Followers

5 Nerdy Things to do on Facebook

Guest Post by Suzanne MacNevin

#1. Write an Interactive Story with your Friends.

Example:





#2. Interactive Roleplaying

Like the storytelling above, but instead you each 'play' your own fictional character and the players describe their characters actions and interactions. Similar to Dungeons and Dragons, but without the dice and the miniatures.

#3. Share 80s and 90s Nostalgia Music Videos

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#4. Promote your Nerdy Obsessions to non-Nerds

Example:

"Hey Jeffrey, have you ever read She-Hulk? No? Its an amazing story about a lawyer who is Bruce Banner's cousin and she is dying and he saves her with a blood transfusion... and the next thing you know she has Hulk's powers and beats the crap out of supervillains and the mafia..."

#5. Write Nerdy Lists like this one...

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition on the Horizon

Wizards of the Coast, the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons, has announced that they have begun development of a 5th Edition of the game.

This could be potentially good or bad. If you know anything about Dungeons & Dragons you might know that the 4th Edition of D&D was heavily boycotted by fans upset over excessive rules changes and slow repetitive combat rules.

First published in 1974, the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons pits heroic wizards, knights, rogues and priests against zombies, ogres, orcs, dragons and a wide variety of other baddies... using just dice, paper and interactive storytelling.

Each player plays a character (ie. an elf archer or a dwarf barbarian), gives them a name, a description, a list of weapons / equipment / spells they can use and everything is written down on a piece of paper called a Character Sheet.

The players then act a team to overcome obstacles usually laid out on the table using miniatures, maps and then roll dice to determine random results when fighting orcs, climbing cliffs, charming the barmaid, etc. The baddies and Non-Player Characters are all controlled by a storyteller known as the "Dungeon Master" (an honourific title if ever there was one). Because its a game where imagination and roleplaying of the characters are encouraged its a highly enjoyable game and very popular amongst creative types and nerds.

However the problem is the rules which govern gameplay. The publisher Wizards of the Coast keeps changing the rules in an obvious effort to both correct poorly conceived rules which players argue about and also to SELL MORE RULEBOOKS (and make a tonne of money in the process).

When 3rd Edition D&D came out in 2000 they sold a lot of rulebooks and made huge profits. However some of the players were unhappy with some of the rules so in 2003 they came out with version 3.5 to make some of the whiners and "rules lawyers" happy. (And sold even more books, made more profits.) To make it even more interesting they developed the "d20 System" which was then used for other D&D-esque games such as "d20 Modern" and "d20 Star Wars", allowing players to effectively play any kind of game they wanted to.

But when 4th Edition came out in 2008 there was a backlash.

Players revolted. Some of them formed boycotts of the new edition. Most decided to stick with 3rd Edition or 3.5. Players did try the new 4th Edition rules, but most of them didn't like the rules, complaining it made combat too slow, made the game system too much like the strategy game 'Warhammer' or the card game 'Magic the Gathering' or even too much like online MMORPGs like 'World of Warcraft'... and these new rules were distracting from the roleplaying and fast combat system players had come to know and love. According to players the new combat system was tossed out and "apparently replaced with a new system created by a game designer who plays too much Warhammer and Magic the Gathering."

Wizards of the Coast, which also publishes the card game 'Magic the Gathering', was apparently attempting to encourage more collectible card gamers and Warhammer players to try D&D. The attempt was flawed because it left D&D players (some of whom have been playing the game since the 1970s) upset that their game was being defiled by a bunch of greedy capitalists.

Some players even went back to playing 1st and 2nd Edition D&D because they enjoyed the retro feel of the game and simplicity of the rules.

Hasbro, which now owns Wizards of the Coast, however took notice of this boycott... and they also took note of an essay circulating the internet about whether all the D&D players are playing "the same game" (regardless of what edition it is) and how many rules can we change before it stops being the same game?

Thus the new 5th Edition development has an interesting goal, so says the new developers. In rewriting the rules of D&D they are revisiting all the older rules to try and create an “universal rule set” which unifies all players under one single system.

“We’re focusing on what gets people excited about D&D, and making sure we have a game that encompasses all different styles,” says Mike Mearls, group manager for the D&D research and development team.

Their goal is to make a system that will make everyone happy, regardless of whether they are playing 1st Edition, 2nd, 3rd or 3.5. (And hopefully they will toss out any ideas of 4th Edition as a bad idea that never should have happened.)

Their end goal, obviously, is to sell more rulebooks to all D&D players, but to do such a good job of designing the new edition that everyone will want the new rulebooks and be happy about buying them.

The game designers are looking back at each edition of the game going back to 1974, and identifying core rules that make the game work best. They’re soliciting suggestions from players via weekly columns on their web site, and through community discussion threads. During the coming year they’re planning several rounds of playtesting, allowing fans to try out new rules before they’re finalized, and identify what does and doesn’t work.

When completed they hope to craft an universal rule set that all players will enjoy... in the process they're thinking of including a lot of modular "optional rules" which allows players to customize the game as they see fit.

Wizards staff are acutely aware that 4th Edition was a flop and upset many long-time players. This time around, Wizards doesn’t want to make the same mistake and wants to avoid railroading (gamer term meaning "forcing") the new edition into something players won't like.

"I’m not a fan of fourth edition. I find the combat slow, the powers limiting, and the rules inhospitable to the kind of creative world-building, story-telling and problem-solving that make D&D great," says David M. Ewalt, Forbes staff reporter, one of a team of journalists who were invited in December to test out an early draft of 5th Edition D&D.

According to Ewalt the 5th Edition rules "show promise. They’re simple without being stupid, and efficient without being shallow. Combat was quick and satisfying; we got through most of an adventure in just a few hours."

So 5th Edition is a step in the right direction, however...

Dungeons & Dragons should belong to the players, not the publisher. Its the players who make up the game. The publisher may own the rights to publish whatever crappy rulebooks they want, but the players are the game. If they don't like the rulebooks they will use other / older rulebooks that they do like. Wizards of the Coast has a responsibility to get it right this time and then NEVER make another edition ever again. If they want to keep publishing books, fine, but the "universal rule set" when its finally made should be just that: Universal.

The Future of Automated Businesses

Large corporations waste a lot of money quite literally "moving money around". If you have ever worked for a pension company, a bank or anything remotely similar you know this to be true. Its just a whole lot of paperwork.

But let us stop for a moment and imagine if businesses could become much more automated. ie. Lets pretend there was a bank with no tellers. People deposited their money from their pay cheques via direct deposit, and they got their funds using a debit card. They could manage their account online without ever speaking to a bank teller, a manager or whatever. They applied online or via snailmail, the mail was delivered to a machine which scanned in their vital info to a database, and everything is stored in a series of databases.

The only time money actually moves is when supervisors and security manage the transfers of actual cash. And the only staff are a few managers, some supervisors, security, database management and an anti-hacker team.

People could also apply for a mortgage or loan online and get back an affirmative or denial IMMEDIATELY. And because there is very little overhead costs the bank could offer better deals, and at the same time better profits for stockholders.

What you would end up with is a bank that is super efficient and every stockholder would want to invest in it.

Which brings me to the topic of ERP software. Its basically software which allows people to manage a lot more things and automate some of tasks normally done by people.

"An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is an integrated computer-based application used to manage internal and external resources, including tangible assets, financial resources, materials, and human resources. Its purpose is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside stakeholders. Built on a centralized database and normally utilizing a common computing platform, ERP systems consolidate all business operations into a uniform and enterprise-wide system environment.

An ERP system can either reside on a centralized server or be distributed across modular hardware and software units that provide "services" and communicate on a local area network. The distributed design allows a business to assemble modules from different vendors without the need for the placement of multiple copies of complex and expensive computer systems in areas which will not use their full capacity."


ERP software is essentially for communications and managing money or resources, but it could be adapted to do a lot more for businesses. ie. Lets say you owned a designer swimwear company and you take online payments. But what if you could automate the payment process entirely and the only thing remaining was the guy or gal who prints out the label, sticks it on the package and ships the swimwear to whomever ordered it. Sounds really easy right? Indeed.

Or lets say you were running a private school or college. Something small like a beauty school. You could also accept enrollments online, payments, fill up courses and so forth, and the student does not even talk to a person until they show up for their first day of classes. The idea could eventually be adapted to larger things like universities which are much more complex and offer way more course options, but universities are usually picky about marks and want to interview people before they accept them for enrollment.

In the future all of these paper pushing tasks should become automated. The only things remaining for PEOPLE to actually do is create the items to be sold (or build a robotic mechanism to do that for them), advertise the product (which is likewise becoming more automated with internet advertising) and of course buy them.

Of course we also need teachers along the way, because while the idea of robotic teachers have been around since Astro Boy and The Jetsons, there has not been any major improvements in either artificial intelligence or robotics.






Which begs the question... what happens to all the menial labour people once the machines do really reach a point where we have robotic maids? And what happens to the economy when all those people become jobless or have to be retrained to something else that a robot cannot do?

After all if the robots take away all the easy jobs, regular people will need to learn how to make more complex things by hand, become scientists or engineers, or do something really creative.

ie. Even farming could be automated, the same way robotic vacuum cleaners work on a radio guidance system.


What it means is that we are heading towards a future wherein human existence will be more made up of scientists and engineers (for maintenance) and also lots of people who are artists or craftsmen (because many people will still value man-made products). Much of our society would become dependent on socialism and communism by default, a Star Trek-esque society wherein everyone automatically can find work doing something they enjoy because food, energy and a home is all cheaply made.

If our whole society becomes either scientists or artists there will be nothing left to do but explore the galaxy beyond our own star system. It would become like Star Trek, but in a very real way.

I found the image below and thought it was amusing. In a Darwinian way.

The Evolution of Television


Get ready for a radically different way of watching television. Forget schedules and channels, and don’t assume you’ll actually be watching television on a television set. It’s called on-demand, and it’s already redefining how Canadians watch their favourite shows and movies.

Last month’s Canadian launch of the online streaming movie service Netflix marked another milestone in the gradual transition away from conventional television.

Waiting until 8 p.m. Thursday to watch the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory is out. Watching it on your laptop or smartphone whenever you’ve got some free time is in.

Movies are similarly affected, as the trek to the local video store to pick up a DVD or two is being replaced by streaming services. You’ll never stare at an empty video store shelf again.

“What makes it exciting is you can access your content over any web connected device,” says Edward Williams, a digital entertainment equity analyst with BMO Capital Markets in New York.

“Increasingly, your television is being connected to the web, and with that you end up with a very different experience of finding and consuming content.”

That very different experience is being driven by rapidly changing consumer expectations. The Internet has changed the way we view and consume entertainment content.

“If you look at our entertainment experiences, they used to be very passive, where we’d lean back and just take it all in,” says David Purdy, vice president of video products with Rogers Communications, which has 250,000 registered Rogers On Demand Online users. That’s 10.9 per cent of the company’s total 2.29 million television subscribers

“Increasingly, our customer base multitasks,” adds Purdy. “While they watch television, they may be online researching that show, or in the case of reality programming voting or actually participating in the show in some way. On-demand services enable these kinds of multiplatform and immersive experiences.”

They also don’t just watch TV shows on their TV sets. More powerful and better-connected smartphones and tablets make on-the-go entertainment commonplace.

Even game consoles are getting in on the act, as Netflix also supports Sony’s PS3, Nintendo’s Wii and, soon, the Microsoft Xbox 360. Despite its wave-making Canadian launch, Netflix doesn’t see itself replacing conventional cable and satellite providers.

“There’s a finite number of hours that people have to consume entertainment,” says Catherine Fisher, director of communications with Netflix.

“We see Netflix as a great supplement. I wouldn’t expect people to cancel cable because of Netflix because we’re really competing for people’s time.”

Netflix won’t say how many Canadians have signed up for its service. But in the U.S. it has 15 million subscribers, 60 per cent of whom have watched online.

Informally, a number of Canadian television networks already serve up some of their most popular shows on their own websites. Viewers who miss an episode of CSI can simply visit CTV’s web portal to stream it – and dozens of other shows – to their laptops. But web-based, on demand services like Bell TV Online, Netflix and Rogers On Demand Online take the experience to the next level.

Purdy says three types of viewers can especially benefit from services like these:

• Catchup, where the viewer missed an episode of Glee, for example. On-demand services typically make these available to existing subscribers at no additional charge.

• Look back, where a viewer has fallen in love with a series that’s already been on-air for a year or two, and wants to catch up with earlier episodes. These are often made available to viewers on a pay-as-you-go basis.

• Deep library, where viewers can browse large collections of archived content. Viewers of the new Hawaii Five-0 series, for example, could watch the original series. Such content is often available at no additional cost to consumers, and is ad-supported.

While on-demand online services are becoming more mature, we’re not quite there yet. According to Solutions Research Group data, only 7 per cent of Canadian households currently use at least one video-on-demand service.

Figures from the Nielsen Company show that while mobile TV adoption is growing rapidly – 17.6 million Americans used their smartphones to view video in the last quarter of 2009, up from 11.2 million a year earlier – the monthly average of three hours and 37 minutes of mobile viewing is a fraction of the 153 hours the typical user spends in front of a TV.

Looking ahead, PricewaterhouseCoopers expects Canadian subscription fees to grow a healthy 6.8 per cent annually to $9.1 billion by 2014, largely powered by growth in digital cable, video-on-demand and IP-based television.

Netflix, which started out renting DVDs via mail order – a service not available in Canada – now has 15 million subscribers in North America, 40 per cent of whom use its streaming service. Based on these figures, on-demand’s future growth potential is significant.

Behaviours will need to change, however. Viewers used to picking up a TV remote and flipping through freely-accessible channels may balk at subscription-based services that require them to log in before a show begins playing.

Bridging the Internet-PC-television gap isn’t always a straightforward process, either. Solutions like Apple TV, Boxee, Roku and the just-announced Google TV could help, but it will take a while before most consumers have them. Online on-demand services need to become simpler before they’re as ubiquitous as DVD players.

“People are primarily used to getting access to their content online with one click,” says Kaan Yigit, an industry analyst and president of Solutions Research Group.

“If you have to go through multiple steps, that may slow adoption down. It’s not exactly a mass play yet in my mind.”

Usage caps on consumer Internet subscriptions could also be an issue. Customers who watch even a few movies per month online could quickly surpass their gigabyte limits and incur overage charges from their Internet service providers. Television viewers are also creatures of habit, and even in an Internet-era living room, old habits die hard.

“It’s too early to start turning off channels,” says Purdy. “There are still a large number of people who like to scan through channels and pick something on an opportunistic basis.”

Carmi Levy is a London, Ont.-based independent technology analyst and journalist. carmilevy@gmail.com

The top choices

Rogers On Demand Online

•What works: No additional cost to Rogers customers. Existing subscription packages are similarly available online. Mobile apps available for most popular smartphones.

•What doesn’t: You have to be a Rogers customer to access premium content. Sometimes confused with Rogers On Demand, which is delivered exclusively via conventional television.

•Where to go: www.rogersondemand.com

Netflix

•What works: Netflix dominates the U.S. online movie rental market. Content easily transitions between TV, PC, mobile devices and even game consoles like Sony’s PS3 and Nintendo’s Wii. $7.99 all-you-can-watch plan is a cheap thrill. One-month free trial.

•What doesn’t: Canadians have access to fewer titles than American consumers.

•Where to go: www.netflix.ca

Bell TV Online

• What works: Existing Bell TV customers get it for free.

• What doesn’t: Multiple overlapping offerings difficult to sort out. Non-Bell subscribers have limited options.

• Where to go: http://tvonline.bell.ca

Things we can't prove exist

There are lots of things out there we can't prove exist. I can't even prove YOU exist, because for all I know you're a figment of my imagination.

And even if we do assume human beings and the universe around us is real, what about all the other things we have yet to explain or can't prove?

Examples:

God - People have been trying to prove god(s) exist for millenia using nothing more than theology and wishful thinking. That doesn't mean s/he doesn't exist, it just means the concept of god is so pervasive and part of our culture that there is a lively debate about the existence, nature, form, race, gender and motivations of god(s). Scientists have even devoted significant time to trying to discover the "God Particle", a theoretical sub-atomic particle also known as a Higgs Boson... I'll get back to this topic later.

Aliens - Sure there's been UFO sightings, crop signs in fields and unexplained phenomenon, but until we have first contact no one will ever prove aliens exist.

Santa Claus / The Easter Bunny - Yeah, good luck with that one.

Ghosts - If you've ever seen so much as an advertisement for the TV show Ghosthunters you'd know the actors on the show are morons. Try talking to anyone who claims they've actually seen, felt or heard a ghost and you will either conclude they're perpetuating an hoax or just plain wacko. Until they find a way to capture a ghost and put it on display many people will remain skeptical.

Angels - See ghosts above. Until they can provide proof they're either wacko or perpetuating an hoax.

Atlantis - There is substantial geological and oceanographic evidence that Atlantis was a pear-shaped continent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Combine this with linguistic and cultural info about the legendary white magnesium continent which "burned into the sea" around 9650 BC according to Plato, Egypt, India and other sources and its in the realm of pseudo-historical. But until Atlantis rises again no one will ever be able to prove it.

Sasquatches - Blurry photographs of "Bigfoot" don't do much, but fossils have been found of what scientists call "homo gigantopithecus" or "homo giganticus". No one has ever captured or killed a homo giganticus however.

Dwarves - Now obviously midgets, pygmies and other 'small people' do exist. But according to legend there was once a society of small people living in the Black Forest of south western Germany. Like pygmies they were small in stature, but nevertheless human. They were later massacred and wiped out by the Romans. There hasn't been a lot of fossil digs in the region however so nobody has ever proved the dwarf legends were real.

Loch Ness - Nothing more than blurry photographs. However Portuguese fishermen during the 1980s found the body of a plesiosaurus floating in the water in the Atlantic Ocean, suggesting such creatures might still exist and have managed to survive for millions of years (sharks have survived for millions of years, so why not the plesiosaurus?). It should be noted Loch Ness is not the only location with plesiosaurus or similar creature sightings. See Sea Serpents of Canada.

Sub-Atomic Particles - Scientists have been working to unravel how sub-atomic particles work for decades using nothing more than theory and trying to prove their case using what little data they can garner from bouncing lasers off particles and measuring the feedback. They've never been able to prove sub-atomic particles are real, and hypothetical particles like the Higgs Boson (or "God Particle") remain a complete mystery. All we can really confirm is that spectral analysis of laser feedback creates some interesting images.

Quantum Singularities - Quantum singularities exist only in science fiction. No one has ever seen one or proven they exist. Scientists can't even agree on a definition of what one would look or behave like. Essentially its a point in space where time doesn't exist and objects passing through it or around it are ripped apart at the point of contact. The fact its fictional hasn't stopped scientists from studying the hypothetical.

Time Travel - While there's never been any evidence that time travel is possible this hasn't stopped many great scientists from theorizing about how to travel faster than the speed of light by creating a stable warp field (warping time and space) around an object. Einstein's theory of relativity, time dilation, special relativity, yada yada yada...

Love - Psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers and poets have been trying to fathom love for millenia. They've never been able to prove love isn't anything more than a chemical reaction in our brains, something which could be neutralized with a pill or damaged with a swift kick to the head.


So what does this leave?

Now this doesn't mean that these people should stop trying to uncover the mystery of something simply because there isn't enough evidence to support its existence. If we follow the factual standards of other people then great scientific discoveries like evolution, nuclear fission and fusion and other things we have yet to explain would have never been discovered.

Examples:

Ball Lightning - This is an unusual and highly rare phenomenon. If you were to see one it would look like a sphere of flashing light moving horizontally across the ground. Ball lightning can travel for miles and miles before it finally dissapates. If you saw it you might very well think its an UFO or even a creature in a halo of light. It wasn't until it was captured on video that people proved it existed. Scientists have since managed to artificially create ball lightning in laboratories using a combination of heat, microwaves and ionized gas. The hot ionized gas becomes a good conductor and the electricity inside it moves around giving off light. (You can even make small ball lightning in your 700+ watt microwave if you feel like experimenting.)

Aspirin - Many different cultures have used medicinal ingredients found in treebark. It wasn't until a French chemist, Charles Frederic Gerhardt, decided to experiment with treebark from beech trees to find what was in it that made superstitious people believe it was helping them. His discovery of acetylsalicylic acid in 1853 later led to the production of Aspirin. If it wasn't for him exploring that superstition we might not have Aspirin today.

Anti-Matter - Anti-matter was first discussed by Arthur Schuster in 1898 in which he theorized that particles could exist which are direct opposites of particles we normally encounter, and that if matter and antimatter collided they would annihilate each other in an explosion of energy. This concept was later used in the popular Star Trek TV series to explain how warp engines got their power. What you might not know is that scientists have been successfully capturing anti-matter in an electro-magnetic field using the CERN super collider in Switzerland since 1995. Fifteen years later scientists are still making new discoveries about how we might use anti-matter as an energy source. It is currently a very expensive process and scientists are trying to determine a safe way to gather more faster, thus making anti-matter cheaper. In 2006 scientist Gerald Smith estimated $250 million USD could produce 10 milligrams of positrons (anti-matter electrons).

Just because something has yet to be explained or proven doesn't mean its theoretical existence should be ignored. Scientists will sometimes quote Occam's Razor (the simplest explanation is often the correct one). Occam's Razor however is NOT an irrefutable principle of logic, and its not a result or evidence by itself. Sometimes there is no simple answer, as ball lightning, Aspirin and anti-matter above demonstrates. The answer is simply waiting to be discovered and it may not be a simple answer.

"Not everything is superstitious hocum."

Conan the Berserker

Conan the Berserker
By Robert E. Howard & Charles Moffat

Belit is dead and Conan strikes out on his own, wandering aimlessly. What he encounters however is black magic and 'The Black Monoliths of Stygia' and Conan is forced to unlock his own rage within the dark abyss of his soul.

You can download the book for free from various websites just by doing a Google search.


Recommended Fantasy eBooks

I give the following eBooks 5 stars each. Note: You may find cheaper rates on the author's personal website.

Ebook (PDF): $15.99

A legendary warrior has come back to life and is on a murderous rampage on the streets of Waterdeep. Retired gladiator and Academy of Combat instructor Pierce O'Hiram is dragged back into service for the Harpers one last time in an effort to stop the killings.


Ebook (PDF): $15.99

The Minotaur Emperor has been assassinated and the continent is on the brink of an epic war between minotaurs and humans. Wynic Doxon, the Arthian Royal Assassin, is asked to track down the assassin who killed the emperor and help prevent a war that would destroy the ancient city of Athex.


Ebook (PDF): $15.99

An evil army has set up camp in the northern reaches of the continent and plots are afoot. The heroes from "The Paladin Assassin" are ordered north to confront this new danger and to seek out the legendary Spear of Destiny. This book is part 2 of The Crimson Companions Trilogy.


Ebook (PDF): $7.59

A love story between a human barbarian and an elf female, set amidst the backdrop of the Korovian wilderness. Bandits, ogres, trolls and wild sex scenes. 

Why Your D&D Dice are Fixed!

ENTERTAINMENT - Here's a video of the original creator of polyhedral dice explaining how your dice are fixed.


Nerd Culture at its Best

This is the future site of Nerdovore... A Nerd Culture blog (with occasional slices of food mixed in).

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