This is a Christian sermon about perseverance.  Even if you don't subscribe to that faith, I hope that you will accept my encouragement to live and love to the best of your ability.

------------------- hic peribit, pax vobiscum ---------------------------

It is not surprising that the Bible should occasionally mention running. It’s something that people do, particularly under the influence of strong emotions like fear, or joy, or some other sense of urgency. When David fled from King Saul, he was running in desperate fear for his life. In the parable of the prodigal son, his father ran to him with overwhelming joy. On the morning of the Resurrection, the disciples were certainly fearful, and they may not have anticipated the great joy which would soon be theirs. But in the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene finds the tomb to be empty, and runs to tell others. Then Simon Peter and the other disciple run to see for themselves. One detail of this narrative is rather unimportant to the story, but it’s very human. We’re told that the beloved disciple (who maybe had a bit of a competitive streak) outran Peter and waited for him at the tomb. This is mentioned three times, lest we forget who got there first. I imagine him waiting impatiently, thinking to himself “Did he name you Rock because of your speed?” Perhaps Peter thought that no one would know who reached the tomb first, but now everyone knows.

In the once ominous and now long-forgotten year of nineteen hundred and eighty-four, I was a runner. I joined the Bel Air High School junior varsity cross-country team. I no longer recall what convinced me to do this. Maybe someone thought I just looked like a runner – skinny kid, negligible wind resistance, “whoosh!” I did not go “whoosh.” I was always far behind the lead runners. There were only a handful of boys, though, on this team of slowpokes who didn’t qualify for varsity, and each team needed five finishers in order to have their results counted in the standings. So I stayed with it, for the sake of the team. My most memorable race was at Hereford, in Baltimore County. They had a very challenging hilly course, and I was hurting. My insides were so angry at what I was doing to them that I actually vomited in the middle of the race. When that was over, I left the unpleasantness behind me. I finished the race, finished the season, and that was the end of my cross-country career. So much for my heroic tale of perseverance, eh?

I decided to concentrate on a different competitive endeavor, the debate team. That also sometimes made me feel like vomiting, though thankfully that never happened in the middle of a debate. I actually did pretty well, and even won sometimes. What I may not have realized at the time is that the purpose of debate, like the purpose of running, is not really about winning or losing. The point of these activities is to be active – physically active, mentally active.  The goal of a debate is to find the best answers to really hard questions. A good debater never says “You ignorant fool, that’s a stupid argument!” One says, “I understand what you’re saying, but have you considered this? How do we weigh the good points of this side against the good points of that side?” Similarly, a good runner never tries to push down their opponent. A good runner just tries to run better. A good runner tries to push themself to run faster than they’ve ever run before.

Our founding pastor, Eugene Peterson, was also a runner, and a far better one than I ever was. In that same year of 1984, Reverend Peterson ran in the Boston Marathon. He didn’t win, of course, but just to qualify for an event like that is a great accomplishment. Marathon runners, God bless them, are probably not doing it for fame or fortune. Can you name even one winner of the Boston Marathon? Nevertheless, thirty thousand people attempt it every year. Why? Perhaps the same reason President Kennedy gave for pledging to send Americans to the moon. We do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. Fifty-four years later, the first moon landing still stands as one of humanity’s greatest technological achievements.

Physical, mental, and technological achievements are fine, but what about spiritual achievements? Here we might look to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called by God to preach repentance and transformation to a disastrously misguided people. For this he was beaten, mocked, imprisoned, and thrown into a cistern to die. He was rescued, though, and lived to see the Babylonian Captivity of Israel which he had prophesied. He was greatly saddened and distressed by the times he lived in, but he never lost his faith.

Reverend Peterson’s book about Jeremiah is entitled “Run with the Horses”, because God warns Jeremiah that the early troubles he complains about are like footraces compared to horse races. I don’t have to tell you that running with horses is hard. They’re bigger than you, they’re stronger than you, and for most distances on level ground they can run at least twice as fast as you.

Yet in the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells, they have an annual event called the “Man Versus Horse Marathon”. It’s at least 20 miles in length, over rough terrain, and each horse has to carry a rider with them. So sometimes, very occasionally, perhaps on an unusually hot day, a human runner will finish ahead of the fastest horse. It was accomplished just last year by the felicitously-named Ricky Lightfoot.

Great things can be done. What great things can we do if we’re not athletes or astronauts or prophets? We can share our gifts and learn how to multiply their effectiveness in cooperation with others. We can share our stories and remember that everybody else has a story too. We can share God’s great love with each and every one of our neighbors. We can do all of these things without fearing inadequacy or being disheartened when our efforts fall short.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, when the disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim God’s salvation in such a way that each listener could feel that they were being addressed personally. I do not claim this as my spiritual gift, but I am emboldened by the Spirit to attempt something similar.

השבח לאל

Δόξα στο Θεό

Gloria deo

God zij geprezen

Gloire à Dieu

Ehre sei Gott


Kami ni eikō o

Alabado sea Dios

слава богу

Praise be to God!

Our salvation does not subtract from the importance of our mortal lives. There will be challenges, and obstacles in our path, but we are enjoined to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us”. We don’t need to worry about stumbling or being hurt. We need not concern ourselves with getting ahead or falling behind. We have someone on our side who is always right with us, encouraging us, and leading us toward our goal. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” It doesn’t matter whether you run the race at a sprinter’s pace, a marathon pace, a jogging pace, or a walking pace. The end of the race will come soon enough. What we’re meant to do right now is to live. To live rightly, to live faithfully, to live fully. Run the race. Amen.

A lovely sermon. Isn’t Unicode great?
Thank you. I should have studied more to find 天父

Samurai Cat in the Real World (1989), by Mark E. Rogers (1952-2014)

Alas, my streak of consecutive ascensions stopped at two.  Rogue #1 was doing reasonably well, but but a titan surrounded him with nasties and on my last turn I typoed myself to death.  Rogue #2 killed by a gnome lord with a wand of magic missile.  But Rogue #3 was lucky enough to find FIVE magic lamps along the way, and that was plenty of magic lamps.  He also found a katana on the second dungeon level, and that ended up serving as a fine companion to Stormbringer for the rest of the game.

As for interesting mistakes:  he foolishly buried some speed boots under a boulder, but when he came back to dig them up, they had rotted away entirely.  Stormy killed a few things he might not have wanted to kill, including co-aligned unicorns.  And some things were forgotten while ascending, including a magic whistle.  Not a big deal all things considered, but it's probably worth double-checking your entire kit before making that final run.

Ferret the Magsman and the invisible Archie the Archon went to their reward with 4050028 points and 140370 pieces of gold, after 78618 moves.
He was level 27 with a maximum of 793 hit points when he ascended.

On to the Tourist, hoping to finish before they release version 3.7 and make things trickier.


I actually wasn't wild about the idea of being chaotic, but I had yet to ascend an elf in this sequence, so away we go on a quest for Mars.

The first notable thing that happened in the Gnomish Mines was that I fell down a trap door in the middle of a narrow passage and landed on the wrong side of the up stairs.  Without a pick-axe to dig around the trap, I was unable to (reliably) get back to my dog Sirius.  Just as I was bemoaning this misfortune, I happened upon... a wand of wishing!  Always test out your wands, folks.  A stroke of luck like this is usually sufficient to preserve your life.

Sirius eventually died from falling into a pit, and my pet giant ant Auntie (whom I hatched from an egg!) was murdered by monsters at Mines' End.  Soon after that I made the terrible mistake of picking up a loadstone.  Don't do that, folks.  Trying to deal with the encumbrance nearly cost me this beautifully equipped Ranger.

Mars didn't help me get rid of the loadstone, and I then made the awful mistake of walking far away from my entire stash of rations.  I didn't notice my predicament until it was almost too late.  Crawling back while fainting, I just barely made it to the food in time.

When I finally got Stormbringer, I was both pleased and apprehensive.  "Stormy" is a life-draining sword (from Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné stories) that doesn't much care whom it attacks.  So it's risky to use around pets or other peaceful creatures whom you don't want to anger.  Keep that in mind for later, but for now I had no pets and resolved to be extra careful around shopkeepers and temple priests.

During my descent to the Wizard of Yendor's lair, I somehow missed finding the ladder to Vlad's.  When Rodney then woke up before I was ready, I had to deal with constant harrassment up and down the depths of Gehennom.  And then I forgot my candles and had to go back for them.  I forgot several things, really, in my haste to get stuff done before the Wizard hassled me even more.  But I shambled forward to the Amulet, and made my way back without a lot of dilly-dallying.

3 mysterious forces, ah ha ha.  At the Valley again, I decided to dilly-dally by equipping a pet Archon named Archie.  And then I remembered that Stormbringer is a big risk for me to wield near a pet Archon.  Oh dear.  But the goodie-goodie won't wield it himself, so I hang onto Stormy and give him my backup:  "The invisible Archie wields the rustproof +7 Fire Brand!"

At one point when my bloodthirsty blade attacks, I hear "Gasp!"  I think Archie is offended that I'm using Stormbringer.  And I've already poked him with it once within four dungeon levels.  Luckily he forgave both that and another tap much later.  He was a very good friend indeed.

I and the invisible Archie the Archon and the guardian Angel of Mars went to our reward with 3307830 points, Stormbringer, The Longbow of Diana, Sunsword, The Book of the Dead, Orcrist, Demonbane, Sting, The Bell of Opening, The Candelabrum of Invocation, The Master Key of Thievery, 12 rubies, 10 emeralds, 9 black opals, 9 amethyst stones, 9 agate stones, 8 diamonds, 7 chrysoberyl stones, 7 jasper stones, 6 jet stones, 4 dilithium crystals, 4 topaz stones, 4 fluorite stones, 3 obsidian stones, 3 jade stones, 2 turquoise stones, 2 aquamarine stones, 2 opals, 2 garnet stones, 1 sapphire , 1 citrine stone, 1 amber stone, 4 amulets of life saving, and 146513 pieces of gold, after 77256 moves.  I was level 29 with a maximum of 685 hit points when I ascended.

This puts me on a streak of 2 ascensions in a row, but I've saved two of the toughest for last:  the Rogue and the Tourist.

My only Tourist ascension was one of my favorite games of nethack ever! Enjoy the challenge :)
I wanna be an elven ranger,
Live the life of guts and danger.

Elven ranger,
Life of danger.

I wanna be a dungeon diver,
Swim around with the neo otyugh.

Dungeon diver, neo otyugh.
Elven ranger, life of danger.

I wanna be an healing cleric,
Shoot some funky anisthetic.
"They say that a spear will hit a neo-otyugh. (Do YOU know what that is?)" -- nethack fortune cookie message

To the victors go the one post wonders, but let's remember the guys who weren't so fortunate:
Priest #1 acquired Magicbane, but was promptly instakilled by a rabid rat.
Priest #2 was pincushioned by a gnome lord in the Gnomish Mines.
Priest #3 was killed by an ape while blinded by a yellow light.
Priest #4 was killed by a chameleon imitating a warg.
Priest #5 was killed by a touch of death from an ARCH-LICH on level 7???  That was probably a chameleon, too.

But the sixth one stayed up!  He was gifted Vorpal Blade and used it throughout the dungeon, also acquiring the means of reflection, levitation, conflict, and teleport control.  It was at this point that he stumbled into a level teleporter and was presented with a fateful choice: 

"To what level do you want to teleport?"

Answering "99" gets you underneath the Castle, so he sneaked in the back door and allowed the trolls in the throne room to finish off most of the other monsters.  From there, it was back to the Quest and some great dining experiences.  "Welcome to experience level 20.  You feel cool!"  Indeed.

Vorpal Blade has its disadvantages, like "Somehow, you miss the invisible black light wildly" but it is fun to decapitate demon lords instead of just wounding them.  Here's a scary moment:  "The bullwhip wraps around Vorpal Blade you're wielding!  The horned devil yanks Vorpal Blade from your hand!"  Oh, fudge.  Luckily it was cursed to wield that bullwhip instead of turning the beheading tables.

Later our heroic priest became the Envoy of Balance and cut down some shades with a silver saber, but for the most part it was Vorpy all the way.  While trying to find everything else on his shopping list, he got one last treat:  "You unleash a water demon!  Grateful for her release, she grants you a wish!"

He went to his reward with 4769988 points and 105737 pieces of gold, after 81735 moves.

He took his vorpal blade in hand, long time the manxsome foe he sought, then rested he by the tumtum tree and stood a while in thought.

It would be interesting if I could make my way through the dungeon by healing everyone I meet.  "The werejackal thanks you for removing his curse and departs rejoicing!"  But no, it's mostly slaying things as usual.  The vast majority of the healing I performed was vampiric in nature:  "The Staff of Aesculapius draws the life from the <Alas Poor Yorick>".  I established base camps at altars on levels 7, 17, 27, and 37.  Lucky 7s!  "This ring of teleport control is delicious!"  My pet giant zombie named Zorba kept picking up things I was trying to sort, so I locked him on the other side of a door, which he promptly smashed down.  "Master I love you so much!  Why did you lock the door?"  I really have no idea what became of him shortly after that.  He and Stoney the stone golem and Vlad the vampire didn't make it to the altar with me.  I stumbled a bit in the Plane of Air and the Astral Plane, but eventually turned things around.  Keeping spare wishes in your back pocket is sometimes a very good idea.

I and Quatro the Coatl and invisible Archie the Archon went to our reward with 3182509 points,
The Staff of Aesculapius (worth 5000 zorkmids and 12500 points)
The Bell of Opening (worth 5000 zorkmids and 12500 points)
The Book of the Dead (worth 10000 zorkmids and 25000 points)
The Candelabrum of Invocation (worth 5000 zorkmids and 12500 points)
Trollsbane (worth 200 zorkmids and 500 points)
Sunsword (worth 1500 zorkmids and 3750 points)
Excalibur (worth 4000 zorkmids and 10000 points)
Cleaver (worth 1500 zorkmids and 3750 points)
Frost Brand (worth 3000 zorkmids and 7500 points)
      11 amethyst stones (worth 6600 zorkmids),
      10 diamonds (worth 40000 zorkmids),
      10 rubies (worth 35000 zorkmids),
       8 turquoise stones (worth 16000 zorkmids),
       8 amber stones (worth 8000 zorkmids),
       8 topaz stones (worth 7200 zorkmids),
       7 emeralds (worth 17500 zorkmids),
       7 jasper stones (worth 3500 zorkmids),
       5 aquamarine stones (worth 7500 zorkmids),
       5 agate stones (worth 1000 zorkmids),
       4 jet stones (worth 3400 zorkmids),
       3 chrysoberyl stones (worth 2100 zorkmids),
       3 fluorite stones (worth 1200 zorkmids),
       2 black opals (worth 5000 zorkmids),
       2 opals (worth 1600 zorkmids),
       2 garnet stones (worth 1400 zorkmids),
       2 jade stones (worth 600 zorkmids),
       1 dilithium crystal (worth 4500 zorkmids),
       1 jacinth stone (worth 3250 zorkmids),
       1 sapphire (worth 3000 zorkmids),
       1 citrine stone (worth 1500 zorkmids),
       1 obsidian stone (worth 200 zorkmids),
       6 amulets of life saving (worth 900 zorkmids),
       1 amulet of magical breathing (worth 150 zorkmids),
and 95231 pieces of gold, after 64647 moves.
I was level 22 with a maximum of 376 hit points when I ascended.

What game is this? I could use some ascension and a pet zombie.
At you can play or watch other games in progress. Be prepared to die early and often, but we're here for you.
Is that Bell of Opening from the Bulls and Bears of the Wall Street module?
The Dev Team thinks of everything, but there are no bulls. Owlbears?

Exploring dungeons isn't easy, what with all the rolling boulder traps.  Some creatures even enjoy being hit with a +2 bullwhip.  Not snakes, though.  "The pit viper falls into a pit!  How pitiful.  Isn't that the pits?"

If you need to hide from enemies in a bookstore, always remember to pick up a book and look like you're thinking about buying it.  Stay in there for as long as you need to.  The shopkeeper will keep those ruffians away from his customer.

If you have something you want to get rid of, find someone who will take it from you.  But first make sure that you've nothing else left for them to take.

I and Celeborn the elf-lord went to our reward with 4798200 points and 115592 pieces of gold, after 81116 moves.  I was level 29 with a maximum of 593 hit points when I ascended.

I never thought of that! I always knew that it was a big big mistake to attack a shopkeeper when playing nethack, but I hadn’t considered that shopkeepers could take care of unwanted nasties for you.
It's simpler than that. If you are holding merch, he blocks the door!

I just saw an advertisement for the Fantasy Island TV series.  Not the original with Ricardo Montalbán, may he rest in peace, but is the reboot with Malcolm McDowell still going after a decade or so?  No, it is not.  That lasted for one season TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO.

Where did you see it?
It's on Fox, so I didn't notice its premiere in August 2021 either.

In need of some good feelings, I finished up the ascension run of a Valkyrie who had been vanquishing things without difficulty for some time.  I'm certain that I've ascended a Valkyrie before, but not within the memory of's version 3.6.x records.  Dwarven Valkyries are a good "easy" choice, and this one's natural 20 Constitution was nice.  One complication arose:  I never found an unguarded altar (7% chance?) so I never found occasion to pray to Tyr.  I did consult with Loki occasionally, at his temple in Minetown.

I and the guardian Angel of Tyr and Olaf and Olga and Ollie the Olog-hai and Frosty the Ice Troll and an unnamed fire ant went to our reward with 11672727 points, and 112111 pieces of gold, after 142972 moves.  I was level 30 with a maximum of 1845 hit points (!)

As an aside, does anyone have unusual favorite inventory slot letters?  Some of mine make sense, like "L" for a ring of levitation and "S" for a ring of slow digestion.  My pick-axe is "w" so I end up alternating "wield primary weapon a" with "apply w".  Then there are the odd ones, like "G" for my primary bag of goodies and "J" for a unicorn horn, which may date from the very first time I randomly got used to a particular letter and just decided to stick with it.

Mine are extremely basic. b - blindfold, u - unicorn horn, x - pickaxe, a - primary weapon (whatever it gets the a), Quest Artifact usually gets the capital letter that fits, E - Eye of the Aethiopica, G for Grayswandir, M for Magicbane, then B for bag of Holding, C for wand of cancellation (IYKYK), L for Luckstone (helps when stashing a pile of gems)...nothing particularly unusual?

What's the opposite of a Wizard?  A Barbarian!  Two promising barbarians were killed by things they shouldn't have angered, but eventually one became buff enough that he could SURVIVE angering things he shouldn't have.  Once he got that far without happening to genocide anything, he took that on as a voluntary challenge and succeeded!  There were many times when he regretted choosing that option, though.  Another challenge he completed was not changing form, which is not much of a problem if it doesn't happen accidentally.  Time to rest...

Goodbye Ferret the Demigod...

You went to your reward with 3496590 points,
Frost Brand (worth 3000 zorkmids and 7500 points)
The Book of the Dead (worth 10000 zorkmids and 25000 points)
The Candelabrum of Invocation (worth 5000 zorkmids and 12500 points)
Grimtooth (worth 300 zorkmids and 750 points)
Magicbane (worth 3500 zorkmids and 8750 points)
Cleaver (worth 1500 zorkmids and 3750 points)
The Bell of Opening (worth 5000 zorkmids and 12500 points)
The Heart of Ahriman (worth 2500 zorkmids and 6250 points)
      14 dilithium crystals (worth 63000 zorkmids),
      10 amethyst stones (worth 6000 zorkmids),
       8 emeralds (worth 20000 zorkmids),
       7 rubies (worth 24500 zorkmids),
       7 opals (worth 5600 zorkmids),
       5 turquoise stones (worth 10000 zorkmids),
       5 obsidian stones (worth 1000 zorkmids),
       4 diamonds (worth 16000 zorkmids),
       4 citrine stones (worth 6000 zorkmids),
       3 jet stones (worth 2550 zorkmids),
       3 chrysoberyl stones (worth 2100 zorkmids),
       3 garnet stones (worth 2100 zorkmids),
       2 jacinth stones (worth 6500 zorkmids),
       2 black opals (worth 5000 zorkmids),
       2 jasper stones (worth 1000 zorkmids),
       1 topaz stone (worth 900 zorkmids),
       1 agate stone (worth 200 zorkmids),
       1 jade stone (worth 300 zorkmids),
       1 amulet of reflection (worth 150 zorkmids),
       1 amulet of magical breathing (worth 150 zorkmids),
and 10002 pieces of gold, after 57152 moves.
You were level 25 with a maximum of 449 hit points when you ascended.

12/9 '22 6 Comments
Who were Ferret’s next of kin?
Sadly predeceased by his cat Mewlix, he left his remaining possessions in the Mazes of Menace. Adventurers are welcome to go looking for them.
No wife or kids or sibs to mourn him?
Well, his eldest brother accidentally Cleavered Yeenoghu (don't ask), and the brother after that was tragically killed by the Minetown Constabulary over a probable misunderstanding about property damage or something (don't ask). But other than that, feel free to ask. His distant relations are all very proud of him.
They should be proud of him!