Invisible Flying Wizards

In one of my campaigns in one future session the group will come upon a castle. The gates are locked, there are guards on the battlements. Thus there is a challenge to the group to overcome: How do they get into the castle? Now this sounds like classic situation for Dungeons & Dragons. However through most of the history of D&D this was more of a headache for DMs if their group was at least level 5: Wizards had spells like Fly and Invisibility, and that made “sneaking into the castle to open the back door” boring instead of a challenge. So why would I put it in one of my adventures? Because 5th edition cleverly solved the invisible flying wizard problem!

Many of the spells in 5th edition are now using concentration, a new concept. If you want to fly, you can cast the Fly spell, but you will need to concentrate on it. Not only does that mean that if you are hit by an arrow, you have to do a concentration check or fall to the ground; it also means that you can only concentrate on one spell at once. Flying, yes, invisibility, yes, but not both at the same time. Thus the Rogue, who *can* be simultaneously stealthy and climbing walls, isn’t put out of a job by the invisible flying Wizard any more.

Having said that, for some classes the concentration concept is overused and ends up making their spellcasting overly weak. A prime example is the paladin, who has very few non-concentration spells, at least at lower to mid-level. Spells like the level 1 smites really shouldn’t be concentration, as they are already not very powerful and concentration means they don’t work with more important spells like Bless or Compelled Duel. For the Warlock the fact that Hex is a concentration spell and the very staple of his existence, makes any other concentration spell nearly useless.

So, yes, concentration is a useful new concept. But I think it is currently applied to too many spells and could be better balanced.

KeeP YoUr SmartPhone SaFe

Smartphones have evolved from being able to just check email and has now allowed us to do so many other things when paired with other devices. Nowadays, we can pay with our smartphones with digital wallet apps are able to store multiple credit cards. Most of our private information (together with other contact information) can be found in the apps on our smartphone through chatlogs, pictures, calendars, and notes.

Various reports have shown that Android malware is increasing year after year, so it’s more important now than ever to make sure your device is safe.

Following are the ways through which you can keep your smartphone safe

Activate a screen lock

Activate a screen lock  after a short period of inactivity (30 seconds, for example), your phone should auto-lock itself. It’s a must not only for your mobile device, but also for your laptop or tablet. This is the easiest way to keep intruders away. It’s also essential that you enforce automatic wiping of the device after 10 failed login attempts.

A screen lock is useful but won’t stop someone from removing your SIM card and using it on another phone. To prevent this from happening, set up a SIM card lock in the form of a PIN number that will need to be entered when a phone is turned on in order to connect to a network.
With both of these security measures in place, you can at least be safe in the knowledge that if a phone is stolen it will be of very little use to the average thief.

Secure individual apps

Download App Lock and add an extra level of security to individual apps, especially ones that contain personal data, such as social networks, email apps, or banking apps. You can set a different password for each app.

Automatic Back up your data

Backing up your data simply means keeping a duplicate data of all the data in your smartphone. There are many viruses in the internet nowadays that can just blast off your smarty pants to heaven. So if you keep a backup, then you can just not make a big deal out of it as you’ve a backup.

Turn Off Settings When Not In Use

Hackers are able to do all sorts of things that will surprise you. Turning off phone settings like Bluetooth, Location Services, Near Field Communication (NFC), Wi-Fi and even Cellular Data when not in use not only conserves smartphone battery but also gives hackers less access to your device.

Location Services and Bluetooth should not be turned on when not in use as apps can use lots of location data without you knowing it. As Bluetooth is constantly transmitting your devices’ location and presence, it is possible for hackers to use it to gain access and extract any kind of information found on your device.

Be careful about which apps you download

Apps from the Play Store are far less likely to contain malware than ones from other sources. Only downloading from the Play Store will significantly cut down your security risk. Take the time to look into an app’s reviews, developer, description and permissions before you download it.

Try an antivirus

If you are security conscious and still don’t trust your smart browser from protecting you from the viruses, just install an anti-virus in your smartphone. Anti-virus for smartphones are spreading like wildfire so you should get yourself one too.

Always buy an antivirus that is good. Go to sites line www.Cnet.com to check the reviews of anti-virus and then only buy it. Don’t just buy an anti-virus out just from the wind. Remember ‘less money, more work’
Nowadays, there are a lot of fake antiviruses in the market. Yeah! You read that right, fake antivirus.These fake anti-viruses tell you that they can be downloaded it for free which is true. Now, they don’t kill viruses they make viruses. So beware of these types.

Get a skin

After all the hard work that your device does for you, you can do it a favor and buying it new clothes or as some would put it, skin. Skins are not only new clothes for your smarty, it also make them look attractive plus as a bonus, when you drop your smartphone for whatsoever reason, this skin may just be little protective as a shield or something.

Activate remote device locator

In case your smartphone is ever lost or stolen, the easiest way to remotely locate it is by installing a dedicated app and making sure that the option to track its location is always turned on.

For iOS there’s the tracking solution called “Find my iPhone”, Microsoft has “Find my phone”, and Android has “Android Device Manager”.

Have a Factory Data Reset

If you’re planning on selling your phone, make sure you don’t forget to do a Factory Data Reset before you give it away.

This way you’ll wipe all the data that was stored on it, including access to your accounts, system and app data and settings, downloaded apps, photos, music or any other data.

Don’t root your phone

Although rooting offers a lot of new options, it can also remove some of the built-in safeguards. It doesn’t make it more likely that your phone will be infected with a virus, but it does mean that more damage can be done if it does occur.

Use a VPN to connect to public Wi-Fi networks

Using a public Wi-Fi network isn’t the most secure option, but it’s just so dam handy! If you don’t want to cut out using those networks altogether, you can compromise by using a VPN. That way, your phone will be much safer when you connect.

Android is an open source platform, it is more vulnerable to attacks as hackers can easily find vulnerabilities on each device; iOS or Windows Phone are less vulnerable because their system codes are not openly shared to the public.

Want to learn Android Programming?

Another Positive Factor From the Alabama Election That Republicans Don’t Want to Talk About

Tuesday’s turnout by race fit historic patterns, but the party white Alabamians voted for didn’t.

There’s one feature of the voting in this week’s Alabama special election that elected Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate that Republicans aren’t talking about—tens of thousands of white voters who were reliable Republicans voted for the Democrat.

This observation is missing from the mainstream media narrative that correctly, but incompletely, points to historically through-the-roof black voter turnout as a core pillar of Jones’ victory, as Matt Bruenig, who blogs on politics and economics, noted.

“The overwhelming mainstream narrative of Doug Jones’s victory over Roy Moore in Alabama has been focused on black turnout,” Bruenig wrote, citing the New York Times, which reported, “According to CNN exit polling, 30 percent of the electorate was African-American, with 96 percent of them voting for Mr. Jones. (Mr. Jones’ backers had felt he needed to get north of 25 percent to have a shot to win.) A remarkable 98 percent of black women voters supported Mr. Jones. The share of black voters on Tuesday was higher than the share in 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama was on the ballot.”

But as Bruenig notes, “if you actually look at the exit polling, it is pretty clear that the real story of Jones’ victory was not inordinate black turnout but rather inordinate white support for the Democratic candidate.”

He compiled and compared “the black share of the electorate, black support for Democrats, and the election result for the 2008, 2012 and 2017 Alabama elections,” in which each election saw 28 or 29 percent voter turnout. He then compared the white share of the Alabama electorate, which was also virtually unchanged and between 65 and 68 percent. 

“The white share of the electorate is virtually unchanged, but white support for the Democrat changes dramatically, rising all the way to 30 percent in the Jones-Moore election,” Bruenig said. “This white swing towards the Democratic candidate is basically solely responsible for the fact that Jones won rather than losing by over 20 points, which is the typical outcome of a statewide Alabama election that features this level of black turnout.”

Bruenig’s observation doesn’t detract in the slightest from the historic turnout by all the communities of color in Alabama. But it does reveal that many Republicans are not diehard partisans who would never vote for a compelling Democratic candidate.

Some of those white voters were 18 to 44, as media exit polls noted, but others were “white women and college graduates… likely to recoil from Trump’s campaign and swing in Democrats’ direction than white men and those without college degrees.”

However you slice it, Alabama’s special election shows that red-state America is not as monolithic as Republicans would have you believe. That’s another hopeful sign to emerge from Tuesday’s vote.

 

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Combat optional

One of the comments on my previous post on Zelda about combat feeling optional got me thinking. Role-playing games evolved from war games: The full name of TSR, the company that first made Dungeons & Dragons, was “Tactical Studies Rules”; and the game evolved out of a squad-based war game with heroes fighting monsters. Since then combat against monsters has been very much at the heart of role-playing games of all sorts. Frequently you gained experience points, and thus levels, and thus power, by killing monsters. In MMORPGs that even led to players thinking about monsters as being a resource, with other players being a nuisance for “killstealing” or otherwise taking that monster resource away from you.

In Zelda – Breath of the Wild the monster is back where it belongs: In the role of an obstacle. There are no xp to gain, killing monsters doesn’t increase your power. Yes, you might earn a nice weapon in a treasure, but you could also break your weapon while killing the monsters and then find a worse replacement in their treasure chest. Monsters drop monster parts, which can be combined with stuff like insects to cook elixirs (which sell for much more than the monster parts). There is even a special trader in the game that allows you to trade monster parts for another currency with which you can buy special items like monster disguises. But in the long run, killing monsters frequently just isn’t worth it. When exploring in the mountains and getting attacked by a monster, I’d try to punt it over a ledge and got rid of it, even if that meant I wouldn’t loot it.

Combat isn’t completely optional however. At the very least you will need to kill 5 different incarnations of Ganon, the big evil guy, before reaching the closing credits. If you want to do all shrines, about 10% of them consist of a combat trial, and some others have lesser guardian monsters mixed with puzzles. You might also want at some point in time farm certain monster parts to upgrade armor with. But what I like is that you can wander the landscape and decide to circumvent a monster camp if you don’t feel like attacking it. Because you don’t have to fight everything.

A question of consent and confusion

I would like to ask my American readers to leave now, as I am going to discuss some thoughts about sex which might offend the puritan.

I am very happy that I am over 50 and married, because if I was a young man I would be very much confused by now. According to polls a lot of young people in America these days believe that complimenting a woman or asking her for a date is sexual harassment. And you can’t read the news these days without reading some report on there being a “rape culture”, with an implied or even outspoken presumption that all men are rapists.

Fact is that the overwhelming majority of men are not rapists, by any reasonable definition of the term including all forms of non-consensual sex. While it is certainly true that rape is under-reported as a crime, even if you consider a 90% rate of under-reporting, that would raise the rape rate in the USA from 30 per 100,000 population to 300 per 100,000 population. Which still leaves over 99% of men being not rapists. In Germany some time ago there were some cases of sexual harassment committed by immigrants, which led to the far right claiming things like “all Muslim men are rapists”. The liberal left loudly protested against such a sweeping and obviously untrue statement. I’m still waiting for the same reasoning to be applied to the defense of white, non-immigrant men.

I totally applaud the movement of outing pigs like Harvey Weinstein up to and including the point where they should go to prison for any rapes they committed. However I do think there are important values enshrined in our justice system, like people being considered innocent until proven guilty, which I see somewhat in danger in some of the cases. There have been cases where the falsehood of a rape accusation could be proved in court, although of course that takes years and by the time the media career of the accused is long dead. Thus a presumption that all men are rapists is not only unfair, but actually a danger to the rule of law.

What must be confusing for young people is that at the same time harmless flirting is being criminalized, the access to sexual images and even sex has never been easier. Doubly confusing if you hear that the changes to laws about prostitution in many European countries are called “liberalization”, while the puritans in the media complaining about men’s sexual advances are also called “liberals”. You end up with a view of the world where there are “good girls” which you better even don’t look at, better not talk to other than professionally, and certainly never touch, and there are “bad girls” on porn sites, webcam broadcasts, Tinder, in strip clubs or brothels (NSFW). I’m sure some people concluded that the crime of the Presidents Club was to have invited the wrong kind of girl to their party.

There is a strong correlation of that with economic inequality. The “good girls” are generally richer than the “bad girls”. In other words, they are the same girls, they are just on different levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and so they differ in the relative importance they place on money and on being treated like a lady. Instead of blaming all men and starting a gender war, maybe we could come a lot closer to universal respectful interactions between men and women by introducing universal basic income.

Tobold’s Game of the Year

This year my prestigious (that is to say totally unknown) game of the year award goes to, *drumroll*, The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch. None of the other games I played on various platforms this year comes even close to the level of craftsmanship of Zelda. It is an explorer’s paradise: Huge is both quantity and quality of handcrafted features in the landscape, the next discovery feels always right around the next corner. No procedurally generated landscapes here! There is a great mix of different challenges, from fights to puzzles to riddles to crafting, which always keeps you entertained.

This game really is a “system seller”: if you can afford to spend $400 on a game, buying a Switch to play Zelda is totally worth it. And because it is hundreds of hours of gameplay you do get your money’s worth back in entertainment (some people tried to finish the game as fast as possible and the fastest speedrun of 100% completion took already 49 hours). And inversely I’m not sure buying a Switch without Zelda is worth it, unless you are a fan of Mario (I like Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battles). The non-exclusive games on the Switch tend to be older and overpriced. And the Switch’s famous “mobile” mode is somewhat hampered by low battery life.

What makes Zelda such a great exploration game is the absence of any invisible walls. If you see something ahead of you, you can get there. It might need a bunch of stamina food to get to the top of the highest mountain or building, but you can get there. And there is probably a reward too for getting there. The terrain isn’t just there to walk or climb on it, it often has tricks to deal with the local monster population: You can roll down a boulder into the bokoblin camp to crush them, or explode their camp by throwing a bomb barrel in their camp fire or set grass on fire. You can open a drawbridge by shooting the ropes that hold it up with fire arrows.

The landscape never feels empty. Besides finding major stuff like the 120 shrines, you can also discover the 900 locations of Korok seeds, or the countless resources from mushrooms to ore. Interaction with your environment is fun because the game always goes a step beyond what you’d expect from other games: My niece tried to feed her horse a carrot and I was surprised to see that it worked! I was equally surprised to see that while I couldn’t kill chickens by hitting them with a sword, they did lay eggs when I did. Or got angry and called all their rooster friends that attacked me. 🙂

Another feature that makes Zelda a great game is how it handles difficulty. Don’t be fooled by the game’s colorful look, it can be quite challenging. You will die. Many times. But fortunately the game isn’t punishing death all that much. Which means that you’ll be back in the action and trying again in no time. And sometimes again. And again. Until you finally manage that challenging fight or puzzle, or you give up and decide to do something else first. And the game also constantly challenges your intelligence: Unless you look everything up on the internet, you need to figure out quite a lot of how the game works by yourself. Ultimately you end up having quite a lot of control over the level of challenge: Different zones have different monster difficulties, so you can go the easy way and do them in the right order or skip ahead to farm harder monsters for better weapons. You control the difficulty of puzzles by deciding how much help you want to get from sources like YouTube. And if the normal mode of the game is too easy for you, you can switch to the much harder master mode, which makes Dark Souls look like a game for wimps. If you want the game easier, you could also use Amiibos (haven’t tried those yet) to get various gear, or a horse, or a wolf pet.

In summary, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a great game. It fully deserves its 97% Metacritic rating. The game doesn’t just play well, it also has far more handcrafted content than other open world games. Recommended!

Surviving Holiday Heart Attack Season: A Cardiologist’s Advice

More people die from heart disease between December 25 and January 7 than at any other time of the year.

It’s almost that time of year: holiday heart attack season. More people die from heart disease between December 25 and January 7 than at any other time of the year. What’s the answer? Healthier food. As a cardiologist, I’m calling on hospitals to lead by example. Historically, some hospitals have been known for serving their heart attack patients breakfasts of bacon and eggs, conveying a message to patients and families that food does not matter.

That is all about to change. Earlier this year, the American College of Cardiology released Heart-Healthy Food Recommendations for Hospitals, which says that “hospitalization can be a ‘teachable moment’ for patients who are ready to embrace nutrition as part of the healing process.” The ACC recommends having plant-based main dishes available at every meal. It also says that processed meats—bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs, and deli meats—should be off the menu entirely. The American Medical Association followed suit, calling for similar improvements in hospital food offerings: out with the bacon and sausage, in with the vegan choices.

The plan could save hundreds of thousands of lives a year. A study published this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked not eating enough fruits, vegetables and grains to more than 150,000 cardiovascular deaths a year and too much processed meat to 60,000 deaths.

Are you serious? you might be asking. Will hospitals really serve vegan (plant-based) meals, and will patients really eat them (and like them)? The answer is absolutely yes. A generation ago, hospitals banned cigarettes, and the grumbling from smokers ended almost immediately. It was a clear-cut message about what is healthy and what is not. It’s time to do the same with unhealthy foods.   

The ACC and AMA recommendations also have benefits beyond heart health. A recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research found that eating three servings of whole grains per day reduces colorectal cancer risk by 17 percent, while eating just 50 grams of processed meat per day—about the size of a hot dog or a couple of slices of bacon—increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. 

Other organizations, like the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, are working in hospitals to make healthful hospital food a reality. This year, the Physicians Committee successfully encouraged the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Arkansas Children’s Hospital to remove hot dogs from patient menus, and convinced others to kick out fast food restaurants. The doctors’ group also produced a Heart-Healthy Foods for Hospitals booklet, which includes delicious plant-based recipes: Apple Sweet Potato Breakfast Bake, Cheezy Potato and Veggie Breakfast Casserole, and Mexican Lasagna. It also makes hospital managers’ lives easier by providing list of contractors that provide heart-healthy foods, tips from professionals for how to successfully implement the plan, handouts for patients and cafeteria signage.

In other words, the change could not be easier. Let’s resolve to eat healthfully, and let’s start with our hospitals. While some hospitals are starting to do this, let’s see if we can get them all to take this on in a whole-hearted approach. Instead of being the riskiest time of year, let’s work together to make the holiday season the healthiest.

 

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‘Whoa, Whoa’: Fox Panel Goes off the Rails After Guest Suggests FBI Plotted to Assassinate Trump

The right-wing media has lost its mind.

Fox News contributor on Tuesday said that it was possible that the FBI had plotted to assassinate President Donald Trump — although he quickly backed off when “Outnumbered” host Harris Faulkner expressed alarm at his baseless speculation.

Appearing on “Outnumbered,” guest Kevin Jackson said that Congressional Republicans need to get to the bottom of what FBI agent Peter Strzok meant when he said that there needed to be an “insurance policy” in the event that Trump got elected.

Even though the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Strzok’s “insurance policy” quote referred to his sincere belief in the need to investigate Trump because he was possibly compromised by Russian intelligence services, Jackson immediately went off the deep end and suggested much darker motives.

“What was his intent, right?” Jackson asked. “Because that’s exactly what FBI Director, former FBI Director [James] Comey said when he was letting Hillary Clinton off the hook. And his intent, regardless of whether it was an assassination attempt or whatever, it was definitely something…”

At this point, a surprised Faulkner interjected and said, “Whoa, whoa!” Jackson then responded by toning his rhetoric down a notch.

“Well, I’m just saying, we don’t know what it was,” Jackson said. “When you say, ‘we’ve got to make sure that this guy doesn’t get in at all cost,’ what does that mean? So I’m saying there’s a spectrum of what does it mean, but one thing that we know for sure, is that he was plotting in an election against a candidate, and there’s FBI fingerprints all over this.”

Later in the segment, Jackson admitted that everything he has heard about FBI plots to kill Trump has come from social media accounts that were “nothing credible.”

Watch the video, via Media Matters, below.

 

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New Wall Street Journal Report Might Totally Destroy Republicans’ Favorite Anti-FBI Talking Point

The GOP still won’t shut up about a “Deep State” conspiracy though.

A new report from the Wall Street Journal adds some needed context to FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s text message about the Russia investigation being an “insurance policy” in the event that Donald Trump won last year’s presidential election.

According to the Journal’s sources, Strzok’s talk of an “insurance policy” against Trump’s electoral victory “was meant to convey that the bureau needed to aggressively investigate allegations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia,” and was not intended to “suggest a secret plan to harm the candidate but rather address a colleague who believed the [FBI] could take its time because Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was certain to win the election.”

In the original text message, which was sent to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Strzok wrote of Trump that, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

The text message had been seized upon by Republicans who suggested it revealed an agency-wide conspiracy to bring down Trump in the event of his election. According to the Journal’s account, however, it seems that Strzok was sincerely concerned about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents, and wanted to pursue an investigation regardless of who won the 2016 presidential election.

Strzok was originally part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team, but he was removed by Mueller this past summer after the special counsel discovered that the FBI agent had disparaged Trump as an “idiot” in text messages.

 

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Multiplayer today

In the movie Full Metal Jacket one character says that he wants to go to interesting places, meet interesting people, and kill them. When I look at the list of Steam’s best selling games in 2017, it appears that this is what most people want: Multiplayer gaming today appears to be nearly exclusively about going to interesting virtual places, meeting interesting people online, and then killing them. In games that have some form of collaboration (to kill other players), collaboration is often the weakest point of the game, leading to much toxicity and hate. Hate towards your team mates, not the opponents, mind you. I’m a bit depressed about what our gaming behavior says about us as the human race.

Where are the massively multiplayer online city building games? Multiplayer online survival games in which people cooperate instead of torturing each other? Why did MMORPGs basically die out as a genre on Steam? How did humanity evolve and create civilization in real life, but fail to do so in virtual worlds? I really think that game designers missed something big here: In real life the incentives obviously favor collaboration over bashing each others head in; how great could a video game be if it could manage to reproduce those incentives and create virtual worlds in which people want to cooperate?