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I’ve played a fair bit on Dungeons&Dragons (all 5th edition), but I’d never taken on the role of DM before. (The DM is the Dungeon Master, i.e. the person running the game.) An opportunity presented itself for me to run a one-off game for a group of friends. I had already worked out a possible basis for a story a while back, so we decided to plan a date which forced me to work towards that deadline. Of course, I then postponed it, but only once :p
I managed to finish all important preparations on time – plus drawing some cardboard monster mini’s such as a giant octopus. Friends arrived, we played the game, nothing went horribly wrong and we all had a fun time. But I don’t think I’m going to do this again anytime soon. My main take-away: it was a huge amount of work to prepare.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t bother DM’ing a D&D game. It’s a very personal statement. First of all, many people would probably tell me at this point that I should have just taken a pre-made adventure to run. True, that would have been a lot less work, but I really wanted to make something of my own. I think I was less interested in running a game as I was in making one. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I obviously tried my very best to make something good. It’s not necessarily a problem, but it is a commitment.
Secondly, I’m a preparer, not an improviser. I spent a lot of time going through parts of the story in my head, and making sure that events had a plausible cause, and people had plausible reasons to do things. I went through possibilities of what the players could do, and figured out ways to respond to those things in advance. Maybe I’m not actually a bad improviser and I’m just worried about it. But I think it’s just not my strong suit: I enjoy a good puzzel or a challenge most of the time, but not under time pressure.
By the way, consider that this was a one-off game, a linear adventure. There were different possibilities depending on the player’s choices (and die rolls) on a small scale, but overall main events were fixed. It’s pretty impressive for DMs to manage an open-ended, long-term D&D campaing. If you want to work on your lateral and quick thinking skills, maybe that’s a good way to do it.

Other take-aways

  • It’s quite fun to be on the side of the monsters and watch your players fear for their in-game lives.
  • I tried out using hex-maps instead of the traditional squares. I’ve never liked the clunkyness of the movement on a grid (even with a rule like alternating 1 and 2 steps for diagonal movement) and hexes solve that very elegantly. Large monsters took up three hexes instead of four squares, and a cone was drawn at an angle somewhat smaller than 90 degrees. I didn’t come across any problems so I recommend giving it a try.
  • Fighting a group of undead pirates that outnumber the players was much easier for them than finding a set of keys. That would probably be different with newer players who haven’t done many D&D fights yet.

Some resources I used

  • Kobold fight club for finding monsters and balancing encounters, this was great!
  • Google translate. Part of the game was set in an Arabic-like culture and I used a lot of horribly butchered google translated Arabic to name countries, cities, ships, characters etc. Sounded convincing, and it was fun knowing that there were secret meanings behind some names. Also a shout-out to fantasynamegenerators for other names.
  • D&D wiki’s like Roll 20, both for preparing and quickly looking things up during the game (I used my laptop).
  • The actual player’s handbook, DM Guide or Monster Manual surprisingly little or not at all. I just searched for everything online, which was easy enough. Maybe there’s something in the DMG or Monster Manual that I should have known, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be an event hosted by me if there wasn’t any food provided. I do really enjoy cooking for people. To be honest, it’s also because I want to dissuade people form bringing in food with animal products, which makes me want to provide them with an easy alternative. I’m very glad I made dinner in advane though! The Spanish-inspired stuffed peppers were incredibly well received. From lunch we can also conclude that omnivores like tofurky slices as much as vegans do (which – to be clear – is a lot).

Next time, I’m just going to invite people over for board games or an MTG draft, make dinner, and in all likelihood have a comparable amount of fun for a fraction of the prep work!

Existential Dread

I wish I was a nihilist. I also wish I had invested in a pair of noise cancelling headphones because frankly, I’m more often distracted from chatter in the office then from existential dread. But not today.

So here’s the thing: The world has a lot of issues. For example, the world’s population is at risk from the catastrophic consequences of global warming within the next decades (“Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C”[1]).  We know the cause of the problem (an increase in greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity), and we have the tools to solve it (green energy tech, nutritional plant-based food). Yet, we are not implementing these solutions quickly enough, and on a large enough scale, to avoid disaster.

On a personal level, it makes me 1) fear the future and 2) hate people. Putting aside for a second the discussion on whether my information is correct and my logic is sound, but I’m pretty confident that *things* are going to be *really bad*. That doesn’t put me in a good mood to start with.
It also leads to the second point: Why are so many people around me still pretending that preferring public transport over cars, thinking seriously about not taking trips by plane, and not eating meat are for altruistic hippies who want bonus points on their karma cards? You’re metaphorically maintaining a heroin addiction except you are affecting everyone else’s body just as much as your own, it’s legal and socially acceptable, and you actually have control of changing your behaviour.
I know we are all just faulty computers made of meat.  I also know that a lot of what we do is determined by our environment and that it would be nice if the government took responsibility for this. But I’m not friends with the government so it doesn’t hurt as much in the feels.

Oh sure there are plenty of people who are working on solving this (and other) problems. There’s also good stuff in the world like the advancement of humanity since the middle ages and peanut butter. But that doesn’t negate this issue, nor stop me from caring about it and thus making me feel a little bit down today.

Referencing is not about referencing, referencing is about signalling:
[1] From the UN report

People, you are responsible for changing the world

Recently my facebook feed has seen quite a few articles shared that have a message along the lines of “Going vegetarian/vegan is the most impactful thing an individual can do against climate change”. The main point of these articles is that the meat (and dairy and egg) industry contributes significantly to the greenhouse gas emissions (CObut also e.g. methane) from human activity, more so than another large contributor, transportation. And these are the factors that an individual can have a direct impact on; by not eating meat, you decrease the demand for it, and so less of it will be produced. I’m not going into the validity of these claims here. They make sense, and I’m sure that if you don’t think it’s true you can find these articles and their sources yourself. I want to write about something else.

A typical comment I see when these articles are shared (from strangers or from friends when I shared one of these articles), is the following: “Significant greenhouse gas emission happens on a large scale, done by large companies an the government. My individual impact is negligible and on top of that, we should hold these companies and the government responsible for solving this problem, not individuals.” I agree that we need systemic change, and that turning off the lights when you leave the house isn’t going the save the world, but boys and girls, and people who don’t identify as either, and people who identify as both, do I disagree with these statements. 

It is such a massive illusion to believe that anything is ever going to change if you put the responsibility of effecting this change with the government and with companies. Government and companies do not exist, at least not as entities that can pilot spaceship Earth. They are just emergent entities that react to the collection of choices made by individuals. Let me explain what I mean, starting with this diagram:


I’ve just sketched out what I think are the main ways in which these three groups, individuals, companies, and government, affect each other. Now there’s probably more going on there, but the main point is that they are connected. All of these have an effect on the world and a change in either of them can cause a change in the others. However, I would argue that the only one capable of actively changing their mind, to be the starting point of the change we want to see in the world, are the people. Let me go into some more detail about why I think we can not hold companies, or the government, responsible.


Companies have to make money. If they wouldn’t make money, they wouldn’t exist in the first place. (The only exception being for example charitable institutes, but those are basically a group of people changing the world in a somewhat organised way). It’s probably true that for most companies, making money is also the driving force, but even if the company’s leaders have other goals in mind as well, it still has to be geared towards making money. Why? It’s like natural selection, the genes that are good for reproducing themselves are the genes that will make it to the next generation. Companies that make money are the ones that have the means to keep doing what they are doing, and grow to do more of what they are doing. If a company optimizes for something else and makes a loss, they have to downscale until eventually, they will have to sell out or go bankrupt or in any case, stop what they are doing.

So say you are the CEO of a company, let’s say one that produces frozen foods. You are concerned about the environment, and you know that your animal products have a much larger impact on global warming than any of the other products, so you decide to switch to alternative meat products. However, you have to invest in developing the recipes and changing the production line to suit the new products. Your market research also shows that meat alternatives are not as popular as animal products, and people aren’t willing to pay as much for them. Basically, it would mean profits would go down. If you enact this change, your company wouldn’t be able to grow anymore, maybe you have to scale down even, and besides, the shareholders get upset because you aren’t making as much of a profit as you could do. Your competitors fill the gap in the market you left, and you aren’t as significant an influence anymore as you used to be.
Sure it’s possible that you figure out a way to make the non-meat products more profitable, and maybe you even find a greater demand for them than you expected. There actually is a huge market for fake meat products and your company thrives on it. You, and the company as an entity, end up having a larger influence on the food production of the world. But this change wasn’t instigated by the company, it was a reaction to the changing demand for alternative meat products. The company is always locked in by the arrows entering it: demand from people, and laws, subsidies and taxes that the government puts upon it.

The change in demand is what made this change on the worlds possible, and this of course, is a consequence of people deciding that they prefer fake meat to real meat. They could of course have many reasons for doing so (and indeed there are many reasons to avoid animal products), but the point is that they are the ones with the freedom to make a choice. This power is what makes them responsible. In our example as we are seeing in reality also (at least in the UK), it is the people that decided now would be a good time for spaceship Earth to go a little more vegan, and the companies that reacted.


Much like companies, governments exist in a natural selection-like system. Only for politicians, it’s not money, but votes and backup from their political party or allies that keeps them in power. Simply put, the politician who makes the most popular decisions gets the most votes, and will get the most power to make more of these decisions. Obviously this is not a perfect system, since voters aren’t perfectly informed on the politicians’ decisions, and not everybody votes. So let’s limit this statement to whatever politician seems to act most according to the voters will (give or take some personal preference based on other things like the politician’s gender or what accent they have), will gain power/stay in power. Therefore, politicians are forced to act in a way that they think will give them the most votes or party support.
If you want to become a politician to combat global warming, you will have to find people that want to put you in power to do that. If you are an election candidate and you want to win the elections so that you can enact your plans to reduce greenhouse gas emission, you just have to hope that people vote for your plans. If your plans are not popular enough, you will have to focus on that; inform people on global warming, argue for taking action and convincing people of your plans. Again, the change starts when people change their minds.


You can do whatever you want, basically. I mean, you are bound by physics, sure. And you have to take care of yourself mentally and physically, of course. There are laws that you have to live by and there is only so much you can do with whatever limited resources you have. If only your local store would have more fake meat products on sale it would be easier to have them more often. But remember, you are always deciding what the world looks like, whenever you spend money, whenever you vote or whenever you affect other people’s decisions by spreading your opinion. Even if it seems like you can only have the smallest effect on the largest problems, remember that you are the only one who can really start to change the world.


Thanks for reading! Just as a note, these are all just my thoughts based on my understanding of the world. I probably made a lot of mistakes! However, I figured, I have given it some thought and that’s more than most people who write things on the internet do, so even though I don’t feel justified in writing an opinionated piece like this, I did it anyway. 

One more thing, it can feel absolutely horrifying to take responsibility for anything, especially if that thing is the whole world and everybody on it. I for one, applaud anyone for trying, even if you only have the smallest change of success, it’s worth it.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor comic baseball bat meteorite

image source (reddit)

Perfect Numbers

Hallo allemaal!

Er mag wederom “hoezee!” klinken want er is weer geld binnen! Er zijn nog twee kaartjes voor het sponsordiner – tjonge, dat is volgende week al – verkocht, maar Monique Duin heeft hiervan een extra gulle donatie gemaakt van €100. Ontzettend bedankt Monique! Mocht je nog graag je lievelingsdier als dier van de week zien, dan hoor ik het wel.

Maar dat is nog niet alles, neen! Woensdag was ik naar de kapper (even tussendoor voor de mensen die mij langer dan vandaag kennen: Dit is echt waar, ik meen het. Ik heb echt, echt, echt mijn haar laten knippen. Niet kort natuurlijk, kom op zeg.) en bij de kapper woensdag, terwijl ik daar op mams zat te wachten, was daar ook Henk. Om aan het cliché te voldoen werd er natuurlijk volop gekletst, en zo kwamen ook de Tall Ship Races en mijn sponsoractie ter sprake. Henk bleek zelf ook gevaren te hebben, op tankers dan met schoenensmeltende chemicaliën, en hij besloot zomaar me voor €20 te sponsoren! Dus bij deze nogmaals super bedankt Henk!

Alles bij elkaar kan ik dus zometeen de sponsormeter met €155 verhogen, daarmee zit ik nu op afgerond 28% van het doel. Over 28 gesproken, dat is een zogenaamd perfect number! Oftewel, het is een som van al zijn delers die niet zichzelf zijn. Oftewel, de delers van 28 zijn 1, 2, 4, 7, 14 en 28, en 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28. Hoera! Mijn favoriete internetwiskundige James Grime heeft hier een leuk – tenminste, relatief leuk binnen de wiskunde – filmpje over gemaakt.

Voor de mensen die de fun op zich niet genoeg vinden en zich misschien afvragen wat we aan dit soort kennis hebben: vrij weinig. Sterker nog, naar mijn weten is er geen enkele nuttige toepassing van perfect numbers. Stel deze vraag trouwens liever niet aan natuur- of wiskundigen, dat vinden we niet leuk. Zoals Richard Feynman al zei:

“Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”

N.B. Internet vertelt mij dat Richard Feynman dit helemaal niet gezegd. Nou internet, bedankt.

Any Questions?

Vandaag ten eerste: Hartelijk dank aan Olivier de Bruijn voor het ophogen van de tussenstand met €15! Die is nu €120. Omdat het zijn lievelingsdier is, verklaar ik hierbij de secretarisvogel (Sagittarius serpentarius) tot het dier van de week!

FYI, dit dier – dat overduidelijk meteen aangenomen zou worden bij het Ministry of Silly Walks – heet secretarisvogel omdat de uitstekende veren langs zijn hoofd ooit iemand hebben doen denken aan een pen of potlood achter het oor van een secretaris. Voor het geval iemand het zich afvroeg.

Daarmee kom ik gelijk op het tweede punt: Vanaf nu staat dit blog open voor vragen van lezers. Stel je vraag in de reacties, en ik ga mijn best doen hem te beantwoorden. Niet dat ik nou zoveel weet over alles, maar ik weet wel af en toe iets over het één en ander, en er is natuurlijk Google. Vragen over natuur- en wiskunde zijn natuurlijk zeer welkom, maar wederom- en dit geldt vooral voor studiegenoten – beperkte kennis staat tot mijn beschikking. Ik beloof dat ik in ieder geval een poging zal doen tot een antwoord, en beter geen gitaar dan helemaal geen gitaar! Dus stel je vragen, kom maar op.

Time Travel

Heugelijk nieuws allen!

Er is €105 binnen omdat de eerste kaartjes zijn verkocht voor het sponsordiner! Driewerf hoezee! Als het goed is, worden dat er binnenkort wat meer; er zijn nog een paar toezeggingen, maar ik ben nog op zoek naar andere gasten onder kennissen (lees: mensen die mijn moeder kent. Voor vrienden van mij leeftijd komt er waarschijnlijk nog een wat betaalbaarder diner met wat minder zalm en wat meer hutspot of iets dergelijks.)

Nu de tentamenweek voorbij is – ging nog best aardig trouwens – heb ik lekker “vakantieweekend” gehad. Als student heb je immers geen herfstvakantie, dus zeg ik tegen mezelf in het weekend na de tentamens: “het is nu vakantie”. En dat werkt, want een Janna die denkt dat het vakantie is kan zich verweren tegen gedachten als “ik was eigenlijk van plan nog een opdracht voor programmeren af te maken” en “boodschappen” en dat soort dingen.

Zaterdagavond ben ik daarom met een goede vriend van mij naar de film geweest. About Time, super leuke film. Maar het blijft als natuurkundige altijd lastig om rustig in je stoel te blijven zitten als iemand in de film opeens begint over “time travel”. Niet de toekomst in (wat juist een soort van wel kan, ooit gehoord van de tweeling paradox?), maar naar het verleden. Het probleem is hier geen technologische beperking (Star Wars, niet zo veel problemen mee, behalve wat psychologische dingen), maar dat het echt onmogelijk is. (Toch ben ik op een of andere manier bang dat mensen (o.i.d.) dit in de verre toekomst teruglezen en me vierkant uitlachen.)

In de films is het altijd spannend hoe de paradoxale gevolgen van tijdreizen aangepakt worden. Bijvoorbeeld zaken als de grootmoederparadox; je gaat terug in de tijd en vermoordt je eigen grootmoeder, je zult dus nooit geboren worden en nooit je grootmoeder vermoorden etc. etc. In Back to the Future lossen ze dit op door meerdere tijdlijnen te maken. In Doctor Who komen er vleermuisachtige wezens die alle betrokkenen proberen te vermoorden wanneer iemand een paradox veroorzaakt. Verder is tijd daar sowieso meer een “big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff” in plaats van een rechte lijn van oorzaak naar gevolg. Twee concepten die inderdaad niet meer goed werken als tijdreizen erbij komt kijken. Deze film volgt – volgens mij – ongeveer het welbekende idee dat je zult merken dat de toekomst al is/was zoals hij door het tijdreizen gemaakt is/gemaakt zou zijn geworden. Belangrijk is om er niet te veel over na te denken, want dan mis je de halve film.

Overigens zou tijdreizen wel heel handig zijn om makkelijk controleerbare, maar moeilijk oplosbare problemen op te lossen (voor de nerds: NP problems), zoals het factoriseren van grote getallen en het vinden van gasten voor mijn sponsordiner. Ik zou in de toekomst bij het diner de gasten op kunnen schrijven en mezelf in het verleden de lijst geven, zodat ik precies die mensen uit kan nodigen. Maar helaas, ik heb geen Tardis of Time Turner, noch ben ik bevriend met professor Barabas.

It begins…

Met de lanceren van deze website ben ik dan echt begonnen. Ondertussen ben ik al twee keer om zes uur ‘s ochtends opgestaan om naar Harlingen af te reizen, waar in de Maritieme Academie de selectiedag en de trainingsdag voor alle trainees plaatsvonden. En dan te bedenken dat het allemaal begon omdat mams me een folder gaf met de tekst “WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAIL TO NORWAY AND DENMARK IN THE SUMMER OF 2014? BE A HERO AND EXPLORE AN OCEAN OF EXPERIENCE”. In caps natuurlijk want zo trek je mensen hun aandacht. Nou, dat leek me wel vet, dus heb ik me aangemeld.

Wat ze niet op de folder hadden gezet is dat je voor de reis €999 bij elkaar moet sprokkelen door sponsoren te vinden. Vandaar dat ik nu niet alleen hard aan het studeren ben omdat het volgende week tentamenweek is (en atoomfysica is moeilijk), maar ook nog even de laatste puntjes op de i van dit blog zet. Want een blog, dat is hip, dat doe je als je een actie onderneemt. Ik zal binnenkort ook nog een facebookpagina in elkaar flansen, zodat je alles kan vind-ik-leuken en dat soort dingen, maar voor nu kun je gerust reacties achterlaten op de site!

Ondertussen is er nog €0 binnen, maar binnenkort komt er een heus benefietdiner voor kennissen die hopelijk een beetje geld voor me over hebben. Nog tips voor lekker eten? Misschien komt er ook nog een studentenversie voor een kleiner prijsje.

Weetje van de week: een zeilboot kan schuin tegen de wind in varen (tot ongeveer een hoek van 45 graden) dankzij het Coandă-effect. Dat is hetzelfde effect wat ervoor zorgt dat het water in een bochtje gaat lopen als je een lepel onder de kraan houdt. Hetzelfde gebeurt met de wind die langs de zeilen wordt gebogen, zodat hij van achter het schip wegblaast. Met Newton’s tweede wet: een kracht veroorzaakt een tegenovergestelde, even grote kracht (beter bekend als “actie is min reactie”) zorgt dit voor een kracht vooruit op het schip.

Hi there

I have some stuff to write, so this is where I’m gonna put it.

Also, quite a while ago I kept a log when I was on board of a tall ship and some of that got posted here, so that’s what all the earlier posts are about.