Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Wiliams

Hey Everybody,

Toward the end of 7th grade, I began taking a daily prescribed anti-depressant. It bothered me that this year marks a tipping point. I have been taking an anti-depressant for half my life. Everyday is a day longer that I've lived with an anti-depressant than I've lived without.

Most days I live a normal life. Some days I feel that I am 'incomplete' or that my brain doesn't work 'the way it's supposed to.' People have told me there's no shame in taking an anti-depressant, no more than there is in wearing a cast for a broken arm or taking insulin for diabetes. Logically, that makes sense. Emotionally, sometimes logic doesn't matter.

If I go without my prescription for as little as one day, I experience excruciating pain. I've seen medical journals describe this as "Discontinuation Syndrome." My head throbs in a way that makes my entire body boil with pain.

I rarely dream. I envy those that begin their day by recounting their dreams.

I live this life of mental health everyday, yet even I think, "How could Robin Williams be depressed?"

"If I had a tenth of his success, my life would be perfect."

"If I had a tenth of his wealth, my life would be perfect."

That is the culture of judgement and stigma toward mental health we live in.

Depression isn't something you can just shake by thinking, "just cheer up" anymore than a stroke is something you can "just walk off."

It had been several years since I had spoken with a dear high school friend when she took her own life. Even after years without contact, I would have dropped everything if I had known she was thinking of hurting herself.

Dear friend, I don't have every answer to every question that you have. But I want to talk to you about what you are feeling. Whether you think we are best friends or distant strangers, I want us to lean on each other when we need strength.

Friday, May 17, 2013

DnDNext Eberron Changeling

As a Changeling, you have the following racial traits.
Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Constitution score increases by 1.
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet.
Organ Bypass: Once per day, when a critical hit is scored against you, you may choose for that attack to be resolved as a normal hit.
Minor Change Shape: As an action, you make yourself—but not  your clothing, armor, weapons, and equipment—look different.  You can become 1 foot shorter or taller and can appear thin, fat, or in between. You must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs.  The spell lasts for 1 hour, unless you use your action to dismiss it sooner.  The effect lasts until you choose to take an action to change shape again.  If a changeling dies, they revert to their natural shape.  Anyone who observes you and succeeds on a DC 20 Wisdom check becomes aware that you are disguised.  A creature under the effect of a True Seeing spell can detect that you are a changeling.
Natural Linguist: At 7th, 12th, and 17th level, instead of increasing your skill die or learning a new skill, you may instead learn to speak, read, and write two additional languages.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common, as well as a number of additional languages of your choice equal to your Intelligence modifier, provided it is positive.
Subrace: Choose a subrace. The two subraces of changelings presented here, passer and seeker, represent how a changelings’ personal views of their shape changing abilities affect how they practice and use those abilities.

Passers are changelings who wish to fit in with conventional society and live life in only one form or at the least suppress their shape changing abilities to better fit in with those around them.
Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Charisma score increases by 1.
One Life, Many Faces: After using your Minor Change Shape and resting for 8 hours in that form, only another changeling that succeeds a DC 20 Wisdom check or a creature under the effect of a True Seeing spell can detect that you are a changeling.  This ability lasts indefinitely or until you use Minor Change Shape again.

Seekers are proud of their shape changing ability and use it to their advantage whenever possible.  They prefer their natural form over any disguise.
Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Dexterity score increases by 1.
Double Jointed: You have advantage on ability checks to resist or escape being tied up, shackled, grabbed, or otherwise physically restrained.  You also have resistance to damage from falls or from being crushed by falling objects.

DnDNext Eberron Kalashtar

As a Kalashtar, you have the following racial traits.
Size: Medium.
Speed: 30 feet.
Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Charisma score increases by 1.
Mindlink: You can telepathically communicate with any creature that has a spoken language.  The creature must be within 50 feet of you and you must be able to see the creature.  The creature cannot answer you telepathically.
Human Ancestry: You can choose to treat yourself as a human when selecting abilities such as feats.  You can also choose to be treated as human when you are targeted with an ability such as a spell.  You have advantage on all charisma checks made to appear human.
Soulknife: As part of an action, you can summon a weapon of psychic energy called a soulknife to appear in one or both hands.  A soulknife looks and functions very much like a short sword, but is made out of humming, faintly glowing psychic energy.  You are proficient with the soulknife.  A soulknife deals 1d6 piercing damage (plus any relevant ability modifier) and has the light, finesse, and thrown (20/60) properties.  A soulknife disappears after you let go of it or if you are disarmed, but remains in existence long enough to hit your target if you used it as a thrown weapon.
Dual Soul: You have advantage on ability checks made to resist being charmed, dominated, or frightened.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common.
Subrace: Choose a subrace.  The two subraces presented here represent the area of Eberron where you spent a large portion of your upbringing.

Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Intelligence score increases by 1.
Bonus Language: You can speak, read, and write Common, Riedran, and Quor.
Quori Menace: If an enemy deals psychic damage to you or succeeds on an ability check to charm, dominate, or frighten you, they automatically take 1d6+Int damage.

Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Wisdom score increases by 1.
Bonus Language: You can speak, read, and write Common and Quor.
Well Traveled Blade: When using your soulknife, if you have advantage on an attack roll or if you score a critical hit, you add your wisdom modifier to the damage roll.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DnDNext Eberron Shifter

TraitsAs a Shifter, you have the following racial traits.
Size: Medium.
Speed: 30 feet.
Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Dexterity score increases by 1.
Low-Light Vision: In dim light, you can see just as easily as if you were in bright light.
Fighting Instincts: You gain the Martial Arts feat.  A shifter that takes a level in Monk may select a different Martial Feat in place of gaining Martial Arts as normal.
Beastly Movement: You have advantage on ability checks that involve Balance, Climb, and Jump.
Weretouched Ferocity: Twice per day, when you make a damage roll and get a result you dislike, you can reroll the damage and use either result.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common.
Subrace: Choose a subrace.   You may have disdain for or revel in your lycanthropic heritage.  Certain circumstances unleash an animalistic power within you.

Dreamsight Shifter
Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Wisdom score increases by 1.
Blessing of the Moon: Hidden and invisible creatures do not gain advantage on attack rolls against you.  If a hidden or invisible creature hits you with an attack, you gain advantage against them if you target them with your next attack roll.

Razorclaw Shifter
Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting Strength score increases by 1.
Lycanthropic Hands: When you make a melee attack, if you deal maximum damage on a normal attack roll or if you score a critical hit, you can make a single unarmed attack as part of that same action after the first attack is resolved.  The second attack may target any creature within range.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

DnDNext Eberron Warforged

As a Warforged, you have the following racial traits.
Size: Medium.
Speed: 30 feet.
Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting constitution score increases by 1.
Composite Plating: Your AC increases by 1 even if you are wearing armor, under the effect of a spell such as mage armor, using an ability like wild shape, or have a class feature like the barbarian’s Thick Hide and the monk’s Thoughtful Defense.
Attached Weapon: You can wield an attached weapon.  This weapon is part of your body, either as part of your creation or as a choice later in your life.  This weapon takes the place of one of your hands and is an extension of your forearm.  An attached weapon may be any one handed weapon and functions the same as if you were wielding it in one hand.  You have proficiency with any attached weapon.  All attempts to disarm an attached weapon automatically fail. An attached weapon cannot be detached against your will, but you can spend one minute detaching or replacing an attached weapon if you wish.
Big, Good, Strong Hands: You have advantage on all checks to Break an Object.
Tireless Sentry: Warforged do not need to sleep. Instead, they stand or sit, motionless and quiet, for 4 hours a day.  You still have the ability to observe your surroundings without ending your rest period.  You may react to your surroundings if you feel it is necessary, but taking any actions ends your rest period.  After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common.
Subrace: Choose a subrace.  Both the juggernaut and the vanguard were designed and constructed as machines of war, but filled different rolls in battle.

Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting strength score increases by 1.
Front Line Infantry: You gain Charge and Bull Rush as bonus feats.

Ability Score Adjustment: Your starting intelligence score increases by 1.
Arcane Warfare: You know one cantrip from any spell list.  This cantrip must be a spell that is offensive in nature and causes direct hit point damage.  You may choose intelligence, wisdom, or charisma as your magic ability for this cantrip.  This choice must be made at character creation and cannot be changed.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

DnDNext Mounted Combat Rules

These rules seemed like a pretty major oversight in the 3/20/13 playtest packet, especially since the Paladin and his special mount was introduced.  These are some pretty basic, commonsense rules.

Other rules are in place based on my philosophy on mounts.  A high level or low level fighter who is built to be excellent at sword combat can reasonably buy a mundane long sword for 15 gp and use it effectively throughout combat. A high level or low level fighter who is built to be excellent at mounted combat should be granted the same level of effectiveness if he buys a 400 gp heavy warhorse. In 3.5 the only decent mounts to ride into combat were animal companions and Paladin mounts, because they scaled with level.  A mundane mount just died after a hit or two, at most.  In 4e this problem was solved by just removing mounted combat altogether.

The general idea is that a mount should be a useful tool that doesn't get killed one round into combat.  If you make it hard or unappealing to hit a mount with an attack, it will last longer in combat.

Targeting Mounts
-Attacks that target a mount with a rider have disadvantage.  Attacks that target a rider on a mount are resolved normally.

-Abilities, spells, and attacks that target an area that includes a mount and rider treat the mount and rider as two separate targets.  The attack targeting the mount still has disadvantage.

-When a mount is forced to make an intelligence, wisdom, or charisma ability check, make the check using the rider's ability score and relevant class features (such as Divine Grace) instead of the mount’s.

-A rider may direct the mount to move using the mount’s movement.

-A rider may dismount to any unoccupied space adjacent to the mount as part of a move by spending 5 feet of movement.  The rider may continue moving using his own movement if he has any remaining movement.

-A rider may mount when adjacent to the mount as part of a move by spending 5 feet of movement.  The mount may be directed to continue moving using its own movement if it has any remaining movement.

-Any forced movement that targets the rider or mount affects both individuals together.  The rider stays mounted.

-A rider may use his action to direct the mount to perform one of its actions, such as attack or use a special ability such as a Paladin Mount’s multiattack.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Scientific Names for Fictional Races

Human beings are classified as Eukarya Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Hominidae Homo sapien (sapien).  The most important being the last three parts of the name, the genus, species, and subspecies.

Homo sapien (sapien)
Genus species (sub-species)

There's not enough variation among H. sapien to require more than one sub-species, and H. sapien is believed to be the only species of the genus Homo that is not extinct.

There is a lot of debate amongst scientists as to what makes something a species.  Most agree that if two individuals can produce fertile offspring, then they are the same species.  For example: horses and donkeys can have offspring, mules, but mules cannot produce offspring with horses, donkeys, or other mules; so horses and donkeys are not members of the same species.  Another example: pugs and beagles can have offspring, puggles, and puggles can produce offspring with pugs, beagles, or other puggles; so pugs, beagles, and puggles are members of the same species.

In order to ground works of fiction in reality, many authors have given fictional creatures scientific names.  Vampires are sometimes called Homo nocturnus.  Mutants like the X-Men are classified as Homo superior in the Marvel universe.

I have decided to create a list of fictional races and name them using binomial nomenclature.  The biggest problem I have run into is that most fictional/fantasy races are able to easily produce fertile offspring with regular humans.  The fictional trait, like a mutant power, is often passed on much like eye color or genetic diseases where one offspring may have mutant but another offspring may not have mutant powers.  This suggests that Homo superior is not a separate species from Homo sapien, but is just a Homo sapien with a certain gene being expressed.  To avoid this argument, I am describing many fictional races as sub-species of Homo sapien, rather than a separate species.  In this way, the genome of two sub-species can be so similar that speciation occurs just like gene expression.

Here are some fictional races, their scientific names, and any description I think might be relevant.  Often the description will be from the perspective of a reality where these are actual races and creatures.

Human being
Homo sapien (sapien) - You and me.

Marvel universe mutant
Homo sapien (superior) - Magneto, Wolverine, and Cyclops.  Anyone who was born with a mutant power, not someone who was mutated through science or magic.  Spider-man and Captain Marvel are not H. sapien (superior).

Homo sapien (nocturnus) - Many times vampirism inaccurately described as an affliction, not something that is genetic.  Like H. sapien (superior), they have been described as a separate species.  However, original Balkan folklore talks of a dhampir, an offspring of a human and a vampire.  Most likely vampire mythology has morphed over the years into a super-natural affliction, rather than a race.  Another common name for H. sapien (nocturnus) is vryloka.  Members of H. sapien (nocturnus) have a nervous system that is critically damaged by enzymes found in plans of the genus Allium (like garlic) and by the element silver.  H. sapien (sapien) soft tissue can be easily damaged by the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, but H. sapien (nocturnus) soft tissue is damaged by the same radiation on an exponentially increased rate.  Many other weaknesses that surround the nocturnus are usually just stories based on an isolated incident with a specific individual that have worked their way into the mythos.

Homo lycanthropus - Werewolves were the first observed lycanthropes and were first described as Homo sapien (lycanthropus).  As more werefolk were identified, it was decided that lycanthropes should be grouped as their own species consisting of several subspecies.  The species name decided on was lycanthropus, in honor of the first member of the species to be described.  Like H. sapien (nocturnus), members of H. lycanthropus have nervous systems that are critically damaged by elemental silver and enzymes found in plants of the genus Aconitum (wolf's bane).  There is little relationship between H. lycanthropus and the full moon, it is just more likely that an unfamiliar observer will spot a member of H. Lycanthropus with the aid of a bright moon.  Lycanthropus can produce offspring with H. sapien (sapien), see Teen Wolf (1985).
Homo lycanthropus (lupus) - Werewolf
Homo lycanthropus (ursus) - Werebear
Homo lycanthropus (tigris) - Weretiger
Homo lycanthropus (rodentia) - Wererat

Homo sapien (arcanix) - This subspecies has a poorly understood connection to what is described as magic.  In truth, H. sapien (arcanix) is able to innately understand science on a level that gives them abilities that appear to be magical to other members of their genus.  Some members of H. sapien (arcanix) train themselves in schools devoted to the magic-like level of science that they can achieve, some just let their raw power develop naturally and attribute it to a draconic ancestry.  Many other species can have some connection to magical levels of science due to H. sapien (arcanix) being able to easily produce offspring with other species and remain dominate in the bloodline, but contributing very little to the morphology of the offspring.

Homo muradani - This species of short and rugged homonids are adapted to live in mountainous and subterranean environments.  Different subspecies are adapted to specific environments.
Homo muradani (tyr) - Muls, these desert dwelling dwarves are believed to be the most closely related to H. sapien.
Homo muradani (scutum) - Shield Dwarf, these dwarves are found in cold northern climates.
Homo muradani (aurum) - Gold Dwarf, these expert miners are able to live with low amounts of oxygen and sunlight.
Homo muradani (muradani) - Common Dwarf, found in many parts of the world, these dwarves have thick cranial bones that result in restructured areas of the brain that are critical to self control.

More to come.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why on Earth did I use Amazon to pre-order The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword?

'Tis torture and not mercy. Heaven is here,
Where Skyward Sword lives, and every cat and dog
And little mouse, every unworthy thing,
Live here in heaven and may look on it,
But Toby may not. More validity,
More honorable state, more courtship lives
In carrion flies than Toby. They may seize
On the golden wonder of dear Skyward Sword's Wiimote
And steal immortal blessing from its buttons,
Who even in pure and vestal modesty,
Still blush, as thinking their own buttons sin.
But Toby may not. He is waiting on Amazon.
Flies may do this, but I from this must fly.
They are free men, but I am waiting on Amazon.
And sayst thou yet that waiting is not death?
Hadst thou no poison mixed, no sharp-ground knife,
No sudden mean of death, though ne'er so mean,
But “not yet shippèd” to kill me?—“NOT YET SHIPPÈD”!
O Internet, the damnèd use that word in hell.
Howling attends it. How hast thou the heart,
Being a divine, a ghostly confessor,
A sin-absolver, and my friend professed,
To mangle me with that word “NOT YET SHIPPÈD”?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Own It and This Is What I Think: iTunes Match

I have spent a lot of money the last week or so, mainly on myself because it was my birthday.  One of the things I spent money on was an iTunes Match subscription.  For those not in the know; iTunes Match is a new service from Apple that lets you download music you have in your iTunes library onto a Mac, PC, or iOS device that,  for one reason or another, doesn't have that song already.  When Steve Jobs gave his last keynote address over the summer, iTunes Match was probably the thing I was most excited about (and probably the thing everyone else on watching was least excited about).

First, let's go over some of the free features that have been rolled out already via iTunes in the Cloud.  Back in the dark ages if you bought a workout song on your computer, but forgot to sync your iPhone before you hit the gym, you were out of luck and would have to excercise while listening to whatever sad selection of two-week-old AT40 hits you had, like a square, or pay for the song again on your phone, like a double-square.  However, in this wonderful new utopia that iTunes Match brings us, you can buy a song on one device and then download it for free on your other Apple ID linked devices.  Right now, if you are self-aware, you are probably asking, "Why is this a NEW feature of iTunes 10.5.1 and not a feature built in to iTunes 1.0."   My answer to that is, "Beats me."

So what am I getting for the $25 I spent on iTunes Match?  After letting iTunes Match scan my music library, it has matched songs in my library with songs sold on iTunes.  So, after I ripped the track "Two More Lonely People" from the CD I bought from Target of the album "Can't Be Tamed" by Destiny Hope Cyrus, I can now have iTunes Match see that I own that song.  So, if, by some horrific oversight, I have failed to sync Cyrus' pop love ballad to my iPod, I can connect to my nearest WiFi network and put the song closest to my heart back in my pocket.  The advertised kicker is even if iTunes doesn't sell this masterpiece of a song, iTunes Match allows me to upload it to Apple's servers, and download it onto another device.

My computer savvy friends are probably saying, "Toby, why are you going to a store and buying a CD?  Don't you know only cave men are still using physical media?  All of the cool kids are staying in the comfort of their mom's basement and illegally downloading music at no monetary cost without even needing to put on pants."  To those friends, and the rest of my audience, not only must I admit that I am part of the generation that fully expects to be able to download music for free, but I have, without remorse, done so for years.


The answer:
Yes.  I am doing it right now.

After running iTunes Match:
IF I have a song in my library that I downloaded off of the internet
IF iTunes sells that song in its catalogue
I can delete it from my library/harddrive and download it as a fully legit song from iTunes.

The part that has made me feel that my $25 was well spent is that if I delete a 128 or 96 kbps matched song from my library, when I download it, it is now a higher quality 256 kbps file.  Nice.

There is, however, the great unknown: if I cancel or don't renew my iTunes Match subscription will my music disappear or become unplayable?  I don't know.  My educated guess and hope is no.  Only time will tell.

I Own It and This Is What I Think is a series of reviews published by Tobias Turner via TrashGoblin's Emporium covering personal opinions of physical products and subscription based services available to the general public.  No endorsement or guarantee of any physical product or service is implied or given in this publication.  All terms, products, and characters have been used under Fair Use.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Goodbye to a Good Friend

I was digging through my drawers today; the ones for storing things in my closet, not the ones for storing my legs and hips; and I found one of dearest old friends.  His name was clearly inscribed across his chest, 

GAME BOY pocket

Ah, my first handheld gaming system.  First, that is if, you do not count all of the other handheld-sized toys that I had and were used to play games.  Moronic misinterpretations of the term "handheld gaming system" aside, my game boy and I were a common duo in the late 1990s.  This game boy helped me deepen my love for The Legend of Zelda and taught me just how hard it is to catch'em all.  

My parents purchased this game boy for me as a Christmas present.  It was the kind of gift that a young man was so eager to have that he would sneak into the closet that hid the Christmas presents, smuggle it out of the house, play with it at school, and craftily return it to its spot in the closet before his parents came home.  It was purchased as a used device, so I know I was not the first to love this game boy, but I learned today that I mayforever be the last to love the device.

I found the device just as I had left it: two slight cracks in the translucent casing below the screen, but in good shape, otherwise.  I went to switch the power on, and found there was no response.  I searched the house for AAA batteries.  I found no fresh batteries, and soon surmised that this was because only one other device in my home even uses AAA batteries (a remote control for a DVD player).  I cannibalized these batteries and went to use them to breathe new life into my old pal.

This is where I discovered that the last cartridge my game boy and I would enjoy together was already in the distant past.  The batteries in my device had passed their healthy shelf life years ago, 2009 to be exact (oh, how 2009 must have seemed like a distant dream when I first popped them into the game boy).  Expired batteries have the potential to create a large amount of corrosion, and these batteries were living up to every bit of potential they ever had.  I desperately pried the dead batteries out of my friend, scraped away the corrosion, and worriedly inserted the new batteries.  Nothing.  He was gone.

"CONTRAST!" I screamed to myself.  "For no good reason at all, the GAME BOY pocket was equipped with a contrast adjustment wheel!  If I adjust the contrast then I will see....nothing.  Nothing at all."  The brief, bright light of a second chance was quickly snuffed out and became a second chasm of gloom.

My friend's life has been taken away.  What hurts me the most is that it was my own neglect that lead to this and that I have no way of knowing how long this good chum of mind sat dead and gone in my closet.  Dead and gone with me passing by every day, not even knowing he had left us.

I don't exactly know what to do with the empty shell that now sits on my desk.  So, I have decided to print out this post, fold it, and place it in the now empty cartridge slot of my game boy.  I will leave him sitting somewhere in a public place and hope that fate will bring him and my message to a soul that has the strength to dispose of him in a dignified way for me, for the game boy is too close to me for me to ever see it discarded in the trash and it is far to environmentally irresponsible for me to give it a proper burial.

And perhaps, in some Utopian time far from now, the kind soul that finds my friend and my goodbye letter to him will be able to bring him back from beyond the silicon gates of game boy heaven and allow him to once more bring joy into the world of ours, here, on this good Earth.