Browsing articles in "Musings"

Irons on the Forge

Aug 22, 2012

Only a few weeks past my life was fairly boring. Decisions happened and now I’m struggling to keep up with everything. Strangely, even though the pace of life has quickened, I relish the chaos. Each and every element was of my choosing.

The largest element is the choice to find a new career. Eleven years ago I signed on to be a member of a start-up company. The atmosphere bordered on chaos but fostered creativity, adaptation, and teamwork. Four years ago that company was purchased by a corporate behemoth. Now my days are filled with bureaucracy, policies, and apathy. I do not fit and the situation is unhealthy for me and my productivity. Both sides lose. With any luck, I’ll shift back to smaller company where people are valued far more than a body in a chair with a number tattooed on a badge. Reflecting upon the early years, I realize that I was not passionate about the work but the creative element. My skill set translates well to areas other than the current focus.

In tandem with that decision, I’m making strides to buy some property in western Nebraska. The parcel is not expansive, merely a few acres near a lake. It is an old homestead site with run down everything; it has water and electricity. While I don’t need it, I want it and can afford it. Better said, it is my Fuck This, checkout, get the fuck out of Dodge, I am just not going to put up with the bullshit in front of me property. When I choose to no longer deal with the insanity of modern employment, you’ll find me there.

Finally, I’m having fun providing feedback on a new RPG project. Minor bits but even those are satisfying. I cannot say much else other than its a Western RPG. Based on the few morsels, I’ve seen, it should be a fun system. People playing old west bad ass people is … awesome.

Best Part of WotC’s Keynote?

Aug 16, 2012
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Ed Greenwood’s Beard

Beyond that there was the announcement that they will be releasing electronic documents supporting all editions. The failure was to mention in what format or what domain. I’m not going to sign up for the cluster that is DDI to get old materials. I might pick up some stuff if it was in PDF format (that isn’t badly scanned hacks). No telling what form it will take.

Everything else was mostly fluff. 5E might show up in 2 years. More playtest materials were released including non Vancian magic class variants. Plus the opportunity to roll more dice as a fighter. Plans for a lot of fiction and Forgotten Realms is the early candidate for 5E. Prep yourself for a whole new onslaught of D&D fiction. May the gods not take us down the DragonLance path again.

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Today calls for a little metal

Aug 15, 2012
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Doomsword reminds me a bit of Judas Priest with a heavier sound. They share a kindred spirit in epic lyrics. A little bit of metal brightened my day.

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Data Mining RPG Interests

Aug 13, 2012

Anyone who interacts with any service on the internet is subjected to data mining. Social media, search services, and even ad-hoc thoughts sent into the ether help build a model of who you are, people and brands you utilize, and what you find interesting. If are frightened by intrusive models, stop reading now.


The majority of modern online services are built on graph databases. Graph DB’s are not simple SQL oriented databases but rather a complex weave of relationships. Google knows what I search for, and who I interact with on G+. Amazon knows what books, and other media, I consume. Twitter would know who I followed and what I read ad-hoc if I used it more. Everything is a relationship of some type. Think of the idea as Mark knows X, Y, Z. He reads materials about A, B, C. Extend to unimaginable depths.

The concept is almost entirely absent in the RPG community. Most specifically, the community is not inclusive to players – not the designers, writers, artists or talking heads (such as myself). Those individuals want to interact with the end consumer but the majority focus on the intermediate consumer — the game master. Even that is done poorly. Far more people run games than talk about them online. Even more play games than choose to discuss them.

Contextual Keys

Information is king. Once a person begins to explore something in the RPG community, it is nearly impossible to easily expound upon the subject. You can search, drill down a few levels, and then end up back at the search engine to find you relevant results. Using technology, that same search could result in relevant blog posts, products, and even discussions on social media. How? Context of the search and the relationship graph. Each and everything reachable on the internet has clues embedded in the text, pictures, and videos. Those cues coupled with the graph model reinforce what is of interest at the moment.

The blog aggregation model is a dated relic. While minimally useful for browsing to find a topic of interest, nothing ties the individual bloggers together. Five people can post on the same topic but unless an author makes an effort to link other posts on the topic, the user browsing the topic hits the end point once it is read.

What if the aggregator had more knowledge? What if it actually extracted contextual keys from the post and could suggest similar articles? The idea is possible. Significant research has been undertaken to convert random bits of text into semantic keys. Those keys, in turn, can be matched to what is being read to suggest other alternatives. Taken a step further, that information could tie into a product database to suggest relevant products.

If it went a step deeper, the hypothetical service would also utilize the information being sought in tandem with that friends and associates have also read. Remember the graph? I’m friends with Bob. Bob read a bunch of zombie articles and recommended a zombie game. At a later date, I’m exploring zombies myself, and Bob’s history pops up suggested articles and the product he purchased.

How would it work?

Two different models need to be considered: producer and the visitor. The producer works for those few who already want to promoted something or expose their ideas to a larger audience. The visitor is the ultimate goal. The mechanism must be useful enough to drive them to disparate sites for readership, purchasers, or just to continue to explore ideas.

Producers have to start the process. They must agree to open consumption of their materials. For bloggers, feeds must be complete, not snippets of articles. To establish the relationship model, the idea of restricting information so an individual will be forced to visit a site must be abandoned. Likewise, the sales end-point for products needs to establish an API that allows contextual scraping. Not the product itself, just the marketing blurb. Opening the relationship information in the form of reviews would also reinforce the interaction. Recognizing that exposing information will result in visitation and perhaps sales should be trivial.

The experience for consumers has to be the predominate goal behind the idea. Bloggers sell articles in terms of page views. Publishers do so in the form of books. The idea has to open doors for the consumer to not only view posts but also provide a chance to buy a product. Consider traps as a topic. Hundreds of buried posts are available about constructing a good trap, thousands exist for specific implementation, and perhaps a handful of products to buy.

If the Consumer, C, was interested in traps, she should be able to find everything related. No matter the heritage or source. If C kept browsing Al’s trap posts, Al’s Book of Infinite Traps, would be highlighted (relationship, interest). If C chose to browse about, every article from A-Z on traps would have equal weight.

Final Thoughts

Nothing suggested is easy. The entire idea is based on personal frustration coupled with a realization that it is possible. While I’m a fan of the OSR, that doesn’t prohibit me from pondering modern ideas. A solution will exist in the near future. Perhaps it will be be someone with an entrepreneurial spirit or one of the big entities will allow specialization. Who knows?

Pork Tenderloin In Bacon Shield

Aug 11, 2012
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The weekend full of gaming is less than two months away. Time to prepare to fill some bellies.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

1 Tenderloin
1 Bacon Shield
1 Dabble of Dry Rub
1 Healthy Drizzle of Maple Syrup

For oven cooking, use a temperature of 375° for around an hour or until the internal temperature of the pork is 145-155 degrees. The test run is on a smoker rather than in an oven. The starting temperature was 325° then lowered to 260-275°

Wrapped, Spiked & Ready

Curious how to weave bacon to wrap your tenderloin or prepare it? The fine folks of Rusted Truck Ranch have this helpful video, which describes the process from start to finish.

After an hour with a nice dose of smoke, the bacon shield is looking delicious. I may salivate excessively for the next hour or so.

1 Hour In

After 2 hours, it looks even better.

Hour Two

The last picture I took before eating was very blurry. Fuzzy picture aside the final product was delicious.

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Fish Transport

Aug 8, 2012

Life has a way of tossing curve balls when you least expect them. I’ve had an aquarium at work for the last ten years. Today, that run came to an end. The fish made the trip home with me to a new home of their own. They will no longer be subject to software engineering babble.

The Oscar displayed his displeasure about the move on both ends. I was wet by the time I managed to wrangle him into a bucket. Then he repeated the event right before I moved him into the new tank. He has cheered up a bit. Could be that he discovered the bait I used to condition the tank prior to his arrival.


Reminds me of Randall’s last fish selection prior to his move. An oscar and a plecostomus were the only ones moved. They were plenty. Time flies.

Scottish Jobs

Aug 6, 2012
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I love lists of cool things. I’m always on the lookout for lists of cool things that can be applied to a role playing game. While the list of Scottish Occupations may fall a bit outside the date range for what I use in fantasy campaigns, it has some very cool entries.

Who knew a Beadman was a licensed beggar? Not I. How about a Chapper? That fellow was employed to issue wake up calls except it was door to door. Too fun.

Nothing like a random list to get the creative juices flowing.

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