Saturday, December 31, 2005

Cookies for My Feet

Good haul this year, mostly books and DVDs. (Watch the "Reading" and "Finished" sidebars as I work through them.) Books on robot programming, games, Sci Fi, etc. Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Incredibles, as well as The Cadfael Collection, on DVD should keep me motivated on the treadmill well into Febuary.

I'm setting a reminder in Outlook for July 1st, to remind me to do my Christmas Shopping early next year. That would be so cool, wouldn't it? To have your shopping all wrapped up before going to watch the fireworks. It would also help smooth out our holiday-driven retail economy.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas in New Hampster

Christmas in the Frozen North with my in-laws has become our tradition. So has snow. When I was little a White Christmas was a rare and wonderful thing. Then we moved to the mountains and for four or five years it was almost a given. After a dozen years without, it was nice to spend Christmas in a place where I can see snow through the window behind the Christmas tree. It just feels right.

It feels even better with the shopping done, presents wrapped, a fire in the fireplace, and a smug grin.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Christmas 2000 and something

Finally got around to sending Christmas cards. Last year's, this year's, some from the previous melineum... They're all good. People should get more credit for sending a late Christmas card than for sending one on time. It's harder to bite the bullet and call attention to one's own slackness by actually sending the card late, than it is to stand meekly by and let the calendar roll on. If you want to wait until July or so to send me a Christmas card, that's cool. It can be for 2005 and 2006.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Some guys cheat on their wives. Some guys gamble. Some guys embezzle their company's retirement funds. Me? I drink Coke.


Monday, December 12, 2005

41 is a Prime Number

It's been a good 41 years. There are some things I would be tempted to do differently, but I probably wouldn't, for fear of risking my current outcome. Now, I've always been risk averse. The best thing that can happen while skydiving is that I won't wind up as street pizza, and I can accomplish that right here, thanks.

There are a few "educators" I wish I'd told to stick it, and a few "teachers" I wish I could thank again for actually teaching me something.

The older I get, the harder it is to remember to have fun. Energy and irresponsibility are the twin hallmarks of youth, the catalysts of fun, and are in increasingly short supply as life gets more complicated. Back before the Post Office started pushing Sacajawea one dollar coins we had the Susan B Anthony coins, minted in 1979, but nobody ever used them. I could go to the bank, get a roll for $20, and have all kinds of fun for free. The blankest look I've ever seen was on the face of the girl at Burger King when I paid for my whopper and large drink with 3 or 4 Susies. At first she thought they were quarters and was waiting for me to put down the rest of the money. Then she looked more closely and thought they were Canadian. Meanwhile, I'm struggling to keep a straight face and acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Then she reads "United States" and "One Dollar", and goes back to ask the manager if she can accept those coins. The poor, harried manager was older, and had obviously seen them before. So now she's managed to ring me up, give me my change, and I leave her to figure out where to put the Susies, since the register doesn't have a coin slot for them.

Maybe tomorrow I'll go to the bank.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Waxing Nostalgic

Last night I came across my treasured collection of The Space Gamer magazines from the ‘70s and ‘80s (issues 8-72). I flipped through the pages, waxing nostalgic about all the fun I had playing games with friends and all the new friends I met through the games. Each page brought back its own set of memories. Issue #34, my first, I bought at Fred's Hobby and Cycle shop only because I had an extra three bucks burning a hole in my pocket. "Hey, these games are *cool*" I said to myself. (I grew up with Avalon Hill games (thanks Mark!) but by high school they were either trivial or just too dry.) "This is the guy that did OGRE!" There was also a good piece of short fiction by an unknown writer named Timothy Zahn. Double-sweet, and I was hooked.

Back in the day TSG was my once a month connection to the gaming world. During the summer I'd hang out on the front porch, listening to tapes and reading, but really I was waiting for the mail man. He'd drive to the end of my block with a half dozen of the neighborhood dogs in tow. They loved to chase that white Jeep with the steering wheel on the wrong side, and then follow the mailman as he went from house to house, wagging and sniffing. This grand procession went from house to house down the other side of the street then back up mine. Most days, Glenn, as I came know him, would hand me a stack of bills, circulars, and things marked Resident or Occupant, two very popular folks. It’s strange that I never met them, since we lived at the same address. Maybe they were out all the time handing out business cards. Once in awhile though, I'd see that tell-tale white mailing cover with the bold black print and Glenn would flash a great big smile under his big bushy mustache and ask, "Is this what you're looking for?" as he handed me my forty or so pages of adventure, imagination and *fun*. Eventually he'd skip ahead and do my house first if it was Space Gamer Day. Small town mailmen are great.

I think I became a professional programmer in large part because well written game rules are fundamentally human-executed computer programs. Simulations, modeling the real world in simpler, well defined terms, are fun to create. Modeling an unreal world, a game world, is even more fun. When is comes to sociability though, computers and software can't compete with board games, RPGs and the like. We'd cook out, pig out, and play Illuminati until 3:00 am. The International Communist Conspiracy gets destroyed by the Boy Sprouts. There was the time a new “assassin” made his grenades with a double handful of flour, instead of the recommended two teaspoons. Once I got killed with a banana because my mom forgot we were playing "that game" and let Brian just waltz into our house with his lunch sack, point the banana at me and “Bang” I was a goner. Twenty years later when we all get together, these stories keep coming up.

Now I'm mostly grown up with a nuclear family of my own. I don't have much time for games these days, but I still play with my nephews when my extended family gets together at the beach. They always bring along a copy of whatever flavor of Munchkin they're into, and it’s a good way to connect as they grow older. It also solves the problem of what to give when holidays and birthdays come around.

To me, games are tools for having fun. New designs and game mechanics have raised the bar considerably over the last 25 or 30 years, but like any other tool, it’s all in how you use it. So I’d like to say “Thanks” to SJ and the SJG staff for many of the great games I’ve played over the years. You keep making them and I’ll keep playing them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Crank Mode

^- my current desktop (click it for a larger image)

Wrap some presents, make some pizza dough, and get back to work. Of course, in order to work efficiently I'll need to clean my office. Which means stuffing 16 unpacked boxes into the closet. That leads to rearranging the closet. And in order to do that I've got to move some things into the bedroom; the prerequisite being that I clean off the shelves on the big white bookcase there. I can do that, but then I'll need to box that stuff up, and where to put the boxes? I know! I'll just stuff them in my office!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Jar of Pop, A Hunk of Meat, and Thou

After another round trip to NC, barbequed pork shoulder on my new big honkin' grill, Thanks giving dinner (turkey, not pork) , and 25 huge bags of leaves, it's good to be back in the home-groove for awhile.

Here's a good recipie for bean relish. Let it sit in the fridge overnight and it will provide a cool, slightly sweet and tangy counterpoint to many fish and poultry dishes, especially grilled ones.

1 can pintos (14 oz)
1 can black beans (14 oz)
1 medium onion (chopped or minced)
1 large diced tomato
1 diced green bell pepper
1 can corn (14 oz)
1 tablespoon vinegar (more or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon brown sugar (or honey or molasses)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 sprinkle freshly ground black pepper

Stir all of the ingredients together and store covered in a glass or plastic bowl overnight in the fridge.

No progress on super secret projects to report. Nanowrimo word count is a depressing 5,665. But I'm not going to let the deadline, which is supposed to be a motivator, turn into a reason for not finishing. Besides, I was out of town for a week. Maybe I can finish it by my birthday.

Speaking of which I'd better stop writing here so I can write there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

1000 steps to nowhere

Wow. 2 days ( 1,000 miles round trip) of driving for one day of football. Yes, it's worth it. Even though we lost a heartbreaker in overtime.

I'd post pictures of the trip, but they're on a disposable (HA!) digital camera that I haven't hacked to be downloadable yet. CVS has them for $10, or $20 for ones with a display. You take the pics, turn them in for processing, and you get your pictures/CD, but they don't give you the camera back. Alternatively, you take a couple of hours to hack a connector, download some software, and use the camera like any other USB imagining device. Thanks, MAKE Magazine.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Road Trip

I'm making a pilgrimage to Chapel Hill to for the UNC - Maryland football game, and the basketball exhibition game afterwards. I won't be able to write much, but I'll have 14 hours round-trip to scheme on my plot. Maybe I'll scheme the plot on the way up, and plot the scheme on the way back.

Go Heels!

Needless to say, kiddies, I'm stoked.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hard Day's Night

Some days you get the bear. Some days the bear gets you.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pointless blog update when I should be writing

I fixed the camera, as you may have noticed by the photo below. The biscuit dropped it and the case popped open just a little. I finished opening it up, popped it back together, and all is hunky-dory.

Writing hat, on.
Motivational caffiene, check.
Let's do iiiiiiiiiit!

Super Secret Project Backlog

You know why everyone uses their blog to complain that they don't have enough time to do everything? Not me. That's why my entries are irregular. There is a limited about of evil ingeniousness to go around.

Updates on the following Super Secret Projects:

1) Robots: Tamiya makes lots of interesting kits for toys/robots. They're well constructed and not ridiculously expensive, but what makes them cool is they have lots of kits that are just components, like gear motors, chassis and drives, etc. So you can do what you want with them. Here's their "Tracked Vehicle Chassis Kit". It just cries out for some sensors and such. I also have another chassis (a walker) that needs a some electronics and the green guy in the back is a solarbotics Scoutwalker kit. Insert Harry Conick Jr's awesome rendition of If I only had a brain here.

2) Probably Un-licensable Game Software (PUGS): The architecture is finished. It's time to do the nuts and bolts. To keep this from being a mostly pointless excercise I'm going to use built-in tests from the start. I've been reading up on NUnit and Test-Driven Development and I want to see how it works for me. The problem with card games like this is that nearly every card invokes some kind of exception to the rules, so the trick is to not have a base line set of rules that you modify for every card. You build the rule set from the cards in play; every time a card is played, you reconstruct the current context.

3) Girl game (for lack of a working title): This is way on the back burner. I have a list of nebulous ideas that need some focus and structure. I've long been interested in the elements that can make a computer game fun for girls, besides things like tediously collecting the right combination of shoes and make-up so your princess/avatar can snag her may-uhn... There's a real niche here, once people figure it out. The Sims, basically an electronic dollhouse, is on the right track. You can build, solve problems, and watch the environment evolve. Even though I found it tedious in the extreme, it is a monster hit. They sell it at Office Depot for heaven's sakes, and I don't think teenage boys are the ones buying it.

4) Solar Cooker: I need to build the insulated oven-box, and figure out a good way to mount the reflectors so I can easily take it apart for storage. We have 6 ways to cook food in my house: Gas Stove, Electric Oven, Microwave, Crock Pot, Charcoal Grill and Solar Oven. Not to mention the bread machine and hot air popcorn popper. Whoops! I just mentioned them.

5) NaNoWriMo, which isn't really a secret at all.

6) Many others that have yet to be promoted to Super Secret Project status.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Ok, so I'm behind more than 3500 words, three days into the month. I'll catch up. In fact, I might take the next two weeks off, just to make it a challenge. I always work best under pressure. (ok, tomorrow I'll really really really catch up. honest.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's raining imagination

November is NaNoWriMo month, so I'm no-wri'ing. My word count is only 698, but I started late last night. I'll catch up today. Yep. Definately.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to do a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That's 1,666 2/3 words per day. It doesn't have to be polished. Heck, it doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be done. It's been going on for 5 years or so, with no promotion other than a web site, a book, and word of mouth. You've been warned.

You can do an author search for tomthemighty and see how I'm doing. Then send me an email if I need some nagging.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Move it on over Cyd Charisse

This morning I finally got around to hooking up the TV DVD VCR Suround system the right way. I finally found the cable to connect the laptop to the amp and have random access to all of my music from downstairs via the wireless network. I selected AUX on the remote and plopped down on the couch to revel in the fruits of my cleverness. When I looked up at the TV, I noticed Singing in the Rain was still playing, but Cyd Charisse, complete with green fringy dress, was cutting the rug with Gene Kelly to the dulcet strains of George Thorogood's "Move it on Over". It worked for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Solar Oven

Solar Oven Beta 1 is baking flower pot bread. It seems to be working well, though I believe lining the box with foil was a mistake. The extra reflection seems to cause a net loss in heat retention. I'll take it out next time and see how the flat black interior works. I also saw a tip about putting a piece of tile or stone slab in the bottom and letting it preheat for an hour or so, so the bread gets more heat from below, instead of cooking purely from the top down.

Note the temperature probe in the large pot on the bottom left. 2 hours and 30 mins into the baking process it reads 149 degrees. That's the temperature of the bread in the pot. I suspect the surrounding air is warmer, as the two loaves on top are much browner.

I just learned to cut glass in preparation for Solar Oven 1.0. The problem with the beta version is that it's too light, and the solar collectors catch the wind and make it tip over. I used this design
for the beta, and I'm going to use mirrors and plywood for version 1.0. The cardboard one works just fine, but I want something a bit more heavy duty and stable.

Wisdom is free, knowledge is where they getcha

The dishes are put to bed and I'm still up, so it's time to despense a little free-form wisdom. Pull up a chair and take notes, kiddies. This doesn't happen often.

1) If you only have one towel, dry your head before your butt.
2) Never get the green bean casserole.
3) If you push the button on on the parking break lever when you pull it up, it won't make that awful grinding ratchety sound. Seriously. Try it.
4) Don't believe your own BS.
5) When in doubt, have a PopTart.

That should get you through the rest of the month.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Savage monkeys run amok

Which I suppose is the status quo for savage monkeys...

So, I've started a blog. I'll leave you in suspense as I repair downstairs to santize the kitchen, start some laundry, and exfoliate the backyard duck.