Diary

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This is both a ‘’’wiki’’’ (a website editable by all) and a ‘’’blog’’’ (an online diary about the stuff AlexSchroeder reads and does). If you’re a friend or relative, you might be interested in reading Life instead of this page. If you’ve come here from an RPG blog, you might want to head over to RPG. There are other similar categories to be found on the SiteMap.

Für Rollenspieler gibt es ebenfalls eine eigene RSP Kategorie.

2015-07-30 Hayao Miyazaki

Das Filmpodium zeigt gerade alle Filme von Hayao Miyazaki.

Was ich bis jetzt gesehen habe:

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro war lustig. So viele Geheimtüren. So viel Unterwelt. Der Hauptperson gelingt es nicht, zu ihrer Liebe zu stehen. Eine durchgeknallte Agentin ist auch mit dabei. Der Hintergrund sieht sehr nach Schweiz oder Liechtenstein aus.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind war schön und unheimlich. Es gibt jede Menge Frauen in starken Rollen. Interessanterweise ist keiner so wirklich grausam böse sondern die bösen Taten ergeben sich einfach aus Positionen und Interessen der Personen. Mich hat fasziniert, mit welcher Ausdauer Nausicaä für friedliche Lösungen auf jeder Ebene kämpft und wie einfach es allen fällt, zur Gewalt zu greifen.

Kiki's Delivery Service ist schön, ein wahrer Gutmenschenfilm. Das Mädchen hat Mut, ist unabhängig, findet Freunde, findet Lösungen. Einfach nur positiv.

Porco Rosso romantisiert die Geschichte, Piraten, Freiheitskämpfer, Beziehungen – zeigt im Hintergrund aber eine faschistische Welt und wieder mal einen Protagonisten, der nicht zu seiner Liebe stehen kann. Was ausgezeichnet funktioniert hat, ist die fehlende Auflösung. Woher der Fluch? Wie endet alles? Es bleibt offen. Die beiden Frauen werden Freunde, heisst es am Ende. Eine Firma wird ausgebaut und hat Erfolg. Die Männer haben die Action, die Prügel, enden als Hollywood Stars oder verschwinden.

My Neighbor Totoro hat sehr schöne und fantastische Momente, Freundschaft unter Kindern, Erwachsene, die sich helfen, doch im Hintergrund zeigt sich ein Haus, das verfällt, eine Mutter, die lange krank ist, und so drängt sich die Frage auf, ob die fantastischen Momente die Kompensation der Kinder auf das Elend der Gegenwart ist. Den Kindern im Publikum haben die fantastischen Moment sehr gefallen. Mir selber lastete eine dunkle Vorahnung auf den Schultern. Erst als im Abspann gezeigt wurde, wie die Mutter aus einem Taxi steigt und willkommen geheissen wird, hat sich das etwas gelöst. Auch wenn ich The Scary Theory That Totoro Is The God of Death nicht teile, so verstehe ich doch den emotionalen Kontext. Im Film rennt Satsuki und ist so ausdauernd, und so verzweifelt, und alles ist so chancenlos, und doch gibt man nicht auf, ich fühlte mich an vergessene Alpträume erinnert, an schreckliche Momente einer Kindheit, die ich verdrängt hatte. Nicht an die Schrecken selber, sondern an die Möglichkeit, dass sie echt sein könnten.

Ich freue mich auf alle Fälle auf die restlichen Filme!

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2015-07-26 Zweite Heuschnupfenwelle

Jedes Jahr habe ich 2× Heuschnupfen. Gerade ist es wieder mal grausam, trotz Lorado Pollen Sandoz. Ich probiere ja immer wieder mal was aus. All die Wochen Riesenhitze mit bis zu 37°C waren problemlos. Aber jetzt hat es geregnet, kühlere Luft ist gekommen, und ich kann den Monitor kaum mehr sehen.

Pollen und Allergien meint allerdings: “Die Pollen-Hochsaison geht zu Ende. Die Gräserpollenbelastung ist daher im Allgemeinen schwach bis mässig, insbesondere in höheren Lagen nördlich der Alpen. Die Edelkastanienblüte ist fast vorbei, somit erreichen diese Pollen nur noch geringe Konzentrationen. Neben Gräserpollen finden sich noch etwas Brennnessel- und Wegerichpollen.”

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2015-07-24 Gmail, Gnus and GPG

I wrote some instructions for setting up Gmail, Gnus and GPG. I used Emacs 24.5 and GPG 2.0 for this tutorial.

If you’re on a Mac

I tried this using my Mac and a Guest account. A Guest account has all its files deleted when you log out. It’s as “clean” as I could get.

You can install Emacs in various ways. You could use Emacs For Mac OS X. “Pure Emacs! No Extras! No Nonsense!” This is what I used to run. I’ve also built Emacs from source many times. Just remember to ./configure --with-ns before you start. You can install it from Homebrew: You could brew install emacs or you could install Yamamoto Mitsuharu’s Emacs Mac Port. This last variant is what I’m using right now.

brew tap railwaycat/emacsmacport
brew install emacs-mac --with-gnutls --with-imagemagick --with-official-icon --with-xml2
brew linkapps emacs-mac

As for GPG, you have two options. You can install GPG via GPG Suite. This is what I used at first. gpg --version said gpg (GnuPG/MacGPG2) 2.0.27 (the current, stable version is 2.0.28). But I wanted to install GPG via Homebrew. If you want to try it as well, make sure you uninstall the GPG Suite if you had it installed.

If you just install gpg2, you won’t be able to enter your passphrase from within Emacs with a GUI. You’ll see a simple, cut off message saying epa-file--find-file-not-found-function: Opening input file: Decryption failed,. If you only use Emacs within terminal windows, no problem. No need to do anything. But if you like to use Emacs with fonts and colors, menus and scrollbars, then you need to install a special variant of pinentry in order to get a separate Pinentry window:

brew install gpg2
brew install pinentry-mac

Once you have done that, change your ~/.gnupg/gpg-agent.conf file so that it has only this one line:

pinentry-program /usr/local/bin/pinentry-mac

When you install gpg2, it tells you to put use-standard-socket in your ~/.gnupg/gpg-agent.conf file. Don’t do that unless you only want to use Emacs from a terminal. Here’s a sample session in a terminal, showing you what you’ll get, if you don’t use pinentry-mac:

alex@Megabombus:~$ echo "This is a test." > test
alex@Megabombus:~$ gpg --recipient kensanata --encrypt test
alex@Megabombus:~$ ls test*
test     test.gpg
alex@Megabombus:~$ gpg --output test2 test.gpg 

You need a passphrase to unlock the secret key for
user: "Alex Schroeder <kensanata@keybase.io>"
8192-bit RSA key, ID 4529A45C, created 2015-03-01 (main key ID ACECFEAE)

gpg: encrypted with 8192-bit RSA key, ID 4529A45C, created 2015-03-01
      "Alex Schroeder <kensanata@keybase.io>"
alex@Megabombus:~$ ls test*
test     test.gpg test2
alex@Megabombus:~$ diff test test2

When asked for your passphrase, you’ll see something like the following:

               ┌────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┐
               │ Please enter the passphrase to unlock the secret key for the OpenPGP certificate:  │
               │ "Alex Schroeder <kensanata@keybase.io>"                                            │
               │ 8192-bit RSA key, ID 4529A45C,                                                     │
               │ created 2015-03-01 (main key ID ACECFEAE).                                         │
               │                                                                                    │
               │                                                                                    │
               │ Passphrase *****************************************************************______ │
               │                                                                                    │
               │            <OK>                                                  <Cancel>          │
               └────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┘

This pinentry works in a terminal, but it won’t show up when GPG is called by GUI Emacs! Install pinentry-mac and you’ll be able to provide your passphrase when using Emacs.

If you already tinkered with gpg before changing ~/.gnupg/gpg-agent.conf, you’ll have to reload gpg-agent.

alex@Megabombus:~$ echo RELOADAGENT | gpg-connect-agent
OK

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2015-07-21 Spam AI

Wow, I was involved in a conversation with a bot or a spam agent. I got a suspicious email the other day:

I was on the alexschroeder.ch website over the weekend doing some research on behalf of my son, and I noticed a broken link. Can you forward this email to the person who deals with the website?

I use your site a lot so hope this helps and also if you are open to resource suggestions please let me know as I have found a few that hellped me and I think they would help other people too.

Page with broken resource link: http://alexschroeder.ch/wiki?action=tag;id=Censorship and the site that is not working anymore is http://www.number-10.gov.uk/

I decided to check nevertheless and sure enough, there was a broken link. Still expecting shenanigans, my reply was curt.

Thanks. I’ll change that link to point to http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/main-topics/local-stories/mps-back-bid-to-outlaw-the-glorification-of-terrorism-1-2604480

And I got a reply back! But… w00t?

Happy to have helped as I know keeping control of all external links can be a tough job.

The resource I would like to show you could be a great addition to a resource suggestion page in your site as it is very different from any other data resource of its kind.

It helped my son with visualising data in a different way and I found it to be a real eye opener.

Have a look and let me know your thoughts, if you add it great and if not thank you for your time and the help your site has given us.

https://www.trucklocator.co.uk/uk-and-global-transport-facts/

https://www.farmmachinerylocator.co.uk/farming-data-in-the-uk/

“truck locator”? “farm machinery locator”? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Update: The mysterious person found this page and sent me another email:

Alex, I am very much a real person with real feelings and was only helping you with a broken link, In which you were able to find and fix and then I suggested some resources my son wanted to share! I don’t understand why you would class that as spam or a bot and create a post on your site that has my personal details on it. I would really appreciate it if you can remove that as I don’t want to crazy emails from people that use your site.

I won’t be helping people on the net again as it’s not worth the hassle and people like you don’t appreciate the help.

OK, that sounds like a human. Could be a canned response, I guess. But I was intrigued. Bot or not? I was so convinced that this had been a bot sending me mail. Suddenly I felt like I had insulted a call center agent just doing their job. How does this work? Is this mysterious person working from home? I decided to write back.

This makes no sense. “truck locator”? “farm machinery locator”? You’ve got to be kidding me! Why did your son think such links would be of interest? Don’t worry about crazy emails. Your last name and your email address have been withheld.

And the mysterious person writes back again!

I have no idea why my 12 year old son even likes reading your site to be honest but he does and he had asked for me to email you and that’s what I have done. I just wanted you to know that I am a real person and not a spam bot. My friend is a moderator on Blaskhat world and he was the person who let me know about your post on your site. The whole internet thing is something I would like to get more into but it’s a scary place when things like this happen.

I can’t think of anything on my site appropriate for 12 year olds, but who knows. Perhaps he’s a D&D aficionado and reads my RPG posts. What about this “moderator on Blaskhat world”? Typing the name into Google, I get the following:

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/313/20113713451_cba77ae809_o.png

“BlackHatWorld is a fully moderated SEO Forum dedicated to dispersing Internet Marketing techniques.” Sounds like Spamdexing to me. So, Spam is correct, AI probably not. Or we’d be a lot close to the Singularity than I thought possible. Having just finished reading a book from Culture series by Ian Banks, I’m not so sure anymore. :)

Sadly, the exchange continued. The mysterious person said I should take all of this down, that I was insulting them, that I should remove the link to the Yorkshire Post, that I should remove the reference to Black Hat World, that they would hand this issue over to somebody else if I didn’t do that. Also: “If not he will contact you personally is that is what you would like?”

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Comments on 2015-07-21 Spam AI

This mysterious person should be scared of their son, not the Internet. :D

– AlexDaniel 2015-07-29 14:56 UTC

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2015-07-21 Griechenland

Vor einer Weile gab es hier einen Datenverlust und deswegen ist eine Webseite verschwunden, wo ich meine Google+ Diskussionsbeiträge zum Thema herkopiert hatte. [1] [2] Einige habe ich mittlerweile wieder gelöscht. Das Niveau passt mir nicht…

Eine Währung: Zeigt nicht die Schweiz, dass ein Bund von wirtschaftlich sehr verschiedenen Regionen trotzdem eine gemeinsame Währung haben kann? Die Eurozone braucht einfach noch ein paar Reformen…

Zukunft: Meine Hoffnung: aus innenpolitischem Kalkül kann Deutschland dem Schuldenschnitt nicht zustimmen. Weil aber Zinsen nicht bezahlt werden müssen, bleiben Jahre und Jahrzehnte, um die Fristen hinauszuschieben und nach und nach die Schulden zu streichen. Jede Regierung macht einen kleinen Schritt und am Schluss ist’s keiner gewesen.

Perspektive: Dieser Tages-Anzeiger (TA) Artikel von Constantin Seibt folgt in grossem Teil den Ausführungen von Varoufakis in seinem Interview. Die politischen Taktiken werden wie folgt dargestellt: “Deshalb glaubte die neue griechische Regierung, bei den Verhandlungen eine gute Chance zu haben, wenn sie sagte: «Wenn die Theorie nicht mehr zu den Fakten passt, lasst uns die Theorie ändern.» Nur reagierte die Eurozone nicht mit der Änderung der Theorie, sondern mit einer wilden Schlacht um die Fakten: Von «Kaffeehauspolitikern» über Radikalismus bis zu Verspätungen wurde den Griechen alles vorgeworfen, um sie unglaubwürdig zu machen. Am Ende hiess es sogar, sie hätten durch verschleppte Verhandlungen eine eigentlich gerade aufblühende Wirtschaft ruiniert. In der Tat waren die Griechen nicht sehr professionell – aber ihr Problem war: Als professionell wurde vor allem die Einhaltung der Regeln angesehen, die gerade das Land ruinierten. Im Grunde wollte man nicht mehr als die Unterschrift unter die bestehenden Verträge.”

Deswegen hätte ich halt gerne einen ausführlicheren Artikel in irgendeiner Zeitung, den ich online lesen könnte, welche die Verhandlungen aus der anderen Perspektive beschreiben. Die Verhandlungsstrategie von Schäuble wurde sicher irgendwo verteidigt. Mir ist nur nicht klar, wo ich schauen muss. Wenn ich in der Neuen Züricher Zeitung (NZZ) den Artikel von René Höltschi lese, so heisst es: “Dieser und sein inzwischen zurückgetretener Finanzminister Janis Varoufakis überzogen die Kreditgeber zunächst mit einer Tirade von Kritik und Belehrungen, ohne dass sie aber das Hilfsprogramm kündigten. Sie wussten, dass sie die anstehenden Rückzahlungen nicht aus eigener Kraft leisten könnten, und einen Staatsbankrott mit anschliessend drohendem Grexit wollten sie doch nicht riskieren.”

Die beiden Aussagen müssen sich jetzt ja noch nicht widersprechen. Man müsste nun schauen, ob “Kritik und Belehrungen” Quatsch waren, oder eben wie im TA zitiert: “Ex-Finanzminister Giannis Varoufakis schilderte die Griechenlandverhandlungen so: «Du bringst ein ökonomisches Argument, an dem du lang gearbeitet hast – und die Antwort ist ein blankes Starren. Es ist, als hättest du nichts gesagt. Du hättest auch die schwedische Nationalhymne singen können.»” So müsste man halt jede Punkt anschauen. Was sind “verschleppte Verhandlungen” (TA) genau? Was heisst “die Geber und die griechischen Behörden stritten bis Ende Juni ergebnislos über die Auflagen für die Hilfe” (NZZ)? Was Varoufakis darunter versteht, habe ich ja in seinem Interview beim New Statesman gelesen. Mich interessiert die andere Seite.

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2015-07-16 Secure Mail, Secure Chat

Harald recently posted these three links on Google+:

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Comments on 2015-07-16 Secure Mail, Secure Chat

If someone has a decent writeup for, say, Emacs GNUS, I’ll be happy to add a link to that.

– Harald 2015-07-16 19:00 UTC



Alex Schroeder
Well, I do have a setup at the moment, but it doesn’t do any of the hardening. I’m not sure about preventing swap, I’m not sure about making sure that GPG invokations never user temporary files… So If anybody else knows, I’d be interested. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2015-07-16 19:16 UTC



Alex Schroeder
When I tried it just now, it saved a draft on Gmail as cleartext. Clearly, some more settings are required! :( Unfortunately, it seems that mutt will not do that. There is a patch, Add option to encrypt postponed messages. It adds the necessary options. But my Mutt 1.5.23 (2014-03-12) doesn’t recognize them.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-07-22 08:52 UTC



Alex Schroeder
There’s a bug in the OSX Yosemite context. When attempting to send an email, you’ll get the error “no authenticators available”. Ticket #33419 in Homebrew talks about it. The solution:

set smtp_authenticators = 'login'

Now you’ll need to provide a password for SMTP. In your ~/.mutt/muttpasswd.gpg:

# -*- epa-file-encrypt-to: ("...") -*-
# use app password: https://security.google.com/settings/security/apppasswords
set imap_pass = '...' # your Gmail One Time Password
set smtp_pass = $imap_pass

Remember to use a Google App Password.

The epa-file-encrypt-to line at the beginning is for Emacs’ EasyPG Assistant, the user interface to GNU Privacy Guard.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-07-22 10:06 UTC



Alex Schroeder
Once I have written a new email, I need to remember to use pe – open the PGP menu and choose encrypt. If I don’t, I’ll send plaintext. There is very little warning and nothing to prevent me from doing so. This is terrible. Once I do and answer y, mutt asks me for the Key ID of the recipient. Whatever I provide gets ignored. When I just hit enter, mutt starts looking for all the keys matching the empty string and crashes with a sig11. This is also terrible.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-07-23 06:21 UTC



Alex Schroeder
I figured that perhaps I’m just not interested enough in learning Vim and mutt… So I decided to write a tutorial on how to setup Gmail, Gnus and GPG. I used a Guest account on my Mac.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-07-24 13:28 UTC

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2015-07-16 Do Not Upgrade To Debian Jessie If You Are On A VM

Well… I think I lost about 12h on all my wikis. I thought: “Upgrade from Debian Wheezy to Jessie? No Problem!” I never saw a big huge blinking warning saying that you shouldn’t do it if you’re a guest on a virtual machine. But systemd replaces sysvinit, which requires a newer kernel, which the host doesn’t have! Everything works until you reboot. At which point the network doesn’t come back up. You can’t switch from systemd to sysvinit because downloading the packages doesn’t work anymore. You can’t scp the deb files to your server because all you have is a serial console. On your end, it looks like ssh. And yet, whatever I tried wouldn’t work. Because networking doesn’t work on the host.

And that’s when I discovered some flaws in my backup. What a disappointment. How exactly was Perl installed? Why doesn’t the backup contain the Apache config files for those sites that had SSL added to them?

Kallobombus. I thought I had documented it all. Not so. :(

Todo items for tomorrow:

  1. check other sites
  2. check cron jobs
  3. check backup job
  4. improve backup
  5. check development environment

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Comments on 2015-07-16 Do Not Upgrade To Debian Jessie If You Are On A VM

awww! :(

AlexDaniel 2015-07-16 01:14 UTC



Alex Schroeder
I think all the permissions are back where they should be. The campaignwiki.org cron job is running. Monit and Munin are basically up but their configuration is borked. That is to say, they are monitoring some things I haven’t installed because I never kept track of the packages I actually installed.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-07-16 12:26 UTC

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2015-07-14 No Copyright

My recent discussion of the Mass Effect RPG and the reform of copyright led me to pick Piracy by Adrian Johns from the shelf and start reading. On page 53 he talks about the French revolution and copyright. In 1789, the revolutionaries abolished literary property. How did it turn out? It was terrible. Everything was reprinted, with cheap tools, at breakneck speed, anything to make a quick buck. What was left was newspapers, tracts, and compilations of old books.

You can read more about it in Carla Hesse’s book Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris, 1789–1810. It is available online, for free, from the California Digital Library. There, in the chapter The First Legislative Initiative (1789–1791), you’ll find the discussion between Denis Diderot defending the Paris Book Guild’s view of their privileges as a form of property and the Marquis de Condorcet arguing that ideas don’t originate in individuals but in a society and could therefore not belong to an individual. The only individual contribution was style, not substance.

This lofty discussion notwithstanding, the main problem for the people in power at the time was not the crumbling print business but that in their race to the bottom a lot of libelous and seditious material was being printed. Anything to make a quick buck. So, how can we fix the market of book printing and introduce accountability? The 1790 initiative by Sieyès proposed a limited property right of up to ten years after the author’s death. It was never voted upon. There was too much criticism. And so we come to another chapter, The Second Initiative (1791–1793). In 1793, a proposal by Chénier passed. It did more or less what the first initiative had said: a limited property right of up to ten years after the author’s death. It only differed in a few minor issues: libel and sedition were no longer mentioned, and old perpetual privileges from the old days were abolished. It was called the “declaration of the rights of genius”.

You’ll note that the discussion between Denis Diderot and the Marquis de Condorcet remained unresolved. Carla Hesse says:

This notion of a public domain, of democratic access to a common cultural inheritance on which no particular claim could be made, bore the traces not of Diderot, but of Condorcet’s faith that truths were given in nature and, although mediated through individual minds, belonged ultimately to all. Progress in human understanding depended not on private knowledge claims, but on free and equal access to enlightenment. An author’s property rights were conceived as recompense for his service as an agent of enlightenment through publication of his ideas.

– Carla Hesse, Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris, 1789–1810, p. 121

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2015-07-14 Monsters

Recently, somebody asked the following on G+: “If you use monster books, or even monsters from blog posts, what does your workflow look like?”

So here’s how I did it for The Crown of Neptune. Some doodling and brainstorming yields the following. I see a shark, a lamprey or moray man, and an aboleth. And I see a first table of random encounters on the right. Spider crabs, squids, sharks, mermaids, dinosaurs, wales. This dungeon is going to be about sharks and dinosaurs, and as you go deeper it will turn into underwater horror. Or so I think.

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3853/14796855991_9fcfe7a295_c.jpg

This is what I ended up with:

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7553/16117940957_2a1cb1ed31_c.jpg

How do I arrive at the table in the middle of this sheet?

I start at the beginning and think about the environment. My adventures are almost always locations on a greater hex map. That already gives me some monsters from the surrounding area. In this case, that would be the plesiosaurus. Looking for dinosaur stats leads me to the Rules Cyclopedia and aquatic dinosaurs. The entry is disappointing.

The dungeon is underwater. So I’m thinking of monstrous animals. Sharks, obviously. Sharks have a nice stat block in the Labyrinth Lord book. I feel better already.

Not sure about wales. They seem pretty boring. Perhaps a creature to talk to, or to charm? The Labyrinth Lord book has stats for killer whales and they’re in the range I like right now: 6 HD.

And I want simple, humanoid, intelligent monsters that players can interact with. Some sort of nixie, or merfolk? Nixies and sirens can charm people and I’m thinking that this is a more brutal environment. Let’s pick merfolk instead. I remember something about tritons but they’re not in the Labyrinth Lord book. Merfolk will do.

OK, further down. Let’s start bringing that horror feeling. My campaign features neogi. Eel headed spider slavers. This reminds me of morays. Morayfolk! Or Lampreyfolk. Once they hit, they keep drawing blood without needing to attack. A classic special ability and easy to add. Think giant weasels or stirges. I’m not sure where I get that HD 2+1 from.

Spiders. Crabs. Spidercrabs. They look a lot like the giant crab monster from the Labyrinth Lord book. AC 3 instead of AC 2, 1d10 instead of 2d6. Trivial changes.

The kraken is a giant squid from the Labyrinth Lord book. My players know I love the kraken. In my mind, this kraken was huge. 50m long arms! It should have had a gazillion HD. But seven attacks is good enough, I though. Let the monster look tougher than it is. Labyrinth Lord, giant squid. Works for me! HD 6. Ideal.

Not sure where I got the giant clams from. Since they can’t move, that looks more like an obstacle to me.

And now for some unterwater undead. Kraken made me think of ink, and that made me think of dark clouds. Wraiths? And some more variations on the crab and on the lamprey themes. Simple variations in numbers. Things get tougher as you go down.

An astral spider is an intelligent planar spider from the Rules Cyclopedia, I guess. Or a variant on the aforementioned neogi and giant spiders. Giant jellyfish is a variant on the kraken theme but with paralysis instead of multiple attacks. I imagine them being soft targets which is why they don’t get eight attacks or more.

The giant anglerfish was supposed to be a building that can bite. I don’t know where I got the 36 HD from. It was basically a huge trap.

Further down! A gibbering mouther? An elf encased in an evil mech? I must have been thinking of the Goons in the Caverns of Slime:

3d6 Goons (HD 5; AC 3; Atk 1 slam +3 (1d6+3); MV 6; in combat the poor creature locked inside will be begging for forgiveness and cry for help even as it fights) are alerted to the party’s presence by imperceptible sensors embedded into the walls and ceilings of the building.

More kraken. And my version of an aboleth, since I couldn’t find one in the Labyrinth Lord book.

Basically the whole adventure is nothing but a map, random monsters, some of them with an obvious lair, and if a lair exists, then with treasure, and some traps or curious things to investigate – such as the dead diver I added because I had listened to the story of how David Shaw died.

Back to the initial question, though. How do I use monster books?

  1. leaf through the book, looking for inspiration – pictures help me describe monsters, a description of two or three sentences help me add variety to my monsters
  2. copy stats – and these stats help me add similar monsters
  3. roll for treasure – remember, I think they help me suspend disbelief
  4. suggest similar monsters nearby

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Comments on 2015-07-14 Monsters

I like your spider crab illustration :)

Now, was it modeled after real spider crabs, or in true D&D fashion, was it a spider/crab mash-up?

– Adrian 2015-07-16 16:52 UTC



Alex Schroeder
As I’m still a biologist at heart, I was of course thinking of the Japanese spider crab, macrocheira kaempferi. Except, with D&D flavor sprinkled all over it. I barely avoided giving it psionic powers. :)

Looking at the illustration, it looks as if I started with a sahuagin head, added lamprey teeth, thought I needed more spiders, and now that I read the scribbles I see that it says “spider woman”. Well, it was enough to make me think of spider crabs when I was thinking of more monsters to add to the list.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-07-16 19:18 UTC

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2015-07-13 Greece

Some comments I left on Google+ when talking about Greece. [1][2]

Some of those credits should not have been granted. Creditors have duties. As people, we can declare bankruptcy and continue with our lives. As nation states, we cannot. I still think that creditors need to their homework or we’ll be encouraging creditors to keep lending to bad debtors, and we’ll be encouraging governments to borrow money that the next government will never be able to pay back. That’s why we had debt bondage in the past and we didn’t like it.

There is a report by the Truth Committee on the Greek Public Debt. The example cited in a Swiss newspaper is on page 55: “Considering that debts contracted in violation of domestic law are illegal, some local debts to private creditors should be considered as illegal. For instance, the municipality of Zografou was granted a €25 million loan by the Austrian bank KommunalKredit, a subsidiary of Dexia, for a project which did not get approval from state auditors as required by law.” It has a footnote citing Chakrabortty, A., 2011. Greece in crisis: House of the rising repayments. The Guardian. To quote: “They’re also shocked at the IMF’s insistence that a possibly illegal loan between a council and a bank should be taken on by the state.” I think the Austrian bank should just eat its $25 million loan. Lending that money was a bad decision. Forcing the government to pay back a loan some corrupt council member organized is not good. Foreign banks will continue to support local crooks because the IMF will enforce the rules and won’t let Greece default on the loans because nation states cannot go bankrupt.

The Eurozone setup is flawed. An economic union needs a lot of cash flow. Between the rich and the poor cantons or Bundesländer of a country as well as between the countries of a union. I guess the consequence of that is that if you don’t like how the money is spent elsewhere in your union, then perhaps the two of you shouldn’t be in an economic union…

It seems to me that we have two general problems:

  1. how to get rid of corruption
  2. how to get rid of debt

Right now, seeing the plight of the Greek people, I’m all for prioritizing #2. The long term solution to something like that would seem to be equalization payments. In order to prevent misappropriation of all these funds, we also need to get rid of #1. I remember how there was a lot of talk about the misappropriation of EU money in Portugal back when they joined (we lived in Portugal at the time and I went to the German school in Lisbon). I don’t know how they got rid of corruption at that level (or whether they did at all). Solving that problem is difficult because you need both institutions and a culture surrounding them to make it work. To change the minds of a population basically required a revolution or a war in the past?

It was debt that forced the Greek state to accept troika measures such as the slashing of the health care sector and that’s what has prompted the creation of street clinics. I also read that pensions work as as a welfare system. Given that Greece does not have a great welfare system, doesn’t that sound like the next best solution? Apparently large families now depend on a single pension in order to survive. Yes, it’s probably horribly inefficient, but it might be cheaper to maintain in the short run instead of building a welfare system from scratch?

I don’t deny that many mistakes were made. A little googling about the Greek welfare state led me to Greece as a Precautionary Tale of the Welfare State that shows how corruption (tax evasion, cheap credit being misused, etc.) started plaguing the Greek economy starting in 1981 (mercifully short, 10 pages):

“No wonder that over 50 percent of young Greeks are unemployed. That is the result of a business environment that discourages entrepreneurship, where bureaucratic costs are so high and there is so much corruption.”

I guess my point is that all of this doesn’t necessarily mean that defaulting on debt should be impossible, it doesn’t necessarily mean that private debt should be turned into public debt (my 25M€ example a few comments above), it doesn’t necessarily mean we cannot even give them a short term credit so that they can do a debt swap and change from a 4% interest rate to a 1% interest rate (damn, cannot find reference for that).

So, we had a bad situation in Greece growing since 1981. But then, Why should the Greek debt be audited? “Auditing the Greek debt will show that European private banks greatly increased their loans to Greece between the end of 2005 and 2009 (they went from €80 billion to €140 billion, a €60 billion increase) not taking any account of the State’s actual insolvency. Moreover their loans were at very low interest rates (0.35% for three-month loans and 4.5% for 10 years in October 2009 whereas the average rate for German bonds at the same time was about 3.3%). Banks were foolhardy, convinced as they rightly were that European bodies would bail them out in any case.”

Which goes back to my initial point. Yes, starting with €80M is bad. But now we want them to also pay €60M of debt that should not have been granted by the banks.

The thing I worry about is what this tells us about the financial powers. They are unwilling to change. Read the Yanis Varoufakis interview. They know you’re right but they don’t want to talk. But as a kid, the first lesson I learned was that refusing to talk led to violence. Are we going to ruin and occupy Greece? Will we let the hate breed and build? What’s the exit strategy for the troika politicians?

I understand that they covered covered the lousy credits their banks gave to Greece back in 2010. Not doing that might have pulled the current troika down, because suddenly it would have been the people saving money in Germany loosing their money because of financial hooliganism in their banks. But now they managed to foist it all on Greece, bailed the bankers out, bailed their voters out – pitting Germans against Greeks, while bankers laugh and take their business elsewhere. Too big to fail, to big to reform, to big to tame. This is what the deregulation of the banking sector brought is.

It is revolting.

Perhaps It’s Time to Kick Germany Out of the Eurozone.

The Yanis Varoufakis interview I read looks all too plausible to me:

The negotiations took ages, because the other side was refusing to negotiate. They insisted on a “comprehensive agreement”, which meant they wanted to talk about everything. My interpretation is that when you want to talk about everything, you don’t want to talk about anything. But we went along with that.

And look there were absolutely no positions put forward on anything by them. So they would… let me give you an example. They would say we need all your data on the fiscal path on which Greek finds itself, we need all the data on state-owned enterprises. So we spent a lot of time trying to provide them with all the data and answering questionnaires and having countless meetings providing the data.

So that would be the first phase. The second phase was where they’d ask us what we intended to do on VAT. They would then reject our proposal but wouldn’t come up with a proposal of their own. And then, before we would get a chance to agree on VAT with them, they would shift to another issue, like privatisation. They would ask what we want to do about privatisation, we put something forward, they would reject it. Then they’d move onto another topic, like pensions, from there to product markets, from there to labour relations, from labour relations to all sorts of things right? So it was like a cat chasing its own tail.

We felt, the government felt, that we couldn’t discontinue the process. Look, my suggestion from the beginning was this: This is a country that has run aground, that ran aground a long time ago. … Surely we need to reform this country – we are in agreement on this. Because time is of the essence, and because during negotiations the central bank was squeezing liquidity [on Greek banks] in order pressurise us, in order to succumb, my constant proposal to the Troika was very simple: let us agree on three or four important reforms that we agree upon, like the tax system, like VAT, and let’s implement them immediately. And you relax the restrictions on liqiuidity from the ECB. You want a comprehensive agreement – let’s carry on negotiating – and in the meantime let us introduce these reforms in parliament by agreement between us and you.

And they said “No, no, no, this has to be a comprehensive review. Nothing will be implemented if you dare introduce any legislation. It will be considered unilateral action inimical to the process of reaching an agreement.” And then of course a few months later they would leak to the media that we had not reformed the country and that we were wasting time! And so… [chuckles] we were set up, in a sense, in an important sense.

So by the time the liquidity almost ran out completely, and we were in default, or quasi-default, to the IMF, they introduced their proposals, which were absolutely impossible… totally non-viable and toxic. So they delayed and then came up with the kind of proposal you present to another side when you don’t want an agreement.

Yanis Varoufakis

Or, if you read some German, see Das ist ein Putsch gegen die alte BRD:

Für geschichtsbewusste Deutsche ist es diesmal schwierig, eine formschöne Antwort zu finden, wenn andere Länder morgen Begriffe wie „Kanonenbootpolitik“ verwenden. Oder „Münchner Abkommen“. Oder daran erinnern, dass Anweisungen für zu erlassende Gesetze in anderen Ländern zumindest in Westeuropa aus gutem Grund nach 1945 nicht mehr üblich sind. Auslieferung von Vermögenswerten, Eingriffe in die Tarifautonomie und Sozialgesetzgebung sind, wenn ich an dieser Stelle daran erinnern darf, durch die Europapolitik der deutschen Besatzer nicht minder historisch kontaminiert.

– Don Alphonso

As for the anti-German sentiments, I think these are often unfair. Most people just point at the head. Germany is doing what many others did as well: nationalize the debt its banks incurred. The funny Demon Ocracy graphics illustrate the amount of money owed in truckloads.

  1. Germany €56B
  2. Other Bonds €49B
  3. France €42B
  4. Italy €37B
  5. Other Eurozone €34B
  6. IMF €32B
  7. Spain €25B
  8. ECB €20B

I think that all these countries made big mistakes. Extending credit to banks they should not have, because banks extended credit to Greece it should not have, because the regulations mandated that interests be kept low when it should not have—because the monetary union does not have the tools to regulate itself that should have. And now it’s hard to understand why a country like Germany, France, Italy or Spain should risk financial upheaval and the anger of its citizens when they worked so hard and saved their money. Those citizens didn’t know that the economic setup was broken and that their banks were involved in this money making machine. And now it is breaking down and the way I see it, the creditors are trying to make Greece pay for all of it.

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