Thursday, October 23, 2003

If you are interested in D&D, have a look at the D&D 3.5 SRD Archive (3.5srd.com).

There are a number of nicely formatted (both online and for printing) versions of the 3.5 SRD there. This almost makes it unnecessary to have the Core Rulebooks around when you're playing (except of course there is no mention of XP or going up levels).

Monday, August 25, 2003

The Gothic Nebula 1 T20 roleplaying game is my current fave.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Well now I;ve gone and done it! I'm playing the Protectorate of Falkayn in the Nation States game. Looks like loads of fun, and a good test of my political skills.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Some great source material is available for CT at the Ad Astra Per Apera Traveller Campaign website.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

If you're looking for the next version of Heaven & Earth, try Stuart Ferris' Traveller World Building Software.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Communique from the Iraqi Front

Here's an interesting Communique from the Iraqi Front. Nice to see they're morale's up. I probably don't agree with every sentiment expressed here, but it's hard to not like these guys.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Found another Christian roleplayer's take on RPGs today. He poses the key questions quite well - the short version is that it's OK to roleplay if you don't sin through doing it. One issue he doesn't mention is that of lusting after a woman - something that in some games I've played could have become an issue.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Found out about Dound's Steganography tool today, it allows you to hide a message within an image. Very cool tool, useful for all you would-be cryptogeeks out there.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Some good stuff from NY Times (found at Ringo's Tavern):

The administrative power


By KARL OTTO HONDRICH, DER SPIEGEL

The signs in the sky are conspicuous. The apocalyptic riders are underway, under a banner of stars, on a wild hunt spanning the globe. They burst through the clouds wherever they please. Today they own Iraq, and tomorrow the entire world. This is absurd. Those who hold this view are not Americans, but masters from Germany. The delusions of power arise in the eye of the beholder. We are still haunted by memories of Hitler. It is his dreams of global dominance that we are transferring to America. If one is to believe the augurs of old Europe, there is no greater threat to the world than America's superiority. 65-year-old sociologist Karl Otto Hondrich is a professor in Frankfurt am Main. His most recent works, published by Suhrkamp, include "Wieder Krieg" ("War Again") and "Enthüllung und Entrüstung. Eine Phenomenologie des politischen Skandals" ("Exposure and Disarmament. The Phenomenology of Political Scandal").

To whom could their arguments not apply? Yes, conflicts should be resolved without violence, within the framework of the law. Yes, the United Nations and not the United States should assume the role of global administrator. Yes, until then power in the world should be "multi-polar." Catchy as these demands are, they are based on illusions. Society is not based on legal order, but rather on the order of power. A distribution of power among multiple poles, even if it were possible, would result in less peace, not more. The overwhelming power of the United States is not the problem. It is the solution. But what is the problem?

The problem is the worldwide diversity and distribution of power. And the situation is worsening: More and more states, groups, terrorists and fanatics can acquire destructive weapons and terrorize the world. This is a problem that cannot be resolved with laws and treaties. Nevertheless, history has provided us with a solution, at least within a smaller framework. Multi-polarity, a form of equal distribution of power among many masters, once existed here in Europe. It resulted in ongoing power struggles. The modern state, with its monopoly on power, emerged from this system. Its hegemony guarantees peace, but only from within.

Competition arises in terms of relationships among states, or national hegemonies, thus increasing the risk of violence. The "balance of power" of which modern European society from Metternich to Bismarck was so proud eliminated violence temporarily, but only to collapse under even more violent circumstances. It is only because of fortuitous circumstances that the "balance of fear" between NATO and the Warsaw Pact did not develop into an inferno. Instead, it was transformed into the superiority of the United States.

None of this progresses according to plan, justice, and law. A legal order that connects power to rules is predicated on a hegemonic order of power. The old Europe appears to have forgotten the fundamental role of power. It does not feel attacked, not by Bin Laden or Saddam, and not by the Hamas commandos or the Congo. The suggestion arises that power cannot be brought under control by power, but by non-violence. Is it a coincidence that only the British and the Spaniards, who are familiar with terrorism in their own countries, supported a solution in Iraq that involved the use of power?

In spite of the fact that we have little contact with or understanding for violence in faraway places and refuse to accept it as our problem, we are quick to offer the patent remedy: The UN should handle it. It cannot. It has no power. Law does not exist where law is not enforced. But what the UN lacks most of all is the momentum of shared interests and feelings that spurs an organization toward outward action. The UN has no exterior and therefore remains internally divided. It defines itself as a whole. Therefore, and tragically, it cannot act on behalf of the whole.

The United States has what the UN lacks. Although it has no monopoly on global power, it does possess superiority within a cartel of armed powers. But that which makes it capable of acting - the differences between good and evil, internal and external, friend and foe - also seems to render it incapable of acting on behalf of the whole. Even when it is called upon by the UN, it remains a nation, or just a part of the whole, and thus bound to preserve its own interests. However, because they are the interests of a superpower, they are further-reaching than those of other states. They approximate the interests of the whole, at least in terms of providing protection against violence. Even without the will to provide order for the whole (a potentially dangerous move), it fulfills, if unintentionally, a central objective of all governmental action: to disconnect power from the free play of forces and bring it under control - a tremendous task in a quasi-global state. Since no one else is willing to do it, the administration of global power today falls, by necessity, within the realm of US hegemony.

But doesn't this task overtax the power of a nation? America is stretching itself too thinly, say its critics; it is already surviving economically at the expense of other nations, chronically importing more than it exports. This can also be interpreted differently: The world is paying America in goods for what America provides in military service.

A global distribution of tasks has existed for a long time. It functions without contracts and law, and even without justice - but it functions. The Asians are responsible for the world's labor, the Arabs its prayer, the Africans its suffering, the Americans its armament, and the Europeans its discussion. Each of these functions serves the community as a whole. But as much as the Europeans talk about and reflect on their heritage, this does not produce community. Community develops out of a struggle against itself (and against hunger).

Like all power, even that of the hegemonic state is subject to limits. It is subject to external controls by the major powers of Russia, China, and India. Although they no longer dispute the United States' right to global control, as was the case before 1989, they continue to do so within their own spheres of influence. However, these spheres of influence have dramatically decreased in size, especially for Russia, now that all of eastern Europe has switched sides and become part of NATO. In fact, even Russia, pressured by Islamic terrorism and the unbridled industrial strength of China, is leaning toward becoming a de facto member of the NATO power cartel.

And what if this organization, as a worldwide security system, were to concentrate all power within itself one day? Then it would also transform its external limitations into internal ones. They are already evident in NATO members' resistance to the Iraq war. The larger the power cartel, the more explosive is its inner unity and the greater are the concessions that the leading power must make to preserve unity and a staggering of power.

The greatest limit on hegemonic power comes from the innermost core of the hegemonic power itself. It embodies the oldest and most popular modern democracy - a people that considers itself its own master, more so than any European people can imagine. It does not wish to see its soldiers die on foreign battlefields. In the long term, it does not wish to share its government's attention with Burundi, Berlin, or Baghdad. When it takes action vis-à-vis other countries - has "some business to do," as waging war is called in American - then it wishes to do so in its own interest and not to support plans to make the world a better place, such as those that have been in the works in Europe for ages. If its wars produce benefits for other peoples, such as freedom and democracy, Americans' proud response is: "they are welcome." And the claim that they are forcing the American Way of Life onto others? Ridiculous: People do not have to be forced to accept the things they themselves want.

And not even with money. The American people prefer to invest at home: in education, healthcare, security. If they do not see these interests being met, the president, like his father, will be out of office. The farther a hegemonic power extends its bounds, the more likely it is to reach its financial limits. For this reason alone, it requires internal and external approval, or legitimacy, since any resistance increases the risks, duration and costs of war.

Even the hegemonic power that appears to be acting globally does not control the world. In faraway places, it stops in its tracks before entering the spheres of influence of other major powers. At home, even with the massive power of its own weapons of mass destruction, it is powerless against acts of violence and terrorism on its own soil, in Belfast, San Sebastian, or New York. Its hegemonic zone of control in the world does not extend beyond a medium-range flight path. For the master thinkers of an imaginary global interest, preaching from their European ivory towers, this is not enough. They want order for all. They want the United States to be small and large at the same time. In their view, the United States cannot be small enough as the bearer of aircraft, but it also cannot be far-reaching enough as the bearer of an idea to promote global well-being.

But the fact that the hegemonic power is a nation and nothing else - not a council of global elders, not a non-governmental organization, not a global state - is everything but deplorable. This makes it possible for it to act in its own limited self-interest and not out of unbridled universal idealism, particularly when so much erraticism and fundamentalism flickers within its borders. It can make mistakes, as it did in Vietnam. But there is nothing to suggest that it will ever discard the rationalism of its own self-limiting national interests. This is a rationalism derived from the experiences of an old, mature, unbroken, elementally democratic and multicultural nation. Germany's experiences with delayed, imperially perverted, broken nationalism cannot be further from the experiences of the United States. The rift between experiences cannot be bridged, except with mistrust.

Is this not rational? The fact that hegemony is anchored in the American democracy certainly provides no guarantee for consistently rational behavior. Just as its internal workings are based on checks and balances, it requires counterbalances from without. This is what the illustrious concept of "multi-polarity" is about. It can mean many things: a reality, an attractive illusion, or foolishness.

The small and large poles that develop as a result of balances of power are a reality. In their relationships with their former colonies, France and Belgium form a pole of power. Therefore, it is perfectly logical that an EU force under their leadership would be dispatched to the Congo. The Balkan states lean toward Germany, inadvertently making it a pole of power. In this form, multi-polarity does exist.

However, it becomes an attractive illusion when it leads us to forget that it represents an inner staggering of power within a larger hegemonic system. The hegemonic state depends on it and it depends on the hegemonic state. France, Great Britain and Germany are the subjugated and subjugators at the same time. They are part of a collective hegemony. To those on the outside, in the South and East, they explain the fearsome consequences of opposing the hegemonic power. Conversely, they explain the fears and resistance of the remainder of the world to the hegemonic power. From their perspective, the Europeans are simultaneously servants of the devil because they participate in inflicting punishment and demigods clad in white because they are filled with compassion and deploy hospital ships. In this way, they discover their function: that of a broker between supremacy and powerlessness.

The hegemonic power has already become so strong that it permits considerable freedoms, both externally and internally. A state can choose to participate in the hegemonic power's war or it can decline. Even without its own parliament, the system creates its own form of extraparliamentary opposition: Gerhard Schröder's Germany and the France of Jacques Chirac - with the moral backing of Habermas, Derrida and Rorty - are the extraparliamentary opposition to George W. Bush' America. The members of the 1968 Movement in Germany can resort to their arsenal of old arguments: the dangerousness and nastiness of America, the endangerment of democracy and to the state governed by the rule of law. Is all of this simply the anti-Americanism of yesterday and today? No, in fact it represents opposition within an entire, pan-Atlantic system. The Germans have arrived in the West. Too bad that it turns out to be not only an open society, but also a solidly hegemonic structure.

A way out no longer exists. Should they nonetheless dream of their own European state, blind to the fact that, separated from the rest of the world, it would find itself on the brink of disaster? It is to be feared that this is precisely the fate that Europe faces: Europe functioning as a power pole outside US hegemony, one that, in an alliance with other poles - Russia, China, India, Africa? - is to eliminate hegemony. "Multi-polarity" would certainly not be the first project designed to bring about progress that would prove to be a step backward (socialism comes to mind). It would take us back to new dimensions of old power struggles we have already relegated to the past. We should be thankful for US hegemony. We should go ahead and let this indignity remain stuck in our throats.

Translated by Chris Sultan
For you Roman history buffs, this site is very coolBloggus Caesari - A Weblog By Julius Caesar.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Dancrai must be one of the best IT companies around!

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Here's something worth checking out, you can search for books and compare prices at isbn.nu, which checks a bunch of online booksellers' websites to find the range of (lowest) prices the book is on offer for.

You might find that the lowest price is for a badly handled second-hand copy of the book, but at least you won't be kicking yourself for paying several dollars more than necessary when you do make a purchase.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Wannabe American Indians

Here's something for you wannabe American Indians/Vikings:
Fighting with a Tomahawk

Management and mismanagement of diversity

Here is something worth reading Management and mismanagement of diversity
The case of ethnic conflict and state-building in the Arab World
.

The piece's conclusion is below:
"In conclusion, the way out of the present dilemmas of all Arab states, but especially those with marked ethnic diversity, is a triangular formula of civil society, democracy, and federalism. This strength would be further enhanced by regional peace and economic cooperation. In the mid 1990s, all the ingredients are present. It only needs political imagination and the political will of new leadership to skilfully engineer those ingredients together into a harmonious regional mosaic."

Well that sure looks like what the coalition has tried to kickstart with their ousting of Saddam's regime.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Another interesting development is the apparent success of the Miniature Magnetic Orion, or "Mini Mag Orion", which uses magnetic fields to compress a small amount of fissile material in order to provide a (small) nuclear explosion. This provides a much smaller and more manageable thrust than conventional nuclear bombs would. Nice idea!

Glass from Space

If we could only get our hands on Glass from Space then the whole Nuclear Lightbulb idea would be fantastic!

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Well, well, the web is just so full of useful information like, How to Deal with Peace Activists.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Heh, found this little gem today by following a couple of links - Truth about Bowling for Columbine.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

For a serious time-wasting surfing session just spend some time browsing Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, that is user-generated. Heck, while you're there add some entries or update some of your favourite ones.
The ProtestWarrior.com site pokes fun at the Leftist political statements in the USA. This is probably a bit too refined for most people, but the anti-anti-war protest element is funny and carries (IMHO) a good point across.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Wow! Here's a great link to a Java applet that shows just how small we are in the universe (as we know it):
Molecular Expressions: Science, Optics and You - Powers Of 10: Interactive Java Tutorial

Friday, March 28, 2003

The image below looks like it's taken on Mars, not right here on Earth. It's amazing to think it's US solders fighting in Iraq in a dust storm.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Another one of my favourite space related websites is The Nine Planets. Well worth taking a look at for an educational glimpse of our solar system.

NuclearSpace

While I'm thinking nuclear, try the NuclearSpace website out. They promote the use of nuclear power in space (and sometimes to get to space). I like their arguments, as they show how knee-jerk people's media-saturated negativity is towards nuclear power. Yes, the by-products are nasty, no you don't need to keep them around - just shoot them into the Sun!
If you want a funny website about really, REALLY BIG guns, then try Welcome to Birdman Weapons Systems, Inc.
If you wanted to know how to contact me, then try sending an email to falkayn(at)falkayn.com ...

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

OK, I'm editing this template, trying to get something more to my style and a little more readable ... of course the layout of my posts influences that.
Recently checked out Pravda.RU News in English, I've gotta recommend this one for a laugh.

Their reporting is probably no more biased than most western journalists, but it does point out some interesting differences in the way Russians think. Some of their headlines:

* "Main Objective of War - New Weapon Tests" - sure, they would have been closer to have said disposal of old weapons! :-)

* "Will American Administration Declare War on Russia?" - ummm, no?

* "Call Bush For Free!" - why not?

* "Pentagon totally unreliable as news source" - duh, quick studies eh?
Back Again Checked out the Where Is Raed? site today ... it's interesting getting a civilian bloggers viewpoint of the war in Iraq.

I guess I should state my position on the war in Iraq ...

In my opinion, given what I currently know about the war, the current Iraqi regime and politics:

* The war is just, if only because it was previously found to be so, and this is a logical continuation of the previous war (with appropriate time and grace given to the Iraqi regime to "do the right thing" with regards to WMD and weapons inspections).

* France and Russia have many oil related reasons to want to prevent the war (not to mention possible illegal supply of Russian military technology/engineers?). Therefore, I find myself personally discounting their vetoes as politicking in order to further their economic ties with Iraq.

* The US, Britain and Australia all seem to have good reasons for going to war, and few (if any!) reasons for doing so, other than that it is a just war.

* If the war must be fought, then it must be fought properly - and not by pandering to the needs of the international media for a good story to justify their 24 hour "rolling news feeds". I can stand not hearing about it for a week if it helps the military do their job right.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

G'day Hmmm ... my first post. What should I say, what do you care? My, how narcissistic this seems!

OK, let me start with some great* links:
Google
Tip: Did you know that Google is a great spell-checker? Just search for the word you are trying to check, and Google will prompt you with alternativs if it does not make sense.
Falkayn
Tip: Never trust someone that links to themselves :->

* "great" may be too strong a term ... "the only ones I could be bothered typing" would be a better one, but far too unwieldy.