Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19: How long?

As everyone settles into this new "routine" of social distancing and semi-quarantine, I think a lot of us are wondering how long this will last. The true answer is complicated by many things, which vary by territory, immunity, politics, etc. But I think we can put some useful boundaries on the timeline.

The numbers below are all based on the United States, but in reality the outer bounds are probably pretty close regardless of where on Earth you live; because we are all in a global community (except for you, North Korea).

Least Time

Say that we ignore COVID-19, live like it does not exist, and let it spread as fast as it can on its own. This means that at some near point in time, everyone will have become exposed/infected, and a while after that everyone (who survives) will become immune. This is the minimum amount of time that COVID-19 will affect us all.

Down to the numbers. To start some calculations, we need several values. These are all averages/estimates.
So given all of that, the reconstruction:
  • on 3/23/2020, there were 504 deaths in the USA
  • given 15 days from infection to death, and 2% death rate, this means there were approximately 25,200 infected persons on 3/8/2020
  • given 6 days to double the number infected, this means that ever person in the USA would be infected by 5/30/2020 (this glosses over a lot of factors, but we're doing quick estimates here)
  • again, given 15 days from infection to death, this means the last fatality could be as soon as 6/14, so middle of June 2020.

Most Time

Now that the whole world is up in arms against this virus, what will it take to wipe it out completely? It would take a massive vaccination. But we do not yet have a vaccine.

Question) What are the scientists saying is a reasonable time to have a COVID-19 vaccine?
Answer) The New Yorker did a story on this; the gist is 12-18 months is the fastest reasonable time it could be done

Now, before just taking this at face value, let's try to probe it for reasonableness. What is the fastest that a vaccine could be made? From the WHO, the fastest vaccine development is about five months.

Given that, if we dump infinite money and resources into this, I don't believe we will see a useful quantity of a COVID-19 vaccine in less than 12 months.

But now we are estimating the farthest likely timeline. So say everything goes wrong, maybe this takes 24 months, putting it out to March 2022.


Prepare yourself, mentally and physically, to be affected by this pandemic for months. Maybe three months, but more likely six months, or twelve months, or even longer.

But do not despair. In two years, this will be behind us all, one way or another.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

1000 Blank White Cards


Ostensibly, the purpose of 1000 Blank White Cards is to get the most points.

The true purpose (IMHO) is to create the best game cards you can, evaluating which cards are "best" by playing the game with them.

What You Need

  • 2+; I recommend no more than 6, at least the first few games; the more people play the longer each game will take.
  • A stack of blank white cards. You should have about 10 per player. Cards can be unlined or lined; regular (3" x 5"), extra large (5" x 8"), or even cut down in size (3" x 2.5").
  • If you have played before, a deck of cards from the last game.
  • Pens/pencils/markers; at least one per player
    • NOTE: If you use markers, or felt-tip pens, they will soak through the cards. So be sure each player has a “backing” card, both to hide the back of their cards, and to catch any bleed-through ink when creating new cards. And you may wish to "back" each card, by gluing another blank card to it; though this will make shuffling very challenging.

Pre-Game Phase - Card Creation

  1. First, you need to set up the deck.
    • If this is your first game, place 10 blank cards in the middle of the table for each player, for creating new cards.
    • If you have played before, place 5 blank cards in the middle of the table for each player, for creating new cards. Also add 5 cards per player from an previous deck of cards.
  2. Everyone will now take a few minutes to turn their blanks into actual cards (explained at the end). Each player can fill in all of their cards, or leave a few blank.
  3. When everyone is finished, collect all their cards and add them to the deck.


One player can do this while the others are still working on creating cards.
  1. Shuffle the deck thoroughly. Ideally, the owner of the deck of cards will do this sometime before coming to the game.
    • Since most cards are flimsy, and easy to permanently bend, the most common ways I grew up shuffling cards (weave, riffle) are not recommended. More gentle alternatives include the Overhand shuffle (, the Hindu shuffle (, or just cut the deck into many stacks of small piles, and pick them back up in random order.
  2. Deal out five cards to each player.
  3. Place the remaining cards face down, creating the draw pile.
  4. Designate a place for the discard pile; usually next to the draw pile.

Playing the Game

Play begins with the player to the dealer's left, and moves clockwise.

For each player's turn:
  1. Draw the top card from the deck
  2. Play a card from your hand
  3. Apply instructions on card (if any)

1. Draw the top card from the deck

If there are no cards left, skip this first step. As long as each player whose turn is active can play a card, the game continues.

2. Play a card from your hand

You can generally play a card on yourself, on another player, or to the center of the table. The card affects the player it is placed in front of, or when placed in the middle of the table it affects all players, including yourself.

If you cannot play any cards from your hand, draw a second card from the deck into your hand, and it is the next player's turn.

Once the active player cannot play any cards, and there is no deck remaining, the game ends. All players discard all remaining unplayed cards in their hands.

3. Apply instructions on card

If the card has a point value or some other sort of lasting effect, leave it in place until it is somehow nullified, discarded, or removed by another card. If the effect is completed, place it in the discard pile.

If you have a blank card in your hand, you may turn the blank into a playable card at any time. You must do this in order to play it -- you cannot play a blank card. It is best to do this during the other players' turns, to not make others wait on you.

Game Over - Winning

Total up the point value of the cards in front of you, and add the point values of any cards played to the center of the table. This is your score (and yes, it can be a negative number). The player with the highest score wins! Huzzah!

Epilogue - Cleaning up

After the game is over, you will have a pile of cards. The next time you play, you will be using a random selection of cards from this pile, so you want the best cards to be kept, and the worst cards to be removed. To facilitate this, the Epilogue phase of the game is a process to choose which cards to keep.

Take all the cards from the game you just finished, as well as any previous cards that didn't get used, and spread them all out on the table, face-up. Each player will pick up their favorite cards, so they can be used again next time.

Optional ways to limit how many cards are kept:
  • Each player can only preserve their favorite 7 cards
  • Take turns picking a favorite card. When a player does not like any remaining cards, they pass. Once half of the players have passed, stop picking cards to keep.
  • All at once, players pick up their favorite cards; when they are done, they put them all face-down in front of themselves. Once half of the players have finished, reserving cards is over for all players.
Reserved cards should be held by the person who brought the supply of cards.

The leftover cards can be thrown away; carefully archived in a huge library of three-ring binders; or baked into a tasty casserole -- your choice!

How To Create a Card

Okay, now for the important bit, the bit you've all been waiting for! .

Here is a sample card, with descriptions of its various parts.
First, a title. This is what the card is called. Yep.

Next, picture or drawing of some sort. Artistic ability is not required; stick men, or even scribbles, all good.

Last, a description of what the card does. This can be a point value, some sort of instruction, or both, or neither. Instructions can be based on anything you like - existing cards, the current month, current or future actions of the players, anything you can describe.

Try to make the intent of the card clear. When ambiguities arise, some discussion is fun, but too much confusion can be boring.


Friday, February 21, 2020

Plain javascript

This guy Pablo Ol√≥ndriz made a game in plain javascript, and it's pretty cool!

I recommend anyone who wants to play and learn web development use I've started a few projects, but the only one I'm proud of is
And I guess is ok too, though it's really just a couple open source libraries with a wrapper.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Pokemon Go Super Effective Attacks by Type

The data for this
The above flowchart shows only the "Super Effective" attack types -- adding the "Weak" attacks makes a pretty absurd looking flowchart.

However, if you are choosing a Pokemon type that will be Super Effective for a fight, you also want to know what the effectiveness of the opponent will be against you. Because if type A is Super Effective against type B, then type B effectiveness against type A might be Normal, Weak, or Extremely Weak. This is represented by the color and thickness of the lines.

  • Thin, pure red lines: effectiveness of the reverse attack is normal
  • Thicker, somewhat purple lines: effectiveness of the reverse attack is weak 
  • Thickest, dark maroon lines: effectiveness of the reverse attack is extremely weak
So if your opponent is type Psychic, your best option is to choose a Pokemon with type Dark.

The data for this came from In text form, the full data is

  • Bug does 1.6x damage to: Dark, Grass, Psychic
  • Bug does .625x damage to: Fighting, Fire, Flying, Fairy, Ghost, Poison, Steel
  • Dark does 1.6x damage to: Ghost, Psychic
  • Dark does .625x damage to: Dark, Fighting, Fairy
  • Dragon does 1.6x damage to: Dragon
  • Dragon does .625x damage to: Steel
  • Dragon does .391x damage to: Fairy
  • Electric does 1.6x damage to: Flying, Water
  • Electric does .625x damage to: Dragon, Electric, Grass
  • Electric does .391x damage to: Ground
  • Fairy does 1.6x damage to: Dark, Dragon, Fighting
  • Fairy does .625x damage to: Fire, Poison, Steel
  • Fighting does 1.6x damage to: Dark, Ice, Normal, Rock, Steel
  • Fighting does .625x damage to: Bug, Fairy, Flying, Poison, Psychic
  • Fighting does .391x damage to: Ghost
  • Fire does 1.6x damage to: Bug, Grass, Ice, Steel
  • Fire does .625x damage to: Dragon, Fire, Rock, Water
  • Flying does 1.6x damage to: Bug, Fighting, Grass
  • Flying does .625x damage to: Electric, Rock, Steel
  • Ghost does 1.6x damage to: Ghost, Psychic
  • Ghost does .625x damage to: Dark
  • Ghost does .391x damage to: Normal
  • Grass does 1.6x damage to: Ground, Rock, Water
  • Grass does .625x damage to: Bug, Dragon, Fire, Flying, Grass, Poison, Steel
  • Ground does 1.6x damage to: Electric, Fire, Poison, Rock, Steel
  • Ground does .625x damage to: Bug, Grass
  • Ground does .391x damage to: Flying
  • Ice does 1.6x damage to: Dragon, Flying, Grass, Ground
  • Ice does .625x damage to: Fire, Ice, Steel, Water
  • Normal does .625x damage to: Rock, Steel
  • Normal does .391x damage to: Ghost
  • Poison does 1.6x damage to: Grass, Fairy
  • Poison does .625x damage to: Ghost, Ground, Poison, Rock
  • Poison does .391x damage to: Steel
  • Psychic does 1.6x damage to: Fighting, Poison
  • Psychic does .625x damage to: Psychic, Steel
  • Psychic does .391x damage to: Dark
  • Rock does 1.6x damage to: Bug, Fire, Flying, Ice
  • Rock does .625x damage to: Fighting, Ground, Steel
  • Steel does 1.6x damage to: Fairy, Ice, Rock
  • Steel does .625x damage to: Electric, Fire, Steel, Water
  • Water does 1.6x damage to: Fire, Ground, Rock
  • Water does .625x damage to: Dragon, Grass, Water

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Minecraft Reference

Will try to fill in more details later, but for now these are the most useful reference info-graphics I have seen for mastering Minecraft.

Mob spawning ranges:

Villager trading chart:

Brewing chart:

Stronghold distances:

How to respawn the Ender dragon:

And just for fun, here's the "Link" skin I used for my character:

Thursday, February 8, 2018


Why Leaders Eat Last -- by author Simon Sinek

A few great episodes from This American Life:
452 Poultry Slam 2011
540 A Front
544 Batman

An intelligent podcast discussion of government surveillance.
from the podcast "Berkman Center for Internet and Society"
Duration 1:29h, Published 4/10/14 3:45:38 PM

A good podcast on morality - analyzing what feels right or wrong instinctively, how we sometimes override that, and the conflicts between different people groups' moral codes

FISA courts - everything you might have wanted to know. An interview with Dave Opderbeck of Seton Hall Law School. This is from 2012, I just happened to find it now, but I do not think anything has changed since then.
I heard this on the "Hearsay Culture" podcast -

Bees practice Democracy better than humans... (3 MB)

Excellent podcast episode from Planet Money, with two stories that explain the idea of "quantitative easing" (printing money) as a fix for a recession. (9 MB)

A good talk that includes some information I didn't know, like how the Wright brothers went around enforcing their patents, keeping American aviation held back until they were basically stopped by congress.

Do you want work to be more fulfilling, fun, or just less defective? Check out this interesting podcast on how WordPress does it.

Stack Exchange Podcast #23 - about gamification, used for good and evil, addiction and the Skinner Box, and more

Radiolab: Mischel's Marchmallows - about self-control and how it was discoverd to be a very strong predictor of success

SE-Radio Episode 176: Quantum Computing - a good overview of what quantum computing is, why it is being pursued, and how far along we are

SE-Radio Episode 79: Small Memory Software - strategies for coping with small memory requirements, presented in a clear and simple way.

SE Radio Episode 88: Singularity - a Microsoft research operating system, with some really cool sounding features that allow secure code. If only Microsoft would implement more of them in its commercial products.

An excellent overview of copyright - the reasons, history, and controversy.

Bath podcast: GULP Maths and the Making of the Modern World
If you've ever asked "what good is mathematics", check it out.

A look "at how particle physics has developed...and what developments we might expect." Pretty much a walkthrough of particle physics from atoms to current theory. Remember that quantum mechanics is the dream stuff is made of, so this is a dream interpreter. =-]

IT Conversations - Clay Shirky on Technology Insight
An insightful talk on "contracts with the users", and how freedom to create is a vital element of social media projects. No words wasted, a good listen.

Cory Doctorow: The Coming War On General Purpose Computation
or if you must do youtube -
The best explanation of computers and the problems of their legislation that I have ever heard, 5 stars! Covers the problem, in context, in a way that everyone can understand. It is a bit long, but worth it; only the first 30 minutes is the original speech, then there is Q&A for 20 minutes.

Amy Jo Kim: Beyond Gamification: 7 Core Concepts to Create Compelling Products
A reluctant favorite - gamification is overhashed and not that subtle, but this really is a good clean overview with clear, specific points. If I ever want to apply gamification, I will probably come back and listen to it again.

Really just the part about time tracking and "evidence based scheduling", which can be read in the transcript:

The IP Colloquium - Tim Wu and The Master Switch
An interview/conversation about the rise and consolidation of phones and cell phones, how regulation impacts innovation; and speculation on the internet and network neutrality.

Surprisingly Free - "Nathaniel Gleicher on the Stored Communications Act and the need for reform"
Discussion of how users are tracked as they browse the web, the Stored Communications Act, the protections of the 4th Amendment, and the need for reform. This is an overview of how the laws are currently interpreted, and the implications (not that I in any way agree with those interpretations).

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Terra Mystica - 6-7 Player Variant

Number of Rounds

With 6 players, reduce the number of rounds from 6 to 5.
(With 7 players, you may want to reduce it even to 4 rounds.)

Reason: Having 6 or 7 players will make the game take too long for most people's comfort.
Note: If you do choose to play 6 rounds, you may want to also remove the variation rules for Structures.


Remove some structures in the setup. The structures you remove go in the box and cannot be built in the game, but leave empty spaces on the Player Boards, so they will generate income each round.
  • With 6 players every player remove 3 Dwellings, 1 Trading Post, and 1 Temple.
  • With 7 players every player remove 4 Dwellings, 2 Trading Posts, and 1 Temple.
  • Since you remove a Temple during Setup, take a Favor Tile when you place your first structure. So the first player select the first Favor Tile, proceeding in turn order. Chaos Magicians do take 2 Favor Tiles, but since they always place structures last, they will choose their Favor Tiles last as well.
  • In the Income Phase of each round, players receive extra income due to the buildings removed and from Favor Tile(s) selected.
  • Structures removed do not give Victory Points for building, nor count as "ownership" of these structures.

Reason: More players will leave less open spaces on the map for building structures, so less structures are needed for each player.. Additionally, reducing the number of rounds from 6 to 5 reduces the overall resources acquired during the game; so increasing resources gained by removing these structures from your board offsets this.
Note: An optional rule even in the base game, with 5 players every player may remove 1 Dwelling and 1 Trading Post.

Cultist Board

If the Cultist Board has all four positions of an element occupied, you may still move your cultist to that element on the Cult Board by paying to remove one of those currently occupying a space.
  • Pay a number of coins equal to the value of the space (2 or 3) to the opponent whose Priest you are removing.
  • You may only remove a Priest from an element track when your Action is to move one of your Priests to the same track, and when that track already has all four positions occupied.
  • You may not remove a Priest from an element that you currently have a Priest on.
  • The opponent's priest is removed from the game (move it to the game box, not back to the player's Priest pool).
  • Once you have paid to remove the opponent's Priest, place your Priest and advance your marker on the Cult Track as normal. The opponent's marker does not move down when their Priest is removed.
  • As normal, you may still move 1 Priest to your pool to advance 1 space on the Cult Track.
Reason: To allow all players to be able to send a Priest to a Cult track.

Power Actions

Every Power Action can be used any number of times. The cost is 1 extra Power for each time the Power Action has already been used that round. Keep track of this by adding extra X tokens next to the action.

Reason: To allow more players to be able to use Power Actions.


There is no limit to the number of Towns that can be founded. If you found a Town and there are no Town Tiles left, you receive 5 Victory Points instead, as well as any other Faction bonus (Swarmlings receive 2 Workers, Witches 5 extra Victory Points). You do not receive a Town Tile, nor a Key.

Reason: The town limit is not reached in a normal game. Without these adjustments, it is very likely to reach the limit early on with 6 or 7 players, which does not make sense in the setting. It might also unbalance some factions to not be able to set up towns, especially the Chaos Magicians who are handicapped in the first round.
Comment: Normally there is a limit to 10 Towns, or 14 if you have the 4 extra Essen Town Tiles.

You may found a Town with only 3 connected structures if one of them is a Fortress, exactly like if one is a Sanctuary, but only if you have already built your Sanctuary. If you build a Sanctuary and already have a Fortress with 3 connected structures of sufficient value for a Town, you immediately found the Town under that Fortress.

Reason: Both the reduced number of Structures and the increased number of opponents makes it more difficult to gain 4 connected structures.

Scoring Tiles

With 6 players, in the Setup remove 3 Scoring Tiles of 3 different Cults.
With 7 players, in the Setup remove 4 Scoring Tiles of 4 different Cults.
ed: I need to read the rules again to see if this is worded correctly, because I'm not sure what this means as written.

Bonus Tiles

With 6 players use all the Bonus Tiles.
With 7 players use all the Bonus Tiles, and at the end of each Round place 2 Coins (instead of 1 Coin) on every Bonus Tile that was not chosen. (Or, if you have it, add the Spielbox Promo Bonus Tile instead).
Favor Tiles

With 6 players, the four 3-advance-Tiles can be taken twice. The first player that takes one of these tiles also gains 3 extra Power.
With 7 players, the four 3-advance-Tiles can be taken three times. The first player that takes one of these tiles gains 5 extra Power, the second gains 3 extra Power.
You cannot take a 3-advance-Tiles you currently own a second time (so if another player takes it from you, you can take it back).
To keep memory of the number of times that these Tiles were taken, put 1 Coin (or 1 Worker) on it each time it is taken.

Power Tokens

With 6 players, each player starts with 2 less Power tokens in Bowl I (5 tokens leftover).
With 7 players, each player starts with 3 less Power tokens in Bowl I (2 tokens leftover).
ed: I need to read the rules again to see if this is worded correctly, because I'm not sure what this means as written.

Improvise Other Limited Game Pieces

Some less important components may run out; just use improvised tokens/pieces, or adapt to not need them.
  • If more than 5 players exceed 100 Victory Points, write "100 Victory Points" on cards, or just write down players with over 100 VP on a piece of paper.
  • There are only 5 Rule Summary tiles, so either share 1 or 2 between two adjacent players, or copy them onto index cards.
  • Treat worker cubes and coins as if they are unlimited. If they run out, use some other tokens to represent them (Monopoly money, toothpicks, whatever).
  • If Terrain Tiles runs out, use something else to represent them.
    • Alternately, remove Terrain Tiles that are under an established Structure. The current terrain only serves to restrict what structures may be built, and to determine what the cost is to terraform a tile to another type of terrain. Therefore, once a structure is placed, the only purpose of leaving a terraforming Terrain Tile under it is to reassure the other players that the cost of terraforming has already been paid.
  • There are already enough Faction Boards, Structure pieces, and Action Markers for up to 7 players.

Originally from a post at, by Davide Malvestuto aka Principe Konrad on Jan 13th, 2013.
Translated by him into English on a post at
Modified for this blog post at