Monthly Archives: July 2010

Quitting my day job

This is not really about me quitting my day job as much as it is about self employment. I know several people who are currently unemployed. All of them are smart, capable and enthusiastic workers in various fields. The problem is there simply are not enough jobs available. Recently I saw a spot on CBS Morning saying there are five job hunters for every job available, my experience is this is far too optimistic. Recently at my job we hired 20 new phone techs, something like 800 applied. Any politician who says these people are just lazy and are on “Funemployment” are lying to you.

Recently on Yahoo News I read an article about the destruction of the middle class in America. It is a depressing read, I do not suggest reading it if you are in a particularly good mood, no point in ruining it. The gist of the article is, if you make less than $100K a year, likely the last 10 years have not been kind to you and more importantly, its not likely to get better anytime soon. I think the bottom line here is we can no longer depend on large or even medium corporations to employ us, nor can we count on them to save the economy not just for us, but our children as well.

Everyone who is unemployed right now needs to be thinking of new ways to make money, the new global big business model is failing. Those jobs that went over seas are not coming back and I would also point out that even jobs created in this country by big business’s usually come at a price. 20 new employees in one place usually means 50 were laid off somewhere else. Supply side economics has failed, but there is no sign any of those horrid ideas are going to be reversed anytime soon. Supply siders have not produced shared wealth, instead are in the process of creating shared poverty and they are proud of this.

What this means in order to survive we need to adopt the old local small business model to survive in the coming years, the solution I think, is self employment and/or self sufficiency. I have already written a nice post about starting a blog for profit, but there are other ways to use the Internet to make money. For instance, becoming an ebay sell. Spend your weekends going around to yard sales buying up reasonably serviceable items at extremely low prices and then turn around and spend the rest of the week selling the stuff on ebay and craigslist for a nice profit. This might sound silly to you, but there are plenty of people who make their living doing exactly this. The key to this is understanding that junk is junk, but there are genuinely useful things people will always buy if the price is right. Another idea is selling craft items on line, if you can make quilts, look into buying scrap rags on the cheap, use the material to make quilts, use blankets from Goodwill as filler and then sell the quilt that cost you $5 in material and four hours of work on the Internet for $20-$30.

Even if you are currently employed, especially if you are employed by a large corporation, You should be thinking about what you are going to do to survive when the lay offs come to you, not IF, but WHEN. Get out of debt as much as you can. Okay, you can not pay off your house, but you can pay off your car and you can pay off your credit cards and for gods sake, stop using the credit cards. Do this even if it means devastating your savings, everything you pay off today is one less thing you are paying interest on later. and if you pay off your debts now, you should have time to build up some savings again before your time comes. Additionally, if you pay off your car, you can save money by reducing your insurance coverage.

Next, whatever you grocery bill is, you need to slash it in half. There are a couple of great sites out there for living on a $1 a day. If you own your house, turn your backyard into a garden, no not a little 10×10 spot, the whole thing should be turned over to growing food. Don’t know what to grow, try growing a three sisters garden, it is easy, low maintenance and sustainable. There are some staple foods which are extremely cheap to buy and easy to store long term, rice and beans (if you are not going to grow them yourself) for instance can be had for around a $1 a pound. If you have 50 pounds of rice and 50 pounds of beans in the basement and grow a decent garden, you can live an awful long time buying only milk, bread and a little meat every week.

The goal here is really to become as self sufficient as possible, so when the dread moment comes, your boss is asking you for your badge and some stranger is packing up the things in your cubical, you can walk out the door with dignity and some peace of mind.

This is just wrong

See these girls have no intention of delivering on this promise, all they are doing is tormenting horny nerds at Comic Con for the sake of some cheesey product thier boss is selling. To me this is false advertising and they should either have to deliver free hand jobs or be fined $100 Million dollars, personally I’d prefer the hand job, but whatever.

JLA Plus One

This is the kind of picture I really like from Comic Con. Over the next couple of days there will be post after post on Digg and Slashdot pointing to picture collection of women at Comic Con, but most of those pictures will be of booth babes, who are professional models being paid to be there. People like those in this picture are there because they love comic books and are not afraid to show it. Okay so Batman is a bit pudgy and Green lantern is balding, so what, they were having fun and that is all that counts.

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You loose some, you win some.

Last game was a bit of a bummer. You can read Davids write up of the game over at his blog. I am not going into a lot of detail here, but it resulted in a character death and the loss of a great many magic items. To help balance things out, I gave the party DoomSaker, a +8 HackMaster sword, which should be fun.

DC ADVENTURES Hero’s Handbook

heroProduct Summery:
Name: DC Adventures Hero’s Handbook
Publisher: Green Ronin
Author: Steve Kenson
Line: Mutants & MasterMinds
Cost: $39.95 ($20 for the PDF)
Pages: 281
Webpage: http://mutantsandmasterminds.com/dc_adventures/

I love comic books, specifically, I love DC comic books. I also love Roleplaying Games (RPG), specifically, I love Mutants & MasterMinds (MnM). Add DC Comics to MnM and you have as close to a perfect RPG as you can get as far as I am concerned. The hard bound book is not going to be available until after GenCon in August, however you can buy the PDF version right now and if you pre-order the hardback, you can get a coupon to download the PDF for the silly cheap price of $5.

The layout of the book excellent, they start out explaining the game system, and move smoothly into write ups for the popular DC Characters and then skim the setting. The only thing they really skimped on was the setting background material, which I suspect will be done down the line. The art in the book is fantastic, even the less great ones are still pretty good, none of the choices is bad. Kenson is a good writer and it is very obvious he is familiar with the source material and did it the justice it deserved.

The game system is my only real nitpick with this book. MnM started out as an OGL/d20 derivative and with each edition they have gotten further away from that root system, which is not really a problem for me. What I do not like is the direction they went with the 3rd edition of the rules. In 1st and 2nd Edition, the attributes were more or less defined the same as they were in OGL/d20, with the 3rd edition, they decided to go with a steeper formula, with each increase of an attribute, the characters ability doubles. I realize they did this so they could get Jimmy Olsen (Strength 0) on the same scale as Superman (Strength 19/23). The problem is this sort of scale tends to fall apart rather quickly, especially when mixing non powered characters with powered characters in a group. It does not matter how good a karate expert Batman is, he will not stand a chance against Superman because nothing short of a blast from a tank is going come even close to hurting Superman.

What can I say about the setting, Silver Age, Modern Age whatever, who cares, the DC universe is rich and diverse. This book goes into very little detail, but it really does not need to, most of us who this appeals to already have a functional background. Heck everyone knows Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, so I would argue, everyone knows enough about the setting to play the game.

All in all, this book is worth every penny of its $40 price tag.I have not been this excited about a product in a really long time. I am going to force PezWitch and the interns to play this one, but I am going to make PezWitch run the game so I can play Green Lantern.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 5
Game Mechanic: 4
Setting: 5
Overall: 4.666666667

Does information want to be free ?

First go read this:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2010/07/closing-the-digital-frontier/8131/

Okay, so essentially what this article is saying, is the hippies, the hacker and slackers lost and corporate America won. According to him we will be paying to access information we were previously getting for free because no one could figure out how to make money by giving away information for free. The problem with this premise is, it is simply not true. Baen Books makes a lot of money by giving away electronic copies of their out of print books for free. The DailyKos and quit a few other political blogs make enough money to support several employees allowing free and unlimited access to all their websites. Gawker Media is highly successful and profitable, I have never paid a cent to read one of their websites.

What is really going on here, is the old media has not figured out how to make crap loads of money yet and so they are claiming because THEY can’t make crap loads of money, then nobody can possibly make any money at all on the Internet. The fact is, plenty of people are making money on the Internet by giving away their product for free and the old media can not compete. Instead of altering their business model, they have decided to alter reality or at least alter perceived reality.

The article I linked to above is not the first such article I have read recently decrying the “Information wants to be free” mantra. While I am not saying absolutely that all information should always be free all the time, there is a lot of information that definitely should be free. Editorial pages come to mind, they are rarely hard news and for the most part are opinion pieces which claim some grand insight not available to the unwashed masses. I would go so far as to say, most editorial pages and op-eds and not even worth actual money. As for actual news reporting, it is a very sad fact that a significant number of the younger demographic in this country, gets its news from Comedy Centrals The Daily Show. This show has gotten so significant, Presidential candidates make it a point to appear on this show. What does that tell you about the quality of news reporting in the modern era ?

So go a head print newspapers and news magazines, start charging for our content, it might even save your business for a few years. But I am here today to tell you, it is not going to work. No one wants to pay for crap and the problem is, crap is all you are delivering, so it is likely your business model is doomed and will be replaced with the pajama media model. All I ask is that you die with some dignity.

Some days I am embarrassed to be a human being

Okay, once again, go read this;

http://gizmodo.com/5587249/help-teens-are-using-digital-drugs-to-get-high

At first I thought this was a joke, that Wired and Gizmodo were pulling my leg, but apparently not. If people are actually concerned about this, then god help us all, the average IQ of an adult has finally dropped so low, the survival of the human race is now in question. Seriously folks, this is stupid, someone is running the numbers on you, did you even try it ? Seriously ?. That Gate of Hades YouTube video, the beginning says “Listen with headphone, laying down, calm, not moving, I bet you can’t do it”. Well I got news for you, not only was I able to stay calm, still and not moving, but I fell asleep. Conclusion, this is a pile of shit, no wonder we have teenagers who think they are vampires and werewolves, their parents are god damned morons.

Helpful Reference Picture

This is a cool picture showing all the CPU sockets, adapter slots, memory types and a lot of other useful information.

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Bad days makes one appreciate the good days

After this last weekend, I know how this poor bastard feels.

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What Would You Rather Play ?

To go along with my “Who Would You Rather Play With?” question, I have also considered if there are games I would rather be playing. We play HackMaster 4th Edition (HM4) because it it is the direct descendant of Advanced Dungeon & Dragons 1st Edition (AD&D1E). I have of course talked about playing other games and we do play Traveller semi regularly. The fact is though, we like HM4, or more likely, we like AD&D1E and HM4 fixes about 50 things we didn’t like about AD&D1E.

Okay, so, we play HM4 and Traveller, we have very little incentive to play anything else. However, there are a couple of games, I’d really love to try out. Mutants and MasterMinds for one, I really like the super hero genre, but Mike Barrett, who seemed to take great joy in ruining the fun of actually being a super hero, ruined Champions for me pretty much permanently. We also played a short stint of GURPS Supers in Bozeman, but they never really went anywhere and in my opinion were rather flat. GURPS Supers works well for street level gritty play, but when you scale it to Superman or Green Lantern, it gets ridiculous really fast. What I want to play is a serious knock down drag out rock and roll super hero game. Where the villain hits the hero so hard he gets knocked through a wall, then the hero stands up, dusts himself off and says “Amateur” and then the real fight starts.

I would also like to play a good solid horror game, preferably Call of Cthuhlu, but I would take a Buffy: The Vampire Slayer game as well. Horror is probably the hardest genre to run as a GM. It is very hard for the GM to actually cause a fear reaction, so most GM’s settle for creepy, which is not the same thing. The other thing, is it is very difficult for players not to just rob a contractor for as much dynamite as they can steal, make a car bomb and drive it into the gate where Cthulhu is being summoned.

Lastly, I’d like to play some Paranoia. This falls into either the comedy category or the science fiction category, depending on how you look at it. The idea of clones bumbling around the Alpha Complex testing experimental equipment, backstabbing each other and otherwise dying in particularly comedic ways, appeals to the dark side of my sense of humor.

So if anyone wants to run one of these games, I am in. 😉

I am a child of the 80’s

I came of age in the 80’s, I graduated High School in the 80’s, my 20 somethings were in the 80’s, I got married in the 80’s, heck, I lost my virginity in the 80’s. Contrary to popular belief, the 80’s did not start on January 1st 1980 or January 20th 1981, but rather on August 1st 1981 and it was trumpeted in  with Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles.

http://www.youtube.com/v/jSJ27TgBvJE&hl=en_US&fs=1

To this day, the 80’s have had profound effects on our political discourse and our culture. Cracked.com has a list of a few 80’s hangovers we are still suffering from.
http://www.cracked.com/funny-2360-the-1980s/

Battle.net, RealID and Facebook

In the near future, Blizzard games is going to be forcing the forum users to use RealID. The effect is, anyone wanting to use their forums will be revealing their real names to everyone on the forum and of course thanks to Google and Yahoo, they will be revealing their real names to the whole Internet. It is also interesting that Battle.net and Facebook have recently come together and are sharing services. This raises some concerns about privacy seeing as Facebook has had issues with this in the past. This article over at Filefront covers all the reasons why this is a bad idea. PezWitch is understandably annoyed about the whole thing.

My opinion about this is pretty much my opinion about Facebook or in fact any company whose policies you do not like. Vote with your money, cancel your account. Don’t go on line and cancel your account on a web page, call their customer support line and ask them to cancel your account and let them know why. There are a lot of other games out there besides World of Warcraft and many of therm are doing really cool and interesting things. Dungeons & Dragons Online is free to play, they make their money by selling in game extras. Turbine is considering converting Lord of the Rings Online to a similar system. Of course you also have Star Wars and Conan games, who wouldn’t want to play in a galaxy far far away or Hyboria. The bottom line is, you don’t have to put up with shit if you don’t want to.

Getting the band back together

Wizard of the Coast (WotC) is running a contest call Never Split the Party, the prize is WotC will fly you and up to 5 other members of your former gaming group to GenCon and put you up the three nights of the Con. To enter the contest you have to write a 300 word essay about why your game group should be reunited. This is a pretty neat idea, one I wish I could enter myself, but unfortunately my vacation days for the year are nearly shot so even if I did win, I would not b able to attend myself. However, if I could go and if I did win, even then, I would have trouble deciding which former game group to send to GenCon. Besides my current group, I have been a member of three other successful groups. My High School group, know as the Vortex (no I am not going to explain it), Stompers merry band of fuck ups and the Bozeman group. Each of these three groups had their moments.

The Vortex was made of of Bruce, Chad, Ed, Darren and I. Others came and went, but we were the core of the group. This was my first group made up of my best friends, many of whom are still friends today. These were probably not the best games we ever played, but they were simple, clean, naive and fun as hell. The downside here, is I don’t think I could put up with Ed for four solid days and maybe even Darren would start to wear on me.

Stompers old crew, Creede, Al, Jack, Frank, Bruce and I, was probably the absolutely funnest group I ever played with. Stomper knew how to GM a game and I learned almost everything I do about gaming from him, I could not have asked for a better mentor. These guys never took it too seriously and were always ready with the cool joke or sharp quip. On the other hand, getting these guys back together might be the hardest thing of all. At least one of those people I have no clue where he might be and at least one other would not travel well.

Then there is the Bozeman group. Cisco, Sam, Tim, George, Mark, Lon, Kirk, Bruce and probably a few others here and there. This group was together 1984 to 1990 and we played not just D&D but tons of other games as well, these guys were by far the most versatile group of players ever. They were all experienced, hardcore and willing to play anything. This group is where I really earned my GM chops. Of the three groups this is the one where I have no idea where most of them live now or even how to contact them.

Of course looking back at the list, I see the one thing all these groups have in common is me and Bruce. Maybe I will just drive up to Dallas and spend the weekend with Bruce.

Happy 4th of July

I have to work, but don’t let that stop any of you from celebrating the anniversary of a bunch of rich white slave owning men signing a document declaring freedom and independence for all rich white slave owning men everywhere.

WarMouse ? Really ?

This thing is ridiculously over engineered.

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To blog, or not to blog ?

My niece just asked if she was interesting enough to blog, to quote her Facebook entry, “I wonder if I am interesting enough to write a blog, if I could come up with enough to say, then again would anyone read it”. A few months ago, I wrote a rather lengthy article about blogging for profit, but I have never talked about blogging for fun, which is what I do here, I have no profit motive nor any agenda to speak of. I blog for the same reason other people use Myspace and Facebook, it is a method of keeping other people involved in my life. There are two rules for blogging, first write from the heart and second, write often.

Writing from the heart is important because you are not writing to entertain or for money or for a political purpose, you are writing because you want people to see and understand who you are and what makes you tick. If you are writing to entertain or for money or for a political purpose then stop reading this and go read “How to make money on the Internet” instead. You need to bear a bit of your soul here, I am not saying you should reveal your deepest darkest secrets, I am saying you should talk about things that make you happy, things that make you sad, things that make you mad. Talk about the things that make you human show your passion for life. If you have actually read this blog at all, you have seem many aspects of my personality. You have seen me as a Tech, as Gamer, as a Political animal, as Philosopher and as a Horny old goat. These are the things that make me what I am, even the moments of silly, like strapping the computer to my back and mounting a webcam on my shoulder.

The second rule of blogging, is blog often. If you post once a month, no one is going to go out of their way to read your blog. Ideally, you need to post everyday, but 3-4 time a week works as a nice medium. Even if you don’t have anything to talk about, then write 300 words about not having anything to talk about, post a picture of yourself doing something, link to an article on the Internet you thought was interesting. If you really really don’t feel like blogging this week, tough, do it anyway, if you don’t feel well, tell us you don’t feel well.

The bottom line is, if you blog, they will come. For god sakes there is a guy who setup a webcam to snap a picture of his cats every time they go through the cat door and posts it to Twitter, he has thousands of followers. So as long as you post and you post from the heart, chances are good, someone will read it.

June is gone, July is here

Summer is my favorite time of year, I especially love the heat of mid summer. I am also a big fan of summer music, all the best tunes always hit during the summer and then we spend fall and winter listening to them and the next spring, we start hear the new songs. Summer movies use to be something to look forward too, but these days, I rarely see anything that get me excited. Hmm, maybe today will go outside and take a walk around instead of blogging.