Archive for March, 2007

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A Jog Down Memory Lane

March 22, 2007

A day like most others: got up (eventually), worked, played guitar, hung out at Folsom St. Coffee. Somehow this afternoon I ended up looking over some of the digital photos on my computer; I think it was because I was looking for a picture to use for my Blogger avatar. So this evening I ended up going through all the ones that had been imported into F-spot on my desktop and uploading a bunch of them to picasaweb.

Took a few hours to get these things sorted, resized, and uploaded, but I was waiting for the upgrade to Feisty on my laptop to finish, so I had nothing better to be doing. I haven’t really gotten around to tagging and captioning these things; that will have to happen over a longer period of time, probably whilst avoiding work. So I’ll probably get started first thing tomorrow morning! Some of these may be of little interest to most of you folks, but here are a few that might be:

Friends
Weddings
Durango
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St. Patrick Strikes Back

March 20, 2007

WARNING: Long.

This past Saturday, for those of you who remained blissfully unaware, was St. Patrick’s Day. Normally I barricade myself in my home and try to weather this alcoholic storm in as stoic a manner as possible. Boycotting a holiday is akin to dropping a pebble in the Pacific ocean in that neither is a very good way to make waves, but I do it anyway. This year, however, was something of an exception—well, not “something of an exception,” it was an exception. Some of my friends—of whom you’ve undoubtedly heard me speak—were playing at the Mountain Sun that evening. Under the nom de guerre Lilt, Jon, Jessie, Adam, and Jeff played a rousing show along with their friend from Ireland, Martin O’Brien. But before that, disaster…


Rich and I had shown up early at the Sun in order to secure ourselves a good spot for the show and to fill our bellies with food and beer. Just as we finished eating, my phone rang; it was Jon.

“Hey, Evan. You’ve got a concertina, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Would it be possible for us to borrow it?”

“Sure, no problem.”

“Cool. Martin’s concertina is having some trouble and we might not be able to fix it.”

“OK.”

Or something like that. About five minutes later my phone rang again; this time it was Jessie. She said they definitely needed my concertina. Now at this point we weren’t completely certain whether or not my concertina would cut the mustard or not; I never really learned how to play it or much about the instruments in general, so I described it as best I could, but was at a loss when it came to some of Martin’s questions about the instrument. So we decided it was best to just go and see if it would work or not.

Off we went to my apartment in South East Boulder. Martin took one look at the thing and new it wasn’t the right kind; he played a couple notes and was sure. Bummer. Back out to the car we go. As Jessie is loading her fiddle back in the trunk Martin walks over to me and hands me a CD—a copy of his CD—and says, ‘thanks.’ I looked at him stunned. “Are you sure?” I said. He said he was. I said,”but it didn’t even work out. The concertina’s no good to you.” He said that was alright, he appreciated it anyway. Wow. To my mind that is one of the most generous gifts someone can give me.

So we left my apartment bound for Jessie’s place in West Boulder; Martin was going to hang out there for a bit and then maybe come to the Sun later for the show. They both went inside while I sat guarding the car. After a few minutes I saw Jessie walking back toward the care. She did not, however, go to the driver’s side; rather, she walked up to my door, opened it and told me I might want to come inside as they had just gotten a call back from Michael Reed, a concertina player in Boulder.

Off we went again, to North Boulder this time, to the home of Michael Reed. There, I again stayed in the car, defending Jessie’s fiddle against a marauding pack of rabid ninjas. Apparently Michael could not repair the concertina then and there, but was amazingly kind enough to lend Martin his concertina! So, concertina in hand, we returned to the Mountain Sun.

The five of them, joined periodically by a bodhran player I recognize from Conor’s but whose name escapes me, put on an amazing show. They played until 2:00 am and every moment was utter bliss for me. I have not the words to describe their shows ever, and this one was better than any I had seen. They even had a guy running sound for them, so the sound was always pretty well balanced.

Afterwards, as is becoming my habit, I stuck around to help lug¹ gear out to the car. Once we got everything packed up and moved out of the Sun they started talking about what they were going to do next. Somewhere along the line I was invited to tag along to whatever they ended up doing—I think as much because I was sober enough to drive as because they wanted me to come, but that’s fine by me. After some rowdiness and general carousing on the streets² while the last little financial details of the evening were worked out, we—minus Adam and Sarah, sadly—headed off to this fellow Troy’s place. There, we played some video games, ate some frozen pizza³, and I watched Jessie and Jon wrestle on the floor of the living room.

The last hiccup of the night came at about 5:30 am when I arrived home after dropping off the others. I hadn’t anything in my trunk that I wanted to bring in that night, but still I had this feeling that I should check the trunk. Lo and behold, a shoulder bag containing one Apple laptop. In a fit of bad judgment I phoned Jessie in the hopes that she hadn’t fallen asleep yet to let her know that someone had left their bag in my car—I knew it wasn’t Jon’s bag, and Martin and Jeff were couch-surfing at Jessie’s that night. Martin and Jeff had both crashed already, so it had to wait ’til morning, when I received a call from Jeff and he swung by to pick up his computer.

Best St. Patrick’s Day ever.


¹ According to Red Octane, “lug” is the correct term for moving musical equipment at a concert. That, or “schlepp”.
² This consisted of a lot of dancing, some gymnastics, and a modicum of Capoeira.
³ The pizza itself was no longer frozen, but had been baked in an oven. It had, however, previously been frozen, hence the term “frozen pizza”.

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Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!

March 14, 2007

John Sheehan: let’s start our own company
John Sheehan: don’t know what we’ll do but what the heck
Me: we can get Dan to join us and we’ll build a computer input device for dogs
Me: then we’ll make money designing websites for people’s pets
Me: dog blogs will be the wave of the future!
Me: once those have taken off, we can branch out to cats
Me: and call the new product “clogs”

I am so full of good ideas.

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Dumping Core to the Blogosphere

March 11, 2007

A few weeks ago, while driving back from a D&D session at Nate’s, my brain began to kick around some ideas for a new personal software project. I have not had much interest in personal projects of this nature lately; spending the bulk of my week writing code for pay seems to lessen my drive to do it for fun. Instead I find myself more inclined to practice guitar and fiddle, play capoeira, or take care of my apartment. However, this project seems, at least at a glance, reasonably simple and somewhat fun.

What, you may be wondering should you still be reading, is this project? If you hadn’t guessed from the opening sentence, it is gaming software. Unlike my old hobby horse, Palantir, this application—or rather, applications—is intended to be supplemental for a game played in person rather than a game run over the internet. There are really two pieces to my initial idea. The first is a piece of software for the DM that can be used with a projector to provide information to the party as a whole without having everyone crowd around a piece of 8.5 x 11 piece of printer paper. Some pieces of information, such as maps, is difficult to maintain and share with everyone scattered about the room haphazards. It is especially difficult to communicate information of a geographic nature when you are frequently as verbally challenged as Nathan.

The second piece to my idea—and the one which is less of a pipe dream at this point—is simply a digital character sheet. I had been lamenting the difficulty of maintaining all the information required for my current character, who now has three classes which all require spell information to be recorded in addition to all the normal character nonsense. There is a lot of erasing and rewriting information—especially regarding spells—and tracking of data across multiple sheets of paper involved in this character (though it is worth it, having successfully blinded a wyvern, a thief, and a necromancer).

I’d had the Nokia N800 on my mind at the time as well and was thinking how nice it would be to have a gadget like that running a little application that handled all this for me. It would know, based on my ability scores and levels, how many arcane and divine spells I got per day, which I had prepared, what slots they occupied, etc. It would track AC and ability modifiers based on the gear I had. And all of this without me gradually wearing through a piece of paper as I erased and re-wrote this information time and again.

So talking with Mark this afternoon the idea changed from a desktop app to a web-based one. This happened for a couple of reasons. One was that I was already considering a web-based component for sharing characters. Sharing this data is possibly interesting and of debatable usefulness for players; it has more potential usefulness to the DM. In any case, the idea of having a whole group sharing this data on the web struck me as fun, if not useful. The second reason I began to consider a web-app is that it doesn’t preclude my windows-using friends from using the software. This is a somewhat dubious excuse, in my opinion, but I don’t think there’s anything about the application that makes it a poor candidate for webification and it does mean if I give into temptation and get an N800 I don’t have to struggle with getting it running on there.

I’m still not entirely convinced that this project is sound. Part of me almost feels like using computers to do the work of maintaining my character sheet is cheating; as though it’s a betrayal of the principles of table top gaming. This notion is absurd, but I am prone to absurd notions. I also fear that, as Ajay suggested, the requirement of a laptop or other computing device to make use of this gaming mechanism will deter users. I further fear that in practice this application will not be as useful as I imagine.

The advantage of a tool such as this is that it automates some of the more tedious aspects of game play; in particular a lot of the work that goes into maintaining a spell caster. I find myself spending a lot of time making sure that I have selected all the correct spells for each day. Often I just reuse the same configuration from the last time just to save time and move the game forward, but this detracts from the usefulness of a wizard since their power is in their diversity. Other times I spend quite a bit of time selecting spells and maintaining my spell book; time that could be spent focusing on what’s going on in-game.

So the end result of this brain-dump is that I’m not convinced that this project is worth the effort of undertaking it and I am welcoming comments and opinions and thoughts. I suppose at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if this software is a waste of time or not. I’d be doing it for fun, so as long as I enjoyed working on it that’s probably all that matters (like Palantir). I think I would welcome the chance to play around with Django in a pressure-free context.

I also need a name for the project, should I choose to undertake this effort.

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When Life Gets You Down…

March 6, 2007

…The internet is always there with plenty of meaningless entertainment to distract you.


Evil, Villager-Abducting Nightmare

Get Your Monster Name


Wonderful Amorous Lover Luxuriating in Arousing Caresses and Embraces

Get Your Sexy Name


Wireless Artificial Lifeform Limited to Assassination and Ceaseless Exploration


Electronic Violence and Assassination Neohuman

Get Your Cyborg Name

Thank you, internet.

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Moving Forward Musically

March 4, 2007

It might not be coincidence that this week both Jon and Jessie taught me a tune without the benefit of sheet music.  The best part—besides just learning two tunes that I love to play—is that something clicked in my head when they taught me these tunes. It started clicking when Jon taught me the B part to The Humours of Barrack St. and finished clicking when Jessie taught me Angelina Baker. I suddenly began to understand how to learn tunes by ear.

So this afternoon I spent a little time with their CD and began to work out the melody to Sousa’s Reel. It’s slow going, but I’m getting there. It’s pretty cool. I’m not sure I’d have been able to do this 6 months ago.

It’s exciting for me. I feel like I’m really turning into a musician of sorts. Perhaps I’m in the wrong field…