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That Damn Leaf

I live on the Internet, and on the Internet there's no shortage of people who will dig out every study they can that establishes we cannot prove marijuana is harmful, and even more studies that suggest it might have a benefit.  There are negative studies, of course, but I am a certified critical thinker, public university educated, so when you give me a study that establishes there's a history of mental illness associated with marijuana use, I am well aware that correlation does not equal causation.  Whether you are arguing for it or against it, the evidence we have as to the harm and benefits of marijuana is currently overwhelmingly insubstantial.

Between that and the urging of popular media, I eventually settled on the understanding that, "Well, marijuana is certainly not worse than what people can do to themselves with alcohol, an already legal substance.  So what's the harm?"  I voted in favor it, so did others; it's now legal to possess and utilize marijuana in Washington State.

Fast forward to today, in real life, not the ivory tower Internet bubble, and I am in despair because my younger brother's life is currently in shambles because of marijuana.  Sort of.  Correlation does not equal causation, right?

The thing is, my brother's life was not exactly the most stable thing to being with.  In early grade school, he kicked a teacher on the playground and ended up in a special school for troubled kids.  We eventually came to disagree with that school's policies, so we pulled him from the school.  With the aid of modern psychologists, we came to understand that my brother was a manic depressive - these days, that is considered a subset of being bipolar, but with less mania and more depression.  Twenty years of us letting him do what he wants in the name of stabilizing his depression, and we are more or less conditioned to enable him.  At least he has a GED and some college education, but his greater occupation is living on social security trying to manage his condition.

In time, my brother's lifestyle lead to a number of causes of chronic pain.  Lacking the willpower to properly manage his diet, he ate things that eventually gave him kidney stones and required the removal of his gall bladder, and was a perpetual sufferer of irritable bowel syndrome who still refused to regulate his diet.  Lacking the willpower to properly exercise, he ballooned to about 300 pounds and now complained of chronic pain in his joints and such.  His pain was real, but the doctors would not give him painkillers.  He was miserable, and his antidepressant just was not reassuring him anymore.

About a half a year ago, a friend of his introduced him to marijuana.  At first, it did not seem to really do anything for him, because being conditioned on SSRIs makes you somewhat resistant to its effects.  So he took more until he got high, something he described as "spiritual."  I was against the idea, but advised he stick to edibles because smoking it is bad for his lungs and I didn't want it stinking up the house, and then only use it sparingly.

On April 20th ("420" being an inside joke among stoners) my brother decided to go to the local "headshop" and pick up an vaporizer.  I asked he keep it outside if this was his plan, but he refused, because he was afraid the elements would damage the device.  Being a family of enablers, we stood aside.  My brother was now a real fan of marijuana, he rejoiced at the possibility of trying all sorts of interesting varieties, such as "Willie Nelson" and "Obama Kush."  He not only took it for his chronic pain, he took it because he was bored.

Soon afterward, I ended up moving my room downstairs into our dining room.  Even with his door closed and fans blaring, I was bothered by a smell I described as, "jalapeno diarrhea," quite a bit different from the typical "skunk" smell.  My brother was now hacking and coughing terribly, sometimes deep booming coughs.  Even worse than the smell of the marijuana was the smell of the harm my brother was doing to himself.

Five weeks ago, things were reaching critical mass.  My brother was only rarely manic before, but now his mania was constant and had built up to the point where he could not shut up.  He decided to sue his old elementary school, and was so excited about the idea that he could think of nothing else, and it was driving him up the wall.

Soon, he asked to be checked into the ER, as he had not slept in days and his mind was unbearably a runaway train.  He ended up voluntarily committed to a mental hospital that specializes in detoxification, costing us about $1,700.  He hated it there, begging or raging at us over the phone, and his mania never left him.  He was diagnosed as bipolar with a marijuana dependency, which he deemed a "misdiagnosis."

He decided he wanted out, and being voluntarily committed meant he had that option.  It turns out the same friend who originally introduced him to marijuana also sometimes helped people with mental illnesses follow their treatment plan.  This friend talked a good game, and seemed like a godsend to us when he volunteered to help my brother move in with him and help him adopt some good habits to counteract his initial causes of chronic pain.

My brother left the mental hospital after being there for a about a week, and the first thing he did when he got home was suck on the dry tube coming out of his vaporizer and say, "Aah!  That's my first real medicine in a week."  It was not a good sign, both in terms of addiction and in terms where his mania was.  Off he went to his friend's house to see if a new environment would help him address the roots of his chronic pain.  Still wracked with mania, he showed up between midnight and 5am at our house almost every night.  I was so worried for him that I lost about 15 pounds.

My brother soon gave up on his treatment plan, but he still regularly used marijuana along with his prescribed antidepressant, the same recipe that had him in detox to begin with.  I suspect the weed made him forget he had taken his antidepressant already, so he may have been overdosing.  As his mania continued to escalate, he began to forget things that were told to him 5 minutes ago.  His "friend" expired his stay with them early at the urgings of his wife, and told us we would have to watch my brother for a couple weeks while a place for him to live opens up.  My brother told me his mania made him feel, "invincible," and he much preferred it to his depression.  His raving became psychotic, spouting new paranoid delusions at every turn.  He got the idea he was being evicted, was terrified, and started dropping subtle hints about suicide and murder.

He was not willing to go back to medical care, but we did not want him on the street, so we checked him into a hotel room, where we hoped he would be able to hold out and stabilize so he could live with us until his apartment was ready.  The first day, he lied to get money from his mom and blew it all on the cheapest weed he could find.  That night, he was all over Facebook about the shadows and metal monster moving under his hotel bed.

In the morning, he agreed to be checked into the hospital emergency room to be stabilized.  We picked him up at 5am, he was more manic than ever, having not slept in 9 days, and threatened to hit mom for talking about something he didn't want to hear.  In the ER, he said he had taken, "as much marijuana as physically possible" while he was at the hotel.  The hospital gave him something to help him sleep, and we left him to it.

Later, we heard the news that he attacked a member of the hospital staff, swatting someone with a magazine in a fit of bipolar rage, and was arrested.  He was arraigned and it was decided he would be allowed to come home later that day or the following morning on probation.  I checked myself into a motel room for a week: if he was going to be home like this, I did not want to be there.  It turned out to be a waste of money: my brother attacked another inmate in holding, trying to choke him, and ended up arraigned again.  Currently, he is looking at two weeks in jail, whereupon he will undergo a competency hearing.  If he is judged as competent, he could be looking at several years in jail.

As I write this, my poor, arrested development brother is currently languishing at the county jail, undergoing hard withdrawals from marijuana, his antidepressant, and whatever he was given in the ER room during his stay.  You can bet he's bawling his eyes out, it's a side effect of the SSRI withdrawals, but simultaneously he's so manic he still thinks he's invincible and a constant chatterbox.  Listen to him long enough, and you get hints that, even more than he wants his freedom, he just wants more weed.  There's some potential he might die or get hurt in there, but in his current manic state he is liable to do just as terrible things were he free.  We would rather he was in a mental hospital, somewhere safe where he could be stabilized, but thanks to his mania acting out we need to work through the law now.  Our hands are tied, and he is celebrating this Independence Day in chains.

Admittedly, there are a great deal of qualifiers involved in my claim "that damn leaf" is responsible for my brother's current circumstances, especially considering he was mixing it with an anti-depressant and had started taking marijuana under the wrong premise ("because it's medicine") anyway.  But let me relate the following points about marijuana use from my observation of what happened to our family recently:
  • "You can't overdose on marijuana" isn't telling the whole story.  My brother definitely overdosed on marijuana.  Turns out that herb vaporizer he was using was intended for a party setting to be used by several people, but he would just sit around for hours and inhale the whole THC buffet himself!  However, whereas alcohol could damage your liver and kill you, overdosing on marijuana mostly just damages your brain.  My brother was never this manic before... considering he's been at it for 5 weeks straight, I don't know if he'll ever not be manic again without medication.  Sitting here now, it seems like clear cut deterioration of his mental state, cause and effect.  A doctor suggested he may have developed a brain tumor.
  • Marijuana makes you stupid, but in a very insidious sort of way.  You won't know you're stupid because you're too high to notice, a mild psychosis, and that puts you in a good position to get recursively stupid: take weed, lose inhibitions, so take more weed, and get even more psychotic.  With alcohol, at some point you get too drunk to have the motor skills to easily drink more, but that's not the case with weed, so the potential stupidity just builds.  When my brother checked out of the hotel, he said the seat belt in the van was, "Too complicated" to operate.  It can also take quite some time for the THC to burn out of your fat, so you stay "drunk" for a long period of time.  If my brother wasn't so overwhelmingly manic in the ER and in jail, well after his last use of weed, he probably would not have made the mistakes that resulted in him being reviewed for potentially years in prison.
  • Marijuana is addictive, after a sense.  My brother was dependent on it to ease his pain, but all it did was mask his pain, so he became even more dependent on it.  After awhile, it did not really matter if he was in pain or not, he just felt like he needed to be high all the time.  When that happened, the hook was set, his mental addiction was real, every bit as bad as an alcoholic homeless person who drinks to forget.  My brother said himself that he would rather have weed than a roof, and he had become so psychotic at home that he may have left us no other choice.
So I find myself revising my earlier opinion that, "weed is not any worse than alcohol."  In some ways it might be better, but in others, it's definitely worse.  Most of all, I would urge not to regard marijuana as harmless.  Stoners like to argue it's not harmful at all, a natural herb for a natural high with no consequences.  Well, my brother is facing some pretty damn nasty consequences right now.  We were fools to enable him, it was definitely not the right drug for him, he did not have any idea how to use it responsibly and consequently it damn near destroyed him.

If nothing else, remember this: like any recreational drug, marijuana is not a toy, nor is it particularly good medicine unless you're already on your death bed.  It's more like a different type of alcohol, and should be treated as such.
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Some Rain Must Fall

I haven't been getting nearly as much "me" time as my introverted self really needs to function, but there is a potential clearing up ahead of this little family crisis we've been going through lately.  I did get a fair amount of cleaning done, at least, so I guess agitation is good for something.
Still kicking, but I don't have much to say.  I somewhat abandoned the idea of a Minecraft cheeseburger farm because I decided that I'd rather put together a kingdom of Ancient Warfare villagers.  Didn't really get enough time to do that.  Dabbled with a half-dozen Steam games, but not for all that long.

I will say that Crypt of the NecroDancer is rather good.  But it has the unfortunate consequence of hurting sleep quality by training my reflexes to move to the music.  I think about the music when trying to sleep and end up having minor involuntary limb movements that disrupt sleep.  This game is so fly that you dance in bed later!

My Bizarro weekend is over, but I find my time at work is more relaxing than my time at home right now anyway.  Hopefully, this will change soon.
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Sometimes, The Miracle Is Just To Be Here

Due to a family crisis, I was too busy being worried to accomplish much in the way of "digitally staving off boredom."  I was afraid.  I was anxious.  But I was not bored, it seems.
http://ricksmithphotography.photoshelter.com/image/I0000NrcUvsOmwig
I did get a very basic impression of two Wii U games before I decided I was too anxious to really enjoy the Wii U right now and sent them back to GameFly.

The first was Hyrule Warriors, which is basically a cross between the Dynasty Warriors series and the Legend of Zelda series.  In practice, it is essentially the former painted in the style of the latter: you pick one of many ridiculously good fighters to control, then go to town on a battlefield full of soldiers, but everything in now a Legend of Zelda person, place, or thing.  Well, almost everything: this game was made by Team Ninja, so insert a bit of Dead Or Alive style cheesecake and artistic talent into the mix.  Consequently, Hyrule Warriors is, at times, just a tad too pop culture Japanese. 

Though the game was fun, I actually ended up bouncing off of it pretty hard.  The constant violence and metal soundtrack grated painfully against my stressed nerves.  Yet, even if I were at the peak of my well-being, my mature sensibilities were annoyed a tad by just how much of a blatant power fantasy it is.  The Dynasty Warriors formula presents battlefields as being full of shy soldiers too afraid to hit each other, so you just wade in and beat the crap out of everyone.  Exactly how am I supposed to be proud of a "KO" count in the hundreds in these circumstances?

The second game was Mario Party 10.  If you have ever played any Mario Party game, then you know the drill: it is just a dice-based board game played with four players (some of them CPU-played if you have less than that).  The main highlight is dozens of mini-games, each a fun party activity in itself, each with a Mario series theme.
Mario Party 10 was not a bad game, but if you've ever played a Mario Party game to death, you have already played most of this game to death as well.  This is forever the crux of the Mario Party series, it seems, and the reason why this one only scores about 65% on review aggravates despite technically have nothing wrong with it.  Hyrule Warriors was a much more interesting game in comparison.
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Virtual Cheesebuggerage Continues

Welcome back, you rare few single digit visitors, to the 21,597,958th most popular site on the Internet.  Nobody wants to hear about Minecraft, it seems, but dammit, that's what I'm doing.  Well, I don't blame them, why read about Minecraft when you could watch a stream of people playing it?
http://www.gocomics.com/twaggies/2013/02/11

Anyway, another Bizarro weekend has come and gone, and during that time I've learned a little in my self-appointed quest for automated cheeseburger production in my current Minecraft modpack, and it goes like this:

AE2: How To Make A Crafting CPU.

Applied Energistics 2 is mostly a mod about storing items in Minecraft, which can be rather a chore without assistance.  However, an important additional functionality is the Crafting CPU, the most powerful means of automatically crafting of any mod I know.  Using it to make cheeseburger meals is a bit like bringing a gunship to a knife fight, but why settle for anything less?

Crafting CPUs can be constructed by building square blocks of any of the six kind of crafting CPU blocks, with one mandatory storage block:
  • The first kind of block, a "Crafting Unit," does not seem to do anything.  However, you will need to build them anyway because they are part of the basic recipe of the other blocks, and they can pad out the shape of the Crafting CPU.
  • The second kind of block, a "Crafting Co-Processing Unit," allows for concurrent crafting of more than one crafting operation at a time.  Note that each Crafting CPU can only make one kind of item at a time anyway, but the Crafting Co-Processing Unit just allows for batch operations of more than one crafting operation at once.
  • The four "Crafting Storage Blocks" (sized 1K, 4K, 16K, and 64K) are used to store the input items, output items, and (temporarily) the recipes used to craft.  However, the actual Encoded Patterns are inserted into the ME Interface blocks, so it is a little weird that "storage" blocks are found here.
  • Finally, there is a "Crafting Monitor" block, which is wholly cosmetic because it just displays what the crafting CPU is currently working on in the game world on the surface of the block.  Hey, it's still doing more than Crafting Unit blocks do.
Phew!  Seems like a lot to keep in mind, but actually it's quite simple.  You can stick any of these six kinds of blocks together in a square, with a minimum of one storage block, and bam: you got a working Crafting CPU.   

Now, It should be noted that crafting CPUs do not perform crafting, they just supervise.  The actual crafting is done by "Molecular Assembler" blocks which use "Encoded Patterns" to create things.  What Crafting CPUs do is allow you attach "ME Interfaces" to Molecular Assemblers, load the ME Interfaces with Encoded Patterns of things to create, and order crafting to be done remotely from anywhere on the same AE2 network.  Without the Crafting CPU, sticking the Encoded Pattern directly in the Molecular Assembler would just direct it to craft as many of that item as possible constantly, and it would be the only thing the Molecular Assembler would be capable of creating.

To create Encoded Patterns, you craft the Blank Patterns, set up the recipe on an "ME Pattern Terminal," and you can encode the pattern there.  Once the encoded pattern is stuck in an ME Interface, you should see the option to craft that item anywhere on the AE network.
When I order up a Pam's Harvestcraft Delighted Meal, it shows me everything that will go into it.  That's quite a bit of time it's saving me!
My AE2 Crafting CPU is currently just a simple 2x1x2 block construction of a 1K storage block, a Crafting Co-Processing Unit, and two "Crafting Unit" blocks whose only real application is to complete the square. It was not necessary for it to be a cube.  I have loaded all the necessary recipes needed to create the Pam's Harvestcraft Delighted Meals except for the dough and the cheese.

Now, I just need to get the automatic harvesting done and directed into the machine.  Although the annihilation panes and AE Input Bus of Applied Energistics 2 are capable of collecting some things directly from the game world, I will need Thaumcraft to do much of the harvesting.

Everything Thaumcraft.

Thaumcraft is more than just the granddaddy of all Minecraft magical mods: it's a whole simulated microcosm of being in itself, layered on top of Minecraft in such a way that it adds an interwoven network of essentially six new kinds of activities:
  1. Harness "nodes" found out in the world! 

    "Vis" energy sucked out of nodes is used to perform various miracles and create many magical artifacts in Thaumcraft.  Later, you can harness them and pipe "centrivis" directly into your Thaumatorium, saving yourself a trip out to the nodes.  You can relocate and "grow" your own nodes by "feeding" them others, too!
  2. Perform Thaumcraft alchemy

    Basically, it's chemistry, but it's magical chemistry so you're not (for example) separating hydrogen from water, you're instead (for example) separating the concept of motion ("Motus") from opening doors.  This is done by boiling everything found in Minecraft into magical goo called "essentia."  Essentia is stored in jars and phials, it is used to create many kinds of Thaumcraft items, including... 
  3. Set up networks of golems

    These are basically little magical automatons who can perform all sorts of tasks autonomously for you.  Most of what they do is inventory manipulation (moving items from here to there) but they can also do things like harvest (and replant) crops, go fishing, and so on.
  4. Use the "infusion altar" to enchant or create powerful artifacts! 

    This involves arranging items carefully on pedestals around the altar, piping in some essentia goo, and performing some decorative arrangement of occult items to try to keep the magical instability down.
  5. Fight the taint

    If you encounter a "tainted" biome, you get to encounter the purply nasty creeping crud that is magic gone awry.  There are ways to turn it back to normal, although most players would probably sooner turn tail and run.
  6. The research itself, related to all above listed activties, is an activity itself!

    This involves collecting "aspects" and sometimes playing an aspect-connection minigame to complete the research.
  7. There are a large number of other miscellaneous activities involving playing with a dozens of magical artifacts you create in Thaumcraft, everything from magical chests that follow you around to portable holes you can shoot out of your wand.
Though that covers all the bases of activities you can do Thaumcraft, I would not be surprised if I were missing a few things.
It's fun just watching my sorting golem at work.  I have mining equipment perpetually giving it more things to sort, and gave it an assistant that simply unloads cobblestone. as needed.
In practice, Thaumcraft has done an excellent job of turning the simple task of creating lots of golems into a huge, multi-layered time sink:
  • Getting my fields harvested will require golems.  
  • Golems will require a lot of essentia to create.
  • Reducing the essentia collection time sink required to make the golems required another time sink involving doing alchemy to produce essentia more easily.
  • Reducing the alchemy time sink required to produce essentia more easily required another time sink of creating labor-saving devices via research and on the infusion altar.
  • No matter what I did, I would need vis to perform Thaumcraft, which created a massive time sink of strolling around between vis nodes.
  • Eliminating the vis collection time sink required creating a centrivis collection network.  I've got two nodes hooked up so far but at least when it's done it's done...
  • ... well, except I could always optimize my vis collection network even further by moving around nodes and feeding them, something I have not yet had time to do.
So I have not quite got around to creating all the golems need to harvest my fields and move the items harvested into my AE2 network.  Not to mention I am not entirely sure how I am going to milk the cows to create the cheese... it actually might not be possible with my current collection of mods!   But, when I am done, if that's the only manual task involved in creating the meals (the end goal), then I think I can count this as a relative success.

I think for my next modpack I'll remove either Botania or Thaumcraft.  Either is fine on its own, but they are a bit needlessly redundant together.  Having two separate magic systems really does not jive well, thematically.
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Can Haz Unlimited Cheeseburgers?

Despite the fact I piped in a carefully balanced mix of Minecraft mods, I still find myself grasping a bit for overall purpose to play the game.  Yes, I can go out there and kick the ass of all the big monsters in the game, but then you're sitting there with nether star in hand, a bunch of cool swag cluttering up your chests, and you are left to wonder why.  It has been suggested I could go bring some other players in, and show off my swag to them, but this additional perspective does not change the true nature of all the elements involved.
http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/282362/Cat

So I decided that the mission is to make a cheeseburger.  Well, to be more specific:
  • I want Pam's Harvestcraft Delighted Meals that consist of a deluxe cheeseburger (hamburger (skillet + raw beef + toast) + cheese + lettuce + tomato), fries (bakeware + potatoes + salt), and a smoothie (juicer + compatible fruit/berry + snow).
  • I want to automatically produce the components that go into them (bread, raw beef, milk, lettuce, tomato, potato, salt, smoothie-related-fruit-or-berry, and snow) in a self-sustaining manner (crops will be re-planted, livestock repopulated) via a combination of stock Minecraft blocks, Botania flower power, and Thaumcraft magic (probably mostly golems).
  • I want the ability to produce the entire meal automatically via first digitizing the components into an Applied Energistics 2 matter to energy system, powered in a self-sustaining manner (probably by Botania energy generating flora) and then ordering it to construct the meal for me automatically.  I simply order the Delighted Meal, and it crafts all the base components for me, and then the meal itself.  This ability is what makes this mod so invaluable.
  • To up the challenge, the Botania passive generation flowers (the ones that require nothing to generate mana) will be configured to wither after awhile, I will be running the Hunger Overall which (among other things) greatly slows the growth rate of crops, Infernal Mobs (which makes mobs considerably more dangerous), and have introduced the additional goal of keeping a Minecraft Comes Alive village alive (useless louts).
If I can accomplish this goal, I will have "won" the modpack and be ready for the next one.
I spent most of last night revamping the layout of my crop garden/farm.  The result looks reasonably gorgeous, if I say so myself.
I have been playing the mod pack for about a week and a half now, and I am partway there:
  • I recovered all the necessary components to produce the Delighted Meals, and have produced several manually.
  • I also recovered all the necessary imprints from fallen skystones to build an Applied Energistics 2 network.  It currently consists of an ME controller, an ME Drive, and a crafting terminal, there is no crafting CPU yet.
  • I built enough Botania power generating flowers to keep the Applied Energistics 2 powered when I need it. 
  • I researched all of the Thaumcraft I need for basic golems to harvest and replant fields.  Although I have found, in practice, if I have them work four fields they do not always re-plant things where they found them.  As I am planning on having them harvest four fields at once (4x4 surrounding their chests) it is probable that my neatly-organized fields will be scrambled!  (The main Pam's Harvester alternative is Minefactory Reloaded planter blocks, which plant with a configurable grid, but that is a completely different modpack configuration than this "fantasy" mix I am using.)
  • Oh well, they're still a lot more useful than the Minecraft Comes Alive villagers were when I tried to hire them to harvest even something as basic as vanilla Minecraft crops.  They mostly just wandered around town at random and maybe coincidentally stumble across a crop from time to time.  Their safety is assured, by the way: I walled the village completely off and lit any possible place a mob can spawn.
It is easy to get distracted by flights of fancy in Minecraft (it is part of the game's open-ended appeal) but I nevertheless seem to be making reasonable progress.
Thaumcraft golems are surprisingly cute when they work.
 I flaked out a little bit, though:
  • I turned off the Infernal Mobs because, frankly, I was tired of getting killed by punk ass monsters.  The biggest problem was that I also have already-dangerous monsters being introduced from Thaumcraft, Twilight Forest, and ChocolateQuest Dungeons, and when these mobs go "Infernal" the result is insufferably lethal.  Come to think of it, this mod can be configured to define which mobs are affected by it... perhaps I'll re-enable it and turn it on for vanilla Minecraft zombies, skeletons, spiders, and creepers, which are so massively prolific that they become blasé without mixing things up a bit.
  • I turned off the withering of passive generation flowers in Botania because it's not like it's impossible for me to simply keep rebuilding them, it's just a chore I might as well avoid.  Also, the passive generation flowers do not put out much mana at all, although it adds up over time... I think I will have to re-enable this and switch over to other kinds of generating flora to consider the challenge "won."
Am I satisfied with the overall purpose I have defined for myself in Minecraft?  Honestly, time would probably be better spent bashing my head against a game development IDE, trying to create something of my own rather than cobbling together a foolish errand from this mod-twisted version of Notch's vision.  But, as far as moderate creative fulfilment is concerned, this task is a lot easier than that... I am content, for now.
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Ancient Warfare - What Is It Good For?

The Ancient Warfare mod for Minecraft threw me for a loop.  I was looking for "villagers" that would perform useful tasks while simultaneously resolving the glut of food with a need to eat, thereby turning Minecraft into a bit of 4X game you can play from the inside.  Millenaire wasn't quite there, partly because recent updates to Forge had broken its compatibility with Minecraft 1.7.10, and Minecolony's development is not quite fast enough to keep up with the state of mods in general (they probably need to make a core API).
This screenshot from the manual shows a windmill and waterwheel powering two farms and a lumber production area.
In comes Ancient Warfare, which does indeed provide workers and soldiers who need to eat, you can even order around a little army of them to defeat your enemies.  It has working waterwheels and windmills, something I thought was awesome in Resonant Induction.  It has a warehouse with a built-in sorting system, as well as courier NPCs that can move things from building to building, and crafting NPCs that can create things for you automatically - who needs Applied Energistics 2?  You can outfit all of the NPCs with armor and weapons, too!

Overall, this is an awesome, awesome mod...
If you want to see Ancient Warfare in action, Yogscasts' Sjin is doing a wonderfully executed series centered on it.
...alas, it was not to be, at least for my mod mix.  There's quite a few issues with Ancient Warfare that make it too hard for me to integrate:
  • It has not been updated since December, 2014.  Good thing most Minecraft mods are still running on version 1.7.10.
  • It requires extensive configuration file modifications to work well with any other mods. 
    • Rather than simply attacking any hostile-to-player mobs, you have to manually define target lists of mobs that the soldier NPCs are willing to attack and villager NPCs will fear.  The default neutrality is not always useful, resulting in soldiers ignoring hostile mobs as they butcher everyone in town.
    • Although Ancient Warfare will attempt to put out some towers inhabited by rival "faction" NPCs (which is super cool), it will abort placing these if it encounters any blocks it does not understand.  A safely conservative tactic, but something like Pam's Harvestcraft or Botania adds so much to the overworld that it's highly unlike anything will generate.  For that matter, I am not sure it even understands some new stock Minecraft blocks such as tall grass or sunflowers.  Getting around this involves manually configuring block lists, which can end up being hundreds of blocks. 
    • Without being configured, the NPCs will not eat anything other than vanilla Minecraft foods. This makes modded-in foods useless.  (Can they be configured to grow foods that are not vanilla Minecraft?  Considering how specialized the production blocks are, I am leaning, "No.")
    In all fairness, it's a point to Ancient Warfare's credit that it can be configured to be compatible with mods.
  • All the workers are male laborers; total sausage party.  (Although you can define skins for each individual NPC if you want.)  More to the point, a town just doesn't feel natural if it's completely one gender.  It also feels unnatural that there's no commoners; everybody's a conscript: no breeding, you just spawn workers in spontaneously if you have the resources.  This essentially breaks what it needs to be an effective illusion of a 4X game being played from the inside; in this respect Minecolony got closer.
  • You can rig up the mechanics (or any redstone flux generator) to any Ancient Warfare production block.  Makes sense for some crafting applications, such as a crafting block that turns wheat into flower: instant millstone.  For other applications, it feels wrong, such as hooking up a windmill to a farm block to plant, hoe, and harvest fields.  Basically, NPC workers and mechanics are treated interchangeably by the design of the mod, which doesn't seem right.  I guess the workaround here is to restrict yourself voluntarily.
I decided to stick to my current "Fantasy Ultimate Mix Mk 2" mix:
  • Botania (configured so passive generation plants expire in time) and Thaumcraft for production, both magical mods that greatly enhance your basic capabilities.
  • Minecraft Comes Alive for the ambiance... and not much else: these villagers are hapless louts, but they're still more sociable than stock Minecraft villagers.
  • Applied Energistics 2 for item management and automatic creation.  These are two tasks it performs better than any other mod there is. 
  • Hunger Overhaul, Spice Of Life, and Pams' Harvestcraft, the former two which balance out the hunger mechanics of Minecraft nicely, the latter which makes eating and farming lot more interesting overall.
  • A few other mods thrown in for additional venues of exploration and danger: ChocolateQuest Dungeons, The Twilight Forest, and Mystcraft, and Infernal Mobs.
  • Basic necessities such as Inventory Tweaks, Waila, and Not Enough Items.
  • Just for good measure: JABBA, Journeymap (configured to not display the minimap), Bibliocraft, OpenBlocks (configured with xp collector and glider disabled for balance reasons), Nether Ores, and Somnia (configured to allow sleeping in my armor and with half the default fatigue rate).
Good enough, I plan to "play through" this to the end capabilities of all installed mods for awhile.

Geldon's Boring Real Life:

So I have not been doing much game development, but I have to say that a world in Minecraft is nevertheless ripe with creative fulfillment if you do it right.
In my current game, starvation is no longer a problem, but I am not sure this farm is even half the size needed for everything Pam's Harvestcraft is capable of producing.  A major goal will be to have this all automatically harvested and replanted (probably by Thaumcraft golems) and put into an Applied Energistics 2 network which will be configured to craft mushroom bacon cheeseburgers and smoothies at the push of a button.
Since my younger brother decided to bring a vaporizer home in order to self-medicate his anxiety and IBS, the other adults living here have been under assault by all sorts of nasty-ass stank in the middle of the night.  I have moved my bed and office down to a room that was formerly the rarely-used dining room, and set up some ventilation that will hopefully keep the stank as far away from me as possible.  If all else fails, I've been getting a real good sense of the basic necessities, which will be handy if I need to move out of here.

My wireless access is somewhat loopy right now.  I was formerly using an Ethernet cable, and this USB Wireness NIC I bought has a weird tendency to corrupt packets (it might be the fault of the USB extension cord its plugged into in order to improve reception).  Anyway, I'm expecting a proper PCIe network card, hopefully that will clear things up.
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Ravenous Minecraft: The Tweaking Continues

The Hunger Overhaul mod for Minecraft is no joke.  Though it makes about a dozen changes to make it harder to produce food and keep fed, the ones that matter the most involve scaling hunger shank restoration on how prepared the food was and greatly slowing the rate in which food can be produced.  While most mods add a grind to the end of the game, this one adds a grind right in front: it takes quite some time to generate sufficient food to be fed enough to seriously start mining and building!  The reward for putting up with this and doing well is a "well fed" buff that boosts your regeneration rate, which offsets some dependency on healing potions in later game.

Pam's Harvestcraft is an essential partner mod because there's simply not that many high-tier foods in stock Minecraft to keep fed.  (Especially if you use the Spice Of Life mod, which prevents you from just subsisting on a giant pile of the same food by granting diminishing returns eating the same things recently.)  Pam adds a great variety of crops to harvest, everything from apple trees to zuccinis!  Then it adds a bunch of cool recipes you can use to prepare all sorts of delicious sounding foods: soups, salads, cakes, ice cream, hamburgers, even tofu vegetarian alternatives for everything!

After a bit of experimentation, I decided that Thaumcraft was vitally needed now.  Slow production of crops combined with a wide variety meant I would need huge farms.  With huge patches of farmland to maintain, doing it all manually would be a perpetual chore, so automation was required.  Steve's Carts 2 can currently only farm vanilla crops, I decided to remove it and use Thaumcraft "arcane bores" for my mining needs.  I read that Minefactory Reloaded machine block farm are compatible, but I am going for a less technological theme.  This left Thaumcraft golems, who I tested and confirmed are definitely compatible with Pam's Harvestcraft crops (although one might have to harvest the fruit trees by some other method).

While food sources from other mods were not incompatible, they nevertheless provided an unacceptable impact to the balance.  The Mariculture mod had to go because it added a huge variety of fish and they were all fished up instantly, which undermined the need for a variety of foods in Spice Of Life (although you can configure "food groups") and the slower food growth rate in the Hunger Overhaul.  I decided to let Natura go because too many of its crops (such as cotton, raspberries, and blueberries) existed in another form in Pam's Harvestcraft and so that was thematically redundant.  (Without it, The Nether will be a overbearingly dreary... but I guess that's part of why it's basically Hell.)

Speaking of redundancy, I decided that combining Thaumcraft / Botania's "Baubles" page (for a necklace, ring, and belt) was too redundant with the Tinkers Construct "Armor Tab."   Even overlooking the oddness how having both would allow you to wear three rings, two belts, and two necklaces, it's simply too odd and cumbersome to have two tabs dedicated to equipping secondary equipment.  I find Thaumcraft and Botania more essential to my current mod pack than Tinkers Construct, so away it goes.  Besides, I am still not quite comfortable with how the Tinkers Construct method of tool creation completely circumvents the enchantment system with one of its own.  I had to let this otherwise awesome mod go.  This means I will be reliant on other mods for any ore doubling.

I booted up creative mode, played with the tools from Flaxbeard's Streamcraft, and decided that was all I had it installed for.  It's currently somewhat in beta, anyway, and has tendencies to lag out the servers and whatnot.  Removing this mod almost eliminates the last real touch of technology in this modpack...
Flower arranging and computers, together at last.
 ...almost.  I still do not want to let Applied Energistics 2 go because the power of its item storage and automatic item crafting methods are irreplaceable.  I can eventually make the crafting CPU able to automatically craft me a cheeseburger from raw materials: now, there's a major goal!  I have confirmed in creative mode that Botania plants can power Applied Energistics 2 networks, although the passive generation flowers put out so little energy that I revised my stance on them being exploitative to use to the point where I decided to let them expire after twenty days instead of two.

For adventure, I have a choice of ChocolateQuest's Dungeons, The Twilight Forest, and Mystcraft, in addition to the perils of vanilla Minecraft and the deadly things that Thaumcraft adds.  Every mob has a chance to come up Infernal: I decided to configure that 1:25 of mobs will be slightly infernal, 1:125 will be medium infernal, and 1:625 will be ultra infernal.

This looks like a pretty damn good modpack I have here, but I decided the game does feel a bit empty without the presence of Minecraft Comes Alive villagers (if only so I have someone to protect besides myself) so I decided to re-add that mod.  I have learned that Thaumcraft golems and MCA villagers can co-exist, the golems protecting them with gusto, so this gives the villagers a new lease on life. 

Looks like I've decided on my modpack for this week.  I think I will tweak my starting equipment to having the necessary blocks to quickly assemble a wall around a MCA village and set up torches to reduce casualties among them.  Reason being that, for several Minecraft days, I will be too busy setting up vast tracts of farmland just so I can prevent myself from starving, and this will leave me unable to protect the villagers from their natural tendency to go extinct.

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