Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Part 2

As long as I’m still on an old school kick, let me try and catch up with all my posts from twitter! Part 1 of Old School Dungeons & Dragons on the blog can be read here.

Without further ado, here’s part 2!

N4: Treasure Hunt (1986), by Aaron Allston. The first thing you may notice when looking at the cover is that this module is unusual in that it is for 0th level characters! What is the deal with that?

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Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Part 1

In recent months, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with my early years of Dungeons & Dragons. I got into the hobby around 1981, the year that the red box Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set came out, and was a pretty hard core roleplayer until about 1994, when I went into grad school.  (And I still played some RPGs in grad school, but not with the intensity of those early years.)

The 1981 D&D Basic Set.

To get my nostalgia fix, I’ve been tweeting about “old school” Dungeons & Dragons products.  There’s already been a hint of it on this blog, in my Ode to the Tomb of Horrors post from April.  But I never seem to be able to do anything halfway, and my simple reminisces have turned into the purchasing of new products and increasingly detailed historical threads on old products.

At this point, it would be a shame to not include these thoughts somewhere more permanent than twitter, so here we are!  This is the first in a series of who knows how many posts on my #OldSchoolDungeonsAndDragons reminisces and insights.

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A curious mathematical identity

Update: There is more subtlety to the infinite case, which I’ve now addressed in the post!

Update 2: Learning so much messing with this! Added a bit more discussion near the end.

So on twitter yesterday, the following mathematical identity was making the rounds


Image and link via @InertialObservr.

Basically, it says that the infinite series of powers on the left — “the square root of 2, raised to the power of [the square root of 2, raised to the power of (the square root of 2, raised to the power of…)],” is simply equal to 2!

I love simple but baffling little mathematical puzzles like this, and I thought I would show you how to demonstrate this, and whether it can be generalized to other cases!

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The Last, by Hanna Jameson

Life has been rough lately… and by “lately,” I kinda mean the past two years, for various reasons, on and off. Because of that, I’ve struggled to focus on reading fiction, much to my own dismay. However, I opted to take a trip to Los Angeles this past weekend to catch up with some friends and meet a few twitter friends in person, and the long flight was a great opportunity and motivation to spark my reading again.

At a glance, Hanna Jameson’s The Last (2019) would seem like an odd first choice, given its subject matter and given the mood I’ve been in.

The book may be described roughly as a “post-apocalyptic horror mystery,” which is about as dark a plot and setting as one can imagine. As I started reading, I wondered if maybe this wasn’t the best book for a depressed person to take on.

But my fears were completely unfounded! Though I originally planned to only read a few chapters on the plane, I couldn’t put The Last down and ended up finishing it while waiting in line to pick up a rental car!

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Vortices in beams of light and vortex coronagraphy

This past Friday, I was invited to give a talk at the monthly meeting of the Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club, a lovely organization that has been around since 1954.  As a theoretical physicist, I am not that well-versed on astronomy but decided to give a talk on how the physics of optical vortices are now being used to improve direct observations of exoplanets, in a technique called vortex coronagraphy.

I wasn’t sure how well my talk would connect with the audience, as I’ve never talked to an astronomers club before, but it went over very well!  There were a lot of good questions afterwards and a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity.

For those not in attendance, I thought I would share the slides for my talk.  It’s not quite the same as being there in person (I like to think my speaking adds something to it), but for those who are curious about vortices and coronagraphy, it’s a nice start!

I can’t directly embed pdfs in my posts without paying a lot of money per month, but if you click on the image below, it should open the pdf for you to peruse. You can also use this link.

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Dr. SkySkull in China, Part 4: the Shandong Museum

Part 3 in a long series of posts about my month and a half in China. Part 1 can be read here, Part 2 can be read here, and Part 3 can be read here.

On my first weekend in Jinan, I vowed to get out and brave the city by myself. On that Sunday, I went to Baotu Spring, which I wrote about in Part 1.  On that Saturday, though, I went to the Shandong Museum, which I will cover in this post.

Why am I writing about my first experience in Jinan in Part 4 of my series of posts? Well, it takes a lot more research and effort to properly describe a history museum, so I wanted to take extra time to get around to it!

The Shandong Museum is, as its name suggests, is the principal museum of Shandong Province, a province on the east coast of the country. It is one of the largest museums in the country, in fact, and has a significant history to it, though the current building was completed and opened to the public in 2010.

The Shandong Museum.

The first incarnation of the museum was in fact founded by a Baptist missionary in Qingzhou in 1887, and was called the Yidu Museum. It was moved to Jinan in 1904 and renamed Guangzhi Yuan.  In 1942, the museum expanded to a compound in the (I kid you not) Red Swastika Society. The Shandong Provincial Museum was founded in 1954, and divided its collection between the Guangzhi Yuan and the Red Swastika Society locations.  A new unified museum location was opened in 1992, but more space was needed, leading to the construction of the current building.

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Dr. SkySkull in China, Part 3: Daming Lake

Part 3 in a long series of posts about my month and a half in China. Part 1 can be read here, and Part 2 can be read here.

On my first weekend in Jinan I hit two of the major attractions of the city: the Shandong Museum and Baotu Spring. On my second weekend I opted to see a third major attraction, and a centerpiece of the city: Daming Lake, “Lake of the Great Splendor.” This 110 acre lake is fed by the artesian springs of the city, and has a lovely tree-lined walking trail around it with a number of historic buildings.

View of Daming Lake from above.

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