feel good

Welcome back, and a story.

No idea if I'll stay, or if this is a brief vacation until I can deal with the rest of the world again. All other posts here will be friends-only because I'm kind of a private guy.

Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter are the social media equivalent of the bustle of the big city. Lots of loud noises, people ranting on street corners. With the appalling disaster of the election and other atrocities, being constantly bombarded has made me... tired.

No, it's made me prone to anxiety attacks. I need to go somewhere quieter where I can share my thoughts and not stress quite so much that I'm going to peek out into the street and see a fusillade of artillery strikes or the end of the world.

So here I am.

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iPaddin’ it.

So last year I spent a while being very grouchy about Steve Jobs’ vigorously defended walled garden, put my money where my mouth was, and got an Android phone. The Droid X has served me relatively passably, with a couple significant problems: It sucks batteries, and the UI experience is startlingly uneven, particularly in core areas like, say, _being a phone_.  (the contact list app in particular pisses me off – sluggish and difficult to navigate compared to the iPhone).

I’ve also been watching the unfolding Android tablet rollout and been… terribly unimpressed. It feels like Google’s throwing software out on the breeze and hoping it takes root. The end result is a platform with poor adoption and branding, with the same problems as the phone version of the OS, so far as I can tell.

With that in mind, I bought an iPad 2 this weekend. Just getting started owning it; I’ve pitched about $40 into the app store to round out my toys, mostly on games, but a couple basics for me  like an RSS app tied to Google Reader, and am SSH client.

So here’s my first impressions:

To hell with flying cars: this thing’s future cool. With the level of usage I put into it, I’m getting 2 or three days out of it; they’r not lying about the 10 hours of active use average. Netflix’d the first episode of the recent Dr Who series, and yeah, that chewed up a little under 10%, but games and websurfing generally are easily forgiven.

The UI is responsive and simple – the lack of settings and options menus in standard locations still annoys me, but I’ll take it if it means that I don’t have to deal with stutter-stepping application behaviors allatime.

There’s an insanely simple thing that also makes it ‘just right’ – the cover. Instead of having a clunky slipcase, I’m using the apple-standard cover, which is very, very thin and flips into a convenient stand. For bonus awesome, if you flip the cover off, the slate wakes up immediately. Very intuitive.

I miss widgets a bit, and the modal notification mechanism is really primitive. I’d love to see those improved.

Being able to use a hard switch to lock and unlock orientation is pretty much perfect UI for me.

the Twitter client in particular blows my mind. The interface is very much like turning or shuffling pages – a visual stack mechanism that works perfectly for me. MobileRSS uses the same scheme.

No official Facebook client. Very odd. Halfway decent third party apps out there, but it could use the real deal.

The profusion of front ends to news organizations is occasionally disconcerting, and the UIs vary a little much. Bloomberg’s is gorgeous; if only I wanted to read more Bloomberg articles. NPR’s still seems to want to play random audio clips too often. No idea why. Ars Technica’s always starts with an ‘updating’ splash screen, which just seems clunky. What if I don’t have a ‘net connection?

the iPod client… Well, good and bad. The biggest issue I have is that I don’t adhere to the death of the album idea.  I often want to go troll through a genre, find an album, and play it, and a number of the categories’ UI elements discourage that particular method. Clunky here and there. Lots of experimentation. I hope they clean that up someday. It plays music, though, which again, Android? not so good at. Lots of crap music clients, lots of inconsistent playback.

There’s first impressions. Mostly positive.  Enjoying it, to be sure; here’s hoping it continues to please!

(crossposted from The Dream Library)
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Holiday List 2010

Well, here it is coming up on the Holidays in 2010. This year has already given us so much, it’s hard to ask for more.  That said? I’m a terrible, material person and more than capable of mentioning a few sparklies that have caught my eye. Here’s a sampling.

  • Fantasy Flight Games’ Mansions of Madness – oh deary me. A new FFG game, using the House on the Hill mechanic and an FFG quantity of tokens. muwahahaha!
  • Fantasy Flight Games’ DungeonQuest - Has been recommended as well.
  • Fantasy Flight Games’ Arkham Horror Miniatures - this falls under complete fancy – I can’t quite justify buying all 48 of these things, other than _they’re gorgeous_. waaaant. Only available through direct order, too. :p
  • WOTC’s Gamma World – I at least want to see what madness they’re up to here.
  • WOTC’s Monster Vault – and  for those odd moments when I run 4e, critter tokens galore!
  • WOTC’s Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms – love these little 4e expansions, too.
  • Luke Crane’s World Burner – Still curious what this guy is thinking – his system has so many great ideas so unfortunately tied to an implementation I can’t use…
  • Octavia Butler: Lilith’s Brood – Bought my first copy of this series about a decade ago and have read a hole in it. Time to get a newer copy.
  • Inception – Mmmm, Inception. Was my birthday present to myself  this year to see it in the theater.
  • Iron Man 2 – Well, of course. Haven’t given up on this little scheme of Marvel’s yet.
  • Chuck, Season 2 and 3 – Becky got a bit ahead of me on this one. We should catch up together.
  • Stargate, Boxed. – Somewhere after Becky got up here, her _entire_ Stargate DVD set went AWOL. We’ve never seen it again. It’d be nice to have it on hand; we enjoy its particular brand of cheese.
  • Music – Non-DRM’d, solid music of any reasonable sort. I’m still deeply attached to some previous and well-thought-out musical gifts.
  • Spices - Penzey’s has been supplying us with tasty spices for a while, and in some places we’re starting to run short.
  • Cataclysm - May as well announce my weakness now; yeah, my sabbatical from WoW will probably end sometime early next year. Having someone else buy me my next hit is villainous, though…
(crossposted from The Dream Library)
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Honeymoon Posting Part 1

In order to not announce to all those _really smart_ criminals that I’m wandering the world, I didn’t public-post anything about the honeymoon while we were out and about. Now that we’re home and the jetlag has receded to the point that I can imagine being caught up, here we go. This was all written at the time, often after a tiring day. I’m not much of a poet.

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A Holiday List of Expressed Desires

Indie Games (www.indiepressrevolution.com)

  • Don’t Rest Your Head / Don’t Lose Your Mind
  • Spirit of the Century
  • No More Roses (Houses of the Blooded Soundtrack)
  • Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor
  • Godlike
  • Play Dirty / Shotgun Diaries
  • Dogs in the Vineyard (out of print – good luck finding it!)
  • Yellow Sign books by John Wick

Other RPGs

  • Almost any Chaosium Call of Cthulhu expansion
  • Does it have style? Should I know about it?  Will it make me giddy?

Video Games

  • New Super Mario Brothers Wii
  • Zelda Twilight Princess Wii
  • Zelda Spirit Tracks (DS)


  • Order of the Stick graphic novels (other than volume 1)
  • Girl Genius graphic novels
  • Mouse Guard – Winter
  • Pulp fiction collections (Lensman, Doc Savage, and so on)
  • Patricia Briggs – Homecoming graphic novel
  • Robin McKinley – Sunshine


  • Female-fronted metal
  • Stuff that might come up if you Pandora’d Blue Stone and Enigma
  • Jam bands (a la Bela Fleck or Sound Tribe Sector 9)
  • Norah Jones – The Fall
(crossposted from The Dream Library)
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Houses of the Blooded

So I picked up Houses of the blooded for $5 at Indie Press Revolution – an investment I recommend to any gamer with any respect for John Wick and/or any interest in Narrative Roleplaying.

The game book is brilliantly written, with enough world to whet your palette and enough system to encourage a vivid and active world building narrative tragedy, from Conquest to Romance and Revenge (same word, different emphasis) to Mass Murder.

I’m going to have to go back and reread it a couple times to internalize it, but at this time, I have only respect for the ultimate effect.

It is, ultimately, an indie game, in that it doesn’t partake of the mainstream advancement philosophies, but I could hope that a lot of its ideas are adopted – a great many games would be richer for it.

Why don’t you have a copy yet?

(crossposted from The Dream Library)
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Our sweet kitty

On Saturday morning, around 9:30am, Bo started crying in the bedroom. We came to him (all of us, even Luke), and found him unwilling to move, clearly unhappy. Luke tried playing with him, but Bo wasn’t interested. Finally, Luke just settled for cleaning him thoroughly. We brought him to the vet at noon – he had moved a bit in the intervening time, to be near to people, but was still not doing well.

The vet noted his temp was low, and he was pale. Blood tests and X rays turned up nothing; at this point the theory at hand was that he’d eaten a string or somesuch – apparently the body doesn’t do well trying to digest something a foot long. The vet, unable to find something certain, but concerned, recommended we take Bo to the emergency clinic.

We did – took him up there, had the vet there check him out, and she quickly came back with a much more serious diagnosis – Bo had very poor circulation in his hind legs and wasn’t able to use them very well. She also looked at the X ray film and noted his heart wasn’t the right shape. The new theory was that his heart was failing, and he’d thrown a clot. If we could keep him healthy for a week or so, a cardiac ultrasound would be the next diagnostic step. Meanwhile, he was kept overnight at the clinic for observation. When I visited him before I left, he’d been given pain medication and IV fluids, and was pulling himself around the cage on his forelegs, his hind legs barely able to help.

We got a call last night around 10 that he’d progressed to full paralysis of the legs, but that his bowels and tail were still working.

This morning, nothing had changed, but he wasn’t doing well. The doctor explained that the prognosis really wasn’t all that good – blood thinners for cats don’t work very reliably, she said, and even if they did dissolve the clot, he’d likely be permanently incapacitated, on dangerous blood thinners, and we’d have no knowing when another clot would do more damage. As she explained the increasingly long-shot diagnostic steps, I had the appalling realization that we were losing him. That the cat we’d welcomed into our lives and our hearts was going to die before he’d even been here two years.

Becky and I went in together to say goodbye. He was listless, and had only gotten worse, even in the hour since I’d spoken with the vet on the phone. He was ours, though, and, bawling, we stayed with him to the end.

God bless you, Bo.

(crossposted from The Dream Library)
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Realms of Cthulhu

The following shall be considered More RPG Geekery.

With Eloria – Erich’s long-running world – ramping up, I’ve been getting familiar with the system he chose for this era – a lightweight pulp-oriented game by the name of Savage Worlds. Obviously, until I either run it significantly (I’m ramping up a small game in the Slipstream setting for this purpose) or get knee deep in Elorian play, I’m not going to know it fully. However, it’s got a striking appeal on the face of it.

Any idiot system can pull off skill challenges without causing brain hemorrhages. Some do it with panache, some make you faintly ill. In Savage Worlds, the question is: Can you roll a 4 on a single die? Oh, you’re a PC? You get a d6 to bolster whatever other die you’re using. There’s some color mechanics, but if your players can’t count to 4? time to go play Candyland.

Combat’s always complicated. Savage Worlds incorporates a critical concept: everyone must be important in combat scenes! If you’re not a gunbunny, then you’re sticking a leg out to trip the NPC, or conning the mooks into giving you the MacGuffin. Using your Agility or Smarts to trick the bad guys is a core mechanic and has a heavy impact on the flow of the fight.

So yeah, I’m enjoying the system for its simplicity, style, and flexibility.

I’ve ranted on and off about how awesome Trail of Cthulhu is. I’ve also commented that I’m not sure it’s playable. Fundamentally, to me, that means ‘Not fun to play’, or ‘gets in the way of story’. The presentation Ken Hite and Robin Laws make of investigative RP and of the Mythos is flawless. My problem is that the system is a little too nonintuitive for me. It’s lightweight, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want the PCs thinking quite so much about whether they need to spend their screen time now, or later, and niggling over probabilities. They need to be encouraged to throw themselves foolishly into the maw of madness.

So, I wondered: Can you run Call of Cthulhu in Savage Worlds? The key, hallmark element of games based on Lovecraft’s existential horror is that the Truth is not something human minds can deal with. The world _does_ hate you, because its most powerful beings are uncaring, horrible monsters. So when the pseudopods of their plots and schemes and heartless accidents intrude on your world… you’re pretty much guaranteed to go partly or completely mad.

The basic mechanic of wounds in Savage Worlds seems perfectly extensible to this concept, which is why, of course, noone went there. The Sanity system in Weird War II was just tacked on, and Deadlands, bizzarrely, is too pulpy for it to make sense there.

Reality Blurs decided they were going to get it right, and right they got it. Realms of Cthulhu presents us with a world where Fate is Unkind (rolled snake eyes? you may not spend a benny there), and Mental Anguish is the measure of a failed Guts check. Sanity is limited by your Corruption, whether you gained said Corruption by vile acts or by reading books to gain Knowledge (Mythos). It hangs together prettily on paper.

The next thing I want to do is iron out, for my own sanity, guidelines for handling investigations in Realms. I want to use the core Trail concept of never making players roll to get important clues. I think the system in Savage Worlds might be tight enough to allow investigative skills to be important even at a d4 – narrow, but usually rolled at an effective +4 – you will get the clue, and raises will get you more color. Still thinking. Just enjoying the prettiness of the system, still.

Yeah, I know I’ve not posted anything significant since July. I’ll see if I can’t get better at that.

(crossposted from The Dream Library)
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Continuing Improvements

Hobbies and entertainments are keeping me sanish in the face of the new state of my job. Beyond attempting to thoroughly internalize Mutants and Masterminds (and start sketching out game ideas), I’ve also gotten a new computer - a desktop to keep in the office. It’s a great beast of a thing compared to any computer I’ve used before - 64-bit Windows 7 with 6gb memory and 4 cores means I’ve got the horsepower to run virtual machines and whatnot with no effort.

I’ve also taken notice of the ease of using Remote Desktop - I’ve been hanging out in the living room and punching into the office computer to check downloads , and vice-versa for tinkering iTunes or whatnot. It’s neat, as is the Win7 Home Group polishing of the workgroup concept. easy and less annoying than workgroups.

Finding time for the amusements I wish to partake in is a constant pain. Can’t someone invent an 8th day for the week, please?

(crossposted from The Dream Library)