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The Grand-Duchy of Brandonshire
Ruminations of a Post-Apocalyptic Nobleman
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So for a bit under a year now (I can't remember exactly when I started but about a year ago I was gearing up to start) I've been GMing a game of 4th Edition D&D.  It's my first time "on the other side of the screen" for any game and I must say I'm enjoying it quite a bit.  It's been a learning experience but I'm feeling a little more comfortable with it every session we do.  4th Edition has been great for a beginning GM, it makes a lot of things fairly easy for the GM, I'm not sure I'd have been able to jump in the way I did if we were still playing an earlier edition of D&D.
Anyway, I thought I'd write here about a few things I've learned and a few things I need to work on.  Fellow GM's and players out there please comment or give feedback if you want to!

A few things I've learned so far:

  • If there's a question about a rule and it can't be looked up in less than a few minutes, then it's usually best to make a ruling to keep the action moving and look it up later for the future.
  • Always remember the first rule of improvisation: say "Yes, and..." Try your best not to shoot down your players ideas!
  • Be sure to read/think through all your monsters and room features carefully.
  • Related to the above, try to run a few scenarios for a scene through in your head before sitting down at the table to anticipate questions or situations that might come up.  Highlight things if you need to!
  • Make notes while playing, notes about things the players seemed to enjoy or didn't, names of NPC's places etc.
  • Pre-rolling initiative for your monsters can really speed things up.
  • Generally try to keep things moving, though don't rush the players.
There are also a number of things I need to work on and improve (including those things above):
  • If I make a ruling and plan to look up a rule for later, I really need to be sure to stop and make a note of it so you can actually do that.
  • There are a few rules and things that I really need to look up and read over and over till they sink in to speed things up at the table.
  • I need to work on not talking so much about the meta-aspects of the game. It's ok to occasionally note that the players did something unexpected, but it's probably best not to discuss the things they could have done or what might have happened as much as I have.  It destroys some of the magic of the story, and I need to just let things happen as they do and work with it.  On a related note...
  • I need to work on making the story a bit more organic and based more on the players actions.  I've gotten better about this, but I still sometimes feel like I'm railroading things a little bit here and there just because I'm not quite sure how to deal with things the players are doing.
  • I need to work on not rushing things.  There have been times when the players have a little bit of downtime and while I of course want to keep things moving; in retrospect there have been a few times I've probably rushed through things more than I should have.
  • I need to work on how I run skill challenges, so they feel a little more organic and less mechanical.  I also need to work on really trying to include everyone in them.
  • I'd like to work on encouraging the players to really describe what they're doing in combat and in skill situations rather than just saying "I use x power."  They've actually been pretty good about this sort of thing, but I'd love to see more of it.  The first step in this is of course leading by example, so this is something for me to really remember to do.  At the same time I also need to remember that everyone enjoys different aspects of the game, so if some players really just don't want to do that sort of thing, that's ok too, as long as everyone is having fun!
  • I'd also like to work on my improvisation/acting skills to really bring some of the NPC's to life.  I've had a few times where I've felt pretty good about this (the old man with a Main accent for one), but on the whole I feel like my characterization of the NPC's has been pretty flat and I've fallen back on the same phrases an quirks a bit too much.  Really taking some time to think about who these people are and what they're interested in should help with this.
And finally, there are a few things I'd like to try and/or am looking forward to experimenting with more:
  • Music!  I've only just started to really think about using music to set the mood, and have tried playing a little bit of music while the game is going on but I'd really like to do more of this.  I've got some interesting ideas for using music, but I'm still trying to work out some technical aspects of both playing and controlling the music.
  • Player generated world and story elements.  This is largely inspired by a section of the 4th Edition DMG 2 in which an example of a "shared world" is given with the DM letting players come up with a lot more of the details of the world than I think is normal.  I'm trying to leave a lot of details open so that when/if we have to deal with them I can leave a lot of the details up to the players.  I don't feel like I've done this enough so far but I'm working on it (and got some great ideas from the character backgrounds the players recently wrote) and I think the next sections of the adventure we're running should have some more opportunities for this.  For example, two of the characters are from the city we're in now, so I plan to let those players come up with a lot of the details of what the city is like and how it works.  From city government to some of the factions within the city to even some of the layout, I want this to be "their" city.  Some of it I'll of course also be coming up with on my own, but I want this to feel like a place they're familiar with and really want to get an idea of what they're interested in and how I can work their ideas into mine.
I'm sure there are a lot of things here I'm not thinking of, so there may be a follow up post or two on this but these are my thoughts right now.  What do you think?  What lessons have you learned?  Have you used music in your games? How much player input have you taken as a GM?  Do you have any ideas or tips for how to increase this sort of interaction?

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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I think I broke this earlier, going to try this again... re-linking LJ to Buzz.

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I was listening to a This American Life podcast from a bit ago, part of which discussed amnesia.  The story was interesting, though wasn't really about amnesia per se. But it got me thinking about it in role playing game terms (I'm working up to GMing my first adventure soon, so I'm thinking of just about everything in terms of gaming possibilities).

It occurred to me that amnesia is used in all kinds of fiction, sometimes to comedic effect, sometimes to more dramatic effect, but that I hadn't ever thought about using it in a role playing game.  It seems like potentially a pretty good and fun trope to use in a game, either with a character who forgets who they are for some time, or with NPC's or any number of other ways.  This would probably work particularly well in a pulp themed game, where these sort of outrageous ideas make perfect sense.

I've also been reading Gnome Stew (a great GMing blog) a lot lately, and as I was thinking about this I also read this article, in which the author talks about the fun of having secrets from the other players, and generally cutting down on meta-game thinking at the table. These two things started to churn in my head and I got the following ideas...

I also started to think about the idea for PC's with amnesia.  Role playing it could be interesting but difficult for a player if their PC is supposed to have lost their memory partway through the game, or if they've written a background for the character, that they then have to "re-discover."  This could be a lot of fun, but might be difficult to role play properly for the player, since they'd know what the background really was. 

It might also unfairly focus attention on the one character if they were the only one with amnesia (again this isn't necessarily a problem, depending on the player and the groups, but is a potential problem).  Of course this could be solved by having everyone start with amnesia, and have to slowly learn about/try to remember their backgrounds and histories.  But again, you still have the problem of a PC who knows the real background, but has to pretend that they don't for the purposes of role playing.

One solution would be for the GM could write up a background for a character, or all the characters, and start the game with that characters, or the characters with amnesia, and they could slowly learn who they were as the game went on.  This could be a lot of fun, and might work really well with the right group.  But might lead to some players feeling like they don't have enough real investment in their character, or that they are being railroaded some.

Then an interesting idea popped into my head.  What if all the players wrote a background for another player's character?  This could lead to all the players really feeling like they had some investment in the game, but would also leave them not knowing what their own background was.  The players could either write the backgrounds specifically for one other players character, or they could all write a background in secret and turn them in to the GM who would then assign them to different players and make any adjustments to make them all fit together.  The GM would get tons of plot hooks, and would be able to really involve the players ideas in the game and center it around the characters, while still haveing the freedom to determine quite a bit (like how they got amnesia, and why they are together etc.).  The players would get to start the game with a clean slate, and then have the fun of figuring out who they were and how they got to where they are.

I think this is a pretty fun idea for an interesting game.  I'm not planning on using it for my upcomign adventure, as I'm not sure I feel like I'm quite experienced enough as a GM to run something like that (at least not yet), but I think it sounds like a pretty fun game for the players and for the GM (though probably a lot of work for the GM).

So what do you think?  Would you consider running a game like this, or playing in one?  Do you have any fun ideas for how to us amnesia in a game?

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Yesterday I talked (in far too much detail and at far too much length) about how I keep my calendar's in sync and available to whenever I need them.

Today I'm going to talk a little (hopefully only a little...) about my current system for keeping my contacts in sync.  Luckily it's pretty simple.Contacts StuffCollapse )

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Cross Posted on Vox (with links!)

So I've been meaning to write this up for a bit now, and Google's recent switching on of over the air syncing (via licensed from MS active sync tech), and my friend Dave's recent entry about the issues he's run into there, has finally given me the motivation I need to just go ahead and write this up.

For around a month or so now, in an effort to get better organized, I've been working on keeping my calendars and contacts in sync between Google, (more on contacts later) my iPhone and my two computers. So far it's working ok, I'm probably only a little bit more organized, but that's mostly because I need to put a bit more effort and discipline into keeping up with everything and adding it to my calendars, but I've got the tech situation pretty well set up to make that as easy as possible.

Let's start with what I wanted for calendars: I wanted a way to use Google calendar (we'll refer to as gCal from here on out) which I'd been using for a while to try to organize myself with mixed success, on my iPhone. Seems pretty simple. But getting the ideal set up wasn't as easy as I'd have liked.

This ended up being pretty longCollapse )
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So Sarah and I got the new Animal Crossing game for the Wii.  Anyone else got it?  Or going to get it?  If so, let's visit each-others towns! My Friend code for the game is 0474-1450-2128.  What's yours?

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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I've been thinking a lot about Dungeons and Dragons lately.  My last post which was a general life update I mentioned that I'm still playing fairly regularly in a Dungeons and Dragons game which I've been enjoying a lot.  We're playing 3.5, and it's been a lot of fun for the past several years, even if in the past few months we've slowed a bit due to scheduling problems, still we're playing on Sunday and I'm pretty excited about it.  We stopped the last session mid-battle and we're soon going to begin infiltrating the frozen fortress of an undead evil dragon in order to keep a powerful artifact out of the hands of an evil cult.  What could be more D&D?

But! What's gotten me extra excited about "D's" lately though is the impending release of 4th Edition, which comes out tomorrow.  I was originally planning to pick up the Players Handbook tomorrow night, but now I may wait until Saturday as I'm probably heading over to Falls Church anyway to mow my Mom's lawn while she's out of town, so I figure I'll head

to my old nerd store.  Which I still feel nostalgic about, even if none of the people I used to see regularly still work there (come back Timus!), and others have had some rather negative experiences there lately.  They still have one of the best bookshelves of role playing game books in the area (and they aren't shrink-wrapped for no reason so you can flip through them before you buy 'em).  Hopefully demand won't be so great that they'll be sold out by Saturday.

Some people have been worried about 4th Edition, and there is certainly some worry with any new release like this.  But most of what I've seen so far about the game makes me very hopeful that it'll be even more streamlined and fun than 3/3.5 was.  There are some pretty big changes and I know some of my friends would probably prefer it to be even more simplified and more like True 20, but as even my friend Ben (who really likes the True 20 idea) pointed out, for Dungeons and Dragons you should keep a certain level of defined classes and other iconic elements, otherwise it's just not quite D&D.

Some people are also worried it'll be too much like an MMO, because they seem to have taken a few ideas from things like WoW.  I think that's a pretty silly concern for a couple of reasons.  First of all if an idea is good and it makes things more fun, I don't really care where it comes from, and second, a table top role playing game with good friends and a good game master will never really be much like an MMO, unless that's the way the group wants it.

I have no idea when I'll get to play a bit with 4th Edition, as my current game is 3.5 and I don't see us translating this game into 4th Edition (it'd be a lot of work, and my character would be nearly impossible to translate without some serious house-ruling, since he has two levels of Psion, and Psionics aren't out for 4th edition yet, hopefully it won't be a multi-year wait for that).  Though I'd love to try out a short one or two session adventure with some people, just to see how the game works.

I've also been thinking about what sort of character I want to play next.  I've generally always played rogues, and I still love them as characters (I still don't know how other character classes handle having so few skill points), but I think in my next game I'm ready to try out something different (It's been fun adding a few levels of Psion to my current character, has given me a taste of more spellcasting-type classes).  I'm sort of tempted to play a pure Psion next, and I think that'd be pretty interesting, Sorcerers also seem pretty fun to me.  But I think I'd really like to try out a martial class of some sort.  I've always thought that playing a Monk would be an interesting role-playing opportunity, and I like the simplicity of fighters, and the idea of having lots and lots of feats, I also like psionics a lot so a psychic warrior might be fun too, but I think ultimately I might want to try out a Barbarian or something like it for my next game (but who knows what I'll want to try by the time that happens).  I love the idea of playing a "noble savage" sort of archetype, especially one modeled after some of my favorite parts of Conan.  That is, someone who's main strength is brute-force martial combat, but who isn't afraid to use some sneaking and rogue-like tactics to accomplish his goals when the need arises.

Anyway,  I've got a lot of other thoughts on  D&D and role playing in general but I'll end this now, and end with a few questions for you dear readers.

So are you excited about 4th Edition?  Have you been playing any interesting games lately?  Been looking at anything interesting?  Any other nerd-gaming thoughts?

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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So now that I have a bit more steady income, I think at some point soon I may go ahead and try to get one of those new-fangled rock-music games.  I won't be getting it in the next week or so, but once I've built up my bank account a bit more again, I'll get getting one of them.
Initially, since I don't know where I'd put the drums and other such things, and don't want to spend 170 on Rock Band, I figured I'd just get Guitar Hero III for the 360, and that'd be it.  But I recently realized it'd probably be cheaper to buy a used guitar hero II (or II for that matter) and a used copy of the game.  This of course made me think a bit more and I realized I could do the same thing but get a copy of Rock Band instead. 

So my question to all of you out there is which should I get? 

Since I probably won't be getting a set of drums anytime soon, and will probably mostly play single player for a while at least, is Rock Band as fun as Guitar Hero with just a guitar? 

Or is Guitar Hero the way to go for a more solitary experience?

Which one has more and better music (I'm counting down-loadable stuff here)?

Does one have more original artist recordings than the other?

Would I be better off getting Rock Band, with the idea that eventually I might get a microphone, and someone might bring over a drum set and or extra guitar (which I might eventually get anyway regardless of which game I get, so I can play with someone else).?

Any thoughts on either game would be much appreciated!

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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RIP Gary Gygax.

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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I haven't been a regular blogger for some time now, at least a year or two (I haven't gone back through my archives to see when the last time I was updating with any regularity was but it was certainly a while ago), but I may try to start doing it a bit more again. 
What better place to start than with my thoughts on the products and such announced at this years MacWorld?

On the whole, it seemed like a good steve keynote.  Nothing incredible or too terribly unexpected was announced, but a large number of solid products and services were announced, an some goodies were released within minutes and hours of the keynote.

The most immediately exciting thing for me was the iPhone 1.1.3 update.  The ability to reorganize the icons on my home page, and the ability to add links and such seems nice and will be really important come February when third parties get the ability to make apps for the iPhone (i'm really really excited about this).  Really though the feature that I'm most excited about and impressed with are the new features in Google Maps. 

When the iPhone was first announced and demo'd it was unclear if there was GPS in the thing.  When Steve showed us the ability to find starbucks' around the expo center it appeared that the iPhone already knew where he was. It didn't.  There was no gps in it, and you had to manually enter your starting address to do things like that.  It was mildly disappointing but not a huge surprise and not that big a deal either, as it's not that hard to just enter your current location.  Having google maps on my phone was still useful, especially when Sarah and I went on vacation and could get directions to various places with ease.  But it still seemed like it'd be a lot better with some sort of GPS style function built in.
1.1.3 gives us something approximating that.  By triangulating your position relative to cell phone towers or known Wi-Fi hotpsots the iPhone now gives you a pretty good approximation of where you are, and you can use that as the starting address (or presumably the ending one) for directions.  They also added the ability to move the "pin's" that show up in the map when you put in an address, which is good because sometimes G-Maps gets addresses slightly wrong (for example it's always been convinced that I live on the other end of my street.  Not a huge deal but indicative of potential problems with other addresses and such).  This feature is really quite impressive, and a very smart way to add a feature people want without having to upgrade the hardware.  (As best I know this feature doesn't replace GPS though, it can't follow you as you move around and tell you directions as you're moving, but it's still useful, especially if you're somewhere unfamiliar and want to find a restaurant or something.)

iTunes video rentals seems like a decent idea, most movies you only want to watch once or twice, and the rest you're likely to want to buy, so having a low priced option to rent them seems like a decent idea, but in the era of netflix, $3 seems a bit steep (and $4 for an HD one seems steep too) for something that I have to finish watching within 24 hours of starting (for a good explanation of why that's a problem see this post from Daring Fireball about why that's just too short, and honestly kind of strange.).  It could be good for an impulse buy/rent like "oh I want to see X right now" but for close to the same price I could go to a video store and rent something on DVD, with more features and less restrictions on how I use it.  I could also keep it for several days to a week and watch it at my leisure during that time.
If they lowered the price by about a dollar I might start considering something like this.  Assuming I were to get an Apple TV that is, which brings us to...

...the Apple TV.  Seems like they've finally added a number of features that people have wanted from the begining (like being able to buy/rent movies and music directly from the AppleTV rather than having to get them on your mac and then sync/stream them to the Apple TV.  It's also evidently got an upgraded interface and that's the only place you can rent HD content (probably because the studios are stupid and REALLY worried about piracy).  It's also cheaper than it used to be, and the old ones can be upgraded via a software update.  All in all it makes the AppleTV a bit more compelling but still not something I'm really excited about buying, especially since most of it's features can be duplicated by either my Tivo or my Xbox 360, with a small amount of work on my computer.  I was hoping Apple would introduce their own line of HDTV's with the features of the AppleTV built in.  Thinking about this a while ago I got really excited about the possibilities (I may write about that some later).

There was also the announcmeent of the "Time Capsule" which is an Airport Extreme BaseStation with a hard drive (500gig or 1 terrabyte) built in, for use as a backup volume for Macs on your network using Time Machine.  I believe it can also be used as a general network storage device too. It's cool but it's a feature that the old base station was supposed to have if you attached a USB hard drive to it, but they pulled the feature at the last minute, presumably because they couldn't get it working properly.  From what I understand the feature doesn't work well at all, even outside of using it for Time Machine.  I do hope apple steps up and fixes this problem (it is listed as a bug) soon, or it's going to look like the pulled the feature just to sell another product.  Hopefully that fix'll be coming soon as I can't really see any reason why having the hard drive built in would make it all that much easier for the feature to work than having it attached by USB.  If they fix that problem I might consider buying on of the base stations and hooking up my own hard drive to it.

The "big" news out of this keynote was the MacBook Air.  I'm not personally too excited about it because it's not really targeted at me.  It is pretty cool looking, and is impressively thin, but it's kind of expensive and lacks a lot of features I'd want in any laptop I got.  If I were some sort of road warrior and weight and size were a big issue for me, and things like a decent graphics card, and the ability to run really powerful apps weren't important to me I'd be pretty interested.  But I'm not, so it isn't all that exciting for me besides just looking cool.  I do like the "remote disk" feature is pretty cool and I could actually see it being useful in a lot of situations.  Basically because the Air doesn't have a disk drive of any kind, if you want to install software on it you can "borrow" the disk drive of a mac or PC in the area that has some software installed on it.  It's a pretty slick idea.  I don't know how much of  market there is for this sort of thing, this could be another Cube, ie something really cool that doesn't really have much of a market, or it could be a hit among certain people. Or more likely it'll be somewhere in between.

I'm excited to find out more details on all of these products as reviewers get a chance to use them hands on, and as more info comes out from Apple.  I'm also excited to find out about all the other smaller stuff that gets introduced by other companies at MacWorld.  All in all a solid if slightly less than thrilling Macworld so far.

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Sarah and I have realized that New Years Eve is nearly upon us, and we have no plans.  We have also found very few people who seem to have plans.  So our question is, does anyone have any plans?  Can we come?

Does anyone want to make plans?
Post here or e-mail me with any ideas?

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Anyone have some suspenders I can borrow for Halloween?  Trying to be the "80's guy" from Futurama, and it's the last piece I need for the costume.


Hermes: "Our new Cheif Executive Officer is.... That guy!"







Gavin: If you're going to dress up and don't have other plans already, remember your idea to be Landlord Elvis!

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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I've been working at the Kojo Nnamdi Show off and on for a bit as a freelance producer.  A while back I got to produce a pre-recorded interview with William Gibson, partly about his newest book Spook Country

Spook Country
William Gibson
(which I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of) but mostly just about his thoughts on technology and society and such.  This was needless to say VERY exciting for a nerd like me.  Anyway, that interview will be airing today on WAMU at 1pm EST.  If you have the chance and are interested please do listen, it's a fun interview, and Gibson is a fun guy to listen to and talk with (he's also very very friendly).

You can listen on the radio if you're in the DC area at 88.5 FM, or you can listen online at wamu.org.  You can even listen later on at the website or through the podcast of the Kojo Show.  Unfortunately because we had to do this interview as a pre-tape, you can't call in.

Also the interview with Paul Haggis beforehand at noon is pretty interesting, and the rebroadcast of the discussion on "Uncontacted Tribes" is pretty interesting as well, and I did most of the editing on it.

PS Spook Country is a lot of fun, and I'd highly recommend it to all of you!

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Woo off to vacation in Maine!

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Current Mood: amused amused

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From reasdream

Haven't done an online quiz in a while...Collapse )

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Current Mood: Awake
Current Music: Rhthm & Soul-Spoon-Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

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I just e-mailed a lot of people, but don't have everyones e-mail so I thought I'd try to hit as many people as possible by posting this as well.

I'm finally leaving ABC.  I'll write more of my thoughts on that later.  But I wanted to be sure that everyone who was interested and able knew that after my last shift ends this coming Saturday around 10pm, I'll be heading up to The Big Hunt in Dupont celebrate.  If you'd like to join me please feel free!

And if you can't make it out on such short notice, don't worry I'll hopefully be having a summer-themed outdoor party sometime soon, and I'm going to have weekends again!  So hopefully there should be ample opportunity to see me soon if you want to!

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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I know I'm a little late to the party on this, but I'm pretty excited about iTunes offering DRM free songs, and the fact that it looks like they're letting the providers to choose to offer songs DRM free on iTunes.  This should spell the beginning of the end of DRM for digital music.  I'm also pretty excited about the oft-overlooked addition that these tracks will be encoded at a much higher bit-rate than the standard songs on iTunes.  I'd prefer the option to download lossless tracks, but I'll take what I can get.  I don't really mind the price-hike as I perceive it will be a temporary thing and I've often said I'd pay a little extra to get higher quality tracks.
I'll still probably get most of my music on CD (because of the slightly higher quality) or from eMusic (because it's great and cheap), but this makes it much more likely I'll occasionally buy stuff on iTunes a lot more often than I do now.
Of course just today I was taking a survey from eMusic and they asked what feature I'd like most added to it, and I completely forgot to say I'd LOVE to have the option to get lossless tracks.  Completely slipped my mind.  Damn.  Oh well!

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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For anyone who doesn't know (I didn't until last weekend) there's a new NIN CD coming out in April called Year Zero.  Yes, Trent finally got off the 5 year plan.  I'm pretty excited about it, and the marketing is pretty amazing.  The album is a concept album set about 15 years in the future.  They are running an alternate reality game based around the world of Year Zero, I've gotten pretty into it.  As part of the game they've been releasing songs and videos and other things on USB thumbdrives that people at concerts in Europe are finding as well as well as other clues in things like concert t-shirts and such.  The most recent such leak contained this video.

There are a number of clues in the video that lead to various websites and such, but I won't go into too much detail here.
More info on the ARG can be found at the NIN Wiki, discussion on the Echoing the sound forums (Most of the ARG stuff is in the Art Is Resistance section) and a good place to start if you want to check out some of the websites involved before you start finding out everything that people have dug up on them, is the Wikipedia Page for the album.  Pretty fun stuff and I'm really liking the sound of the leaked tracks so far.

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Warning if you haven't read Cap #25 and have SOMEHOW managed to not have it spoiled for you, don't watch this.
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Warning if you haven't read Cap #25 and have SOMEHOW managed to not have it spoiled for you, don't watch this.

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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I had a bit of explanation as to why George Takei is awesome in the last version of this post, but really this video just speaks for itself.


What an awesome guy.

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Note to LJ Readers... The formatting of the pictures and such at the bottom of the page got a bit messed up, and got even more messed up in the translation to LJ. I've fixed it up on the Vox version, but don't want to bother messing with all the HTML necessary to fix them here. So, sorry about that...

So after being inspired by this guy, I decided to embark on my own project to deIclutter my desk.  This meant not only removing things from the top, but also cleaning up the rats nest of wires and such that existed underneath my desk.
So I went out and got a pegboard, some wire, and a few other things (like a USB2.0/Firewire hub, something I'd been meaning to get for a while anyway).  One of the first things I realized was that the structure of my desk meant that I would have a little less room to work with than some of the other examples I'd seen

online.  (Well to be fair I probably could have gotten more room to work with, but it would have gotten more complicated, so I just made due with the space that was easily usable on my desk).

Anyway, I spent most of Sunday afternoon trying to get everything placed such that everything and their wires (good lord there were a lot of wires!) would fit.  One of the first things I realized was that the wire I had bought was a bit too thick and rigid to be terribly useful.  The original project had used 18 gauge wire, I only found 16 gauge, and figured it'd be fine.  It wasn't.   I decided I'd go with zip ties as so many on the internet have suggested.  This was a very good idea.  I also used twist ties (I knew I kept them for a reason!) to hold down the wires.
Anyway, I got most of the stuff placed on Sunday, and just needed to buy a few more zip ties to finish the job on Monday.  That night I had an idea about how to avoid any issues with heat from my two external hard drives.


Originally I had planned to use some wooden pegs twist-tied to the pegboard to give a little room for airflow above the hard drives.  I still think that that probably would have been enough to avoid problems, but my new plan eliminated the problem entirely, and gave me some more room to work with on the pegboard.
I had previously had my hard drives on my desk, mounted vertically with these little stands the cases came with. It occurred to me that I could probably do the same thing, only hanging from the pegboard, rather than sitting on the desk.

Here you can see one of the hard drives mounted this way next to the pegs I was originally going to use. I used the plastic stands the HDD enclosures came with to give a bit more stability to the hard drives, but looking at the way things worked out with the zip ties, I'm not sure they were strictly necessary.  But  hey, better safe than sorry.

So eventually I got pretty much everything positioned and strapped down and ready to go.  I then went upstairs and mounted it all under my desk.  There I realized there were a few extra wires I hadn't really thought about that I had to deal with (such as the power cord for the computer, the USB and Firewire cords running from the hub to the computer, the speaker wire for my speakers, and the cord for my keyboard which was longer than I had remembered it.  But eventually I got everything strapped, coiled and tucked away!  Now my desk looks like this:

And here it is from below:


Vox kind of makes the picture a bit smaller than I'd like, so it's harder to see everything, but from right to left, in between all the wires we have my two hard drives, then the silver thing in the middle is the USB/Firewire hub, and the blue thing is an old USB 1.1 hub that I hooked up so I could connect keyboards and mice and other older USB things without using up 2.0 slots that I might need in the future for other things.  Then we have the power supplies for the hard drives and finally the power strip with everything plugged in.  As you can see, some of the wires are still a bit messy, and I may still go in with some more twist ties and clean up the situation a little, but for the most part things are pretty much done!
It was a fun project, and I'd definitely encourage others to give it a try.  It's very satisfying to put things together like this, and it's also nice to have everything out of the way, and reasonably well organized.
Oh and one last thing.  While I was at it I decided I'd mount the controller for my speakers under the desk too.  I just used some stick-on Velcro for this.  Now it's in a pretty handy little spot, and it's out of the way when I don't need it.

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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I was just reading Boing Boing and came across a great quote about the RIAA's efforts to ban public WiFi. And free anonymous speech in general. "After all anonymity fuels irresponsible behavior, like founding the United States."

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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So good news for all the Catan fans out there who are excited about the game coming to Xbox Live...

How far along is Big Huge Games in the development process?

We just sent a build off to test that we have high hopes will be our "final certification" build. In other words we think that Big Huge is done working on the product. If we're right, you'll probably see Catan on Live Arcade sometime in mid-to-late March.(!!!!)

-From an interview at Joystiq with the developer.

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Who was your best (or worst) elementary school teacher?
Submitted by Minnow

Definitely Ms. Lang.  I had a lot of good teachers in elementary school, but she was probably the best.  I had her when I first moved back to DC from Puerto Rico in the middle of 2nd grade, and she made me feel right at home pretty quickly.  She was also the first teacher to notice that while I seemed to do well in most areas, certain things seemed to mysteriously trip me up.  Once when I was having so much trouble with multiplication tables, (I still don't know a lot of them very well), she had me stay after school for a few minutes and quizzed me on them while timing me.  I did terribly.  Then she quizzed me on them without timing me.  I did quite a bit better.  She then revealed she had in fact been timing and that I had not only done better at actually remembering them, I had gotten a better time.
She then moved up to teaching 5th grade at the same time I moved up to 5th grade, and I had her again for certain subjects (math, social studies and maybe a few others).  She again noticed that I would really struggle with certain subjects and tasks but seemed to do extremely well on others.  She was the first person to suggest that I might have some sort of learning disability, and talked to my parents at some point about having me tested.

The next year I was tested, and she was absolutely right. I was then able to get the help that I needed all through middle school and high school, learn to deal with the issues I had, and get certain accommodations to help me where I needed it (including being able to take tests un-timed, which again mostly just meant I finished in the allotted time, but the pressure was off) .  This is probably one of the most important things I have ever learned about myself, and is certainly a big factor in my being able to do was well in school as I did.  It was also big confidence booster.  I learned that there was a reason I had trouble with certain things others seemed to be able to easily get, and I learned that there were things I could do to deal with these problems.  I wasn't just stupid.  And it's all thanks to Ms. Lang actually paying close enough attention to notice the problems I was having and actually doing something about it by talking with my parents.

Originally posted on droct.vox.com

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Stephen Duke of Brandonshire, Neo-Earl of Sandwich
User: droct
Name: Stephen Duke of Brandonshire, Neo-Earl of Sandwich
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