# 2008-03-01 Character Creation

As a player and as a DM I hate to provide too much information because I’m not here to read and write, I’m here to play. So if we’re talking about stuff at the table, I’m fine. If I have to do stuff alone at home, I’m bored. My creativity also depends a lot on having ideas bounce back and forth between me and other players. Doing this stuff alone at home makes everything bland and shallow. I’m of the conviction that what we’re playing right now is going to turn into the background of our future selves.

That said, the following worked very well for me. I wanted to make sure that there was enough cohesion in the group. I therefore wanted to make sure that all characters had in-game reasons to adventure together, and that even replacement characters had a reason to join the group. I started the first session by saying that I wanted the following:

• Every character was to have a backup character. This can be a friend or a relative that would start making inquiries if the first character disappeared or died. This generated uncles, brothers, friends, and aquaintances in high places. People that will offer advice and clues, people that wield some influence.
• Every character had to provide a reason for knowing two other party members. Implicitly, this generated a profession or a relative or a common interest. Butcher and hunter who knows the undertaker, son of an undertaker who contracted the gnomish ranger to clear the various crypts of vermin, a character being fascinated with elves, a half-elven noble daughter looking for excitement… It all came together in that first hour at the table.

Not too specific, not a lot , and interaction at the table. I was very happy with the result and got happy player feedback.

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In the most recent play-by-post game that I just started (3.5E with relatively extensive house ruling, Eberron, starting level 1), I had the players do the same thing, inspired by your Shackled City game. It seems to have created some interesting connections, and hopefully it makes forming the party seem less contrived.

# 2008-03-01 World Burning

Yesterday we had our first BurningWheel session via Skype! René, Sean, and I spent four hours determining what the situation is and who the major characters are going to be. I created a new wiki on my CampaignWiki: BurningKrythos.

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Are you the GM, or whatever it is called in Burning Wheel (Burning Master? Burninator?)?

Looks cool. I like the Greek mythological setting.

Haha. He’s called the GM, and it’s true, I’m “running” the game. BW requires practically no prep time as players create the world by doing tests. If you’re “king-wise” for example, you can try to find the king’s son. Depending on the result, the king may have a son, or not, or he may have one but he hates you! I’m curious.

We’re also lucky to have an experienced player and GM in our group – Sean – and he’s providing tons of helpful feedback. Very cool.

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-04 00:01 UTC

# 2008-03-04 GM’s Day

Today is March Fourth GM’s Day!

Some sales listed in the EN World thread GM's Day (March 4th)?

The old thread explaining what it is all about: March Fourth for GM's Day!!

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# 2008-03-07 Nerd Girl

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The first one is wrong in so many ways that it’s really hard to believe someone actually took it seriously… On the other hand, the message is pretty enraging.

She definitely rocks, although it’s a little puzzling why would anybody want to “prove his nerdiness”…

The double uselessness of it all made the entire thing more charming.

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-07 13:43 UTC

# 2008-03-09 Drakthar

Our Shackled City DM James reports:

We had an interesting session last Sunday, not too much intrigue or diplomacy, but an journey through the jungle, the rescue of some slaves, and the destruction of a mad Derro, seeking to resurect the cult of Drakthar.

The morning following the massed Goblinoid attack was pretty peaceful, and became interesting when it was interupted by the arrival of Alec Tercival and Fario Ellegoth. Alec and Fario explained that they had been scouting the area, looking for the source of the Goblinoid problems, though they knew nothing about the temple shown on the map. Alec had heard rumours of a Goblin training camp North West in the jungle, and proposed exploring further in that direction, the group agreed that two scouting missions would be useful, to identify what the best option was, Alec and one group would go to the Goblin camp, and the rest of the party would go check out the temple. Borg and Zacharias said they thought they would see more action checking the camp, rather than a crumbling old temple, so they elected to go with Alec. Rhysalis, Aria, Fenyal and Wim chose to explore the site of the temple.

Before they left, Iruth Mercud explained that as the guard was at only 1/2 strength, following the disappearance of Kallev and Chorlyndyr plus five other gaurds, he was unable to offer any additional people to assist the party.

Setting off on the journey through the hostile jungle, the party was surprised about how difficult the conditions were (though most people made their Fortutiude save for heat exhaustion…) and were even more surprised by the attack of two Giant Crocodiles. Luckily some early blows from Rhysalis cause one croc to loose heart and run off, and the other exploded following a critical spell from Fenyal, otherwise the outcome could have been quite different.

• 2 x CR 4 Giant Crocs

The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, and the party found itself creaping up on a the temple, which Fenyals familiar told them was far from disused and uninhabited.

After skulking about for a fair bit, the party drew some of the Bugbear and Hobgoblin guards away from the camp, and attacked them. The goblinoids got reinforcements, and the party was about to make a tacktical retreat, when the slaves made a poorly timed attempt to escape. Rather than watch the slaughter of the slaves, the party rejoined the battle and were ultimatly victorious.

• 6 x CR 3 Hobgoblins
• 4 x CR 4 Bugbears

On questioning the slaves, the party found out that something nasty was living in the temple. They chose to return to Achet, rather than confront the evil boss.

They part brough the rescued slaves back to Achet, and rejoined to discuss the situation with Alec and Fario.

Alec explained that they had found a large Goblin camp in the jungle, but was most interested to hear about the nast creature in the temple. Over many beers, and much discussion a decision was made to make a double assault, one group to destroy the temple, another to destroy the camp. Alec agreed to join the temple raid, since he had some experience of Demons, and Iruth offered to reinforce the camp raid, since it offered the chance of ending, or at least reducing the Goblin menace for some time.

The party made their way back to the temple site, and after suitable buffing, whent into the temple, to be greated by a mad Derro, and a bearded deamon. Although tough, and long, the battle in the temple was untimatly a straight forwards brawl, the Derro was too crazy to make good use of its spells, and Alec and Rhysalis did good work tag-teaming the Demon. Fire support from Fenyal and healing from Aria made sure that the end was inevitable.

With the death of the Derro, the evil in the temple faded, and the threat in the region reduced dramatically.

• 1 x Derro (with Sorcerer levels)
• 1 x Bearded demon

So an ending to Drakthar… or someone trying to pretend to be Drakthar anyway. That will be the end of that then… maybe…

I have awarded 40% exp to Borg and Zacharias. They fought goblins in the Jungle with Alec and Fario, but it was risk free, and I do not want people to get too far behind.

Before the next session, there are choices…

If the party chooses, you could catch up on the raid on the goblin camp, which would be a big long fight, or you can choose to return to Cauldron. You do not have to choose now, but if you let me know your interests, I can plan better. So choice 1: Lets go back to Cauldron quickly, and pick up the main quest choice 2: Lets raid the goblins, and maybe investigate further about Drakthar and what is sturing up the goblins.

Choice 1 takes you back to cauldron, with no real issues, we pick up where you left off. Choice 2 takes us away from Shackled city, and certainly makes you too high level to do some of the early Cauldron chapters.

After last session, exp stands as:

 Aria 11215 (level up to 5) Borg 7685 (level up to 4) Fenyal 11215 (level up 5) Zacharias 8885 (bad luck, no level) Wim 10190 (level up to 5) Rhysalis Eina 9600 (level up to 4)

We will discuss loot at the next session…

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I really enjoyed the last session: fighting hobgoblins and bugbears (yay favored enemy bonus!), sneaking around (I really need to boost my Move Silently), and tense moments of the battle to free the slaves.

Scariest moment: The giant crocodiles. I thought for sure one of us was going to get dragged underwater.

Coolest moment: Once again, Fenyael does all the dirty work, while us melee-types goof off :-P The critical hit with the Scorching Ray was very, very nice, and came at a very good time.

Most surprising moment: That Drakthar was not a vampire. My D&D meta-sense was tingling something fierce, but in retrospect the evidence also fits a derro very well. I really liked that touch.

OOTS moment: I now feel Vaarsuvius’s pain, with a fragile animal companion that appears and disappears when I remember/forget it. Not sure if the poor little guy is going to tag along with me for very long, though…

I really need to turn Rhysalis into the party tank. As soon as possible I’ll have to arrange for enchanted full plate armor…

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-18 01:01 UTC

I thought Rhysalis was all about the elvishness. Fenyael would tell her that the best armor around is elven chain – not clunky and ugly like plate mail, but light, strong, and very stylish!

Indeed, indeed. I guess that’s why Rhysalis went for a chain shirt. And now she’s wearing what—a piece of big ugly heavy chain mail that slows her down.

Eventually, however, we’ll have to think about our effectiveness. Borg will be the well armored tank, specially if he goes into the dwarven defender prestige class. Rhysalis was to be the diplomatic person. But without Borg Rhysalis is forced into the tank role and she doesn’t have the AC to go along with that.

I’m torn on the issue.

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-18 11:41 UTC

Ah, effectiveness. I daresay that Wim leans decidedly towards less than effective side of the spectrum – a gnome (strike 1) ranger with a low Wisdom (strike 2) that is going to take the Horizon Walker (strike 3) prestige class. It is a wonder he’s made it to 5th level

It is hard to keep the AC high enough to make it worth it – a mithral plate and shield dwarven defender, or a duelist are exceptions. You either have to pour all your resources into getting a high AC (best armor + Dex bonus combo, magic items, feats), or focus solely on damage-dealing, since the faster the monster dies, the fewer times it can hit you.

In my Monday group we have Fäm who regularly walks around with AC 29 and often brings it up to 36 using defensive fighting and what not. It’s pretty impressive…

But I’m also fine with not being all that effective and placing all my hope in the DM. Perhaps I should resist the little powergamer in me that is struggling to come out… ;)

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-18 14:09 UTC

No, come to the powergaming dark side. Absurd ACs, overpowered combinations, and ridiculous damage awaits you…

Yes yes yes, I can’t agree more to the point that Borg needs a better armor! Just wanted to say it all the time, but thanks Rhysalis Eventually he could need some help with buffs, since the dwarven defender is not much more than a rock (being totaly stationary)

– Mircea 2008-03-18 17:45 UTC

# 2008-03-10

Somehow the date that Claudia and I decided to go out with each other is more important than the day we got married. Then again, I have only been married since 2007-11-24 where as I’ve been going out with Claudia since 1992-03-10…

(Older entries: 2005-03-10 Love, 2004-03-10 Love, )

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Congrats! Keep rocking! :D

– Moni 2008-03-10 13:08 UTC

ganz vergessen - herzliche gratulation! das waren noch zeiten.

zeno 2008-03-11 10:57 UTC

Gratuliere recht herzlich: 16 Jahre, eine schöne Zeit. Ich habe das nicht so lange geschafft, bin immer nur auf ca 10 bis 12 Jahre gekommen!!!

Helmut Schröder (Vater von Alex) 2008-03-15 21:40 UTC

Hehe, vielen Dank. So gesehen denke ich oft, dass ich der glücklichste Mensch auf Erden bin.

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-15 23:50 UTC

# 2008-03-10 Importance of Dungeons and Dragons

Take a look at the lower left corner… This is the kind of meta jokes that will get you noticed, I presume.

Picture apparently by Sam Potts.

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Comments on 2008-03-10 Importance of Dungeons and Dragons

Looks like it’s pretty accurate. Btw, I do paint pewter figures ;)

Nice map! Notice: there is now way getting to ‘girls’ if one had ‘early contact to D&D’

– Mircea 2008-03-26 09:59 UTC

# 2008-03-14 Waterboarding

I recently read Fingersmiths by Sarah Waters. An interesting story with many surprising plot twists. My cousing suggested Affinity. I might be interested. The book has been a page-turner and I had to stay up until 4:30 in the morning to finish it. Thank you Chrissie, for recommending it to the BookClub.

The book also features a paragraph or two about waterboarding.

“Both houses of the United States Congress approved a bill by February 2008 that would ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods. But President George W. Bush vetoed the bill on March 8, 2008. It appears unlikely that bill supporters will be able to gather enough votes to overturn the veto.” – Bush vetoes bill outlawing CIA waterboarding by Richard Cowan with Eric Beech, Reuters, March 8, 2008, also cited on the Wikipedia article on waterboarding.

In German one would say: “Zum Kotzen!” – roughly “To puke!” or “Makes me want to puke!”

Reading about it makes my physically sick. I have cold sweat dripping down my side, my eyes are filled with tears that don’t want to come, and my stomach a tight little stone. From the inquisition to war criminals in Japan, Germany, Vietnam, Algeria… to the United States of today.

Makes. Me. Want. To. Puke.

What have you become.

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# 2008-03-16

Claudia turned 34. Our new home is nearly done. We finally got the little cupboard that goes beneath the sink in the bathroom, the garden furniture for the balcony (preparing for summer!!), almost all the pictures and mirrors are mounted on the walls… While dismantling an old cheap IKEA wardrobe on Saturday I managed to drop one of the doors hinge-first into the parquet, producing two solid little holes. My heart was ready to break back then. I am so incredibly fed up with todo lists and furniture and boxes full of stuff… Grrrrrrooarrrgh! Today we moved the last remaining boxes into the cellar. Yay! What a relief! Here’s to hoping we won’t be moving any time soon.

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Jetzt kannst du dir gut vorstellen, wie mir zumute ist. Wir ziehen in diesem Jahr wieder um, zurück nach Rio!!! >-{

Helmut Schröder (Vater von Alex) 2008-03-18 14:27 UTC

Oje!!!

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-18 17:44 UTC

# 2008-03-18 Speedy House Rules

I’m thinking about 4th edition and house rules – again. Here’s something that is taking a lot of time, or even if it doesn’t take a lot of time, it makes for an uneven distribution of time used at the table: More than one attack, possibly with different attack bonuses.

Proposed solution:

• No more iterative attacks
• Two weapon fighting, multi shot, and rapid shot will all result in multiple attack rolls with the same attack bonus, so that’s ok.

I’m torn on tumbling. Do away with the skill and do away with attacks of opportunity due to movement? No more retreat? Or do away with the skill and always allow the attack of opportunity (like the old-school rules)? These attacks of opportunity also prevent people from easily running through a group of enemies. But at the table I find that these attacks of opportunity are rarely effective, because either the Tumble skill is too high, or their attack bonus is too low. Maybe the way to prevent a low-level mob from running past you is to ready an action to attack the person running past you. (The alternative would be to make tumbling harder – the opponent makes an attack roll vs. 10 + your Tumble skill, maybe. Concentration—same thing, right?

So:

• No more Tumble & Concentration
• No more Attacks of Opportunity

Hm… I’m trying to figure out whether these rules actually bring some element of enjoyment to the table for tactically minded players, but I just don’t see it.

See also Everyone's Twice as Fast Now by Dave Noonan on Gleemax.

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Comments on 2008-03-18 Speedy House Rules

Just play 4E

I actually think things like Rapid Shot, Two-Weapon Fighting, and the like could grant extra damage dice, rather than extra attack rolls. Now, granted, this does not allow you to divide your attacks amongst multiple targets, but how often do people actually do that?

Opposed rolls or rolls based on the attacker’s bonus are part of Arcana Evolved for Concentration and Tumble. If you eliminate tumbling and defensive casting altogether, and thus have movement and spellcasting constantly provoking attacks of opportunity, that might make the Mobility feat worthwhile. Or imagine a version of Combat Casting that grants a +4 AC bonus vs. attacks made while spellcasting?

Eliminating attacks of opportunity makes it a lot harder to play a front-line defender. If enemies can just race by you without repercussion to attack the squishy mage or archer that is ravaging them, why would they bother with the tough-looking armored guy up front? I like free movement, but there should be consequences. Of course, I also like the tactical movement mini-game in 3rd edition.

Hehehe. As for 4E, I’m not sure I liked the power-based combat I’ve heard about.

Extra damage dice… That’s pretty cool. You would have to explain how those multiple attacks relate to simple damage increasing feats like weapon specialization (or get rid of it).

One alternative would be to simply disallow it like 2nd edition. I find that these days some monsters should simple not be allowed to run past you because they won’t survive a hit, or they have the necessary skills and feats to avoid the repercussions.

We could also allow bull-rushing in any direction. Then getting to your friends behind enemy lines requires one of you to bull-rush the enemy tank aside so that the second one can pass. That would be a neat solution…

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-18 14:08 UTC

Yes, power-based combat is a huge change. However, if you eliminate iterative attacks, simplify the skill system, and get rid of things like Tumble and Concentration that prevent attacks of opportunity, it seems like you are well on your way to 3.75E

You’d have to give melee classes some way of dealing more damage. Perhaps a bonus to damage equal to half their BAB? You’d probably see a lot of Power Attack and Combat Expertise, since the 1st attack tends to hit at mid to high levels regardless. How does SAGA handle it?

Yeah, I was in fact thinking that maybe fighters using the Book of Experimental Might get a feat every level and Weapon Focus & Specialization will in fact stack. This makes the Greater Weapon Focus & Specialization feats useless.

Yes, I’m definitely going down the road of 3.75… I keep thinking of tweaks, will write it all up one day, and ask players of my next campaign whether they’re willing to give it a try.

I’m not unhappy enough with 3.5 to switch current campaigns, though.

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-18 17:44 UTC

When you say Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization stack, do you mean a fighter could take the feats multiple times for the same weapon?

I think fighters still need more high level feats that are either fighter only or require so many prerequisites that only fighters could qualify. Take, for example, Weapon Supremacy from the PHB2:

Prereqs: Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, Greater Weapon Focus, Greater Weapon Specialization, Weapon Mastery (feat from PHB2), fighter 18th

Benefits: +4 to resist disarm, wield weapon without penalty in a grapple, +5 to a single attack (after the 1st) as part of a full attack, 1/round, “take 10” on an attack roll, +1 AC

That is a pretty good feat. Problem is, fighters have too few of these.

Paizo just put out their Pathfinder RPG Alpha rules (for free – you just need a paizo.com account to download it). You probably want to check them out – they are very much 3.75E. The skill system is significantly revised (actually, very similar to something you proposed before), all classes get a lot more class abilities (in particular, the fighter looks somewhat improved, though I have a feeling not enough for my liking), and they’ve tried to unify the mechanics on combat maneuvers, among other changes. Looks interesting, and is at least worth reading if you like tinkering with rules (like I do).

I just saw a comment on the Pathfinder RPG board on iterative attacks. John Robey says “SWSE’s model of a single attack that gains a bonus of +1/2 character level to damage works out to very similar math, while simultaneously speeding up combat (no more rolling a bazillion dice for one character’s turn) and creating a more dynamic, movement-based encounter.”

I like it.

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-20 11:34 UTC

Did they look at the effect this has vis-a-vis criticals? Large static plusses to damage = huge damage on criticals, especially if you are wielding an axe or, Pelor forbid, a scythe or pick.

Scythe for the win!!

Other posts in that thread [1] mentioned that maybe iterative attacks weren’t the problem (they didn’t slow down the game) but that having to choose between movement and full attacks was. The proposed solution was a new feat for fighters that allows them to do a full attack as a standard action. In particular, Krome suggested this one:

Mobile Tank Feat Requirements: Combat Expertise, Dodge, Power Attack Benefit: You can move up to your normal Speed in combat while using the Full-Attack maneuver. Each attack must be delivered from a different space. Movement may still provoke Attacks of Opportunity. Normal: A full attack is a full-round action and allows no move action.

But I have yet to see the need allow more mobility on the battlefield.

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-20 16:11 UTC

# 2008-03-21 Send iTunes Tracks To SqueezeBox

Ok, I finally solved my problem! I mentioned it on 2007-12-02 iTunes vs. Squeezebox –– I like how iTunes lets me quickly collect the stuff I want. But then I can’t play it on my SqueezeBox. Suckage! I tried some suggestions from the Slim Devices forum [1] and I finally figured out what I wanted: I want to select some files and “send them to the Squeezebox” – I don’t want to play the same song in iTunes and on the Squeezebox, for example.

Brad Mohr’s script did exactly what I wanted it to do. Except that it assumed an old version of the server software, and it required me to change a little security setting, or it required me to figure out the “cauth” key. No good! Some looking at documentation that came with the new server, some looking at !AppleScript examples elsewhere, some fiddling with netcat (nc), and soon I had something that seems to work.

Yes, netcat is the awesome!

Anyway, here it is. To use:

1. Open the !AppleScript editor → Applications → !AppleScript → Script Editor.
2. Paste the code below.
3. Hit ⌘R to run it. Good for testing.

To install it, you have two options. Here’s how to have a stand-alone program:

1. Save, pick “Program” as the format to use. I used “Send iTunes Tracks To Squeezebox” as the name.
2. Select some tracks in iTunes.
3. Run the program. It will ask you whether you want to “Play” or “Append”.

Or to have it available from the scripts menu in iTunes:

1. Create the directory /Library/iTunes/Scripts
2. Save, pick “Script” as the format to use. I used “Send To Squeezebox” as the name.
3. Select the tracks in iTunes.
4. From the iTunes Script menu, pick “Send To Squeezebox”. It will ask you whether you want to “Play” or “Append”.
5. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always seem to work, and I haven’t figured out why. If you uncomment the display dialog result buttons {"Ok"} at the very end, you’ll see that when run from the Script Editor, everything works as expected, and when run from within iTunes, the result is the empty string. Always.

## Source

-- SlimPlay
-- by Alex Schroeder, kensanata@gmail.com
-- March 2008
-- by Brad Mohr, bmohr (AT) seanet (DOT) com
-- 22 January 2003
-- This script is absolutely free and may be used by anyone for any purpose.

-- Known Limitations:
-- Currently only supports a single Squeezebox.
-- Very little error checking

-- edit these properties to match your setup.
property squeezecenter_host : "localhost" -- URL or IP address of the SlimServer
property squeezecenter_port : "9090" -- server port number for the command line interface, default is 9090

tell application "iTunes"
set these_tracks to the selection of browser window 1
if these_tracks is {} then error "No tracks are selected in the front window."

set should_play to false

display dialog "What would you like to do with these tracks?" buttons {"Play", "Append", "Cancel"} default button 2
if the button returned of the result is not "Cancel" then
if the button returned of the result is "Play" then set should_play to true

set is_first_file to true

repeat with a_track in these_tracks
set carbon_filepath to the location of a_track
set track_title to the name of a_track

tell application "Finder" to set filepath to URL of carbon_filepath
set escaped_path to escape_path(filepath) of me
if should_play then
if is_first_file then
playlist_play_track(escaped_path) of me
set is_first_file to false
else
playlist_append_track(escaped_path) of me
end if
else
playlist_append_track(escaped_path) of me
end if
end repeat

if should_play then
begin_playing() of me
end if
end if
end tell

-- apostrophe causes trouble when sent to the shell
on escape_path(this_text)
set the escaped_text to ""
repeat with this_char in this_text
if this_char as text is equal to "'" then
set the escaped_text to the escaped_text & "%27"
else
set the escaped_text to the escaped_text & this_char
end if
end repeat
return the escaped_text
end escape_path

-- append the new track to the playlist
on playlist_append_track(escapedTrackPath)
end playlist_append_track

-- replace the existing playlist with the new track
on playlist_play_track(escapedTrackPath)
send_command("playlist play " & escapedTrackPath)
end playlist_play_track

-- tell the default (or only) server to begin playing
on begin_playing()
send_command("play")
end begin_playing

on send_command(command)
tell application "Finder"
set shell_command to "echo -e '" & command & "\\nexit' | /usr/bin/nc " & squeezecenter_host & " " & squeezecenter_port & "; exit 0"
-- display dialog shell_command buttons {"Ok"}
set result to do shell script shell_command
-- display dialog result buttons {"Ok"}
end tell
end send_command

# 2008-03-22 Kerberos Again

This is a continuation of 2008-02-29 Kerberos Woes and should feed into HCoop Setup.

Allow the daemon to read and write and create the ~/.run directory required for run-in-pagsh:

    fs sa ~/public_html/campaignwiki alex.daemon write
mkdir ~/.run
fs sa ~/.run system:anyuser rl
fs sa ~/.run alex.daemon write

Testing:

    run-in-pagsh --fg campaignwiki-maintenance ~/public_html/campaignwiki/bin/maintain-job

Adding it to crontab… Run crontab -e and use the line above as the command to run.

I’m curious to see whether it will work.

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# 2008-03-23 The Good Life

Today, after having played some D&D, having eaten nice salads for dinner with two of my players and my SweetHeart – tomato mozarella, cos lettuce feta capsicum, and carrot chana dahl raisin almond lemon – having listened to my collection of over two hundred Tom Waits songs, I was skimming PlanetEmacsen and found a post by David Reiter called Life changes / Non, Je ne regrette rien. It linked to two videos by Randy Pausch with some advice on living your life. I liked it.

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# 2008-03-24 Road To Peace by Tom Waits

While eating a piece of my tiroler cake 2008-01-20_Tiroler_Cake and figuring out what books need to be sent where via BookMooch, I listened to my Tom Waits collection in the background. And suddenly the lyrics of Road To Peace by Tom Waits bubbled to the top of my attention. Something about Israelis and Palestinians. I then googled for the lyrics and found the following passage at the end of the song:

The fundamentalist killing on both sides is standing in the path of peace But tell me why are we arming the Israeli army with guns and tanks and bullets? And if God is great and God is good why can’t he change the hearts of men? Well maybe God himself is lost and needs help Maybe God himself he needs all of our help Maybe God himself is lost and needs help

I really need to activate that Last.FM plugin for my SqueezeBox… My current top seven:

 Artists Played The Cure 914 Tom Waits 823 Radiohead 286 Nightwish 267 Madredeus 258 Tricky 231 The Strokes 229

The numbers are probably still ok. Must check back in a few weeks.

Too bad my iTunes Update plugin isn’t working correctly. Apparently I can’t get the CPAN module Mac::AppleScript to work.

I’ve posted an appropriate question on both the SqueezeBox 3rd Party Plugins forum and on the AppleScript Support forum.

So here’s what I did:

1. cpan Mac::AppleScript – this fails with the error “/usr/bin/ld: /System/Library/Frameworks/WebKit.framework/Versions/A/WebKit load command 20 unknown cmd field”
2. cd into the appropriate build directory in ~/.cpan/build/Mac-AppleScript-0.04-*/
3. cc -bundle -undefined dynamic_lookup -L/usr/local/lib AppleScript.o -framework Carbon -o blib/arch/auto/Mac/AppleScript/AppleScript.bundle – that’s right, I just deleted -framework AppleScriptKit from that command line
4. make – no more problems
5. make test – it works! Weird, eh?

But then again, the plugin itself still doesn’t seem to work.

You can try cd Library/Application\ Support/SqueezeCenter/Plugins/iTunesUpdate/ and run perl iTunesUpdate.pl. No more error messages. But no success, either.

Gaaaaaah!

Time! Sink! Gaaaah!

# 2008-03-26 Games and Stuff

I’ve been playing some Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 missions with a friend. Good times!

I think I’m going to buy some wargames or wargame-like boardgames. In Fear the Book #94 I heard various recommendations. So I think I’ll get up in a minute and walk over to a game shop to get:

1. War of the Ring
2. Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
3. Battlelore (a successor to Memoir 44)

I hear Diplomacy is being reprinted. Why does the local shop not carry it? [1]

Update: I went to Bitli's Music & Game Shop, realized that it only opened at 11:00, waited in Café El Grecco with Claudia. At 11:20 there was still nobody there, so I went to Rien ne va plus. Can you believe that they seem not to have a website?

I bought Battlelore and Tide of Iron based on the recommendations of the sales guy at Rien ne va plus.

They had neither War of the Ring nor Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage in stock. Both of them are available at Bitli’s Music & Game Shop. Heh.

They did have Memoir ’44, and it seemed simpler than the two I bought. Maybe I should have bought that instead? Or I’ll buy it later.

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Comments on 2008-03-26 Games and Stuff

Good times indeed! Take care not to confound the fun factor from Ghost Recon with board games. Tension and threat vs. strategy and planning. Board games are still a lot of fun, I simply like moving the ‘Tötzeli’ around

– Mircea 2008-03-26 09:50 UTC

Have you played A Ticket to Ride? They even have a Swiss version!

Not a particularly relevant post, since you were mentioning war/strategy boardgames, but I think A Ticket to Ride has a lot of subtle nuances that make it a great game, without being terribly complicated. Not that I didn’t always enjoy the 30 minutes it would take us to set up our Axis & Allies games…

Heh, Ticket to Ride does in fact sound quite interesting! Right now I’m stocking up on strategy games, however, to fill the gap between Go and Squad Leader.

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-26 13:57 UTC

# 2008-03-26 iPod Dark Side

A few days ago we were invited by comic-loving friends and there I heard that the Music lock-in of the iPod was not a property of the iPod but a property of iTunes. With the right software, getting music from the iPod back on to you hard disc is no problem. Ah hah!! Senuti to the rescue. iTunes ⇔ Senuti… Get it? Hah! “Everything in reverse.”

Having spent money on new headphones, and realizing how clunky the interface of my old iAUDIO G3 was compared to Claudia’s iPod Nano she uses for her dancing classes and to prepare for shows… I decided that maybe a good interface does have a price. So I decided to spend some money on a black iPod Classic with 80GB. This is enough for our entire music collection (currently nearly 50G). I’m expecting that the music collection will not continue to grow at the same rate, and that I’ll switch to a new gadget within a few years when it does. I’ll probably buy a new Mac Mini as well, when the time comes, because we don’t have much more space on the primary harddisc – and the external harddisc is so much louder than everything else about the Mac Mini…

Anway. An iPod! No Ogg format. Music lock-in that requires an extra piece of music. Cannot easily replace batteries. Paying for proprietary software.

But: Nice user interface. Holds the entire collection. Senuit turns it into a mobile backup platform. Superior iTunes interface that syncs ratings and how often tracks were played. Payed by a store gift certificate from my employer.

⇒ 5:4 in favor of the iPod!

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Comments on 2008-03-26 iPod Dark Side

iPods seriously rock. They work, because they work. It’s as simply as that. Good choice

On the other hand, iTunes is a pile of expletive that isn’t worth the multi-megabyte hole it chews into your hard drive - and that’s before you even import any music. It’s basically a license to sign all your music collection over to Apple, who then lease it back to you with so many strings attached Houdini couldn’t get out. iTunes = bad, as I know you know.

I’ll stick to Rhythmbox under Ubuntu for my iPod handling. It copies the tunes over 1,000 times faster than iTunes, and lets me listen to the music on the iPod through the computer without any messy syncing or whatnot. All plug and play, no additional software required. Lovely stuff.

greywulf 2008-03-26 19:16 UTC

Haha, I must be missing a lot. When I first saw iTunes, I liked it because what I am used to is far worse in terms of usability: Winamp, Microsoft’s player whatsitcalled, XMMS, and EMMS.

Using the EMMS would certainly get me some geek cred in my circles… hehehe… but to be honest, none of these really impressed me. Using the filesystem to store music is like sorting the files by a single attribute and sticking with it. It sucks. iTunes was the first player that actually put tags to good use.

That’s why I installed iTunes at work, too. Argh!

But I must confess that I must have missed a few years of recent audio player developments…

AlexSchroeder 2008-03-26 21:30 UTC

It turns out that there is a tiny problem: I want to keep my iPod and my iTunes Library in sync, but in addition to that I want some audio files on the iPod that I’m not keeping in my iTunes Library. Apple won’t have any of that: Either it manages everything and you have all your stuff in your iTunes Library, or you manage it yourself, meaning no more automatic updates.

The great part about the iPod right now is how integrated Podcasts are. It automatically transfers them to the iPod when I connect it, and it automatically marks them as read in iTunes when I listen to them on the iPod. That’s a big winner.

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-15 21:21 UTC

Yeh, it’s the whole sync thing that loses it for me. I don’t WANT my content duplicated on my ipod and computer; that’s just a waste of space. That’s why I prefer tools like Rhythmbox which let me use MY music how I want.

GreyWulf 2008-04-16 11:54 UTC

# 2008-03-27 Movies and Books

I’m reading The Dark Valley by Piers Brendon. It’s broad, it’s sweeping, it has little anecdotes, it has detail. I love it.

I got hold of a huge collection of WWII documents – the keyword is KM99. I don’t know what it means, but hearing Hitler shout “YES! WE ARE INTOLERANT!!” has a certain creepy appeal.

I’ve also finished reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters which had some excellent plot twists. I liked it. The lesbian element was not as strong as my curiosity would have liked. I wonder whether it is just me or whether there is more tolerance, acceptance, or even a sort of curiosity regarding lesbians that gays do not partake in.

I’ve also seen Transformers (2007). The entire movie could be summed up in 20 seconds of material. Not recommended!! The only funny part was the scene with the soldier trying to reach the Pentagon by phone and getting an operator who tries to sell some premium gold something membership to the poor guy who’s being shot at by aliens. That’s globalized services and capitalism for you, soldier! Those ten seconds are not worth the three hours of simple minded boom bang bonk, however.

I’ve also seen My Blueberry Nights (2007). I love Wong Kar Wai. The movie was typical: Great cinematography by Darius Khondji – and not Christopher Doyle as would have thought. I wonder whether there’s a story in that. Two more or less disconnected love stories. Unhappy endings. In this case the framing story has a happy end, which is new. I think I like his earlier movies better, but still recommended.

I’m looking forward to Love and Honor (2006). The third movie in the series starting with the amazing Twilight Samurai (2002) and continued with the amazing Hidden Blade (2004). All three by Yôji Yamada. The older two are definitely recommend. I haven’t seen the third one, yet.

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# 2008-03-30 LifeLines Trouble

I’m looking at my Family stuff again. I’ve used LifeLines on a GNU/Linux box in the past. All I copied to my Mac is the old GEDCOM file. I’m having trouble decoding it correctly.

Here’s what I had to do to get it to work:

Change

1 CHAR ASCII

to

1 CHAR UTF-8

in my file, because it is in fact UTF-8 encoded.

Run it as follows: llines alex offers to create a new database. Use u o and add the following options:

codeset=UTF-8
GuiCodeset=UTF-8

Import using u r.

The only problem I have now is that the internal ncurses library doesn’t understand multibyte character sets. The right edge of the frame is ragged whenenver the line contains Umlauts. Not good.

Familienbande on the other hand looks slick, is gratis (but not free as in FreeSoftware), but has issues with my file… :/

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# 2008-03 Book Club

When: ~March 19~ March 26, 20:00 @ Starbucks. Please note: One hour later than usual, and a week later than originally planned.

Wikipedia: Fingersmith, Sarah Waters.

Supporters: Chrissie, Nanda, Alex, Uli, Karina.

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# 2008-03 Book Club Dinner

When: March 12, 20:00

Where: ~Silk Route~ Spice Route, Badenerstrasse 505, near Letzipark station.

Send me an Email if you’re coming. Or just show up if you’re the spontaneous lurker on our list.

→ kensanata@gmail.com

Alex: “I made a reservation for a table of six. The name is ‘Schröder’…”

Comments on 2008-03 Book Club Dinner

Alex made a typo In case you turn up and can’t find “Silk Route”, the restaurant’s called “Spice Route”. It’s close to Letzigrund tramstop (tram 2). Get off the tram, look around for a place with yellow and red neon signs and that’s the restaurant.

– Anonymous 2008-01-31 07:27 UTC