Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Best Costume Halloween 2007?

At first I thought it was a Jesuit Priest, or a pagan Jesuit Priest (okay, it was the red and black robes and bronze 20-point star pendant that conjured that imagery, not that such a thing could exist; well, exist openly).

I asked, “And what are you?”

“Evil Minon Minion!,” replied the boy, enthusiastically

Winner! The last trick-or-treater, the best costume.

Should’ve got a picture…

Posted by caffeinated at 7:56 PM in 0xDECAF

Sunday, 28 October 2007

YUI-ifying ACD

Frustrated with my homebrew’d v1.0 creative for ACD, I’m finally tackling v2.0 using the YUI.

v2.0 is 70% done and it “feels” much better, more cohesion in the design elements and colors. The ACD “espresso header” will at least remain, initially. I have some ideas for something more sinister—I am left handed after all—maybe something sinister, with dice, coffee, and code. Hmmmm…

Posted by caffeinated at 9:20 PM in Bohemian Breakfast

Friday, 26 October 2007

Cracked servers

About two years ago I launched an OSCommerce site and blog for a friend.

All has been well for a while, but now the site is down, administratively disabled by the host because “spam and phishing attacks” have started originating from the site. The reasons the site is down could have many reasons, from PHP crack (possible) to just poor administration and security protocols on the part of the host. Come’on, who actually still allows Apache ServerTokens to be reported in a production environment!

Apache/2.0.52 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.0.52 OpenSSL/0.9.7d DAV/2 PHP/4.3.10 Server at www.------------.com Port 80

I’m going to dis on the host here, WebAppCabaret, because they are absent administrators. Emails go unanswered. Phone calls die with no messaging service. Support is shit.

I will never recommend WebAppCabaret (WAC) to another friend. I chose WAC two years ago because they provided J2EE hosting at a reasonable cost.

In the future I will opt for a VPS, like linode, where I can secure the box. WAC has wack service. Stay away.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:58 PM in 0xDECAF

Thursday, 25 October 2007

My campaign calendar

I have opted for the week of Sigmarzeit 18th. It was suggested by a member of the Black Library WFRP GM forums that the period of Sigmar’s Rising, a rare lunar month (30–33 years apart) when a constellation dedicated to Sigmar appeared) made a good fit. There is no question that it is a tempting slot for the Grand Conclave, with statements like: "...major events occur during this time, such as the building of huge public works, the rise of new Elector Counts..." and yet, it has too much of sterile feel. But one overarching reason held out against it, Sigmar's Rising was too affiliated with Azyr (the Lore of the Heavens aka the Celestial Order aka the Blue College of Magic); said another way, Sigmar's Rising is a "secular and scientific" outlook on events, whereas the Cult of Sigmar is a "faith-based organization."

The events around Sigmarzeit 18 really won the day: it's the first day of summer and many societies are celebrating, and then there is the annual Sigmar's Walk on the 15th. Great crowds are already gathering for the parade of flagellation on the 15th and sausages on the 18th. It is easy to see a grander backdrop of the Grand Conclave also taking place in Altdorf, providing a subtext to the many "commoner" events, i.e., "give them bread and games!"

And it ties in well to my campaign and events about to take shape around a Cult of Slaanesh.

If none of this made sense, then you are not playing WFRP.

Posted by caffeinated at 6:59 AM in d10

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Random pickings

Some thoughts of various loose ends flailing about me:

My skull mug shipped today. Doesn't look like I'll get it before next week.

WFRP session on the horizon, details to still being hashed out.

Looks like the “story bible” that is the Warhammer Universe only has the idea of the Grand Conclave held every five years, on no particular anniversary. Looks like I'm going to set my campaign in Sigmarzeit (Sigmartide) of 2523.

Working overtime to clean up a code clusterfuck by a contractor at work. Two new contractors starting this week and no time to integrate them.

That is all.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:59 AM in Bohemian Breakfast

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Styling improvements, or I hate IE

WTF, IE6. WTF?

So I looked at the site in IE6 today. Ugh. Sidebar not floating right. Typical box-model shit from IE6.

I'll see if I can pull some cycles out tomorrow at work and run the problem though the debug grinder.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:41 PM in kaffehaus

Styling improvements?

There have been some unfinished styling improvements to ACD for sometime.

I just updated some of the colors and margins for things like links and titles. Long overdue indeed. Should make the site a bit easier to follow;it may have never mattered for folks consuming a feed, but for those old-skool surfers, “there ya go.”

Posted by caffeinated at 7:15 AM in kaffehaus

Monday, 22 October 2007

A dark, disturbed, caffeine libation

A very long time ago, a young man watched a TV movie, of questionable production and writing quality, that had a title something like Swords and (Sorcerers|Sorcery).1 I don't recall much of the story, but one scene is burned into my mind:

A hero (maybe the heroes) enter a tavern. Belly up to the bar and order a libation. It is delivered in mugs, made of skulls. Do I recall smoke cascading over the rim?

Fast forward to my years in college and an incident that still makes me sad, a little bit. My parent’s had given me a skull mug from The Pirates House restaurant in Savannah, GA. The mug, as I recall, was a gift, but not for any memory of a B-Made-for-Television movie. Gray, with a “bone” handle, the mug was evocative of pirate lure. I loved that mug. Then my roommate, rushing to get to class, knocked it to the floor. Destroyed.

I have seen many mugs like this very one on eBay, or at other stores. Most white, or ivory, but none gray like the souvenir from my parents2, and never any like the prop from the movie.

Until today.

Completely by accident, as I wanted to find an image of a skull for a blog post about locating a mug as my mind’s envisioned and remembered it from my youth, I typed “skull” into Google, then selected “Images.” As Providence would have it, this gem appeared on the first page.

Damn! This is exactly what I wanted. I wanted a skull mug that would be reminiscent of the movie prop, something sans-jawbone, that rested on the brain pan and upper jaw. Something macabre. Something that would let me drink coffee from, well, a brain pan.

I don’t have to tell you how excited I am about this mug.

Order one yourself from Tiki Farm.

Bonus points for anyone that can tell me what the name of that B-Made-for-TV movie was... I completed college in ’91, 1988 was the year I entered that university. So this movie must have aired in the early 80s, say 1980–1984.

meta-footnote-1=grep expression for “one or the other” meta-footnote-2=The Pirates House no longer has this mug as a souvenir. The original mug was gray, with appropriate highlights and a black wash, deep black eye sockets, and a white interior. The Pirates House was prominently stamped on the back of the skull.
Posted by caffeinated at 8:32 AM in Bohemian Breakfast

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Adding in-world calendars to your game

As I work in story ideas for my next session of WFRP, I wanted to provide some backstory for reasons a High Priest of Sigmar would travel by boat to Altdorf.

Ah, the Grand Conclave. Held every five years in Altdorf. The first was held at the behast of Magnus the Pious. So… somebody please, tell me when was this first Grand Conclave held? I don’t care about the "world date." I just want to know the month and day on the Imperial Calendar. A calendar so richly detailed with honorifics and festival days, but no mention of any date honoring the first Grand Conclave.

If there is anything great about the Warhammer world is it is rich in established history. Yeah, some of it has been retconned over the years for commercial reasons of the publishers (no rants please from D&D peanut gallery, you are about to get a good dose of that by WotC and the 4th edition).

The reason I want this month and day is two-fold: 1) to establish a current world date for my campaign; 2) to establish a rough world date for the Empire in my post-Storm-of-Chaos version of the WFRP game. Maybe it is not “2522 IC” in my game, but 2523, or 2530. Whatever. But this knowledge is missing from 3 source books that go to great length and detail to talk of Sigmar, Magnus and the Storm of Chaos!

In both the former and the latter, I want to begin adding more world flavor offered by the rich details found in Tome of Salvation, a recent WFRP sourcebook on the cults found in the Empire. Things like festivals, religious observances, and cultural oddities.

Sure I could make it up. But then I get myself in a pinch when it is published and suddenly my world is out-of-sync again. I already have rivers flowing against the laws of nature, and I had to move the headquarters of the road wardens because I didn't read a detail in Sigmar's Heirs.

One might question the detail I just espoused about the WFRP world if this detail is missing. Maybe it is just assumed known to be found elsewhere, but where? Please tell me. Please?

Update

My in-world year is 2523IC. A sidebar reference to the Grand Conclave is made in Sigmar’s Heirs:

These meetings, called “Grand Conclaves,” have served their purpose well so far, though now they are held in Altdorf. A conclave is scheduled for next year

The WFRP world is post-Storm of Chaos, a Chaos war fought in 2522IC. This war was a retcon event in the game that refreshed the commercialization of the Games Workshop product line and set the stage for WFRP 2nd Edition release as well.

A thank you to Ian Ward and the WFRP2 Index for helping me find this reference.

Now, month and day, month and day. Either the first one held (c. 2302IC), or the now observed date, in-world of course.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:11 AM in d10

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Fear the Boot podcast

As I mudded the fire-taping in my garage, I listened to the collection of podcasts from Fear the Boot I downloaded:

  1. Episode 23 - common GMing mistakes
  2. Episode 42 - wounds, healing, and death
  3. Episode 57 - fog of war
  4. Episode 72 - RPG modules
  5. Episode 74 - campaign rules

All very good. I especially enjoyed the troupe member (I forget his name at the moment) that enjoyed old-school Shadowrun.

I took away at least one thing in 3 hours of listening to seasoned GMs: get player feedback on your own GMing.

But still more: I laughed at “undead frankenstein tongue-fingers,” I cringed at the imaginations of bad GMs, and I wished for an all-girl gaming group…ok, does such a thing really exist? I can’t get my wife to pay even a modicum of attention or to take the hobby seriously. Oh, and lastly, that Vin Diesel is long time player of D&D.

Kudos! to FTB for this production. It is a podcast standard to reach for.

Posted by caffeinated at 7:14 PM in d10

64bit, memory, and money

Here’s one for the readers: if Mac OS X Leopard finally exercises the 64bit features of the Intel Core 2 Duo, does that mean my MacBook Pro can effectively be expanded to use 1TB (terabyte) of RAM?

sonuvabitch!

Let me translate that number: 1024GBs! For a MacBook Pro that’s two 512GB chips. Aside from “they don’t make those (yet),” 1024GBs is a lot of RAM. 4GB excited me. 1TB?! I can't describe the excitement or possibilities: multiple guest OSs... or the combinations of development platforms. Ah, such are geek wet dreams.

Sad really. It would so be expensive. 4GB, even 8GB, is attainable; 1TB needs an angel with money, ’cuz I ain’t got that kinda dough.

Posted by caffeinated at 1:46 PM in the mac bloc

Friday, 19 October 2007

Geography 101 and the GM

In the last session of WFRP I ran I made a geography gaffe that had real implications in game play, but I could not retract before it was realized by the players, and was an embarrassment to me.

The PCs had stolen a barge from some possible tomb robbers in a lost elven (Elder) settlement on the River Reik. The idea of the players was to take a map to the settlement and the location of a “ warpstone prison” created by the long deceased builders into Altdorf.

I played the river scenes as though the PCs only had to guide the barge in the current to Altdorf, three days east of where they started. Oops.

The PCs would of had a much harder time of it if they were pushing the barge east against the current! If I only looked at the map a little closer I would have noted that rivers empty to seas. And the Reik empties at Marienburg and the Sea of Claws. Duh!

I tried to resolve this problem at the end, allowing the players a pass on the fatigue that they surely would be experiencing. We wrapped up with the players hitching a ride on a larger boat. This boat used sails against the current and I could leave the embarrassing moment behind me.

GM discussion

Martin of Treasure Tables discusses the very topic of retconning in a campaign because of a gaffe. Go take a look at Snap Decisions and Retconning for more.

Posted by caffeinated at 6:56 AM in d10

Thursday, 18 October 2007

New tricks with my D50

I think I was looking at the features for Leopard, Mac OS X (10.5) from Apple, and improved tethered camera support in Image Capture caught my eye. Improved? I thought. I didn’t know this was even possible.

My first introduction to digital cameras was an Olympus model on my PowerBook 5300c. It had client tool that allowed you to almost turn it into a webcam, but at the same time take photos when it was tethered by USB to the PowerBook.

I haven’t seen this functionality in a digital camera in almost 10 years, unless you purchased tools from the maker or some third party.

So seeing this feature in Image Capture indeed was to hark back to my first impression of how great digital photography could be. But I asked myself: would my D50 support it… only one way to find out…

No.

Wait. Yes, the camera out of the box is set to use USB as in mass storage mode. PTP is a user selection…Tada! Wonder of wonders, it works! No, was not a live view, but possibilities were opening up. With a tripod mounted camera, I could tether it to my Mac and take pictures if so desired. Bulb photography suddenly is possible without buying the thumb remote. Street photography at the café. I think I’m going to like this feature a lot.

Posted by caffeinated at 10:11 AM in Bohemian Breakfast

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Hacking the Matrix

Wired recently featured a HOWTO issue that highlighted the possibility of integrating an iPod into the standard radio/CD unit of any given car.

I own a Toyota Matrix—aside from all of the Matrix puns I get to use— the Matrix is a great car. But Toyota has been slow on the uptake of the idea that MP3 (read “iPod”) integration is not optional equipment. I would go even so far as to say iPod integration is barely on Toyota’s radar.

Taking the Wired article to heart, I yanked the radio/CD unit out and studied its ports and hookups. No options for splitting the input and adding a headphone jack were present.

Not disappointed, I learned that replacing the radio could be very easy: the dash disassembly is very easy and non-destructive. Popping a new unit in with an apropos faceplate to match the resulting void would be very easy.

I’ll have to seriously consider that Alpine unit under 200. I don’t need no stinking CD player. Hell, I could probably sell the original unit on eBay.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:17 AM in 0xDECAF

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Chainmail Bikini

Stumbled on Chainmail Bikini by Shamus Young and Shawn Gaston. Looks very promising.

I knew a “Josh” in my early days gaming. One GM, and still friend, would kill his characters without fanfare.

Looking forward to reading more of Chainmail Bikini. And there’s a podcast.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:31 AM in d10

Monday, 15 October 2007

To partition or not to partition

I made the mistake of equipping my new MacBook before splitting the drive into HFSJ and HFSX partitions (J is for Journaled HFS+, X is HFSJ with case-sensitivity). Now, I’m sans case sensitive partition and my CVS/SVN checkouts have issues, besides I can’t commit files with the same name, differing only in case (yes, there are reasons such things might exist in the world of software development).

Boo.

There appear to be some good tools out there, though I’m only seriously considering DriveStudio by Micromat. Micromat has always been a great Mac company, producing powerful tools for the Mac hacker and support expert. I trust Micromat.

I’m just not ready to drop the 50 bucks.

Then there is parted and its GUI’d cousins, QTParted and GParted. Freeware tools that do the same thing, but without the feature set of a tool like DriveStudio.

What to do?

Posted by caffeinated at 7:56 AM in the mac bloc

Sunday, 14 October 2007

New WFRP campaign blog

Grim and Peril

Taking advice from a comment on Treasure Tables, I started a public blog at Blogger for my players: grimperil.blogspot.com.

Being that we don’t meet more than once a month, it is easy to lose a sense of where the game left off.

I plan to continue posting here as well, mostly because blojsom lets me meta-game my notes more easily from a GM perspective.

Grim and Peril will be my players entry point. ACD will be the entry point for anyone interested in more “behind the screen” details of each session.

Enjoy.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:31 AM in d10

Saturday, 13 October 2007

My damn fingers!

Die Tee, Die has been quiet.

But I’m not giving up on the idea.

Yet, what has me mad is that I just learned that the link I had in my original post was wrong! I had misspelled the link. I wonder how many possible interested clicks I lost?

Posted by caffeinated at 7:35 PM in d10

Is your neighborhood ready for Cops?

I recently took a long overdue vacation to the mountains of North Georgia for some testosterone influenced fun: guns, beer, fishing, tents, campfires, beer, guns.

I returned 5 days later to stories of law enforcement vehicles (from two states), forensic vans, crying neighbors, and neighbors being handcuffed!

With the scant “evidence” available to my wife, I powered up Google with some key words. Bam. Eight hits eerily matched: our neighbor’s live in relative went home one Friday night. He mortally beat his mother in a robbery gone bad. The next evening, Saturday, he was arrested at our neighbor’s house after a thorough search (finding his mother’s wallet and some bloody clothing).

Wow. That’s crazy drama.

Moral: Google is awesome. I knew the story before the local rag reported it three days later. Everything else was just gossip in the neighborhood.

Posted by caffeinated at 11:12 AM in Bohemian Breakfast