Note: This is an archival edition of Chatter, covering through May 7, 2001 (when it got too big and had to be split in half) through December 10, 2001 (when it got too big again, and I decided to split it into more managable chunks). The whole thing has since been broken up into individual dates for convenience. If you'd like to read chatter from after 12/10/01 or access entries by date, click here. Please note that new entries were added at the top, so if you want to read them in chronological order you should read from the bottom up. But it would really be a lot easier to go to the main Chatter index and click on the dates. Trust me.
Let's skip the preliminaries and get right to it. I've started this Chatter section because I've noticed that the rest of my site can sometimes be cluttered with lots of text. Looks kind of lousy, to tell the truth. While I can't promise to keep the rest of the site absolutely clean of excess verbiage, I'm hoping that this will serve as a convenient clustering place for the, um, chatter that would otherwise get spread throughout the site. Will it work? Will anyone read this? Time (and my hits) will tell. As I write new material I'll place it up here, at the top, pushing older material down. Depending on the size of this thing, I'll eventually archive older stuff as it gets unwieldy. August 25, 2001: It got unwieldy, i.e. too big for FrontPage Express. There's a link to the Chatter Archive at the end of the page. >PM
Monday, December 10, 2001
The Bush/GOP recession is rolling on, and now it has rolled over Teri and me. Teri was laid off from her job last week; she's still on maternity leave, but she won't be going back in January as we expected.
There are plusses and minuses to the situation; Teri had wanted to stay home with the baby for more than the eight weeks allowed by law. On the other hand, we'll badly miss that second income; I'm not sure yet just how tight things will be. This places a huge new burden of responsibility and worry on me.
We'd arranged day care at a place literally a one minute walk from her job; then we'd improved even on that situation when my parents offered to take care of Sebastian two or three days a week. I was particularly happy about that! We'll still have my folks take care of him at least one day a week, I think (for some reason I'm sure they'll be willing ). It will be good for Teri to have a little time off, and Sebastian needs someone to introduce him to fine music and the Armenian. language.
Health care will all have to be switched over, of course, but we'll get through it.
Sebastian is doing wonderfully. He had a pediatric appointment this morning, and he weighs 13 pounds nine ounceshe's huge! Although not fat. Apparently his proportions are perfect. I wish I could show a picture, but of course I can't. Incidentally, he had four shots today and Teri tells me he cried and cried! Poor little boy.
He's very close to being able to roll himself over; a week ago I put him in the crib on his back (the recommended position), and came back a little later to find him on his side! From that position he could easily have rolled onto his stomach, so turning over can't be more than a week or two away. We'll need to be particularly careful.
He smiles, grins, gurgles, and is so close to giggling that it's scary. He sticks out his tongue when I do, with a huge grin. And Teri has gotten him to TALK! Really! When we go up to him, put our faces near his, and say "Hi!" with a big smile, he mimics our mouth movements. And sometimes when he does, he smiles and whispers "Hi!" back to us! Once or twice he's even said it out loud, quite clearly in his little-boy voice.
He almost certainly doesn't know what he's saying, of course, but it's still amazinghe's only nine weeks old!
I had quite a scare a few nights ago! I'm not sure if it was a worm, a virus, or something else, but on Saturday night my computer was badly corrupted. Here's what happened.
Someone new had signed my guestbook. But as so often happens, they didn't leave an email address; only a nondescript web address. I'm often able to get an email address from a web site, though, so I clicked on the link.
New windows with porno ads ERUPTED into my system like a volcano or, well, a porn star. I started hitting Alt-F4 like crazy, and after a little while managed to shut them all down. Relieved, I started Internet Explorer back up.
What the hell? It opened that same original porn site back up again! Again the ads erupted. Finally no more windows opened, and I tried to figure out what had happened. One thing was immediately obvious: my default starting page had been changed from Google to the porn site. Bastards! But I could fix that. A quick visit to Internet Tools and all would be restored...
I clicked on "Home", and Google popped up. Fixed! But wait a minute...on the blue title bar where it used to say "Google - Microsoft Internet Explorer", it now said "Google - (porno page URL)"! No matter where I clicked, I'd go there...but the original porno site URL was tacked on the title bar next to them all (for example, this page appeared as "Chatter - porno site URL").
Something was obviously very, very wrong. I was surprised at how upset I was...I was sweating and cramping. Still, it was time to sit back and try to take stock. And when I did, I found that my system had become very different...
Somehow the porno site URL had been tacked into every IE window title. Porno ads popped up at random times, EVEN IF I DIDN'T HAVE IE OPEN. Twenty porno sites had been added to my IR Favorites, ranging from to Russian pre-teen girls to gay personal ads. An HTML porno-site icon had been added to my desktop! And my Startup menu included that link! I deleted that right away, deleted all of the new Favorites, cleaned out my IE history and temporary Internet files, emptied my Recycle box, and then ran a file search on my system for anything with the porno site name in it. Nothing. Whew! To test things, I shut down the system, waited a minute, and booted it back up.
BOOM! As soon as the system booted up the original porno site automatically opened again, along with all of the popups. Everything was back the way it had been before I'd done all that cleaning, but worse, because Internet Explorer was NOT supposed to run on startup! Now I was terrified. Someone had taken control of my system, and I didn't know if I could take it back.
Incidentally, I subscribe to McAffee's online anti-virus service, which did NOTHING to help. Something I'll remember when renewal time comes up.
It didn't seem that this was a virus, exactly...it seemed more like irresponsible advertising run totally amok (as my friend Virgil later put it). But it was wedged deep into my system.
A while ago I downloaded a program called Ad-Aware, a neat program which searches your system for adware and spyware (if you don't know what those terms mean, you need to educate yourself; short version, when you download a program you often end up with targeted commercials built into your browsing experience, and some programs secretly record what you do and relay that information elsewhere. No lie! Sort of a commercial version of Big Brother, although what with the recent government destruction of the Bill of Rights that seems sort of redundant. But I digress). Anyway, Ad-Aware also allows you to remove those unwanted programs. I ran it, and it found twenty or thirty unauthorized programs and removed them. There! I deleted the porno desktop icon, removed the Startup entry, deleted the Favorites, and emptied the Recycle Bin. Then for good measure I went into IE and in addition to changing the Home page back to Google, reset everything to default settings.
Shut down. Wait. Restart, heart pounding, covered in sweat. It was near midnight, and I was dead tired.
BOOM! Porn, porn, porn. It was all back.
I started researching. DejaNews had nothing useful for the keywords of the porno page title and "clean" or "remove"...just porno advertisements. Google also had nothing. Finally I found a link to an article about contamination of IE, and a link to a program that was supposed to fix it. Damn! It wasn't shareware, and it couldn't be downloaded. But where commercialware exists, freeware and shareware are almost certainly to be found...
More searching turned up some programs. I downloaded one and ran it. It gave a lot of options of things to clean...I selected all of them and ran the thing. There were no visible changes. Went through the routine again, deleting everything. Down, wait, restart, boom. I began to wonder if I'd have to buy a new computer.
But first I'd try to remove Internet Explorer and re-install it. Whoops! Microsoft doesn't allow you to remove IE...the best it offers is a "repair" option, which I tried. Still no luck.
Tried McAffee. It found nothing. Tried to get it to cleanse my system of cookies and other undesirable things, and it wouldn't even run! There were ActiveX problems of some sort, which were beyond me of course.
I knew there was information online on how to rip IE out by the roots, but that would be pretty drastic. It was nearly 1:00 AM, and my mind was racing...I felt as if my body had been beaten for an hour, I was totally drenched in sweat, I was dizzy, and I desperately needed sleep. I'd written to my friend Virgil who knows a bit more about some of the internal workings of Windows than I do, but hadn't heard back yet. Should I give up, go to sleep, and try to figure out what to do in the morning? Could I even sleep with my system so corrupted? I doubted it.
And then, out of the blue, it hit me. The Windows Registry. The (to me) mysterious and crucial Registry that contained so much core information for Windows. Virgil sometimes messed with his, but I'd never dared to mess with mine...too dangerous, because I really wouldn't know what I was doing. Kind of like performing brain surgery on my PC without medical training, using a grapefruit spoon...but I was desperate. I remembered the program: "regedit". And used it.
It had a Find function! That was helpful. I searched for the key part of the porno site name and came up with...TWENTY ENTRIES in the Registry?! Most of which I couldn't understand, but some had something to do with Channels, reinstalling stuff, etc. It looked very much as if I'd found the problem...but would the cure be worse than the disease? If I flat-out deleted all these entries, I might do incalculable damage to my system in some mysterious way. Of course I could reformat my hard drives and reinstall Windows, but I'd lose a lot. I back up, but not often enough. And in any case I have no way to back up even a small percentage of everything on my system. Only the key writing files and such are protected. And even those were a bit out of date.
But I was so desperate that I didn't care. I selected all of the affected Registry entries and pressed "Delete". They disappeared. Then I went back through the routine...home page, Favorites, desktop icon, Startup entry...and shut down. And waited. And waited. I knew that if this didn't work I was beaten....
PSBefore I went to bed that night I went straight to my guestbook and removed that entry. No one else is going to be trapped the way I was. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone! Well, except thugs like the criminals currently in power in the US, of course. And DAMN those sleazebags who created that monster of a site! Why couldn't they have given it an obviously pornographic name? Hell, even if they HAD what they did was still wrongthere's no excuse for hijacking someone else's system!
As I've mentioned, my commute is pretty long; 90 to 120 minutes each way, although on a very lucky day I might make it in 80 minutes. I use my digital stick recorder to make notes for story and site ideas, and listen to the radio when I can stand it (sometimes I tune in a French language station, or easy listening just to get away from those sycophantic GOP-whores at NPR), but in general it's usually a pretty boring experience.
And sometimes it's not. On a misty morning not long ago I drove by a dilapidated old foundry near my house. I'd never seen any sign of activity there, but this morning the huge doors in the front were wide open...and through the mist I could see deep within, towards the back of the building, an incredibly beautiful column of roaring flame.
Not all of my commute experiences are as pleasant, unfortunately. Last Monday I was driving in to work, when I saw a guy in a black Oldsmobile who was obviously not a patient driver. He was passing on the left, on the right, not signaling, and cutting far too close to other cars. As 295 approached 95 two lanes become one; he pulled into the non-existent lane on the left and started passing cars.
But a truck ahead of him had had the same idea, and was blocking the way. He sat stuck behind this truck while the correct lane slowly inched forward. As my car pulled next to his, he decided to force his way ahead of me. Literally. It was a game of chicken: two cars inching forward at a snail's pace, me in my proper lane, him getting closer and closer to my car. A foot away...six inches...less than THREE INCHES away! Meanwhile the driver was going berserk, screaming and gesticulating at me like a madman. I ignored him.
But he was way too close, and in a crucial moment I was too slow. The car ahead pulled forward and he jumped ahead of me, giving me the finger. My temper kicked in and I gave him the finger back, both barrels. We had a little finger-waving contest, for a while, which I found extremely unsatisfactory. The way I felt that moment, the only thing that WOULD be satisfactory would be either for a cop to come by and shove a nightstick into the guy, or for someone to blow his brains out. Neither was about to happen, obviously, and I knew I'd be stuck behind this jerk for another twenty minutes, figuratively cheek-by-jowl...because he was staring into his rear-view mirror quite often, and favoring me with a finger-wave now and again.
After a moment's thought, I picked up my cell phone and dialed it, clearly in the view of this psychotic. Speaking slowly and enunciating clearly, I told the police his license plate number and state, car make and color, described the driver as best I could, and told them exactly how and where he'd tried to run me off the road. My mission complete, I hung up the phone with a vengeful grin.
As you've no doubt guessed, I never actually pressed "talk" on my phone, so the whole thing was a bit of impromptu acting with a dead phone. Perhaps he suspected that too...but he couldn't know for sure, which is what I was counting on.
We inched on, and my smile became broader and broader, interspersed with chuckles and eventually out-and-out chortling and laughter. At first it had been pure roleplaying; I was visualizing the driver at the hands of the police (specifically that New York cop with the broomstick fetish). But as I drove on, the laughter became more and more real. The driver looked miserable, and started doing a weird sort of sneering head-shaketrying to mock my laughter, obviously. But the fear that I'd really called the police was eating at him. And why limit his fear to the police? For all he knew I'd called a Mafia friend or relative (I don't have any, of course) and arranged to have his car traced and legs broken. I was ruining his day, and that not only repaired the damage this jerk had done to my harmony but was giving me the gift of laughter, to boot. :)
By the time we reached 95 he was completely cowed. As he pulled into the middle lane, I gave him a big smile and a happy wave goodbye...he just stared back, miserable, and pulled away. A few miles down the road the middle lane had stalled out, and as I passed him on my left he was clearly trying not to look at me. I gave him a break and only chuckled, but was pleased to notice that although there were NO cars behind me for a long, long way, and he could have started rolling again if he'd just pulled behind me into the right lane, he didn't. He stayed stuck behind that truck, and I knew why. I had ruined his day, and even better, maybe, just MAYBE I'd given him a reason to think twice before behaving like a complete asshole behind the wheel.
This page is getting too big again. What do you thinkshould I split it in half again, or start making each new entry a separate page and make the main Chatter page a date index of links to them? That would make it easier to read entries in order, oldest to newest or vice-versa. Sound good?
Monday, December 3, 2001
Teri and I were at Wal-Mart on Saturday, and I couldn't resist taking a peek at the digital cameras. To my amazement the cheapest one was only $79! I had no idea that prices had gone so low. Of course it was a discontinued model (an older Polaroid), and the pictures it takes are only about 1/2 megapixel (I think), but even so I couldn't resist it.
I opened it up as soon as we got home, and almost immediately discovered something odd: there were a bunch of pictures already stored on it, and they were obviously NOT sample images that had been provided by Polaroid. Not that there was anything shocking, mind you, just pictures of somebody's house and such; but it was obvious that someone had returned the camera.
Still, I fired it up and started taking pictures. It worked great. Images were displayed on a screen on the camera, and 44 high-resolution images could be stored on the removable 8MB smartmedia card.
I'm out of time. I was going to write a lot more, but instead here's a picture I took of our cat, Sam. I call it "Jealousy". When I get a chance, remind me to write about a heavy-duty road rage incident I had on my Monday morning commute, and the mind-f--k I used to ruin a jerk's day!
Monday, November 19, 2001
We've had a lot of all-nighters since I last wrote, and it has been awfully hard to muster up the strength to do much of anything onlinealthough I think I did put a few new entries into the Chaos Project sometime last week. I still haven't done any roleplaying, but maybe sometime in the next couple of weeks...
I'm also enjoying a rampaging sinus infection. Amoxicillin doesn't seem to be having much effect (I've been taking it three times a day for the last four days), and right now it's pretty gross. Unfortunately I don't really have any sick time or vacation time left. I had to go deeply negative on time the last few weeks, with the result that I actually OWE more than a week of vacation time. We accrue time through the year, but according to my calculations I will start to have a positive vacation balance sometime around April Fool's Day.
I've been taking Tylenol Sinus (which is a wonder drug in my book) and ibuprofen to control the symptoms of the infection, but while they handle the pain fairly well they aren't controlling the other symptoms. Actually, I was surprised by the pain; why would a sinus infection cause pain in my lower back and hips? The jaws and face I could understand, but the hips was a total surprise.
One thing that has helped a bit is the new humidifier. And oddly enough, I have something to say about humidifiers.
I realize that this will sound weird, but I have enormous sinus cavities. They extend right down to the roots of my teeth, and for all I know go up right into my brain (I've actually seen X-rays of my sinus cavities, which is how I know about the roots-of-the-teeth thingand I was told that I was unusual by the technicians). This may account for my abnormally keen sense of smell. Unfortunately it also means I have a lot of pain when I get a cold, bronchitis, or the flu. Or a sinus infection. In fact, my doctor thinks I may need minor sinus surgery, but that's a separate issue.
Anyway, I've had humidifiers around me since I was a baby, and have developed some opinions.
First off, humidifiers are important. Did you know that during winter time the air in the average American house and office building is drier than the Sahara desert? It is! Which is why so many people get sick in winter. Their sinus cavities dry out, crack, and bleed; this offers fertile ground for infections of all sort. As more and more people start coughing and sneezing, there are more and more bacteria and viruses (actually the plural of "virus" is "viri", isn't it? I'm not sure) in the air...which in turn are more likely to infect others. It's a myth that cold in itself causes illness.
Humidifiers break the cycle by putting moisture in the air, protecting the sinus.
There are many kinds of humidifiers, but they can be broken into two masic categories: warm mist and cool mist.
Warm mist humidifiers might more accurately be called vaporizers (and often are), since they use heat to boil water and produce steam. They tend to be a bit noisy; some bubble audibly, some don't. Since boiling water is involved, they should be handled with care; placed on a heat-proof surface, for example, and never sloshed around carelessly.
This is probably the earliest and simplest form of humidifier. One drawback of this style is that because the water is boiled into steam, white dust is produced unless the water used is very pure; the dust is the minerals in the water, which are left behind when the vapor evaporates. Another problem is the steam itself. It's quite hot at the outlet, and can cause burns; it also tends to fog up windows badly, I've noticed that steam doesn't seem to carry very far, too.
Cool mist humidifiers come in many forms, and I've probably bought one of every kind. Most of them use a mechanical method to produce the mist, although of course they are electric.
One sort used a fibrous mesh as a sort of conveyor belt, moving through a pool of water and then in front of a fan; it was noisy and tended to spatter. Cleaning this unit was difficult, since the entire mesh belt had to be soaked in a dilute bleach solutionit offered a very fertile ground for the growth of mold.
Another used a sort of centrifuge techniqe, with a spinning plastic basket-like device churning through water to spray mist in all directionsbut the mist was thick, more like droplets, and tended to produce a large wet area around the unit. Again, this humidifier was extremely noisy and made it difficult to sleep.
The "in" style this season uses a cone-shaped "wick" of absorbent fibrous mesh. The base rests in a pool of water, while a fan draws air through the cone; a moist breeze is produced. This method has several drawbacks: it's relatively slow, since it depends on absorbtion of the water into the fibers, and isn't terribly quiet. On the other hand, the mist produces is extremely fine, and virtually invisible. In fact, this is really a high-speed evaporator, since it simply hurries the normal process of evaporation. I suspect that as a result the mist produced is also more pure; minerals are left in the pool or wick. Other downsides, however, are that the mist is effectively invisible; you can't easily tell if it's working. Also, the wick itself tends to get moldy and go bad, and in fact it must be replaced regularly. Wicks tend to be treated with anti-bacterial agents, but even so they do become dirty and spoiled.
My personal favorite style of humidifer is the ultrasonic type, which uses ultrasonic waves in a chamber to break water into an extremely fine mist. This has several advantages: it is very quiet, the mist is visible and disperses well (actually it's freakyyou can wave your hand through it, and it's like waving through fog), and it's much less likely to become moldy. Of course you have to clean it regularly, like any humidifierafter all, if it becomes contaminated you'll end up breathing the contamination! It's usually possible to find an ultrasonic humidifier even in seasons when they're out of style, but they tend to be top-of-the-line and therefore expensive. I picked one up for $45 this year.
I do recall one hybrid model that I rather liked. It used an electrical coil to heat water in a chamber to just below boiling temperature, and a fan which blew across the hot water to greatly increase the speed of evaporation. Since the water was not boiled, the mist produced was free of white dust. And impurities in the water were simply left in the bottom of the chamber. This made it very easy to clean, although it was disconcerting to see the weird yellow-brown slightly sludgy water and remember that we drink this stuff.
I also have a personal humidifier which I use at work. It's kind of cool; a small plastic base holds a built-in metal cup which heats up and boils a small amount of water when it's turned on. A silicone hood above the boiler is shaped to contain the steam and direct it to the nose and mouth. It can get pretty hot, but it's a great way to moisten your sinuses for a few minutes every so often. I picked it up last year during a bout of bronchitis; my doctor had told me to go to the bathroom every two hours, run hot water into the sink, make a hood out of a towel to create a steam chamber above the hot water, stick my head in, and breathe steam for five minutes.
I don't know about you, but I think that sort of behaviour would get me talked about here. And in any case, our sinks don't have temperature controls; you can only get cold water (which is a bloody stupid design, but we'll let that pass).
John Sebastian is doing better, although he still tends to be fussy and difficult at night, and sometimes cries inconsolably for long times during the day. But it's getting better, and he's growing so quickly! It's amazing to see. His feedings are now up to about five ounces or more each. It's getting harder to burp himhe starts crying the instant we trywhich means there's more gas pain and fussiness, but we're working with it. He's over 12 pounds now, and he's only six weeks and three days old! And on Saturday we had a wonderful surprise.
That morning Teri told me that she'd seen him make a new expression: a "scared" look, mouth in an "O", his eyes huge and round and peering around fearfully. He showed me the new look pretty quickly. It was unbelievably cutehe gets funnier and funnier every day.
Later in the day I was online when I heard Teri shouting for me. I ran over, but I was too late: he'd smiled at her! She called various family members while I held the baby and walked back to the computer. Of course I looked down at him and smiled like mad, but he was sucking a pacifier so it seemed like wasted effort. Suddenly his eyes focused on me, he stopped sucking, and the pacifier started falling out of his mouth...and as I took it away, as clearly as you could possibly want, his mouth curved upward in the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. I was amazed, and the expression on my face must have shown that, because instantly the smile vanished to be replaced by the "little scared boy" look. He's SO CUTE! Words fail me...
I've been a program participant at the Arisia convention in Boston for upwards of ten years now. What that means is that I'm given a free membership, and in exchange I serve as a panelist (mostly on RPG-related panels, but I also do media and literature), and do various events. I wear my white tie and tails, and get to feel like a celebrity for a weekend. It's cool.
I've often missed the mailing deadline, however, and have been left off of the program book as a result. This year, though, I made sure to fill out the questionaire and my other information, so with any luck things should go smoothly. I suggested that they once again have a RuneQuest Roundtable; if they do, I'll be sure to let everyone know about it in advance here. Incidentally, I'm not sure but there's a good chance that Teri and the baby will be at the con with me. I'd certainly love to meet anyone who reads this site who happens to be at the con!
Haven't had much time even to play Diablo lately, but I did find a group of non-cheating players through the Battle.net Diablo Strategy Forum. They hang out in the Diablo Retail DSF-1 channel via the US West gateway, and are an interesting bunch. I made a few errors in a post on the forum and was quickly demolished, so I've given up on that for now; it's not like I have a lot of extra time anyway. But I am spending some time in the DSF channel, and will probably try to get some co-operative playing in when I have the time.
I was chatting online somewhere and somehow mentioned Rogue. Rogue, if you don't know, is a truly ancient computer RPG-style game; it is the direct ancestor of games like Diablo, and was inspired by D&D. I used to play it a lot in college (back in 1988!) and continued to play it over the years; it's quite addictive. I remember a friend of mine used to say that he'd never be so weak-willed as to jeopardize his grades for the sake of a game; I introduced him to Rogue, and within a few weeks he wasn't laughing.
Eventually I wasn't able to play Rogue any more; the disk it was on was a 5.25, and I no longer had a compatible drive. What's more, the disk itself was corrupted.I'd had another copy on a hard drive, but the drive died. I was out of luck.
Anyway, one of the chatters pointed me to a site to download the game. I had some problems, but eventually managed to get the file. And it works!
It's a DOS game, and uses color ASCII art; nonetheless it's surprisingly deep and complex. This despite the fact that the executable is only 98KB!!! And the executable is really all you need. A high score file is created by the EXE if you don't already have one.
Play is really simple. You're a little yellow smiley-face icon, wandering around in a dungeon of 26 levels and up to nine rooms on each floor. You can find and use objects like weapons, armor, potions, food, scrolls, magic rings, wands/staves/rods, and food. Food is particularly important, since eventually you can starve to death. It's not an "arcade" style game; things only move when you do. For example, if you're being chased by a troll you can take a break whenever you want, because the troll only takes a step when you do (and incidentally, everything moves at the same speedexcept spell/wand effects and dragonbreath, which are instant). Monsters are represented by the letters A through Z. You move with the up,down, left, and right keys of your keyboard, and attack a monster simply by running into it. Each dungeon level is randomly generated, which means there's a LOT of replay value. You get experience points for killing monsters, and gain hit points when you go up a level. It's that simple!
Below is a screen shot.
Is it fairly clear? I hope so. The green icon in the right-bottom room is the stairs (they only lead down). The yellow smiley-face is you. The blue up-arrow is a weaponyou need to pick it up to find out what exactly (and if it's magic, you'd need to read a scroll of Identify to reveal the magic). The red fleur-de-lis is food, the blue circle is a ring, the upside-down blue exclamation point is a potion, and the "B" is a bat. Of course most rooms aren't this fullI went through the level, picked everything up, and moved it into one room. There could be monsters and treasure in the other rooms, but you can only see that sort of thing in the room you are in. I should mention that you only see rooms you've actually been inI explored this whole level before taking the screen shot.
The line of yellow text at the bottom should be fairly obvious: Level is the dungeon level, Hits are your current and maximum hit points (they go up each time you go up a character level), Str is current and maximum strength, Gold is gold, Armor is armor (higher numbers are better, but Aquators can rust the armor right off you!), and Exp is your experience level.
There are some tricks and tips I should probably mention. F1 is help, which is very useful. If you want to save a game, hit Shift-S. This takes your current game and stores it temporarily as a file called rogue.sav. This also ends the game.
Resuming a game erases the rogue.sav file, so if you die, you die. But of course there's nothing stopping you from making a copy of the rogue.sav file under a different name, and then copying the copy as rogue.sav! This way you can have as many characters as you want, and save as often as you like.
You can resume by typing rogue -r from MS DOS, or you could use a .BAT file shortcut from Windows. BAT files are very easy to make; all you need to do is use NotePad (or any ASCII text editor) to create a file in which the only line is:
and save it with a name that ends in .BAT. R.BAT for example. Then make a shortcut to that batch file and you're set! Although I will confess that I added a backup restoration line to my BAT file, vis:
copy w.sav rogue.sav
Then when I save a game I simply tell it to save as w.sav. That way if I die I can re-start back where I was.
One neat thing about Rogue is the randomization. For each new character things are different. For example, a blue potion might be Poison in one character/game, and Detect Monster in another. Once you've learned what a particular color potion does, though, the game remembers it for that character. The same principle of randomization applies to scrolls, rings, and sticks (wands/rods/staves). Sometimes it's fun to play a lot with a character, write down everything (for example, blue=Poison) and start play over with a copy of the same starting character.
I've made an Excel file which lists all magic items, the message you get back when you use them (for example, "This potion gives you a warm feeling. What do you want to call it?" is Restore Strength), and has a space for the specific color/material/gibberish of a particular game to be listed.
A couple more points to remember: food often becomes the crucial issue late in the game. That's because you need to travel to level 26 (where the monsters are very nasty indeed), and find the Amulet of Yendor, which allows you to go UP stairs. And travel up all 26 levels until you get out of the dungeon and win. Unfortunately the up levels are not the same as the down levels; they're randomly generated. Even worse, they're filled with a new crop of monsters. Worst of all, there's no TREASUREincluding no food! It's not uncommon to find yourself fainting over and over from lack of food, fighting your way near the exit, only to die of starvation. This is extremely frustrating.
The solution is to find the ring of Slow Digestion. This makes your food last much longer. Better still, find TWO rings of Slow Digestionbecause if you wear two of them, you cannot starve.
Another thing to look for: leather armor. This is surprisingly hard to find. It's precious, though, because even though it's the weakest armor in the game it is the only armor that's proof against the rust powers of the Aquator (think D&D Rust Monster). A ring of Maintain Armor is a decent alternative, but eventually you'll want that slot (you can only wear two rings at a time). Finding a suit of leather and enchanting it with many scrolls of Enchant Armor is the ideal choice.
I can't find the site I downloaded the game from, and after all this talk I can hardly leave it at that, so:
Here's the rogue.exe file, the Excel sheet for tracking magic items, and r.bat, a simple batch file which you can drop into the same folder as rogue.exe. If you save a character as w.sav it will be safely restored by running r.bat.
Almost forgot to mention: I was trolling through DejaNews and looked up my old posts. To my surprise I found a post announcing the creation of this site! It was on October 18, 1996. Time flies...
Monday, November 5, 2001
John Sebastian has colic. If you're not familiar with colic, it means that for the next two to four months he will cry, inconsolably, for hours, every day. It's not known what causes colic, although they believe it has to do with gas and an immature digestive system.
Of course there is no cure.
There are some things that our pediatrician is having us try; a new type of formula that might relieve some of his pain (because he's not crying just to cry; he's suffering, and believe me, that doesn't make us feel any better). It works "sometimes". If it doesn't work, there are some anti-spasmodic drops that work "sometimes". But as far as I can tell, in most cases nothing works and the condition must simply run its course.
This on top of Teri's PPD and PTSD and our lack of sleep (he's fussy at night), is very hard to take. Oh, I know that things could be worseOttoman Turks could be torturing and killing us this very minute, after allbut still, I can't help but wish we could catch more of a break.
Family members are helping out by coming over and helping to take care of the baby, fortunately. And our pediatrician assures us that apart from the colic, JSM is doing wonderfully; on Thursday (11/1/2001) his weight was up to 11 lbs. 1 oz., and his length was 22 inches! He looks great, eats well, and is generally irresistible. If only he didn't suffer so much! I have to admit that I wonder what it will do to his emotional development. His introduction to life is months of pain...it's so unfair.
I hate having to be afraid that he'll wake up and start crying.
He's been learning and growing very rapidly of late. Mostly, of course, he's learned new ways of crying; different sounds which indicate different things, and different levels of irritation. A lot of them are very funny. In fact, I have to say that one thing I wasn't prepared for was how funny the baby is! His comical little expressions, his noises, the way he shakes his head and then lunges at the bottle, the way he waves his hands and feet...all of them make me laugh, a lot.
Oh, something else I hate about colic: it's so damned nebulous. You can never quite be sure if he's crying for a reason (hunger, diaper, burping), or because of the pain. Sometimes you can calm him, but you can never be sure if or how. Rocking? singing? just holding him? a pacifier or letting him suck the tip of my little finger (a VERY funny feeling)? Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. The one thing that's the most reliable is putting him in the car seat and carrying him around for a while. That usually puts him to sleep. But even then it's 50/50 on whether he will wake up and cry 10 minutes after being put down. If he does, it's back to carrying him around the house. He only weighs 30 lbs. or so in the car seat, but six months from now I'll either have arms like a weightlifter or be in traction...
There hasn't been any time for gaming, of course, nor for writing. I wish there were...I've been feeling creative. I need to write, soon. Recently read the Sandman Companion, about the Sandman series, and it makes me feel like creating. I could do it, I think.
I have been playing Diablo a bit on Battle.net. My most recent character there is called Hamburger_Helpr. I started him up recently to see what sort of treatment a "new" player would get from the gamers online, and of course most of them just killed me over and over and over again. Plus even the few non-killers cheat. Let me repeat that: EVERY SINGLE PERSON on Battle.net cheats! At least all the one's that I've seen. They're all carrying around Godly Plate of the Whale and Atomic Wedgie of Destructions. Ridiculous. It feels weird to be the only non-cheater.
I'm tempted to take up Bare Naked Magery, which is to say a character with no possessions of value. Or even a character who only uses cursed items, the more cursed the better. A purist would have started the character that way, but Hamburger_Helpr is using common objects he finds until his skills are high enough to allow him to survive. I've been gaming him in a closed world to avoid the PKs while I get his skills and levels up (if you'd like to drop in, it's called "Safe World" and the password is "qwerty"of course it's only there when I am).
Once his spells and levels are up to a reasonable level, who knows? Perhaps I'll strip him naked and send him to laugh at the PKs.
Something funny: I recently read that the average lifespan of a web site is 100 days. This site has been going since sometime in 1996, which means it has been well over 1,500 days! Just goes to show you that sheer dumb persistance sometimes pays off.
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
There have been some complications since last I wrote. The baby is doing fine, mostly, but Teri is suffering from post-partum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It has been hard on her. She's getting treatment, and is on th mend, but the last few weeks have been difficult for us all. I will confess to feeling a bit strung out and shaky at the moment. There hasn't been much time for sleep, although I think I've gotten more than she has. We both really need to get better at snatching sleep the moment the baby does. Last night, for example, he fell asleep for several hours. Teri slept too (thank goodness), but I took the opportunity to do the dishes, sterilize the bottles, make more formula, and I don't remember what else. As a result I now feel very much like a zombie.
Family members came by over the crisis point a few days ago, and stayed overnight for several nights in a row, taking care of the baby. That helped a lot. And a lot of people have been really kind. Unfortunately we're both too wiped out to express our gratitude properly, and John Sebastian is still pretty much restricted to crying, peeing, etc. He certainly does love to eat, though! It's really comical to see how he wobbles and then lunges at the bottle. Lately he's been slobbering all over himself, making a real mess. But he seems to be thriving. I wouldn't be surprised if he weighs more than 10 pounds already!
Haven't done any gaming since the birth, of course. We're in no condition to have guests right now. Maybe in a few weeks, I hope. Likewise, I hope I'll be able to add some real content to the site before TOO much longer. Chatter is fun, but more RQ material is sorely needed.
Incidentally, Teri didn't remove anything from my writeup of the birth. Just in case you were wondering.
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
And we have a baby! John Sebastian Maranci was born at 10:28 PM on October 5th, 2001. He was 8 lbs. 9 oz. and 20 & 3/4 inches long at birth. He's healthy, (usually) happy, and ridiculously cutewhich is quite odd, because everyone says he looks just like me. But who am I to argue?
There's so much to tell! Some of which I can't tell, because, well, even if I don't care about my privacy I do care about his and Teri's. Still, here's the story, as much as I can remember.
We went in to the hospital on Thursday evening. The admission process went quite smoothly; we were put into a private room on the 5th floor. There was a moderately comfortable chair which converted into a narrow, low bed for me. We also had a private shower and bathroom; but I was not allowed to use them, since they were for patients only.
(Parenthetically, one thing that would DEFINITELY be a good idea for birthing hospitals is some sort of shower facility for fathers/coaches. I was at the hospital for five days, and there was no opportunity for a shower that whole time! And that was less of a problem for us than for other families, I suspect, because our delivery was planned. I was eventually able to drive home for a few hours and take a shower, incidentally, but I'd have paid good money for the chance to shower at the hospital.)
A managing nurse came in to see us once we were settled. She explained that they would be "gelling" Teri twice to encourage the cervix to ripen; once right away and again in the middle of the night. The nurse did the first gelling herself. The process was surprisingly painful, but tolerable. Teri and I were both quite nervous, although naturally she was more nervous than I was.
The nurse popped in and chatted with us often before her shift ended. Like almost every nurse at the hospital (Rhode Island Women & Infants') she was extremely nice. I've always been nervous about hospitals, but my experiences of late have changed my mind. Every one of them has been so pleasant, and the people have been so nice, that I kind of wish I could work in a hospital!
We got a little sleep in the evening, but knew that we'd be gelled again around 1 AM. Unfortunately our nurse would be off duty by then, so a resident would have to perform the procedure. Teri was worried that it would be a man; she prefers women doctors, which is understandable, I guess. Although personally I'm probably more comfortable with women doctors than with men. Come to think of it, I'm more comfortable with women in general than with men; we're more simpatico, I think (although I'm straight, if you were wondering).
The resident turned up at 1, and sure enough he was male. But he was very gentle and nice, and oddly enough of all the procedures that Teri had during our stay, this was the least painfuleven though all of the other procedures were performed by women. An interesting lesson about stereotypes, I'd say. He even took the time to explain why they were called "residents", which I'd been wondering about aloud to distract Teri. Apparently medical schools used to only teach general medicine; specialties were not taught there. But in the 1920's or 1930's the schools started teaching the various medical specialties, and students who were learning them had apartments actually in the teaching hospitalsthey were actually residents of the school, in other words. I assume that prior to that they roomed outside of the hospital.
We slept nervously after the second gelling, and in the morning they told us that there had been a bit of progress. Induction would take place that morning. They brought us to the labor & delivery room on the second floor and got things ready. Need I say that Teri was extremely nervous? And so was I, although I tried not to show it.
They put in an IV, which was painful and uncomfortable; I could sympathize, since I'd had one myself the month before for my operation. The IV was spiked with Pitosin, which induces labor; this was a bit scary, since we'd heard that pitosin causes BIG contractions which can be incredibly painful. It wasn't long before we found out that this was true.
The contractions started fairly strong, and built up. Although we hadn't practiced our breathing anywhere near as much as we could, Teri started in on it like a proI was amazed at how well she did it. I did my best to coach, but of course there wasn't much to do except keep her company and keep an eye on her breathing. Early on Teri's OB came in and broke her water. That committed us: once the water is broken the baby must come out within 24 hours. Incidentally, Teri had been very apprehensive about that procedure, but it was actually almost painless and easy.
The contractions got worse and worse. We varied breathing techniques as we'd been told, and they helped for a little while, but the pain of the contractions was soon too intense for breathing alone to handle; she just couldn't take it (I should mention that Teri is normally something of an iron woman, and can take a lot more pain than I can). She needed something to help her cope, so they gave her Stadol.
Stadol is a lot like two martinis, I guess, although I've never had a martini (nor Stadol, come to think of it) so I wouldn't know. In other words, the effect is supposedly like being drunk (something else I haven't experienced). Certainly Teri became quite groggy; she fell asleep between contractions (they were about two minutes apart at this point) and woke up to breathe through the peaks. Even drugged out of her mind, she breathed like a champ. It seemed to help, too.
I should stop here and make two suggestions for expectant dads:
Take ALL the prep classes you can before childbirth (& read every book & watch every video), and
Remember that the real thing is NOTHING LIKE ANY VIDEO OR TV SHOW YOU'VE EVER SEEN.
Also, listen and prepare carefully. We had a lot of powerful breath mints (Myntz!) and I used them liberally. Damn good thing, too. Be ready to do anything you can to help her, but there are times when you simply MUST back off. Don't leave the room, however, unless ordered to by a doctor or nurse. She may tell you to leave, but that really means "Don't touch me"if you actually leave the room, she probably won't forgive you later.
Bring everything that you absolutely HAVE to have in the delivery-room bag, by the way. You won't be able to pop in and out easilyit can be hard even to get a couple of minutes to go to the bathroom, and the bathroom for dads is often not all that close to the delivery room. If the hospital allows you to have a backup coach, GET ONEeven if they only stand in for a few minutes, that can make the difference between watching your baby being born and watching your baby being born while trying to cope with the agony of a bursting bladder.
I did get a couple of chances to leave the room during the day while Teri's mother spelled me. Each time I ran downstairs to the hospital cafeteria, bought a bunch of hot dogs, chips, and a GIANT coke and wolfed it all down. It can be hard to get regular meals when you're having a baby (although it's worse for womenthe mother's digestive system actually shuts down during labor, in order to devote all energy to the birthing process!). I also ran outside to call a few people with updates. You can't bring a cell phone into the hospital, and that's not just bureaucratic mumbo-jumbowireless devices can interfere with computer-controlled medication delivery systems, and in theory you could actually accidentally kill someone with your phone!
While I was outside making calls at around 1 PM or so I was surprised to see my parents right there in the parking lot! They'd just arrived. I brought them to the lobby, since you're not allowed visitors in the delivery room. Then I went back upstairs and resumed coaching.
The Stadol was starting to wear off; it only lasts about two hours or so. Right on the dot the Stadol wore off, and Teri needed pain medicine RIGHT NOW. She'd been averse to the idea of an epidural, but suddenly a needle next to your spine is a whole lot less scary when you actually feel real contractions turning you inside out. They brought on the epidural, placed a small catheter next to her spinal column, and within 20 minutes most of the pain was washed away. It was wonderful to see Teri relax after all those hours of agony.
You know, an epidural is really an amazing thing. It takes the edge off pain extremely effectively, but leaves the sensation of pressure and the ability to push. It can make the process of birth tolerable (almost), without taking away much sensation. There are a lot of women who I suspect would marry the person who invented the epidural, sight unseen.
I should mention that we've been told that an epidural doesn't work for every woman, although usually it does. Frankly, I can't imagine how women manage or managed without painkillers of some sort. That the vast majority of all the human births ever completed were done medication-free amazes me. I really don't know how this species survived. If I went through what I saw Teri experience, I don't think I'd ever want to have sex again.
Even with the epidural, the pain soon became intense. I should explain that one of the most difficult things about labor (as I understand it) is that there comes a point when you simply HAVE to push. It's almost irresistible. But that urge MUST be resisted until the cervix has fully opened, because otherwise each push will simply bash the baby's head against the blocked openingand in addition to being bad for the baby, this causes the cervix itself to swell, making the opening smaller and increasing the time of labor.
I can't recall if it happened during the Stadol or the epidural, but one of those medications had a wonderful side effect: by allowing Teri to relax, it allowed her to dilate almost completely, in only a few hours. We'd been stuck between 1 and 3 centimeters for a long, long time (you have to be dilated to 10cm in order to give birth), but suddenly we were at 7 and increasing.
Soon it was time to begin pushing. Now, I'd seen a lot of videos, and Teri and I watched "A Baby Story" often on the Learning Channel, so I assumed that the pushing wouldn't be too bad; painful, yes, some screaming, maybe, but over in an hour at the most.
I'd forgotten that TV shows are edited to fit an hour or half-hour schedule. Teri pushed for TWO AND A HALF HOURS! And there are women who've had to push for far longer than that. It reminded me of Aliens, actually; like the woman trapped in the reactor, I'm sure that if I had something inside me like that I too would beg to be killed. But there was no way out for Teri. For medical reasons the doctor couldn't even help with forceps or vacuum. Teri had to do all the pushing herself. If she couldn't, we faced something that both of us found particularly terrifying: a caesarian delivery.
About one in four or five births is a caesarian, actually, so the procedure is not all that rare and certainly far less dangerous than it used to be even twenty years agomuch less than in Julius Caesar's day, of course. Still, it's major surgery, far more major than the procedure I'd just had. It's an actual cutting into a woman's core, her center of gravity (or near it, in any case), so how can that not be frightening?
I'm going to let Teri see this before I post it; she has the absolute right to censor any part she wishes. Since I'd rather not waste time writing stuff that she'll delete, I'm going to skip some of the more gruesome details. Let me say that for two and a half hours she pushed. Pushed with a force that I really can't describe. Just coaching her, trying to help to whatever extent I could (and it wasn't much), I pulled muscle in my neck and stomach incision. But after two and a half hours, John Sebastian was born.
He was purple-blue, and his head was the shape (and color) of an eggplant; the umbilical cord had been looped around his neck, and the OB had to cut it quickly during the birthing process. They immediately took him into a nearby room to give him oxygen and stimulate him, before Teri could even hold him. She was frantic, asking why she couldn't hear him; I heard a little choking noise from him, and tried to reassure her. Then they had me go into the resuscitation room, which was basically a large closet attached to the room. The technicians were working on the baby there, putting a little mask on him and rubbing his arms and legs. They had me trim his umbilical, too. I'd no idea what an umbilical looked like; to my amazement it was clear and rubbery, for all the world like a yellowish length of clear plastic tubing. Before long John Sebastian looked much pinker, and started to cry. I held him for a moment, and then he was brought to Teri. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever seen in my life.
What more? Well, we had some complications that I won't detail; nothing at all life-threatening, but painful and inconvenient. As a result we ended up staying an extra day. In the days following, we had a few medical scares, including a hospital trip for the baby; but in each case everything turned out to be fine. There are things which you aren't told can happen, things that can scare the hell out of you, but it's important to remember to try and RELAX. Unfortunately I'm much better than Teri at relaxing, probably TOO good.
Now...we're home. John Sebastian lost weight for a little while, but he's been eating like a happy little pig and is doing well. He's incredibly cute, and every day we see changes. In the last two days he's learned two new ways of crying, for example, and three days ago he started looking at us with what really appears to be curiosity. He makes the funniest faces. Oh, he has red hair! That was a shock. Teri has dark hair, and my own red hair is something of a genetic oddity; the rest of my family has dark hair, except for my father's mustache. But John Sebastian has red hair, almost exactly my own color. That may well changeI was born with far redder hair, for example, and it gradually darkened to copper-goldbut it's still pretty neat. In many ways he looks amazingly like I did as a baby, although there's definitely a lot of Teri in him, too. For one thing, he has her father's bloodtype. This surprised us both: since we're both type A (she's negative, and I'm positivewhich gave us some concern during the pregnancy), we assumed that the baby would be, too. But I looked it up, and apparently it's not at all unusual for type A's to produce a type O baby.
What else? He's a good baby, as far as I know. He sometimes sleeps as much as four or even five hours straight at night! Our pediatrician tells us that this is fine, since he's gaining weight and thriving. We still aren't getting as much sleep as we need, but it's not like the horror stories that so many people like to tell you. He cries, you wake up (or you were listening for the noises that indicate he's waking up and getting hungrygenerally sucking and lip-smacking noises), you change his diaper, you feed him, and within an hour of getting up he's asleep again and you're back in bed. Sometimes he's fussy, or cries and we can't figure out why, but for the most part he's a good, cheerful baby who likes to eat, sleep, and pee.
Speaking of horror stories: you know, that's one of the things that really bothered me about this whole experience. Some people seem to positively relish telling you that your life is over, you'll never get any sleep again, you'll never see your friends again, and you'll spend the rest of your life worrying! It may be early for me to say this, but as far as I can tell so far a lot of this is sheer crap. Yes, we'll never be the sameI can't describe how it feels to have a child, but it has already made me laugh and cry more than oncebut our lives are by no means over and we will be able to do many of the things that we used to do. It would be hard to dine out right now, but there are lots of good take-out places in the Woonsocket area so that's no problem. And we certainly aren't lacking for baby-sitting offers.
Oh yes, food. Here's another tip for expectant fathers: after you come home, you will be totally wiped out. And the mother will be far more so. You have GOT to make sure that she eats, a good bit more than she used to; she needs the additional food to recover and heal, not to mention to nurse if she's nursing. She may not feel hungry; she may not be able to decide what she wants. Put food in front of her, though, and encourage her to eat as much as possible. Also, make sure she keeps taking her prenatal vitamins, and once those are gone get her a bottle of good multi-vitamins. Pregnancy takes an incredible toll on the body.
If you can get people to bring over hot food every night, great! Get all the help that you can. If you can't, I strongly suggest pre-preparing as many quick and easy meals as you can. Neither of you will have the time or energy to waste on cooking, so make the process as simple as possible. If people you trust are available to come over and take care of you both, don't be proudaccept immediately. And don't be ashamed to ask! Don't expect to feel human for a week or two, even with an easy delivery.
I understand that in some places there are services which will come over and prepare meals for you; if there are no other options and you can afford it, go for it.
Another thing that I'm quite angry about: even among professionals, everybody will give you different adviceand I'm talking about every doctor and nurse we spoke to. This seems to be worst when it comes to breast-feeding. "Feed the baby every two hours." "No, every three." "No, fourotherwise the baby will develop bad habits." "Feed him on demand." "Wake him and feed him by the clock." "Nurse him ten minutes on each side." "No, at least fifteen minutes." "It should be twenty." "Anything more than seven minutes is excessive." "That's formula-company propaganda." "That's breastfeeding-Nazism."
In unison: "IF YOU DON'T DO IT MY WAY, YOU'LL HURT THE BABY!"
One last thing that surprised me about the whole experience: I'd been nervous about the many horrible things that I expected to see. They make jokes about fathers fainting during delivery, and the horrors of diaper changing. Well, I'm actually rather squeamish, but I saw most of the delivery (except afterwards, when I was with John Sebastian in the resuscitation room), and for some reason it didn't bother me at all! And diapers have been no problem at all so far. He pees all over the place if you're not careful, and there have certainly been some full diapers, but for some reason it's not disgusting at allat least, not to me and Teri.
I'd made new address labels for us before the birth, but JSM's unexpected hair color invalidated them. So I've worked up a new one, and in the process made some modifications. Here it is:
I'd forgotten to mention that when I bought a used Nintendo 64 at FuncoLand last month (to while away my post-surgery recovery hours) it turned out not to work. So we brought it back later, and ended up getting a pretty cool-looking translucent "ice" model, factory-reconditioned. At Teri's insistence we checked it out right at the store, along with the cartridges we bought; and one of those was bad, too. It cost a bit more for the reconditioned unit ($60, which was $30 more than the used model), but it works fine, and it was worth it. I've already earned all 120 coins again on Super Mario 64, and if anything I'm even better at it than before. Even at something as stupid and time-wasting as this, my abilities do seem to be improving...I should put them to work on something meaningful!
The incision is still red and there's a lot of scar tissue, but the pain is mostly gone both from the skin and the musclesI hardly feel it at all any more. I can carry the baby in his car seat with no difficulty at all. So it looks like that worked out, too.
As things get more settled in my life I plan to go back to adding to this site as often as possible! I'm not going away, believe me! There will be new roleplaying material AND baby updates! Don't worry, though, I'll keep the baby updates strictly on this pageand I'll try not to neglect gaming.
Thursday, October 4, 2001
We had an appointment this morning, and there has been some progress towards laborenough so that we're going in to the hospital tonight. They're going to encourage labor, and if it doesn't start by tomorrow morning they'll induce us. By all accounts we should have our baby out and about by late tomorrow, Saturday at the latest!
I will obviously not be able to access the net in any way from the hospital, so the site will be quiet for a few daysapart from anything that anyone else adds to the Chaos Project, of course.
I will write it all up in non-gruesome detail when I get back. In the meantime, our best to you all!
Tuesday, October 2, 2001
Things have been busy, and I haven't been able to do as much work on the site as I'd like. A little bit now and again on the Basic RQ project has been most of it. I have an idea for an interesting scenario hook for Found Items in the Chaos Project, but haven't had a chance to write it up: It's a large wooden box, really a small shack, with no windows or doors. One possibility is that something can be heard moving inside. It should be rather mysterious, and I'll try to work up a list of possible contents and effects.
On the baby front, no news. It should only be a few days, but as of today there's been no progress towards labor. We should know more after our appointment on Thursday. The baby is doing quite well, by all accounts.
Here's something sort of silly: an icon of sorts. Perhaps it looks a bit like me.
Monday, September 24, 2001
Had the post-operative exam this morning. It was remarkably quick. I seem to be okay; which is good, because I've had some extra pain lately. There are hard ridges on each side of my navel (they're not visible, but I can feel them clearly), but the doctor says that's part of the normal healing process. He also urged me to lose weight.
The last of the Steri-Strips fell off several days ago, and the incision is dry and clean; no bleeding, although it <I>does</I> still look gross. There's a fair amount of muscle pain at times, and some surface pain, but overall things are improving.
Teri's experiencing a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions (which are "practice" contractions, if you didn't know; they can be painful), and as of today we have 14 days to the due date. Scary! An ultrasound last week put the baby at 3.9 kg (a little over 8.5 lbs.), so it looks as if we'll have an over nine-pound baby on our hands soon.
I feel a bit helpless; I wish so much I could help Teri more. I guess it's lucky that I'm not the super-obsessive type, because if I was this would drive me insane. We just have to put our trust in medical science, I guess.
Teri and I were driving home last night and had an adventure. I wrote about it immediately on rec.pets.cats, and got some help. Be warned: it's a sad story.
I haven't been unaware of the events of the last several weeks, of course, but mostly I've been viewing them with detached horror and rage. Not so much at the destruction of the World Trade Center and all those lives; that's too big an event for me to get my mind fully around, perhaps. But I'm horrified and enraged by the way that the smirking moron who occupies the White House is suddenly being aclaimed by all as the Second Coming, and the frightening, almost fascistic attitude of so many of my fellow citizens. I have no objection to flag-waving, although sometimes I wonder if all of this frantic genuflection towardsn the flag is merely cover for fear and mistrust; real patriotism, it seems to me, doesn't always have to proclaim itself at the top of its lungs. Nonetheless (and it bothers me a LOT to have to say this) I love my country. I do not love the hatred, bigotry, celebrity-worship, right-wing fanaticism, and commercialism that has infected this nation's culture, however. In my mind, when people start waving flags they are only a few short steps from a lynch moband the news too often has proved me right on that point lately.
Did you know that an authoritative evaluation of all Florida ballots has been going on for months now, under the auspices of NORC/The University of Chicago? They were categorizing each ballot; for example, the overvotes in which the same candidate's name was both punched and written in (these were invalidated, although the voter had clearly indicated only one candidate). The results were to be released on September 17. Not only were they NOT released, but the NORC website disappeared! It's still down, with a "Technical Difficulties" excuse. Is Bush a King, that we aren't allowed to hear even the slightest aspersion on his noble name? It's starting to look that way. My brother watches Saturday Night Live, and he tells me that since the attacks not one sketch has been re-run that in any way mocks Bush. What's happening to this country?
You know, I sort of lead a double life. I write quite a bit in my anonymous political persona; I'm fairly active online. But there are times when I burn out, and then I turn to my creative side and start writing more here. When my creativity poops out, I usually find that my political side is ready to take up the sword again. But I can't let my political readers know much of my roleplaying/creative side, and vice-versa. Sometimes this bothers me. But I really believe that the day could come when disagreeing with the American right wing will no longer be a freedom, but a crime. I've heard recently that a file has been opened by the FBI and Bush Administration on one of the online political columnists I've written for. I would not put "disappearing" political enemies past this gang of thugs, if they had the chance...which makes me suddenly remember that I'm not writing as my policial persona. I should probably delete this, but let it stand. It's still hard for me to imagine that I'm important enough to bother about, politically.
Saturday, September 15, 2001
Thursday night was one of the worst nights I've ever had. And would you like to know why? Those damn hiccoughs!
They went on for 14 hours! Once in a while they'd stop (particularly after I ate), but within 15 minutes they'd be back. And they were violent hiccoughs, too; it wasn't long before the muscles of my chest, shoulders, and back were aching like crazy, along with my throat and of course the incision. It was simply awful, and virtually unbearable.
I tried many of the usual cures, but nothing worked. Finally I went to a rather dangerous cure: I held a plastic bag over my face and breathed into it. I was careful to hold it in such a way that if I started to pass out it would fall away, but it was still a bloody dangerous thing to do and shows how completely desperate I was. Still, it didn't help.
I dosed off at midnight, but woke at 2PM and immediately went into a violent spasm of hiccoughs againso loud that I had to leave the room for fear of waking Teri. I went into the den.
I had the strong suspicion that it was the Percocet that was causing the hiccoughs; and since it wasn't helping me much anyway, I decided to take some Tylenol instead, checking first to make sure that there were no drug interactions. There weren't, and I downed a couple of maximum-strength pills. Then I paused for a moment, and had a mild inspiration. I waited for a hiccough, and then waited again until a moment before I figured the next one would hit me. Then I took my glass of water and took a continuous stream of little gulps all in a row, for as long as I could. When I finished, YAHOO! The hiccoughs were gone! And they haven't been back since.
Otherwise...went to a Lamaze/childbirth class today, which was very interesting but painful. For the first time a little blood came from the incision. Oh, I was able to shower and take off the outer bandage on Thursday evening; one of the steri-strips (which I believe replaced stiched in my case) underneath the bandage came off when I remove the blood-caked gauze (you never have to worry about too little information on this site, huh?). But it was apparently okay. I'm worrying about damage to the muscle layers underneathI don't want to have to go through this againand there's an uncomfortable "sliced" feeling across my belly sometimes. But I think I'm okay, and I should be able to get confirmation of that when I have my follow-up appointment in 10 days.
What else? Well, I've done pretty well on Super Mario World...it's surprising how much I remembered without realizing it! 37 stars already. Funny, Teri isn't impressed. I hope to persuade her to try it later. It was such a mind-blowing game to those of us who were used to 2-D worlds...or to old-timers like me. I remember when I was a young boy seeing one of the first arcade Pong units in the world. It amazed me at the time. I must have been about eight years old.
Thursday, September 13, 2001
ARGH! I've had the hiccoughs for an HOUR now! Dammit, this is driving me crazy!
Okay. I'm back, at least enough to write here. Here's what happened:
I didn't sleep well Monday night; I was pretty nervous, and woke up every hour or so. Finally the dreaded alarm went off, and we got up and got ready. It was 5:45 AM as we got on the highway for Peabody MA. The hospital was about 70 miles from our house, so there was a lot of driving to do; worse, we'd be going near Boston right at the morning rush hour. I needed to be there by 7:45AM, and the surgery was scheduled to start at 8:45.
But the traffic wasn't bad, and we made it with about half an hour to spare. They checked me right in. I was told to undress and put on a "johnny"; I'd heard about those hospital gowns that leave your ass totally exposed, but this was my first experience with one. It was difficult to tie.
The nurse came in and shaved my stomach. Then the anesthesiologist came in and put in an IVanother first for me. She told me to expect a "big pinch", and since in my experience medical people always understate the amount of pain you'll have, I gritted my teeth and expected agony. To my surprise, though, the pain wasn't really bad' perhaps because the needle went into the back of my wrist, a comparatively insensitive spot. It was a bit disconcerting, though, because even after the IV was in I kept feeling the needle. It didn't hurt much, but it was impossible to ignore until she taped it all down.
She also put a finger cuff on me. I'd seen those on TV, but hadn't known how they worked; I'd wondered if some sort of needle was involved (I used to have an unbelievable fear of needles, and still don't care for them at all). But it turns out that no piercing was involved; the thing merely looks at your nail bed to determine the oxygenation of your blood. No problem.
They started me off with a mild sedative in the IV as an "appetizer", and said they'd increase the dose before I went in to surgery. My midsection would be numbed with something like novacaine (!); I'd feel "tugging", but shouldn't feel pain. General anesthesia would be available as a backup in case the novacaine didn't work or the surgery had to be expanded.
Teri and my parents waited for me in the waiting room during the operation.
They wheeled me into the operating room, and I stared upwards at powerful-looking lights that weren't on yet. And then...
I fell asleep! Yup, slept through the whole thing. When I woke up I felt quite clear-headed, and had a moderate pain around my navel. Before long Teri and my parents came in and told me that three minutes after I'd gone into surgery planes had hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Go figureI missed it all!
After about 90 minutes of lying around they gave me a perscription of Percocet and sent me home. A 3 x 5 bandage was taped across my navel; I was to keep dry for 48 hours, then I was free to shower and remove the outer bandage, but not the surgical strips beneath it. They'd fall off by themselves in a week or so.
On the way home, I twisted Teri's arm and got her to stop at FuncoLand. We bought a used Nintendo 64 and three games: Super Mario World, Mario Kart, and Star Fox 64. The pain was increasing, and I was walking around hunched over; it felt like a bad back spasm. The muscles of my stomach were extremely sore.
We got home, and I took two Percocets650mg in all. To Teri's amazement, they did nothing to me! Not only did they not relieve the pain, they didn't even make me drowsy. In fact, for all the effect they had I might as well have taken a placebo. I've continued taking them, but the effect has still been absolutely nil. Apparently this amount of Percocet would knock any normal person out, but I've noticed that medication almost never affects me. I'm not sure why. Come to think of it, alcohol doesn't seem to affect me either; of course I don't normally drink, but the one time Teri made me down two glasses of wine neither one of us could detect any effect on me whatsoever. So I guess I have some sort of freaky body chemistry.
I slept poorly that night, and felt much worse the next day. That was probably because all the anesthetic from the operation had worn off, of course. The pain was really quite agonizing; I couldn't stand up, or even sit up by myself. I could barely walk. Teri had planned to go into work, but when she saw how helpless I was she stayed home with me. I'm lucky that she did, because although it's embarrassing to admit it, I was really incapacitated. Teri was about to call the doctor to let them know that the Percocet wasn't helping, but just before she picked up the phone it rang. It was the hospital.
They confirmed that everything I was feeling was pretty much to be expected. Not sleeping was actually a good sign, they said; it indicated I was healing (I don't really understand why). The Percocet reaction was very unusual, but they told us to increase the dosage; from 1 pill every six hours to 2 pills every four hours. We did that, although I'm still not sure if it helped at all. The effect was minimal at best, and I have no doubt that I could drive a car flawlessly right now, for example. Except that I've been forbidden to drive at all for four days, of course.
Wednesday was long, painful, and dull. But Wednesday night I slept bettera couple of four-hour stretchesand I woke up on Thursday (today) feeling a lot less pain than before. It was still very hard and painful to get up, but at least I could manage by myself. Which was good, because Teri had to go to work today.
My stomach muscles still ache terribly, and I can feel the huge surgical slice across my belly (although that may partly be psychological), but if I hold still there's usually no pain, I can stand upright without much difficulty, and all in all I feel much better. Except now I itch like crazy; the hair is growing back on my stomach, and since I haven't been able to shower for three days now I feel really crawly. I should be able to clean up tonight, fortunately.
I'll be home tomorrow as well, and should be able to go to Lamaze class on Saturday without too much pain. Monday may be a difficult drive in, but I think I'll make it okay. And that's the story!
Oh, a postscript: the Nintendo 64 I got a FuncoLand doesn't work. We'll return it tonight for a replacement. I supposed I should have spent the extra $30 and got a new one...maybe they'll let me do that instead of just replacing it.
Until this afternoon sitting at the computer for more than a few minutes hurt me, so I haven't had any chance to work on the site. I'm looking forward to getting more done on the Basic RQ project, though. I have to admit that I'm surprised that no one has expressed much interest in the project, though!
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
I survived, it went well, I'm in a lot of pain. More when I can.
Monday, September 10, 2001
It's 9:30 PM. Tomorrow morning at 5:30 AM we start out for the hospital in Peabody. I check in at 7:45 AM, and the surgery is scheduled to begin at 8:45 AM. I'm told it takes about an hour.
After that there's an hour or two of post-operative recovery; I guess they watch me to make sure that I'm not in shock, and that all systems are functioning. Barring any disasters, we should be on our way home by noon.
I'm nervous, of course, but I know I'll have to just bear down and live through it. It's pretty minor surgery, my doctor is the best, and I'm fairly healthy, so there shouldn't be any trouble. It's only fear, and I've lived with that for a long time, so I really should be used to it by now. And to tell the truth, I think I am coping with it better now than I used to. Maybe it's something to do with being a father soon. I don't know.
Thanks to everyone for reading all this stuff so far. I'm looking forward to doing lots more in the future.
No, of course the car didn't work outnot that it didn't pass inspection. It didn't even get that far. Here's the story:
I checked the lights on Saturday morning, and found that one of the rear turn signals was burned out. Fortunately I had a sparethe last time I'd had a bulb burn out I'd bought a two-pack. It was no problem to replace the bulb.
Took the car for an oil change, and then took it to the gas station for inspection. After a minute the mechanic came back: "Sorry, pal, I can't inspect this car. Your registration expired last week. I can't even enter it into the computer."
Shit! It was almost noon on Saturday, and how the hell was I going to renew my registration? And how come I hadn't received anything in the mail? Had I received something in the mail? I didn't remember. I went home, looked online, and found that Rhode Island had a single DMV office open on Saturday: a DMV Express office on the other side of the state.
Fortunately if you're going to have to cross a state in a hurry, Rhode Island is the best one cross. I got down, found the office in an obscure mall, and got in line. 45 minutes later and $60 poorer I had my new registration. But it was too late to get inspected.
Oh well. I'll do it as soon as I can, after I've recovered a bit from the surgery...
Speaking of which, I'll try to write something about the surgery here as soon as possible afterwords. Here's hoping it's a very boring story. Take care, all!
Friday, September 7, 2001
More than two months have passed, and it's now pretty clear that whoever hit my car (see the July 2nd entry) has gotten away with itwith the apparent help of the bastards at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a company that I will never do business with again (not that they care, I'm sure). Geico sent us a check, but we've been unsure what to do about it. The car is totally functional, after all; the damage was mostly cosmetic, and functionality was only mildly impaired (the mirror and door). I just need it to pass inspection. So I talked to my father about it, to see what he thought.
I should explain that my father is quite handy, as well as one of the most intelligent people I know (he got his Ph.D. from MIT). His instinct is to do most repairs and such himself. I, however, did not inherit much of his handiness; I'm not knowledgeable about car repair, and my first reaction is to buy a replacement for a broken thing or have it professionally repaired. About all I can do is build a decent bookshelf, and sometimes do minor repairs if they involve hammering in some nails. Oh, and I can usually follow instructions to put things together, although often there are a few bumps and mistakes along the way. In short, I'm not the sort of man who gets a lot of respect from the tough guys with power tools who like to whip up a credenza from scratch on a lazy afternoon. In other words, I'm a geek.
So when Dad insisted that we should not spend $1,200, but do some good-enough repairs ourselves I agreed, and last week we got together.
This was the damage: The driver's-side side-view mirror was smashed, although the mechanism to move it was working perfectly and the housing was virtually untouched (got to give Honda credit for making a hell of a car). The driver's-side door was bashed in somewhat (although the power window and locks were still fine), and the area in front of the door next to the front left tire was smashed in rather heavily. About two feet of the horizontal rubber side-stripe that ran along the sides of the car was detached and sticking out on the driver's-side door. The door itself would only open about two feet, which was a little bit of a squeeze for me. The top of the door was bent out a bit, so that there was about a one-inch gap where the window frame met the frame of the car. The rubber gaskets filled the gap, but I could hear and feel wind blowing when I drove, and if the car sat in a heavy rain some water would get inside.
Repairing the mirror: My father cut a piece of mirror into the shape of the old one, and we picked out all the broken shards off of the sticky tar-paper backing. Then we used heavy double-sided tape to secure the new mirror to the tar-paper. It attached well, and stuck on nicely. The new mirror wasn't exactly the same size, so we found a little black electrical tape and put it on the corners. Since the housing was also black, the tape hardly showed.
Whoops! I should note here that when I say we I should say my father. The ideas were all his, and I was just trying to help.
Dad's power drill battery had died, so we used a long screw and hammer to make a small hole in the car body underneath the end of the rubber strip. We then took a screw, put it through the end of the strip, and screwed it into the sheet-metal of the car. Then we stuck a piece of electrical tape over the screw head. It was firm and looked great.
Finally, I grabbed the top of the window-frame of the car door and bent it back. It now fit back into the frame almost perfectly; eventually I'll get a 2x4 and lever it back another quarter inch or so, but in the meantime I don't have to worry about wind or rain. The gap is basically undetectable.
And that was about it! On the way home I bought a fresh roll of all-weather electrical tape (the tape we'd used had been very old, and peeled off on the road). I taped neatly around the perimeter of the mirror, trimming away a bit of excess, and put a new piece of tape over the screw-head in the rubber strip. Finally, I took the claw-end of a hammer and pulled out the small bashed-in section of the body in front of the door; it didn't look like new, but at least it was pretty much curved out instead of in. And when I'd finished, I found that I could open and close the driver's-side door all the way, with no squeaking or effort!
So tomorrow I take the car to see if it will pass inspection. The body really doesn't look bad at allyou might not even notice the damage if I were to drive past you. It still might fail on emissions, but that's a different story. We'll see.
Wednesday, September 5, 2001
I've techified myself up a bit lately. Picked up a cell phone, which has been interesting. Of course I got it so that Teri can reach me when she needs to; there are only about 32 days left before October 8th! It's surprising how useful the phone can be, though. If only all of those maniac drivers would hang up and drive...
I also picked up a mini recorder. As I've mentioned, my commute is about 3 - 4 hours round trip, and sometimes I get ideas while I'm driving or hear something on the radio that I want to write down. I used to make notes in a small notebook, but the truth is that that's pretty dangerous to do when driving (try it some time, on an empty road of course). So last weekend I picked up a little pocket-recorder. It's pretty small (about the size of two large pens), and works with a chip instead of a cassette; no moving parts, apart from the buttons, and it retains recorded material even if you change the batteries. The sound quality isn't great (how could it be, at that size?) but human speech is intelligible, even recorded in my car with the windows open.
It holds 12 minutes of recording, which is an extremely long time. I've already made nine notes, and there are still 10 minutes and three seconds of recording time left. Of course I'll transcribe the stuff I've recorded and clear it soon. So far I've recorded phone numbers, gift ideas, site ideas, a site I wanted to look up, a couple of DVDs I want to pick up, and a couple of songs I liked. Fun! It cost about $45 with batteries, by the way.
I had a pre-operative phone interview today, and got some more information. Apparently I'll be awake during the surgery! They're going to give me a relaxing sedative and then local anesthetic. Jeeze. I guess it's for the best (general anesthesia is pretty scary, and I've never been unconscious), but I keep wondering what it's going to be like lying there while they cut my stomach open? I know there'll be a curtain between me and the operating field, but still?
Okay, that's not a thought I should be dwelling on. The surgery is in one week. I'll try to write and tell you all about it afterwards, although I suspect I won't be able to type for a couple of days at least. And of course I'll probably write here again before surgery, anyway.
Basic RQ: Work has been continuing fairly quickly on the Basic RQ document; it's up to nine pages. Combat and Magic remain to be done, plus of course touch-up work all along; it's still in the fairly early draft stages. It's a complicated process, and when I'm done it's definitely going to need a complete style edit; section headers and such haven't been regularized at all. Plus, there are issues I'm still torn over. For example, should I include various tables from the RQ3 Game Sheet, or should I simply refer the reader to the general section of the sheet? That tends to sound a little weird, i.e. "see the Hit Locations table (Game Sheet front, upper right corner)". On the other hand it saves a lot of space. As it is, I'm starting to doubt that I can get this into a 12-page booklet.
I also do realize that the language may have to be revised quite a bit. In fact, I'm thinking that this will end up as a "living" document; assuming that enough people read it and comment on it, I'll be revising it continually in response to their questions. As always, your comments would be really appreciated! So far no one has commented on it at all. If the Word format is a problem, I'd be glad to make a PDF version for quick emailing...
Voting: I've gotten the site listed on a new RPG index, The RPG Library. There's a quick-vote link on the main page, and as always, your vote is much appreciated! Well, a high vote, of course. I can't honestly say I'd be pleased to get a low vote.
It's annoying, but I found the RPG Library through some other place online that listed several other RPG sites that gave awards and ratings. And lost the damn thing! Somehow I shut down my browser without marking the site, and wasn't able to find it again even when I looked up the History. Damn. Oh well! I may be overdoing it with the voting stuff. We've gotten up to #4 on the Die-Roller's Top 50, although for a couple of days the site disappeared altogether! It was weird, because one day the site would be there, and the next it would be goneand instead of 50 sites on the list, there would only be 49. The next day the site would be back and everything would be normal. I wrote to the editor and eventually the problem was discovered (it was something to do with sort order values). The problem should be fixed, and we are (as I said before) #4 as of today.
Overall, we're actually getting to be quite successful for a RuneQuest site. Last month (August) there were 4,889 sessions, and 70,045 hits! And the numbers have been steadily increasing for a while. Of course, those numbers also include the TIAC Sucks! site, but that site only gets about 200 - 300 hits a month (which also reflects a steady improvement, oddly enough; about five times as many hits as last year).
By comparison, last year in September (the first big month after I moved the site in June 200), we had 1,602 sessions and 17,133 hits. So there's been quite an improvement in 11 months, which is gratifying. We're in the top 5 of most search engines when you search for "RuneQuest", and are number 1 for Yahoo and AltaVista, for example.
So at this point, maybe I should lay off getting the site listed in still more places. Although I don't suppose it hurts. Let me know if you have a favorite RPG site list that doesn't have the site!
Something odd: I thought that there would be fewer and fewer RPG sites online, what with the growing corporatization of the web, but there actually seem to be more than there used to be; a lot of them are new. Strange, huh?
Friday, August 31, 2001
If you want to see something that made me laugh like a crazed hyena when I was 13, and treasured the memory of for the rest of my life, and that still makes me laugh like a crazed hyena, go here. You can click on the image to enlarge it.
It's by Monty Python, incidentally. They did quite a few hysterically funny books back in their heyday, and much of the material is originalthat is, it never appeared on their shows or movies. Which is sort of a pity, because I'd love to have seen Terry Jones as the MASTER. It looks like him, doesn't it? Wait a minute, I mean IT looks LIKE HIM, doesn't IT?
We've bounced around in the Die-Roller's Top 50 lately. A couple of days ago the site was number 8 (!), but it's back down to #12. Interesting.
Something funny: Although I'd like to be able to vote for some of the other sites, I don't feel comfortable doing so. Unless I gave them a "5", I'd feel as if I was trying to drive them down in order to improve Pete's RQ! ranking. Although there was an exception today. I was looking at some of the top sites, and when I hit one of them (which I guess I will not name here) THREE POP-UP WINDOWS appeared! And more popped up as I tried to shut them down. Bastards. I gave them a "2", and would have given them a "1" if I was being truly honest. Unfortunately there's no way to put a comment or warning on the list.
I've done some more work on the Basic RQ document, although of course I can't work on it non-stop. The more I think about it, the more useful it seems; there are so many RuneQuest sites online, and yet the rules themselves just aren't available! It doesn't make sense. Of course, that makes it all the more important to do a good job. The document has to be very clear and easy to use...I expect that even when it's finished I'll continue to re-write and improve it. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know.
Oh, perhaps I should clarify: I'm not following my usual procedure and recording updates to the Basic RQ document every time I add something to it. Since it's totally a work in progress, it would just clutter up the history page unnecessarily to record every change. When it's done, I'll announce it as widely as I dare. I don't think anyone will object to it, but of course (as I've said before) it's a tricky line to walk.
Monday, August 27, 2001
For some insane reason I've monkeyed with the main page yet again. This time I've added a direct voting box for the Die-Roller's Top 50 to the lower right corner. Why? I don't know. If you'd like to try it out, please do!
I'd planned to write more, but I've got a &@^#! of a headache right now. Took some Tylenol Sinus (which usually helps), but it hasn't kicked in yet. Man, I feel like a zombie. I need sleep!
Sunday, August 26, 2001
Staying up a little late to answer some old emails and get Tony Den's link up. It's in the regular Links section too, of course.
Saturday, August 25, 2001
I just redesigned the main page to include the GameScanner award. It looks okay, I think, although I wish I could do some testing with different screen sizes. But I can't help but wonder: am I being corrupted by these awards? To what extent are they just a way for other game sites to get me to promote them? Am I doing my readers a disservice by including the awards on the main page? Is this just a matter of my stupid pride? I don't know, but questions like this actually bother me a little.
Not too much, of course, because let's face it: we're not exactly talking a world-shaking issue here. Also, I have to confess that sometimes I like to write paragraphs with a lot of questions. They're all writer-y and stuff.
I seem to have reached some sort of capacity limit for FrontPage Express (the webpage editor I use most these days). When I look at the file here, it's truncated at "Sick of Glorantha" (which was July 31, 2000). But when I check the HTML, it's all still there. Which means that it could be worse, I guess. At least I didn't lose the HTML.
Speaking of which, I burned a backup CD todaynot just of the history of this site, but all my writing files and other fun stuff. Something I should have done quite a while ago, actually. Now the only precious thing that I could lose in a hard drive crash would be all of my old mail. And the update mailing list, come to think of it! Jeeze. I'd better back that up toute suite!
The page is getting all freaky on me! I can see that I am going to have to split it RIGHT NOW, and put the older stuff on a back page that's linked at the end. Here's hoping I make it before everything gets lost!
Made it. Looks good. On the plus side, this should load quicker. If you want to look at the older Chatter (between July 27, 2000, and April 12, 2001), the link is at the bottom of the page. If you haven't read it, you should check it outit's packed with witty, insightful commentary, brilliant new concepts in roleplaying, and fascinatingly useful down-to-earth advice about modern life.
Of course, if you have read it, you know that the previous sentence was pure bullshit.
Hmm. Teri and I were watching The Muse, and suddenly I got inspired. Although possibly it's just because it was getting to be an annoying movie. I like Albert Brook's stuff a lotparticularly the old SNL bits he didbut sometimes he gets a little irksome. It's the stupidity thing, you know? You can only watch someone screwing up and destroying their lives so much without wanted to smack them on the head with a big ol' frying pan.
Heard a pretty good new song a couple of days ago by Joan Osborne: "St. Teresa" (well, it's new to me; for all I know, it's ten years old). I was driving home and heard it on the radio. What struck me was that it wasn't like the FIVE HUNDRED GODDAMN SONGS that get played all the time on corporate radio that ALL SOUND THE SAME. This one sounds like a bluesy, slightly poppy song in the style of Loreena McKinnet, who is really worth checking out if you get the chance, by the way. It's odd, because Joan Osborne's previous hit was much more mainstream and pedestrian; not bad, but sort of "business as usual", if you know what I mean: "What If God Was One Of Us". Go figure.
Speaking of the horrible wasteland that is modern radio (and music, and TV, and particularly news "reporting"; don't even get me started on those goddamn media whores), if you've been wondering why all radio sounds the same and you always hear the same songs over and over on almost every radio station, you'll be horrified by a highly enlightening series of articles in Salon.com. American cultural diversity is being razed, devoured by a cult of greedy corporate megaliths whose rapacity is amazing. This page is safe from that sort of thing for as long as I have the legal power to do soand I have a hard time imagining that any megacorp would ever be interested in a comparatively small site like thisbut I feel quite sad that my son will grow up in a world where there is no place to eat but McDonalds, no place to buy clothes but the Gap, and no freedom of press unless you're a screaming right-wing pundit.
Friday, August 24, 2001
There has been a lot of feedback from the people of the RuneQuest-Rules Digest about the History of RuneQuest piece. It's mostly nice, but a bit daunting; clearly I could end up creating a much larger article, and it will never satisfy everyone. Since the piece is a bit opinionated anyway, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Also, I'm not really sure how much rumor to report; I've met most of the RQ/Glorantha biggies, but I doubt they'd remember me (except maybe as the publisher of Interregnum...maybe). I wasn't in on their various imbroglios (how's that for a ten-cent word? ); all I've heard is rumors. So if I start passing on all sorts of rumors I am sure to get them wrong, and somebody will come along and bust my chops royally for lying. Then I'll feel all bad and stuff.
Anyway, I've started work on the Basic RQ booklet that I mentioned below. It's just preliminary, but if you'd like to see the work in progress, I'm keeping the Word document here. Once it's complete I'll convert it into HTML and Acrobat, of course. Need I mention that if anyone wants to help me with this, I'd be glad to have you aboard?
Pete's Handy Tips™
I picked up this handy little Windows tip online someplace, and I've been using it a lot since. Maybe you already know it.
If you're like me (and may the gods help you if you are ), you often keep several documents open within the same application. Word, for example, or Excel. At this moment I have several pages of the site open in FrontPage Express. Anyway, switching between those documents is a pain; it's actually less convenient than switching between different applications with Alt-Tab!
But there's a really simple keyboard command that will switch/cycle between all the documents open in almost any Windows app which allows multiple files to be open at once. Ctrl-F6. It's that simple. Go figure!
The site has won another award: a Gold Award from GameScanner. Unfortunately their link to the award graphic is broken, and they haven't yet responded to my email about that. Also, the site was apparently referenced in a weekly email newsletter from a game store called Gator Games; however, they don't archive the newsletter online right away, so I won't know what they said for a while.
Let me see, what else...oh yes! I've received some new RQ character sheets to post. They're in Word. I started to turn them into Word forms that could be filled out and saved, but that's a fairly laborious process and I haven't had the time to finish it. Also, the Sheets page badly needs to be re-organized; it's one of the older corners of the site, and very clunky.
Last but not least, Tony Den (recently of several large and excellent entries in the Chaos Project) has started his own RuneQuest web page (I don't have access to the URL here and a Google search for "Tony Den" only finds porn, so I'll have to add the link here and to the Links page tonight). Best of luck, TonyRQ webbing can be challenging, but it's also a lot of fun. But I hope this doesn't mean we won't see more of your stuff on the Project!
Tuesday, August 21, 2001
I've talked about this before, but the lack of a commercially-available edition of RQ is the kiss of death for the system. So I'm trying to work up a basic set of RQ3 rules to post online. I'm hoping to put together about 12 clean pages that provide enough information for newcomers to run and play RQ.
Obviously this will have to leave out much of the information from the RQ3 rulebooks. The challenge is to pick out those rules which are absolutely necessary. The Aid sheet and character sheet will be included, of course. I may also include the simplest and best house rules, such as the revised Dodge. I'm also tempted to include Impale/Slash/Crush rules. Questionable rules will be left out entirely; fatigue, for example. The idea is to create a document that an intelligent gamer will be able to work with, not something for a complete novice to roleplaying.
So...suggestions? Ideas? Talk to me!
Thursday, August 15, 2001
I had an interesting challenge last night; somebody who has put up a good bit of new stuff in the Chaos Project recently, oh, heck, it's Tony Denhope you don't mind, Tony, but since your stuff is posted under your name in the CP it's sort of silly of me to try to disguise your identityanyway, Tony sent me a really neat large item in Word that he wanted to post to the Chaos Project. The problem was that the tables simply wouldn't post properly; he'd tried converting into HTML with Word, but the results came out all bizarre.
I tried the same thing, and got the same result: a useless mess. Tried editing the HTML in various ways, making the table width a percentage rather than a straight size. Still no good. Alxnet just doesn't handle tables well. Finally I had what seemed a stroke of genius: I took a screen capture of the tables (had to do it in three sections and then paste it together), and turned them into a transparent GIF. Then I posted the GIF to my site and simply IMG SRCed to the GIF in the Chaos Project entry. I think it's pretty seamless!
Anyway, I really enjoyed the challenge. So if anyone else out there has some bizarre HTML thing they'd like to post, please don't hesitate to let me know!
...the History of RuneQuest, that is. I've updated and expanded it several times in the past couple of days, in response to the suggestions of several readers. Thanks, guys! If anyone has more suggestions, drop me a line.
Since I posted the additional voting links we've continued to do well. The site has climbed to #15 on the Die-Roller's Top 50 list, and is #1 in Pen & Paper. To my amazement it's #8 overall in GameScanner, which is bizarre because they cover computer games far more than traditional RPGs. Something funny: I started the Tabletop RPG section at GameScanner on Monday. There are already 10 sites listed in that category, and they were all submitted since then!
Tuesday, August 14, 2001
Recently I found a site called the RPG Orphanage. It was a nice idea; a site memorializing and supporting roleplaying games which are permanently out of print. But they didn't include RQ, which could be the poster child for such games. I wrote to the webmaster/publisher, and offered to write something about RQ; he was interested. So I wrote an article for him and sent it over.
It has been a week or so, and I haven't heard from him. Looking back, I can see that there were rather specific guidelines for write-ups; perhaps I was a bit too opinionated. Or perhaps he's just busy, I don't know. Anyway, I re-wrote the piece a bit, expanded it somewhat, and have included a link to it on the main page as part of my quest to fill the left-side bar with enough text to keep the page looking balanced.
I don't know if anyone noticed, but things got a bit glitchy on the site in the past few days. It was kind of weird. Pages were truncated; most often at the navigation bar at the bottom, with the guestbook link and everything below it deleted. I noticed it, and after some puzzling figured out what was happening.
For some reason the transfers of some files were only going through partially, and then freezing. The HTML files on the server were ending up truncated. In some cases I'd then copied the truncated files over the originals on my PC, but fortunately I was able to grab some backups and get things put rightor so I thought. The files on my PC were corrected, but no matter what I did they would not transfer to the server!
I should make it clear that this was not due to cluelessness on my part. I'm very familiar with FTP; I should be, I've been doing it since 1996 and even before, with straight UNIX. I know the difference between a binary and ASCII transfer. My server space was nowhere near full, not by a factor of 20. For some mysterious reason the server was simply freezing up every time I tried to transfer these files.
So I telnetted in and copied & pasted the HTML in by hand from my source. Worked fine. It's nice to know UNIX and HTML.
Monday, August 13, 2001
We had an ultrasoundIT'S A BOY!
Since it's now possible to vote for the site at several different places, I've added an "Other places to vote" page which is linked from the main page. The regular (Die-Roller's Top 50) vote link is unchanged (the rotating blue star and the line beneath it). Incidentally, I've found the Die-Roller's Top 50 site quite interesting in an unusual way. Pete's RQ has bounced all over the place in the ratings, as have many others. I have a strong suspicion that some people are boosting their sites by giving the worst possible rating (a "1") to all of the other sites every day. Which is interesting, although I suppose stronger words would apply if I was in a mood to care.
Wednesday, August 8, 2001
Just a note to let everybody know that I got back from the Lahey Medical Center. Apparently laparoscopy would be MORE invasive than normal surgery in this case. I'll be off my feet for a day or two, and on light duty for several weeks after thatwhich means no heavy lifting. I'll still be mobile (yay!) and working (groan!).
The scheduling computers were down, but I should be able to get a date for surgery by phone tomorrow.
The surgeon seems extremely good at what he does. Which he should be, since he's been the president of several abdominal surgery associations! In a few seconds he reduced the herniawhich is to say, pushed the protruding loop of intestine back into my abdominal cavity (hmm, too much information?). A few seconds later it popped out again, which is the DAMNDEST sensation, I can tell you! Mildly painful, extremely disconcerting, but basically harmless. In any case, reduction is not a replacement for surgery.
Other than that...well, if anyone's looking for music online, I can heartily recommend KaZaA. It's highly impressive. And they have videos, too!
Monday, August 6, 2001
August 50, 2001
Just a note to say that I'm still alive, although I haven't put anything up for the last few days. I've noticed that a few entries have been made into the Chaos Projectfor which I can only say "thank you, thank you!".
Something odd: I'm a little afraid to start writing fiction. I'm not sure why. Each time I start thinking about it my mind throws up a hundred complications. I really need to just ignore my mind (if that makes any sense) and simply plunge in.
Of course, it doesn't help that my stomach is getting worse day by day. Strangulation hasn't happened yet (thank goodness!), but I am definitely uncomfortable (and if you're wondering how I know how strangulation hasn't occurred, it's because if it had, I'd wouldn't be merely uncomfortableI'd be screaming. And of course various vital functions would cease.
The appointment to see the surgeon is coming up in a couple of days (Wednesday, to be precise). Fearwell, extreme nervousness, anywayis my close companion these days. But I recently had a strange realization: if I didn't have the appointment with the surgeon, I'd be a hell of a lot MORE scared! So I must admit my debt to Teri for not letting me ignore the issue any more.
I'll try to write something new soon. In the meantime...well, best of luck to you all!
Monday, July 30, 2001
Recently I had an odd realization about writing fiction. My problem in the past has been that fiction seems incredibly hard. I either stall out, or end up diverting the story into a dead end. For example, one of the last stories I did featured a demon who was trying to buy a soul. I started using some 1940's-era slang in the demon's dialogue, and before I knew it that affectation had taken over the whole story and killed it.
In my life I've written perhaps six short stories, and none at all for the past seven or eight years. I have to confess that I haven't been able to shake the idea that I just can't finish a storyand that even if I did, it would never sell. It's a highly discouraging state of affairs.
There are, perhaps, two things involved in writing a story: getting the idea(s) for the plot, and actually writing it down. Some days all of my old ideas seem awful to me, but almost every day I feel totally unable to put in the work to actually start writing a story.
Okay. You've probably noticed my error here, and are laughing at me (I don't mind). Just from this page alone it's obvious that I do a LOT of writing! Likewise, I've managed to create a lot of bits and pieces of material for this site. So perhaps that isn't the reason that I haven't been writing stories.
Maybe the problem is that I can't work out a plot in enough detail to sustain a story? Well, here's a weird thing: I've been able to finish quite a few scenarios, and made up many more. I can't believe that I didn't notice that long ago.
So...why can't I take a scenario that I haven't yet created, and write it upbut as a story, rather than a scenario? The simple answer is that nothing's stopping me. This definitely deserves some more thought.
Thursday, July 26, 2001
Today is a long-overdue maintenance day. There are a number of glitches that have popped up; well, not glitches, just instances where people have posted the same entry more than once, or put a guestbook message in a Project section. Later today I'll go online to Alxnet and fix all that. There are a couple of specific issues I'm concerned about, though.
One is that I've noticed that over time some magic items have been listed in the found items section. But I'm not sure if I should move them; some magic items ARE found items, after all! What do you think?
There's another thing that bothers me; a message in the magic items section. Someone named "Jenefer Rodriguez" asked to be a member of the magic items. Unfortunately, she failed to leave an email address, so I have no way to respond and tell her that anyone can put up a magic item. That's a bit frustrating! It has happened before, too. People write or post with a question or issue that I'd really like to resolve, but since they didn't leave a working email address I'm totally unable to help. Unless they check back here and read this there's nothing at all that I can do.
PS- the maintenance is done. If there's anything I missed, drop me a line and let me know!
To say "Hi, sweetie!". Teri read this section for the first time today. What will her reaction be, I wonder?
Come to think of it, I wonder if our child will ever read this? If so, hello J.S. or E.G.!
...that I should really start writing fiction again. But I've been saying that for more than ten years, and I never have actually done anything about it. So perhaps I should try a new tack.
What if I were to create a section for myself online, an area just for me to play around with fiction? Just knowing that someone out there might see it would give me an interesting change of perspective, and could help motivate me to keep writing, to boot. I think I'd go into it free-form, with no preconditions...and it could go anywhere. A fantasy noir one paragraph, dirty jokes the next. Even if I didn't actually finish a story, it would be good practice. I wouldn't make the mistake of promising to write in it every day, of course. Hmm. Not a bad idea, maybe!
Wednesday, July 25, 2001
...continue. Well, only in an ironic sense. This morning I was driving in to work when I was pulled over along with three other cars and given a speeding ticketmy first ever. I will refrain from giving my full opinion of the police. However, in the past I've given several donations to police charities. That will never happen again. In the past they've called, told me they know where I live, described my house, and damned well intimidated me into giving them more money than I can afford. If they want my money from now on, they'd better have a ticket or a gun. Because I won't be intimidated by these thugs again.
There are some good cops, of course. I've met a few. But a lot of them are corrupt bullies, not much more than a gang with guns and the law on their side. I'll never trust them, nor respect them.
Let's see...what else is going on? We've discovered that you should not put blue stuff in your toilet. Our toilet at home is quite good; lots of power, without being too loud. But over the past few weeks it has been getting stopped up for no reason at all. Teri bought a large blue tablet to color the water and supposedly help clean the toilet (although it's pretty clean; she's a bit of a neat freak), and the problem became much worse. Our landlord called a plumber, who explained that the blue stuff clogs up the small holes around the inner rim. That restricts the incoming flow of water, and as a result the toilet often fails to successfully flush. So we live and learn, and no longer use the blue stuff. Although personally, I never liked that stuff.
Progress continues on reading of The Lord of the Rings. We've just met Aragorn. I'm not sure how to describe his voice, but I'll think about it. In any case, both Teri and I have noticed that I've been getting better at reading aloud as I get more practice. I'm varying the cadences more, and using more drama. I only hope I'm not making a fool out of myself.
It has been quite a while since I put up any large new projects on the site. In part, that's because I haven't GMed for, what, something like two years? It feels like more. I wonder if I'll lose my touch? Contrariwise, maybe some time off was what I needed.
I don't entirely have a good excuse for not putting up new material (although I suppose the marriage, pregnancy, surgery, & car might sort of be reasons). You see although I haven't run anything recently, I did run one adventure which I never finished writing up. In fact, I mentioned it in my first Chatter entry! It was called A Breath of Evil then, but I later changed the name to Fear The Night.
Today I looked through my hard drive a bit and found some preliminary work I'd done on the writeup. There's a lot more to do, but more was done than I'd remembered. Writing up is SUCH a pain! Particularly if I want to do a nice job, as I did (if I say so myself) on To Kill A Monster.
But FTN is much more complicated than TKAM. For one thing, I need to create several maps for itand I can't just take an Irony Games map and modify it. These have to be created specifically for this game.
Problem: I suck at maps. Problem #2: I don't know anyone who'll help me with them. Heck, I don't know anyone who'll help me with any of this stuff! Sigh.
But I have a little quiet time, so I installed the latest version of AutoREALM and started working on a map of the general region. It's not exactly finished (for one thing, I need to add labelsand I suck with AutoREALM), but here's a sneak preview! I've sized it down to a third of its original size for easy viewing here. When the scenario is complete, I expect to post both full-size JPEGs and native AutoREALM versions of all the maps. In the meantime, if anyone wants to try to guess what the map is showing I'd love to hear what you think!
Friday, July 20, 2001
Which is, of course, literally true at the moment. Yeep. However, I came near to making it a lot worse today by laughing my head off. Let me explain:
I've been going through some funny old web sites to send to a friend. In the process, I re-discovered one that once again made me laugh so hard that I felt as if I would burst. Ever read something incredibly funny at work? I work in a cubicle, surrounded bywell, it wouldn't be fair to call them drones, but let's face it. We're all corporate drones here. Anyway, it's not the sort of place where you can laugh without being noticed. And this web site makes me laugh so hard that it physically hurts to keep the noise down.
They're much cooler and more popular than this site, I'm sure, so it kind of goes against my grain to link to them, but they're just too bleeping funny. Ever read old comic books? Remember the Hostess Fruit Pie ads? They starred various big-name superheros who inexplicably decided to solve all of their problems with delicious Hostess snacks. Well, the Seanbaby Hostess Page not only has hundreds of these ads, but the ones with dots next to them have incredibly funny comments, as well. Damn, I should do a project like that. Fair warning, though: the comments aren't for children, except maybe older ones with a twisted sense of humor.
Tuesday, July 17, 2001
If my life were a story, I would have to say that it was a particularly poorly-written one.
The van that totalled my car has not turned up. The police called and told me that they don't have much hope unless Enterprise receives a damaged van back and tells them about it. Enterprise has sent me a letter telling me that since I can't identify the driver or vehicle, they are not responsible for the damage (although I have two witnesses who saw that it was an Enterprise van). Since Enterprise is self-insured, they have no inducement to report anything. So I'm really screwed.
And on top of all that, I've just discovered that I need surgery.
I'm rather terrified.
I've never had surgery before.
It's an umbilical hernia, which means that there's a bump right above my navel. At that point the underlying muscle sheath of my abdomen has weakened and given way, and a loopI presume of intestinehas been pushing out through the gap. Since these gaps do not heal in adults, and only get worse, I have to have surgery.
The hernia itself only hurts occasionally; when I play with my nephew and niece I often end up making it worse (but what can I do? They're such cute kids!). It's not an agonizing pain, and after rest it goes away...but the hernia itself never does, and neither does the fear that keeps growing in my mind. Recently Teri made me look up hernias, and the first thing I saw confirmed my worst fears: Weight loss and rest cannot cure a hernia.
Since then, I've learned some interesting things about umbilical hernias:
They're more common in infants than adults. Most adults (particularly men) get inguinal hernias instead, which are down in the groin area (and I am grateful I don't have that to deal with!). Mistreatment of inguinal hernias in rare cases has caused impotence. I suspect that umbilical hernias do not have that risk, since they're in a completely different area.
One out of five newborns is born with an umbilical hernia! But in infants they usually heal by the age of three or four. Adults never heal.
I haven't yet been able to find out if laproscopy is possible for umbilical hernias (it's a common procedure for inguinal ones), which of course would be much less traumatic and consequently require much less recuperation time.
Weight can certainly be a factor in developing a hernia. So can bad lifting techniques. And interestingly, hernias seem to run in families. So there's a genetic factor.
I'm pretty huge (I'm 5'11", and weigh about 290 lbs.) , so there's no doubt that to some large extent I brought this on myself. Not that I ever wanted to weigh this much. There's a hell of a lot of prejudice against heavier people in this society, an assumption that we're all somehow contemptible for being in this state. Yet it's quite clear that metabolism plays a huge role in body fat retention. So we're essentially being scorned, discriminated against in employment and socially, and otherwise made to suffer for something that to some extent is beyond our control. Hellishly hard work and constant vigilance in the form of diet and exercise can improve weight (I've gotten myself down to 225 lbs. in the past), but it's a constant torment.
But I also know that the fatter you are, the more difficult surgery isand in some cases, laproscopy can be ruled out simply because a person is too fat. One of the recommended treatments for umbilical hernia is weight loss, both before and after surgery. So I have to quietly begin a battle that will last the rest of my lifeif I'm lucky. Of course, if I'm really lucky safe and effective weight-loss treatments will be developed before too much longer, but I can't count on that sort of thing. In any case, I'd never try anything like that until years of safe public use had been established. Look at the whole Phen-fen debacle if you're wondering why I'm being so cautious.
I'm being quiet about itnot telling my family, friends, not even Teribecause I've started a hundred diets, promised a thousand times to work out, and I've always failed. This time I can't afford to fail, so I'm going to try to do everything differently. In a way, I feel that the only way I'll ever forgive myself for letting this happen to my body (even though it was against my will) is to get myself down to a really healthy weight. And stay there.
I suppose you may be asking yourself "Wait a minute. How can he say he's doing this quietly when he's writing about it here, online?" The answer is simple: none of my real-world friends or family read this! I'm not sure why, and I won't die if they do read it, but they're not likely to see this for a long time, if ever. And since I kind of feel the need to say something about it somehow, I'm doing it here.
On a completely different note, I've created an AccessDenied.Net Gamer Database profile. It lists the games (rpg, board, and even one computer) that I'm interested in playing. I've stuck it at the end of my gamer's bio off of the main page, too. If anyone's in the area, drop me a line.
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
The story of my car (see previous entries) continues to take strange turns and twists. Against all expectations, Enterprise Rent-A-Car insists that no damaged van has been returned; this despite the fact that two witnesses saw the words "Enterprise Rent-A-Van" on the vehicle that destroyed my car. I can only imagine a few possibilities:
The van is on long-term rental, and has not yet been returned, or
The renter somehow managed to hide the damage, and by some colossal act of stupidity the Enterprise office actually failed to see the damage when it was returned, or
Enterprise received the van, charged the driver some sort of damage fee, but decided not to report the accident to the police and their insurance company for some reason, or
The driver of the van (according to witnesses, a white male approximately 18-19 years old, with short dark hair) is the son of the manager of one of the Enterprise offices, and never actually rented the van, but rather borrowed it with his father's permission. Now the father is covering up for the son...this sounds paranoid, I know, but stranger things have happened to me (I'll write about them here sometime), and frankly I am just at a loss to explain how Enterprise could possibly not notice that one of their vans had half of my car's paint job on it, plus there had to be some crushing damage...
In any case, the Woonsocket police are stymied and I'm screwed. The Geico adjuster says that the car has suffered $2,700 worth of damage, which is more than 80% of the car's value; the car is therefore totalled, a complete loss. They will send me a check for their estimated value of the car, minus a $500 deductible! If they ever catch the guy who did this to me and he turns out to have insurance I'll be reimbursed for the deductible, but in the meantime I can't possibly get even a crappy new used car for the amount Geico is sending me. And my commute is 120 miles a day; a crappy car will probably kill me, and certainly cost a ton in repairs. The Honda had a lot of new parts in it, all under warranty.
I know that the son of a bitch who hit-and-ran my car will never read this, but you bastard, wherever you are, I hope you die screaming, in flaming agony. Preferably impaled on the steering wheel of your van for a good, long, slow time.
Did I ever mention that I have a temper? It's ugly and frightening, I know. Maybe later I'll delete that last paragraph. If you're wondering, I've never hurt anyone in my life. I couldn't punch someone even if I wanted to: I have a broken bone in my right hand that was set wrong and healed crooked. If I ever try to punch anyone or anything, the bone will splinter immediately. I guess I use extra-harsh language because the reality is that I have no other recourse.
Now here's the strange part: The car still runs! In fact, not only does it run, but the mechanism of the power window on the smashed driver's side door actually still worksthe window goes up and down, although I don't dare to try to lower it all the way. Even more amazing, the power adjustment of the utterly smashed driver's side-view mirror still works perfectly! The entire housing of the mirror itself was knocked flat against the car, but snapped back into position at a touch. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: the 1988 Honda Civic is a GREAT car.
The driver's door only opens about ten inches, which makes it very hard to get into the car, but otherwise the car is okay. Which present me with
I can repair the car for about $1,200that is, I can have the damage of the crash repaired (I have to do this, because otherwise the car won't pass inspection). The air conditioner went out about two weeks before the crash; that will cost about $800 more to repair, but of course is not vital. I can sweat for a while if I have to. The only other problem on the horizon is a softness in the brakes; my mechanic thinks the problem could be the master cylinder, which would cost about $100 to fix.
So do I spend $1,300 to get the car fixed up (plus $800 for comfort, if I want), or take that money and get a new used car? I'd be looking at either a Honda or a Toyota, probably five to eight years old, with (I hope) no more than 100,000 miles on it (my Honda has 120,000). That's going to cost at least $5,000, perhaps as much as $8,000. Counting the check from Geico I can put down about $2,000 without touching the new house fund that Teri and I established with our wedding money. That means I'll have to get either financing or a loan for the additional $3,000$6,000. On a two-year payment plan I guess that the cost will be about $150 to $300 a month.
But we're trying to save for a house, AND of course we have the baby coming in October. $150 might not seem like much to you, but I'm not in a position to throw that much (or more) away every month for years. And to tell the truth, I bitterly begrudge spending money that we need just because some cowardly bastard doesn't know how to drive. Why should my family suffer for his mistake?
So I'm tempted to have the Honda repaired, but I know it's a bit of a gamble: will it last a few years? It has been a great car so far, but it is old, after all. Anyone out there have any advice?
As I mentioned a while ago, I've been reading The Lord of the Rings aloud to Teri (and the baby). It has been very interesting so far (we're up to Chapter 7, "In the House of Tom Bombadil"); I use slightly different voices to indicate who is speaking, which is challenging. For Frodo I use my own voice, pitched slightly higher. For Sam, a touch of English countryside (I try hard not to overdo itI realize that a badly-done accent is just plain painful, like the "Amurcan" accents used by some British actorsalthough some do it perfectly. As always, I salute Peter Sellers).
Pippin I voice as a quick young Roddy McDowall (again, always trying to err on the light sideI'm aiming only for the slightest differences in my "voices", just enough to let Teri know which particular character is speaking). Merry is a bit of a challenge; he's "merry", after all, but for some reason I think of Basil Rathbone when I read his lines. Elves in general bring a soft but strong voice to mind; weirdly enough, I think of Keanu Reeves. For Bilbo (in The Hobbit) I was inspired by the voice of Peppin the Healer in Diablo I. Gandalf...Gandalf has a definite voice which I sometimes lose. It's a hard one; a fraction of Sean Connery, but that's not really it. There's some actor whose voice is in the back of my head, but for the life of me I can't remember who! Say! Maybe John Houston? I think so!
We've yet to meet Aragorn, or Legolas, or Gimli, so I haven't yet had to figure out their voices. I should admit that I don't usually work out what voice to use for a new character until I'm actually reading that part; fortunately voices are pretty easy for me.
I have to say that although I've read The Lord of the Rings perhaps 50 times so far (and find new things every time), reading it aloud brings a whole new perspective. Different aspects come into focus; I see the landscapes much more strongly than ever before. The voices are not perfect, alas; I cannot yet make them come out exactly as I hear them in my head. And I won't even try to sing the songs. I recite them.
But it's a great experience, and one I highly recommend. After TLotR and The Silmarillion, I'll have to find something new to read to Teri; perhaps A Confederacy of Dunces, Zelazney's Lord of Light, or The Catcher In The Rye.
But by then, I'll also be reading many wonderful children's books to the baby! Did I ever mention that I have a decent collection of old children's books, including an uncensored edition of Dr. Dolittle? That's pretty rare, believe me!
The Site: What to do?
I've been thinking about The Chaos Project recently. Actually, I've been thinking about the whole site. I recently wrote to the Effie Rover site to ask if I needed to request a review; turned out I did, and when they wrote back they told me (among other things) that the site was a bit "loud" (where have I heard that before? ) and also was much larger than they had first thought. Now, there may not be much I can do about the loudness; I've throttled back the brightness on the background about as far as it can go (and by the way, if anyone really can't stand the background, all you need to do is turn off graphic display in your browser; the background will become plain white).
But I do wonder about the issue of the size of the site. Although it's only a few megabytes in total, it's pretty big; there are five years worth of material here, after all, and I plan to keep adding stuff. Would a newcomer to the site miss a lot of stuff? Does the site have too many layers? For example, much as I push the Chaos Project it's awfully complicated. After all, it consists of eight separate sections. Also, perhaps I should organize it differently? I've considered archiving stuff more quickly into numbered tables, and perhaps rather than have the archives be giant unending tables I should limit each archive to 100 items each. That way a GM could first roll to determine which table to roll on, and then roll 1d100 on that table only. Plus, I could rearrange the Found Items table and divide it up into "Outside" and "Indoors" sections...hold on, though. What on earth makes me think I'll ever have time to do any of this?
Sorry, folks. I think I went temporarily insane.
The site has won a Gold Wyrm award from Effie Rover. Unfortunately I had to write to them to get it; I was looking at their Die-Rollers Top 50 list (we recently got up to number 9, but suddenly shot down to #23; I suspect that the votes might be being crocked), and noticed that there was also a Gold Wyrm award for quality.
The old Interregnum site won a Blue Planet award back when I was running it, but this site has never won anything; and frankly, I'm a hell of a lot more proud of this site than the old IR one (because I've learned a lot since then, if you were wondering). So I wrote to Effie Rover and asked if I needed to submit the site for consideration. It turned out I did, and that they felt the site merited a Gold Wyrm. It was kind of a pain working out a way to include the rather huge logo on the front page, but I finally worked it out (what do you think?) and we're all set.
If anyone can suggest other RPG awards I might apply for, or places where RPG sites get reviewed, please let me know!
Wednesday, July 4, 2001
Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans! And to British readers, my condolences on losing the colonies. If it's any consolation, at least you guys aren't ruled by an unelected junta headed by an idiot puppet! As for the rest of the world, um...have a nice day!
Monday, July 2, 2001
Sometime between 3 and 3:30PM yesterday afternoon (Sunday, July 1st 2001, if it matters) someone in a white van sideswiped my car fairly badly, bashing in the left side from wheel to wheel. They then thoughtfully pretended to leave a note for the benefit of the many onlookers and witnesses, and departed. Unfortunately no one wrote down his license plate number or got his name, although at least one person spoke to the driver and advised him to leave a note.
If there is a ray of sunshine in this story, it's that several people saw that the van was an Enterprise rental. I suspect that this much improves the chance that they'll be caught. Actually, another plus is that neither Teri nor I was hurtwe were having lunch with my brother, his wife, and their kids miles away at the time. My car was harmlessly and legally parked in front of our house.
But I am really screwed. The damage is badI can't open the driver's-side door more than six inches or so. That door is pretty well crushed in. The rear passenger door is scraped badly, and from the look of things the van plowed in by the rear trunk and was stopped by hitting the back side of my left front tire. The left front mudflap is hanging by one rivet, and dragging on the ground. My commute is 60 mileswhich is two hours drive each way, usuallyand even if the car will start and run, I can't drive it into the city in this shape.
If the damage is greater than 80% of the car's book value (it's a 1988 Honda Civic), the car is totaled and the insurance company writes me a check for that amount. Unfortunately, there's no way I can replace my car for that sum. And it's not like we're rolling in dough. We're not broke, but there are big expenses on the way: the baby's due in October (which brings a whole flock of expenses), and we really need to get a house in the next couple of years, three tops (although we'd really like to have one RIGHT NOWand in this housing market, it's more likely that we won't live long enough to die in our own house. But I'm feeling particularly pessimistic right now). That won't be possible in the near future (goddam developers), but the gifts that people gave us for the wedding put us well on the way to a decent down payment. That wedding money is sacrosanct, thoughI will not touch it for anything other than a house or a true life-or-death emergency.
So what the hell am I going to do? At this moment, all I can do is wait for more information. The car might be repairable; even if it's totaled, I may be able to have it repaired well enough to commute in, even if it's left looking like crap (Teri objects to being seen in a banged-up car, but I'm less choosy). If it's really totaled, maybe I can find a cheap but reasonably dependable car for three to five thousand dollars; there'd be payments involved which would stretch our budget, but we'd survive. But then we'd have to worry about repairs. We've repaired and replaced a lot of things in the Honda, and it has a lot of new parts; a "new" used car could have all the same problems all over again.
Right now it's the sitting and waiting that's getting to me.
God dammit, I hope that whoever did this knows that what they've taken from us will not be covered, nor repaired. They've hurt us, badly, and we never did a thing to them. I can't really express how angry I am right now.
And I really liked my car, too; the '88 Honda Civic is a great car. Handles like a dream, and the visibility is outstanding. Great head room and mileage. Plenty of room overall, tooit was actually more spacious than Teri's Dodge Neon (now there's a piece of crap for you). It was the first car I ever had that had power windows, power locks, and working air conditioning. I was proud of it, not for its looks but because it was a good piece of machinery. So what if it was old? It was great!
I...there just isn't anything more I can say about it right now.
I'll be going on vacation (and therefore offline) later in the week, so don't be surprised if not much new appears in the Chaos Project until next week (although ANYONE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROJECT!!! hint hint). We considered canceling the vacation because of the car situation, but I decided that the bastard who did this was not going to get to wipe out our (now even more) desperately-needed relaxation time.
I'm not entirely sure about this, but I think I have a bunch of old ideas that I'm going to add to the Project soon; I'd been saving them in the hopes that I could use them for a game of my own, but I've come to realize that that's silly. Most of the players I usually game with don't read this site often (I don't know why), and in any case I have to be realistic: I haven't GMed for more than a year, and the odds are good that it will be a long time before I GM again (unless I do something online, but I have no strong expectations that that will happen). So I'm going to make what use of those hoarded ideas that I can, by posting them on the site. Maybe someone will get some use out of them.
You know what I would love? A good collaborator. Someone to work with in designing, testing, running, and particularly writing up games. To dream the Impossible Dream...
I hadn't realized that anyone read this section often, but a few emails lately have surprised me; I'd thought of Chatter as a place for me to expunge my over-talkativeness, primarily. You know, there's one thing I'd really love to experience: seeing my own site as a stranger. How much would I like it? I really wonder, and I'll never know.
The site's been listed at a new location: The Gaming Outpost. If you're all fired up and eager to vote for it, here's the link. I do appreciate every vote.
Actually I've been thinking about ways to deal with the various "voting" sites; there are several. Still thinking about it, though.
I've got a lot more to say, but I'm out of timegot to hit the road for that 2-hour drive (in Teri's Neon although I do appreciate her and her mother carpooling to let me use it). I'll write more before I head out on vacation, if I possibly can!
The adjuster called, and the car is totaled.
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
I've been terribly backed up on responding to my email; one of these days Real Soon Now I need to buckle down and start writing back to all of the people who've been good enough to write to me. But it's hard to find time. Also, I sometimes wonder whether I should respond to guestbook entries in the guestbook, via email, or both. Mostly I've been responding by email only, but perhaps it would be better to also post my answers to public emails publically? It might stimulate discussion. Of course private emails and private guestbook entries would remain private!
There've been a few new entries
into the Chaos Project by visitors (which I really appreciate),
but most of the material has been by yours truly (I had a rush of
inspiration a couple of days ago). I'm trying to think of ways to
twist arms encourage my friends to put in some
ideas. Would emailing them and asking for ten found items apiece
be obnoxious, do you think?
On the Diablo front, I'm still addictedbut the grip may be loosening a bit. I've now killed Diablo so many times that it's starting to get boring. Still haven't killed him solo in Hell Difficulty on Battle.net, but frankly the whole thing seems just a little boring. Still, it has been interesting developing powerful characters without cheating. My latest character, Warrioor (I typo'd when creating him), has been particularly interesting; despite what most online articles say, he's actually more effective with all his resistances at zero and a huge armor class (he's wearing Gotterdamerung, an Awesome Shield of the Ages, and Glorious Plate of Sorcerywhich itself surprised me by being superior to the Demonspike coat).
While playing him at earlier points I made an interesting discovery which I wrote up on alt.games.diablo: Even a relatively low-magic fighter can be extremely effective with the proper use of the Firewall spell. I can actually clean out the 16th level of Hell much more quickly with a fighter using Firewall than with a mage who is twice as high level using other techniques. Very surprising!
But that reminds me of something about Diablo that has always bothered me: oh damn. Although Diablo I is now extremely passe, I shouldn't spoil the ending for those who haven't played it but might some day. Let me see...ah. The spoilers are in the box below. To view them, click in the upper left-hand corner of the box and drag to the lower right-hand corner:
The thing that bothers me about Diablo is the end: it's sooo damn depressing! You've spent hours, many hours, being scared (I have to admit that the music of Diablo really got to meit's creepy! Later I figured out how to turn it off), and after tons of hard playing you've finally managed to slay the monster and save the world (and the town). Your reward: A self-administered soul-spike in the head and a chance to destroy your soul and become Diablo! I understand that the game was originally intended to have more information, which would make it clear that that was the only way to imprison Diablo...and I'll give Blizzard credit, it's a very dramatic ending. But damn! It's a real downer! And it doesn't help that in Diablo II your task is to kill Diablo, who used to be your previous PC. Why couldn't they have had some movies of the townspeople thanking you for saving them?
Actually, the whole issue of endings of video/computer games is an interesting one. Personally, I believe that they should be a reward for the player, even a memorialization of their hard work and the fun they've had. All too often, though, they're a huge disappointment.
Splatterhouse (for the Turbo Graphx 16 video game system) was a good example of a game with a bad ending. You take your chainsaw-wielding maniac through hell itself to rescue your girlfriend, and (as I recall) if you win, you end up sharing a grave with her because you were both dead to begin with! I don't think you even got to SEE her, much less have a reunion! A remarkably quick and depressing ending.
On the other hand, the arcade laser disk game Dragon's Lair had a pretty good ending. Princess Daphne had to be the hottest thing ever seen in cartoons up to that time, and the reconciliation with her was gratifying, though a bit quick. But the best video game ending I've ever seen was for Bonk's Adventure (also for Turbo Graphx 16). Now there was a game! It must have taken a hundred hours of playing to win, easyand even now that I know all the tricks it still takes about 90 minutes to play through (I play it for my nephew, who for some reason enjoys watching it). The ending alone had to take at least five minutes, which is an incredibly long time! Princess Za transforms and kisses you, every boss thanks you for freeing them, says something funny and flies back to Moonland, and the bunch of them smile and wave at you and thank you for playing. Then you get the best credits around, showing every character in the game and giving their (usually amusing) names! Like "T. Ractorhead", for example. When that game was finished, you felt good!
Ahem. Here endeth the rant of the day.
By the way, Dragon's Lair is now available on DVD and DVD-ROM. And there are Turbo Graphx-16 emulator programs which work nicely on even a slow PC, and ROMs are available for many games online.
MONDAY, MAY 21, 2001
Whew! My latest zine for Interregnum is done. It turned out to be a lot longer than I had anticipatedtwelve pages! Most of it (about 10 pages worth) covers the adventures that Teri and I had on our honeymoon. The few people who've read it so far have found it interesting, which is nice.
Out of consideration for IR I'll hold off publishing the zine on this site for at least a couple of months. I don't want to reduce IR's circulation, after all.
I'm really tired, which is unfortunate because A) I'm babbling, and B) I seem to recall that there were some interesting things I had to say. But I can barely stay awake. Oh yes, there is one thing: I'm starting to work on getting caught up with replies to email and guest book entries. There's a lot of work to do!
I'm also thinking semi-seriously about starting up some sort of online game, since real-world gaming seems to difficult lately. I'm also feeling a bit creative. Possibly I should consider trying my hand at fiction again...
Say did ANYONE get the secret word? C'mon...it's not hard! Just cross your eyes.
FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2001
Well, what did you expect?
MONDAY, MAY 7, 2001
"Well, I'm home." And I'm married. The wedding went perfectlyeven the weather cooperated, which was really more than could be expected of a late-April weekend in New England. And Teri was positively beautiful in her wedding dress.
The honeymoon was a bit bizarre, thoughplease get your mind out of the gutter! It was just a long, strange journey.You'd never believe the first hotel we stayed at...and the second surpassed even MY wildest imaginings. Every guest of the hotel got free tickets to a major television program which is filmed on the hotel grounds. We did not go, for reasons which would be obvious if you knew the show...let me just say this: heart of darkness. And I'm not talking Apocalypse Now, nor Joseph Conrad. I'll probably write up most of the experience for the next issue of the Interregnum APA.
I also have a lot of emails to respond to, and a lot of guestbook entries as well. I expect to be gaming more, too, and with any luck should even GM again before the summer is out. Plus Timmy may make a return...
Where's the rest of Chatter, you ask? Well, the page finally got too big for Microsoft's FrontPage Express. You know who needs to be whacked on the head with a cast iron skillet? Bill Gates, that's who! Or at least he should be reduced to abject poverty, begging for crusts of bread on the street corners of Seattle. Ahhhhh...that's a nice image.
Anyway, if you want to see my wacky ramblings from between July 27, 2000, and April 12, 2001, go to the Chatter Archive!
[email protected] Copyright 2000 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 14, 2001. version 2.52