Sep. 24th, 2017 01:13 am
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Well, those were some big blue tears. No joy in Catville tonight. Talk about snatching defeat from the snaggletoothed, reptilian jaws of victory...


Sep. 16th, 2017 08:21 am
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Bad week. Not gonna talk about it here and now.

More important topic. Gnomes. What the fuck?

D&D gnomes, specifically. Why are they necessary? What role do they serve? What is supposed to be their unique schtick? 'cause as far as I can tell, they're basically comic relief for people who don't think halflings go far enough out on the "wacky jolly small people" axis.

Now, I have seen halflings played straight, and played downright unnerving (looking at you, Kulik). But that's rare in my experience. Gnomes... seem to have taken too many cues from their counterparts in World of Warcraft, what with the slapstick pranks and anime hair and woo-woo anachronistic tinkering. (Not being an old-school D&D player, I am uncertain if they were like that before WoW came on the scene.)


Sep. 4th, 2017 01:00 pm
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The girl and I went out to Reed Valley Orchard this morning. We came home with 42 pounds of apples (which we bought by volume, but which averaged out to 95¢/lb) and about 10 pounds of pears.

We may wind up needing to buy a dorm fridge to store our pomological excess.

Also, over the summer, I got the girl a dehydrator for her birthday. As it so happens, six large apples in 1/4" slices will just about fill its five trays.

And if you need to core a lot of apples in a hurry, a power drill with a 5/8" spade bit will do the job quite nicely. I advise wearing safety glasses and holding the apples in the sink as you drill them. The process produces a small amount of debris but distributes it widely...

ETA: Also, ran four miles this morning. Average pace was crap - 12:06 - but still. Four miles.
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There's a thread running on /r/rpg about how the gaming hobby has evolved over the last couple of decades. It does my cold, shriveled little heart good to see some people posting there who've been gaming for 40 years. Lots of interesting discussion, and very little venom or cries of the hobby's ruin because of Trend X.

It's got me thinking about why it's been so damned hard, these last few years, to get any sort of sustained campaign going. Adulting is hard, and I have very few tribe members left in the same city as myself, and the various online platforms do not quite offer the same experience as gathering around the table. But the hardest part seems to be the scheduling.

Someone else, in another Reddit thread, remarked that for adult gamers, getting the sustained commitment to a weekly or biweekly game has to include a social contract which stresses each individual player's commitment to the team. It's like a sports season - you gotta show up if you want to win, and the rest of the team is counting on you to be there for your role in the shared recreation. I can dig it.

And I'm feeling somewhat retro right now. Not necessarily in an OSR way - I generally like modern game design trends. But I want my next face-to-face campaign to be analog. Core books on the table, hardcopy character sheets and GM notes, physical dice, and no electronic devices allowed out. I want to see if it cuts down the distractions and ADD.


Aug. 26th, 2017 08:42 pm
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So I ran this morning. 3.15 miles, just spitting distance beyond 5k. Crappy pace by the standards I try to hold myself to, 12:25 mile average, but I got it done without stopping and I didn't curl up in pain afterward. Little sore from the bouncing but I'm mostly functional after three weeks off and don't seem to have lost too much cardio.

Still not gonna get back on the bike for at least another week, though. Only seems prudent.

Afterward, the girl and I got breakfast from our favorite local bakery and had a picnic in a park before hitting the farmers' market. Then I persuaded her to come with me to the range and work the spotting scope while I put a hundred-yard zero on a rifle. Afterward, we drove around the farm roads looking for birds, but they were mostly off work, save for the usual vultures and a couple of hawks. Got lunch at a local barbecue place that is far better than its squeaky-clean appearance suggests. Came home, cleaned said rifle, and took care of some paperwork management that I'd been putting off for a while.

Not a bad day.


Aug. 20th, 2017 01:12 pm
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First day back in the gym after two weeks off for surgical recovery.

Wow, conditioning went to hell fast. I didn't do any leg work except a few squats and I came out of there barely able to walk.

Admittedly, low blood sugar might have had something to do with it. Maybe I should have eaten more than half an apple beforehand.

Still not ready to try running again. I'm thinking next weekend for that. Biking is right out for the moment.


Aug. 19th, 2017 08:41 am
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A few years ago, I poked at the online port of Magic: The Gathering as a possible mechanism for recapturing that particular part of my misspent youth. It was a good enough investment of time and money but I dropped it because no one else I knew was playing it.

I'm still on the email list, though. Yesterday, I got a customer survey. And they made the mistake of offering a text box for comments. )


Aug. 17th, 2017 06:10 pm
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11 hours at work today. We activate the school's emergency operations center for major move-in days because of the scale and complexity of the operation in the field. 50+ officers on traffic control, several hundred employees and volunteers wrangling parking and carts and check-in and all the other details, food and water and communications support for all of those people... it gets big.

My job in the EOC is operations manager - basically the same as it was at my last workplace, but with a bit more autonomy. I'm supposed to know enough about the field operation and the other people in the room to know who to put in position to solve which problems. I also have to maintain situational awareness over the room and the field and handle radio communication with the field folks.

So for most of that 11 hours, I was running in about a 5- to 10-minute cycle that went something like:

Check weather radar on one big screen to see if we're about to get hit with a pop-up.

Check separate lightning tracking system on a second big screen to see if we have any active thunderstorms in the region.

Take a help line call from an incoming freshman (or freshman's parent) who doesn't know what residence hall he's supposed to move into today. Wonder aloud about the likely academic success of someone who drives to campus without knowing where he's supposed to put his stuff.

Check the tracking system on a third big screen for numbers of students moved in through each residence hall and unloading zone.

Tab over to one of three different sites with move-in info to look up information for one of my colleagues who's answering the move-in help lines.

Check the fire department dispatch board on a fourth big screen for any runs on or near campus that might have to come through our traffic patterns.

Check security cameras on the left half of the video wall for any indications of issues in the unloading zones or residence hall check-in desks.

Check city traffic cameras on the right half of the video wall for any indications of traffic problems.

Make sure the cops working my assigned sector are okay.

Make sure everyone else working the room has what they need.

Take a help line call from someone who failed to follow instructions and is trying to follow Waze directions into our traffic pattern going the wrong way. Tab over to Google Maps, find their current location, give them turn-by-turn directions to the residence hall inflow streets.

Tab over to a third weather site to check wind gusts. Provide my cops a weather update on the radio.

Listen to the cops report that yet another GPS zombie tried to enter the traffic pattern the wrong way, completely ignoring the orange cones, the cop in the eye-searing fluorescent vest, and the car with badges and red-and-blue flashy lights.




Aug. 7th, 2017 09:36 am
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Occasionally, E and I go off on worldbuilding tangents that result in new fictitious species. This has previously resulted in the ghost plum and the spider peacock. Last week, someone's Reddit handle inspired discussion of the floating ghost carrot.

Well, it's not really a carrot. Nor does it float. It's actually a subspecies of ginseng that can temporarily activate latent telekinetic powers.

The problem is that while a lot of people would like to have latent telekinetic powers, very few actually do. Because some of the interested-but-without are wealthy, powerful, and unscrupulous (but I repeat myself), this has resulted in a significant off-the-books genetic research project to identify the source of latent telekinesis. The results have been... questionable science, at best. And some of those results point to specific organs as the source of said latent telekinesis. Which has, in turn, resulted in a growing black market trade in organs stolen from latent telekinetic persons for transplant.


Aug. 4th, 2017 09:35 pm
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I have had a surprising amount of fun this evening in making PCs with the second edition Mongoose Traveller rulebook. And luck that absolutely defies my dice-rolling in any random character generation process where I'm actually going to play for reals.

My first pass yielded a belter whose childhood dream was to serve on the massive naval vessels that occasionally passed through his home system on commerce protection cruises. He applied to the naval academy as soon as he was of age, but failed to earn a slot. Undaunted, he enlisted - and was tapped for officer candidate school anyway. Decorated for valor early in his career, he enjoyed a meteoric rise to captain's rank. Unfortunately, he was wounded in action, suffering severe nerve damage. While the Navy paid for rehab, the setback to his career was too much. The enemies he'd made in the service saw their opportunity. He was passed over for flag rank and ultimately drummed out - though he did manage to serve long enough to receive a full pension.

Having made a few connections in the diplomatic corps during his time dirtside as a naval attaché, he landed a position with that august organization, spending another twelve years "continuing warfare through other means" before growing weary of bureaucratic entanglements and deciding to strike out on his own.

The second character was a vargr who grew up on a dirt-poor colony world. He wanted to get off his home rock by any means necessary. After a failed attempt to break into the naval service as a pilot, he entered the draft and was selected for shipboard service as a marine - ironically and painfully close to the objects of his desire. Amazingly, he also was recognized as a potential leader despite his low birth and received a commission. In the subsequent twelve years, he was seriously injured in action three times while clawing his way to the rank of captain. The third near-death experience made him rethink his life choices, realizing that a little peace and quiet wasn't so bad.

He returned to his homeworld, using his separation bonus to buy a small ranch. Unfortunately, while he'd been away, the subsector had come under threat from its neighbors. Unwilling to abandon the planet or bend the knee when the invaders arrived, he instead joined the insurgency formed around the survivors of the planetary militia. Despite his age, his prior experience earned him a second commission, this time as the leader of a cavalry troop. After the war, he stayed on long enough to finish converting the insurgent forces to a professional military before resigning his commission and trying once again to do something that didn't involve getting shot.

The way the timelines line up, they were in their first careers simultaneously and got out simultaneously. It's a good bet that they served together, possibly even fighting in different parts of the major action that forced both of them out of service. After that, their next meeting would have been the catalyst for beginning their career as PCs: the diplomat was part of a diplomatic mission to the vargr's homeworld after a stable government was re-established. This gives me a solid duo of leaders with a good narrative structure around which to wrap the rest of a team. The old man and the old wolf decide they're gonna have some adventures on their own terms, perhaps, or maybe they're going to go take care of old scores across known space. Either way, they're gonna need a crew...


Aug. 1st, 2017 07:09 am
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The new job has a few benefits that aren't immediately evident on the total value of compensation sheet. Among these are a location and commute route that are somewhat conducive to biking and an employee gym with $7/month membership and free personal trainer sessions.

So my exercise log for July looks a little something like this:

R = run (Couch to 5k ongoing, with yesterday being my first unbroken 5k since last October).
G = gym.
B = bike commute (7 miles each way).

I'm not going to be able to maintain that consistent of a tempo once the kids move in again and our operational tempo ramps up, but I think it's a pretty good first month.
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A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this blog post, in which the author discusses the ways in which GMing and leading raids in WoW prepared him for a project management career.

So much resonance.

I've joked before about the crossover between full-scale disaster exercises and LARPs. At least, a lot of people who've heard that have thought I was joking. A smaller subset knows I'm not.

A lot of what we do in emergency management involves constructing hypothetical scenarios that have to be plausible and internally consistent, and then figuring out how to respond to them. Whether we're doing that on our own in the office or pulling together a cross-functional team from both the expected and the unlikely response agencies, we do a lot of forward-looking problem-solving. What we call a "tabletop exercise," most gamers would recognize immediately as a rules-light gaming session. There aren't polyhedral dice or (usually) character sheets because most of the participants are in play as themselves or their agencies, but the flow of discussion between players and the exercise controllers (read: GMs) is pretty much what I've been doing in this hobby for decades.

I'm not exactly getting paid to participate in my hobby but a surprising amount of the skill set is applicable...


Jul. 3rd, 2017 05:47 pm
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So. First bike commute today. Picked this date for low expected traffic, as I figured a good portion of the city took the day off. Campus was certainly a wasteland.

Out: 7.04 miles in 40:45. Average speed 10.4 mph.

Back: 6.97 miles in 38.28. Average speed 10.9 mph.

I figured I'd shave off more mileage on the return leg with the altered route I took, but that did not happen. Hm.

My legs are dizzy.

Probably won't do another one this week due to gym and gaming schedules, but I think I can handle this.


Jun. 25th, 2017 04:06 pm
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Jesus Fucking Christ. Every single chain barbershop wants digits and/or email so they can spam me and monetize me, and all of the locally-owned ones are filthy refuges of chain-smokers who gleefully brag about how many times they've been cited for violations of the local anti-smoking ordinance. It's fucking impossible to just peacefully walk into a place, hand over money, not feel filthy, and walk out with less hair.


Jun. 18th, 2017 03:14 pm
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Happy Father's Day to my friends who are responsible dads raising pretty cool kids.

And for those who aren't fathers, let's hoist a frosty beverage to having zero kids and three money. ;)


Jun. 4th, 2017 12:25 pm
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E has been out of town all week, visiting family. I am reminded of what an incomplete human I am without her. Especially where food is concerned.

I've gotten a surprising amount of stuff done around the house and yard, though, and I've kept up my exercise schedule. Not sure how well that would work in the long term. Fortunately, she's due back tonight.

I've also spent a fair amount of time doing nothing productive. I'm eight episodes into The Expanse. It's a pretty good adaptation of the novel series. The visuals are fantastic, albeit a little poorly-lit at times. I only have a couple of gripes. Some of the dialogue is unclear, and I'm not sure if that's the audio quality or my rapidly-aging ears. And I'm not very happy with the fact that it took the main crew seven episodes to start acting like a crew, in large part due to the ham-handed characterization of Amos (which I suspect is on the writers - the actor's doing a fine job with what they've given him). But things seem to be evening out as the situation on Eros begins to go sideways.

I've also spent a handful of hours this weekend on the fresh beta release of the new Battletech PC game. It's limited to 4v4 matches against the AI, so that's not going to hold my attention for long... but based on what I've played so far, and Harebrained Schemes' track record with story for the Shadowrun Returns series, I have high hopes for the finished product. I've been playing mainly in the lower end of the weight range, with light/medium lances totaling 15M C-Bills (the balancing system for this mode), with occasional forays into the 20M bracket. MVPs so far: Centurion and, surprisingly, Commando. And a full backshot from a Victor is just as spectacular as it should be.


May. 28th, 2017 10:28 am
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Spent most of the week on the road for work. It was a good trip - a conference on emergency management in my current focus area - but I had to be socially on constantly. Got back around dinnertime Thursday night and was basically useless all day Friday, even with a half-day off (we put in some extra hours during the conference for various reasons). I did get in one run Thursday morning but otherwise it was a week of too much restaurant food and not enough exercise.

After a week of not being here, I resumed the bike experiment today. This morning's ride was 8.5 miles at just over 9 miles per hour. That includes a couple of stops to talk to E, who was out walking (and conducting digital gladiatorial battles with Japanese pocket monsters), but it's still not the sort of speed I need to sustain if I'm going to commute this way.

The bike shop warned me that bike tires lose air faster than car tires, and they weren't kidding. The tires on the new ride are spec'd for 65-100 psi and they were sitting around 50. Found out that the floor pump they sold me didn't come with an adapter for my valve stems, which pissed me off, but the compressor from my car kit took care of the job quite nicely. I still have some adjustment issues with the front brakes and the front derailleur, but I'll let the professionals handle those next weekend.

Wildlife seen on today's ride: the resident snapping turtle in the creek in the park. Two yard ducks. Most interestingly, a Cooper's hawk soaring across a residential street in front of me and pulling up (and through tree branches) to parallel me for a few seconds. I heard a lot of bird-squabbling around that time but didn't see anyone pursuing or being pursued.

Also tested today: bike shorts, which look just as ridiculous as you'd expect but do significantly increase comfort thanks to the built-in nad pad (a term which I am now trademarking). As they do not include pockets, I also rode with the chest harness I use to hold my phone and ID and keys while I'm running. It, too, looks mildly ridiculous, but it's far more secure than the pockets of any normal shorts I own. So two successful gear checks there.


May. 14th, 2017 05:45 pm
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So. Mother's Day.

Handling it by not looking at it. Which only works as long as I stay in motion.

I wish I'd known her.


May. 13th, 2017 06:14 pm
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So... cardio has been really hard to acquire and maintain with thrice-weekly runs the past couple of years. And I have this university job on a campus where they're trying to discourage excessive car use (in no small part because the parking infrastructure is twenty pounds of shit in a ten-pound bag). And, based on Dad's example, my joints aren't gonna hold up to running indefinitely. And I've been looking for other ways to stay less-unfit.

So I bought myself a bicycle.

I think the last time I was on a bike was 1992. I probably didn't ride more than a dozen times after I got my driver's license (which may explain why my junior year cross-country season, when I didn't have a car, was far more successful that my senior year...).

This has the potential to be an epic debacle. The eventual intent is commuting. I'm definitely gonna have to build up to that. I did a 3.5-mile test ride around the neighborhood this afternoon. I didn't fall off but I wasn't exactly displaying laser-like precision, either.

On the plus side, holy shit, an aluminum-frame bike is a lot lighter than anything I remember. 24.2 pounds for this thing. And these indexed shifters that have become a thing in the past 25 years beat the hell out of the old ratchety ones.


May. 7th, 2017 06:11 pm
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I've been fiddling with some D&D character concepts lately (see previous post about tabaxi). As is usually the case with D&D, character concepts lead into worldbuilding, because I like to have some backstory about a character's origins.

Something triggered a memory from a thread on /r/dnd, and I wish I could provide attribution, because this one throwaway line suggests a lot of really cool setting work. The premise is that humans are the result of elves and orcs breeding.

This neatly explains why you can get half-elves and half-orcs, but no other racial pairings in D&D result in half-breeds. It also implies a very interesting history of how and why elves and orcs once got it on in sufficient numbers to produce a viable human population. This feels more mechanically-supported in D&D5 than in 3.x/Pathfinder/OGL, given the former's lack of racial attribute penalties... notably, making the average orc no less intelligent, wise, or charismatic than the average human. And that change also neatly undermines the traditional setting design assumption that all orcs are barbarians, incapable of creating and sustaining civilized cultures.



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