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Eversink Villain #01: Silvio Langella, Enemy of Stephanos Everywhere


Last week, the Streets of Eversink teamed with people named Stefano. Everywhere you went, you bumped into a guy named Stefano. The baker down the street. The local cobbler. The friendly neighborhood pickpocket.

Then, they began to disappear. One by one, the Stefanos of Eversink… vanished. Most were renamed less Stefano-like names and carried on as if nothing happened. Others blipped out of existence, and existence knit itself back together over the hole they left behind.

Other than being obviously weird, this really messed with the people of Eversink, especially the Stephanos. Some went into hiding. Some wept. Some begged the City Watch to “do something” (they did not). Highly placed Stephanos fled the City, terrified they were next, and no amount of cash could protect them from this terrible scourge.

Soon, no one named Stephano would be left in Eversink. And when that happened, what next?

Background Story

Silvio Langella wasn’t thinking about becoming a Sorcerer when he picked the ornate box open. He was thinking about becoming fabulously wealthy and blowing gold on hot girls and rivers of alcohol. Getting to this box was no simple feat, and whoever hid it didn’t want it stolen. Whatever was inside was worth bank.

But Silvio Langella became a Sorcerer when the wrought gold lid of the box popped open under his cajoling and his expertise with lockpicks. Granted, it took Silvio all night to scale the outside of the Old Perla Family Spire in Alderhall, slip past 5 death traps, avoid the house guards, slay the house pet giant spider, find the secret locked door, and pop the complex set of locks. He also willfully ignored the letters that spelled out “DO NOT OPEN THE BOX VERY BAD” in old Eversink on the lid.

As Silvio peered into the box and saw a strange hyper-condensed ball of black light, a tiny alarm went off in his head. But then, he was consumed by blackness. A moment later, the world was back to normal. Silvio blinked and peered back into the box. Then, he heard someone yawn, stretch, and then say: “Hiya.”

After the initial hilarious misunderstandings between newly-created-Sorcerer and Demon, the Demon Maguuk offered Silvio power over his enemies and endless terrible advice that Silvio instantly followed to the letter. All Silvio had to do is draw on the Demon’s power, and great power would be his. Well, hell, mystical power was almost a great as mad riches! Not quite, but almost.

Silvio knew something something from Church when he was a kid, something bad about Demons, but he couldn’t quite remember. And Maguuk seemed like his kind of Demon. Silvio uttered his first, last, and main desire: to “get rid of that bastard Stephano who cheated me at cards last week.”

One bastard Stephano gone, so many more to go. It was all downhill from there.

Silvio Langella

Hungry, Foolhardy, Sarcastic, Loathes Stephanos Everywhere

Defense – Health: Hit Threshold 3, Health 8
Defense – Morale: Hit Threshold 4, Grit 1 (sarcastic wit), Morale 10
Offense – Warfare: +2; Damage Modifier +1 (razor-sharp dagger)
Offense – Sorcery: +1; Damage Modifier +1 (Memory, Shadow Teleportation)
Abilities: Malus 18
Special Abilities: Dodge (cost varies), Spellcasting (cost 3 – Memory, cost – 3, Shadow Teleportation), Warded (cost 6)
Misc: Stealth Modifier +2; Use Malus on Burglary, Skullduggery and Athletics. Shadow teleportation allows transit through Maguuk’s realm and imprisonment there.

Refresh Tokens: 3

Description: Silvio Langella was your run-of-the-mill thin, tweedy, slightly sleazy second-story man, the kind that are 3 to a copper eel in Sag Harbor. Now, he has the Demon Maguuk living in his head, merrily pointing out people named Stephano and helping Silvio wipe them from existence. Silvio, being Silvio, is not very good at controlling Corruption. He’s internalized a fair amount of Corruption every time he has used Memory or Shadow Teleportation magic. It twisted his body horribly – redding skin, horn stubs protruding from his forehead, gnarled fingers and toes – slowing turning him into the likeness of the Demon. Now he bundles himself in clothes and hides in the shadows, hoping no one sees him for what he’s turned into.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. Plot Seed #1 – Running Out of Stephanos: Silvio wants to remove everyone named Stephano from Eversink, never to return. He’s declared war on Stephanos, wherever they may hide. While most of Eversink might shrug its collective shoulders and change its name to Marcos, the Corruption crawling around the City is a real problem. And it’s only a matter of time before Eversink runs out of Stephanos! Silvio might go after some other name. And another, and another, until Eversink is a city of the nameless! Orders coming down from the Church of Denari itself: something must be done to stop the Sorcerer before it’s too late!
  2. Plot Seed #2 – The Demon Children of Sag Harbor: Silvio is internalizing much of the Corruption he’s generating every time he casts a spell, but not all of it. Some of the Corruption is splashing around his kip in Sag Harbor, causing buildings to fall, pregnant women to miscarry, and the local children to start growing small stubbing horns, stubby wings, and forked tails. Something in the neighborhood is turning the children into actual demons, and that must be stopped.
  3. Plot Seed #3 – The Demon Maguuk’s Extradimensional Lair: Not all those afflicted by Silvio’s magic suffer a sudden change of name. Some blip out of existence entirely… and end up the Demon Maguuk’s lair out of space and time. The Demon Maguuk feasts on the souls sent to him by Silvio’s magic, and consumes them for power. As Silvio wreaks his revenge, Maguuk feeds and grows stronger. It’s not just Silvio who must be stopped. It’s Maguuk, who may one day once again soon grow so powerful it rips out of its dimensional prison and menaces Eversink directly.

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Villains! Villains? Why not. Villains!


My brain turned off during the coronavirus lockdown. My interest in writing (except for long, ranty blog posts) took a major plunge, and my creativity was at an all-time low. I had no interest in writing and even less interest in returning to the world of Eversink. I had no desire to walk along the canals at night sniffing the fishy air. I did not want to haggle over a slightly broken plate (still good! still plates!) in the Grand Marketplace. I certainly did not want to be accosted by a specter who wants vengeance on its friends for costing it its life on a foolish bet involving giant lagoon eels.

I wasn’t interested in the concept of words. I quit reading. Writing was right out.

When my brain turned back on a month and change ago, I wanted to write entire one-shot quicky adventures. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, I realized my brain was on, but not actually on, and writing adventures was pushing my luck. My pre-pandemic output of 2K words in a shot when I sat to write Dungeonomics was a non-starter. This might be a longish-term effect of the 15 months of lockdown — my interest in anything “not watching tv” is shockingly low. I’m positive it will drift away in time, but not for a while yet.

Exasperated, I gave up on the whole idea of writing adventures and wandered off to work on other projects for a while.

But then, I had this idea. Instead of writing complete adventures, I’d write up the fragments of adventures I thought up and focus all my energy on the penultimate villain behind the adventure. Every good story needs a good villain. Villains are the percussive force behind adventures! Without a villain, why, Eversink becomes nothing but a rom-com!

Honestly, a good GM can spin a good adventure from a good villain. No canned adventure is needed. It’s a thought experiment. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and I’ll write building descriptions until I feel the need to break D&D again in terrible ways.

I’ll post a few, and we’ll see if this works. I’ll also be using the adversary builder to roll stat blocks because automation is my friend.

(Total aside: I love the idea of Eversink romcoms. She’s a half-fungus, half-mammal creature from out of time who boiled up from the horrors of the underbasements. He has an unspeakable God living in his head who urges him to kill when the moon is waning crescent. Together, they make a great pair! Comedy ensues when they try to date!)

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

A Year in the Life of COVID-19

I was in MoMA in NYC on February 28th, 2020.  I was at the Midtown Hilton for an O’Reilly Architecture conference, but it was boring, so I went to MoMA.  I have pictures on my phone from running around and taking pictures of the art.  My favorite is OOF.  Edward Ruscha, 1962.

“The single word, its guttural monosyllabic pronunciation, that’s what I was passionate about,” Ruscha has said of his early work. “Loud words, like slam, smash, honk.”

How I avoided getting COVID, I have no idea.  I should have gotten it.  

My last day in the office was March 12th, 2020.  I went home a day before we closed the office because I was having terrible allergies, and didn’t want to drive into DC for one day.  After all, we’d all be back in the office by May, at the very latest.  How long could this last?

March 19th is the day the pandemic actually started for me.  Lots happened on that day, but the one that sticks in my memory is sales 0.  That was the first day that the sales ticker did not turn over, not once, not even for fraud.  It was the first of many.  Not a great look for a business travel startup — one I am no longer with, because sometimes there’s no path except through.

All kinds of deeply insane things have come to pass between then and now.  Donald Trump told us all to shoot up Clorox bleach.  Australia — the entire continent — lit on fire.  George Floyd riots.  Hong Kong protests.  Kobe Bryant died.  Volcanos erupted.  Killer bees.  We elected the most improbable man, Joe Biden. The notorious RGB died. Crazy QAnon people rushed the Capital.   Millions of people got COVID, and 500K+ Americans died.

Today marks one year.  I’m still struggling with reading non-fiction and writing anything more long form than a blog post.   I’m still not going anywhere.

Gaming saved our sanity through the pandemic.  Without tabletop gaming over Zoom, I’m not sure what we would have done.  We haven’t gamed so much since college.  It was the one social activity we could do over Zoom that was consistent, predictable, and totally worked.   We come to praise D&D, for lo, it was a gift in the pandemic.  

2021 seems to be looking up?  The world lacks swarms of killer bees.  Granted, Texas did improbably freeze, but these things happen.  We’re in line in Howard County for vaccines.  

I’m done thinking about this. Let’s go for the stats:

We’ve had 30,422,504 cases of COVID-19 with 553,899 dead.  But, according to the Vaccine Progress Bot:

  • 115,730,008 given, that’s 20.7% done! 442,277,181 to go.
  • Optimistically we’ll be done by 08/08/21.
  • Our current pace is 2,503,731/day, which is up 29,969/day dod. At this rate, done by 09/11/21.

PS.  THE Ohio State was just eliminated from Tourney by Oral Roberts in the first round.  2021 is definitely looking up.

Day 293 of COVID-19, New Game+ Edition

What day is it? How long has it been?

It’s New Year’s Day! We beat the 2020 end boss and now we’re here at the loading screen. We can either play a new game entirely and reboot the universe or we can click on NG+.

I’m all in favor of rebooting the universe but I’m not sure that would work out well for everyone. Instead, we click on NG+.

Here are our Starting Conditions for our RNG Seed for 2021. Since one thing 2020 taught us, we’re not only all stuck in a big, weird simulation, it’s a simulation that uses weird procedural generation to cough up random events like murder hornets – your algorithm for such may vary.

The Good

  • We elected Joe Biden to the Presidency, even though he has yet to leave his basement in Delaware.
  • We have multiple vaccines floating around out there!
  • No thermonuclear exchanges.
  • Some of my various interests are returning back to life.
  • My knitting game is way more badass now because what else do you do during the pandemic?

That is, frankly, better than nothing which is where 2020 sat from March 19th until maybe around November 10th. For a long time, the only thing good in the world was nothingness.

The Bad

  • People are dying at the rate of a 9/11 a day now. And no one seems to notice or care. We’re all numb. 1M+ hospitalized, 340K dead.
  • And oh hey, there’s now a more infectious version of COVID-19 running around! Sweet!
  • Vaccine rollout is Trump-era stupid. See? NG+.
  • Highly entitled morons who, through their jobs as first-line responders, got access to the vaccine are refusing it. I mean… what? Really. What? WHAT? Jesus Christ, if you don’t want it because you’re an idiot — I’m sorry to people who object to me calling these people idiots but they are idiots — please give it to someone else and quit your job. Get out of the way.
  • Trump still someone believes that the election was “stolen” from him (but not from anyone else newly elected, just him) and for reasons that make little sense, he’s decided to enact a coup via the courts using the world’s dumbest legal team. None of it makes sense, he’s lost 60+ cases, but ok. You do you.
  • Congress is going to screw around with the largely ceremonial counting of the votes on Jan 5th, also for no good reason. But it’s safe for them to do that because Mama Nancy and Papa Mitch will ensure nothing bad happens.
  • I’m starting to understand Mitch McConnell and admire his Lawful Evil ways. This is not a good thing.
  • We are all still locked in our goddamn houses.
  • USPS imploded for Christmas. I am still missing packages.
  • I had to change jobs, which interrupted everything. Swords of the Serpentine still isn’t out in hardcover. I kinda stopped writing much at all or creating anything.
  • Still too fat despite exercising more and eating less.

That is the state of play. We’re set up to replay 2020 in some new horrible configuration.

Here are my very loose predictions:

  • There will be more fires, more hurricanes, more murder hornets, more strangling snake plagues, more various inexplicable horrors. They will be worse than last year and hit more people. And it will suck.
  • California will be on fire again.
  • Biden will be inaugurated on January 20th but Trump will do something bizarre like have a renegade inauguration at Mar-A-Lago or something. But then, I know this is hard to believe – he will fade and fade fast. No, his adult children won’t have any sway. The Media covers him because he is POTUS. The Media will move on to the new shiny.
  • We will be super bored with President Biden and have to find new hobbies other than doomscrolling. May I suggest photography?
  • So much crazy will suddenly end we won’t know what to do with ourselves after 5 straight years of intense non-stop crazy. It’ll be quiet and kind of nice.
  • Vaccine rollout will be a mess, and all us hoi polloi won’t even get a whiff of maybe access to a Vaccine until June. If we’re super lucky. It’s a long goddamn wait for access. But States will stand up vaccine trackers so we’ll have new websites to reload over and over.
  • Expect more explosions around race and policing, harder, louder, and more insistent. That genie is not going back in the bottle.
  • Masks will become a permanent thing. They aren’t going away. Flu season? Masks. Have the sniffles? Mask.
  • None of us will ever go back to 5 days in the office ever again. Those days are over. Nor will there be tons of very expensive business travel. I’m seeing a permanent shift in the way we do things.
  • Neither will we go to movie theaters, and it will be a long time before we do alot of the in-person things we want to do.
  • Alot more AI doing weird AI things coming in 2021. Alot more.
  • But the moment it is safe for me to do so, I’m going to Korean BBQ and doing all you can eat until I puke.
  • I’ll probably pick up projects again.

Ugh. At least we have Animal Crossing.

By Fall of 2021 we will be crawling out of the mess, dazed, and assessing the wreckage. It’s possible that we’ll get a huge economic bounce in the Fall that will go into 2022 as pent up demand explodes. After all, after the Spanish Flu, we had the Roaring 20s and we had 10 years of absolutely insane growth until the Great Liquidity Trap of 1929. We might find ourselves surfing a crazy wave.

But the world will be a different place than what it was in February of 2020. That is the way of plagues. There is no going back, only going forward, and we will find a world forever changed. They are the bringer of change, the metamorphosis power that warps the world.

Into what? We’re going to find out the hard way.

Anyway. Happy New Year, Peeps. Remember to back up your save game file.


  • 250,485,430 completed tests
  • 19,715,030 positive cases
  • 336,779 dead from COVID-19
  • 276,662 cases in MD with 5,895 deaths

80,000 people will die by Inauguration Day.

Day 238: A Day in the Life of COVID-19 — the End of an Era Edition

Biden-Harris Victory! 2020!

It’s the end of an era. Our long national Infrastructure Week is over.

Joe Biden is the 46th President-Elect of the United States. He is a man with no commitment to Infrastructure Week but a very deep and passionate commitment to aviator sunglasses, Amtrak, justice, the American Experiment, and hugging.  The Senator from Delaware. A man who has been a fixture in US Politics for 50 years. 

Biden.  An ever-present, sort of like that rug stain we never get around to fixing.  He’s President.  Not someone like departed Edward Kennedy, brother of a President, Lion of the Senate.  No.  Joe Fucking Biden.

I keep thinking about the story where Obama told Biden he didn’t need to do this. “You don’t need to do this, Joe.”  But Biden felt called to duty by his country one more time.

Trump, of course, has rejected the news.  He will never concede the Presidency.  He will die without conceding.  But we will move on past the Trump Era, a true end of an era, and head to the next thing that’s going to happen, whatever that is.  Dear God, I hope it’s not more 2020.

I want to spend a moment reflecting on how momentous this victory is and how difficult it was to achieve.  Only 10 Presidents have ever lost re-election: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush.  (Chester A Arthur and Grover Cleveland both lost and won re-election — things got weird in the 19th century.) 

Trump joins company with another impeached President, a man once called “Martin Van Ruin” who helped drive the country off the cliff to the Civil War, a hard-core unrepentant racist, and the architect of the Great Depression.   Only the best people.

But out of 46 presidents now, it’s only 10.  And Trump is alone with being the only one to lose the popular vote twice.  He is the biggest of the biggest losers.  He’s even a bigger loser than super racist Andrew Johnson.

Ejecting these people from the presidency was a hard fought war, each and every one of them.  The incumbency advantage is immense.   People would rather stick with what they know rather than change.  People would rather not participate.  Hell, the election of 1800 when Adams lost to Jefferson is often called the War of 1800.  Vote for Burr!

To change people have to go out and vote.  Everyone has to go out and vote.  It’s a big ask of everyone — everyone — to go out and exercise their right.  As we all know, people generally don’t.

So, to lose the Presidency is an immense repudiation, a complete rejection of a way of thinking, doing, and being.* It’s the American People giving you a big middle finger.

On top of it, Biden defeated Trump in a global pandemic when voting itself was imperiled.  The Virus.  USPS.  Messing around with Dropboxes.  Lawsuits.  Moving goalposts.  Despite every single obstacle, Biden still defeated Trump.

When the votes are all counted, I think we’ll learn it wasn’t even that close.  Five days of nail-biting was probably for nothing.  But we had something to worry about — the electoral college gives the GOP an advantage by allowing land to vote instead of people.  (Thank you, Alexander Hamilton, you jerk.) We had the ghost of 2016. 

I am savoring for a moment, but I feel a bit like we won the opening battle but we didn’t exactly win D-Day.  America is undergoing an immense technological and demographic change.  The next two generations are significantly bluer and more liberal than those that preceded them, and they are demanding social justice.  Globalization is a thing that isn’t going away.  We’re about to have a very ugly conversation about a Chinese-style state-controlled future and an American-style capitalist future.  Machine Learning will become bigger and bigger. 

Everything, every forward step, from here on out is going to be a game of inches.  Horrible damage has been done to our country, our institutions, and our core beliefs.   The repairs alone will take years, let alone progress.  We’re still in a giant global pandemic with no end!  

It’s going to awful.  It’s going to be a war.

We need to set our expectations appropriately.  

But one thing to remember — we just elected this guy:

I shall now go prep for my Metatopia panel.

*Except Taft!  Taft got screwed by Theodore Roosevelt being a dick and running in the Bull Moose party and splitting the vote.  Taft was later appointed to be Chief Justice of the United States as a consolation prize, so he made out ok.



Day 175: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

I went into a hole, and didn’t write anything for 15 days.  Nor read the Internet, messed around on twitter, read discord, or did anything but start the new job.  I’m sort of behind on all the things, and I haven’t done or read or thought about anything except new job in weeks.

Except, I read the Jeffrey Goldberg Atlantic article when it popped up in my feed.  (I read all news via highly curated RSS in Feedly.  I do not get my news from random Internet posts.  So should you.)  If you are the one person on Earth who hasn’t read the article yet, or you are like me and decided what your life needed was a more challenging job in a pandemic and you haven’t seen it, here it is:

Trump: Americans who Died in War are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers.’

Despite knowing, understanding, and internalizing how terrible a human being Donald Trump is, my reaction to this article was fast, visceral, and active disgust.  Yes, while there is pushback going on right now as he rallies his allies to his side and ride their white steeds to FOX News, there’s zero doubt any of this story is true.

  • There’s a C-SPAN clip on him bagging on John McCain in 2015 as a loser for getting captured in Vietnam.
  • He refused to attend John McCain’s funeral.
  • He has disparaged Gold Star Families.
  • He’s called widows of the fallen and made them cry.
  • He called generals “losers and babies” to their faces.
  • He wants military parades but doesn’t want to include the injured because “nobody wants to see that.”
  • He refused to honor the Marine Dead of WWI on the 100th anniversary of the war because his hair might get wet.

Should I go on?  There’s dozens of examples of Trump calling the military “losers.”  My reaction wasn’t to the piece but seeing it all in one place. I wasn’t even surprised.  But I was disgusted.  The story of the US Military is, for better or for worse, the story of America herself.  We can discuss the pros and cons of the veneration of the military all day, but Christ almighty.  The line was, as they say, firmly crossed.  My reaction goes deep.

His supporters — the only line they have to defend him — is that he doesn’t hate the troops, he just sounds like an asshole.

I finally crossed a line.  If people in my life want to support Trump, that’s your prerogative but you keep it far the hell away from me because there’s something deeply wrong with him, and by that definition, you.  Leadership flows from the top.  He’s a deeply vile human being, a rot that comes right out of his soul.  You want to follow vileness, fine, but it tars your soul, too.   Everything he touches he corrupts, and that includes the people who somehow still follow him.

How anyone thinks someone who craps all over the US Military should be Commander in Chief is far beyond me or my ability to comprehend humanity.   How anyone can support someone so innately awful who has such contempt for his fellow human beings is beyond me.

This is just ugh.  So awful.  So very awful.

Everything else going on is fine.  I’m not really doing anything — not really reading or writing or indulging in any hobbies right now.

School starts on Tuesday and that should be a real treat for all of us.


  • 80,718,811 completed tests
  • 6,177,201 positive cases
  • 189,555 dead from COVID-19
  • 111,332 cases in MD with 3,891 deaths
  • 1 in 72 people have it in Howard County.

I hate to be the dick in the room but this COVID thing is still here.  Remember that?  The thing that is killing people at a good clip?  I thought it would get better in two weeks but it looks like this COVID-19 thing hasn’t gone anywhere.  We’re still losing 1000 people a day.  We’re still clocking in at 50K positive tests a day.  I guess we’re ok with that.

Maybe while Donald Trump isn’t getting the pandemic under control, he can call more people losers and suckers.


Day 160: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

I was a little busy this week.  I’ll be a little busy next week.  And the week after.  It’s a good busy, but it is busy busy busy busy and I feel drained and it feels like something crawled into my brainmeats and died.  People know what the job is, now.  Onboarding is hard.

I never got around to reading War and Peace — it’s on the list, and it might be higher now for Reasons — but I saw this quote from it the other day:

With the enemy’s approach to Moscow, the Moscovites’ view of their situation did not grow more serious but on the contrary became even more frivolous, as always happens with people who see a great danger approaching. At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal power in the human soul: one very reasonably tells a man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of escaping it; the other, still more reasonably, says that it is too depressing and painful to think of the danger, since it is not in man’s power to foresee everything and avert the general course of events, and it is therefore better to disregard what is painful till it comes, and to think about what is pleasant. In solitude a man generally listens to the first voice, but in society to the second. So it was now with the inhabitants of Moscow. It was long since people had been as gay in Moscow as that year.

Napoleon is on the march.  He’s burning his way through Europe.  He’s headed toward Moscow.  He’s a clear and present danger.  And when Napoleon arrives in Moscow, he and his army will kill everyone and burn the city to the ground.

Do the Moscovites’ prepare for the coming onslaught?  No, of course not.  They party.  The closer Napoleon comes, the more they party.

War and Peace is the entire American answer to… all of 2020, really.  There’s the oncoming onslaught.  The right thing to do is prepare for it.  But preparing for it is too hard, too painful, too much to think about.  Let’s instead it will simply go away one day — it will just disappear, like a miracle — and go party instead.  Maybe Napoleon will change his mind?

Like everyone else, I thought Biden’s speech last night was good.  He was angry, which came as a surprise.  Uncle Joe is never angry, not like that.  But he was angry for all of us.  He’s offended that anyone sat aside and let the virus harm Americans.  It offends him deep in his core.

It does help that Trump went out of his way to set all these expectations about Biden’s compromised brain. Biden’s brain is not compromised (he is a bit slower now, though), he has a stutter.  But we don’t let those details get in the way of Trump.  So Trump set these expectations and lowered expectations for Biden immensely and then Biden sailed over them and now, well, Trump has to pass his own bar.  Which he won’t.

Trump’s spell is starting to break.  The Democrats no longer fear his twitter feed, and the Never Trumpers are right behind.  Once the fear is gone, he’s nothing but a crazy, ranting old man.

I’m cheesed at the Biden-Harris store right now because they will not sell me a magnet.  I’ll need to get a sticker pack and hang it in a clip instead.  Dammit.  I’m not going to just donate money. I require swag in return.


  • 69,604,861 tests completed
  • 5,553,197 positive cases
  • 176,372 dead from COVID-19
  • 103,317 cases in MD,  3,781 dead
  • 1 in 77 people have it in Howard County, MD

We’re getting all the school emails and yes, it’s remote learning for a month and then re-evaluate.  We’re going to be hyper strict about school this fall, and use the big white board to track assignments and classes.  It happens at the desk, dressed, ready to go, with camera on.  This will be… horrible.

Day 156: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

Sorry about the lack of posting lately.  My brain has been tofu and I have been, to put it mildly, distracted.  Today, my short interregnum of being unemployed came to an end; but now I work in an underground bunker in an undisclosed location.

I’m mostly exhausted.  I haven’t slept nightmare-free in weeks, and last night was no exception.  I’m becoming concerned that we’re going to have a country-wide case of PTSD once this is all over.  PTSD from the pandemic, PTSD from Trump, PTSD from all the crazy.  They’re going to have to dump PTSD meds into the water supply.  I no longer have insomnia.  Nope, now I have this instead.  Woo.

I’m hoping the feeling of forwardness I’ll get now will help with the gray haze problem.  Everything from March until today has been a grey haze without much forward momentum, but maybe now that will change. New things will fill my brain for the next several months and by time I wake up from it, it’ll be Thanksgiving.  At least I’ll be extremely entertained by learning new things and that will perk me up a bit.

I think I’m going to give the Dems a miss.  I never miss a convention, but it’s so… the Internet will tell me what the good bits are and I’ll go watch the good bits.

Here’s some dumb stuff I’ve been up to last few days:

I realized this weekend that I’m still incapable of reading dense academic non-fiction.  I put the Venetian spies to the side — despite having highlighted half the book — and picked up Fonda Lee’s “Jade City” instead.  Which has turned out to be awesome.   It won’t last long.  The characters are a little flat, but it’s balanced out by all the crime lord kung-fu.

We watched the first episode of Lovecraft Country and I thought it was amazing.  I’m kicking myself for not having read the book earlier, especially as I like Matt Ruff’s work.

We finished the second season of Doom Patrol.  It just… stops… because the pandemic halted filming, and that made me sad.

We discovered the Harley Quinn animated series now that DC Universe is getting subsumed into HBO Max and it’s… uh… I dig it.  I think it’s great.  But I found it a little surprisingly hard-R at first, and I had not steeled my brain against it.  Now that I have, I’m team Poison Ivy.

We’re working our way through Picard now, having inhaled all of Discovery.  I totally get why people don’t like Picard, but it comes from having read multiple Michael Chabon novels.  Picard is Star Trek as written by Michael Chabon.  It’s going to be more thinky, more pondery, more talk about the philosophy of things than sort of a smash and grab Star Trek episode.  I don’t think that’s what people want out of Star Trek.  Right now, I still really like it, but I’m ok with more meditative “what is life, what are Romulans” Star Trek.  (Also, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of my all time favorite books.)

I need to pick up all my Rust projects, so they’re going to bump my ML projects down a notch.  Yes, I will finish the brain transplant for birdcam, and move the predict service to somewhere sustainable.  But then I need to go back to the Rust game engine.  There’s suddenly a pressing need for me to get to passingly adequate in Rust.

And… I think that’s it.  Oh, I have this new Razer Blade, and it’s baller.  Best computer I’ve ever owned, hands down.  Take that, Apple.


  • 67,621,119 completed tests
  • 5,380,726 positive results
  • 172,087 confirmed dead from this damn thing
  • 100,772 cases in MD with 3,746 dead
  • 1 in 79 have it in Howard County

First off, Hogan went all we’re doing great today and I don’t really see it.  That Howard County number is just creeping toward me.  Now it’s 1 in a movie theater has it.  Even a socially distant movie theater.

Second, we crossed 170K somewhere recently and no one seems to care.

We, as Americans, are just idiots.  We are deliberately choosing not to get this under control.


Day 152: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

I’ve reached new heights of frustration with WordPress.  It upgraded to WordPress 5.5 and broke the connection between and my site.  I was working in the regular WordPress block editor when a spare keystroke somehow deleted my entire post.  I went to restore it from drafts, and learned that the new fancy Block Editor no longer keeps a running log of drafts, so if you hit something wrong, through a stray finger stroke because, say, you have arthritis in your hands, posts are just gone.  So this sucks.  

Right now, I’m using MarsEdit.  Since I don’t use it all that much, my layout foo is not great.

Instead of writing the entire post out again, here are some highlights:

1. I wrote up the Eversink Post Office for Swords of the Serpentine and published it on Critical-Hits.  You can go read it.  I didn’t get any feedback either way, but if people like these things, I’ll write more of them.

2. I’m sort of hooked on the high ridiculousness of spy networks in the late-Renaissance, early-Modern period.  Crypto key exchange by sneaker net is hilarious. And broken.  But there’s an awesome adventure awaiting whomever can break into the government building or diplomat’s office and steal the big codebook with all the one time pads.  Who wants the book?  Who do they work for?  What is the motivation?  If you hand it over, what happens? It’s a terrific mcguffin.

3. I have lots of opinions on the Big 10’s canceled season but they all boil down to: “It is Donald Trump’s fault there is no Michigan Football this year and I hold him personally responsible.”  MAGAworld blah blah blah spin spin spin.  He could have stopped this thing months ago and chose not to because a blue state might get some Federal support.  I’m sorry.  It’s his fault.  He’s in the big chair.  I hold him responsible.

4. I’m sort of bemused by the Biden selection of Kamala Harris as his VP.  She was the front runner the entire time.  She was the conventional, consensus pick.  She was the one everyone assumed he was going to take as his running mate.  And when he did so, we were all shocked.  Shocked!  Shocked by the conventional wisdom!  I read a piece complaining that Biden’s campaign is bland.  

I don’t know about anyone else but I’m absolutely fine with bland.  Bland, right now, is good.  Bland is competent.  Bland will get problems fixed.  Bland will stop tweeting.  Bring on the bland.

5. I’m as frustrated as everyone else about this incredibly nonsense with the post office.  The idea here is to simply stop everyone in the country from voting.  Here’s the deal: I am planning to go out and vote even if I have to wear a hazmat suit.  It will happen.  And so should you.  This thing with the mail should stop no one from voting even if we have to go put ourselves at risk for it. 

6. This whole idea of “let’s change jobs and take a prestige job in the middle of the pandemic” wasn’t as well thought out as I thought.  While they’ve been doing a nice job with onboarding, and my equipment is upstairs, my nerves are a jangle.  I feel like my bloodstream is full of glass.  I don’t do well with change or the unknown or anticipation on the best days, but my nerves are shot for 2020.  I know I’ll feel better in a couple of weeks, but yeah… the nightmares are something else.  I’m fairly freaked out but I’ll make it work.

7. I got birdcam to work.  Last time I worked on birdcam, it took me weeks.  This time, it took about two and a half days.  For those who don’t know what birdcam is, it’s a IoT project designed to automatically detect and share pictures of birds (or fire hydrants or, occasionally, bears) on the Internet. It’s a PIR (passive infrared sensor) hooked to a raspberry pi.  When the PIR detects movement, it sends a signal to the system to take a picture with the onboard webcam.  The picture is sent to a service running Keras and Yolov3 object detection pretrained model.  Keras returns a set of predictions with confidence intervals.  If the model finds a bird in the model with more than 50% confidence, it tweets the picture out.  It also stores the image in one of several sorted buckets on S3.

Mostly what was in birdcam was old, now dead code.  And I bought it a new brain (aka a RPi 4 B).  But no birdcam today.  It’s raining all day.  And I have a make magazine catalog of other possible brains for IoT projects.


  • 63,731,305 completed tests.
  • 5,179,655 positive results
  • 168,275 dead from covid
  • 97,959 Cases in MD with 3,713 dead
  • 1 in 82 people have it in Howard County

So, because Trump wants fewer tests, we’re now testing less instead of testing more.  And people wait weeks for results.  This is insane.   It’s just insane.  And the whole “move the CDC data to HHS” has been a debacle.  Hiding data and generating less data doesn’t make the positivity rate go down, and doesn’t stop fewer people from dying.  We’re up to 1500 people dying a day again.  We have a 9/11 every 48 hours.  Why is this ok?  I do not get how this is ok.  

Day 149: A Day in the Life of COVID-19

I am sitting on my deck doing two things right now:

  • Freaking out from having a good solid case of imposter syndrome around the new job believing I don’t know how to write code or do deeply technical things anymore because hey I don’t really do that anymore and it’s all going to go quite poorly next week and…
  • Upgrading and rewriting a bunch of python 3.8 code on my raspberry Pi (after I patched up Debian) to more “adult” code with coroutines using aiobotocore on the AWS calls and using the new typing library after I figured out how to get remote ssh to work through visual studio code (yay .ssh) and integrating my Yolov3 detection code into the service so that it processes detections locally because it’s ok if it sits and ponders for 6-7 seconds.  This after I rearranged and extracted my ML code into a portable module and banged out some crap code this morning to walk a directory of images, pass them through the detector, drop the guys who have no boxes found, and load them up into a CSV so I could see that Yolo occasionally believes I am taking pictures of fire hydrants and also of bears.

So either I know what I’m doing or I don’t.  It’s like Heisenberg’s uncertainty knowledge. Or I should be ok with being able to bang out perfectly acceptable data science python, accept that I’m good enough for now, and move on with my life.

I’m pretty wrecked about the death of the Big 10 Football season.  I knew it was coming a mile away but it’s terrible that it’s here.  I have no interest in the kids going out to play in dangerous conditions but, on the other hand, there’s no really good reason why we have dangerous conditions at all except extreme negligence.  This one is a deeply emotional blow.  We’ve now decided as a society that we’re not going to have college football because we decided as a society that we cannot be adults and do the thing that needs adulting and grow up.  We have decided that we don’t have things anymore.

(Slate has this blow by blow of how Trump killed Americans and destroyed the country — and football — if you can stomach it.)

It’s just another thing that has died in this pandemic on a long list of things that have died: the economy, travel, vacations, going to the movies, going to the mall, going out to eat, summer hanging out on people’s decks, new media coming out, MLB (mostly), school in the fall, fall sports, the global reputation of the United States.  And we’re ok with all these things dying because… mah freedomzzzzz. MAH FREEDOMZZZZZZZZ!  GIMME MAH FREEDOMZZZZZZZZZ!  BIRDS AND GUNS AND SHIT BLOWING UP AND FREEDOMZ!

God.  Take your freedomz and just go away.  I’m so angry about it all I want to explode. I just don’t understand how any sane person can… be ok… with this.

Also, one day I will remember all the commands for systemd but today is not that day.  And I’m busy trying to convince my Pi that it’s ok to run some Fortran.  It doesn’t believe me.


  • 61,792,571 total completed tests.
  • 5,028,806 total positive results
  • 164,900 dead
  • 96,065 cases in MD with 3,682 dead
  • 1 out of 84 people have it in Howard County

When do we care about the number of the dead?  200,000?  250,000? 1,000,000?  It feels like no one cares that 165K people are dead from this thing who didn’t need to be dead.  Are we that level of sociopaths?  This whole thing is incomprehensible to me, day after day, week after week. I just don’t get it.  How horrible of a people are we?






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