I’ve talked a little bit about being a D&D nerd back in the day; My interest was intense for a period of time in the 6th grade, and then casual for a few years after that. I was also into a sister game called Gamma World, which was basically D&D in a post-apocalyptic setting. Something about this game caught my interest a lot more than dragons and swords. Some history:

In 1982, my family moved from blue-collar New Jersey to a town in white-collar Connecticut, and I started at a new school. We were bused in from a remote cul-de-sac on the far side of town. I was pretty isolated until school started (the only other kid on our street was two years younger, and all he wanted to do was sit inside and play Mrs. Pac Man) but after a rocky couple of weeks I met up with a guy who lived less than a half-mile from my house through the woods. He introduced me to a bunch of his friends, who lived nearby, and one of the things we bonded over was a game I’d never heard of before: Dungeons and Dragons.

I didn’t understand how the game worked at first. There were dice, and rules, and they gave me a character to play, and I enjoyed using our imagination to solve problems. We played on and off again that fall, between building forts in the woods around our houses, riding bikes, and Pitfall! I enjoyed one of the best Halloweens of my life that year when my friend’s father showed us how to melt the plastic tip of a can of shaving cream to shoot the foam in ten-foot streams; we roamed in and out of epic battles with older neighborhood boys, using our knowledge of the local woods to escape and regroup.

My parents gave me the beginner’s box set of both D&D and Gamma World that Christmas, and after that I was obsessed. We played through the spring until school let out, when my friends vacationed out of town. I spent a lonely August swimming in the pool, reading books from the library, and creating Gamma World campaigns for my friends to play through when they all got back.

That fall, we started at the middle school across town. I was dumped into a new system where I knew no one, and all of my friends from 6th grade had dissolved into other classes. D&D suddenly wasn’t cool in the cutthroat atmosphere of 7th grade, and I was adrift in rough social waters.

When we moved to New York, I spent one lonely semester in 8th grade until I made it up to the High School, and found new friends. One of the things we did was play D&D and Gamma World informally here and there; I’m not going to lie, but I miss those Coke and pizza-fueled sessions with friends, because we had a great time. (I remember an epic 10-hour session during an ice storm my Junior year).

Fast forwarding, I had a little credit with Amazon last week and decided to find a game that Finn and I could play, as well as one that I’ve been dying to try for years: Fallout 4. Fallout is a series that’s been around since 1997, but Fallout 4 was released two years ago. It’s as if they took about 90% of Gamma World and made a video game out of it. You control a character who awoke from a cryogenic vault 200 years after a nuclear war, and you spend the game wandering a gigantic wasteland, killing evil humans and radiated monsters (if you can) while picking up objects along the way. You can use these objects to craft new weapons, structures, or special items. You can start settlements for people, working to keep them happy and safe. You can find special powered armor suits which help you defeat huge, powerful monsters. In short, everything that was cool about Gamma World but without your friends playing by your side.

I’m already about 20 hours into the game and I can’t put it down.

Date posted: November 28, 2017 | Filed under geek, history | Leave a Comment »

My circa 2010 MacBook Pro has been having random kernel panics that I traced back to one of the two graphics processors failing. A little internet research brought me to this site, with some helpful advice on how to disable the bad chip permanently.

Date posted: November 24, 2017 | Filed under apple, geek, housekeeping, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Hey! Look at that. I’m not a complete moron and I can still fuck around in code and CSS and make it work, usually. Years ago, when I set up the Scout blog on my other domain, I found a way to syndicate it over to this blog so that posts there would show up here. Partially because this weblog is the running history of my life, and partially because I wanted to see if I could do it. That was years ago and I’ve always been annoyed with how the syndicated posts show up in the feed. A while ago I hacked at it a little bit and got WordPress to spit out the category name as a class so I could restyle the header and link colors (that’s why they show up as blue) but there was never any real context for what those posts were. I fooled around with conditional statements this afternoon and now there’s something that explains what these are and why they’re there.

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The doctors told me that coming down off the steroids I’m on would cause emotional issues this week; I’m going to blame them for the following. SPOILER ALERT.

 

Watching the end of the first episode of Stranger Things this evening, when Hopper came home to his cabin with two meals set at the table, and Eleven sat down with him, I cried in happiness.

Date posted: October 30, 2017 | Filed under entertainment, geek, general, housekeeping | Leave a Comment »

Lifehacker has a good writeup on how to get Siri to pronounce names correctly. When Finn was a toddler we bought her a doll that talked and played games and responded to buttons; it used a weird pronunciation of her name that I still haven’t been able to get out of my head.

Date posted: October 23, 2017 | Filed under apple, geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Belong.io is a link aggregator that mines a subset of Twitter feeds to surface interesting stories and topics. Created by the brilliant Andy Baio, it’s a great way to find new stuff without having to wade into the larger cesspool of that service.

Date posted: October 15, 2017 | Filed under geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

My list of daily links has gotten pretty stale over the last couple of years. I’m outgrowing some of the standard destinations that used to get me through the day; some aggregators have dried up, been bought, or gone out of business. The original inspiration for this website were the other weblogs I saw written by live humans who found things interesting and wrote about them; most of those people have jumped to Twitter and let their weblogs go dark.

I used a site called moreofit to search for websites similar to those I still frequent, and I’d say that about 10% of the suggestions are still updated regularly. Many of the suggestions are ones I followed back in the day, and a fair number of them trailed off between 2010-2012 as their authors moved on to different things (went corporate, left web design, bought a farm, or just disappeared). I did find, in that 10%, a couple of old favorites and some new suggestions. But it isn’t the same, and that’s sad. The commoditization of the internet is pretty much complete, and the do-it-yourself ideology, the idealistic, electric feeling of having one’s own place to post pictures or write about feels or show off code is gone. There’s Twitter, Facebook, or an app for that.

I think it would be interesting to try and organize a meetup of people who still have weblogs and talk to them about why they still write on their own site, if they write as much on social media, how they view their weblog now vs. when they first started it, and if they ever see themselves giving it up.

(1. Because social media is depressing. 2. Instagram only. 3. I view it almost the same now as I did then; I will admit that it’s harder to post every day but it’s still something I look forward to. 4. Doubtful; it’s served as my mobile memory since 2001 and I can’t imagine giving up the habit now.)

I did find, through clicking, a new theme for WordPress which could be the base for a modernization of idiotking here, too.

Date posted: September 25, 2017 | Filed under geek, life | Leave a Comment »

Today I ticked off about ten things on this summer’s giant to-do list, starting with getting my ladder back from the brother-in-law. He’s had it since last fall when they were having some gutter issues, and I didn’t need it until I saw buckets of water coming down from the center section of our atrium gutter and knew I needed to get up there to clean them out.

But first, in the morning I loaded up the Scout with 6 months’ worth of crap for a dump run and got in and out of there in 20 minutes flat. This cleared out the garbage can area by the garage and a pile of brush that’s been sitting next to the driveway since last fall. Then Finley and I took a drive to the Home Depot to get a replacement canopy and some other small items for scraping windows.

Up on the ladder I got the gutters cleaned pretty quickly and then started washing and scraping the windows that are staying (5 out of 7). That got finished pretty quick, and I was about to bust out the primer when a friend stopped by so that I could shoot her headshot for LinkedIn. I’d brought home the Canon portrait rig from work and with a piece of illustration board as a light bounce we got some good shots of her, Jen and Finley in no time.

After that was done I headed over to the neighbors’ to help him finish splitting wood.  I worked for about 2 hours in the sun and we got a couple of big rounds split and stacked, then called it a day.

* * *

Having flown my Phantom 2 a bunch of times in the past couple of weeks, I can say I’m getting the hang of it, but I’m seeing some of the limitations of a 3-year-old product. The video monitor it came with is an odd variant of a DVD monitor with no inputs other than an antenna. I can’t dig up technical information on it and no manual exists online. It’s good but I’d love an HD monitor instead (this is a pitiful 800×480), with a stronger signal. The camera gimbal it came with is specific to the GoPro Hero 3, which is a fine unit, but doesn’t shoot at anything above 30FPS. I’ve read that the key to smooth video is shooting at 60FPS, which the Hero 4 will do. A new gimbal mount is $200. This is all stuff I don’t need to spend money on, but I’d love to tinker with it more.

Finley and I took it out for another spin on Sunday night and soon had attracted a crowd of local kids. Finley, who is always happy to invite total strangers to her birthday party, ran right over and told them about the drone, then started inviting the kids to fly it. Which then meant I had to break the bad news to them. I’m getting the hang of how it flies, and although I’m not Chuck Yeager I’m beginning to make it do what I want.

Meanwhile at work, my boss went to a networking function where a woman gave a presentation on 360˚ immersive video. He was enthralled, and thus I am playing with a Samsung Gear 360 this weekend. It’s a pretty nice little gadget, but because it’s Samsung and they want to try and play Apple’s game of keeping users within their ecosystem, their iOS app is isn’t as robust as the Samsung version, but I’m working out some of the bugs and learning about (if there’s a) production workflow.

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I love Death Cab for Cutie, and I loved Soundgarden. Here’s a cover of Fell On Black Days by DCFC where Ben Gibbard just barely pulls off the high end of Chris Cornell’s insane high range, and their version is arranged perfectly for acoustic instruments and piano.

Date posted: June 12, 2017 | Filed under family, geek, house, photography | Leave a Comment »

This is a website dedicated to a 1:350-scale model of the Titanic that is pretty much hand-built from stem to stern. It took the builder 13+ years to finish. It is absolutely amazing.

Date posted: June 7, 2017 | Filed under geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

We have an old iPod that was working for a long time but has suddenly started displaying the sad face and refusing to boot. Because I am a nerd and I like to fix 13-year-old things, I poked around the interwebs to see if there was a replacement hard drive I could install. Apparently they stopped making hard drives for this iPod about 5 years ago, because my usual go-to parts resource had none. I then stumbled upon an Instructable which claims I can replace the drive with a Compact Flash card using a CF to SD adapter. Amazon Prime had one for $7, and I have an old 4GB CF card laying around that I can test with, so that was a no-brainer. After following the directions and adding a CF card through the adapter I’m still getting the sad folder icon–so it might be time to replace the battery.

Update: New battery, same problem. I think this thing is toast.

Date posted: May 31, 2017 | Filed under apple, geek | Leave a Comment »

It’s not a break. The orthopedic doc said it’s a bad sprain and that I don’t need the boot anymore, so I left it off after the appointment and haven’t worn it since. Over the past week I’ve walked on it, careful not to do anything stupid, and while it’s not magically healed I’m not feeling pain during normal movement.

* * *

I’ve been afraid of switching to Lightroom for a couple of months now after an aborted attempt to switch at work; in a time-sensitive workflow I couldn’t get it to do what I needed to do and switched back to Aperture (now discontinued, but my solution for 5 years). With a little more free time this week, I moved all of the 2017 pictures I’ve taken to an external drive and built a Lightroom catalog for them after watching a couple of tutorial videos so that I knew the basics. The interface is strange and things are in different places but once I sorted out what was going where it started to make sense.

In other old photo news, I sprung for development of four rolls of film that have been knocking around the house since we moved in. I had no idea where they came from or what was on them, so I wrote a check, mailed them off, and waited. The service is really good. I got a notification email when they arrived, another with links to an online archive of images, and a third to tell me they were in the mail. One of the rolls is Jen’s from 2004 =, containing shots from Rome and a trip to Aurora. The second is 120 film shot at Finn’s birth, but unfortunately there are only three exposures. The third is color film from a trip to Monticello in 2007, and the fourth is a roll of double-exposed film from our friend Dave, which somehow found its way into our hands.

This got me thinking about the three unexposed rolls of Tri-X I’ve got sitting in the cooler downstairs, and the perfectly good film camera I have up on my shelf. I bought some new batteries for it last week and powered it up; I’m not certain but I think there might actually be film in it. That also got me thinking about film cameras within the ecosystem I’m in, and I poked around for some late-model Nikon film cameras on Craigslist as a lark. It turns out they’re available for ~$200, which means they’re something that would be fun to have but not required at this time.

* * *

The big honking TV is in the back of the CR-V waiting to be recycled this weekend; I’ve got three other computer monitors and a battery backup to join it as well as some other small appliances that have been sitting around for months. I’m waffling over getting rid of the lampshade iMac I got back in 2011, which is itself over ten years old; it’s a nice piece of history but I don’t really know what I’d use it for besides decoration.

* * *

I’m hooked on a couple of new podcasts: Crimetown is a series about crime focused in one city and its effects on the people there. The initial series is about Providence, Rhode Island, which was gripped by the Mob up until the mid 90’s. It’s an engrossing story and the narrators do an excellent job of keeping all the people and stories sorted out.

Heavyweight (now on break) tells stories about people who have unfinished business–things that happened to them in the past that could use a little revisiting. It’s handled with humanity and dignity, and also a good bit of humor.

Criminal is a podcast about, well, criminals. Criminal activity, examining crimes both famous and obscure. It chooses a wide range of topics to discuss, which keeps it interesting.

Song Exploder is a shorter podcast with interviews of musicians who take apart and explain how they’ve constructed a song they’ve written. Some of the musicians are better at doing this than others, and some of the songs are more interesting than others, but overall it’s an insightful look into who the artists are and how they make their music.

Date posted: April 21, 2017 | Filed under geek, photo, photography | Leave a Comment »