Friday, April 28, 2006

D&D Quandry

Occasionally, if for no other reason than a dearth of other things to write about, I have to turn to the original purpose of this blog, role-playing games. You've been warned. Tonight is family game night again (normally it's every other week, but we're doing it two weeks in a row for reasons I can't recall). It used to be that playing family game night meant family D&D night. But I wanted to figure out some way to play more board games. There's classics like Puerto Rico and Carcassonne which I've purchased and only played once or twice.

Each of the couples involved take turns preparing dinner for game night, and so the solution we arrived at was to have the couple preparing the meal choose what we played, whether it was D&D or some other board game. This has worked really well from the standpoint of board games. We're playing a lot more of them (not hard since before we were playing almost none). It hasn't worked quite as well from the standpoint of D&D. Mostly it's been hard from the standpoint of continuity. We end up playing D&D about once every other month, which means that no one remembers what was going on. No one is particularly invested in their character. And variations of these problems make it difficult for me as the DM.

There are a variety of possible solutions to the problem (at this point I suppose it would be a good idea to interject that on a 1 to 10 scale of problem severity, that this would come in around a 0.001) but most of them involve either not playing D&D any longer or not playing board games. However there is one that might work and I think I may suggest it tonight. D&D campaigns are generally divided up into adventures, perhaps the solution would be that once we start an adventure we play nothing but D&D until it's done. And then in-between adventures we play boardgames until people are ready to play D&D again...

For those of you that made it this far I salute you. It's hard enough to have to read game-related posts. Reading posts about game-scheduling has to be a violation of the Geneva Convention. So if you made it this far here are a couple of rewards: a Forbes article on the best places to go to prison and a story about the judge in the case of the Da Vinci embedding a secret message in the ruling.

What this blog needs is more cowbell

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hind Sight and Tongue Sight

We had a school program to attend last night. All of the grades have studied different continents and so they put together a big production with every grade doing three song and/or dance numbers in the theme of their continent. I asked my wife if I could bring a book to read as long as I didn't read it while our kids were performing. She added the additional condition that I had to help watch the little kids (I think I kept up that end of the bargain, I took the number two son to the bathroom 3 times during the hour long program) but then said it was okay.

The book I took was the one I blogged about yesterday. She hadn't read my blog, when she did she was a little upset, I think. She said something like, "That was the book that was more important that the school program!?" Normally I'm pretty careful to avoid blogging about things that are going to get me in trouble, but that kind of blind-sided me.

On that note, I think I'll end here before I say anything that might get me in trouble (it's probably already too late for that). I do have a link to a story on a device that lets you see with your tongue. It sounds pretty cool. I think there's a real need for things that use other senses than sight and hearing to convey information. Sight in particular seems overwhelmed by all the things we ask of it.

Trying to balance restlessness and fatigue

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lame! Lame! Lame!

So I'm reading this series, "The Runelords", which a friend of mine gave me. I'm halfway through book two. Far enough along that some of the plot points are engaging. However much of it is very frustrating. I'll try and explain my frustration without giving too much of the book away. Just in case someone decides that despite my very mixed review that they still want to read it.

Part of the appeal of the fantasy novel is they way it can tap into those things which are epic. We were watching the "Return of the King" the other night and we got to the scene where Gandalf and Pippin crest the hill and you see Minas Tirith, the seven walled city, off in the distance. And my daughter spontaneously said, "Wow! That's cool." And this novel has exactly those sorts of things soaring castles, ancient towers, and seemingly impregnable walls. When you hear of something like that you expect something along the lines of The Battle of Pelennor Fields.

Instead the main bad guy develops this cheesy way of overcoming strongholds by himself. Actually overcoming is the wrong word he destroys them and everyone inside by himself. And there is no build-up to this, no attempt to create a veneer of verisimilitude. It's as if you were playing a fantasy war game and you had marshalled your armies, built up your castles, armed your soldiers and your opponent says, "I attack your capital city." To which you reply, "What are you talking about you're nowhere near my capital city, what about my armies, my castles?" And he replies, "I nuke it." And then like the author he proceeds to do just that. I'm guessing that you'd walk away in disgust and never play the game again. Which is perhaps what I should do, but my reading, and my rant continues...

One of the things that bothers me about it, and which I mention because it probably doesn't bother anyone else, is why didn't someone come up with this "technology before? The book provides no clue to that, no recent discovery, no serendipitous coincidence, no condition which exists at the time of the narrative that didn't exist for thousands of years before.

But all of that pales in comparison to the biggest problem of all: it's not epic, it's not cool, it's not even believable (even by the stretched standards of fantasy) it's LAME, LAME, LAME, LAME LAME!!!!!!!!

I really need to start writing again

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Birthday Party

Well my number two son turned 5 on Sunday. We celebrated his birthday yesterday. We had a couple of family members down, but most of them wimped out. Which is fine, we live about an hour away from the bulk of my family, and I don't expect them to make that journey every time one of their nephews has a birthday. What we really need to do is move closer. I think we're going to move at some point, but I'm not sure when.

I don't think our current house could contain four teenagers, so that's one deadline. Taking care of parents might be another, though my parents have graciously agreed that when one of them dies that we can euthanize the other. If I switched jobs it might also make sense to move, but at the moment I think we'll stay were we are. Though I can dream.

My main house dream involves a library. My ideal library came to me in a vision while I was watching a pretty awful Jekyll and Hyde play. I'll try and describe it. Imagine a two-story (at least) house, set into a hillside. The front door is back against the hill, so that you enter the home on the second floor. The entry way is open to the front corner of the house (the one farthest away from the hill and the most exposed) which is taken up entirely by a two story library.

Books make me hot

Monday, April 24, 2006

Fun weekend (may include gaming references)

I had a pretty good weekend. A friend of mine has been travelling all over the west and he swung through town on his return trip. On Friday I invited him up to the family game night and he provided the game "Category 5" and interesting little hurricane themed game that played really well with 8 people. The we played some "Squint" and "Phooie". Overall quite a fun night.

Saturday he came by and we played some Dreamblade (he beat me) and then once my wife got home from all of her morning activites we went out and played some disc golf. The weather couldn't have been better. That night was my monthly "Age of Worms" campaign which also went very well I thought. Sunday my friend went to church with us, we played one last Dreamblade game (he beat me again), had Sunday dinner and he left.

The rest of the day would have been the ideal calm restful Sunday evening, but I had a Family Reunion Committee meeting (my sister and I are in charge) which broke up the otherwise blissful day, but even it couldn't completely throw things off. Overall one of the more pleasant weekends in recent memory.

One final note, the Hubble Telescope is celebrating it's 16th birthday, and they decided to celebrate by releasing this gorgeous picture of a starburst galaxy. If you've got the bandwidth for it I would definitely recommend the zoomable option.

Rested and relaxed for once

Friday, April 21, 2006

Global Warming, so what?

A week or so ago my bother-in-law pointed me at the trailer for An Inconvient Truth. A new movie about Al Gore and global warming. So I watch it, and Al talks about retreating glaciers, the disappearance of snow from Kilimanjaro, rising sea levels, all pretty standard stuff. Then he whips out a power point presentation which shows what various places will look like if the sea level goes up. There's New York, Florida, Shanghai, and a couple of others. Like I said all pretty standard.

From there, as you may expect, he starts talking about Katrina, which in my opinion is where he starts treading on shaky ground, but it's nothing compared to the quicksand he disappears into just a few seconds later. See as he's talking about Katrina, he makes reference to the enormous number of refugees left in the wake of the hurricane, and then... and this is low even for a politician... he starts talking about that instead of thousands of refugees that those rising sea level pictures he showed of New York, Florida, Shanghai, etc. are going to create hundreds of millions of refugees, and of course all of this is accompanied by pictures of Katrina refugees wading through waist deep water.

Now think about this for a second. How long do you figure it's going to take for those sea levels to rise? Most estimates speak in terms of the next 100 years with estimates ranging from 20 cm to 1 meter. Let's say it's a meter, then that's 1 cm a year? How is this going to cause an unmanagable supply of millions upon millions of refugees again? What's very interesting here, is that this is clearly fear-mongering, which is precisely what people seem to be so upset with Bush about, but I digress.

So I gave my brother three links:Of the three only one is a scientist actually involved in climate research, but that's okay, because I imagine no one who reads this blog is either. Rather we're people trying to evaluate what the climate scientists (and politicians like Al Gore) are telling us, which is exactly what Crichton and Card are doing, and very well.

100 years? I'm having difficulty grasping the concept of September

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Greenpeace and Nuclear Power

I've decided to start titling my blogs, since that's how they show up under the "Previous Posts". Though now I have to come up with a pithy title and a pithy sign-off. I think there may be a limit to the amount of pithiness I can summon on any given day, and I may just have exceeded it. The new blog is getting of to a slow start, I imagine that in part because people figured in light of my spotty performance of the last month or two that I had essentially stopped blogging, so they stopped checking. However I am experiencing something of a rennaisance, so hopefully the entries will not only be more frequent but more enjoyable.

Of course titling my blogs will lead some people to actually expect me to at some point cover the subject alluded to in the title. And on this point I hope not to dissapoint, at least not very often. So on to the subject of Greenpeace and Nuclear Power. It turns out that just a few days ago, Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, wrote an article in the Washington Post declaring his support for nuclear power. As he mentions he is not the first prominent environmentalist to come out in support of nuclear power, and I'm glad to see that it appears to be a trend.

It's also nice to see that some people rather than opposing all risk, recognize the necessity of some risk and are able to weigh relative risks as he does in this paragraph:

Over the past 20 years, one of the simplest tools -- the machete -- has been used to kill more than a million people in Africa, far more than were killed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings combined. What are car bombs made of? Diesel oil, fertilizer and cars. If we banned everything that can be used to kill people, we would never have harnessed fire.

I think or I at least hope that the long witch-hunt against nuclear energy is finally drawing to a close. I'm not sure what this says about humanity, that common sense triumphs in the end? I sure hope so, because there are many issues on which a little common sense is desperately needed.

Pregnant with nuclear power's love child

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Finally Moved My Blog

Well I finally got around to moving my blog. In the final analysis moving to a free blog service with a CAPTCHA feature was easier than upgrading and continuing to administer my own software, and I'm allowing anyone to post a comment, so I don't feel like I've lost anything by the move. I've already done most of the customization I'm going to do though I still need to figure out how to include a link back to the archive of my blog up until this point. Well that's enough of the boring technical details.

I did notice after I disabled comments on the old blog, that quite a bit of my motivation for blogging vanished. Obviously not every entry got much less deserved a comment, but the chance of eliciting some reaction was always exciting. Having spent much of the time allowed to me for blogging on setting up the blog I don't have anything earthshattering to write about, but I would like to point out an interesting article about the F-22 Raptor. The criticism is important just on it's own merit, but the comparison they make between the F-22 and the Me-262 “Stormbird” is fascinating.

New look, same whining