Site structure updates

Posted on Fri 23 June 2017 in random notes

I've archived the pages for "Companion Gaming" and "The Tea" since I haven't updated them for a while and no longer plan to do, for several reasons.

In order to make up for that, I've put up a page for Cooking with Friends, a social event I hold for a circle of my friends and acquaintances and have come to enjoy quite a lot.

Stellaris: Stories about an Empire

Posted on Sat 17 June 2017 in video games • Tagged with Stories

I had the chance to play more Stellaris when Final Fantasy XIV was in maintenance mode to prepare for the release and Early Access period of its expansion, Stormblood. This time I took some notes. While the storytelling of Stellaris tends to be very direct, I find it fascinating to see an empire evolve and make different decisions when playing - leading to an experience that is never quite the same.

Let me tell you about the Rhator, of the Rhatorian Collective. They were a race of arachnoids hailing from the desert planet Yuria. Their interest in technology and robots to serve them was almost as old as their civilization and their prevalent reason to take to space was fear - fear of the cycle of destruction and recreation that is life in their galaxy.

While taking their first baby steps exploring via the Warp drive engines they discovered structures in space - temples to the very gods of their own religion but much older than their civilization. This in turn triggered a revolution and their culture turned to newfound spiritualism, casting aside their former wishes to create artificial servants, for they themselves were but servants to beings of greater nature.

After investigating several worlds that harbored life in the past, the Rhatorian scientists arrived at the conclusion that it was highly unlikely their planet would be to be eradicated of life anytime soon - as a result the report of these findings was made public. Another thing that they found during exploration of nearby star systems was the existence of another society, from 600 000 years ago. The Rhator termed them "Cybrex". The Cybrex were sentient machines that had developed a massive empire in their time until they started a crusade to wipe out organic machines from the galaxy. Traces of their ruins could be found in various star systems.

When they colonized their first world, it was a curious act. Their thirst for scientific discoveries prompted them not to colonize a neighboring star system but one further away. The first colony was named Memenos and it was a desert world, for that is what the Rhator felt most comfortable with.

The Rhatorian people began to wonder whether there actually is intelligent life out in the galaxy beside themselves, when they finally encountered a space commerce station. It was a curious finding to see a neutral space station not belonging to any other spacefaring society.

Then began the emigration waves. The next planet to be settled was Lazon Prime, in the neighboring star system. However, not all was great in the empire. They failed. They, as a collective, failed to protect their people on Memenos when they could not stop the impact of a gigantic asteroid on Memenos. Millions died that day and would be mourned for generations to come.

After several attempts at centralized governing all colonies and its home world, the Rhatorian Collective decided that Lazon Prime should be their first individual sector.

It was not long until they made contact with the Mandasura Empire, a society of evangelizing plantoid zealots. They were initially sceptic towards the Rhatorian ways and later turned into the reason of the Rhatorian empire's decline. When several disputes about border rights triggered a war, the Rhator took heavy losses and had to cede four of their systems to the Mandasura. The population consisting of Rhator was enslaved and the indigenous population of primitives was even killed off. The Rhator faced the dreaded end of their civilization - but by different means than they had expected when they took to the stars.

This was the point where I concluded that I didn't want to continue this game since the Mandasura attacked me with a fleet with a value of 4600 and my whole fleet was positioned at 600 at the start of the conflict. Needless to say the situation was more than bleak.

I really like how there's so much story telling potential in Stellaris, but really wish that there was a log of events or such. Some player-accessible record of things that happened during one game. Such a log would allow me to better review how my empire had developed and share my experiences with others.

Reading recommendations (2017-04-15)

Posted on Sat 15 April 2017 in reading recommendations

I feel bad about dropping so many things into the Sidenotes uncommented - however not putting out this post for longer only makes it worse. I've been very, very busy in the last few weeks and expect it to stay this way for some more time.

Here's a great micro story by the ever interesting @microsff Twitter account:

"Assassin?" the emperor said.
"Yes?" the assassin said.
"I employed you, once, did I not?"
"In case you became a tyrant."
"Did I?"

A lack of nature in the office could be decreasing your productivity by Belle B. Cooper ( feed)

But at lunchtime or in the afternoon when you’re facing a slump in energy and struggling to focus, a walk through nature could be just what you need to get through the rest of your workday.

Why You Need a Morning Ritual, not Just Morning Routine by Alan Henry ( feed)

It’s a simple mind shift, but super empowering when you realize that before you even left the house, you’ve done something good, crossed an item off your to-do list, and practiced a little self-care.

Thwart my OSINT Efforts while Binging TV! by Lesley Carhart ( feed)
In which @hacks4pancakes shows you how not to show up in every identity database, ever.

This browser tweak saved 60% of requests to Facebook by Ben Maurer, Nate Schloss (minus points for the awful title, probably via Bulletproof TLS newsletter)
Technical post about static resources and how browsers treat them when reloading the current page.

New Filing Confirms Yahoo Was Aware of Large-Scale Email Hack in 2014 by Mitchel Broussard ( feed)

In September, Yahoo confirmed that at least 500 million of its users' accounts had been compromised during an attack in late 2014. Now, in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it was revealed that the company knew about the hack when it originally happened in 2014, but waited two years to divulge it to the public

'Amazon Go' Stores Will Let You Grab Groceries and Go, No Checkout Needed by Joe Rossignol ( feed)

Amazon Go provides a checkout-free shopping experience that, to the naked eye, looks exactly like shoplifting.

You might agree that the promise of such a convenient shopping experience has its allure.

Redesigning Bluetooth Settings by Daniel Foré (twitter)
Even if you're not that into application design, you might want to check out the images from this iterative design process to see how a user interface can change. Even better, Foré has provided reasons for every time a design was changed.

CMD challenge - It's a browser-based commandline interface asking you to perform many differenct tasks using tools readily available in command CLIs. I was intrigued by this coding project and managed to achieve 2/3 of the challenges offered when I took the challenge. Or, to be perfectly honest, I didn't want to give up until solving 2/3. What ever version you prefer.


Black Desert Online: Stories about Travel

Posted on Fri 27 January 2017 in video games • Tagged with Stories

There are two quotes I frequently think about when playing Black Desert Online (BDO).

People need stories, more than bread, itself.

This first one I got from "Storyteller" by Secret Archives of the Vatican. Some minutes of research tell me that the quote is actually from Arabian Nights which in turn sourced it from One Thousand and One Nights.

This quote speaks to me because few of the several story lines in BDO are truly great - remind you, they don't need to be. BDO is not a story driven game. It has some story driven elements that are there to amuse you during endless stretches of slaying evil in whatever form it happens to manifest today. Emergent narrative is something that becomes important. And while I didn't believe in the concept of emergent narrative until revelation struck me when telling my girlfriend about a prolonged session of Stellaris I am now convinced that remarkable stories can form this way.

I become their eyes and feet.

This second quote is part of the description of the second-highest exploration title during the time of this writing, "Desert Guide". It speaks to me since I am very curious in terms of lore and exploring in games. I need to have seen every nook and cranny of even huge worlds - especially if they happen to be detailed as BDO happens to be. I especially like the allusion that you're doing the exploring for other people so you can tell of your adventures in faraway lands - it's the romantic thought that captures me.

Note: all images shown in this post are heavily scaled down. To see their originals, simply click them.

the case of fun over efficiency

There are a lot of PvP oriented players in BDO. I'm decidedly not one of them - I almost never enjoy PvP regardless of the game. I prefer to do things my way, the way it pleases me and allows me to have fun with the game instead of mindlessly grinding; only to rush through new content in order to mindlessly grind so you can stay on top of the stats oriented food chain.

Nadzeya looking at camera

Let me tell you about Nadzeya Saranictil. She's a woman, a craftswoman, a kunoichi, an avid reader, a trader, a hero and much more. But more than anything else, she's a curious explorer - eager to see what the world has to offer and with an endless thirst for knowledge. If there is something to be learned she must learn it. If there are sights to be seen, creatures to be discovered, dark caves to be ventured into - she will be there.

Until the recent discovery of new lands (read: the Magorian Seas expansion) she has travelled far and wide to see all of Balenos, Serendia, Calpheon, Mediah and Valencia. Before achieving enough fame in combat to be allowed a camel she travelled to Valencia City on foot, through the dangerous Northern canyons, always on the lookout for cutthroats going for her life. Sneaking past the Gahaz Bandit's Lair, marveling at the sights in Iris Canyon, dodging the lions at Ancado Coast to finally have a cool drink at Ancado Inner Harbor.

Nadzeya in particularly enjoys being the tour guide for other adventurers. She fondly remembers her trips. The memories of the following ones are that she looks back to in times of desperation to keep her head up. She's also excentric enough to only cook and craft with materials gathered herself if possible and never handing in items bought from the market place. She's usually found riding her adorable miniature elephant, Jade, wearing a desert suit with a turquoise sash and showing her long bright orange hair uncovered.

Nadzeya on Jade

Desert & Sea

Nadzeya intended to go all the way by fishing boat from Ancado Inner Harbor to Arehaza, the easternmost settlement of Valencia (and the known regions so far). While she had stowed her boat in Ancado after sailing across the vast seas North of Calpheon, Balenos and finally Mediah in order to tour the canal with a certain adventurer, that one unfortunately never showed up.

Nadzeya waiting in Heidel

However, she met a friendly sorceress who goes by the name of MorbidAngel and the two decided to take a long boat trip. After an exciting ride through the desert on MorbidAngel's horse they embarked the Yennefer in Ancado and sailed away. After some time and only a fraction of the journey completed they came across a beautiful beach and stopped there for some sightseeing. The vulcano there is a strange, vast landscape and it was only after some urging that the two left the small crater again to continue their journey.

Before setting course for their main destination, Arehaza, their way led further east to Hakoven Island, the only known island east of Valencia. There was time for one last quick stop at Gavinya Coastal Cliff before heading all the way South to Arehaza, where the boat landed and the tour ended at an amazing sandy beach only for Nadzeya to part ways with her fellow traveller sheltered from the heat under palm trees.

The Sights of Valencia

After getting to know one of her former guild members - LegendaryBrot - better, Nadzeya and her partner were often seen together, exploring Valencia. Nadzeya played the tour guide for the Northern part of Valencia to which she had been before and showed off the wonders of Iris Canyon and the safest route to Valencia through the cliffs. Nadzeya also remembers both the short visit to Crescent Shrine and the seemingly neverending search for the Oasis of Bless. She admits feeling a pang of nostalgia whenever thinking about travelling with LegendaryBrot for whom she held the greatest mutual respect.

Nadzeya and LegendaryBrot looking down Iris Canyon

The Depths of Mediah

However, Nadzeya and LegendaryBrot did not only explore vast amounts of desert territory together, oh no. On multiple occations have they been seen delving into the subterranean depths of Mediah. Once they ventured all the way down the mines in Helms Post to look for ancient secrets only to have to fight for every step forward against dangerous Helm Golems. To this day Nadzeya wonders how LegendaryBrot manipulated fate into rewarding him that many more Broken Golem's Cores.

Another time they sought to map the innards of Tungrad, the ruin below Hasrah Cliff. Fighting off hundreds of Ancient Weapons, they finally managed to wrestle some meager findings from the ruins, like a diamond mining node.

A Guide to the Oasis

It was only recently that Nadzeya heard a plea for help from one of the members of her current guild, Helena23 and responded since she was in the vicinity. Together the two fought valiantly in the Basilisk Den. After an exhausting battle they sought a bit of refreshment and rode their mounts North to the sea, stopping at the Abandoned Ferry in Shakatu and then heading for a swim and refreshments in the lush Shakatu, along with a swim amongst the local elephants. Having shown another adventurer the pleasures of travelling together, Nadzeya looks forward to more adventures in the future.

Nadzeya taking a rest in her home in Epheria Port

Other adventures

While there are certainly even more adventures worth mentioning, these are better told another time.

Should you want to take a tour someday, feel free to reach out in-game or otherwise. If however, you would prefer to read another amazing story instead, there's one over at Reddit by someone who crossed over to Port Ratt on a fishing boat.

Reading recommendations (2017-01-10)

Posted on Tue 10 January 2017 in reading recommendations

Trying to reduce the backlog of unread Read-it-later articles and feeds. Little else to say this time. Some work to catch up with, sick over the holidays. Additionally, Final Fantasy XV turned out not to be as awesome as hoped which saddens me.

No False Users by Kim Foale (Twitter)
Please stop making up user stories to develop features nobody needs or uses.

Why I only work remotely by Yan Lhert (via Medium related articles)
I fully agree with this article. Coming in in the morning works the same for me - I'm constantly tired and little productive activity will happen in the hours I'm there. Working past noon has very positive effect on my output.

Kingdom Hearts 15th anniversary ‘Memorial Stained Glass Clock’ campaign in Shinjuku Station by Wassim Mokhtar ( feed)
I would love to see this clock in person.

Technology in Hostile States: Ten Principles for User Protection by Mike Perry (via Twitter)

There is a disturbing trend for automated abuse detection systems to harshly penalize shared IP address infrastructure of all kinds, leading to loss of access.

Why a staggering number of Americans have stopped using the Internet the way they used to by Andrea Peterson (via Twitter)
End users are more and more losing their trust in our IT infrastructure as well as their trust in companies as a whole.

BATCH OF TROUBLE by Remy Porter (via Twitter)
Sometimes what appears to be simple but ugly can still be enormously more useful than complex, nice but still broken.

Über IT-Regel 18 und Katzen by Stephan Witt (German, feed)
This should be read in combination with the link about BATCH OF TROUBLE, since they are both about the same topic of simplifying processes.