IMC: Villains

Arref puts up a missive on villains in the Eternal City campaign.
I can’t argue or belabor any of the points he makes about what makes a good villain, so I will detail the VO (Villainous opposition) elements of Strange Bedfellows, to show what’s lurking in my biggest universe. I will admit that I usually have, in my convention and other one-shot games, that I usually use a VO of my own creation. And in Wizard in the Attic (2003), I used Chaos as a VO as an adjunct to the main story.

Continue reading IMC: Villains

Another Temp Job

Finally, I’ve managed, in this weak economy, to at least score another temp job. I started yesterday, and this will run (theoretically) until the end of August. I am working for “The Man” again, this time over at the administration building for Hennepin Cty. I will be reviewing and looking at documents sent in pertaining to mortgages–seeing if the requests are properly filled out.
It’s a job that my trainer wants me to do by visual inspection rather than “thinking too much” about any particular document. So I need to unlearn some of my habits in order to do this job. We’ll see how it goes.

Names, Roman Style Appendix

Rikibeth asked:
Did Roman women keep their own names after marriage?
And did women ever take their names from their mothers instead of their fathers, even if legitimate?

Good questions! In actuality, what was commonly done was that the woman took the possessive cognomen of her husband.
For example:
Quintus Caecilius Metellus has a daughter. Her name would by the rules of Roman nomenclature be Caecilia Metella.
If she married Publicus Licinius Crassus, her name would change to
Caecilia Metella Crassi.
As far as taking Mother’s names–it could happen. Certainly, by the time of the Empire, the rules that I described became much more flexible. Different customs, Romans bringing in ideas from other parts of the Empire…things were a lot more flexible than the rules that I describe.
I should also add that adopted sons took the full name of their father, and an additional name from their original clan.
Thus, Octavian, after being adopted by G. Julius Ceasar, officially became
Gaius Julius Ceasar Octavianus

Names, Roman Style, in Amber

I’ve been thinking about names today, since I’ve been watched some of TIVO-ed Caesar (the TNT two part series on recently). Naturally, I’ve been thinking about this in terms of my characters.
In the days of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire, male Roman citizens had at least three components to their names:
The praenomen, or personal name. The Romans were not as free with this as we are in modern society. Only family members used this.
The nomen gentilicum, or family name. This indicated what clan/family (or part thereof) that you were from.
The cognomen, the last part, is a nickname, useful when you have two people in your family with the same praenomen. Sometimes you got an additional one of these for doing something noteworthy.
Thus, the full name of Julius Ceasar is Gaius Julius Ceasar. No one outside of his family would have ever called him Gaius–which is why it often gets dropped and not used. Ceasar was not his “last name”, Julius was, since he was from the House of Julia.
Similarly: Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Women’s names reflected the mores of the time. Daughters were given the female form of the father’s House name, and a possessive form of his cognomen.
Thus, Gaius Julius Ceasar’s daughter was named Julia Ceasaris. Multiple daughters in a family usually were distinguished by “The elder, the Younger”, or numbered: prima, secunda, tertia.
How would this work in Amber? I’ve seen Barimen bandied about as a last name for Amberites, but I don’t think it would work under this scheme. After all, it doesn’t tell you what branch of the Barimens you are from.
No, I think that Roman names in Amber would descend from the Queen/mate of Oberon from which you were descended. If you look at most family trees of Amber, they are usually divided by those bloodlines.
Thus, Marcus, my son of Deirdre in Age of Retribution, might have a Roman name of Marcus (pronounced Mar-cuse) Faiellus, and a suitable cognomen.
Scipio, my son of Flora, might be styled Scipio Dybelus.
Of course, women might require some more tweaking to make a scheme like this work, or else all female descendants of Corwin and Eric will wind up with Faiella as a praenomen.
You could do something with the Courts of Chaos, too…if you simply make it that people are more often addressed by their House name and a cognomen than by their first name. People inside of the House, of course, would use the praenomen, but, say, a Helgram meeting a Hendrake would use cognomens, or if they were being formal, simply the House name.
Of course, your PCs (and major NPCs) would all need cognomens…

Degrees of Kevin Bacon

The Volokh Conspiracy
The Volokh Conspiracy has a couple of notes on the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, including a link to a website which computes “Bacon numbers”. There is even a note that President Grover Cleveland of all people has a Kevin Bacon number of 6.
I do better than President Cleveland, however. My Kevin Bacon number is 3
Paul Weimer is on the Videssos Mailing List with Steven Silver
Steven Silver was on Jeopardy with Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek was on Celebrity Jeopardy with Kevin Bacon.
(And, therefore, a bunch of you all have a Bacon number of no greater than four, as a result of linking to me via things like Bete Noire, Grand Affair, Strange Bedfellows, etc.)

Hoax…or are things this bad?

I’ve seen this linked to from a number of disparate places now. I have no idea of its veracity. I’d like to think this is either a hoax, mistake or deliberate obfuscation of some sort.
To paraphrase one of Heinlein’s protagonists:
“If any government, or any one for that matter, undertakes to say to you: This you may not read, this you may not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result no matter how holy the motives is tyranny.”

Happy Moon Landing Day

Happy Moon Landing Day

“That’s one small step for Man…one giant leap, for Mankind”
–Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969.

Yes, I know I used my “Mysteries of Amber” setup to highlight the above, but it IS a mystery to me.
On July 20, 1969, the culmination of a dream of ages, given birth in the mind of Jack Fitzgerald Kennedy was accomplished when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.
And on December 14,1972, Apollo 17 lifted off from the Moon, and our neighbor has been unvisited since that date. Why?
Conventional Wisdom these days says it was all a Cold War race for prestige. The Soviet Union and America basically extended into Space as a stunt, as a race to show the superiority of their ideology and their way of life. Once that was accomplished, there was no reason to go back. Certainly, if we wanted to go back to the Moon, it would take years to build a vehicle capable of the feat.
“But its just a dry, empty rock. We have problems here on Earth without worrying about Space”. Real space exploration seems to be insignificant these days compared to the world we live in. Even in Farscape was the spectre of September 11th invoked as a reason to turn our backs on Space, and concentrate on the here and now.
And yet…have you seen Finding Nemo? Set aside Nemo and his father for a moment, and look at the fish in the Dentist’s office fish tank. It’s a nice tank, he takes meticulous care of the fish (even if he sometimes gifts them on his destructive niece), its a nice place, even if limited. Free food, watch and debate the dentist as he does his work.
And yet the fish long to see the greater world. Even though they have never seen it with their own eyes and the ocean is unbelieveably vast…they yearn and scheme for a way to escape their tank, and to the ocean. They yearn for the greater world beyond their tank.
Our greater world is beyond our atmosphere, our cradle of life, Earth. Risky and Dangerous? Yes, Challenger and Columbia prove that Space surely is that.
So I will leave you with a quote from Q, from the latter Star Trek series:
“It’s not safe out there. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it is NOT for the timid.”
Happy Moon Landing Day.

The Banana (will) Split

The Globe and Mail
A rather gloomy article on the problems with the domesticated banana, and the fact that its lack of genetic diversity combined with an inability to reproduce except by vegetative propgagation is literally killing it as a crop thanks to a new fungal infection ravaging plantations in Central and South America.
This is not to say that there will be no more bananas at all within ten years–just that sweet, delicious variety we all know and love might not want to start reading War and Peace, or the Robert Jordan series.
A lack of genetic diversity is a Bad Thing, its been a hallmark of Biology curricula for a long time. And this is living proof.
If you want a animal equivalent to the banana’s plight, look no further than the fastest predator on earth–the Cheetah. Like the banana, its spectacularly uniform, genetically, and that makes it vulnerable to being ravaged by a disease that the population will not be able to fight off as a whole.
And to extend the argument, this an argument against monoculture as well. Consider a forest which is solely made of walnut trees and no other varieties. (Perhaps it was planted that way for aesthetic reasons). A disease that affects only Walnut trees will do far more damage to that forest than a more genetically diverse stand of vegetation, since not only will there be plants immune to the disease, but it will spread more slowly as well due to the imposition of unfavorable hosts between each walnut tree.

Issac Newton biography book review by Timothy Ferris

Los Angeles Times: Measuring an intellect as limitless as the universe
James Gleick, who among other claims to fame helped create one of the early successful ISPs on the internet (Pipeline) is also an author of a number of books. His latest book is a biography of Issac Newton, and the article above links to a review of said book by the astronomer Timothy Ferris.
The fact that Newton was heavily into alchemy, biblical prophecy and the like comes as no surprise to me, because there is a series of fantasy novels by J. Gregory Keyes based around the premise that Newton’s alchemical discoveries turned out to be as accurate as his scientific ones. In fact, I am currently reading the third in the series, Empire of Unreason, right now.
One other little side note is that the existence of those books gave an acquaintance of mine (and moderator of the Harry Turtledove list) a win in Jeopardy, since the Final Jeopardy question revolved around the very same fact of Newton’s theological interests.
In any event, Gleick’s book looks intriguing, and its going on my wish list.