Monthly Archives: December 2010

Post #200

This will be my last post for the year, oddly enough, it will also be my 200th post on this blog. I was going to make this post an end of year montage of various subjects I have talked about, but about 10% of the way through writing it, I was bored to tears. So then I start writing post about my expectations for the coming year again, about 10% in, I said to my self, fuck this, no one wants to read this shit. So I put it aside and went to catch up on the various blogs I read. I found there had been a multi blog discussion about how the commercially developed RPG products were not that good, especially back in the golden age and this probably stunted how the hobby grew up. A lot of the focus was on the creativity of the modules.

I think over all they are probably right. Many of the old dungeons were not all that good if you tried to read through them, or god forbid, if you tried to run them as written. I think what they missed here is, no one ran them as written. Do an experiment, go to Dragonsfoot forum and start a thread entitled “Tell me your stories about playing in The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (G1)” and see what comes out. What you will get a 50 or 60 stories, all of them different, even stories about the same room, will be wildly different. The modules were run by different GM’s in different levels of skill, with different players and different PC’s with different equipment. What you will realize when reading the thread is the creativity came while the module was being played. The module was just a bare bones outline of an adventure, it was the GM and the players that filled out the details and brought it to life. We don’t remember the room because there was a snake with 8 hit points in it, we remember it because this god damned fucking snake was under the old bed and when Evro walked by it, the snake bit him and the poison almost killed him. See the difference there.

The other accusation aimed at the hobby is it is too reliant on Tolkien as source material. On the surface, this is probably true as well, but again, it misses deeper issue. Players and GM’s make this stuff their own. Again, my experience in GreyHawk would be wildly different from another player who didn’t earn his RPG cred in Billings Montana in the early 80’s. I think they are also missing the contributions of other authors to the hobby, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, H.P. Lovecraft and Jack Vance, all left their mark on D&D. Not to mention all the various mythology, especially Greek and Norse which influenced us. You could probably add more to that list.

Lastly, I’d like to point out what seems really obvious to me. What these other bloggers seem to be missing is the shared experience. Shared experience is an important element in human community building. For instance, people who have been in the Army can go to a VFW anywhere in the country and feel at home. We can do this because we have similar life experiences. We all went to Basic Training, we all took craps in open stalls were another guy was farting 2 feet away, we all ate in chow halls and choked down over cooked grits and under cooked bacon, to name just a few things. This stuff is unpleasant, but it does form a shared experience that makes for a community bond that transcends generations.

While D&D does not provide the shared experience of ultimate male bonding that is open bay crappers, it does provide us with something similar. Going back to my idea of starting a Dragonsfoot thread about telling G1 stories, if you did this you would discover players bonding over the experience in the same way two old soldiers would bond over visiting the same bar in Mannheim Germany 30 years apart, these are the things that bind us together. Next week I am starting act two of my campaign. Act two is going to be the “Against the Giants” series, which includes the fore mentioned G1. These modules fit nicely into the over all plot of the campaign, but more importantly it passes the shared experience to my nephew, whom I hope one day will go to a game convention or a gamer forum and talking to others, realize he has a link to these people that transcends time and geography.

Happy New year everyone, drink, fuck and be merry, because on Monday we have to go back to work. Commenter of the Year

Here at the labs we took a formal poll on who of our multitudes of readers should be anointed Commenter of the year. After several rounds of voting, it came down to PezWitch and Chad. In the final tally PezWitch got 4,232 votes and Chad got 1. I got suspicious for two reasons, first the interns were all sprawled on the floor more lethargic than usual and second, there were only suppose to be 5 votes. I immediately investigated the situation and found someone had rigged the polling machine to dispense cat nip when a vote for PezWitch was made. I disqualified PezWitch and so the runner up, Chad, gets the award.

Seriously though, Chad is a very old friend, who writes his own Blog The Kuru Lounge, which I visit a couple times a week, but have never posted a single comment, something I feel a bit guilty about. I enjoy Chad’s posts, he is funny and often insightful.  One of the things I like most, is we disagree on many issues, we can have a heated political debate, then go have a beer and talk about the brilliance that is Heinlein. Thank you Chad for participating in my little endeavor here.

Merry Christmas Everyone !

It is a bit of a tradition with PezWitch and myself to drive around town and looks at lights on Christmas Eve. Frankly, the pickings have been pretty slim in this area since 2002, when most of the troops deployed. It is rather difficult for this area to get into the Christmas spirit these last several years. So, Pezwitch and I decided to go do the Christmas Fredricksburg to Marble Falls Christmas light run. Unfortunately the Marble Falls display was shut down when we got there, so we only got pictures of Fredricksburg and Johnson City.

The day started out a bit gloomy as it drizzled most of the way there.

By the time we got there, it had stopped raining. This is the Fredrickburg Christmas Pyramid.

This is Frdricksburg’s Christmas tree in their town center. Unfortunately we did get here a bit early, so it was still light outside.

The obligatory Thulhu picture. I am not sure, but I believe Thulhu has become PezWitch’s child substitute.

Yours truly. I was uncomfortable here, I swear the Gazebo was watching me. If only I had I brought my trusty battle axe.

This is the Johnson City Court house.

This and the next picture were taken at the Johnson City electric company.

This was PezWitch’s favorite part of the trip.

New Facebook Profile

The new look for Facebook has arrived at my profile. I have cleverly used the new look to customize my profile page.

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For those not in the know, the picture I assembled there is of the Knights of the Dinner Table. A comicbook published by Kenzer and Company, about a dysfunctional group of gamers. Anybody who has ever played D&D for any length of time will recognize the archetypes here.

There are a lot of people doing interesting things with the new Facebook profiles. To see some examples, have a look here,

It is fairly easy to accomplish. Each of the pictures you want to appear in your header must have a width of 97 pixels and a height of 68 pixels. Once you upload them, tag yourself in each of the pictures. Facebook displays pictures you are tagged in from the latest picture you were tagged in to the oldest, so to get them in the proper order, tag the picture you to appear on the right first and then tag the next pictures as you move to the left. In my case I tagged the picture of Brian first (the big guy with red hair), then I tagged Sara and Bob, then I tagged Bob and B.A..

FCC New Rules

Yesterday the FCC released its new rules regulating companies who provide various Internet access services. The good guys have lost this battle and Net Neutrality is or soon will be a thing of the past. I am not going to get too overly wrapped up about this, but I do think it is an important turning point in the history of the Internet and the landscape is going to dramatically change over the next few years.

Edit: For simple and clear explanation of what Net Neutrality means go here;

Tron: Jeremy

Okay after brooding for a couple of hours over our crappy politicians, I needed something funny, something to make me laugh. This did it for me. I want to go see Tron: Jeremy. Don’t worry, the video is safe for work.

Tron: Jeremy


24 Hour Society

I am regurgitating (maybe that is a bad word) this from Facebook, because I think it is an interesting subject

On Facebook my friend Carolyn wrote a nice note about how she occasionally gets caught up in the cycle of doing just one more thing before going to bed and she has to eventually has to force herself to stop and say, “my desire to be in bed at that time is OK.  Not only am I allowed to go to bed.  That’s where I am supposed to be.  Tomorrow is another day.”. I think Carolyn makes a profound observation here, I responded with the following.

More and more our society is becoming a 24 hour society. It use to be is you were awake at 3AM, the only other people in the world who were awake lived in India, the TV and radio stations went off the air and on Sunday, EVERYTHING was closed. Today none of that is true, I can do practically anything at 3AM almost as well as 3PM, virtually all TV channels are 24 hour and nothing shuts down on Sunday, heck Walmart even opens on Christmas day now. The problem with all this is we all have this nagging feeling we are missing something.

On top of that, I’d like to add, I don’t think this is a good thing. Perhaps I am just a bit nostalgic, as men my age tend to be. It seems to me perhaps Walmart should not be open on Christmas day, maybe everything should close down on Sundays and yes maybe the TV channels should call it quits at midnight. Let everyone take some time to sleep, spend time with friends and family, or read a book. I am aware, I can do all that stuff now, I can refuse to go to the mall on Sunday, I can turn off the TV whenever I want and I can set my computer aside and pick up a book. The problem is all these things are designed to be distractions and the people who do the designing are really good at their jobs and these things distract us. Maybe we need to slow down a bit and say to ourselves, its okay to go to bed.

Birds, lots and lots of birds

I pulled into the lot to hit Jack-In-The-Box for breakfast yesterday morning and almost drove through amass of birds sleeping in the parking lot. I slammed on the breaks because I am nice guy and didn’t want to disturb them. So I drove around the other side and snapped this picture.


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26th Wedding Anniversary

For some reason I can not fathom, PezWitch has stayed with me for 26 years, longer if you include when we lived in joyful sin. It is odd that no matter what stupid shit I pull, she continues to hang around. Honestly it is a mystery to my why she stays. Regardless, I am happy she does and I love her very much.

“I love being married.  It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” -Rita Rudner

Site Stats

As you can see from the table below, over the last six months the page requests on my site has steadily increased, peaking in October at 10,000+ hits.


It appears on the surface of it that if I am not active on Facebook, at least a few of my “Friends” forget I maintain a blog. It is really too bad too, because November was when I blogged about ComicCon and anyone who didn’t come here, missed a significant event of the year. I will be very interested to look at these numbers again in January to see if my active posting on Facebook increases my page hits.

Edit: Keep in mind, these number are page requests, not neccessarily the number of people visiting the site.

Return of the dumb terminal

Back in the 80’s, IBM, Wang and a few other computer companies thought the idea of maintaining software and data on a central computer and access on local dumb terminals with no real computing power themselves, was a good idea. In the 90’s Sun tried to sell us the same idea, they called it Thin Client/Fat Server model. Now in the 21st century, we have Google trying to sell us this idea again only this time we are calling it Cloud Computing. I read an interview this morning with Google product management director Caesar Sengupta and this part really jumped out at me, the interviewer is asking Sengupta if Chrome based cloud oriented computer can dominate the market.

Q: Do you really see these types of machines taking over from the Windows computers and Macs that many people use now?
A: I think it depends on the user and the user’s behavior. In the long term and the fullness of time, absolutely. I think we will have failed if this doesn’t become your default way of computing. But right now, we see hundreds of millions of users who live on the web. For many of these users, this will replace their machines immediately, especially as web apps get better.

I think this shows a profound lack of hindsight. This sort of system could work in the corporate environment and I were managing a large IT infrastructure, I would seriously consider such a frame work. However, for personal computing, this just does not feel right. While Farmville maybe the #1 most played game in the world right now, last I checked World of Warcraft does not run under Google Chrome OS and most certainly will not run on a netbook of any kind. I also feel much more comfortable with my personal pictures and writings stored on my local drive, where they are far safer from criminals, rogue employees and the government.

New take on Alignment

I stole this from Wil Wheaton’s blog. It is incredibly funny and I was compelled to share it with the world, or at least my 3 readers. If you don’t get it, then I have to ask, what are you doing here anyway ?

People as products

I heard a saying last week, it went something like “If the service is free, you are the product being sold.”. The gist of this saying is, any product you use which is free or stupidly cheap, then the company is making money by collecting information about you and selling that information to other organizations. Some of this seems pretty harmless to me, privacy issues aside.

Facebook, Twitter and Myspace certainly make their money by selling targeted  advertisements. Google certainly does this as well with Gmail, Google Docs and its other services. In fact if you are logged into any “Cloud” service, including Yahoo or Windows Live, you are essentially feeding them a steady stream of information about you.

Other free services scare me considerably more. Intuit for instance offeres free tax preparation services on their website. Think about this in context of the first sentence of this post. Last year Intuit purchased If you don’t known, is a popular money management site that helps you figure out where your money is going, so you can budget you money effectively. To make the service more user friendly, you can give access to your checking account and will import data directly into their own database so you don’t have to type anything in. Anyone thinking about this for longer than 10 seconds should be terrified of the amount and the kind of information Inuit is collecting.

Thinking about this further, I realize, my banking “Free” as well. The only fees I pay are if I bounce a check. Otherwise maintaining a checking account and a savings account cost me nothing. However, I use very little cash, I pay my bills online, I use a debit card to buy 99% of the things I buy these days. I only write two checks a month and I rarely have more than soda machine change in my pocket. Even if all they sell is aggregate information, I can see this being very profitable for them.

In the name of disclosure, even this website collects information about those people who visit. My hosting service logs IP addresses, browsers used, Operating System used, referring page and a lot more. The WordPress software also sets a cookie on your system and uses it to remember you on a return visit. I don’t use this information for anything, but I can not tell you for sure whether or not GoDaddy or WordPress uses this information. If I had to guess, I would probbaly say, “If the service is free, you are the product being sold.”.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Tonight at midnight PezWitch’s WoW account will activate her download copy of Cataclysm. At that time, full control of all the remotes in the house will be mine, for at least 2-3 weeks. I will be able to watch full episodes of Star Trek without complaints of “You’ve seen this one already.”. I might even get around to watching some softcore porn. Wait do I even own any softcore porn ? If I don’t, I will have to buy some. I wonder if Netflix has any ?

On the road to Christmas

Well December has arrived, it is still early in the month, but I think I have everyone’s presents at least picked out. I bought PezWitch a pair of 22 inch monitors for our 26th anniversary. I gave them to her early though, so she could play World of Warcraft: Cataclysm using all three of her 22 inch monitors, experiencing the game in all its 66 inches of glory. Mom and Mary’s gifts are bought and ready to send and all the nieces and nephews are getting $20+card. That leaves PezWitch’s gift to buy, which I will probably take care of next week.

This year we decided to forego the Christmas tree. Putting up a tree is fun, taking them down is not and besides that, every year one of the cats decides it might be fun to climb to the top. So instead we put up a wreath snowman.


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One more time

I got a new computer a couple of months ago. The computer ran great under Windows 7, the problem of course is I don’t use Windows 7. Under Ubuntu the system had several nagging issues I hoped would be fixed with the 10.10 release. Unfortunately, this did not happen. So, I found that machine a nice home where it will run Windows 7 and World of Warcraft. So back to Dell’s website, this time I do what I should have done in the first place, which is buy a system with Linux pre-installed. Dell systems pre-installed with Linux come with release 9.10, which is long in the tooth, but it is not a problem, installing the latest release is easy for me. The system cost me several hundred dollars more than the first system, but I got an upgraded CPU, more memory, better graphics chipset and best of all, comfort knowing this system type was verified as 100% compatible with Ubuntu Linux by Canonical, the company which makes Ubuntu. So here I am again, backing up my data from my old Inpirion 1505 and transferring it onto my nice shiny new Inspirion 15n.

Wrath of God

This is NASA’s November 30th picture of the day. It is a A supercell thunderstorm cloud sighted in Montana.

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I am not sure what you all are doing up there in Montana, but from the looks of things, you should probably stop it.

Return to Facebook

I am beginning phase two of my social networking experiment (yes, you are all my guinea pigs). For the month of December, I have loosened up my privacy settings and I am going to start posting on Facebook again. I will of course comment on other peoples posts as I always have, however, when I write my own stuff, I will be posting it here on my blog and linking to it on Facebook. This phase will last until January 1st when I move into phase three.