29 December 2008

Objective-C closures

Apple is adding “blocks” (Smalltalk’s name for closures) to Objective-C. See mikeash.com: Friday Q&A 2008-12-26

This is very interesting, but raises a couple of questions in my mind.

Will it require automatic garbage-collection? I believe Apple has also added the option for automatic garbage-collection to Objective-C as well.

The bigger question, though, is after adding Smalltalkesque objects and message-passing, automatic garbage-collection, and Smalltalkesque closures to C, why aren’t you just using Smalltalk instead?

28 December 2008


Santa brought the kids a Wii, and my worst fears were confirmed. It is far too much physical activity for a video game. (My arms are sore! ^_^) It is far more fun than the few times I tried it before.

As a former member of the Sega→Sony anti-Nintendo faction, I have to admit they’ve made some really good moves. With the original GameBoy, they understood that portability was more important than color. While the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 continued down the road of more expensive and a somewhat narrow library of games, the Wii went for a lower price, heavily featuring motion sensitive controllers, and more variety in its titles. Wii Fit looks very interesting. Wii Music brings a different attitude to music titles. (I think something in between Rock Band and Wii Music could be very interesting.) The DS looks very interesting too. The new cooking application, like Wii Fit, shows not only a tolerance for but a vision to expand the variety of software as few other “video game” companies have been willing to do.

The Mario-esque theme music behind everything on the Wii is about my only complaint. I think I’m a convert.

25 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

Whether you believe in the story of Christmas or not, consider for today the meaning of it. Why was it written? Why do we continue to tell it?

I’m thinking about three of the four words that I saw at both of the Christmas Eve services I attended this year. Love Caritas omnia vincit? No. Love doesn’t overcome my problems, but love can defang them. Peace If I can feel love, show love, do love, be love, then I can find peace even amidst strife. Hope No matter how dark the clouds may be, there’s always a silver lining. There are new beginnings. There’s a chance for me make the world a better place.

Those are the things that the birth of a child—human, divine, or both—bring to my mind today.

24 December 2008


***** IPHONE APPSTORE DEVELOPERS ***** Lots of ALL CAPS and ASTERISKS in the descriptions of your IPHONE APPS looks very ***AMATEUR***!!!!!

23 December 2008

Computers v. humans

The topic of this post is computers. For the gamers, however, can you guess why I tagged it “rpg” as well?

One of the principles I have long used to try to predict whether an application of computer technology will be successful is this: Let the computer do what the computer is good at; the people do what people are good at. The best use of computer technology is when the strengths of both the computer and the user work together, each doing the part of the solution they are best suited for. Computers should be used to help the user do what people do better than computers.

Amazon’s Mechanic Turk is a good example of this.

21 December 2008

Latest U-verse update

I’d had problem with U-verse VOIP when plugged into the POTS wiring in my house. A phone plugged directly into the U-verse gateway seemed to work fine. I figured that was just my problem.

I’d been having a lot of glitchiness with U-verse TV. It was intermittent. Then it developed this problem where on of the boxes would just stop getting video until you rebooted the box. Honestly, I suspected tech support wasn’t going to be very helpful.

Well, then I bought an on-demand movie. It wasn’t glitchy the way live (or DVR’d) TV was. This video just paused for about three seconds after playing for a second. None of the compression-artifact-like stuff. And the audio would only work if the video managed to keep from pausing for a few seconds. So, I called tech support.

I shouldn’t have waited. Once tier-one support had confirmed that I’d tried all the normal troubleshooting already, they passed me up to tier-two. Tier-two could actually look at stats from the set-top boxes and the gateway and see that there were lots of errors and where they were. They scheduled someone to come out the next day.

When the guy got here, he quickly assessed that the problems were the existing wiring in my house. Both the POTS wiring and the TV co-ax cabling had issues that were causing my problems with U-verse. He re-wired everything for me, and all seems good now.

So, two black eyes for AT&T here.

The guy who did the initial installation should have taken the time to take a closer look at the wiring in the house and fix it up. A quick installation is not a good thing if it isn’t a good installation.

Secondly, they scheduled the repair for sometime between 8am to noon. (I still don’t understand why the rest of us can schedule appointments at specific times but telephone and cable companies can’t.) The guy didn’t get here until at least 1pm. They didn’t bother to call and say he would be late.

But I was very impressed by both the telephone support people and the technician that came out. When I have actually called AT&T, they’ve gotten issues fixed. I shouldn’t have put off calling them.


The first two or three times I read Risus: The Anything RPG I fairly quickly dismissed it. Somewhere around the third or fourth reading, I decided it was The One True Role-Playing Game.

After recasting all my ideas into it and playing some of the solo adventures, my opinion cooled again. I was sure it would make a better Toon than Toon. I planned to try it for the next Toon session but probably not for anything else.

I’ve been looking at it again recently. Mainly—and this is silly—because I recently got a new printer (Andrea won custody of the old one) which will do automatic duplex (i.e. double-sided) printing. Risus was one of the first short PDFs I thought of to try out the printer with.

I remember the Risus Companion being good, but I forgot how good. I think it has a lot of it can apply to any RPG.

So, I’m determined (at the moment) to actually try running a Risus campaign. I’ve been saying that I need to just pick an existing system to run rather than trying to homebrew my own system.

13 December 2008


I had a draft post about this in relation to spells, but then I saw this ENWorld thread on magic items.

I was looking through my AD&D books tonight and noticed how versatile and multi-functional so many of the magic items were.

They were powerful, and they were odd, and fascinating, and most important of all a lot of them could do all kinds of things.

By comparison so many of the magic items of more recent editions are bland, plain, uninspired, and uninspiring. It’s like using a piece of technology from the eighties or something. The items are overly specialized, technical, usually limited to one specific function, top-heavy in design and capabilities.

Where Has All the Magic Gone?

With each edition of D&D, everything tends to become a little more systemized. Spells. Magic items. Classes. et cetera ad naseum The game is edging closer and closer to the Hero System.

Now, the Hero System is great. Mechanics and flavor nicely divorced. It is not, however, the one true system that all role-playing games should evolve towards.

No, before that

Me: What were you doing before you threw up?

Grace (6yo): Going to the restroom because I felt like I was going to throw up?

Me: But what were you doing before that?

Grace: Asking the teacher if I could go to the restroom because I felt like I was going to throw up.

Me: (>_<)!

My mom adds, “Grace answered you just the way you would answer me, so she gets it honest.”

11 December 2008


Another installment of things Robert likes that most people don’t...

I recently read one more complaint about the name of the first pedal in the collaboration between Joe Satriani and Vox: The Satchurator.

(Satriani’s nickname is “Satch”. The type of sounds the Satchurator produces are sometimes described as “saturation”. Seems like a perfect name to me.)

It’s also interesting to me that—despite all the hype about tube amp distortion being the holy grail—despite Satriani’s signature amp having two channels dedicated to tube distortion—he actually uses the solid-state Satchurator into his amp’s clean channel.

10 December 2008

Kenzer on Hackmaster Basic

Kenzer & Company sued Wizards of the Coast for not having the rights to include the Knights of the Dinner Table comics in the Dragon magazine CD-ROM archive. After the suit was settled out-of-court, Kenzer suddenly had a license to publish Hackmaster—the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons spoof in the Knights of the Dinner Table—as an actual game based on AD&D.

As licenses do, this one eventually came to an end. So now Kenzer is rewriting Hackmaster to be less derivative of AD&D. They are beginning with Hackmaster Basic. David Kenzer has been dropping some spoilers about it on the Kenzer forums.

I love this particular post.

09 December 2008

iCal duh

While talking to a new Mac user about how we both hate that the clock in the menu bar doesn’t show the date (unless you click on it), I realized something. In Leopard, they modified the iCal icon in the Dock to show the current date even when iCal isn’t running. I knew this, yet I didn’t think of looking at it when I wanted to know the date.

08 December 2008

On love

Things I think I know. Unfortunately, knowing them didn’t seem to do me much good. Maybe I understand them a little bit better know...or maybe I have no idea what I’m blathering on about. Either way, enjoy. (^_^)

Lust, infatuation, limerance: Perhaps sometimes called “falling in love”, but I think there’s a reason we have so many words besides “love” for it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s only physical. We have little or no control over it. It just happens to us. Note that, while love is blind, infatuation is simply ignorant. It is also fleeting. It isn’t bad, but it is important to realize that it isn’t really as wonderful as it feels.

To feel loved: You feel love when other people do certain things for you. The analogy is sometimes made to deposits in a bank account or filling a tank with fuel. Enough deposits in your love account, and you feel loved. The trouble is that some acts of love may mean little or nothing to you and others everything. And it varies from person to person.

So, since this is about what other people do then—like infatuation—you have no control over it. Right?

Wrong! It may seem romantic to think that two people will find each other who naturally fill each others love tank with just the right fuel.

If you don’t know what fills your love tank... If you don’t tell your partner what fills your love task... If you hide the gauge... If you lie when asked what the gauge reads... You’re leaving feeling loved up to random chance.

To Love: Love is a verb. Love is an active verb. Love is a choice.

Can it really be put so simply as: To love is to put someone else before yourself.

Love can last, but—being an action—to make it last, you must keep doing it. You must fill the tank, and it helps to know the right fuel for the engine that tank is connected to.

So, where’s the romance in all of this?

I don’t know. I always thought of myself as a romantic. I’ve never been very good at being romantic, though.

I don’t think romance is being a slave to basic impulses. I don’t think romance is trusting to chance. I do think that to have any chance of finding true romance, I have to understand the things above.

06 December 2008

Landscape keyboard

I keep reading complaints about iPhone apps that don’t allow you to use the landscape keyboard. Am I the only one who finds the landscape keyboard harder to use?

I know it seems like the landscape keyboard should be easier to use, but—for me—not so much in practice.

05 December 2008


I really enjoyed the Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Sega Genesis. They were part of the reason I bought a Genesis. They were straightforward Mario-style platformers...on speed.

I’ve now played a Sonic game for the Xbox 360. Right off the bat, this game does not feel like a Sonic game.

In Sonic games, you start the game, and you start playing. At most, you choose a character (Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles) or load a saved game. Then you’re racing through the level.

There is a story. (e.g. Dr. Robotnik has trapped your woodland friends in badnik robots and is trying to collect the six Chaos Emeralds in order to rule South Island.) There’s just no exposition.

The 360 Sonic starts with a (much too lengthy, IMHO) exposition movie and then you...walk around a town talking to people.


This post was somewhat inspired by We can steal the term “neo-retro”; there are parallels in P-n-P gaming and console gaming.

04 December 2008

Cookie cutters

OK, it’s been a month since a role-playing game related post. Non-gamers, bail-out now.

Anyone else have fond memories of cookie cutters? There’s absolutely nothing negative about my memories of using them. They do what they are meant to. They do it well. They add to the experience of making cookies and take nothing away.

While they give you a reliable shape, they don’t limit what you can put inside. Sugar cookie, snicker-doodle, peanut butter, chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia, oatmeal raisin, whatever. Heck, they don’t care if you’re cutting sandwiches or Jell-O jigglers.

When someone criticizes D&D classes (especially classic D&D) as being cookie-cutter, I don’t mind. Like cookie-cutters, they do what they are meant to do without limiting what I can do with them. All I have to do is accept them on their own terms.

If I expect a cookie cutter to be a piping bag, I’ll be disappointed. The strange thing is that there was a time when I expected D&D classes to be piping bags. Or...something like that.

03 December 2008


Continuing to try to catch up...

I’m thankful for:

  • My children
  • My parents
  • My sister and her family
  • My gaming group
  • Söundcheck
  • My Sunday school class
  • The Heartsong band, choir, and all my other friends at church
  • My job
  • My coworkers
  • Old friends who—even though I don’t do enough to stay in contact—are always ready to pick up right were we left off
  • My online friends—including you
  • My therapist

02 December 2008

Noisy iPhone app week

The week before Thanksgiving was “Noisy iPhone app week”. (And I haven’t gotten around to posting about it until now.)

Smule’s Ocarina is an iPhone simulation of a four-hole ocarina. I’d been reading good things about it, but when my friend Cheli sent me a link to the Stairway video, I had to try it. Smule discovered that they could detect when you blow on the iPhone’s microphone, which I think they first took advantage of this with their Sonic Lighter app. Given the five-touch limit of the iPhone screen and the typical square arrangement of holes on a four-hole ocarina, the ocarina was a good choice for a flute to simulate. Of course, the digital ocarina boasts some features unavailable on a real ocarina, such as the ability to change key and mode. Of all the musical instrument apps for the iPhone, this is the first one that’s really felt like a usable instrument rather than just a novelty. (And the app got me to buy a real ocarina.)

FourTrack by Sonoma Wire Works is a four-track recorder. A little multi-track recording studio on your phone.

I hadn’t really had much use for Google’s iPhone app. When I read that they were adding voice recognition, it just seemed kind of gimmicky. It actually works pretty well, though, and speaking your search terms can sometimes be more convenient than typing them on the on-screen keyboard. I imagine that some users will find it much more convenient than the on-screen keyboard. Check out the video demo.

I discovered Midomi long before Noisy iPhone week, but it seems like it deserves a mention too. It was one of the earliest iPhone apps I downloaded, after seeing Andrea use it. Midomi can listen to a song and identify it for you. It can listen to you sing or hum a song and identify it. It also has voice recognition—like Google’s app now has—for looking up a song or artist by name.