Friday, January 30, 2009

On Skepticism

A few times, I have spooked myself.

In the car, I will have the CD player on "Shuffle", and as a song plays I might think, "I'd like to here track 5!"... and then the next track was number 5!!!!

In an elevator once, as I reached for the button, the light turned on before I could press it.

When I was filling my water bottle once, I thought to myself that I should have closed the fridge door since it would take me a while to fill the bottle, and the door just shut by itself.

ZOMG!!! I must be psychic.

Err. No. That's a problem with being a skeptic. I'm not a psychic because I have no reason to believe such abilities exist. Is there a simpler explanation than being a psychic?


The shuffle mechanism on a CD player might not be 'random', since it rarely if ever plays the same song twice in a row: so since that is the case, it is more likely to be some resorted list. Perhaps the song numbers have some factor added to each, and then the list is resorted. My car CD player (which I add is pretty crappy, you can't play burnt CDs in it very well) can't go in "reverse" order -- you can only use the forward button to go to the next song. On my MP3 player, you can go backward to the last couple of songs played, and then the next "backward" takes you to a random song. For my MP3 player, this probably means it keeps a memory of the last couple of songs it played. For the car, it doesn't. Since it isn't a strictly "random" process, it may be that every time it plays a sequence, it is likely to always play that sequence again. Perhaps if it had played songs 4, 7, 3 in the past it is always followed by song 5. Maybe the reason I "knew" song 5 was coming up is because it always came next.

Another reason could be simple luck. I've also wanted to here a particular song many, many times in the past and had it not be the next track. Usually this means I stick with the song (or impatiently I hit the "next" button a few times until it does come up). I remember the times when it did work simply because it seems so unusual, whereas with say eleven tracks on the CD, I'm likely to guess the next one correctly at least one time in ten.

With the elevator button, I'm not so sure. Seems very weird, but although thinking "ZOMG, I has Telekinesis!!!" I admit was my first thought (and spent some of the day trying to move things around without any luck), what is more likely is that my observation was wrong. After all, I did push the button, however what I believe I saw was the light come on before pushing the button occurred. It's much more likely that my observation was incorrect, especially since this "light before pushing" event has only occurred a couple of times ever -- could it be somehow I registered the light turning on before the sensation of pushing the button occurred? And somehow that was conflated in my mind as being a much earlier than the button pushing? Or I was distracted at the time, and so I only thought I saw the light on first? Possibly I even got into an elevator with the light already on, went to push it and only then noticed it was on? Actually, that is much more likely than me being able to register a time difference between the nerve impulse and the light registering.

The fridge door? Well, if it is most of the way open, it pretty much stays open. But just a little bit less open and the weight of the door swings it back, at first slowly and then it kind of speeds up and closes. Plus, plenty of times I have left the door open and it stayed that way -- which is why I love my new fridge with the door alarm. Although it can be annoying to my wife when she's putting away the groceries. Apparently I don't put them away properly, go figure.

I'd LOVE to have telekinesis or clairvoyance, but if I did I'd have easily won the lotto by now.

edit: welcome to those who came from The 105th Skeptic's Circle

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oceanic Servers Downtime and Customer Support

Warhammer Customer Support is pretty good, the ingame support is excellent. However, every now and then when a major fix comes out, the Oceanic servers tend to be a bit iffy.

The Server Status page shows that all the servers are up. When you log in, the servers appear to be up. But when the client attempts to connect to the server, instead it fails to complete. The last time this happened, everyone in my guild was getting this "Server has disconnected you" message, or even a crash out of the client. The other favourite is "Your password is invalid", which is great given you can't even get to this stage of logging in without giving your password, and if you mistype the password you don't get to the login stage.

Anyway, I report this to EA Customer Support, although there still isn't a "Server Issue" category.

Can't login to Oceanic servers. My whole guild is unable to login. Can login to US servers. Servers do not appear as offline, they disconnect when logging in (and sometimes the login screen crashs to desktop instead).
Also, you might as well add a "Can't login" category because it sure happens a lot.

Note that we CAN login to US Servers, just not the Oceanic ones.

Eventually, I get back this message (sent four hours later, by which time I was able to get in and play).


Thank you for contacting Warhammer Online Support.

If you are unable to log in to the Warhammer Online game servers or receive an error message, saying "No servers found" or "Cannot connect to server," you should first check to see if the servers are still up.

Players can check server status by visiting An icon to the left of the server name indicates whether that server is online or offline. Green indicates an online server, and red indicates an offline one.

To check for outages or updated news, please visit

If you still encounter the same problem in logging into any of the servers then I would request you to wait for few hours before you try to log-in once again.

We appreciate your patience in this matter.

Thank you,

EA Online Support.

Err... thanks for sending the form letter. What part of "Servers do not appear offline" did you miss?

My reply:
Firstly, of course I checked if the servers were up. According to both the inclient server selection screen and the realm status page on the WAR site, they were.
Secondly, no outages were list.
Thirdly, saying I should wait "a few hours" before trying again is not a satisfactory answer to this issue. This issue occurs quite often (and in fact although I was able to login again "a few hours" later, some guild mates posted on our forum that this wasn't the case with them.

I would prefer that this issue is rectified. The Oceanic servers don't seem to be getting the same level of care that the US servers get. I applaud Mythic for having them actually in Australia, unlike a certain other game, but surely you can test the damn things after you roll out a patch. I've had a few issues with the authentication server failing to recognise me after a patch: and in those cases I have no problem logging into US servers.

Try doing this in the US: the first time you make ALL the regions servers not connect users or refuse to authenticate them (but appear to be up and running), you'll have calls coming out of your ears.

Sigh.. should have been "Secondly, no outages were listED.", oh well.
So, that was more a rant session. Why the hell do the oceanic servers cop this issue, which as far as I know, doesn't effect the US users.

I get a reply back, four DAYS later:


Thank you for contacting Electronic Arts.

We will need some information from you in order to assist you. Please respond with the following information:-

Your account name:-
Your secret word:-

If there is anything else I can help you with please let me know.

Thank you,

EA Online Support.

What. The. Fook. Why does he (and or she) want with my account name? And what is a secret word? Secret word? Well, I guess getting my account name might qualify as useful to check logs, but I did think my EA Customer account was already linked to that. As for secret word, I don't recall setting one and I can't see why that would be required.

I replied:
My account is XXXXXX. My secret word? What secret word? And how is it relevant to ALL the oceanic servers becoming unavailable for ALL users after a fix? Please provide the reason this has occured and how it will be rectified so that it won't occur in future, and what EA/Mythic will do to compensate for our losses. Thanks.

So, that's where it's at for now. I'll update when or if anything further comes out of it. I do recall that other game compensating users with added time when they had outages, so who knows. Maybe all Oceanic users will get an extra days play for free.

Friday, January 09, 2009


I haven't written about writing for a while, nor have I updated any stories -- in fact, not since the end (middle) of November, when I dropped out of NaNoWriMo due to lack of time (cough Warhammer Online cough).

Looking in my google docs, I've got.. hmm..

The Keystone
Apprentice Wizard manages to not be turned into a sacrifice bringing into the world the demon of chaos, only to end up marked as, well, the sacrifice to bring the demon of chaos into the world. And gets to be a pretty powerful wizard as well. And kidnapped by slavers. err.. and meets the girl of his dreams.
This had been a nanowrimo from 2005(!) that was written on an old OLD IBM PS/2 laptop so the paragraph formating (from Wordperfect for DOS!) is really bad. I had a vague outline, but started way in the past, so this story was meant to be the background to the real story.

Lost Mabel/Maude
Old lady meets a cat, then gets mugged by two very strange teens. Teens are from the underbelly, and take old lady back with them. The old lady has to live in a world of dark magic, watching out for Seth, the lost one (or is he?) who has ousted the Masters of Cups, Swords, Coins and Wands from the Lost Realm. Can she save the Realm, bring the underbelly into the light and prevent her grand-neice (also called Mabel/Maude) from joining the Riot Girls? (literally, Girls who riot. and tear men to pieces. And eat the pieces)
I'd been reading a few graphic novels when I came across the graphic novel version of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. What a fantastic idea, a world parallel to ours, where things are dark and fantastic. At the same time, I was listening a lot to Green Day's CD, American Idiot, and two things came out of it. One was this story idea, and the other is for a stage play for Jesus of Suburbia the musical (which I won't write about here, since I don't and will never have the rights for anyway. Plus, although according to the Wikipedia article there was at some stage a plan to make it into one.

Humans came to the planet called Refuge a few times, when their ships went through strange portals that teleport the ships onto the surface of this strange planet. Humans aren't alone, there are many intelligent species on the planet. Some, like the Ooo, are really strange. Others are human like. And there are other humans. The story follows the lives of the crew and descendants of the first interstellar colony ship.
This one has some plotlines mixed together, with humans both the hero and villian as the descendants of the first ship try to defend the university-city of Nurquititor from the invading armies from the south, the empire, founded also by humans but descendants of refugees from an interstellar war with aliens. The common thread is through the eyes of Darius, an engineer on the first ship who fell into a pool of strange slime: which turned out to be Ooo, an alien race that intelligent beings become a part of. Darius becomes immortal, and he (and other Ooo forms he makes) tries to keep humanity a part of Refuge.

The Gardener
The Evil Lord is dead, and the only one upset by it is his Gardener. A Princess needs to escape a marriage she doesn't want. A rumor of a new Evil Lord comes, and only the Gardener and the Princess can stop a new war.

Fantasy from a different angle.

So, now I just need to write them all, finish them up, make them all look nice and get them published. Should be easy. :/

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Drive by weight loss spam

Way back in 2007 I wrote a post on Syndromes and Disorders, so i was a bit surprised to get an email that someone had commented on it.

And what a lovely comment:

luccy said...
Dieting and physical exercises can help you
in shedding your weight to a certain extent but if your BMI (Body Mass Index) is
30 or exists above this value, you need to take extra measures for adequate
relief from the shackles of obesity. However, Phentermine, Adipex etc are FDA
approved diet pills that suppress your appetite effectively and assist you to
lose weight once you fall in the grip of obesity. Phentermine should be
administered only after getting hold of a Phentermine prescription from the
doctor and for more details on the medicine, visit the website http://deleted the site

Well.. let's see. First, this has nothing to do with the post, which was more about Asperger's, Tourette's, tics and ADD. Smells like spam.

Next, luccy states you can't lose weight without help if your BMI is too high. Given I do have a BMI over 30, that was news to me. It's probably news to the contestants on Biggest Loser as well, since most of them succeed in getting that shackle relief you apparently can't get -- I think the show is a load of crap, by the way. A hell of a lot of emphasis on losing weight rapidly, but some of the techniques could be bad for you if you aren't under supervision. How on earth no one has dropped dead from a heart attack during it is beyond me.

It would be news to my doctor as well: Mind you, my doctor thinks that everything wrong with me is due to obesity (Lack of energy? Obesity. Aches and pains? Obesity. Broken leg? Obesity. Run over by a truck? Well, if you weren't so fat, you'd have gotten out of the way. Obesity.)

Hmm.. some drugs that are "FDA Approved" to reduce appetite. Nice to know, but since I'm in Australia I don't think that's really helpful to know. And, strangely, I don't want to know. Appetite isn't causing me to get fat: that's caused by my eating more kilojoules than my body uses to burn. Reducing my appetite will reduce my food intake. Reducing my food intake will cause that lovely effect well known to dieters -- the body treats reduced food intake as a famine, and goes into protective mode. Sure, you lose weight. You don't lose fat. Same goes for those diet shakes. I was on one for a while that worked by pretty much filling you up with "Ultra Low Calorie" food (more like flavoured dust). Add to that the "carb free" rules you had to eat by, and it was Atkins-with-flavoured-drink. You lose weight with low carb diets because you lose water and muscle mass. Then it levels off and by reducing your muscle mass its a lot harder to lose more.

The site (before I deleted the link) was called "weight-loss-truths". Strange how sites that lie are called "Truth" isn't it? They aren't selling weight loss, they are selling an alleged way to lose weight easier. Hate to say it, because it effects me too, but there isn't an easy way. It was easy to put the weight on, because for twenty years I continued to eat huge (and fatty/sugary) meals and exercise only little. The way to reverse that is to exercise and eat much better. For Twenty Years. Or eat really well and exercise a LOT MORE. Plus, I have a liver condition (Yep. Caused by Obesity) which pretty much means I have to lose weight slowly. Losing weight too fast (or using dietary drugs...) could cause more liver issues.

So, luccy, you're a spamming git, aren't you?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Symbols in Chat in Warhammer Online

I'd like to say I discovered this, however doing a search on "icons warhammer online" found a few other hits.

There is a library of icons and symbols that is in the WAR client, and its used by the minimap, the bags, the map, server announcements and the like. The symbols can be accessed by using "&lticon>" within a chat (it also works in email subject lines and probably contents). I'd love to know if it works in guild names (although there seems to be a bug in guild names currently -- we spent an hour trying to get a guild name accepted last night, for an alt alt guild built for fun scenario runs in T1 -- seems if you use more than one capital it fails, even though there are guilds in ALLCAPS as well as Guild Names Like This. Must be recent)

Way back in the early days of WAR (after release), an announcement popped up saying that Altdorf was now level 4. There were three stars at the end, and also "&lticon43" where the last star should have been. (memory is bad, so it may have been a different icon number)(also, I think there had to be a space between icon and the number, although this isn't the case now)


So I tried "/say &lticon43"
Well, that didn't work.

How about "/say &lticon43>"?
I got a star floating in my 'voice' bubble, and in the chat window.

I tried different numbers at random, and found a bunch: between 1 and 65 or so. I mentioned this in Guild and people had a bit of fun dropping random icons into the chat.

The problem at the time was that doing this caused issues for the chat text coloring: Text that should be blue appeared white, or half would be blue and half a different color. It effected anyone who say the symbol (so people at the other end of the chat weren't too impressed). So, I stopped trying it out.


Go forward a few months, and I try the icon thing again. And this time, it works fine, no bad effects. Someone in Guild tries "&lticon777> and it works... there's more than 60-odd??

I made a macro with &lticon10>&lticon11>&lticon12&gt...&lticon19> and ran it. Then changed the macro to &lticon20>&lticon21&gtetc. Then ran through them. I'm up to about icon300+ now. From around 200 on, the icons are bag items. They are also not the same size as in the bag window, so the icon must resize or my chat window font size is different to the bag window default.

I'm looking for a Clock symbol, and since I'm sure I've seen a watch in the past, should be there somewhere.

Icon 33 is a stop symbol. Icon 140-something is a hammer (theres a bunch of weapon symbols in a row in the mid-100s). And a clock, and I have "Stop-Hammer-Time".


Khalid is a 29 Rune Priest now, but I've also got Individual (21 White Lion), Telansa (20 Bright Wizard), Tact (22 Knight) and Cunning (6 Shadow Hunter). And Bigbadwolf, level three War Priest.

edit: i can't seem to fix the left bracket issue in this post

Saturday, January 03, 2009


(originally posted as a comment on Friendly Atheist)

I've been thinking about this "used to be an atheist but now I'm in the bosom of Jesus" types. At a risk of raising the "No True Atheist" flag, I don't think they were atheists.

I think they are Apatheists. It wasn't that they didn't believe in god, but they just didn't care. Maybe paid lip service, or attended church with family pressure, but otherwise it was either too hard or too boring or too much to believe, and so by the definition of their old faith, they label themselves as Atheist.

They accept the label, maybe learn some of the ways Atheists act or think, and try that on: in a way, they treat Atheism as if it was a faith, a religion. They read the books other Atheists tell them about, they go to the sites, they nod in appreciation at the witty comments and condemn the god-bothering trolls... but, still, they start to feel something missing still. It doesn't occur to them that the missing thing is them letting go of faith, but rather they start to feel the missing thing being god. They feel that its great to be out of the moral code of their old religion, and for some that freedom means going the other way, over to drinking to excess or sex sex sex. Because they are free now, free from that church they had been in.

And suddenly because a family member makes them or there's a sign or they burn toast and it looks like Jesus; and we have another Atheist turned Christian doing the lecture route. They couldn't keep to their original faith in the first place, and the new one (which could be the old one, but is more likely a revivalist or evangelistic church) isn't boring, they say the right things, couch answers in easy to understand (and wrong) logic. A(pa)theist becomes Theist again.

Apatheism is not atheism.