Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Story Time! Part 2.

If you haven't already, please read part 1 first. This short story takes place in the same universe, involving the same characters, among diverse others.

The Game

By Adam Wester


    It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, so it wasn’t really dark or stormy, but it sounded cool; actually it was a bright and clear Saturday in June. We had gathered at Bobby’s house for the usual Day of Reckoning, our nickname for D and D day. We usually played from three in the afternoon till three in the morning. Just us, our dice and pizza. Yeah how threatening to the religious sect. Anyhow, like I said, we’d gathered at Bobby’s, and we set up our stuff and Bobby sat behind his D.M. screen (more of a power trip than any necessary precaution), we whipped out our dice and characters and started.
    Okay, before I go any further I should set the record straight. We were the guys in school that got picked on, the geeks who spent more time in the library than in the backs of cars with the cheerleaders. Hell, we’d have gone for the cheerleaders proverbial ugly sisters if they’d looked at us. Life in high school was interesting at least, I mean, where else can you combine reading, talking to your friends, walking to the cafeteria, and dodging flying drinks thrown at you from the top of the concourse all at the same time? We had more free time back then, so instead of doing the same thing as everyone else at lunch (which was generally nothing); we’d go to the library and play D and D. There’s something about the game that brings people closer together, and even though we met in our freshman year, after a short time we were best friends in the sense that we’d known each other for all of our conscious lives. I like to think that the game had something to do with the fact that when Jimmy came out to us all we said was, “Okay, so where do we get pink dice?” 
    There were four of us, Bobby, Jimmy, Dorian (guess whose parents played the game too) and me, Sam. We all had our personality quirks, and they only added to the enjoyment of the game. We also played the same characters since ninth grade, so by now they were all something on the level of minor deities. It was fun to sometimes allow it to go to our heads, but for the most part we were pretty humble.
    Bobby D.M.’d us, but that didn’t stop him from having a character. He was Ratliff Bokor, a now powerful Elf sorcerer. When we met Ratliff however, he was reading fortunes just to survive. He was always very twitchy, and sometimes he’d wake us up on his watch, not on purpose, but sometimes a cricket would chirp or something and he’d freak out and start casting everything he had to find the mystery invader.
    Jimmy was our Dwarf ranger. Hot tempered and a raunchy sense of humor; Felberk Crolheim added a necessary element of humor to the game. It was funny when we first met him, he couldn’t tell a human footprint from that of a Satyr. Of course now, he can not only tell which direction the Satyr was going when it left the track; he can tell us when it passed by, its height, weight, and what it had for breakfast.
Many was the tavern fight Felberk got us in to. He just couldn’t stop himself when he’d hear some off remark about Dwarves or rangers, or…

    Dorian was our Gnome cleric/rogue, Shim Gartoli Frenel Mekor Litten Murnig, but we just called him “Fumblefoot,” his nickname from when he was younger. Dorian was every bit as arrogant as Fumblefoot (note that, I feel that the character defines the person, not the other way around), but we let it slide, since we needed the cleric. He never caused any fights, but man could he instigate Felberk. We found him while he was trying to steal from us during our first quest. Obviously, he failed.
    I guess I was the odd man out in this setting. I play a human fighter by the name of Derom Y’Carrath. He’s an honest, humble and self-effacing former serf who won his freedom after a contest held by his Lord. In the beginning, he could barely handle his sword, now he’s widely known for his fighting prowess. During the second year of playing him, he was attacked by a werebear, and failed to save against the disease, and so now he is one himself. (Oh yeah, for all you mundanes, non-geeks, and whoever doesn’t know what a werebear is, it is a good lycanthrope who changes between his human form and that of a Brown bear.) Of course, only his closest friends know this, and maybe a few of his closest enemies.
    Is that geeky enough for you? Well, if you don’t like it, tough shit. It’s who we are. Besides, we talked to psychologists, and they all told us that the role playing was a healthy way of getting away from all the stresses of a normal, day to day life. Kinda like a mental vacation. It’s not like we were out on street corners screaming at traffic “The Orcs are coming! Run from the raiders!” Hmm, that could be fun.
    Anyway, that was our crew. We got on each others nerves all the time, but I can’t imagine pulling off some of the things we have without any one of us. It just seems that everything in the campaigns just fell into place perfectly. Over the years, we’ve all had our individual adventures, but some force (and not just Bobby) keeps bringing us back together. It is such a big part of our lives that we even have memories of the things our characters did. Yeah, no shit. I really remember going into the cave of Taljun, to destroy the Eye of Taljun in his statue. I can remember back to the day we met each other, and exactly what has changed over the years.
Part 1:
The Existentialist Debate

    Anyway, that’s us. Like I said, we’d gathered at Bobby’s for the game that Saturday, and we sat down for the hours of role-playing that lay ahead. The pizzas had just arrived, and we got set. Got out our books, dice, character sheets and game faces. We were just starting a new campaign, after resting in the small town of Fulcrom for about two weeks.
    “Fulcrom is a small town on the outskirts of the southern edge of the Great Forest of Darkness. Mostly inhabited by Half-Orcs, Fulcrom is a rough place to be, but you guys can handle it.” Bobby set the scene for us. “You’ve had a couple of run-ins over the past two weeks, but all in all once again your reputation precedes you.” Bobby said it with a tiny amount of annoyance, almost as if he was trying to think of something else to say.
    “Hey,” I interrupted, “what’s the name of the inn we’re staying at?”
    “The Lion.” Bobby said. Okay, something I should point out: every town, every town has a Lion inn. They’re not some mega–corp. like Howard Johnsons; it’s just that since this takes place in a pseudo-medieval mind frame, one has to ruefully admit that medieval people had a profound lack of imagination. Now where have I heard that before?  
    “Okay, so we agreed last time that we’d meet in the common room for breakfast before heading out to the forest, right?” Jimmy asked.
    “That’s what we said, isn’t it?” Dorian said.
    “Just checking.”
    “Cool?” Bobby re-started. “We’re all in the common room at the inn. Everybody eating?”
    “Yeah.” We all agreed; no sense in starting a campaign on an empty stomach.
    “Okay, you guys are eating the watery gruel that is the staple in Fulcrom. Felberk, you’re the only one who thinks it’s even remotely edible.”
    “Huzzah for me.” Jimmy said dryly.
    “Not long after you guys finish eating, before you are about to leave, a haggard looking man in tattered rags runs into the inn. You can hear him yelling in the front room, being pushed out by the Half-Orcs running the desk.”
    “Thus enters the messenger of the new campaign.” I said.
    “What do we hear him saying?” Dorian asked.
    “He’s yelling ‘They’re coming! Run if you want to live!’”
    “Oh man, Ratliff go see what he wants.” I said.
    “Why me?” Bobby asked.
    “You’re the Elf; he’d probably trust you more then say me.” Dorian said.
    “True. Okay, Ratliff goes out into the front room, and you hear him talking to the man in Elven. Seeing how you all understand Elven, no one needs to roll for a language check. You hear the man saying that he’s been running for three days from a camp of barbarians who have somehow managed to raise several Demons. They’ve been tracking him for some time, and he fears that they may have followed him into town.
    “Great, wesa goin on a Demon hunt.” Jimmy said.
    “Ratliff says to the man that we can help, and brings him around to see you.”
    “Demons?” I say, “This should be interesting.”
    “Ratliff asks, ‘You heard?’”
    “Yes,” I said, “to put it lightly, we heard.”
    “This is Joran; he’s a blacksmith from Kerth, a good sized town about three days north of here.”
    “Please,” Joran pleaded, “You must help me, they came from all around us.”
    “The Demons?” Dorian asked.
    “No, the barbarians. They surrounded our walls, and rushed our gates. When they got to the center of town, they started to chant and Demons started appearing everywhere.”
    “Who were they chanting to?” Dorian asked.
    “I don’t know they were speaking in some strange sort of language.”
    “I’m going to need to pray to Garl Glittergold for guidance, if you don’t know who they were chanting to. I’m going up to my room to pray. Come get me when you’re ready.” Dorian said.
    “Okay, so you went up to your room. What now?” Bobby asked.
    “I’m praying to Garl Glittergold.” Dorian said.
    “I need to know what you are saying.”
    “Oh, okay. ‘Great Garl Glittergold, hear me Lord. How might I aid this poor man in vanquishing the Demons who have laid his people waste?’”?
    As if in answer to this question, Bobby’s phone rang. For some reason, he had it on speaker phone.
    “Yes,” an amused sounding voice said, “I just received an urgent sounding calling from someone there.”
    “No, sorry man, wrong number” Bobby said.
    “No no, I’m quite sure it was from there.”
    “I’m sorry, but nobody here called you, goodbye.”
    Bobby pushed the button to hang up, and as soon as he did, the room went black. Not really dark, but more of an absence of light. When the light finally did return, I can’t say, because I seem to have gone unconscious.
    I awoke next to Bobby and Jimmy, in a large room. But it wasn’t Bobby and Jimmy, it was Ratliff and Felberk. Their images were kind of superimposed over each other. I figured I must have been dreaming. About then, Dorian came running down the hall, but where Dorian stood, the image of Fumblefoot faced us.
    “Guy’s, what the hell is this?” I asked
    “I don’t know, but come here and check this out.” Dorian said.
    We followed Dorian to a room, and he pointed to a mirror hanging on the wall.
    “Look.” He said.
    We turned to face the mirror. What we saw wasn’t our faces looking back at us. We saw our characters.
    “What the hell is this?” I repeated.
    Jimmy looked at me and asked, “Sam, why is it, whenever anything happens to you, you always repeat yourself? Guys, my tire went flat, my tire went flat.”
    “Shut the hell up Jimmy, I’m just a tad confused.”
    “We all are guys,” Dorian said, “we just need to stop for a minute and think.”
    A man dressed in rags entered the room then, he had a wild look to his eyes and he smelled as though he hadn’t bathed in a month.
    “Will you help me or not?” He demanded.
    “What?” Bobby asked.
    “Guys, remember this must be Joran.” Dorian said.
    “Wait, if this is Joran, we must be in Kerth, and that means…” I said.
    “We’re living our characters lives.” Bobby finished.
    “Neat,” Jimmy said, leaning on Felberks axe, “but getting back to the point, do we help him?”
    “What manner of people are you?” Joran said, backing away from us.
    “Calm down,” I said, “we’re just a little confused; we just needed a moment to discuss our plan.”
    “Look,” Bobby said, why don’t you go to the main room and get some food, you look like you could use some, and when we’re all packed we’ll come out there and figure out what we can do to help you.”
    “Just tell them to put it on our bill.” I said.
    He left to go to the common room, and we all stared at each other. We could see our real selves, but also our characters and the images of both were somehow superimposed upon each other.
    “Did you get the peasant out?” A strange, voice said.
    “The hell?” Jimmy said, turning around.
    The door suddenly closed, and the area in front of the door started to shimmer. When the disturbance was through, a small man stood there, with a smirk on his somewhat angular face.
    “I don’t really need to tell you who I am, do I?” He asked.
    “Are you, I mean, you’re…” Dorian stuttered.
    “Yes, Fumlefoot, I am Garl Glittergold. You should have known that.”
    “What happened?” Jimmy asked.
    “You were all a little too sure of yourselves, Felberk. I thought a reality trip was in order.” He sighed then. “And I know what you’re going to say, but here this is reality, so don’t argue. I brought you all here to learn. While you are here you cannot die, but be very careful, as there are far worse things then death.”
    “So what are we supposed to do?” Dorian asked.
    “It would seem that you’re supposed to go fight some demons, wouldn’t it.”
    “Is that it?” I asked. “Then we can go home?”
    “If you’re ready, yes.” He said, rubbing his hands together. “It has been fun chatting, but I must be off,” He said, already starting to shimmer again, “oh, one more thing, you should use your known names here.” And he was gone.

Part 2:
Getting There is Half the Fun

    We left Fumblefoots room, and went out to the common room. We spotted Joran, ravenously devouring his gruel at a small table toward the back of the room.
    “You’ll help me?” He pleaded when he saw us.
    “I know I’ll regret this,” I muttered under my breath, “Yes, we will.”
    “Praise Pelor,” he exclaimed, “thank you.”
    “Somehow I doubt Pelor had much to do with any of this.” Felberk muttered.
    “What?” Joran asked.
    “Oh, nothing. I was just thinking to myself. Uh, Dwarven stuff.”
    “How odd.”
    “Alright, how do we get to your town from here?” Ratliff asked, sitting down.
    “Kerth is about three days walk to the north.” He said. “But they might have followed me, so we should probably take the other route.”
    “Other route?” Fumblefoot asked.
    “Yes, it goes just east of town, and enters from the back. It stays off the main road, and should keep us out of danger if I was followed.” 
    “Sneaky.” Fumblefoot said. “I can do sneaky.”
    “We know, Fumblefoot, we know.” Felberk mumbled, leaning on his ax.
    “Oh don't start, you two.” I said. I turned to Joran, “We'll need a little while to pack and get our final supplies ready for the trip. I'd be more than happy to buy you some fresh clothes and more food, if you'd like.”
    “I don't know how to thank you for this, noble sir. You are truly a gift from the gods.”
    “Well, something like that.” Ratliff said under his breath. “Actually, that brings up an interesting point. Give me a moment.” And he walked over to the innkeeper. A moment later, he returned. “Grelsch there says there is a monastery of Obad-Hai not far from here. He suggested we go there and speak with the monks before we head out. He thinks this may have something to do with a local legend.”
    “Fine by me,” I said, “do we all want to head there, or what?”
    “I think we should all go,” Ratliff said, “Something about this just seems to be clicking into place. Kind of like how I wrote the campaign, but it's not the same. Anyway,” he said, shifting his overcoat, “no time like the present. Shall we?”
    We confirmed the directions with Grelsch the innkeeper (who was remarkably helpful for a half-orc) and headed to the monastery. After the usual token bribe, we were seated in a hall in the back of the monastery, outside what we assumed to be the grand-poobah's office. When he finally came out, he looked at us each in turn, and finally said to us, “The bear may come in, but the rest of you will remain here.” When none of us said anything, he looked pointedly at me and simply said “Come with me.”
    I followed. How he knew about my lycanthropy was beyond me. Hell, I didn't even remember it. I didn't feel any less human, so why should I have?
    His office was what one would best call scantily-clad. He had a plain table with a few plain chairs, a totem of Obad-Hai, and in one corner, an old, beaten quarterstaff. He sat down at his table, and said to me “Sit, please.”
    How could I turn down an offer like that?
    He studied me for a moment, then spoke. “You are confused.” He said. “You don't know how I know about your alternate form.”
    “Yeah, you might say that.”
    “Do not forget that holy Obad-Hai is god over nature. Through him, I can see many things.” He sighed then, and shook his head, as if erasing a mental Etch-a-Sketch. “You must understand, this is all highly irregular. I'm not used to having to deal with other gods.”
    “Beg pardon?” I said.
    “Why I was chosen to be your contact, that is truly a mystery. Even holy Obad-Hai will not answer that particular question.” He must have seen that I was confused again. “I was visited by both Ehlonna and Garl Glittergold in a dream last night. They told me I was to be the contact for two groups of adventurers who would join here, through me. The first group arrived shortly before you did.”
    “Wait, there are others? We weren't told there would be others.”
    “I know, For some reason, it was decided that you would not be told, but for the time being, that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that you are both here now.” He got up, and walked to the totem of Obad-Hai on the other side of his office. He did something to it, something I could not see, but I saw a door beside it that had not been there before. Opening the door, he said “Well, they are here. You might as well come on out now.”
    Out walked quite possibly the three most mismatched men I'd ever seen. The first out was a human wearing a black overcoat and hooded cloak over it. The second was obviously a half-elf, and took the term “pretty boy” to a new level. The last was a shorter guy, wearing full plate (that did not look to be metal) and a pendant of a wolf around his neck. By the fact that he was holding his helm, I could tell that he was human as well.
    “Which one is this?” The first one asked the monk.
    “This is their fighter.” The monk replied.
    “Brilliant. Now does 'their fighter' happen to have a name?” The first one snapped back. There was an arrogance about this guy I didn't like. I could already smell the fights he and Fumblefoot (and Felberk, for that matter) would have brewing.
    “My name is Derom Y’Carrath.” I said, trying to not feed his arrogance. “And yours?”
    “ I'm Leoric, my charmingly inept clerical companion here is Phadian Gess.”
    “I can bloody well introduce myself, thank you.” The one called Phadian said.
    “Can I finish? Thanks.” Leoric said. “The one in the bug is...”
    “Artok Hortence.” The one in the armor said, reaching out to shake my hand.
    “Brother Thelonious tells us that we are to work together to rid this part of Pangea of an infestation of demonic entities.” Phadian said.
    “That seems to be the gist of it.” I said, stifling laughter. “Actually, if you will excuse me for a moment, I think the rest of my group needs to be present.”
    I stepped out through the door I'd come in through, and saw the rest of my group waiting.
    “Well?” Felberk asked impatiently.
    I walked past him to Ratliff. “You are never allowed to drink again.”
    “The hell?” Ratliff asked.
    “Our contact here is a monk named 'Thelonious,' and the world is named “Pangea.” I said, looking Ratliff in the face.
    Fumblefoot almost fell over laughing.
    “I'm afraid he's right, Ratliff.” Felberk said. “Friends don't let friends drink and DM.”
    “I was flustered, they were only supposed to be temporary names.” Ratliff said. “How the hell was I supposed to know that they'd stick here?”
    “Let's just get back in there, guys.” I said, leading them back through the door.
    We went through the introductions again, and then got down to business.
    “Obad-Hai has a theory regarding the demons.” Thelonious said. “Obad-Hai doesn't think they are being summoned. He thinks they are coming through to this plane through a person. The difference is...”
    “Kill the channel, kill the passage.” Leoric interrupted.
    “Indeed.” Thelonious confirmed. “I don't see any other way of doing it.”
    There was a pounding on the door just then, and a younger monk rushed in.
    “Sir, the monastery is under attack!” He screamed. “A hole in the central courtyard appeared, and a mob of Kobolds rushed out and started attacking anything in sight!”
    The one named Artok raised out of his chair, put on his helm and said, “Well, let's go to work, boys.” He looked back at me, “You folks coming?”
    “They're just Kobolds guys, we can take them.” Fumblefoot said enthusiastically in the hall to the central courtyard.
    “We're level 8 here, we can take a lot of things.” Felberk reminded him.
    We could hear screaming as we got closer. Artok looked back at me and said “Here we go.” He kicked through a door into the courtyard and started carving a path through the hoard of smallish lizards armed with spears and shortswords. I drew my broadsword and followed. A Kobold rushed at me, and somehow I, without even knowing I could, blocked his attack, and swept my blade down low, cutting deep into it. It fell limply off my blade, and I went on to the next one. And the next one. And the next one. Ratliff and Leoric stood in the doorway, casting various spells to do their part, Fumblefoot and Felberk did their part by guarding them. Phadian was perched in a window facing into the courtyard, taking popshots with his bow at the lizards.
    Artok and I ended up in the center of the courtyard, more or less back to back, cutting our way through the Kobolds, who were seemingly insane enough to climb over their dead and dying to get to us. I heard a whooshing sound rush past me, and I looked and saw that several of them were firing at the two of us with crossbows. “Archers!” I yelled, but it was a moment too late. I felt a thump against my back, and turned to see Artok falling to the ground, a bolt in his chest.
    Looking up to me, he groaned, “You're going to want to run.”
    “Not a chance.” I said.
    I heard a growling sound coming from Artok, and then the buckles of his armor started to pop. Another bolt hit him, and I threw my dagger at the archer who'd shot it. The armor Artok was wearing now fell off of him, the buckles having given way under what looked to be massive swelling of his entire body. Between Kobold killings, I looked back at Artok, and saw that he was shifting into something resembling a large fur rug. I killed several more Kobolds in succession, and was knocked to the ground by a six foot tall wolf-man. It looked down at me and growled, “Told you.”, then proceeded to rampage through the hoard.
    It didn't take long.
    I stumbled wearily back to the doorway. Ratliff, Fumblefoot and Felberk were all looking at the werewolf that was Artok, who was making sure every last Kobold was dead, with a look of utter astonishment. Phadian ran out into the courtyard and gathered up Artok's armor and gear, than came back over to us.
    “Just let him finish. He sometimes needs to just do his thing.” Phadian said, though he looked slightly green in the face too.
    When Artok was done, he changed back. He walked back to us, naked and covered in blood that was not his own.
    “Sorry about that.” He said to me, reaching into his pack and pulling out a rag to clean himself off. “You okay?”
    “I somehow think I'll live.” I said, still in awe.
    Fumblefoot must have heard something, because he started picking through the dead Kobolds. “Guys, give me a hand here.”
    Felberk went over to him and helped him move a few more bodies. After a moment, we could all hear it. Groaning.
    “I missed one?” Artok muttered under his breath.
    “Let me see him.” Phadian said. “Good, no bites.” He knelt over the dying Kobold and started praying to Ehlonna. After a moment, the wounds started to heal. After a few moments, the Kobold looked no less worse for wear than Artok did. Fumblefoot removed the Kobold's armor and weapons so it wouldn't be a threat, and we waited a minute for it to come to.
    “Ugh.” It groaned. “What you do to Meepo?” It said in a high voice.
    “He healed your wounds.” Ratliff said, pointing to Phadian. “Now the question is, why were you attacking the monastery?”
    “Meepo doing Meepo's job.” The Kobold calling itself Meepo said. “Told Meepo to dig to monk-place. I dig. Told Meepo to kill monk-people. I kill. Then you people come with big ugly and kill us. Meepo just doing Meepo's job.”
    “Okay, but who told you to do it?” Ratliff asked.
    “You kill Meepo?” Meepo asked.
    “No, we aren't going to kill Meepo, err, you.” Ratliff said.
    “Meepo told come here by Flumkin. Flumkin say Meepo live, be honored.”
    “And you believed him?” Felberk said incredulously.
    “Why Flumkin lie Meepo?”
    “Alright, alright. That's all in the past now.” Ratliff said. Somehow he knew exactly what to say to negotiate with the confused little Kobold. “Will you, Meepo, help us go to see Flumkin?”
    “Meepo do this, you no kill Meepo?” Meepo asked. It seemed to me that he was used to living in absolutes. Do this and live; don't do it and die.
    Ratliff must have also noticed that too, because he just played into it and said, “Yes, if you do this, we won't kill you.”
    “Meepo help people than.” Meepo said, with a nod.

Part 3:
Where is Flumkin?

     We walked back into Thelonious's office once Artok was dressed again, and told him we'd be leaving with our new little companion. He bid us farewell, though I can't imagine he was sorry to see us go, after the mess we'd left in the courtyard. We left the monastery, and went back to The Lion. When we got there, the place was in ruins. Grelsch stood picking through the broken bits that had been his home and business, and I genuinely felt sorry for him. He looked up and saw us coming, and pointed to a crumpled heap in the corner of what had only a short while before been the common room. Phadian walked over to look, and came back with a sad expression on his face. “It's Joran.” Was all he said.
    “Meepo not did this!” Meepo yelled, tugging on one of my armor buckles. “Other group come did this. Flumkin say two group go here do job.”
    “It's alright, Meepo.” Ratliff said.
    “Remind me to make his death take a while.” Felberk said.
    Realizing we now had no reason to stay in Fulcrom anymore, we decided to leave. I handed Grelsch more than enough gold to rebuild, and we left. The three days on the road were uneventful, thankfully. We all knew what we were going to have to do, but we had no idea how we were to actually do it. Meepo wasn't a whole lot of help, though he did keep us on a safe path. The final night out on the road, Artok looked up into the night sky and said “Tomorrow night I'll be changing again. In the courtyard, that was a reaction to serious wound. This will be from the moon.”
    “What about you, Derom?” Fumblefoot asked.
    “What about me?” Then it hit me. “Oh shit, you're right. Artok, you aren't the only one who will be changing tomorrow.”
    “You too?” He said, looking at me quizzically.
    “Bear.” I said simply.
    “Never met a werebear before.”
    “Honestly, neither have I.” I said.
    He looked confused, but said nothing.
    The next day, around midday, we arrived at Kerth. Aside from the burn marks in the wall surrounding the town, and the skulls on poles at the gate, it looked like any other small town. We walked in, and walked through the quiet streets until we found an inn. We walked into the inn, and looked for the innkeeper. He looked at Meepo and said something in a language none of us had ever heard before. Meepo responded, and we were given a set of rooms. We dropped our gear off, and went back out into the town, following Meepo. He led us to a burnt out tavern, where we walked down a flight of stairs to a cellar. He pulled on one of the bottles in the wall, and a doorway in the wall opened up. Meepo walked into the narrow passage, and said “Two you no fit. One at time.” So we followed, single file.
    After what seemed an eternity, he told us to stop, and groped around at a wall, and another doorway opened. Stepping out into a lit room, he said, “Flumkin live in next room. Meepo no want die in there. Meepo stay here.”
    “Fair enough.” Ratliff said.
    I rummaged through my pack, and pulled out Meepo's torn hard leather shirt and shortsword and gave them to him. He'd need some protection if anyone saw him. Walking to the door, I looked back to Meepo and said, “Here's hoping we see you again.” and I turned the knob.
    The room I stepped into looked normal enough, though it reeked of sulfur. Demon smell, I thought to myself. We spread in the doorway, Artok and myself taking the front, Fumblefoot and Felberk taking the sides, and Ratliff, Leoric and Phadian taking up the rear. The room was empty, but there was a note left on a table. “Why not come outside, adventurers.” it said. The door on the other side of the room had light coming through it, so we went out through it. It opened into an alley, and taking the lead, Artok noted  “It's almost sunset.”
    At the end of the alley, there was a small courtyard, and in the precise center of it, an altar. Standing at the altar was a small man, whom we all recognized as a Gnome.
    “Greetings, adventurers.” He said, drawing a circle on the ground around the altar. “In case there was any doubt, I am Flumkin.”

Part 4:

    He wasn't an altogether imposing looking Gnome, but he had a burning in his eyes that anyone would have taken seriously. The circle he'd drawn on the ground began to glow red.
    “He's starting to channel them.” Phadian said quietly.
    Ratliff cast a magic missile at the ground, scattering dirt over the circle, which caused it to stop glowing.
    “Clever bugger, aren't you?” Flumkin said. “No matter, they are already here. Or, they will be soon.”
    The sun was beginning to set, and Artok began to quietly remove his armor.
    “Ahh yes, I had almost forgotten about that. Go ahead, and change. It won't do you any good.”
    I suddenly felt an intense pain in my back, which launched me forward a couple of steps. It felt like my body was on fire, and I could feel my skin breaking open and course fur growing out over every inch of my body.
    I screamed.
    My armor felt like it was closing in on me, and I started to scream again. “Get it off! Get it off!” I shouted to my friends. I started to burst the buckles of my armor, which unlike Artok's, were not made to quickly release. I could feel the plates of my armor biting into my expanding body all the while.
    “Stop fighting it!” Artok, who was by now in his hybrid form growled at me.
    “I can't!” I screamed back.
    Artok then did something I hadn't expected. He reeled back, and swung a massive paw at my face. I felt a dull thud as I hit the ground, and then the world went black.
    I awoke feeling “larger.” I stood up, and everyone looked somehow tiny. Everyone save Artok, at least. Looking down at myself, I realized I was a bear, and standing on my hind legs, I was approaching ten feet tall.
    Artok was still smaller than me, but not by much. He looked up at me and growled “Feeling better?”
    I grumbled back, but noticed that nobody understood me. Lucky bastard, he could talk when he shape-shifted. Me, I was just a big bear.
    “Touching, really it is.” Flumkin said. “But I'm afraid my friends will be here momentarily. So, were I you, I'd be making my peace with whatever god you beat your chest to, right about now.”
    There was howling in the distance, getting closer. Flumkin wasn't lying. They would be here soon. I looked for an opportunity to advance on the little bastard. Artok must have sensed my motives, as he whirled back, and called to the others “Block the alley!”
    Leoric and Ratliff both started casting everything they could at the narrow alley to impede their advance. Phadian and Fumblefoot both tried to cast blindness on Flumkin, and one of them seemed to have succeeded. Felberk threw one of his daggers at him, and it sank deep into his right thigh. Howling in pain, he grabbed at the dagger. Seeing our opportunity, Artok and I advanced. Artok grabbed at him, and I bit down. Neither one of us wanted to let go, though we could hear his screams of agony. I could hear the yells from the rest of the group that the demons were starting to break through. Artok and I bit down, hard. The screaming, all of it, ended with the final gurgling sigh of his death rattle.


    After a moment, things calmed down. The demons who were no more than seconds away from Ratliff and Leoric vanished in puffs of smoke, as their channel to this plane died. Artok and I dropped the shredded body to the ground, and Felberk came over, and with a swing of his ax, cut off the head of Flumkin. The others went back into the room, and Artok and I stayed behind to finish the night in our alternate forms. In the morning, Phadian came outside, and we buried the body, to make sure nothing else would happen. We went back into the building, collected a very terrified Meepo, and left town.
    On the road back to Fulcrom, I said to Artok, “Something tells me we will be parting ways soon, my friend.”
    “I hope we will meet again, Derom.” He grasped my arm, just as a shimmering disturbance began in the road not ten feet in front of us.
    The small man stood there with a smile on his face. “Well done.” He said. “Very well done. Not exactly the way I'd have done it, but it works.”
    “Thank you, my lord.” Fumblefoot said.
    “Well then, are you ready?” Garl Glittergold asked.
    “Just a moment, if we may.” Fumblefoot replied.
    “I get the feeling we'll meet again.” Fumblefoot said. “Don't ask me how I know, I just do.” He said with confidence.
    We all had that feeling, but none of us could quite explain it. Looking back at Garl, he just smiled.
    We said our goodbyes, and then walked over to the little god who snapped his fingers, and we were back at Bobby's place. Garl stood there and said “One last thing before I leave. I want you to remember this. I want you to remember this, and to write about it. Don't expect people to believe  you, but just do it, okay?”
    Who could argue with that? We nodded, and he shimmered back out, chuckling. I looked at my dice, then at my notebook, and grabbed my notebook and began writing.

    “It was a dark and stormy night...”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Story Time! Part 1.

One of my many works. This one takes place in a Dungeons & Dragons-esque universe. Read this before you read Part 2.

Dramatis Personæ:
Phadian Gess: Half-elf cleric of Ehlonna (a nature Goddess), best friend of Artok Hortence, despite a phobia of Artoks alternate forms.
Artok Hortence: Natural-born human werewolf; fighter class. As per the D&D universe, capable of taking on both wolf and hybrid (wolf-man) forms in addition to a normal-appearing human form.
Leoric: Human arcane sorcerer with unclear motives much of the time. Always suspected, rarely implicated.

-Being an excerpt from the personal diaries of Phadian Gess
(As transcribed by Adam Wester)

    ...but no; that bloody fool had to cast it. I tried to warn him, Ehlonna knows I tried. He is, hands down, the most irresponsible sorcerer to ever practice the art.
    No sooner did that bloody fool utter the last syllable, that the crash of thunder (why must it *always* be thunder with these arcane types?) rang in the air and rattled our skulls. When the smoke cleared (literally), he went to one of his shelves and took down a case, containing a scroll.
    “Bugger.” was all he said, his brow furrowed.
    “What now?” my occasional nightmare, Artok, asked.
    “I think something went slightly wrong.” when Artok gestured impatiently, he went on, “I can't read this.”
    “What do you mean, you can't?” Artok asked.
    A grim reality was beginning to dawn on me. The fool didn't answer Artok, so I opened up my pack and removed a scroll containing a prayer to Ehlonna I'd recently learned.
    It was pure gibberish.
    “You idiot!” I yelled, diving on top of him. Bare-fisted, I pounded his face. Artok had to pull me off of him. In my own defense, it didn't take much for him to do it. My oft-furry friend does possess a certain physical prowess.
    “What the hell are you doing?” he yelled at me.
    “Ask him.” I said simply, breathing hard and trying to recompose myself.
    Artok turned to Leoric, not saying a word.
    “Ah well, we seem to, that is, well, we've been slightly...demoted.”
    “Demoted?” I growled, “DEMOTED?” I turned toward Artok and told him the horrid truth. “His spell backfired and sent us all back, not in age, but in knowledge.” Leoric started to object, but Artok shot him a glance that silenced him, and terrified me. Artok is my closest friend, and I'd never seen him this angry before. He said nothing, the look on his face was more than enough to express his true feelings.
    Artok silently (which is to say, he spoke not a word, though it is difficult to be truly silent half garbed in plate armor) walked to the other side of Leoric's chamber and took off his breastplate. I turned to run out of the chamber, but Artok said “Stay.” in no uncertain terms.
    Against my desire, I stayed.
    He continued to quietly remove his armor, then his clothing. When he had stripped down to his undergarments, he turned to face the two of us. He growled as if in pain, looking us both in the eye. He doubled over, his undergarments starting to audibly tear as his body changed shape. His head turned up in a grotesque display of elongating and widening. Hair sprouted from every inch of his body, a course blend of brown, black, and gray. He dropped to the floor, his legs no longer a shape that would easily support a bipedal stance. His tail, as it grew outward, pushed the last of the tattered rags that had only moments before been his undergarments off of his now fully transformed body.
    The wolf that was Artok shook himself off as though he had just walked in from the rain. He then proceeded to look himself over, which, had I not been at the very least moderately in fear for life and limb, would have appeared somewhat humorous. Satisfied in his appearance, he sat down on his haunches, fixing the two of us with a steady gaze.
    “Why would you not be able to change?” Leoric asked, apparently amused with himself.
    Artok pulled his lips back, displaying his rather formidable teeth.
    “Your innate lycanthropy would not have been affected, as you are a natural-born werewolf, Artok.” I reminded my friend. “Things you learned recently, though...” This reminded me of something, I turned back to Leoric. “Just how much have we lost?”
    “That does seem to be the question of the moment, doesn't it.” he said, half to himself. “The bottom line, is that at the moment, I do not know.” He stepped around Artok, who pulled his tail out of the way just in time to avoid having it stepped on. Reaching up to a shelf, he pulled down another case. Upon glancing at the scroll inside, he heaved a sigh of relief. “That's something, I suppose.” he said.
    “You can read that?” I asked. When he simply nodded, I asked, “When did you learn it?”
    “Too long ago. This was one of the first spells I'd learned.” He looked at me almost apologetically, “We are going to have to see where we are in terms of our own knowledge, it seems.” He reached into Artok's pack, pulling out a set of undergarments. Tossing them toward the wolf that was my friend (who was at the moment busily chewing a burr out of his tail), he said, “Meet us outside, this could take some time.” Before Artok could change back, Leoric led me out of his chamber, to the courtyard of his keep.
    “I suppose I owe you some thanks.” I said to him, on the way out.
    “For what?”
    “You know bloody well what for. Seeing him change makes me want to pass out.”
    “Ah, it doesn't do much for me either. Though, as I recall, it has done more than just make you want to pass out, in the past.”
    “And there's the rub. Must you?”
    “But of course.” He said, chuckling. “Must be the Elven blood, glorious constitution and what have you.”
    “I'm half-elf, and you'd be best to not bring my lineage into this.”
    “Somehow I rather doubt I have much to fear from a cleric of Ehlonna.”
    “Boys, I'd say that's about enough.” Artok said from behind us. He was dressed, and carried his armor in his pack. “We aren't getting anywhere bickering with each other. What's done is done, now let's see what we can do to fix it.”
    Have you ever been so blind-sided by simple logic that you find it to be one of the most intelligent things you've ever heard?
    Me neither.

    “Huzzah for stating the obvious, furball.” Leoric said, “Now then, can we get on with this?”
    We walked to the open area in his courtyard and Artok dropped his pack. It made a rather decent clatter as it hit the ground. I never want to have to carry that load. Come to think of it, I don't even know if I could carry that load.
    We spent the next several days there, practicing, seeing what we'd lost and what we hadn't. Leoric spent his time conjuring things to attempt to harm, I spent my time banishing them (filthy undead, absolutely disgusting), and Artok spent his time inventing new words for raw, physical pain on them. In the end, we determined that we had lost roughly half of our knowledge, a fact Leoric found particularly depressing.
    “There has to be a way to reverse it!” He burst, in the middle of reading a text. “Phadian!” he exclaimed, “You could ask Ehlonna to restore us!”
    “Not hardly, Leoric.” I've done things that would make holy Ehlonna less than happy to acquiesce to such a request. Besides which, would you be particularly willing to convert to the service of divine Ehlonna?” Artok, would you?
    “Point taken.” Leoric said. Artok just shrugged.
    That night, I decided I might as well just tell Artok what I thought was going to have to happen. I found him in the courtyard, in hybrid form, staring off into the night sky. Sensing my fear, he changed back and quickly garbed himself while I was turned around, not looking.
    “It's okay, Phadian.” my friend laughed.
    I turned around and found him putting his tunic on. “You know what is going to have to happen, don't you?” I said, sensing he had to have some idea.
    “Yeah, looking like we'll have to relearn it all in time, huh?” Artok can be much more perceptive than he lets on to be.
    “That is what I'm thinking as well. Tonight I'll ask Ehlonna for guidance, but I'm thinking there has to be a reason for what happened.”
    “So, tell Leoric in the morning, than?”
    “Yes, that seems to be the best way.” I said. “You should try to get some sleep too, my friend. I get the feeling tomorrow may be interesting.”
    “Aye. Goodnight Phadian.” he said, as he walked back inside. “See you in the morning.” he called back over his shoulder.
    That night, I found myself in a glorious, ancient forest, in a clearing at a pond. The most beautiful Elven woman I have ever seen approached me. I dropped to my knees, “Divine Ehlonna, forgive me for offending you.”
    “You have done nothing to offend me, noble Phadian Gess; please rise. Her voice rang with a musical undertone. When I stood before her, she smiled at me and said, “You and your friends have been granted a chance to redo certain things. I cannot tell you why, but there is a reason for all things. Know this.”
    “What then, shall you have us do, most holy Goddess?”
    “The town of Kerth is to be under attack. A group of adventurers, not unlike yourselves, has begun the trip there, though as yet they know this not.” Her face grew serious. “You must know, noble Phadian, that this task is far different from any you have faced before. You will find yourself questioning everything you know to be true.”
    “Why us, though?”
    “Because, noble Phadian, this task is part of your own destiny, and cannot be ignored. I know you shall succeed, though the task be perilous.” Her glorious face grew calm once again. “Now though, you will need to prepare. Sleep, noble Phadian, for the journey awaits.”
    She shimmered for a moment, then in her place was white unicorn. It looked at me momentarily, then turned and trotted off into the forest.
    I awoke the next morning, knowing what I had to tell the others. I went to the common room where we normally met in the mornings, and found them. “Divine Ehlonna visited me last night.” I announced.
    “She'll restore us?” Leoric asked.
    “Not quite.” I said. “We have been set this way for a reason.”
    “And that would be...?”
    “None of our business, Leoric.” Artok said. “It just confirms what we've all been thinking, that there is no other way to get back than to do it over again.” He looked at me. “Did she say anything else?”
    “Yes, we are to prepare to travel. We are going to a place called Kerth, though I admit that I am not familiar with its location.”
    “It's a ways away. We'll need to pack pretty heavily if we are going there.” Leoric said. “Might as well get started.
    We spent the next day packing and going into town to buy horses and further supplies. Tomorrow we leave, hopefully holy Ehlonna will grant me the fortitude to survive this, as well as my friends. But if we do not, I hope that we will have made some difference, and served Ehlonna as best we could.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Slicey-dicey-burny. Part Deux.

Had the surgery, and yep, what they tell you about how hellacious it is for adults, is absolutely true. I had cancer removed from my scalp and chest when I was younger, and crashed during that surgery with atelectasis and bilateral aspiration pneumonia; and I can honestly say that this is significantly worse pain than that.

Here's what they don't tell you, though. It should be a no-brainer that your surgery will take place in your mouth, right? What is in there that might be in the way? (ding-ding-ding!) You guessed correctly, your tongue! So if it is likely to be in the way, what do they do about it? They clamp it down, of course!

Like I said, they don't tell you that. They also don't tell you that they will clamp it down with so much force that it will cut off circulation to the tip of your tongue making it numb for a long time after your surgery (it's still numb, and I'm on day 6). Nor do they tell you that the clamp is so tight that it can actually cut into your tongue. Or that it will put so much pressure on it that it will spread out to the sides and form open ulcers on both sides where it was ground into your teeth.

I'm back in school today for the first day, and because it's an hour drive each way, I'm sans-painkillers. Trust me, it's as bad as you think it might be, if not worse.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Insomniac's ramblings 3/17/11: Just an old fashioned love song.

A little back history on me. I am an nonpracticing Jew. I've read the Torah, the Bible, the Qur'an, several Buddhist texts, and so on. I can't bring myself to touch a Book of Mormon, but I'm sure I'll get around to it one day. After reading all that I have, I decided that organized religion was not for me, and I have a simple view on religions. I will respect your choice to believe, but only so long as you respect my choice not to believe. In general, it works out well for me.

Note that I said in general, though. I have issues with the idea of door-to-door God salesmen. For one, they almost always have a glint of the crusader mentality to them; out to convert the heathens. Normally I used to just take out one of my snakes and go for a walk. For some reason, they didn't pester me when I do that. In recent years they have been getting a bit more pushy up here, so I've had to be a bit more creative. A while back when they came up to the door, and I gave the perfunctory "Not interested", but they continued to try to push me, so I asked them the following.

Me: "Let me ask you guys a question."
Them: "Sure."
Me: "Your religion believes that the God you believe in is the one true God, correct?"
Them: "True, and we would like everyone to know Him."
Me: "And your religion tells you that it is wrong to worship false idols, correct?"
Them: "Yes, it is a sin."
Me: "You know that most major religions feel the same way on both counts, don't you?"
Them: "Yes, but"
Me: "So, at best, God is saying that you cannot worship God at all, since if all believe, and polytheism is also wrong, according to what you just said, then God is fallible, and thus invalid; and at worst, God is commanding all to practice religious hatred upon others who believe in something you don't. So which pitch are you trying to sell me today?"
Them: "We're sorry to have wasted your time, goodbye."

And they went on to pester my neighbors, most of whom just yelled at them and slammed doors in their faces.


Sleep tight.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Conformity: A Means to an End

I feel that dress codes and conformity and the movement in the school system to essentially clone every student is a terrible idea. I mean its bad enough that we make them all think the same, but now we have to make them all look the same? It certainly detracts from the child’s individuality, and when that happens the risk for the proverbial excrement hits the fan rises. We are all born with our own sense of individuality, and it needs to be expressed.

Ask any educator which schools have less violence, and they will say schools without dress codes. The simple allowance of a choice of clothing gives the child a sense of having a few rights (even though this country treats minors as being legally incompetent – but that’s another story) and responsibilities. The children may tease each other about who has the “coolest” shirt, but it generally won’t degrade to violence. If we want the next generation to be “better” then this one, why would it make sense to imitate one of the ideas expressed by old documentaries from the 40’s, problem is that they’re a little hard to understand, since the narration was in German. (Thank you George Carlin)

Likewise, the same educator will say that some of the worst schools are those who have adopted not only a dress code, but an entire school uniform. Part of human nature is to express ourselves, and if not through our clothing, then how? Through violence, drugs or alcohol? School uniforms are not only degrading, they are an extra expense that many families cannot afford, as logos don’t come cheap; but they are required. And the punishment for not wearing your uniform at school? One day to a week of out of school suspension. Great idea lets punish our right-brained students by not allowing them to learn.

Think of the blind date scenario; you’re supposed to meet a woman at the bar. You’re told she will be wearing a striped jacket. You arrive at the bar, and every woman is wearing the same striped jacket. Sure it sounds funny, but think about it; if we have uniforms in schools, what’s to stop more places to require uniforms? Day to day life would be rather boring, and bored people generally seek out fun. This can lead to violence, and higher crime, but one should note that his is pure speculation.

With all of the choices we cannot make for ourselves, one less seems to be only a slight burden, but the freedom to dress ourselves is something we all take for granted. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world full of Dan Quayles and Al Gores, would you? Conformity leads to rebellion, this is a simple fact that history teaches us, but the average student wouldn’t know this, since he was home on suspension, for not wearing his school uniform.

Friday, March 11, 2011


In a slew of amazing "luck," I am finally having my tonsils and adenoids removed. At 30. Positive and negative aspects abound, not the least of which is the fact that I've been on 6 rounds of antibiotics since November 1st for my tonsils. On the other hand, the recovery for adults who undergo the standard excision and electrocautery method is supposedly hellacious. The pain comes not really from the removal, but from the electrocautery, which basically uses what amounts to a medical-grade soldering iron to give the entire surgical site second to third degree burns, which will heal over a few weeks after surgery.

Oh, and I'm only going to have two days to recover before going back to school, so I have that to look forward to, too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Something I've wanted to use in a story.

I've wanted to use this line in a story for a long time now. I've had a few ideas, but they have always lead me to write myself into a brick wall, so to speak. 

"I grew up the bastard son of a defrocked priest, in the basement of St. Luluby's of the Divine Suffering Orphanage and Sanitarium."

It just has this pleasing melodic feel to it as it rolls off the tongue. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Piracy and Society

By now we've all read, heard, seen or otherwise assimilated some knowledge on piracy. It is unavoidable, we hear about it all the time, from the battles the band Metallica had with Napster creator Shawn Fanning to the efforts many companies have taken to reduce/eliminate piracy. From WPA (Windows Product Activation) to DRM (Digital Rights Management). We've all had time time to form our own opinions on the issue. I certainly have.

First, a little history lesson. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, Napster wasn't the origin of piracy. It was, however, responsible for popularizing it, and garnering the attention it ultimately ended up getting. Before Napster, piracy was generally accomplished on a one-on-one basis; I ask you in, a chat room, for “x” song, you give it to me. Because it took more effort to do it that way, people didn't pay much attention. Until Napster, that is. The internet encyclopedia Wikipedia says: “Shawn Fanning first released the original Napster in the fall of 1999. Fanning wanted an easier method of finding music than by searching IRC or Lycos.”1

The band Metallica was busy recording at that time, and a demo cut of their song “I Disappear” was leaked to someone using the Napster network. This ultimately led to it being played on radio stations without having been finished. They, and several other artists and labels filed suit and ultimately Napster was taken offline, but was soon sold to German media firm Bertelsmann for $8 million.

By then of course, the damage had been done. People liked what they saw, a convenient way to get the songs/videos/files they wanted without having to pay for them. Another big push was that you could get the song you wanted, and not the “B-track” songs. If you wanted a song or a movie, you hopped on one of Napsters many followers, like WinMX, Limewire, KaZaA, Morpheus, E-Mule (and its less-sterile cousin), E-Donkey, Grokster, BearShare, DCPlusPlus, Soulseek, Napshare, etc... It was perfect. And illegal. The list goes on and on. As one was shut down, another was ready to fill the void.

Meanwhile, another, more potentially threatening form of piracy was going on. Software piracy has been troubling software developers for a long time, but the growing popularity of P2P programs pushed it to new levels. Now you could not only download music or movies, but full executable programs.

Microsoft has claimed losses in the billions of dollars range to date due to piracy of their Operating Systems, office applications and other software. They have filed suits in Malaysia and China, and made scarcely veiled threats in Somalia. Eastern European websites often advertise “OEM-Only software, sans activation code” going for less then one-third the normal price. Such is invariably pirated, and generally these sites stay up for a short time before being taken down and reopened under a new name. Unfortunately, the majority of nations that this mass-production piracy originate from have very few regulations regarding this type of theft.

Other programs are also subject to piracy, in October of 2004, DOPIP reported that pirated software that was caught netted 25,064,295 counterfeit items, valued then at $79,775,852 USD. This equals out to the pirates charging roughly three dollars and twenty cents per pirated item.

Small-time piracy, done by end-users, is generally of less cause for concern, as it poses much less of a monetary threat to companies. It has, however, recently been targeted by a group of companies partnered together, forming the Trusted Computing Group (TCG).

TCG denies the connection between them and DRM (Digital Rights Management), but it is there nonetheless. In his article “The Digital Imprimatur”, John Walker says “On a Trusted Computing system, the ability to back up, mirror, and transfer data will be necessarily limited. Hardware and compliant operating systems will restrict the ability to transfer data from system to system.”2 This means that there is a hardware lock against piracy built into the computer. Unfortunately, it also means that media you create, or any form of license-free item, will not work on a system meeting the TCG standards. It takes away your right to choose what to do with your system.

However much that is, it pales in comparison to movie piracy. The MPAA claims losses upwards of three billion dollars annually. That number however, doesn't take into consideration internet piracy, as it is more difficult to track. The MPAA has launched in the tens of thousands of investigations into movie pirates, and many raids on suspected pirates. Ironically, some of their investigations turned out sources of leaked films within the motion picture industry itself. I find a fair amount of poetic justice in that. It just drips of the shark analogy, even more so then long-standing lawyer jokes. Movies generally aren't pirated the same way online that music is. They are generally shared via bit-torrent programs, which is also unfortunate, as bit-torrent has very real and legitimate uses as a way of sharing large documents in a network environment.

Theft is wrong, there is no way around that. Piracy of intellectual property is theft. It should be stopped, but the ways that are more commonly considered are just plain bad. Software to prevent it can be cracked. A program is only as good as the coding that went into it. Hardware locks can be overwritten, much the same way that AMD and Intel can disable part of the cache in their processors. You can really only catch the sloppy ones, and that means the average Joe, not the commercial pirates, does the time.

The problem, that I see, is that outrageous prices can be charged (even encouraged). Artists want the biggest possible audience for their music. Movie studios want the high box-office counts to justify making the next big-budget sequel. Programmers want more people to use their software. The common element that these three should follow is pricing. Lower the prices to something more reasonable, and more people will buy your albums, see your movies and buy your software. The free-market status quo no longer works, it has gotten out of hand.

This is not to say that pirates are justified in stealing because the prices are too high, but I have a lot more sympathy for the student in Argentina who pirates his software to do his school work then I do for the kids with entire hard drives full of stolen movies and music. And certainly I have no sympathy whatsoever for the people selling pirated music/movies/software. Selling stolen goods is selling stolen goods. These are the people most in need of prosecution. Yet they are the least likely to be prosecuted.

But then, why do people pirate? Because they can? Because they can't afford to buy the software? I would say to both of those, a resounding yes. BUT, and this is a big one, generally speaking, the majority of people who do pirate a piece of software wouldn't have bought it in the first place. This means that the company loses no money on the individual piracy of that product. It is when pirated programs are distributed that companies lose money. This is something that many people lose sight of.

People naturally want to take the easy way out in life. Why pay $100 for a program you will only use once for a class? Why pay $15 for a CD when you can just as easily download it? Why pay $20 for a DVD when you can download a DVD-rip from one of the many P2P programs or Bit-Torrent sites? Because we can. Humans are a lazy creature, and we'd rather get our media for free then pay for it. This is undeniable, one could throw a random high percentage into the sentence “At some point in their life [insert random high percentage here] of people will pirate a piece of media.” And one generally wouldn't be too far off. The fact is, even if you don't know it, chances are, you have pirated some form of intellectual property. How many of the pictures you have on your computer (including in your internet browsers cache) are images you yourself made? If there is a single one, you might as well pop on the eye-patch and start saying “Arr matey.”

Granted that is a bit of an embellishment, but at the rate some of the anti-piracy lobbyists are pushing, it isn't too far from reality.

I would like to end this with a “Mark my words.” type statement: The day will come when pirates are no longer remembered for raping and pillaging. That is not far-fetched.
Nor is it far-off.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napster
2 John Walker, The Digital Imprimatur: http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/digital-imprimatur/

Monday, March 7, 2011

Insomniac's ramblings 3/7/11: Reach for the sky, Mister!

"Aim high. If you dream it, you can achieve it." People tell kids that thinking it is doing them a favor; but in reality, it is doing them at best, a disservice, and at worst, harm. More on that in a minute.

The world is a cruel place. Being optimistic about it doesn't change this fact. I know, I know; I sound like a pessimist. But ask yourself this; If you want something, do you ever consider that there are roughly 7 billion people on Earth today, and even if only one tenth of one percent of them *also* want that thing you do, that means you are up against 7 million other people?

In other words, and in the truest sense, the odds that you will succeed are not in your favor. In fact, they are not even a 50/50 chance. The odds of individual success are stacked overwhelmingly against you. And yet, when it inevitably happens, we are surprised at our failure.

The world is not a child's drawing with a smiling sun and a rainbow in a clear, blue sky. For an interesting pseudo-experiment, ask a small child what made the rainbow in the picture they drew. Most won't know that before a rainbow can form, there must be enough of the right kind of moisture, which is produced by (cue the "dun-dun-DUN! music here) a storm.

They don't know it because we don't teach them that. We teach them that everyone is their friend (except old people, as one recent study shown, children will often pick old people to form a "stranger" mental image), and there will always be friendly ways to get what they want.

This, of course, leads me back to the first point. How is it doing them a disservice? Because it is a flat-out lie. It does nothing to help prepare them for life, in fact, if they believe it, it also hinders their mental development.

Now, I'm not saying we should be telling children that life sucks, then you die. Rather, I feel we should set our emotions aside, sit children down, and calmly help them understand that yes, there will be times when you fail. Probably many times. But it doesn't mean that you will fail every time.

There was a great line in the beginning of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade;"

"You lost today, kid. But that doesn't mean you have to like it."

Sleep tight.

Insomniac's ramblings 3/3/11: So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away.

Among the list of things you DO NOT (and yes, I was just shouting) want, near the top should be an eidetic memory. An eidetic memory, popularized as "photographic" memory, is a huge curse for those with depression, PTSD, or the like.

Think about it, there are things you *want* to forget in life, but never will be able to. Almost anything can trigger a flashback; and when your life plays back like an episode of "Highlander," you find it difficult at best to make any meaningful connections in life.

So many of our memories are covered up or suppressed as a defense mechanism, but when they are always there, the stimulation is overwhelming at times. You find yourself not able to live in the present when your past is so prevalent. You cling to a few good memories, but always remember the quote from Dante:

"There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery the time when we were happy."

So many things I wish I could forget.

Sleep tight.

Insomniac's ramblings 3/1/11: Relationship Mathematics; or How to get fucked over right and proper.

Add the bed.
Subtract the clothes.
Divide the legs.
And pray to god you don't multiply.

You know, certain things are inexcusable. And when you are getting more and more solid confirmation on previous suspicions, it doesn't mean you are necessarily right, but there comes a point at which one must look long and hard at the evidence and decide for themselves.

One thing is for certain. What I know now,  it changes who I consider my friends significantly. Like I said, certain things are inexcusable.

Sleep tight.

Insomniac's ramblings 2/27/11: There's Frank's remote control. You can look, but don't touch it please.

I have a feeling this is going to become a quasi-regular thing for me. Short one tonight.

When everything you touch rapidly turns to excrement of the worst kind (does that mean there's a good kind?), you learn, or rather, relearn the childhood lesson of "look but don't touch."

It's an interesting paradox, that lesson.

Sleep tight.

Insomniac's ramblings 2/26/11: Don't piss off destiny; or Why I am (still) an atheist.

I have a theory. Technically it's simply an idea, as it cannot (as yet) be tested. But that's neither here nor there.

I was supposed to die years ago. I can say this with absolute confidence, as I had cancer as a youth. I had melanoma (inherited, not sun exposure-related) on my head and chest when I was younger (just before my fifteenth birthday). I had a piece of my scalp the size of an orange slice (about 4 inches round) removed, leaving a scar that starts just above my left ear, goes around the back of my head, and ends at my right ear. I also had a smaller site, only about 2.5 inches round, removed from my chest.

During surgery, I crashed and my right lung collapsed and I had bilateral aspiration pneumonia, and I have had significant respiratory issues since then, such as the childhood asthma that I had outgrown came back, and has not gone away again. I have also had pneumonia virtually every year since then.

That surgery was April 21st, 1995. If you believe in the whole "God's plan" bullshit, my intervening and having the surgery tampered with that plan. So, as such, I am (and have been since then) being punished for living, for violating the plan. I fucked with my destiny, and that's why shit keeps happening to me. In the eyes of the religious zealot, that's the only logical reason.

But, I don't believe in a "god," so that can't be the case. Maybe I was Mengele in a past life. It would be poetic, to say the least. Reborn Jewish, and a biology geek as well. Too bad I don't believe in that crap, either. Ahh well, must have just really pissed off the mice.

Sleep tight.

Ding Dong, the DOMA's (nearly) dead.

Some "conservatives" are calling for the impeachment of President Obama because he ordered the end of federal support for DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act), which defined, at a federal level, marriage as being a heterosexual institution only.

In Nevada, It Is Illegal For A Man To Buy Drinks For More Than Three People At A Time.

In North Dakota, Beer And Pretzels Cannot Be Served At The Same Time In Any Bar Or Restaurant.

In Connecticut, A Pickle Is Not Officially A Pickle Unless It Bounces.

In South Carolina, You Must Be 18 Years Of Age To Play A Pinball Machine.

In Idaho, It Is Illegal For A Man To Give His Sweetheart A Box Of Candy Weighing More Than 50 lbs.

In Louisiana, There Is A $500 Fine For Instructing A Pizza Delivery Man To Deliver Pizza To A Friend Unknowingly.

In Arizona, It's Illegal To Own More Than 2 Dildos.

What do all of those have to do with DOMA? They are all laws that are on the books that don't merit wasting time, money, or any other resources on.

So, are they calling for the impeachment of Arizona governor Jan Brewer, too? After all, we don't hear too much about her efforts to ensure that nobody in her state has more than two dildos, now do we?


I live for the day that people realize that religion is the ultimate cop-out. It flies directly in the face of what these fascist conservatives are preaching about "personal responsibility."

Think about it, when a christian does well at something, they thank their "god." Why? It means that they are releasing themselves of all responsibility, and letting some mythical boogieman take the credit. You did well, have a little pride in a job well done.

When a christian fails at something, though, they say it was "'god's' will." Bullshit, you just weren't good enough. Once again, passing all responsibility for your failure onto your mythology. Grow a pair and push yourself to get better so you won't fail next time.

Oh wait, that's evolution, and they just can't do that. I forgot.

Like I said, I live for that day. But, as I'm rapidly losing "faith" in my own species, I'm not holding my breath. I respect other's choice to believe in whatever they want to believe in; but that respect will ONLY last as long as they respect my choice not to.

Simple question to folks regarding illegal immigration.

Living in NM, a hot button topic is immigration, specifically undocumented individuals. One thing I've noticed over the years is that something to consider is that, in a way, our economy is somewhat dependent on illegal migrant workers. Since looking at a national level doesn't quite have much impact for most people, let's look at it on a more local level.

I have heard personally, from friends who live down in the Hatch area, that migrant workers are each generally paid about $2/hour to pick and process chile peppers. If the migrants were no longer there, the wages would go up to $7.50/hour each. That's a 375% increase in their overhead, that you bet your bippy they will have to pass on to the consumer.

Would you yourself be willing to pay 375% more for your green chile?