13 November 2017

On electric guitar tone

Kt88 power tubes in traynor yba200 amplifier.jpg
By Msquared - Matt Myers - Original photograph by Matt Myers (uploader)., Public Domain, Link

The first electric guitarist says that good guitar tone requires overdriving a tube pre-amp.

The second guitarist says that the key to good guitar tone is putting EQ before and after your distortion.

The third guitarist says that the real secret to good guitar tones is saturating a tube power amp.

The fourth guitarist says that it is really the amp’s transformer that matters.

The fifth guitarist says that it is about the interaction of the pre-amp, power-amp, and transformer. And don’t forget speaker distortion.

Meanwhile, Def Leppard’s best selling album was recorded using Rockman headphone amps. (Developed by Tom Scholz of the band Boston.) Not the Rockman Power Soak with a guitar amp. The little, 1980s-era, solid-state Rockman headphone amp with a belt-clip.

solid-state Rockman headphone amp
By waterborough - photo shooting, Public Domain, Link

Of course, that is only one example. If you look, you can find many more professional guitarists who have been very successful with gear the purveyors of “good tone” would dismiss out-of-hand.

That’s just one of those things to remember whenever the Gear-Acquisition-Syndrome flares up.

07 November 2017

An unusual case where Esperanto could’ve helped

(Sube estas traduko de ĉi tio en Esperanto)

An Italian made a YouTube video in English. Another Italian made a video in response. He wanted those who watched the first video to be able to understand his own, so he used English too. But his English was not strong.

If we would use Esperanto as the international language instead of English, this would have been better. The first Italian’s Esperanto would probably still be better than the second’s, but the second’s Esperanto would be better than his English. So, the second could express his thoughts more easily and more clearly.

Italo faris filmeton en la Angla. Alia italo faris filmeton por respondi. Li volas, ke tiuj, kiuj spektis la unuan filmeton, povas kompreni la duan, do li antaŭ uzis la Anglan. Sed la Angla de li ne estis bona.

Se ni uzus Esperanton anstataŭ la Angla por la lingvo internacia, ĉi tio estus pli bona. La Esperanto de la unua Italo kredeble ankoraŭ estus pli bona ol tio de la dua, sed la Esperanto de la dua estus pli bona ol la Angla. Do, la dua povus pli facile kaj pli klare esprimi pensojn liajn

06 November 2017

The idea of Esperanto

First let’s start with busting a myth:

Esperanto is not meant to replace natural languages.

Esperanto is the world’s most widely spoken constructed language.

The idea behind Esperanto is that everyone should learn it as their second language. Then, when two people who don’t share another language want to communicate, they can use Esperanto. Moreover, they will be on relatively equal footing since the odds are neither of them are a native Esperanto speaker.

(There actually are native Esperanto speakers. According to Wikipedia, there were about 350 in 1996. You can hear some of them on YouTube: Esperanto: Like a Native)

To this end, Esperanto is designed to be easier to learn than natural languages. There are studies that show that it really is, and that learning Esperanto first can help when learning additional languages.

Esperanto isn’t perfect, but finding consensus on perfect is much harder than finding consensus on “good enough”. Esperanto’s creator himself created an improved version, but it couldn’t gain the traction that Esperanto had. Among constructed international auxiliary languages, Esperanto has been most successful.

I think English speakers in particular should support Esperanto as the world’s international language. While English seems to be the current lingua franca, it wasn’t the first. (As “lingua franca” itself attests.) It won’t always be. You can be guaranteed that if the next one isn’t Esperanto, it is going to be harder for you to learn than Esperanto.

If you’re interested in Esperanto, here are some starting points I recommend:

Of course, there is much more, but those are places to start.

†The web version of the Duolingo Esperanto course includes some helpful grammar notes that are missing from the app. In any case, while I find Duolingo very helpful, I find it isn’t enough by itself to learn a language.

05 November 2017

Super Mario Run

Nintendo Disappointed by Super Mario Run Profits

I'm in the minority, but I think it hurt Super Mario Run more that it wasn't a regular Super Mario game than that the in-app purchase was seen as too expensive. People will pay more than $10 for a good Mario game on any platform.

It also didn’t help that you had to sign-up/log-in before you could play. And that that whole process was awful. And that once you did that, it still took way too many taps to go from launching the app to actually playing the game. This is exactly the lesson that everyone should have taken from the success of Flappy Bird.

Controls are arguably an issue on iOS. I’m not fully convinced since there are controllers available. We haven’t seen enough developers willing to make games that require them, though.

But I know that just falling back on “one touch” isn’t a solution. It works beautifully in some cases, but not for every game.

If Nintendo really dedicated itself to creating a first-class Nintendo game for iOS developed for touch controls rather than just “one touch” and made sure that every part of it was polished... I can’t see how they couldn’t make profits they’d be happy with.

If they launched a good iOS controller, then they could not only make better iOS games more easily, they could make money on hardware too.

Maybe that isn’t the best thing for Nintendo to do. But the main point is that, as in most things, the lessons to be learned from Super Mario Run aren’t as simple as “iOS users won’t pay” or “Nintendo can’t be successful on iOS.”

04 November 2017

How to Fix Facebook?

How to Fix Facebook? We Asked 9 Experts
The New York Times

Technologists, academics, politicians and journalists suggested ways to improve Facebook — as a product, a company or both. Read the full story

Fixing Facebook is easy: We all decide that a social network service is something that we're willing to pay for.

When we are the customers, the company will care about our needs. As long as we aren't the one paying the bills, why would we expect the company to care about our needs?

The fact that you may be thinking that this is not an easy solution is exactly the problem. The problem isn’t Facebook. The problem is us.

23 October 2017

YouTube v. the sword channels

YouTube deleted a channel without warning due to a video that had been up for years. So lots of viewers (including myself) and other YouTubers have rallied to have the channel reinstated.

But I can't help but think that reinstating the channel is a bad idea. It isn't a solution. I can't help but think that Thrand and the other YouTubers supporting him should treat YouTube the same way YouTube is treating them. Just take their content elsewhere. Unlike what happened to Thrand, this is far from YouTube's "first strike", and it is something they're doing right now rather than years ago.

There are many good reasons why YouTube is in the position it is. There would be many downsides to leaving YouTube. But as long as content creators stay, YouTube has no motivation to change. (They may never have any, since they'll bend over backwards to keep the big content providers while continuing to treat the smaller ones this way.) Does anyone really think things are going to get better rather than worse?

While it seems everyone is setting up accounts with vid.me or other services as an "insurance", I can't help but think that it is too late for insurance.

The petition: Reinstate the ThegnThrand channel

13 August 2017

On complaints

It is sad that most companies seem to only be prepared to appease customers rather than to fix systems. When I make a complaint, they’ll “open a ticket”. They want me to tell them what they can do to make me happy so that they can “close the ticket”. When I say, “Make sure it doesn’t happen again,” they’re at a loss. Because they have no way to do that. And the idea that I’d make a complaint because I want to help rather than because I want some sort of recompense or something doesn’t fit in their system.

19 June 2017

Video game console names

Odyssey 100 (200, 300, &c.)😐
TV Master👎
Telstar Classic👍
Telstar Deluxe👍
Telstar Ranger👍
Telstar Alpha👍
Telstar Colormatic😐
Telstar Colortron😐
Telstar Marksman😐
Telstar Galaxy👍
Telstar Gemini👍
Telstar Arcade👍
Channel F👎
Intellivision II👍
Intellivision III👍
Arcadia 2001👎
Entertainment System👎
Super NES😐
Wii U👎
Master System👎
Mega Drive👎
Neo Geo👍
Interactive Multiplayer👎
PlayStation 2👍
PlayStation 3👍
PlayStation 4👍
PlayStation 4 Slim😐
PlayStation 4 Pro😐
Xbox 360👎
Xbox One👎
Xbox One S👎
Xbox One X👎


  1. It is not hard to come up with a good name.
  2. If you want a bad name, overthink it.

27 January 2017

Has Christianity failed?

You might look at the teachings of Jesus as presented in the Christian bible. Then you might look at what people calling themselves Christians are doing and saying. Noting that those two things don’t quite line up, you might ask yourself the question: Has Christianity failed?

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.

When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

—Matthew 6:1–4 (MSG)

In Jesus’ day there were self-righteous, divisive people who put on a show about being religious in public while completely missing the point of the religious teachings. Christianity can’t stop that any more that Judaism or Jesus himself could. People will do what people will do. Jesus’ teachings don’t tell Christians to do anything about that beyond: Don’t be like them! Modern-day Pharisees aren’t evidence that Christianity is failing.

Perhaps more importantly, being Christian doesn’t mean being perfect. It means—when you’re doing it right—recognizing that you aren’t perfect and wanting to become perfect. The most authentic Christian makes mistakes. Christians making mistakes isn’t evidence that Christianity is failing.

When Christianity succeeds, it seldom makes headlines. Which, the gospel of Matthew tells us, is exactly how the Christ said it should be.

And that’s true for other faiths as well. Don’t judge a faith by the headlines.

11 January 2017

Minimal D&D

This is a collection of Dungeons & Dragons-like role-playing games that are 1, 4, or 5 pages.

None of these games claim to be D&D. Legally, of course, they cannot. But they are all attempts at boiling D&D down to its essence. To provide a minimal RPG that still—to some extent—looks and feels like D&D.


Microlite20 is a minimalist role-playing game designed to be usable with the majority of the OGL/d20 supplements, rules and adventures with little or no advance preparation. The basic rules for character generation, combat, magic and level advancement take up a single sheet of paper, meaning it is perfect for introducing role-playing to new players, gaming oneshot adventures or tailoring into your own game system.

Microlite20 has a ton of spin-offs including some that seek to appeal more to old school gamers than the original may have.

Searchers of the Unknown:

Searchers of the Unknown is a one-page roleplaying game where player characters are entirely defined by a minimalist old school Dungeons & Dragons one line stat block (e.g. “AC 7, MV 9, HD 2, hp 9, #AT 1, D 1d8 mace”) something like monster stat blocks in early editions of D&D.

Searchers likewise has a bunch of spin-offs. Including...

1974 Style:

1974 Style™ is a set of free, familiar, and easily modifiable role-playing game rules suitable for Fantasy, Pulp, Horror, Western and Sci-Fi Adventures.

A typical old-school RPG module stats list for a monster looks like this: AC6, MV9’, HD 1, hp 4, #AT1, D1-10 by halberd. The 1974 Style rules use these same stats for player characters (PCs).

Character stats can fit on a 3×5 or 4×6 card, and all the rules for a given game and setting can fit on a single sheet of paper.

Swords & Wizardry Light:

You remember, don’t you? The sounds of battle heard through the clatter of dice? The shuffling of character sheets? The war stories shared with your fellow campaigners? There is a longing in the soul of every adventurer and though it sometimes fades to a whisper, you still hear it. Swords & Wizardry Light marks your return to fantasy roleplaying—or if you’re curious what fantasy gaming is all about, this is the perfect introduction. This folio, a twenty-sided die, and a few six-sided dice are all you need to return to the gaming table, recall those halycon days of heroism, and forge brand new legend. Welcome back to Swords & Wizardry Light!

I greatly appreciate that they actually spelled in “light” instead of “lite”.

Honorable mention—Original Edition Delta: OED is really just some house rules for original D&D. But it isn’t far from being everything you need. Lists of spells, equipment, monsters, and treasure are missing; although there are plenty of sources for such things. The XP per level tables are also missing, though you could certainly get by with the S&WL rule there.

Honorable mention—Risus: Risus is in no way D&D. Though it can certainly do a good spoof of D&D. But it may be the best minimal RPG ever written.

Others? Please leave a comment about any other minimal D&D-like games I missed.