28 December 2005

Lotsa EVE

Okay, I have no excuse now for not posting something here. I haven't left my in-laws house for 4 WHOLE DAYS! Its been great.

So what have I been doing with my time you ask? Playing EVE online. I have made several million ISK over the holidays and have outfitted a pretty kick ass ship. Here are some screen shots.

I got caught in another ship while undocking. It took me a while to get unhooked.

23 December 2005

Busy, busy, busy

I am starting to despise this time of the year. I don't have two seconds to rub together. After my big work push finished, the adoption birthmother book started. Once the adoption book finished, present shopping started. Then we had to get ready to go to Portland, Oregon (where my wife is from).

My wife and I missed our last soccer game, not intentionally mind you, but because we plumb forgot about it.

I promise to blog more soon.

17 December 2005

Well here is the new/improved children's half of our adoption booklet. Since I moved to MS Publisher the pictures are crisper. I have used some photo editing tools to bring out the colors, but in the document's conversion to jpg, its lost some of the luster. I also have noticed that some of the pictures looked yellowed in the jpg. They don't look like that in the book (I don't think).


14 December 2005

Tardy Missives

So I said that I was going to try to post more since I am no longer working all day and night at my job.

That was the theory anyway – before my wife got a hold of me.

She has commandeered all my free time by making me work on our adoption booklet. I have moved from orchestrating the booklet in Microsoft Word to using Microsoft Publisher. I’ve gotten pretty good with it. It’s gonna be sweet when I’m finished.

My wife, however, has forbidden me to post the document to this blog. I think it is perfectly bloggable since you don’t tell birthmothers anything too identifying about you, just the interesting tidbits and generalities. It’s about the same level of intimacy of a blog. Still my wife has said no. I do plan to at least post the next draft of the children’s story when I get a chance (tonight or tomorrow) so you’ll get to see that half of the adoption booklet at least.

I’m going to actually post this last today so it ends up above all my other posts. I hope to write about a bunch of games:
  • My poker game Saturday
  • My DnD game last Thursday
  • My current board game obsession

DnD – Tomb of Horrors and Law Offices

Our DnD game has gotten fairly interesting. Basically I threw a bunch of ideas out on the table and then waited for my players to pick what they wanted and run with it. The ideas that we started with:
  • Repair a destroyed caldera and fill it with water to make waterfront property for a condo development.
  • One player is in the middle of a messy divorce. Her husband wants half her experience. His legal representation comes from a demi-lich.
  • Two of the players are running for mayor in my urban setting. One is a charismatic fallen paladin – someone that doesn’t mind doing bad things for the greater good. The other is a very, very ugly orc that is gradually becoming a god.
  • Another player has inherited a ton of money, but can’t get it due to a restraining order keeping him from it until his great-great-great-great-great grandmother’s will has been legitimized.
  • And lastly, one of the players has recently lost an arm. He still has it, but needs to travel to another plane to get the extra-dimensional pocket that exists where his arm was, removed so he can regenerate it.
Anyway, the party is pursuing the divorcee’s narrative right now.

I love using stuff that everyone is familiar with. Recently Wizards of the Coast has converted the classic Tomb of Horrors to the newest edition of the game. Now back when this module came out, it was the toughest of the tough. You had to be mega-powerful to even consider going into the Tomb of Horrors. To my disgust, they ported the module so mid-level characters could run it. The port to a medium power level just sucks.

So I just threw that version of the module away. Instead I have done my own conversion and instead of converting it straight up, I have changed the Tomb of Horrors to now by the Law Offices of Redaxe, Bonenose, Gronk and Acerack. (Acerack is the demi-lich; the other three are half-orc lawyers). Instead of having just killer traps and puzzles, I have also filled the halls with powerful clientele and other hard-to-kill legal aides. It should be fun.

Once the party rescued Nate (I’ll provide the link later, but I’m continuing from my earlier write-up where one of the PCs lost his left arm), they managed to steal his severed left arm from the Monks that cut it off. Rafael the Grey (the paladin mayor) hid the arm in his safe in his mayoral office. The two Monks of the Left Arm leaders came and fought with the party to get the arm back. All this fighting was going on while Rafael was being interviewed by city newspaper -- he has to appeal to his constituency, after all. Eventually the monks were dispatched, the arm was retained and the interview was concluded.

Days later, Elani (the divorcee) was subpoenaed by the court via the demi-lich law office. The demi-lich, of course, uses powerful undead to do the busy legal work, so the party fought with deadly winterwights (first seen in the incredible Return to the Tomb of Horrors boxed set, now a nasty critter detailed in the Epic Level Handbook). This subpoena forced the party to make an assault on the law offices since they assumed more winterwights would be forthcoming.

While this was going on, Dracustous was being coerced into signing away his inheritance to a Gold Dragon that claimed the hoard to be his. Dracustous assumed that the Gold Dragon had noble intentions (in the DnD game, Gold Dragons are a paragon of virtue). Instead he discovered that the Gold Dragon was just trying to acquire a “starter hoard”. Unfortunately for the party, Redaxe of the Law Offices of Redaxe, Bonenose, Gronk and Acerack is representing the Gold Dragon.

We stopped last week’s game right before the party was going to make its initial assault on the Law Offices. Just outside Redaxe, the Gold Dragon and a winterwight legal aide were going over last minute details of the Dracustous restraining order when the party showed up. Some force walls and force cages were spelled up before we decided to call it a night -- but no weapons were swung, no blood spilled. It's a DnD Mexican standoff!

I’ll keep the blog informed when this story wraps up.

Poker Howsssss

Last Saturday a buddy of mine, Robb, had a Christmas party. After the Christmas party a bunch of us retired to the back rooms to play a couple of Texas Hold’em tourneys.

I have been playing Texas Hold’em for something like six years now. I was playing the game well before the big poker boom – it was introduced to our group when I worked with Ed. Ed was a former casino dealer – and he said it was the best game to play. That’s when we got hooked.

Before tourney style, we just played Hold’em with infinite buy-ins. If you ran out of chips, you bought more. The problem with this method is that the stakes would always raise to the level of the person that valued money the least. For example, if $20 is a lot to me and I raise David $20 pre-flop, I expect David to feel the same $20 pressure that I do. If Dave comes back over with a $40 re-raise, is it because he thinks his hand can beat my $20 hand? Or is it because $20 means nothing to him and, for that matter, neither does $40? I’m kind of tight with money, so no matter what the odds are, I’m not going to chase $40. In the end, all the people that think $100 is a lot of money but think that $20 isn’t a lot of money end up raising the stakes of each pot to $100. It makes the game no fun for people like me. I want everyone to value his or her money the same way I do.

It wasn’t until Robb started running Texas Hold’em tourneys that the real enjoyment of the game came through. Tournament style equalized everyone’s $20. It cost $20 to enter. If you come in first from a group of around 15 people you get $150, second $100, third $50 (or something like that), so the “$100 is a lot of money “folk feel like it is worth their while to play because they can win a bunch of cash. The “$20 is a lot of money” folk can play as well because it only cost $20 to play one game. People that immediately go “all-in” and lose, exit early – so if you want to play cards, its best to be a tad more conservative than normal, lest you will be watching the game from the sidelines instead of playing.

In tourney style, going all-in means something. It means you are risking your chance to win $150 as well as risking your right to play cards. I highly recommend it.

Now that that is explained, I’ll discuss my experience at the tourney.

Remember when I said that tourney style equalizes everyone’s money? Well, I lied. Even when you don’t have the option to re-buy-in people still play overly aggressive. I made my living on those people. There was a lady at my table that was in every hand. More than that, she would stay in until the end of each hand. A couple of deals into the tourney I caught an ace, queen and matched my ace on the flop. The lady kept betting aggressively, like she was doing each hand. It took a couple of good hands like that and I took all her money. Tourney style lets you play people easier.

Another one of my buddies knows a lot about poker, but his basic nature is very, very conservative. When he is on the button he knows that he is supposed to raise and re-raise to chase people out of the pot. And I knew that he knew this so I would wait until he was on the button and regardless of what I had in my hand I would wait for him to raise. After his raise I would re-raise. This would chase everyone out of the hand except my buddy and me. Sometime around the “turn” one of my raises/re-raises would trigger his basic conservative nature and he would fold. I took a bunch of money from him doing that. If it weren’t for the fact that he only raised when he was on the button, I would have never considered doing that. I was playing the odds that he was trying to be a button bully and I know him well enough to know that being a bully isn’t in his nature.

Being a bully, however, is in my nature. Every time I ended up being the big stack, I bullied myself into the poorhouse. I can’t help but try to buy pots from people. I would say that the bullying worked 30% of the time – which isn’t enough to keep your chip stack. It seems once I was unable to play the easy targets, the more savvy players had little trouble taking me down. I came in 3rd on the first tourney, grossing 56 smackeroos.

In the second tourney of the night I was the big stack going into the final 6. Robb twice had pocket Jacks up against my Ace, 5. The first time it cost my one third my stack, the second time it kicked me out of the game in 4th place, just out of the money.

And then I lost $20 on high card (I drew a 3 of spades and lost to a queen of clubs – bleh!)

Re-living the Renaissance Via a Board Game

The crew I hang out with to play Dungeons and Dragons with is kind of splintered this December. Typically during month 12 of the year we take a break from DnD since most of our members are on vacation or busy. This year we get together anyway and play board games instead of DnD. Currently we have been playing Clans and Prices of Florence.

Clans is like a big game of tic-tac-toe – not really, but the mindset is the same. It’s fun to play in small doses since it runs about 30 minutes, and it’s simple enough to learn to play in about 5 minutes. But it tends to hurt your head and people that aren’t trying too hard can easily give someone else an unfair advantage allowing them an uncontested win. I can’t take too much of it.

Princes of Florence on the other hand is a great game. The learning curve is much steeper – you can teach someone to play in about 20 minutes, providing you know how to play. Learning the strategy of the game, however, takes forever. I have played 3 full games so far and I still don’t have a great handle on how to properly play.

What’s more incredible is that pretty much the entire game is determinable. There are no dice, and the randomness of drawing cards is minimized because anytime you would draw a card, you draw 5 and pick the best one. The players create all play variance – i.e. the game changes from game-to-game by people employing different strategies, not by dice rolls. It’s a great game.

The only bad thing about the game is the rules. The rules page makes use of two abbreviations that make up the cornerstone of the game, “WV” and “PP”. Nowhere in the rules are either of these two terms ever defined. My best guess is that WV means “Work Value” and PP means “Prestige Points”, but I am just guessing.

The premise of the whole game is that you are nobility in Florence during the Renaissance and you are trying to commission more great works of art than the other nobles in the game. You do this by buying up resources from other noble families, building your palazzo and granting your fiefdom various freedoms to help inspire your artists to create their masterpieces. The noble with the most masterpieces wins! I realize that the description of the game sounds like it would be impossible to represent that in a board game, but the people that made this game managed to do so.

So far my pal Ken has won two of the three games we have played. So now his head has swelled to monstrous proportions and he thinks of himself as actual prince. He’s not.

08 December 2005

Fahrenheit 12/8

This weekend the wife and I watched Michael Moore’s “documentary” on the Bush presidency and how it responded to the attacks on 9/11.  I put “documentary” in quotes because a lot of people scoff that Mr. Moore’s work is considered anything but propaganda.  In all truth, these days a documentary is anything that doesn’t have acting or animation in it.  It’s a catchall category for all sorts of messages.  I think too often people think of documentaries as historical pieces done by Ken Burns (if they are good) or get shown on the History Channel (if they aren’t so good).

Now I have always been a Michael Moore fan.  I loved his original piece Roger & Me circa 1990 because he was the first person I knew of that threw away any pretense that he was un-biased.  At the time he was new and original.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, he opened the biased news door and everyone followed him through it.  You can’t read a news piece any more without being hit over the head with bias.  I liked the illusion of “un-biased” journalism more than the frankness of biased journalism.  Now when I discuss a news story with someone I always have to answer the question of where did I see that particular piece?  If I saw it on FOX news then it obviously slants conservative, if on CNN – then liberal.

[An aside.  I have a co-worker/friend that is busy reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and is all enamored with the book.  He says that Ayn Rand is incorrectly labeled a conservative where, in fact, she is a liberal.  I’ll admit right now that I have never read an Ayn Rand book before – several people have said that I would like it – I’m not so sure.  But what bothers me about my co-worker’s statement is that when he described why she was a liberal, it was that she was a modern American liberal.  Not a standard, by the definition, liberal.  Americans abuse these two terms to actually mean Republican and Democrat, which is entirely not the case.  As per definition, a conservative holds the status quo and doesn’t want to change things.  A liberal, however, wants to change the status quo or at least have the “liberty” to do so.  By the real definition, I would say that pretty much everyone in congress is fairly conservative.  A few politicians have liberal ideas, but not many.  The only one I can think of off the top of my head is McCain, and he’s a Republican.  To make my point on this, anti-abortion is a liberal idea now as it is no longer the status quo.  Pro-abortion is the conservative idea as it is the establishment.  End aside.]

I don’t know what I like about Michael Moore.  I really don’t see eye-to-eye with him at all.  Deep down I think Mr. Moore is just a populist (someone rooted in the general population’s interest – usually pro-labor, anti-business) and I’m really against most populist viewpoints.

No, I do know what I like about Moore – he is an extremist.  Not really a radical or a reactionary per se, but extreme in his populist beliefs.  Even though his films show a huge bias, I believe strongly that what I am seeing is what Mr. Moore believes to be true.  I respect that someone with such opinionated opinions can rationalize them to the extent that he has.  I am even more impressed that he is able to clearly communicate those opinions to me.

Watching a Michael Moore film is like getting is a heated, but controlled debate with someone that knows what he is talking about.  And I always enjoy those debates – even if it is with a kook.

07 December 2005

The Gaul of a Goal

Well it’s about 7 hours before our next soccer game.  So I think I should write about my previous soccer game before the next one removes all trace of memory about it.

Since I always take my time getting to my point, I’ll state it early in this post:  I scored a goal.  I was the only one on our team to score.  I scored half our points.

I know, I know.  You are reading that last bit about me only scoring half our points, but yet earlier I brag that I was the only one on our team to score.  You’re thinking that something just doesn’t add up.  And you are right.  But now I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start at the beginning:

I was working very, very late last Wednesday night.  Since our game that night started at 9pm I was strongly considering not attending.  Alas, that wasn’t an option as my wife pleaded with me on the phone to “not let our teammates down”.  The ironic thing about that statement is that it is just as true on a really bad team as it is with a really good team.  Misery loves company and if you jet from a bad team, chances are, the rest of the team jets with you.  So if you are playing on the Houston Stinkinators then, damn it, show up each and every game so as to revel in your team’s putriscity with the rest of your teammates.  It’s a bonding experience at least.

So I end up changing in the car on the ride over to the indoor soccer match.  When was the last time you were butt nekid in a moving car?  Me?  Last week, a couple of minutes before our soccer game.  We were sitting at a red light at 8:55pm (so at least it was dark outside) and I had just taken off my boxers to put on my briefs when a Semi pulls up alongside us and stops as said light.  Semis are tall, so the driver had me at an uncomfortable angle.  Now I know that the trucker in there probably wasn’t looking, and even if he/she was, probably couldn’t see anything.  But, I bet, if they were looking and trying hard to see something, then they would notice that the dim luminescence of the red stoplight was just enough radiation to make out my jangly bits.  I figured that the less I moved, the less attention I called to myself.  So I just sat there in my seat with nary a stitch on from the waist down.  If that driver did detect my delicate parts then I bet I made for a fine story at the late night truck stop where all of teamsterdom listened to the strange tale of the SUV passenger that rode barebackside.

Simulated CB Chatter
HoundDog: “Breaker, breaker two-ninety, have I got a story for you!”
CapnCrunch: “Rodger that, story time!”
Brunhilda: “HoundDog, I got your twenty, gimme your story”
HoundDog: “There is a man sitting in his car next to me with no britches on! Over”
Brunhilda: “What do you mean by ‘britches’, no pants?”
CapnCrunch: “Strike that story, HoundDog, I have a Charlie on my tail”
HoundDog: “No pants at all, the man’s genitalia are glowing under a red light. It’s like a train wreck, I can’t help but stare – but I don’t wanna. Over”
CapnCrunch: “Charlie’s got me! I’m going down!”
Brunhilda: “Great story Houndy, now I’m gonna lay down some suppressing fire for the Capn!”

Oops… sorry… tangent… resuming course…

So when we make it to the game we have a plethora of people in attendance.  Throughout the game I was able to take time out and rest, as there was always someone there that could spell me.  (Not a hard thing to do, mind you.)

Well our second week enemy was much, much better than our first week opponent where we lost 19-7.  So you would think that a better team would make for even less fun – but that wasn’t the case.  Since the better team was more comfortable with less of a lead, they didn’t try to run up the score as much.  We ended the game with the score 15-2 (actually the scoreboard read 15-16, that we won, but I’ll get to that in a bit.)  Even though the difference in score was about the same from game one to game two, the second week team just played looser.  They were more fun.

Okay, here comes the point of this post now, so pay attention here.

We could not score on this team.  Their goalie was just too good.  Every once in a while when I would stop panting and actually had some energy to sprint a bit, I would attack their goal.  Since our team is out of shape, typically we would have only two people attacking the goal at any given time.  With their goalie and two of their defenders, our two attackers never had a chance.

Well, one of those times I charged down there with two other players, so we had three people attacking at once.  The ball was being passed behind me several times via my teammates and I don’t really know what happened to cause this – but there I stood, ball at my feet, goal straight ahead about four feet away, and nary a goalie or defender to be seen.  I reached down and grabbed a handful of carpet and threw it up into the air to see which way the wind was blowing (it wasn’t – we were inside), I got down on my knees to read the lay of the goal, then I got back up took six steps back and two to the side, and then I ran and kicked that ball straight into the goal for my team’s first goal of the night.

You would have thought we had won the World Cup with that score.  My team erupted with cheer and carried me off the field on their shoulders.  On the bench we gave each other Champaign showers and I was interviewed by Bryant Gumbal on just what that goal felt like.  (I responded that I couldn’t have done it without my teammates – though I didn’t mean it.)

After the gleeful celebration, we once again reverted to patheticness.  But so did the other team.  In a fit of…  I don’t know what, something though…  In a fit of something, the other team managed to score a goal on themselves.  I don’t really know what happened, I just looked downfield and saw a ball lallygag into their goal – and none of my teammates were anywhere near it.  Someone told me that the ball just got lose from their goalie and bounced off one of their players and ricocheted into their goal.

The owner of the facility thought that their goal on themselves was enough to justify giving us 15 points.  So at the end of the game the score was 16-15, Ballas win!

My New Computer Stuff

Since I have been hard at work, I have been making lots of money. So I decided to treat myself to some new computer equipment. Here are a couple of photos:
The only new hardware here are the monitors. Dual 20" monsters. It looks much better in real life.

Not quite real life, but a better shot of the monitors. That is a view of my current obsession, EVE Online. It runs in a mode that uses both monitors very well.

Lastly, my new laptop. I finally got one to take with me on trips to the Pacific Northwest. And it is a blazer. I get the second best Dell offered. It is meant as a portable gaming platform. I have spent the last hour taking all the crap that Dell installs on the system standard. That is a real pain.

Dell, your stuff is cheap and good. Your software bloat sux.

06 December 2005

O Blogtain, My Blogtain

The title to this missive is a massive, unrecognizable butchering of the famous “O Captain, My Captain” poem by Walt Whitman (I think that’s who wrote it). The poem was about Abe Lincoln after his assassination. The parallel to my blog is not as deep as an assassinated leader, but more a quick tie-in to the fact that any and all updates have been missing for quite some time – much like Abe was missing after he was shot.

Unlike Abe Lincoln, my blog will spring back to life with this post. I guess the real romantic in me thinks that Mr. Whitman’s poem did the same for the greatest leader America has ever had, but not quite the same way this post revives my blog.

[An aside: It is cumbersome just how well the Internet keeps people honest. In normal conversation I would claim to know that “O Captain, My Captain” was indeed penned by Walt Whitman. But, I really am just guessing. Since people that read this blog have immediate access to the Internet, I have to assume the cynics that read it will double-check that fact. I know that none of said cynics will post “Adam you are a moron, it wasn’t Walt Whitman, it was Machiavelli that wrote that poem – and it’s not about Abe Lincoln, you fool, it’s about a bottle of rum” – because that’s the type of readership I solicit. End aside.]

So I am haberdashing around my point here. My point is that I have an excuse for the long delay between posts. And that excuse is my job.

My division in my company has been working on a project for about a year now & tomorrow, Wednesday, is the big show’n’tell demonstrating our nifty project. Problem is, at the last minute we changed systems the project was running on. And, of course, it stopped running. About 7 bug fixes later we are down to probably our last bug. Bugs 1, 2 and 3 took about a day to ferret out and fix each. Bugs 4 and 5 took about two to three days to hunt and fix. Bug 6 was what we thought was our last bug, took me and three other people Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and some of Monday to fix. Of course after that was fixed, bug seven popped up (about an hour ago). So my life recently has been a bug hunting hell on earth.

So in the next few days I plan on the following posts:
  • Adam scores his first goal in soccer
  • My opinions on the Michael Moore’s movie, Fahrenheit 9/11
  • My one-day obsession with Marilyn Manson’s so-so cover of a great Patti Smith song
Until then I leave you with some homespun poetry:

A Walk With the Wife

There is a clear noise from above
A beautiful, rattling singing
Small birds using their lungs
While flapping, rapping and winging

“What kind of bird is that, I hear?”
Move under tree to look, not stopping
“Shrills are wonderfully queer, my dear”
And then I swallow a dropping

Warmth on my chin. Streak down my shirt.
Tang touches the back of my tongue
Clasp my mouth shut so hard it hurts
Wretched song from a songbird was sung
Wretched dung from a dungbird was wrung
Retching bile from my stomach was flung
Terse verses of my poem are done

-Obiwanchunn Whitman