisdom, there’s the case of the Thousand Ang Ous. Some guy in the far future named Ang Ou used “femtocloning technology” to create a whole army of himself! The authorities eventually rounded up the army of Ang Ous and exiled them. (You can use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to check it out yourself — see p. 265.)

Kind of like the Marvel supervillain Flashback, who’s able to summon copies of himself from the future, to create a whole army of duplicate selves.

Published in: on 21 December 2008 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Mule

For S.F. (“Science Fiction”?)

You were right — Asimov’s mind-controlling galactic conqueror was called “the Mule” because he was sterile. I guess that Asimov wrote this in so that the character couldn’t have progeny with the same mental powers (and thus perpetuate the threat).

The Mule reminds me of Larry Niven’s Thrintun race, with the power to control other creatures’ minds. Don’t play with the Sea Statue! Like Asimov’s Mule, this was a unique threat — the last surviving member of a now-extinct slaver race.

Also reminds me of the story about King Croesus (as in “rich as Croesus”) asking the Delphic Oracle whether his reign would last long. The Oracle’s answer was that he should beware the day when a mule was king of the Medes. Since it seemed unlikely that such a thing would come to pass, Croesus took this as a green light to attack the Persians. Unfortunately, Cyrus, King of the Persians, was half-Mede and half-Persian, and thus could be considered a “mule” (though not sterile). Cyrus defeated Croesus!

Centaur vs. Two-Handed Sword

For B.M.

According to the Monster Manual, 3rd ed. (Gary Gygax; Lake Geneva, WI:TSR Hobbies, Inc., 1978), p. 14, centaurs are armor class 5 (leaders are AC 4) and have 4 hit dice. (For the record, they also have 2 attacks per melee round, doing 1-6 damage with their hooves with one attack and a variable amount of damage with the other attack, depending on the human weapon they’re wielding.) Importantly, the size is listed as Large.

So the expected value of the number of hit points of a centaur is E{HP} = E{4*1D8} = 4*E{1D8} = 4*4.5 = 18.

According to the Player’s Handbook (Gary Gygax; Lake Geneva, WI:TSR Hobbies, Inc., 1978), p. 38, a non-magical two-handed sword does 3-18 hit points of damage against large creatures, meaning the expected value (conditional on your having actually hit) is E{3*1D6} = 3*E{1D6} = 3*3.5 = 10.5. So on average you’d need to connect with a two-handed sword about twice before the average centaur buys it.

However, you’re not guaranteed to connect every time you swing. So let’s estimate how many times you’d need to swing that sword to defeat the centaur. On page 38 of the Player’s Handbook, it says that two-handed swords have a +2 Armor Class Adjustment against both AC 4 and 5. And on page 74 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide (Gary Gygax; Lake Geneva, WI:TSR Hobbies, Inc., 1979), it says that a first-level fighter needs a 15 (16) to hit AC 5 (4). With the +2 Armor Class Adjustment of the two-handed sword against AC 5 (4), this means that he/she’d need “only” a 13 (14). So every time he/she swings that sword, the expected damage against AC 5 is ((20-13+1)/20)*10.5 = 4.2 (3.675 for AC 4). This means that, on average, a first-level fighter would need to swing 18 / 4.2 ~ 4 times to kill an average non-leader centaur (and about 5 times for an average leader centaur).

But maybe it’s not fair to have a 1st-level fighter (“Veteran”) take on a centaur. Perhaps we should instead match a 4th-level fighter (“Hero”) against the centaur. OK, going through the same computations for a 4th-level fighter, I compute that the expected damage against AC 5 every time he/she swings that two-handed sword is ((20-11+1)/20)*10.5 = 5.25 (4.725 for AC 4), meaning he/she’d need to swing about 3 times (okay, 3.43) before an average non-leader centaur bites the dust (3.81, closer to 4 times for an average centaur leader).

Now, I don’t remember centaurs being quite this tough in Rogue. In Rogue, I thought that one or two hits would do. I think the rules were different in Rogue.

If I’ve made any mistakes in my computations, please let me know. But I have used the power of MATLAB (v. 7.4.0 R2007a, Student Version) to do these calculations, so they must be correct. 🙂

I knew there was a reason I’m studying to get a Master’s degree in biostatistics. If you studied statistics, you too could estimate fairly precisely whether you could take on that centaur. (Wait a sec, that word “precisely” bothers me. Maybe I should compute 95% confidence intervals…) You’d need to take your Panasonic Toughbook with you on your dungeon campaign, and be sure you’ve got MATLAB installed.

Future project: write a program that takes player character attributes (race, class, level, weapon, etc.) and monster attributes (hit dice, armor class, number of attacks, damage per attack, etc.) as input, and gives as output estimates for the outcome of combat (whether you’d win/lose, how many turns melee would last, damage dealt, etc.), with confidence intervals as appropriate. Actually, I bet somebody has already written this program.

I know. This was another really geeky post.

Published in: on 14 December 2008 at 7:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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Recessional: Toxic Wife Syndrome


Not all toxic wives are trophy wives, and not all trophy wives are toxic wives. But I suspect that the intersection between the two sets is very high. It has a high Dice Similarity Coefficient value.






Sheesh, those last four words suggest a misogynistic culture! Are there analogous words for males?

Odysseus heard the song of the siren, but lived to tell the tale.

If a siren fought a harpy, who would win? Which has more hit points? Better armor class? Does more damage? I think both can fly. Maybe they’re the same thing? Maybe they’re distinct species, but evolved from some common ancestor. I’ll have to break out my Monster Manual and check.

OK, let’s see here, according to the Monster Manual, 3rd ed. (Gary Gygax; Lake Geneva, WI:TSR Hobbies, Inc., 1978), p. 51, harpies are armor class 7, have 3 hit dice, have 3 attacks per melee round, doing 1-3/1-3/1-6 damage, can fly, and have special abilities of singing and charm.

Sirens aren’t mentioned in the Monster Manual, 3rd ed. But in the Monster Manual II (Gary Gygax; Lake Geneva, WI:TSR Hobbies, Inc., 1983), a creature called a sirine appears on p. 109. Sirines have armor class 3 or less, have 4-7 hit dice, have 1 attack per melee round, damage done is by weapon type, can fly, and have special abilities of charm, polymorph self, fog cloud, and improved invisibility. They’ve got 20% magic resistance. No indication that they can fly.

All in all, in a one-on-one cage match, I think a well-armed sirine would beat a harpy.

Neither the Monster Manual nor the Monster Manual II list a shrew or a virago.

Finally, just in case you didn’t know (but surely you knew already?!), Gary Gygax died earlier this year. And Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition is now on the scene.

(My goodness this was a geeky post.)