13 December 2007

Gibson robot guitar ad

Gibson has a self-tuning guitar they’re calling the “robot guitar”. They got some funny ads for it playing up the “robot” angle. This may be my favorite...

12 December 2007

Mongoose Traveller playtest v3

Wouldn’t you know it. Yesterday I print the Mongoose Traveller playtest document v2—today they post v3.

11 December 2007

ADD, Mongoose Traveller, & me

I feel like, as I get older, I’m developing attention deficit. I printed out the Mongoose Traveller playtest document, but I just can’t seem to concentrate on reading it.

Look it up!

I’m often amazed to see people suggest that something in an RPG should be glossed or explained when it can just be looked up in nigh any dictionary or encyclopedia. I don’t think games should bother explaining such things unless it’s use in the game differs in some important way from the real-world.

Rogues in the RPG

Today, I read this sentence in reference to the Mongoose Traveller playtest document: “Rogue—sounds too D&Dish, honestly.” That’s kind of ironic considering that Traveller used “rogue” long before (Supplement 4, Citizens of the Imperium, 1979) D&D did (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, Player’s Handbook, 1989).

Building a story, a world, or...

It seems it’s been a while since I posted anything RPG related. I guess I’ve been taking a mental break from the hobby. Except for playing my PCs. I’ve been mulling things over in the back of my mind, though. I think I really need to make an effort to focus less on mechanics and more on...content. Ray Winninger’s seventh rule of dungeoncraft has been haunting me: “Running a good D&D campaign is about building a world, not about building a story.” (Please note that this is about my own interpretations of those phrases, not necessarily Ray’s. I’m sure I’ve forgotten many important parts of his articles.) Building a story has actually worked pretty well for me in the past. I even tried to fool myself into thinking I wasn’t building a rail-road when I really was. I want to try to avoid doing that again. I’ve tried a pure sandbox campaigns (a sandbox for the PCs to play in rather than a plot for the PCs to follow), but those often haven’t been very satisfying either. (And I’ve currently sworn off modules again. I’m seldom happy with the outcome when I run someone else’s adventure. Though the recent running of B4 wasn’t too bad.) I think the Lord of the Rings campaign went pretty well. Ostensibly it was a sandbox—or I tried to convince myself it was one—but it wasn’t really. It was creating and playing antagonists. There were events afoot that the PCs were going to choose to get involved in, but their parts weren’t written for them. Presumably they could have not gotten involved, but I had no doubt they would. Another set of players might not have, and it probably wouldn’t have gone so well in that case. Of course, another big ingredient in the LotR campaign was the encounters I made up for their journeys across Middle-earth, which would often be more local color than anything to do with the wider events taking place. But enough rambling aimlessly. The essential point is that I really think I need to think more about “content” for the next campaign I run and less about mechanics.

10 December 2007

Exposé and ion

I’m a fan of Ion, a window manager for X. Arguably one of the few window managers that actually manages windows. I think we spend way too much time at our computers moving, resizing, and switching between windows. Ion helps with that. It’s biggest problem is that too many applications make assumptions that can be at odds with Ion. There’s also a case to be made that, for some applications, the traditional method works better than Ion’s. An Ion user, however, can use Xnest to have the best of both worlds. Exposé kind of reminds me of Ion. It allows me to temporarily switch into an Ionesque paradigm for a moment. In fact, since it shows live windows–just scaled down—I’ve found myself remaining in Exposé when I’m waiting for multiple tasks to be completed.

Web forum whining

The thing is, there’s only one way to improve an online discussion.

  • It is not leaving
  • It is not whining
  • It is not smacking down the trolls
  • It is not criticizing the moderators

It is simply ignoring the trolls and posting the kinds of posts you want to be reading.

I suppose I should note that my recent absences from web fora has nothing to with not being happy with them. They just aren’t a priority for me right now.

Not to say that I’m not a hypocrite. Just not in this specific case at this specific time. (^_^) I think.

Why I fear complexity in EcmaScript 4

Various thoughts I had whilst reading Brendan’s @media Ajax Keynote. I don’t see why every EcmaScript programmer can’t learn to use closures and prototypes. These are not difficult concepts, yet they are extremely powerful. Of course, if the new stuff is really less verbose and less error-prone, I’m all for it. It’s better, however, if any more concise and less error-prone elements are built on top of existing features rather than introducing new features. The thing that worries me about adding classes to EcmaScript is that it increases the complexity. An increase in complexity in software means an decrease in stability and a decrease in security. For EcmaScript, it also means raising the barrier for implementing and maintaining the language. Less complexity means that implementors can take time to do things like removing the memory leak bugs from their closure implementation rather than wasting time adding essentially duplicate features and, by the way, implementing those poorly as well. It’s not that I’m afraid I’ll be forced to use new features that I don’t want to. I want new features, and I want to use them! I’ve been writing software long enough to know the dangers of complexity, though. Features have to over justify the complexity they bring. Better to add macros that allow more concise syntax to use existing features than to add features because you don’t have macros. Putting more burden on people writing static analysis tools is exactly the wrong thing. EcmaScript needs to encourage lots of static analysis tools. And, by the way, the less complex they are, the better they will be as well. I’m all for evolution. I certainly think things can and should be made better. But I want it to be better. I think I mostly agree with Bredan except:
  • I think additional complexity needs huge justifications
  • I’m suspicious of claims that anything should be added because it will improve the sales pitch

Brand-new beat-up guitars, redux

Here’s the thing that really bugs me about these brand-new beat-up guitars: There can only be—what—1,000 people who care. (They’re usually limited runs of less than a couple-hundred units.) So, let’s limit the hype to channels that’ll hit that 1K and keep the noise out of the channels the rest of us are listening to. Let’s spend more time looking at the instruments that the millions of the rest of us can afford to buy and actually play.

The Octa-Switch

This may be the most brilliant bit of guitar gear ever.

  • Plug up to eight effects pedals into it
  • Use a simple bank of eight DIP switches to choose which effects will be used when you step on one of the Octa-Switch’s footswitches
  • Each of its footswitches has its own complete set of DIP switches right there above the footswitch itself

Simple and easy to use. If this had been around last spring, I might have seriously considered individual pedals instead of the Digitech RP350.

(Of course, the RP350 still has the advantage that switching presets also does the equivalent of twiddling knobs on the individual pedals. And 140 presets. And USB. And a tuner. OK, the RP350 has a lot of advantages.)

The web ain’t print!

I read a 929 word article recently. It was split into three web pages. This isn’t print. An article that short works better on one web page than three. Even worse, the last page was just a single sentence. That would have been a faux pas in print as well.

Two unusual guitars

Around 1976, Fender tried to make it’s version of a Gibson ES-335: The Fender Starcaster. Around 1993, Gibson tried to make it’s version of a Fender: The Gibson Nighthawk. Neither were considered a success. (Also, I don’t think either were the only attempt by either company to copy be inspired by the other. Just interesting examples.) (These were brought to mind when I noticed that Fender has revived the Starcaster name for what appear to me to be rebranded Squier Strats.)

What you must say

From this year’s state of the onion (page 2):

Human languages therefore differ not so much in what you can say but in what you must say. In English, you are forced to differentiate singular from plural. In Japanese, you don’t have to distinguish singular from plural, but you do have to pick a specific level of politeness, taking into account not only your degree of respect for the person you’re talking to, but also your degree of respect for the person or thing you’re talking about.

Which struck me as a particularly profound observation about both human and computer languages.

Good-bye CompUSA

One of my former employers is going out of business. I was trying to put into words why this wasn’t a surprise to me, but it turns out David Pogue did that for me last spring: “Most of the stores I’ve visited have been sterile and soulless, and pervaded by a feeling of abandonment.” (The Gutting of CompUSA) That’s indeed how I felt the few times I was there in recent years. I was lucky that, when I worked there, there were some great people who ensured that wasn’t the case. They were knowledgeable. They were friendly and fun. They created events—in connection with local Austin developers when possible—and other ways to draw people into the store. But they did it in spite of the company. The company did nothing to create, attract, develop, or retain such people. Sure, competing with online stores isn’t easy, but—with the right people properly motivated—I’ve no doubt they could have done it successfully.

06 December 2007

A common misconception about DVDs

Since copy protection failed in the software world ages ago, they had to come up with a new name for it once the book, record, and movie companies wanted to try to revive it. So, now they call it DRM—digital rights management. The so-called DRM used on DVDs does absolutely nothing to prevent copying. Pirates don’t have to break the copy protection to copy DVDs. Rather, it merely prevents you from building a DVD player (or writing a software DVD player for a computer) without a license.

02 December 2007

Singular they

In the annotation to Irregular Webcomic! No. 1769 David Morgan-Mar discusses singular “they”. For myself, as long as even the prescriptivists continue endorsing the use of singular “you” rather than the grammatically correct “thou”, I’m going to remain perfectly happy with singular “they”. Of course, when both Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw used it, it’s hard to believe even the prescriptivists can be against it.

01 December 2007

Geek rock

According to Wikipedia, there’s a “geek rock” genre. Weezer, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, and Barenaked Ladies are listed as examples. On a loosely related note: Friday I was listening to Weezer’s blue album both in the car and at my desk. I was shocked by the difference between the car’s speakers and the headphones. Of course, I expect things to sound better with headphones, but in this case the difference was much greater than what I’d expect. I should do stereo mixes of the Söundcheck songs. They’re basically a mono mix in stereo. Any differences between the channels came from the RP350, not from me. Well, what I really should do is work on some of our half-finished songs. (^_^)

29 November 2007

Amazon Kindle

Amazon’s new Kindle e-book reader looks very interesting. My issues...

  • No back-light: While being able to be read easily in bright daylight is important, one of the things I love about the Rocket eBook is that it is perfect for reading in the dark.
  • QWERTY keyboard: Being a Dvorak typist, I get so tired of devices that don’t have real keyboards but that use the QWERTY layout. I think the Crockford keyboard probably makes more sense in these situations. (Though I still like Graffiti.)

It does appear that you can freely put your own documents on it if you can get them into Mobipocket format.

Which is a bit annoying. It should be trivial for a user to load plain text and HTML documents onto a device like this with no conversion fee. (Yes, Amazon wants to charge a conversion fee to load HTML or Microsoft Word documents onto it! (o_O)) Arguably PDF as well. And this should be loudly touted as a feature.

The Wikipedia article has links to a few more current e-book devices that I’ll have to check-out now.

Though hopefully the iPhone SDK will reveal a way to load HTML and PDF besides temporarily loading them via the web or e-mail.

To Sir, With Love

I caught To Sir, With Love last weekend. It felt a tiny bit relevant since I’m leading a fairly-rowdy 8th-grade Sunday school class. I enjoyed it. I should see more Sidney Poitier movies.


“Write once, run anywhere” I’ve always been a bit wary of that slogan. Sure, the Java virtual machine (like the many VMs that came before it) is fairly easy to port to any platform, but those platforms almost all have a C compiler first. (In fact, the JVM for most platforms is written in C.) So this doesn't really gain you much. The real issue for cross-platform development is standard APIs. That’s the hard part. The JVM itself always gets ported quick, but sometimes you never get all the core APIs ported. Oh, a standard ABI is nice, but that’s really just icing. Java is perhaps a bit better off than many languages when it comes to simply having cross-platform APIs to be ported. I think there are at least a few languages, however, that fare at least as well as Java in this area. In the end, Java is no more cross-platform than any other language. It happened that, for a while, enough people (or enough big companies) cared enough about Java that it did end up being a half-decent cross-platform option for a while. Because enough effort was expended, not because anything about it was particularly better suited to the task. I’m distant enough for the Java world now to not be sure how the situation has changed, but I sense that it may be changing.


I don’t really get the (PRODUCT)RED campaign. Looking at How (RED) Works, I have to wonder why, if they’re serious about this, Apple doesn’t donate $10 from the sale of every iPod nano rather than just the (RED) ones.

Well, maybe it’s to better raise awareness. Though, couldn’t they still have all the (RED) hype and donate $10 from the sale of every iPod nano? In fact, wouldn’t that provide even more opportunities to hype it even more?

Well, perhaps it brings people to new products. Though, if somebody is going to buy an iPod nano because of (RED), aren’t they even more likely to buy one if Apple still donates the $10 even if they prefer a blue one?

FireWire Hotplugging

Sweetwater inSync Tech Tip of the Day (29 November 2007):

While one of the benefits of external FireWire devices is their ability to be connected to a computer while both are powered up (or “hot”), there may be issues with a specific manufacturer’s driver that precludes it from being hot-pluggable.

However nicely you put it, that’s a defect. File a bug report.

It’d be sweet if Sweetwater noted such defects in the description of products on their site. That kind of thing would really help to further distinguish them from the run-of-the-mill online music store.

24 November 2007

Network neutrality

I’ve been a bit ambivalent about network neutrality. I already hate the fact that my ISP makes it difficult for me to connect to mail servers. (Blocking outbound connections to TCP port 25.) (I could—perhaps—get the block removed if I bothered to ask, but I hate that I even have to do that.) I feel, however, that an entity—company or individual—should have the freedom to do whatever they want to with a network that they paid for. The thing that should make network neutrality a non-issue is the fact that I pay my ISP for the use of their network. If I don’t like the service they provide, I can take my money elsewhere. I have, however, witnessed enough failures of market self-correction to be suspicious of such solutions. Edit: Plus, there’s the fact that I’m working for a company whose products can be used to implement...whatever the opposite of network neutrality is. Network bias?

Static typing versus design-by-contract

Static typing” is essentially very inexpressive “design by contract”. I guess I’ve known that, but Monday I started thinking about that. Perhaps, static typing is redundant if you have pre-conditions, post-conditions, and invariants that can be checked with static analysis. (Not necessarily at compile-time, but not at run-time.)

20 November 2007

school of Rock Band

Playing Rock Band could actually help improve your singing. Playing Rock Band could help improve your drumming. ...but it won’t help your guitar playing. (>_<) Unfair!

13 November 2007

Mac OS a better Linux than Linux?

From “Apple's Leopard Is Better ‘Linux’ Than Linux”...

On the down side, people with malicious intent can use this extensive archive to figure out ways to hack the Mac. The fact that this hasn’t happened—like I said above, Darwin has been available for years—is a testament to the integrity of the Apple community.

No, it means that it’s really true that openness leads to better security. In fact, Apple took a lot of their open source code from OpenBSD, a system known for its security focus.

So here are my observations: Mac OS X, and Apple’s development paradigm, is the anti-Linux. And it’s Steve Jobs’ big accomplishment that Apple has built a better (I should actually say “more successful”) Linux than Linus Torvalds has ever been able to do.

This seems to imply that Mac OS X and Linux (or Jobs and Torvalds) have the same goals, which clearly has never been the case.

Edit: It would seem I’m misremembering. It seems Apple leveraged FreeBSD more than OpenBSD. See the comments.

Betraying the fans

In the annotation to Irregular Webcomic number 1752, Morgan-Mar rants against fans feeling betrayed. I agree with everything he says.


Perhaps we have to look beyond what people say. I don’t think people really mean that they expect constant perfection from artists and every work to be greater than the last. I don’t think people really mean that their enjoyment of the older work has been ruined by the newer one.

What they say may be all reaching and exaggeration, but—no matter what they say—you can’t deny what they feel. That they feel. That feeling isn’t really about the newer work. It’s about the connection they have with the older work.

I think the phrase “betray the fans” is—under the surface—the fan’s way of saying, “I’m not going to let this newer work take away my enjoyment of the older one.”

11 November 2007

Mac OS X audio aggregate devices

If, when using Mac OS X, you ever discover that you need to create an audio “aggregate device” with Audio MIDI Setup, here is the bit of information that seems to always be left out: Aggregate devices can only be created by admin users. (When you’re looking at a user in the Accounts panel of the System Preferences, admin users will have the “Allow user to administer this computer” check-box checked. By the way, it’s a good idea to only have one admin user account that you only log-in as when you need to perform admin tasks.) Sure would be nice if Audio MIDI Setup would actually warn you about this and not make it seem to have worked when it didn’t. (>_<) For what it’s worth, the reason I needed to create an aggregate audio device was to use SooperLooper. I’ve been thinking about getting an BOSS RC-2 Loop Station and wanted to try out real-time looping.

10 November 2007


From this thread on the TidBITS forum:

I'm glad we disagree, because this raises the following profound question: How hard would it have been to make this a pref? Come to think of it, how about a pref for stacks, menu bar opacity, and sidebar text/icon size? This is what I really object to: not the changes, but that Apple thinks it knows better than I do what I want. Choice is good.

Three reasons not to make things preferences:

More preferences ≠ easier to use: It makes it harder to find the preference that really can improve your productivity when it’s hidden amongst a bunch of frivolous preferences. It can distract you into messing with a much of preferences that aren’t going to improve your productivity.

More preferences = more complexity: More complexity in software is bad. It means more bugs. It means more time to write the code. It means more time to test the code. It means more time to maintain the code. If you’ve ever complained about bugs or the cost of software, then you don’t want software to be any more complex than it needs to be.

Consistency: Consistency is a core principle of the Mac. Arguably, consistency has been more important on the Mac than the mouse or windows or the menu bar. Of course, total consistency isn’t really practical. If for no other reason than that today’s experiment ends up as standard practice in a future revision of the user interface guidelines. Still, consistency is important, and preferences are counter to consistency. Too many preferences means not enough consistency.

Choice is not always good. So, what should be a preference and what shouldn’t? When the usability of a choice depends upon the user, the environment, or the hardware. Otherwise, it probably shouldn’t be a preference. At least that’s how it should be on Macs.

For example: The size of text used in a user interface that is best from a usability stand-point depends upon the user, the display, and the environment. One user needs larger text because they can’t read it if it is smaller. Another user needs smaller text because they don’t have trouble reading it but they need lots of things on the screen at once.

The opacity of the menu bar, however, does not need to be a preference. It does not have a significant impact on usability. (Besides, choosing the right desktop wallpaper makes the issue moot.)

Now, I have to admit, I don’t like this conclusion. Forget opacity, I'd like to be able to swap the menu bar for OPENSTEP style menus. Edit: Probably better to link to the earlier NEXTSTEP instead of OPENSTEP.

I’m pretty sure making the menu bar translucent wasn’t a good idea, but it wasn’t so bad of an idea that it should’ve been made a preference instead. In fact, if it was that bad an idea, it shouldn’t have been done at all.

Mare Tranquillitatis

So, if Ben Franklin had had his way, Neil Armstrong would have said, “The Turkey has landed”?

07 November 2007

Irony, thy name is "Leopard menu bar"

I’ve seen a number of complaints about Leopard’s translucent menu bar. Ironically, Mac OS X 10.5: Menu bar appears solid instead of translucent showed up in the Apple support knowledge base recently. So, there are people that wish their system had this problem.


I need an e-notebook. I used to use my Palm V’s memo application, but I can’t sync it with my Mac. (It uses a serial port & Mac’s no longer have serial ports. No doubt I could get it to sync somehow, but it probably isn’t worth the cost & effort.) I’m considering/trying... ...but—while they each have good point—none of them has proven particularly attractive. Playing with it at the Apple Store the other day, the notes feature on the iPhone didn’t impress me. Maybe I’ll just have to write my own after the SDK is out (and after I get an iPhone).

06 November 2007

Promoting hardware

Our hardware team has been a big factor in TippingPoint’s success. The other day I was talking with a coworker about some of my previous jobs, & about one he asked if we’d considered custom hardware. As far as I knew it hadn’t been, & I think he was right that it probably should have been. I think software engineers tend to be blind to when hardware should be considered. It just isn’t on our radar except in a few specific cases. (e.g. graphics & cryptography) Even if we know what an FPGA is, & I’d how many of us do? Especially considering how many working programmers these days aren’t even familiar with many important software concepts. But as the more general purpose engineers, who are going to be in on a project first, we really should be on the look-out for hardware opportunities. Hardware engineering needs a good marketing program to get software engineers aware of when it should be considered.

04 November 2007

When is more fun less fun?

If you can change a game to make it more fun, you should. Right? But, if you keep changing things to make the game more fun, can you end up with too much of a good thing? Can a lot of changes that individually make the game more fun—all together—make the game less fun?

29 October 2007

When are you no longer playing guitar?

From the moment magnetic pick-ups were stuck on a guitar and plugged into an amplifier, guitarists have been experimenting with altering the timbre. At first, it was cutting holes in the speaker cone, driving the amplifiers to distortion, and rotating speakers. Then it was putting various electronic circuits in the signal path for all kinds of effects. Today, digital signal processing can not only emulate all those effects. It hasn’t only expanded into simulating tube amps and vintage speakers. The signal from your pickups can be morphed into that of another guitar, re-tuned, turned from a six-string into a twelve-string, or from guitar to banjo or sitar or synth. Products like the Line 6 Variax, the Fender VG Strat, and the Roland VG-99 offer mind-boggling versatility. (While Roland has been converting analog guitar notes to digital MIDI messages to control synthesizers for a long time, the synth sounds from their VG-99 are far more interesting. It directly processes the guitar signal to morph it into synth-like sounds. Though the MIDI out is still there in case you want to control a real synthesizer with it.) One of the things that attracted me to the guitar was the directness of it. There are no keys or mechanisms. It’s hands-on-the-strings. There are subtleties of articulation. Indeed, the compelling thing about these latest technologies is that they promise to let us keep those subtleties. This isn’t simply extracting the pitch to make a guitar pretend to be a keyboard. They promise convenience without compromise. You don’t need a Tele, a Strat, a Les Paul, and an acoustic. You don’t need a Marshall stack, a Fender Twin Reverb, and a Vox AC30. You don’t need a complex chain of stomp-boxes. No re-tuning to use alternate tunings. One guitar (and no amp) can be made to reproduce all of those sounds without losing the subtleties of articulation. Is there a point at which, however, the technology has gone so far that you’re no longer really playing guitar? Or, once we lost the sound box in favor of magnetic pick-ups did we already move into a realm where anything goes?

Ask the sage

Ricky asked the Dungeons & Dragons sage:

If a character has polymorphed into a hydra and loses a head, what happens when he returns to his normal form?

Here’s my answer:

Ricky, when you come to a question like this—that the rules do not explicitly cover—there are three methods the Dungeon Master may use to answer this question:

  1. What would be the most fun?
  2. What makes for the best story?
  3. Let the dice decide.

Most importantly, however, is to recognize that this is the key ingredient of games like Dungeons & Dragons: They have a human referee (Dungeon Master, Game Master, &c.) who serves as a living rulebook. As was written in the third of the original booklets...

In this light, we urge you to refrain from writing for rule interpretations or the like unless you are absolutely at a loss, for everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way!

...why have us do any more of your imagining for you?

This is why Gary Gygax could write...

What I think isn’t important. It is what your DM decides that is.

I will, however, note that a wise DM seeks & considers the advice of his players.

To PS3 or not to PS3...

So far, I’ve only been able to find two reasons to buy a Playstation 3...

On the other hand...

  • PS3: $400
  • Xbox 360: $280

Turns out there is going to be a version of Rock Band for the PS2, though it won’t have all the features.

19 October 2007

Inheritance is over-rated

Some more observations based on my experiences with EcmaScript (a.k.a. Javascript) as compared to C++ and Java:

(I suppose I could try to generalize and consider EcmaScript a representative of the Smalltalk tradition versus C++ and Java as representatives of the Simula tradition; but that probably opens a lot of other issues.)

It occurs to me that most classes I’ve written in C++ or Java have not needed inheritance. They provided only encapsulation. (Which I can do just fine in C—no object-orientation required.)

When I have needed inheritance, it has most often been for polymorphism. In EcmaScript, you don’t need inheritance for polymorphism.

(With C++, you can have polymorphism without inheritance, but that requires the complexity of templates. Likewise, in Java you can use reflection to achieve the same sorts of things, but you get more complexity with it.)

Sometimes I’ve abused inheritance in C++ or Java to work around limitations. Such as adding additional methods to an existing class. In EcmaScript, I can add methods to objects (or objects serving class-like roles) directly.

In EcmaScript, I only really need to use inheritance when I need to share an implementation, and that just doesn’t seem to come up as often in my experience.

(Moreover, I find closures—which EcmaScript has but C++ and Java lack—extremely useful.)

Now, there are—of course—trade-offs involved. EcmaScript isn’t all roses by any means. Give it a static debugger (like MrSpidey/MrFlow), and I think it could hold its own versus C++ or Java for many applications.

Give it hygienic macros (on the road-map for Javascript 3) and first-class continuations, and it starts to stack up well against Scheme as well.

Boring P&P RPG systems

  • “Combat is just trading blows until somebody runs out of hit points.”
  • “After he casts his single spell, a first-level magic-user has nothing to do.”
  • “A rogue’s sneak attack doesn’t work against plants, so the rogue player is going to get bored in encounters with plant-monsters.”

(These all happen to apply to various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, but similar sentiments have been uttered about every P&P RPG.)

If a player is bored during a pencil & paper role-playing game, is it the game system’s fault?

Maybe, but I think that is rarely the case. After all, the people who created, developed, and play-tested the game didn’t find it boring or it wouldn’t have been published.

The examples above tend to be cases of not seeing the game for the rules. Most games are more than just the rules. According to Hoyle, the rules of chess are seven pages. Yet I’ve got one 217 and another 362 page book on how to play it. Reading the rules that govern bidding in bridge won’t teach you how to bid. How much more does this apply to role-playing games?

08 October 2007

Speaking of IF and EcmaScript...

Robin Johnson has written a pretty decent text adventure engine in EcmaScript. I’m enjoying his Hamlet game.

EcmaScript, IF, and DSLs

Since I’ve been programming so much in EcmaScript (a.k.a. Javascript) at work, I decided to install the stand-alone version of Spidermonkey at home. That’s the EcmaScript implementation from Firefox. Partly because I’m interested in being able to write web applications that use the same language on both the browser-side and the server-side.

Of course, there are a few server-side EcmaScript solutions out there, but I’m used to rolling my own light-weight version when investigating such things.

I didn’t want to jump right into that, however, so I tried to come up with an idea for a command-line program I could start with. Spidermonkey comes with a command-line interpreter, but it is very minimal. Hardly more than readline and print.

So, I thought of text adventures (a.k.a. interactive fiction). I had the basics of Cloak of Darkness mocked up PDQ. It went faster and farther than I think any of my other attempts at such a program has gone in any language. My opinion of the EcmaScript is continuing to increase. I began to think I should break out some of my old text adventure ideas.

The thing is, though, I’d have to make some significant enhancements to Spidermonkey’s command-line interpreter to really make it practical for IF. It would make a lot more sense to just use browser-based EcmaScript (instead of command-line) or to use Inform, so that people besides just me could actually play it.

Inform is a DSL (domain specific language) for interactive fiction. That’s fancy computer geek jargon for a language specialized for a specific purpose.

C, C++, Java (no relation to Javascript), Perl, Python, Ruby, Lisp, and Scheme are general-purpose programming languages. They can be used to build programs for a wide range of applications. (Although, certainly, some are better for some applications than others.)

HTML and Postscript are domain specific languages. (Incidentally, HTML is not a programming language, but Postscript is.)

EcmaScript isn’t really a domain specific language, but as it is most widely and most easily used within web browsers, it often tends to be one in practice.

I’m all for DSLs, but the problem I have with most of them is that they’re wholly new languages. Ideally, a DSL—unless really simple—should be an extension or a subset of an existing language. This is the resistance I have towards using Inform.

The Lisp and Scheme advocates like to point out how they often extend their languages to create DSLs within them, which I’m finding to be a very compelling argument.

03 October 2007


In The Command Line—The Best Newbie Interface?, Richard Wareham makes a case for a command-line user-interface being better—even for non-technical users—than graphical user-interfaces. A case based on his experience teaching a beginners’ computing course.

It’s an interesting line of thinking. If a fraction of the effort that has gone into GUI’s were applied to command-line interfaces (not—by the way—to discount the advances that have been made), I think his case could be bolstered considerably.

I probably spend roughly equal time with both types of interface. Which suggests that—for me—each has strengths & weaknesses; neither being superior. I have a tendency, however, to think that this balance wouldn’t hold for average users.

30 September 2007

Social networking sites

The first “social networking” site I used was LinkedIn. It’s aimed mainly at business contacts. It seems pretty good. I haven’t really used it much, but it does help me keep up with where old co-workers are now. I signed up for MySpace simply because it seemed to be the easiest way to get some Söundcheck music up on the web. Otherwise, MySpace doesn’t seem to have a lot of redeeming qualities except for it’s huge numbers of users. Recently, an old co-worker (one of my LinkedIn contacts) sent me a facebook invitation. ZOMG! Facebook is very well done—though when the comparison is against MySpace, the bar is set pretty low. (^_^) As with many software products, the expandability offered by their “application” API looks to be a huge advantage.


Guitar chords can be roughly divided into open & movable. An open chord uses one or more open, or unfretted, strings. Open chords can only be played in one position. Movable chords don’t include any open strings and, thus, can be played in many positions on the fretboard. If I play a movable C chord, I can shift up two frets to make it a D chord. Many movable chords are called barre chords because they involve using one finger to fret multiple strings, which is called a barre. A capo (which I pronounce kāpō) is a device that allows a guitarist play open chords in different keys. For instance, if I put a capo on the second-fret of a guitar in standard tuning, I can play a D chord using the fingering of an open C chord. I used to call capos “cheaters”. Voicing is the arrangement of notes in a chord. For instance, a C major chord can be played as CEG or as GCE or as CEGC. Since guitar chords are usually played on four to six strings, there are potentially many voicings of any chord. Open chords tend to have a greater variety of voicings that movable chords. A variety of voicings tends to sound better than fewer. So, a capo isn’t cheating, it’s simply making better music.


(...posting some things that have been hanging around as drafts for a bit...) So, the United Methodist Church has been reorganizing around nurture, outreach, & witness. I'm not sure exactly where this imperative comes from, but I've been told that at least my annual conference has been pushing it. While I think those are great ways to think about the activities of the church, I think they are a lousy way to organize the church. Few ministries fall neatly into any one of them. Probably because all three should be a part of everything we do. My church has wasted a lot of time & energy in this effort just at the time when we needed to focus all of our efforts on fixing some clear problems we had made for ourselves. I think all of the progress that we have made would've happened without reorganizing in this manner.

18 September 2007

And now for something completely different

Wouldn’t you know it! My first attempt to modify a Python program, I get bit by significant white space. I got a syntax error because the editor put a tab character in the file instead of spaces. (>_<) Which is such an esoteric thing I’m not even going to try to explain to the non-programmers.

“No, there is no time. Let me sum up.”

I’m often unsure about how much to explain my blog entries. On the one hand, I could be brief and assume that anyone who doesn’t understand—but wants to—can investigate the topic themselves. Perhaps I’ll even include links with more information. On the other hand, I can try to write everything for a general audience, which is no easy feat. Exactly how far do I need to explain? Is anyone who is not familiar with the topic going to get anything out of that entry anyway? I seem to be headed more in the latter direction...unless I’m rushed. (...and I’m forming a backlog of drafts because I’m tending to save ideas to flesh out later rather than posting in a rush.)

10 September 2007

Age & role-playing games

The following is unadulterated thinking out loud...pure musings. (In other words, don’t take it too seriously, ’K.) The pen & paper role-playing game hobby has suffered from the fact that so many of us began playing as young teenagers in groups made up exclusively of young teenagers. The more I consider, the more I think nigh the only significant problems in the hobby all boil down to immaturity. So, we try to come up with fixes for the worst problems we’ve experienced, but the root problem—immaturity—can’t be fixed. Thankfully, immaturity takes care of itself fairly soon; participants either mature or find they have no one to game with. Yet, we keep the “fixes” because we are convinced they’re necessary when they are not only unnecessary, but we’d be better off without them.

08 September 2007

If aliens come...

“Daddy, if aliens come to Earth, since I know some karate moves, I will fight them to protect y’all so y’all don’t die. Because I love y’all.” —Grace (5yo)

06 September 2007

What arrangement is this?

I’ve been learning Lilypond, music notation software. I was looking through some of my old stuff, mainly trying to find the fingerstyle arrangement of Just the way you are that I did in college so that I could make a good copy of it with Lilypond. I came across a duet arrangement (for “synth & guitar” (^_^)) of What child is this. It’s from before I took any music theory courses. When I hadn’t been playing guitar long. It’s funny because there are aspects that clearly make it stand out as something I wrote then, but there are also aspects that surprise me. It provided fodder for my Lilypond learning as well. I’m particularly disappointed in Lilypond’s default rendering of guitar chord diagrams. (Something my What child is this manuscript makes heavy use of.) I was also disappointed when I tried to put my own chord names above the staff. (Rather than using the ChordNames feature.) Though I’m sure I could probably tweak both to my liking given enough effort (Lilypond is free-as-in-speech software.) And it is partially written in my current favorite programming language: Scheme.

Fair warning & the DM

OK, this has been sitting around as a draft getting stale...

In his GenCon blog, James Wyatt wrote, concerning running Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 after having spent so much time developing the 4th edition rules:

Oh, look at all the people forgetting about attacks of opportunity (especially at reach) and getting pummeled as a result.

This seems like bad form to me, no matter what system you’re using. The DM should give players fair warning of possible attacks of opportunity. Attacks of opportunity aren’t traps; rather they are calculated risks. Arguably, the whole point of the rule—more often than not—is to prevent the actions that provoke opportunity attacks. “Threatened squares” represent a very obvious threat to the character. If that threat isn’t obvious to the player—because a miniature on a battlemat doesn’t fully convey the threat or because the player is less conversant in the intricacies of the combat rules—the DM should warn the player in advance rather than surprising them with an attack.

(Not to say that there might never be a suprise opportunity attack, just that it should be the exception rather than the rule.)

Which is part of a larger point that applies beyond attacks of opportunity and beyond D&D3.5. The GM should always give players fair warning. Might the player not realize the risks of that action as much as the character would? It’s better to warn the players too often than not enough.

(None of which is not meant to be an attack on James by any stretch. Just an observation spring-boarding off his post.)

04 September 2007

Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

—Luke 11:27–28 (NIV)


Translucent windows

I've been playing around with translucent windows. It started with Terminal.app. I use a black background for my Terminal windows, which can get confusing when you have a few terminal windows open & overlapping each other. So, I tried setting them to 10% transparent, which turned out to work really well. If I focus on it, I can see what's behind the window, but it doesn't distract me otherwise. I found a hack called Afloat that allows you to set the transparency of windows in some Cocoa applications. Though new windows are always opaque; you can't tell it to always make all of an application's windows 10% transparent by default.

29 August 2007

Reading classical guitar

I’m working on some easy classical guitar pieces for church. I’m still a bit rusty at reading standard notation (& I don’t think I was ever very strong at it). So it goes like this: Middle line is...B. In this key...B natural. That could be...second string, open...third string, fourth fret...fourth string, ninth fret. Now which of those works best in this context? One note down; repeat. I’m surprised by how much standard notation with a few & occasional additions can communicate what the arranger† had in mind. In classic guitar music, a number will sometimes be put next to a note to indicate the finger it should be fretted with. Except when it’s zero, this doesn’t indicate string or fret, but in context it tends to be clear. Even more occasional circled numbers indicating which string to play can make things entirely clear when necessary. (The other thing that isn’t indicated in the pieces I’m working on is which finger the note should be plucked with. Again, I’m surprised by how much I feel I know what the arranger had in mind here despite the lack of notation. It seems convention is enough.) I’m finding it extremely satisfying once I’ve decoded the arranger’s intent from the notation. Still, it seems to me that tablature is a much more straightforward method of communicating a guitar arrangement. Reading & writing standard notation is important for communicating with other musicians, but—guitarist to guitarist—I’m not sure that I see the point. Although, the big advantage of standard notation in this case was that the music director—who is not a guitarist—was able to help me pick out pieces to work on. †See arrangement or transcription

RSS irony

RSS is great. I'm sure it would surprise no one that I could come up with a long list of criticisms of the technology, but—in actual practice—I'm happy with it. In fact, I'm starting to become annoyed at sites that don't offer RSS feeds. (I'm looking at you, web site of First United Methodist Church, Round Rock.) What is it? An RSS feed is a standard way for web sites to offer a list of recent articles/items. You use an RSS reader, or aggregator, to subscribe to feeds. I use Google Reader. You can also use My Yahoo. Firefox and Safari can appearantly handle the task as well. Your reader lets you know what feeds have updates & let's you read the items. (Although sometimes the item is little more than a link to the full story on the original web site. It depends on the feed.) I'm currently subscribed to 106 feeds. Podcasts are essentially RSS feeds that contain audio. This icon, , indicates either a feed or something RSS related. Incidentally, Google Reader generates that list of shared items here on my blog. When I see an interesting item in Google Reader, I click a button & it gets added to those shared items. It's natural to think that it's important for a feed to have regular updates. Ironically, however, the opposite is true. Noisy feeds that fill my reader with a constant stream of low interest items risk me unsubscribing. Where RSS really shines are the infrequently updated feeds. Your reader takes care of checking them regularly & only brings the feed to your attention when there is something to read. A dead feed (or—more importantly—a dormant, seemingly-dead feed) isn't a problem because it doesn't take any of your attention. Unfortunately, in the migration from Usenet → web → RSS, the web reinforced the "must have regular updates" idea. That made sense for the web before RSS, but not for RSS.

28 August 2007

The problem with secure email

It would have been convenient today for me to send someone encrypted email. The problem, however, is that they way it works, the recipient would have to have already obtained a certificate† & have sent me a copy of it. And there are very good reasons why it works that way. Getting a free secure email certificate isn't difficult, though I imagine the process could be a bit confusing if you aren't familiar with the technology. (Thawte--whom I've linked to--isn't the only authority that can issue secure email certificates, but it is the one I use.) But beyond that, most people don't even know about them, much less why they should get one.‡ Faced with the prospect of asking a recipient to go through getting a certificate & sending it to me or finding another way to get the information to them, I--of course--choose the latter. So, secure email remains unused. †A bit of an oversimplification for clarity. ‡Besides allowing people to send you encrypted email, a secure email certificate allows you to digitally sign emails you send. This increases the recipient's confidence that a email actually came from you & wasn't spoofed. Incidentally, your certificate is automatically included in a signed email message. Thus a signed message is the typical way to send someone your certificate so that they may send you encrypted email. (Incidentally, it seems that in separating Firefox & Thunderbird into separate applications, Mozilla dropped the ball here. You have to manually export your private key & certificate generated/obtained through Firefox & import them into Thunderbird. At least, I couldn't find an easier way to do it. Presumably people using Microsoft Outlook & Internet Explorer or Apple Mail & Safari have the advantage here.)

Step 3: Profit!

People keep telling me that businesses have only one motivation: Money. I don't buy it. Sure, there are companies that are only motivated by money. There have also been plenty of companies that were clearly not motivated by money at all. (Like...I dunno...a good percentage of the dot-com bust casualties.) In my experience, though, most companies are motivated roughly equally by money & a vision. And it's not just that sticking to a vision may mean more money in the long term. I have seen & been a part of companies deciding to take a course that might mean less (though still positive) profit because it better fits the vision. When it comes right down to it, most entrepreneurs I've known have been more interested in building something--a product & a company. Money is important to them--no doubt about that, but only up to a point. They're driven to work & to build. No amount of money will convince them to retire.

25 August 2007

Role-playing games, editions, & fun

An aspect of a pen & paper role-playing game that is not fun for one person can be fun for another. e.g. One player laments the fact that there is a "sweet spot" of levels for D&D characters which is the most fun. Another player enjoys the fact that the nature & feel of the game changes as the characters progress in levels. So, people find games that have more bits they find fun than bits they find unfun. (Or that make it easy to ignore the bits they find unfun.) If a new edition of a game attempts too much to make the game more fun, they run the risk of merely narrowing its appeal. Every change which makes the game more fun for a designer can make the game less fun for potentially huge number of fans. The more things they try to make more fun, the more they potentially limit the audience for the new edition to a subset of older edition fans who are most like the designers. Consider for a moment the c. 1980 D&D Basic Set & its companion Expert Set. For the most part, they did not attempt to make the game more fun, merely more accessible. It seems reasonable to me to call it a new edition of the old game. D&D third edition, however, significantly changed how nearly every aspect of the game worked in an attempt to make it more fun. It seems very wrong to me to call it a new edition of D&D rather than a new game. While it shares many superficial similarities with the older editions, it really is so different in so many ways it is hard to consider it the same game. If the third edition designers succeeded, it was in often being able to ask "What is more fun for lots of D&D players?", not just "What is more fun for us?" Which is all just thinking out loud. While these thoughts are inspired by the forthcoming fourth edition of D&D, this isn't really meant to be commentary on it. At least not yet. Though I do wonder if the fourth edition designers are not sometimes being too myopic in their attempts to make D&D more fun.

21 August 2007

EN mods vs. EGG

At GenCon this year, the ENWorld moderators got Gary Gygax to run them through his famous Castle Greyhawk using the original Dungeons & Dragons rules. (Though even EGG himself doesn't run strictly by the rules as written.) Rel posted a recap.

How one-in-ten becomes one-in-three

After ten years as a software developer, I can go on at length about the benefits of cross-platform development & why--in many cases--they far exceed the costs. I'll try to limit myself to one product & one point for the moment, though. Wizards of the Coast is developing a virtual game table to make it easy for a geographically diverse group to play role-playing games via their computers & the internet. So, for instance, a group who played D&D together in college could play again despite being spread all over the country or world since graduation. This isn't a new idea. People have been doing it ad hoc with general purpose chat & other software. There has been software--both proprietary & free--specialized to this task as well. It looks like Wizards is making a good effort towards taking it to the next level, though. While the virtual game table will certainly work well with D&D 4th edition, they've said that you'll be able to play other games with it as well, since it's really just tools, not a game itself. Let's assume that the average potential virtual game table group is five people. (Four players & one DM.) Let's assume that 10% of potential customers don't use Microsoft Windows. Then the odds that at least one person in a group doesn't use Windows is a bit over 34%. (Oops. My original calculation was based on four people per group. Five people per group raises it to nearly 41%.) The point is not the exact numbers. The point is that when your software product is targeted at groups instead of individuals, the benefits of cross-platform development are multiplied.

20 August 2007

A cube with a view

I moved into a window cube today. Here's my view of the parking lot.

19 August 2007

Old-school values in D&D4e

It seems 4th edition D&D may revive some principles that were missing or de-emphasized in 3rd edition.
  • More streamlined mechanics
  • Clear roles for PCs
  • Different mechanics for different things (e.g. PC & monsters don't need to operate by exactly the same rules)
  • Not everything needs mechanics (e.g. the loss of the Profession skill)
I don't expect 4th edition to be wildly popular among the grognards, though. I suspect they'll still have a lot to grumble about when it comes to feel & flavor.

17 August 2007

Gamer Radio Zero TV at GenCon

GamerZer0 does a weekly podcast (Gamer Radio Zero) for Wizards of the Coast. This weekend, he's been doing video spots from GenCon. You can find them through his YouTube page. Wizards is developing online Dungeons & Dragons game aids. They showed some demos of their virtual game table & character visualizer. The game table is a virtual battlemat & miniatures. There's already a few of those around. (Just before third edition D&D was released in 2000, I played a 2nd edition campaign with my old high school gaming group via software called WebRPG that did something similar.) The Wizards game table is 3D where WebRPG was only 2D, & it seems pretty smooth & pretty slick already. Much better than what I expected from Wizards given their past computer products. (WebRPG, however, was free.) Playing online with the virtual game table isn't something I'd choose to do as long as I had the chance to play face-to-face instead. And I'm not really interested in using such a thing in a face-to-face game. Still, it looks very interesting. The character visualizer looks like it really does make making a custom virtual miniature for your character easy. You can then use it with the game table, or just print it out for your character record sheet. In GamerZer0's interview with Andy Collins--one of the designers of the forthcoming 4th edition D&D--Andy said something that caught my attention: "Being a wizard is about blasting people with magical energy." That is a very, very wrong statement to me. This was in the context of how wizard characters in D&D can "run out" of magic & be relegated to doing mundane things that don't feel very wizardish. (Which I'm not convinced is a flaw, though I do understand & have experienced the concern.) But it's got me wondering if what I want from D&D and what the designers what from D&D may be farther apart than I thought. In the interview with Randy Buehler, Vice President of Digital Games at Wizards of the Coast, I got the impression that Mr. Buehler has never seen WebRPG or any of the other similar tools that do much the same thing as their new game table tool. Granted, they may be setting a higher bar for themselves, but that the VP of digital games can come across as ignorant about what's out there in the same space is not reassuring. In the interview with James Wyatt, some interesting things about character classes in 4th edition were discussed. There will be four roles--combat roles really. James identified the roles & these classes that fit in them.
  • Defender: Fighter & Paladin
  • Leader: Cleric & Warlord
  • (Battlefield) Controller: Wizard
  • Striker: Rogue & Ranger
The impression was left that there were more classes than this. He also said that they're still considering some classes that may not fit perfectly into one of these four roles. They want to make sure that a character is always fully equipped to fulfill his role. The example being that in 3rd edition, if a druid takes on the healer role, he's really not very good at it. In 4th, he would be. Although two characters may be able to fulfill the same role, they may do it in different ways, so there is still differentiation between characters. Also, a character's abilities outside of combat may vary considerably. I really glad Wizards has had GamerZer0 doing these videos. I also thing he did a great job of keeping up with the message boards & trying to ask in his interviews some of the questions that were coming up.

16 August 2007

Why I am excited about D&D4e

Role-playing games tend to go through a cycle.
  1. The initial "core" rules are published
  2. Supplements are published
  3. Some of the best ideas from the supplements are integrated into a streamlined new edition of the core rules
  4. Repeat
I like the core part of that cycle. I may buy a few supplements, but I generally prefer to stick with the core rules. So, I'm excited about new core rules. I like the idea of streamlining the 3e/d20 rules. I'm sure there will be things I'll take issue with, but that's true of any game. I have confidence (to my own surprise) that Wizards of the Coast won't put out anything that I don't find adequate. Edit (22 August 2007): As I found myself putting it the other day, I'll be impressed if they manage to make this the first edition of D&D that I can't enjoy. The questions are: Will I want to DM it, & will I buy the 4e Dungeon Masters Guide & 4e Monster Manual? So, why wasn't I excited about 3.5e? Well, it wasn't really enough of a change--to me--to qualify for a new edition of the core rules. Besides coming much too soon. (In 4e's favor, I tend to see it as being 8 years after 3e rather than 5 years after 3.5.)

Web marketing lessons courtesy Wizards of the Coast

If you had a D&D game scheduled for Thursday or Friday night & you went to the Wizards of the Coast web site to download a character sheet or adventure or web enhancement or whatever to use in that game...too bad. You see, they decided to block access to all those useful features of their web site that you may have come to rely on in order to tease you about the announcement of D&D 4th edition. In another brilliant move, the teaser was a countdown. So, of course, when the counter ran out, their web site was overloaded. But that's not all! Part of the announcement was touting their new online service that will be tied to D&D4e. That's right, they touted an online service by orchestrating a server overload. But there's more! Once I got the site to load, I found that with my browser's scrollbar all the way to the left, I still couldn't see the left side of the page. Yes, I could only see "ome" of the "Home" link. Good way to built confidence in your ability to offer a quality online service!

Mongoose Traveller reaction

Yeah, so it's D&D4e announcement day, & I'm posting about Mongoose Traveller. So, I'm behind... Mongoose is going to release a version of Traveller. Considering the track record of attempts to update classic Traveller such as MegaTraveller & T4... Considering Mongoose's track record such as the many problems they had with Conan & RuneQuest... Is it any wonder that I'm not excited?

13 August 2007

Eulogy for ClarisWorks

In 1987, Apple Computer created a spin-off company called Claris to separate their application software from their hardware & operating-system business. In 1990, Claris acquired a “productivity suite” (written by former Claris employees) which was released in 1991 as ClarisWorks. ClarisWorks was a single application that included word processing, spreadsheets, painting & drawing, database, & a terminal emulator. ClarisWorks became a really great application. It may never have been able to compete feature-for-feature with Microsoft Office, but it probably did everything that 90% or more of Office users really needed. And was easier to use. Around 1996, the ClarisWorks team either left or were recruited by Microsoft. (Microsoft needed some decent Mac developers to fix the mess that Microsoft Office for the Mac had become, as well as making the Mac version of Internet Explorer—for a time—the premier Mac web browser.) ClarisWorks never recovered. Apple eventually gave it the AppleWorks name (from an old productivity suite for the Apple ][) & bundled it with every Mac. It really started to show its age, though, & never got a proper revamp for Mac OS X. Now that iWork ’08 is out, it looks like AppleWorks days are numbered. On the positive side, this is better than letting it continue to rot. On the negative side, Macs will no longer come with a bundled productivity suite, but just a demo of iWork. While I like OpenOffice.org/NeoOffice, they don’t offer the kind of user experience a great Mac application needs. IWorks lacks the drawing component of ClarisWorks & OpenOffice.org, which I use quite a bit. Still, it is a great package & quite affordable.

10 August 2007

YMC 2007 tour pictures

Here are pictures from the Youth Music Company 2007 tour. The YMC is the youth choir at my church. I played guitar for them.

09 August 2007

A new old guitar

The Fender custom shop is making exact replicas of some famous guitars. Exact. Right down to the chips, scraps, cigarette burns, &c. Like the Andy Summers Tribute Telecaster. Andy is taking four of them on the Police reunion tour. It seems like a real shame. This is a really unique instrument. It's not like the EVH Frankenstrat for which there are hundreds of adequate substitutes. Wouldn't you want a reproduction of this guitar with the features but without the wear? Wouldn't you want to beat it up yourself? (I imagine the artificial aging isn't going to age gracefully.) I would've even expected Andy would want his own replicas to be new so that he can begin beating them up differently. But then, I don't know that I'll ever understand the market these are aimed for.

Separated at birth?

It’s a bit creepy how much Satch—on the cover of this month’s Guitar World—looks like Lord Voldemort.

03 August 2007

Mobile phones: Paragons of usability

From Guitar Gear News: Line 6 Pocket POD:
The interface for editing sounds is easy to use. If you’re used to sending text messages from your cell phone, using the Pocket POD will be a piece of cake.
(^_^) This is some strange new use of the phrase "easy to use" that I am unfamiliar with.

23 July 2007

The deathly hallows

I feel like such a non-geek. I'm only on chapter 8 or 9. Can I just say that I continue to really hate the way spells are like Star Wars blasters?

Robert's blog 3.0

First I used my own Perl script to manage a blog on my own web site. Then I used the blog on my infogami site, because it was easier to use. Then I decided that since its creator had abandoned it, I should probably abandon infogami too. So, I finally just broke down & created a blog on blogger.com. Welcome to my blog 3.0.

05 January 2007

Compass may offend, but nothing to fear

From Compass may offend, but nothing to fear by Bill Fentum:

A boycott, though, only gives free publicity to Mr. Pullman’s work. And sheltering Christian youth from the concept of atheism is futile, too; they’re bound to meet a few atheists in the big, bad world and need to learn how to deal with it.

So why not use these movies, the books and the controversy itself to spark productive dialogue—not only with kids but also adult friends?

If we don’t, the church treads too closely toward matching the Magisterial model set up by Mr. Pullman. And that, indeed, is something to fear.

I’m not familiar with the books. I was intrigued when the subject came up in the 8th grade Sunday school class that I lead.


We find comfort in the things we grew up with because they reflect the values that they themselves instilled within us. Weird.

Uphill both ways...

My kids can watch Spongebob Squarepants nigh 24/7. There’s so many shows I watched when I was a kid simply because we didn’t have a lot of choice. Of course, what things would I have done if I hadn’t had TV. I’m constantly amazed, however, by the kids’ ability to turn off the technology. When we were at the bank yesterday, they got bored with the courtesy video game in the lobby and ended up playing with the Lincoln Logs instead.