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July 25, 2006

Skyping The Spillane Way

Saturday, of course, was the first session of Primetime Adventures, with Dan and Sallidar joining Vickie and I via Skype. You’ve most likely already seen the “ads” Vickie and I did up for The Spillane Way, the show the four of us came up with, and seen the wiki page for it. As with the first attempt, the whole first session (around three hours, not including breaks) wound up being pitch, but things still went smoothly. We’ve decided to reunite over Skype on Saturday, August the fifth for the pilot.

A few notes about playing over Skype: Firstly, things take longer than you think or plan for. I reckon it's a combination of not being face-to-face with everyone (I have the feeling the pitch might have gone for about half the time when we were face to face) and a phenomenon similar to the one that happens on long phone calls; you're so busy talking you don't realise just how long you've been talking for. I think a timer near my desk would help; each episode of PtA should have four acts, so allowing an hour per act would allow us to get through one episode per session.

On the other hand, we didn't have anywhere near as many "floor" problems, where people talked across each other, as I was expecting (at least none that were obvious). Vickie wound up with less floor time than Dan, Sallidar and I, so that's something I'll keep an ear out for during the pilot.

Also, I don't think we quite got the "click moment" mentioned in some write-ups of PtA games. Again, I think that was a function of both voice chat time and my still fairly novice skill in keeping the pace during the pitch. Nonetheless, I think our show idea is very gameable; I’m very confident in my ability to cook up a good starting situation for the pilot session and pace things from there on in.

I used a free audio recording plug-in called PowerGramo to record the whole session and am slowly splitting it out into three or four separate files using another freeware app called Audacity. Editing the files is an interesting and complex exercise; I’m stripping out extended silences, bits where Dan’s and Salidar’s kids demand their Dad’s attention and those annoying bits where I say “So, right, ummmm…” God, there’s a lot of those bits, a whole job lot.

There are two other things I’m trying to do: Amplify the sections where Vickie and I are speaking (because as we’re sharing the one microphone placed between our desks we’re a lot fainter than the headset-using Dan and Sallidar) and strip the background hiss out, which I’ve learned the hard way is best left until after the amplitude is fixed (doing it beforehand results in some interesting distortions to Vickie’s and my voices). So I might have to re-do the whole first file again.

I’d like to be able to post the end product somewhere, podcast-style (like those Sons of Kryos podcasts I mentioned a week or so ago); the only problem is, each of those files is around twenty to twenty-five megabytes in size (for around forty minutes of audio), more if I save them as MP3s instead of Ogg Vorbis files. I’d rapidly run out of space on Marcus’ server. Of course, I could chuck him some more dollars every month for more space – and then I’d probably hit bandwidth use issues for the first time ever, which might necessitate yet more cash!

Oh, well; we’ll see how we go. In the meantime, Reefcon is fast approaching; I’ve signed up for a single session on each day, which should give me enough time to hob-nob and meet new gamers. I might even take my recently-purchased perfect-bound copy of Primetime Adventures and a deck of cards with me. You never know...

Crane, Poole & Guild Wars

The weekend just gone was a long weekend for us up here because of the Cairns Show, which ran from July the nineteenth to the twenty-first. We were semi-planning to go, but Friday continued in the trend of a wet and miserable week, so neither of us felt like poking our noses out of the front door. I think I wound up playing quite a bit of Guild Wars; my Elementalist/Ranger is currently sitting on Level 9. I reckon I ought to take a rest so Dan can catch his Warrior/Necromancer up; some of the quests I’m taking are pretty damned tough, even with a complement of Level 6 NPCs backing me up.

I've also joined a guild, an Australian gang who call themselves the Morporkian Mercenaries. I haven't done much stuff with them yet, mainly because I'm still playing through the roleplaying (translation: questing) campaign so I can get the hang of how the skills work. I put a post up on the guild forum over on the Australia New Zealand Guild Wars Community about why I like the game:

I like Guild Wars because of its lack of monthly fees, of course, but also because it cuts out a lot of the number-crunching that many MMOs seem to rely on nowadays (a few years ago, a friend loaned me his copy of The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind to try; I wound up uninstalling it after about an hour; I had the same reaction to EVE Online a few months back); the limited attributes and skill slots encourage a little bit of tactical thinking without spoiling me for choice (not to mention the fact that you can completely overhaul your skill slots and attribute points whenever you’re in any outpost or town). It’s just easier to get into than many games I’ve played.

Still, one must be careful. We watched Boston Legal last night (as we always do), and in the midst of Alan Shore and Denny Crane (say it with me: Denny Crane. Denny... Crane.) going on holiday because of Alan's sudden case of "word salad" was Brad Chase representing a friend's computer game company being prosecuted for a young computer addict's death due to addiction-related starvation, a timely reflection no doubt on EverQuest suicides and Korean gaming clubs. Although I doubt I'll get anywhere that far, I certainly don't want Vickie becoming an MMO widow.

She'd probably kill me first, anyway.

So the break from Guild Wars while Dan catches up is a doubly good thing. Triply, if you include the whole Vickie putting Rob out of her misery bit.

Another... erm, Wood Panel in the Wall

Well, it’s been an interesting few days since my last post! To start with, Karl has spent today and yesterday at our place, putting new walls in our lounge room (so that the laundry will actually be a room of its own now) and the bedroom (removing the thin divider and old, shabby wardrobes between dressing-room and computer room, so that we can put new shelves and racks in). The work he’s done so far is nothing short of phenomenal; we had a solid wood skeleton for the laundry wall and doorway by the time he left last night, and I imagine he’ll have similar in the computer room tonight, He’s also going to be putting battens on the rear wall of the living room and wood-sheeting that wall and the other three. We still have to figure out what we’re going to do about the surround sound speaker cables…

This means, of course, that the main room is empty of furniture. Karl’s taken the big stuff over to his place on his ute; he ahs plenty of room in his garage to store it until the work is done. With a little juggling, the big TV has been situated down the far end of our dining room, so we sit in the middle of the room, where the main hallway broadens out into the union of dining and kitchen space, on the dining table chairs to watch TV. We were originally thinking that we’d have to use the little set in our bedroom…

I still need to take some photos of our new front deck. I think I forgot to mention that Vickie splashed out on a new lounge set a few weeks ago. It's huge; an L-shaped corner set with three sections and an armchair, and it's a bit more comfy than the old one. It's at Karl's at the moment, of course, but once the renovations get done and it gets shifted back in I'll take some photos.

July 23, 2006

Now In Production: The Spillane Way

The Spillane Way

July 22, 2006

Tip Of The Day: Disk Cleanup Is A Frag Grenade

Here's a little lesson I learned this morning: If you're going to do some hard drive housekeeping, be sure to run Disk Cleanup's "Compress old files" facility before you run Disk Defragmenter. I spent a few hours last night doing it the other way around - I even left my PC on when I went to bed shortly after midnight so Disk Cleanup could finish doing its thing - and discovered this morning that my previously nicely-organised hard drive had become a sea of red fragmented sectors in Defrag's analysis report.

I mgiht even do two defrag runs just to make sure everything's in good order.

And maybe delete some hefty files.

July 17, 2006

I'm Get-tin' Thin-ner! Thin-ner, Yeah...

In another item of good news, it looks as though, in the past month or so, not only have I been getting stronger but I've also been getting lighter! I recently stepped on the scales at Vickie's behest to discover that instead of the expected 82 and a half kilos, I'm now only seventy-nine!

Vickie's been commenting lately on the disappearance of my gut, which is odd, because I thought I was gaining more weight. Around my face, anyway. Maybe that's where it was all going?

All that salad Vickie's been serving with her dinners lately must be doing me good!

Best Laid Plans, Or Lack Thereof

Well, my birthday came and went with minimal fanfare. As I had no real idea how the heck I wanted to celebrate it, I left planning a bit late; by the time I realised what a great idea a dinner out in Cairns on the Saturday after my birthday would be (nice and central for everyone), I only had a week to send invitations. By then, of course, everyone already had plans. So we had a barbecue dinner at our place instead!

I got some very nice presents from Vickie (two new pairs of shoes and The Whitlams’ new double-album, Little Cloud – woman spoils me, she does) and Deena and Rhys (The Polar Express on DVD) and my Aunt Heather (a neat shirt that’ll look good both smart and casual). I also received some birthday money form Dad and my aunt Trish that I’ve since splurged on various things, including a few DVDs, some RPG books (on the way from the States) and a copy of the massively-multiplayer online game Guild Wars.

You may remember that a little while ago I asked if anyone would want to join me in trying out the beta of the game. It turns out I managed to get Dan hooked; he recently mentioned that he went and bought a copy around when the game went retail – while I, of course, didn’t. So, having okay memories of the game play experience, I figured I’d give it a whirl, and managed to snag a copy of the client on sale at the Cairns Central EB for 25% off. The great bit is the fact that there are no monthly fees. So far it’s been pretty fun, and Dan and I have chatted over Skype whilst playing. We’re thinking of picking up Factions, the first expansion, sometime soon (probably after our tax returns come through).

Despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to get any RP gaming in over the last couple of weekends. Remember that list of things we wanted to do Saturday week ago? Well, a trip out to Kewarra Beach, about fifty or so kays away, was added to that list on Saturday morning. Deena was still looking for somewhere to rent, and Vickie found a couple of promising places online that we needed to check out. The first was a wash – it really needed a renovation before being any more than a cheap rental – but the second was pretty good, and with any luck Deena’s rental application for it will be approved (the very first house we looked at a few weeks ago would’ve been fantastic but someone beat us to it).

Unfortunately, it meant I had less time to do the things that needed to be done, and while we still got to see Pirates of the Caribbean (quite enjoyable, by the way) I cancelled the session of The Shadow of Yesterday with Simon and Cristel so that I could get the front deck painted. I really didn't like the odds of the weather not raining if I put it off for another weekend. Turned out to be a good call, because the heavens opened up this weekend. Simon and Cristel's schedules have also got busier with Simon covering for an out-of-state manager at work, so it may be a few weeks before I can hook up with them again.

All is not lost gaming-wise, though. It looks very much like we’ll be able to get another Primetime Adventures game on via Skype this coming Saturday. Vickie, Dan, Salidar and quite possibly Dan’s wife Lesley will be playing and I’ll be producing. Also, Reefcon is on in a couple of weeks and I’ve signed up for a few sessions, which will give me a chance to get to know some more local gamers.

And somewhere in there I’ll be dragging Vickie off to see Superman Returns!

July 11, 2006

30 Minus 1

Birthday Desk

I took this using my Nokia 6101's camera, so I blame any lack of sharpness on it. Anyway, in case you can't tell, that's my desk at work, festooned in "Happy Birthday!" pennants and streamers. The folks at work threw me a great little morning tea (two cakes!) and fun was had!

I'm at home with my wonderful wife, step-daughter and two ratbag dogs. Wife and daughter are in the kitchen at the moment, trying to find cooking utensils. I've got a six of Heineken from the bottle-o and tomorrow off work.

It's good to be me!

July 10, 2006

Only Softer and More Conductive

You may remember that a couple of years ago I was a regular browser of Doc's Blog. It was run by a gent named Mitch, and in the midst of the usual personal updates and ponderings he posted what he called Game Dreams (based on Ginger Stampley's Game WISHes), topics on roleplay gaming (and gaming in general) intended to spark discussion. In late 2004, Mitch decided to shut the blog down, mainly due to lack of time to work on it.

I e-mailed Mitch a little while ago to see how he was doing, and he gave me a link to his next web log, The Bronze Chef. At the time, though, it was pretty much a placeholder while he fiddled with the back-end. Nonetheless, I put a link up (with a "Coming Soon" rider) in my "Web Logs" links section.

Just today, Mitch sent me an e-mail notifying me that The Bronze Chef has now gone live, and quite frankly, it looks great! I've taken the "Coming Soon" sign down and will be browsing there again regularly.

July 07, 2006

The Prime-al Urge...

DISCLAIMER: The proximity of this post to my birthday should NOT, in ANY FASHION, be construed as a hint. I do NOT want any one, two or three of these as a present (or a not-present or whatever weaselly twist of words you might be thinking of using in order to get away with spending your money on me).

You've got that, right?

Good. On with it then!

On the general topic of toys, every now and again I find myself wanting to splurge on a new Optimus Prime. I wound up losing part of that Armada Prime I bought a few years ago in the move north, and the poor 'Bot has been languishing in one of my drawers ever since. Since then, new versions of the classic Autobot Leader have popped up to tempt me. Not so long ago, it was the Cybertron Optimus Prime, complete with trailer for $80. He looks pretty cool, right? Still, there was something about the design that, in the end, put me off. Maybe it was the mouth? I mean, Optimus has been so long with that steel shield over his mouth that he looks a little silly without it (especialy as the Cybertron Optimus still has a strip over his nose). And $80? I don't care what David Willis might think, that's a bit much for a freaking toy...

Lately, though, I've discovered some other, more interesting options:

  • Out in November: TransFormers Classics - Voyager Class Optimus Prime. A re-designed version of the orignal Optimus Prime, this one has all the classic cool without the "Hey, half his forearms are missing!" awkwardness (and at nowhere near the price of that huge collector's edition one). Gav, you might want to check that page out; also part of the Classics line are Megatron (who looks a little silly) and Starscream (who doesn't).
  • Out in August: Titanium Series War Within Optimus Prime. A few years ago, the comic book series Transformers: The War Within took a look at the Transformers before they departed Cybertron and landed on Earth, and artist Don Figueroa came up with some stunning ideas for what the Robots In Disguise looked like when they didn't have to disguise themselves. I always thought his design for Prime was cool, but only Issue 1 made it to Australia, so I never got to see what he transformed into. Thus, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover Hasbro have made the design into a transforming die-cast toy!
  • Out Now (I think): Alternators Optimus Prime. If there's one thing about both of those above toys, it's that they look fairly simple to transform. Not that the sequence should be challenging, but there's something about the tactile experience of putting one of these toys though a complicated transformation. That's why I like the look of Alternator Prime, even if he only transforms into a pickup and not a full-fledged truck (sacrilege!). Plus, even though he is only a Dodge RAM, he still looks pretty damned cool!

And to top it all off, they should all retail for AU$40 or less. In fact, it looks as though I could get Voyager Class Prime AND War Within Prime for less than the cost of Alternators Prime. Tops!

Toy Crazy!

Two Links of the Moment for you today. The first is Shortpacked!, a nigh-on daily webcomic about the staff of a non-chain toy store. If, like me, you never quite grew out of all those cool toys you collected as a kid (or never grew out of them at all), you'll find a lot to like here, including one man's quest across the toy stores of his city to find an Alternators Prowl. If not, you'll likely enjoy the silly, risque and at times rude humour of a bunch of disparate characters working at dead-end jobs - sorta like Clerks at the toy store. I like it so much that I've added it to my "Fun" links!

Speaking of Toys, here's your second Link of the Moment: Teletraan-1, the unofficial Transformers Wiki. As you've probably guessed, I've already made a contribution or two, mainly around the IDW Publishing comic series Infiltration (which is the awesome).

July 05, 2006

Now For Some Of This "Planning" Shit...

So this weekend, we want to:

  • See Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. (Superman Returns can wait until next week.)
  • Do some shoe shopping, as well as any necessary regular shopping.
  • Paint the risers on the front fence.
  • GM The Shadow of Yesterday for Simon & Cristel (an "I" thing, not a "we" thing, which means a bit more juggling).
  • See the first epsiode of the new season of Doctor Who when it screens on the ABC at 7.30 on Saturday night.

This is gonna be a little tricky...

What - I'm Fit?

Yeah, it's a surprise to me, but it seems like I'm actually not only physically healthy (which I shouldn't really be surprised about, considering the diet Vickie keeps me on), but strong! I don't know when that happened, as I still have a minor case of H.M.T. (Gav, you'll know what I mean) and my six-pack looks more like I've had a six pack too many, but I'm actually mightier than my twenty-year-old, lean-and-toned step-grandson!

Let me explain:

Last Sunday, Karl needed a favour. I've told you about his shed, right? The shed I still need to get photos of, the one you could park a combine harvester in? Now, before Karl and his wife Jodie moved into where they were living right now, it was owned by his then-best mate, who lived there with his wife and kids. Karl bought it from them and then had a heck of a time gettng the family and then their stuff out of the place. And we're talking about just the place at the moment - the house, the yard, the spacious double garage. Not the shed. Needless to say, it's been on Karl's mind for a while, and in payment for assembling our front deck and some furniture for us, he asked for my help in clearing his former best mate's stuff out of the shed.

Now, if you know me, you'd know I wasn't really looking forward to the ordeal. Honest work? That much honest work? You must be joking! But we owed Karl, so I swallowed my petulance, went over Karl's place and the three of us - myself, Karl and Rhys, the aforementioend step-grandson - got stuck in. We worked from eleven AM to seven PM with breaks for lunch and to rest and rehydrate, and the one thing I noticed whenever Rhys and I were sharing a load was that Rhys seemed to be having a harder time of it than I was. This suggested two possibilities: that I wasn't sharing enough of the load or - harder to believe, I assure you - that I was actually stronger than Rhys.

Anyway, we cleared up most of the shed floor and helped Karl re-organise some of the off-floor storage; by the time I finished at seven, I was fighting cramp in my right arm. (No sniggering up the back!) I was also feeling the general strain in my shoulders and upper back, but nothing really hurt. I figured it'd all hit me like a ton of bricks on on Monday morning, when I'd wake up unable to move. I mentioned the whole business of seeming to lift better than Rhys to Vickie, who didn't seem surprised at all, as I'm heavier than him - I just didn't think that meant I had more muscle-mass!

Monday morning, I got up, still feeling strained, but not sore or hurting. I mentioned it to some people at work, one of whom figured I'd feel it the next day. But when I got up yesterday morning, I still felt all right. And earlier this morning, the person who reckoned I'd be feeling it yesterday reckoned I was looking very fit!

And you know what? If we didn't already have plans for the weekend and Karl called to ask my assistance in lifting and shifting again, I'd be up for it.

What a strange, very enabling feeling!