Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Get Firefox 1.5

The latest version of the open source Web browser is now out, offering interface tweaks, faster page loads, better updating and more.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Control Lego Mindstorms via MacNQC

LEGO's Mindstorms robots are a lot of fun to play with but out of the box they don't work and play well with Macs; the software that ships with them is Windows only. Fortunately there's MacNQC (the NQC stands for "Not Quite C", which is programming language that drives the bots) which lets you update the firmware on your LEGO brainbrick, write and upload new programs, and run diagnostics on its hardware.

The software doesn't have the ultra-easy to use "drag and drop" interface which lets Windows users program their bots without actually having to write code, so you'll actually have to write code in order to control the bot. However, as this article in MacWorld illustrates, it's not all that hard.

I spent last weekend playing around with my Mindstorms (when I wasn't cleaning the basement) and I've now got a little robot that scurries around the first floor, much to the delight of my 2-1/2 year old. The current version has treads; I quickly learned that wheels don't work well when you've got a mix of carpets, hardwood floors, and assorted toddler toys scattered about (though Jordan did love it when she saw one of the wheels come flying off after a particularly nasty bit of failed robotic navigation).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I'm a gamer, but generally not a wargamer, mostly because the collecting/painting elements of Warhammer 40k and its kin just don't appeal to me. I want to game, not spend hours trying to get that perfect shade of red for my orcish shock troops, not to mention spending a fortune on miniatures.

Enter the perfect solution: BrikWars, which combines LEGOS with wargaming. Yes, now those LEGOS you played with when you were 12 can be used to throw "the peaceful worlds of your favorite construction toys into wanton chaos and destruction!" (so says the site). I started reading the rules over lunch -- looks cool, in a very geeky sort of way.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Death By Caffeine

A few years ago, the guys in my gaming group had a spirited debate about how much Mountain Dew you'd have to drink in one sitting before it killed out. Energy Fiend has the answer.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Radio Active Resurgent

I was finally able to record a new Radio Active podcast during lunch. It's mixing down now, and should be good to go by the time I get home. It's a short show -- about 20 minutes -- but man, it was really nice to be recording again! It was also nice to have the PowerMac back -- I didn't realize how much I'd missed working in the ol'home office until I was sitting down at my desk again.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Not the RPG Tool I was looking for...

In search for new role-playing game computer tools for a KODT column, I came across the U.S. Navy's "Regulation, Policy and Guidance (RPG) Comparison Tool".

From the site: "The RPG Comparison Tool allows you to simultaneously view subparts of the most current versions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the Defense FAR Supplement (DFARS), the DFARS Policy, Guidance and Information (DFARS PGI), the Navy Marine Corps Acquisition Supplement (NMCARS) and the Navy Marine Corps Acquisition Guide (NMCAG)."

I think I'll stick to Dungeons & Dragons.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows, the latest book in George R.R. Martin's epic, tragic fantasy saga Song of Fire and Ice is out Nov. 8. So the big question for me is ... print or audio? At this point, I don't know if I'd have time for either option, particularly with the latest Wheel of TIme book having just been released...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Snap, Crackle, Pop

I finally recorded Radio Active #19 last night, only to discover (after an hour's worth of work) that 80% of it was useless because of horrendous crackling line noise. I don't know why that happened -- I'd used my USB headset with the PowerBook before without any problems, and yet last night everything was fubar'd.

Argh. So I guess tonight I'll have to experiment with using the headset on the ol'iBook. If all else fails, I guess I can just use the build-in mic for the PowerBook; the quality won't be that great, but at least it'll work.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

XML Nanny

Want to validate that pesky XML, but don't want to go online to do it? Then check out XML Nanny, a Mac-based (sorry Windows people) validator. From their Web site: "XML Nanny is a Free Mac OS X developer tool that provides an Aqua interface for checking XHTML and XML documents for Well-Formedness and Validity either locally or across the network."


Monday, October 24, 2005

Designing Web Usability

In preparing for an upcoming redesign at work (as well as Nuketown's on makeover), I've been re-reading many of my classic usability texts. This weekend focused on Jakob Nielson's Designing Web Usability, which is one of the best books focusing on what makes a site work ... and what makes it fail.

The book dissects what makes for good page and site design, including consistant primary navigation, bread crumbs, "See Also" links, and much more. Unfortunately, he doesn't delve into some subjects that i could really use, such as effective form design, the usefulness of persistant secondary navigation, and approaches to data validation.

It's a good read, but I couldn't help but wish that this 1999 edition had been updated. Six years is a long time, all the more so on the internet, where we've experienced the dot bomb and its aftermath, the explosion of broadband access, and the arrival of cool (and useful) new technologies like AJAX (which powers Google Maps. Still many of the lessons that were true in 1999 remain true now, and I still think it's worth reading. Nielson can occasionally sound like he's scribing God's word on tablets, but he backs up his proclamations with data from user testing, which makes it all tolerable.

All in all, if you're designing for the web, you need to read this book.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Frames Are Never the Answer

I've been using the basic version of Blackboard (online course software) at my day job, and I just want to say -- in case any Blackboard execs happen to stumble across this post -- frames on web sites are never the answer little camper!.

Oh sure, it seems like a good idea -- you get easy persistant navigation, and you can trap other pages within your frame set but a) you lose the ability to book mark pages (unless you're careful, which Blackboard is not) and b) sites were not meant to be trapped within frame sets. THey look like crap, they're hard to navigate and oh, you can't bookmark them.

So remember folks, if someone ask you if you want frames ... you say no!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Web Apps with Tiger: Getting Started

A useful article on how to get OS X's preinstalled versions of Apache and PHP running on your Mac under Tiger. For those looking for more current versions of both, check out this article, which details installing Apache 2 and PHP 5.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yes, there is another...

For a long time, I've been searching for another geek tree. And I finally found one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Keychain Weirdness

I rebooted my PowerMac for the first time in a few weeks and when it came back up again, Mac OS X was demanding access to the "System" keychain. Weird, but I figured some update must have happened that required an update to Keychain. So I entered my password -- the password I use for all of the system stuff on that machine -- and it told me I was wrong.

In all these years of using Macs, I've never had one do that (well, not when I knew the password was right). I'm tempted to delete the keychain file and let it rebuild it but a) it's for Airport, and doing that may fubar my wireless connection b) I'm not sure if anything bad will happen when I do that and c) it doesn't appear to be affecting anything. The Mac can still join the wireless network, and isn't throwing any other errors. Rather than be hasty, I'm going to chat with a few Mac folks at work tomorrow (one of the many great things about my new job is that most of the people I work with are Mac people) to see if they can think of a possible work around.

It's an annoying error, but better than the ones I'm seeing on my wife's Viao, which spontaneously decides to freeze up while running on battery power.

Ugh. A geek's work is never done.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Poison-Crafters of Obsidian Bay

After one gaming session in which my players decided to go looking for poison with which to subdue a wizard who'd been polymorphed into a wand of wonder-wielding monkey (it's a long story, but you can read it here ) I decided to do a write-up on "The Poison-Crafters of Obsidian Bay". It offers a run down of the more legitimate poison-crafters in the Free City.

Friday, September 30, 2005

iChat Video Tester

Want to see if you're iChat Video setup is working, but don't have anyone to practice with? Try adding one of the following AIM accounts to your iChat buddy list: appleu3test01, appleu3test02, or appleu3test03. (make sure they're AIM accounts, not .Mac accounts).

Once these accounts are in your budy list, you can double click on them and start a video chat. An Apple promo clip should start streaming, and with any luck, you'll see your own video showing up in an inset window. Very cool.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Feedback for a Friend

Lance is looking for feedback on his blog, Ditlog. Please give him some.

Followers of the Earth Dragon

I've posted a write-up on the Followers of the Earth Dragon to the Griffin's Crier, providing a background of the sect in Obsidian Bay, as well as write-ups on several important NPCs.

For those who don't know, the Temple of the Earth Dragon represents a sort of benign, Conan-like cult that worships a primal earth force on the Pomarj peninsula in the World of Greyhawk. Except that they may not be so benign. Or maybe they are ... that's the fun part of being a play immerse in a larger plot, you just never know, do you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lost and Found

One more thing about running home for lunch that's cool: finding out what Netflix DVDs arrived. Today, after finishing up my corn beef sandwhich, I browsed the mail and discovered that Disc 1 of Lost was waiting for me. Granted, I won't be able to watch it tonight because we're having a birthday dinner with the in-laws, but still, it's good to know its there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I've been searching for extra content to round out Radio Active -- particularly sweepers and short blurbs I can use to break up segments. Today I found a cool site offering just that -- "FreedomAds.org", which is the final web site for a libertarian ad contest from a few years ago. I wish they'd kept it current with additional clips (and made sure that the links to the brochures were all intact), but there's definitely a few audio segments that I can (and will) use on my show.

No, I'm not looking to turn Radio Active into a political diatribe, but I will entertain the occasional philosophical detour.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Yes I can...

... run home and record a podcast during my lunch break. Granted, its a shorter one, and I didn't get to actually eat lunch, but it all was doable. That's good to know, since with a napless Jordan around it can be near impossible to get one done during the day on Saturday or Sunday. The show's not up yet -- I still have some post-production and coding to do -- but short of a disaster, I should be able to get Radio Active #16 up tonight.

Day in the Life of a Gamer

Lance, a good friend, a long-running member of my Dungeons & Dragons campaign and a fellow WoW obsessive, has launched a blog of his very own, called Ditlog: day in the life of a gamer.

Lance describes himself as "a father, husband, and homeowner still trying to find time to game...", which is a quandry that I'm sure many older gamers can relate to. So check out the blog, leave a comment or two, and tell 'em Nuke sent you.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

iPod nano

Excuse me while I drool.

This new iPod is pencil thin; that's not a metaphor, it really is that thin. It looks pretty nifty, but with this -- and the iPod shuffle -- I can't help but wonder if I'd accidentally destroy it by forgetting I was carrying it. I mean, with my 2G ipod, which is like a brick compared to these things, I know I'm carrying it, and even then I have to be careful not to forget.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Town Generator

Town Generator is a new Mac OS X utility for randomly generating towns and cities based on the rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide. It's off to a good start, but I really wish there was some way to get the data out of the program -- i.e. a town statblock that I could cut and paste into some other document or heck, even a printout.

The developer has a blog entry for the program where folks can leave feedback (as I'm about to do). And yes, I'll be adding this to Nuketown's Mac RPG page as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Short Walk

I don't miss my commute. Not one bit.

On Monday I walked to my new job, about eight blocks and 10 minutes from my house (20 if I stop for coffee at the Cosmic Cup). It's been hellishly humid, which makes things uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as sitting on I-78 for an hour.

And heck, if I feel like it (like say, today) I can hang out at the coffee shop for a half hour or so, writing for Nuketown, checking up on the weather, listening to jazz, whatever.

As for the job itself, well, it's meeting and often exceeding my expectations -- cool people, cool technology, cool campus, cool college. Noticing a trend here?

Truth be told I haven't been able to really sink my teeth into the Web stuff yet, as I'm still running the meeting and paperwork gauntlets, but I've got a good idea where the challenges lie, and what I'll be tackling first.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ayn Rand Comes to Philadelphia

Almost evertying associated with the Ayn Rand Institute seems to happen on the West Coast, since that's where it's headquarters is. But in September they're coming east, with a talk called "The State of ARI", given by Yavin Brook, the institute's executive director. It's being held at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 6 at Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue, 42000 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19313. For more information call (215) 879-4000.

I doubt I'll go, what with starting a new job and all, but its nice to see they'll be in the area.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


What a difference a few weeks make. I've finally finished up at my old day university day job, and am enjoying a week off with my family before I start my new (and very, very, local) college day job. I had my first official function at the new job: a gathering of new faculty and staff hosted by the college's provost. It was very cool -- I got to meet a few of my co-workers, talk about the college and generally have a good time. All in all, it was an excellent experience, and proof positive I made the right decision in leaving my job of seven years.

On a geeky note, right now I'm seeking out Tinkertown in Ironforge, intent on taking the Deeprun Tram to Stormwind in order to complete a quest for my 10th level dwarf, Delven.

Yep, I'm playing World of Warcraft. I'll admit I'm slightly buzzed as I do this -- Sue's sleeping, Jordan's at the grandparents, and if there was ever a time to throw back a beer or three and play Warcraft, this is it. I'm on vacation, don't need to get up until whenever, have a ready supply of Weyebachers beer and a newly iTunes-purchased copy of The Cult: Greatest Hits; yeah, it's a pretty damn good night for gaming and drinking. Plus, as all geek dads can relate to, an opportunity like this won't come along for another six months, if then!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Forum Speakth

The forum is coming along nicely; we've got seven members and a few active conversations, including "What are you reading now?", Dead SciFi RPGs and Radio Active Show Feedback. I expect it'll take a month or two for it to really get up to speed, but its nice to see things are picking up.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Spycraft 2.0

I'll be picking up a copy of the 2nd edition Spycraft rule book as soon as I can find one. From what I've read on Alderac's Web site and on the Spycraft Yahoo Group it looks pretty darn good: they appear to have streamlined the system nicely (gear up in 10 minutes? excellent!) while at the same time making the system generic enough to run a variety of present-day and near future adventures.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Nuketown on SCIFI.com

Nuketown's reviewed in this week's edition of SCI-FI.com's Science Fiction Weekly. Very cool.

Radio Active #13

Radio Active #13 is now live; this time around I talk about the Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 Soundtrack, talk about recent updates to the mothership, offer a brief review of The Random Signal podcast, and review the Monster Manual III sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons. Check out the show

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Nuketown Forum Launched

Nuketown's back up, and I'm happy to say that the ol'thermonuclear burg's much-discussed, long-delayed online message forum is finally online. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Nuketown's Down

I don't know what the problem is, but Nuketown's down. This particularly sucks because I'd finally gotten the forum software up and running last night, and was hoping for formalize the list of discussion topics today, with an eye toward publically launching the whole thing tonight.

We're working on getting it back up; I expect that'll be sooner rather than latter. Or at least, I hope it will be.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

E-mail Hell

You know, you never realize just how deep an e-mail hole you're in until you sit down and take a good, hard look at your inbox.

That's what I'm doing tonight, and man, what a freaking mess this thing is. A summer's worth of haphazard correspondence, not to mention a small but annoying pile of spam that managed to evade my filters has piled up. And sorting through it all, sending off responses that should have been sent off weeks ago, may take me to the wee hours of the morning.

Or at least until 9:30, when I'll be meeting some friends for Warcraft.

Something Strange This Way Comes

Nuketown is switching hosting providers, and that could result in some strange errors as the DNS servers switch over. Errors will probably be limited to the occasional weird MySQL result complaint, and perhaps a few lost pages, but we expect all of the hiccups to be over within 48 hours. At that point we'll be able to do some really cool things ... like install our bright, shiny new message forum!

I won't be posting to Nuketown until the DNS change has propegated, so you'll have to rely on The Atomic Age for all your thermonuclear commentary needs.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Dragon's Landing

I'm eager to check out the The Dragon's Landing Inn podcast, which I just heard about today via Mur Lafferty's podcast. It's a gaming centric podcast, and seems to have diverse tastes, as evidenced by the notes for Show #3.

Show #3? Man do I have ever have some catching up to do. Unfortunately the show comes too late for my Knights of the Dinner Table column on gaming podcasts, but at the rate at which these shows are proliferating, I may have to do a second one later this year.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Audible's posted a release date for Robert Jordan's Lord of Chaos: August 16. Which is three days before I leave my current job and go on vacation. I was hoping it would come out in early August, so I'd have time to listen to it during my still-henious 2+ hour commute, before transitioning to my new and improved 5-minute commute at my new job.

Oh well, three days it better than no days. And I'll still be able to listen to it in 10-minute blocks on my way to work once I move on...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Joystiq Podcast

The Joystiq gaming blog, which I read pretty frequently, is launching their own podcast. The blog focuses on console and computer gaming (rather than pen & paper) and it's a decent read, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with an audio format.

Monday, July 25, 2005

RPG: A Random Password Generator

While searching for Mac role-playing game tools, I came across the very nifty RPG (Random Password Generator) program for Mac OS X. This program will generate very tough passwords with a variety of permutations: upper and lower case, numerals, special characters, variable length, etc.

It's great for anyone who's looking to create passwords that are a little more unique than their cat's name.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


I generally don't go in for these environment-specific supplements, but Stormwrack looks interesting. From Amazon.com:
A complete guide to playing D&D in sea and storm. The third in a series of beautifully illustrated supplements focusing on play in specific environmental climes, Maelstrom™ contains rules on play in watery environments. Not only are rules for sea campaigns offered, but rules for including water environments in land-based D&D campaigns and dungeon adventures are also covered. Included is extensive information on lakes and rivers; hazards such as exposure, storms, and waterspouts; races, including non-aquatic races associated with the sea; equipment, including detailed deck plans for ships; monsters; magic, including psionic elements; skills; feats; and more.

The name in the description doesn't match that in the title on Amazon, but it sounds interesting either way. Rules for adventuring in water are always hard to come by, and I particularly like the idea of detailed ship plans -- we definitely need more of those.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Blizzard Ponders Portable Starcraft, Diablo II

Joystiq is reporting that Blizzard is asking their fans whether they'd be interested in the Playstation PSP and the Nintendo DS versions of Starcraft and Diablo II.

Too freaking cool. The DS would be perfect for Diablo II's slash-and-click playstyle. I never played Starcraft so I can't comment too much on that, but I'd definitely love to see more RTS strategy games on either platform.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Radio Active #11: The Clock Strikes The 13th Hour

I recorded this podcast on the 13th, but only got around to posting it today, which just goes to show that I really need to format my show notes before I do the podcast (the notes having been the big hang-up). Anyway, this edition of the show focuses on a review of Midnight Syndicate's The 13th Hour horror rpg soundtrack. Check out the show.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Scarred Lands Fan Sites?

I was thinking of doing a Summon WebScryer column on Scarred Lands for Knights of the Dinner Table, but I'm having a devil of a time finding any fan sites. It could be that the setting's fan sites have died off with the line itself (White Wolf recently killed the setting) but still, there should be plenty of sites out there ... if Star Frontiers can still have its loyal legions, then you'd then that Scarn would still have a few kicking around.

It's disappointing, because I actually like the setting (and play in a monthly campaign set in Scarn). I'm not sure if the net noise -- Scarred Land product listings and review -- is hiding the fan sites, or if they're just not there, but either way I'd like to find them. If you know of one, please e-mail me or post a comment.

Monday, July 11, 2005

All Things Jeep

Sue got me one of All Things Jeep's "Life is Good" t-shirts, which just freaking rocks (and which I'm wearing right now).

I love the sentiment, which is a very Jeep-thing (as well as a very Objectivist thing). I notice they have a bunch of cool Jeep bumper stickers, so I think I'm going to have to order a little something from the site myself.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Lord of Chaos

Audible's "Coming Soon" list now has Robert Jordan's Lord of Chaos book being released in August. That's excellent -- I've really been hankering to listen to more Wheel of Time novels.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Science Fiction Podcast Network

Good news everybody! Mike Stackpoole (yes, that Mike) and a group of other scifi podcasters has put together The Science Fiction Podcast Network. They've got great plans -- great I say! -- and invited me and Nuketown Radio Active to participate.

It took me a while to get my act together (Mike e-mailed me back in mid/late June but now that I've recovered from vacation, I've finally signed up. I should be up on the SFPN home page in the near future. I think this is a fantastic idea -- podcasts in other genres are organizing, and with podcasting being incorporated into iTunes 4.9, this is a great time to do it.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

World of WarCrack

I finally broke down and bought World of Warcraft, partly because moving Nuketown over to a new host saved me about $30 a month, partly because a campaign member is moving to Portland, and the game provides a way to keep in touch, partly because about half of my D&D campaign is playing it and and mostly because well, it's really freaking cool.

I'm going to be playing on the Thunderhorn server, and -- in a nod to my fallen D&D campaign, I'll be playing a wizard named Zilanderan on the Thunderhorn server. In the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, Zil was a half-crazy mage-blade convinced he was from another plane of existance. In this one, he'll be a fiery, but more grounded, battle mage.

As far as how the install went ... the key word is "long". There are four install CDs, and after going through the account creation process and logging in, I was amazed to find a 174 mb patch waiting to be downloaded. Not cool, but hey, it's 3 a.m. and everyone's asleep, so if I've got to download a big ass file, now's probably a good time to do it.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Radio Active in iTunes Directory!

I just got an e-mail from Paul Maclean's noting that Radio Active is listed in Apple's Podcast directory. Very cool, especially since I never submitted it! Now I really need to get off my ass and update the RSS with Apple's optional codes.

Go Daddy!

I recently registered GriffCrier.com with GoDaddy.com, and I was astounded by how well it worked. It took about a half an hour from the moment I registered the site and set-up the DNS entries to when the site was up and working via its real Web address. Fantastic!

The only downside was when they called to try and upsell me to their "anonymous" domain registration, but such is the way of corporations, so I wasn't too bothered by it -- I got a good rate on the registration, and the phone call wasn't that intrusive.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Radio Active #9

Radio Active #9 is now online and available for listening. I meant to post it before I went on vacation, but -- as is too often the case before vacation -- I ran out of time.

The podcast includes a review of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow, Wizards of the Coast's D&D rules supplement Libris Mortis, and update on the Atomic Swindlers contest, and speculations on toddlers and Star Wars.

Gibbering Mouther

The message forums at GriffCrier.com are now active. Both campaign and non-campaign members can post, so feel free to stop by and say hello!

Thursday, June 30, 2005


After years of threatening to do it, I've finally gotten around to creating an independent Web site for The Griffin's Crier, the site for my long-running Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The new site can be found at www.griffcrier.com.

I'm still working on converting the site over from its old home on Nuketown, so not all the database hooks are in place yet, but it should be done by the end of the week. I've also implemented a new online discussion forum for the site.

All of this is important to Nuketown because I'll be moving the ol'thermonuclear burg to the same host as the Crier later this month, which will finally allow me to do things like implement a robust, threaded online message forum (the same kind, in fact, as what's on the new GriffCrier). The move will also save me about $30 a month, which means I can finally give in to my impulse to subscribe to World of Warcraft...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Back East

After nearly two weeks in Idaho visiting my wife's older brother and family (along with her parents and younger brother, who traveled with us), Sue, Jordan and I are finally back home.

Idaho's a great place to visit -- beautiful vistas, nice people, great terrain. But it is nice to be back home, where I'm two blocks from a coffee shop and high speed internet access is as common as water.

I figured out my Nuketown problems just before I left; apparently my hosting provider changed something on the server, and as a result the PHP includes that had been working just fine for the last year were suddenly broken. That in turn caused a series of unending queries to the database.

It's all fixed now: the includes have been changed to something the server likes and I revised my code to fix the query stall problem. My D&D campaign web site, the Griffin's Crier, is still down, but should be up later this week.

There may be a few other Nuketown snafus in the near future, as I'll be switching to a new hosting provider, and that's always something of an adventure (particularly since the DNS entries have to change). But bear with me -- in the long run, this is all for the good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Temporarily FUBAR'd

For reasons I don't fully understand, Nuketown is currently down. I think it has something to do with my Web server suddenly having issues with the various PHP includes on the site (non-PHP include pages for stuff like my old Pirates campaign are working just fine). I'm not ruling out a database problem, but the includes seem the likely suspect.

When I contacting my hosting provider after getting an error logging into the MySQL database, their initial response was "What MySQL database? We're not showing that account has one ..." This despite the fact that several minutes before I got their response, I was able to get into the database.

Hopefully things will be back normal sooner, rather than later, but with tech, you never know.

Later ...

So it seems to be a combination of things. Partly me being stupid for not closing out some of my "mysql_query" strings properly, partly my hosting company for messing with the server config without telling me, thus causing all of my PHP include files to melt down.

The result? Well, on the home page, lots of SQL errors. On the sub pages, lots of nothing. On the plus side, now that I know what the problem is, I can start fixing it.

It's going to be a damn long night.

Much later ...

It's done. With the exception of the troublesome Links section, Nuketown is fully functional. I still need to restore the sites for my D&D and Spycraft campaigns, but at least the ol'thermonuclear burg is back online. And it only took me four hours to fix it...

Monday, June 13, 2005

iPodderX Headaches

I recently upgraded to iPodderX, and I don't know if it's me, my preferences, my Mac, the software or some combination of all of these, but it's not working that great. Some podcasts it downloads and inserts into iTunes, just the way its supposed to. Others it appears to download, but not move over. And some feeds it simply ignores, even when I know the feed is correct.

I need to mess around with my settings some more and after that it'll be over to the iPodderX forums to see if I can get some help, and to find out if anyone else is having these headaches.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Book Posters?

I have been searching, without much luck, for some place that sells posters of book covers. I would love to get my hands on a poster of one or two of the Dark Tower novels, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and maybe a Harry Potter novel. Unfortunately though, I haven't been able to find any place that sells such things -- the closest I've seen is the wall posters you see at Barnes & Noble, but after asking the clerks at the store, it seems like they don't have any policy for selling those posters if/when they get rotated out.

It would seem logical to me that B&N would offer such posters on their Web site, but alas, no. Their old "Prints & Posters" section had the occasional odd book-related print, but none of the posters they had on the walls in their store. Still, there might be hope -- B&N says they're overhauling that section so maybe we'll see those posters yet.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Madness in Audio

It's been a long hard road, but Radio Active #8 is finally online. This is the Atomic Swindlers-focused podcast, in which I do an audio review of the band's album Coming Out Electric and play two of the album's songs.

I originally recorded this poddcast back in late May using my normal GarageBand 1 setup, but when I listened to it I was horrified to find that the songs sounded like crap. After mucking around and actually reading some of the documentation, I discovered that GarageBand only allows you to have one "tempo" for a recording, normally 120 beats per minute. If you try and import something with a different tempo, then GarageBand alters the song to match the default GarageBand tempo, effectively speeding up or slowing down the song (depending on what it's tempo was relative to GarageBand).

You can change the tempo in GarageBand, but since the Swindlers had several different tempos for their songs, I would have only been able to match the tempo on one of the two songs I played.

Annoying eh?

Frustrated, annoyed and a little panicked -- I was trying to keep Radio Active on a regular schedule -- I decided to fire up Audacity, an open source sound recorder and editor. That led to a series of abortive podcasts which I thought everything had worked, but in fact, portions of the podcast -- particularly the songs -- kept dropping out. Turns out that my great plan of using generated "silence" to space out the audio clips was causing all kinds of havoc during the export; that's when I discovered how to use the "align to cursor" function to line up the segments.

After about two weeks of work on the podcast, I finally got something useable up. More than useable actually -- I think the podcast sounds pretty good. Heck, although it was much harder to use than GarageBand, I think Audacity produced a better sounding podcast. For Radio Active #9, I think I'm going to try Audacity again, and see what folks think.

Geek Culture

During a random bit of Web surfing I turned up "Geek Culture: An Annotated Interdisciplinary Bibliography" that details a variety of reports on aspects of geekdom, including gaming (pen & paper and computer), online interaction, and various social stereotypes. A good resource for anyone finding themself in an unexpected cultural flamewar.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hell is Humid

The air conditioner went in our home office, on the third floor, in what is probably the second hottest, if not the hottest, room in our house. I tried installing a back-up AC unit I got from a friend last summer, but it just can't keep up with the heat that this space generates. So now I'm on a virtual quest to find an air conditioner as soon as possible so we won't drown in our own sweat while working in the office.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


I just found SpellbookMaster, which is a d20 spell management program for the Macintosh. I haven't tried it out yet, but its definitely going to be added to the MacRPG page.


After lingering on death's door for the last year or so, I finally decided to ditch my G3 iBook's faltering battery (which was nearly 4 years old) and replace it with a new one. The electrical goodness is now flowing to the iBook's circuits, and it has gleefully informed me that it has 5:35 hours worth of battery time left. Given that it used to hold a 20 minute charge -- if I was lucky -- this is quite a change.

On a somewhat related Apple note, I got my letter yesterday detailing the terms of Apple's iPod battery settlement which -- if I read it right -- entitles me to a $25 cash rebate or $50 store credit. My second-generation iPod has held its charge fairly well -- after two years I end up needing to charge it about every other day, but I usually hook it up every night to drink deeply of the ionic elixer and to download my daily podcast fix. I'll probably take the $50 store credit, and perhaps put it towards an iPod shuffle...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Poop Emergencies

I nearly snorted coffee out my nose listening to Mur Lafferty recount her recent Very Bad Day on Geek Fu Action Grip this morning.

Of course, the experience -- involving a toddler, potty training, a coffee shop and unexpected poop incident -- wasn't at all funny when it happened to Mur, but listening to it, well, let's just say, I've been there. Or at least, in the vicinity of there, as I expect that most parents of two-year-olds have.

We're still at the very beginning of potty training with Jordan, but I could all too easily see this happening to me (or Sue, or both of us), and combined with some of the experiences we have had, well, I had to laugh.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Shadow of the Hegemon

This is the sequel to Ender's Game I've been waiting for. While the original sequels (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, etc.) told Ender's continuing story, they didn't address what I was really interested in: the fate of Earth and Ender's Dragon Army after the victory over the Buggers.

Shadow of the Hegemon does exactly that, telling the story of Ender's fellow Battle School graduates, and following the rise to power of Ender's older brother, Peter, and his rise to eventual power as the Hegemon of Earth. Once again Card drops us back into the minds of these brilliant, too-mature children as they struggle to evade the control of the governments who seek to use them to conquer the Earth, while at the same time trying to figure out the best way to bring about a lasting peace.

It's a fascinating read, delving into the political manipulations that were integral to the planet-side portions of Ender's Game that were so missing from the original sequels. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the book, but I'm already enjoying it immensely. Not as much as Ender's Game -- it's a classic in its own right, and not Card could easily match with a sequel -- but still a damn good read.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

My name is not Kevin

For reason I do not fully understand, when some people read or hear my name -- "Kenneth" -- what they remember is the name "Kevin". It's bizarre, and it's been happening since at least high school (when I first became aware of the phenomenon). It happens in casual conversation, it happens in cover letters people send me for jobs and it happens when folks e-mail me at work. And when it happens, people are often steadfast in believing that somewhere, somehow, there really is a Kevin running around in my office, as though I have a similarly named clone running around doing my work for me (and mind you, up until recently, my work office was a one-man show -- there couldn't be anyone else here).

Why does this happen? I'm not sure. "Kevin" is certainly a more common name than "Kenneth", at least in New Jersey, and perhaps some people just default to the name that they're used to. The names sound somewhat similar, both beginning with a strong "K" sound, and while I think the full name's sound dissimilar, the "Kev" and "Ken" shorthands are pretty close. I am, however, admittedly close to the source here, so I'd be interested in hearing other people's theories on the mix up.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Corruption of the Jedi

Ever since the release of the Phantom Menace I've seen a new meme slowly gathering strength in the circles of Star Wars fandom: the idea that, by the time of Palpatine, there was something deeply and structurally wrong with the Jedi, that they had -- perhaps unknowingly -- lose sight of their founding principles.

Reason has a good post (and discussion) about this called Late to the Sith Contrarian Ball, which discusses the nature of the Seperatist movement, and wonders -- as Padme does -- if the Jedi were on the right side.

Indeed, it seems now that the only way to defeat the evil that had crept into the heart of the Old Republic, and to overcome the stagnation of the Jedi Order, was to destroy that order and allow a new one -- one headed by the far less-manipulative, and far more sincere, Luke Skywalker -- to be founded.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Atomic Swindlers

I haven't written much about Nuketown lately, so this is just a quick post to say I've got a review of "Coming Out Electric", the first album by a sci-fi rock'n'roll band called (appropriately enough for the ol'thermonuclear burg) The Atomic Swindlers.

I'm working on a podcast that will incorporate some songs from the album, but a lingering hacking cough from my cold earlier this month, coupled with well, real life, has played havoc with my intentions. I'm hoping I can steal a few hours this weekend to knock it out, but Sue has grand plans for re-organizing the basement...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"I, Jodan"

Major developmental accomplishment for Jordan: this week she finally began saying "Jordan" (or rather, "Jodan") when asked what her name is. For months upon months she'd say her name was "You" when asked, almost entirely because she thought it was funny. Then suddenly, last weekend when I asked her what her name was, she tenatively said "I Jodan!"

Now she says it every time, which is something of a relief for both Sue and I; at least now she has the remote possibility of telling people who she if she should ever get lost.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Dude, Where's My Printer?"

The Mac OS X Tiger annoyances continue. Last night, while trying to print out some documents, I discovered that both of my printers--a relatively know Canon photo printer, and a positively ancient HP LaserJet--had been purged from my PowerMac. I was able to restore the Canon using a generic printer driver (I'll be searching for an updated official one this weekend) but the LaserJet is a dicier proposition, as Mac OS X uses Print GIMP to connect.

It annoys me that this OS upgrade broke something so essential as printers, and given Apple's strength in publishing, it seems to me they should go out of their way to a) either not break printer connections or b) if they do break them, notify the user that they're gone. How hard would it be to run a system utility before the upgrade noting what devices were available, and then running a comparison utility after the upgrade to figure out which ones were missing ... and to then notify the user?

To me, it's all part of the emerging "Not Quite Ready for Prime Time" theme of Mac OS 10.4; yeah, it's got some neat features, but man, it could really have used six more months of refinement.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Drains Are Evil

So I'm giving Jordan a bath last night, and when we were done, I let the water out. All of a sudden she starts screaming in terror and tries climbing out of the tub, soaking me and most of the bathroom in the process.

"Oh yeah," Sue says later "I meant to tell you she's scared of the drain now."

We have no idea where toddler terror came from. For the year, ever since giving up her "baby bathtub seat", Jordan's happily played in the tub while the water ran out. It was like the countdown to the end; once there was no more water left, she had to get out of the tub. Suddenly though, the drain is evil. I can only assume that she's come to the conclusion that if the water goes down the drain, then maybe she can too.

Either that or she's been reading It while I wasn't looking.

The German Spamkrieg

I'm getting swamped with German spam at my work e-mail account, most of it connected to the 60th anniversary of World War II, some dealing with Muslims in Europe. Yahoo has a story about it; in a nutshell, someone re-engineered the Sober virus to send out a deluge of propaganda relating to the war, and discussing such subjects as the firebombing of Dresden by the allies and the "honor killing" murder of a Muslim woman in German by her three brothers, who were upset that she'd taken up western ways.

Some of its in German, some of its in English; all of it appears to be landing in my inbox. I've lost count of just how much spam I've received, but it's got to be over 50 messages since yesterday. That's huge for my work account, which rarely sees any spam (maybe 10-20 a day, if that). Strangely, my Nuketown accounts, which get hundreds of spam messages a day, haven't seen any of this German Spamkrieg.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Dark Side Rising

The tickets have been purchased, the pre-movie dinner plans have been arranged, and the line-waiting duties have been assigned. All is ready for the local premiere of Revenge of the Sith on Wednesday night. Now if only I didn't have to work on Thursday. Yeah, I'm going to be one hurting geek that day, even if the movie somehow doesn't suck....

Friday, May 13, 2005

Welcome to the Police State!

Earlier this week, the Senate passed a military spending bill with a vote of 100-0. The Democrats, perhaps remembering how Kerry was burned for his "voting for the war but against the spending" debacle, unanimously voted for the expenditure, thus proving that they are utterly incapable of being the opposition political party.

Why? Because nestled within this spending bill was something that they should have objected to (if for no other reason than the Republicans wanted it; I don't expect them to stand on principle). Specifically, they should have at least offered token resistance to the bill's "Real ID" provisions, which creates a defacto national ID card by establishing federal data standards for state ID (like drivers license) that will be used to connect to a centralized database. And yeah, you'll have to use this card to do, well, pretty much anything that involves the government. And given how Social Security information was used and abused by the public and private sectors, you can imagine others will try and use it too.

Yes folks, we have officially entered the "papers please" era. Or we will in two years, when the new laws' provisions kick into full effect.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Tiger's Claw

I broke down and got Mac OS X Tiger for my home Macs (its still en route for my work computers). The installation on my PowerMac went smoothly, but the iBook G3 was more problematic. For the first time ever during an upgrade, the installation refused to proceed on the first try, saying that "an error occured, please try again." Another try yielded similar results, so I decided to use Disk Utility to repair the permissions on the drive.

This worked, allowing me to install the OS, but when it rebooted and launched into Tiger for the first time, it hung at the opening "Apple" screen. After giving it an hour, I powered down the machine and rebooted again; this time it went off without a hitch and launched into Tiger.

So far, I'm liking it. Tiger seems more responsive than Panther on my iBook, and I was very pleased to see that Dashboard ran without a hitch on that laptop; I'd been concerned that it wouldn't have enough horsepower to handle it. Dashboard allows you to run a host of Widgets, which remain hidden except when summoned. I'm particularly liking the weather and TV widgets; no more running out to Weather.com or TVGuide.com for me; now I just have to hit "F8".

Spotlight--Apple's built-in desktop search--is nice and fast, but it's annoying that you can't save a Spotlight search as a Smart Folder (rather, you have to do a search through the Finder, which uses a more limited version of the Spotlight interface).

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mostly Human

My cold is all but over and it looks like the rest of the family has just about bested the bug as well. Sue spent the weekend at a Native American Pow Wow selling her jewelry and did pretty well, sales wise. Jordan and I visited on Sunday, and she got to ride a pony ... three times!

On the geek front, I'm playing my way through Knights of the Old Republic II, which happily doesn't lay on the liberal guilt trips quite as heavily as its predecessor and working on a bunch of new music and game reviews for Nuketown.

Yep, all in all it's been a pretty productive couple of days around the ol'burg -- it's amazing how much you can get done when you don't feel like you're drowning in your own bodily fluids.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

"Mommy always said there weren't monsters. Not real ones..."

I've officially reached "chest burster" portion of my cold, in which I feel like I'm hacking up large portions of my lungs, and generally feeling more miserable than any day since Tuesday (yes, given a choice between hacking and post-nasal drip, I'll take hacking any day).

I'd say I could sleep for a week, except that's not true; given the chance to sleep 9 hours last night, I was still up at 2:30 a.m. hacking, coughing and working on Nuketown. At least I'm a somewhat productive sick person...

Cute Bunny ... Let's Eat It!

And now something that has nothing to do with my cold.

Save Toby is an amusing site about a man, his lop-eared rabbit, and a threat to eat said rabbit if he doesn't get $50,000 by some arbitrary date. The hate mail is hilarious; nothing gets the PETA crowd up in arms quite so much as threatening to eat an animal for fun and profit. By all accounts, this is a hoax by the way; Toby keeps getting a repreive.

Awake and Lost

So it's 2:31 a.m. and I'm awake. This is despite the fact that I'm really, really tired, having not gotten enough sleep the last two nights because of my cold.

So why am I awake? I blame Lost. And my cold-addled brain.

For some reason, my brain got caught in a Lost feedback loop while I was asleep, and I woke to find myself mentally stumbling over various theories to explain the island and what's happening to its inhabitents. And arguing with myself over why different theories wouldn't work.

No, I don't remember any of those theories now. The only thing for me to do was to get up, do a little work on Nuketown and hope my brain would get distracted by some other, less interesting idea. This is all par for the course when it comes to my colds -- I've always have a series of very weird dreams when I'm sick, particularly after I haven't slept for a few days. The end result is a sort of endless night where my subconcious churns through dozens of ideas, and refuses to let any of them go. I end up in this state of quasi-sleep, half-dreaming, half knowing that I really don't need to worry about failing my driver's test any more.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

That Damn Cold

I thought I had dodged the cold bullet that's been richocheting around my house for the last two weeks, taking out Sue and Jordan. Unfortunately, I caught it -- and caught it hard -- this week. It started Monday night and by Tuesday I was just a miserable blob of geek hiding in his bed. I was somewhat better last night, but still spent more time watching Firefly or struggling through Knights of the Old Republic II than sleeping.

Fortunately, despite the lack of sleep, I'm feeling something close to human today although I continue to sound like crap. Hopefully I'll be able to stay awake long enough to watch Lost tonight...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Serenity RPG Confirmed

According to OgreCave, we now have official word that the Serenity RPG will be released by Margaret Weis Productions (of DragonLance fame). It'll be a self-contained RPG based on the movie of the same name (which in turn is based on Joss Whedon's Firefly TV series.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Settlers of Catan ... in 3D!

For a mere $400 (or maybe a little less, exact pricing its available) you can own a three dimensional version of Settlers of Catan, complete with hand-painted mountains, forests and plains, as well as 3D villages and cities.

Too rich for your blood? Well, don't worry -- there's always the aforementioned Pizza of Catan.

It's Shad-O-Riffic!

Like shad? Like art? Want to see one very wacky parade? Then check out Easton's 2005 Shad Festival, being held this weekend. The Arts Community of Easton has posted a complete schedule of events.

Sue and I are taking Jordan to the 9th Annual Doo-Dah parade on Sunday, so if you're there, look for me -- I'll be the guy with the faded black Apple cap on.

Note: This originally ran last week, but I screwed up the dates; this weekend -- 4/30-5/1 -- is when the Festival is happening.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Let the Viral Marketing Begin!

From the Serenity movie trailer:
Wash: "This is going to get pretty interesting."
Malcolm: "Define interesting."
Wash: "Oh god, oh god, we're all going to die?"

Kickass. That's all I can say right now. More when I've finally managed to stop replaying the trailer in my mind's eye.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Trying to puzzle out some new bit of jargon? Then check out WordSpy, which searches for new words, and then explains their origin and usage.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Beetle Baily: Rational Individualist?

I'm astounded that something like this made it into a mainstream comic. Kind of makes up for the fact that this collectivist horse's arse is still around.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

"Give Me Some Sugar Baby"

If you live in northwestern New Jersey or the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, and you want a truly fantastic dessert, you need to visit Sugar in on Main Street in Phillipsburg (that would be down by the Free Bridge, not on Route 22).

They have a staggering selection of desserts, staggering both in quantity and quality. You can easily stand there for 15 minutes looking dumbfounded at the dessert case, sure that no matter what you choose, you'll have some regret for not picking something else. Not that what you choose won't be excellent, but there's always that other exquisitely delicious dessert that you had to pass up in order to eat the one you actually chose.

It's a happy quandary.

You may be tempted to buy more than one dessert, but if you do so be aware there's no way in hell you're eating both of them in one sitting; heck eating just one of these rich, excrutiatingly tasty desserts can be a challenge. Fortunately, that's what "to go" boxes are for. They also serve dinner, which Sue and I got to try on Thursday night (we treated ourselves for our anniversary). It's just as good as the desserts -- I had the "butter poached Jail Island Salmon with a Creamy Lemon Fettucinni and Asparagus" and it ... was ... awesome! It was the sort of thing you want to let linger in your mouth for a few minutes, just to absorb all the excellent tastes. It wasn't cheap -- with tip our total bill game to around $90 -- but it was worth every penny.

Friday, April 22, 2005


Thanks to Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey, I now know that "bildungsroman" is a word. And thanks to Wikipedia, I now know what it means.

Mutagenic Growth Rays from Outer Space

Over the last few weeks, I've been noticing an increase in the number of people writing me about Nuketown, usually via the feedback form. Last night I confirmed what I'd suspected: the webzine saw a big spike in traffic last month; total traffic to the articles on the web site increased from about 19,000 in February to 25,000 in March.

And I don't know why.

I'm going to play around with my web reports a bit more, to see if I can figure out if a specific section was responsible for the spike in traffic, but looking at the Statistics page, I don't see anything that stands out as being responsible for another 6,000 visits.

I suspect that it may be a couple of different lesser factors coming together to create a wave of traffic. For one, I've been writing more hoax debunkings, but interestingly, none of the recent ones are in the Top 5 stories. Another possible factor is Radio Active, which debuted in March. And yet, while the podcast feed has been rapidly gaining traffic, the Podcast show notes rarely hit the Top 20 lists.

The other big question, of course, is whether or not this is a permanent increase, or just a fluke. Right now, traffic for April has already exceeded February's, so it may very well end up being a sustained jump. Which would be great of course, but I would love to know exactly what I did to increase the traffic.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Nine Years of Bliss

As of today, Sue and I have been married nine years. Nine years ... wow. I'm astounded -- it really doesn't seem that long, and it certainly doesn't seem like 13 years since we started dating, back when we were both journalism students at Lock Haven University.

It's been a wild ride, with all the ups and downs you'd expect from more than a decade of being together, but I still love her as much as I did when we said our vows.

Happy anniversary Susie!

Pizza of Catan

Proving that their geek mojo is indeed strong, BoardGameGeek.com has posted the "Pizza of Catan", a pizza based on the hexagonal layout of the most excellent German boardgame, Settlers of Catan. Thanks to Ogrecave for pointing this out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Radio Active Glows

Nuketown Radio Active, the podcast/radio show for the ol'thermonuclear burg, is doing pretty well. I'm up to Show #5, which I think sounded pretty darn good (aside from the occasional knocks on the microphone) but which ran 40 minutes. That's about 10 minutes longer than I'd like -- I think 30 is the sweet spot for this show -- but I actually had e-mail this week, and a few computer-related things I felt like ranting about.

The podcast's audience is growing. I can't track direct downloads, since I'm story the files on my .mac account (to help with any bandwish issues) but the number of visits to the index.xml file for the podocast is rising. Last week it stood at 1,100 visits; two weeks earlier it was 377. Of course, a lot of those are probably aggregator and spider hits, but still, it does show some rather impressive growth.

I've got some really cool stuff -- including an actual music review and possible giveways -- in the works, but they probably won't hit until Show #7, as there are still a few little details I need to work out. I'm slowly putting together an outline for Show #6; the only thing set in stone is some thoughts on the fantasy novel Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, a book I have been slowly ready for, oh, about a year now. I'm always looking for ideas for the show, so if you've got something you'd like to see me talk about or review, post a comment here or e-mail me at nuketown@gmail.com.

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Walk Through Durham

My quest for other bloggers in Easton, Pennsylvania continues. My latest search turned up A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania, by photographer Kathleen Connally. It's a photo blog based in Bucks County, but which occasionally ventures north to Easton and east into New Jersey.

She's got some beautiful photographs here: I love the rich, vibrant colors of her photos, as well as the occasional surrealness that gets mixed into her palette. Of particular note to Eastonions are her recent flood photos (from Raubsville/Riegelsville) and closeups of the old Easton passenger train station. There's a lot more there of course, so have fun exploring it!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Contrary Brin

David Brin (Startide Rising, Earth) has a blog, called Contrary Brin.

The Portal Awaits

The Lehigh Valley has a new comic/hobby store: The Portal Comics & Gaming. It's located on 2005 Willow Park Road, Bethlehem, PA. In addition to comics, it looks like they also offer plenty of miniatures based-gaming, including Warhammer and Warhammer 40k, Classic Battletech, MechWarrior, Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game and a bunch of card games. Their flyer -- which I picked up at MepaCon -- also mentions (but doesn't stress) role-playing games like D&D, Shadowrun, Vampire and Werewolf.

I haven't been the store yet, but I think I'll have to make an effort to stop by this summer; the guys working the MepaCon booth seemed nice enough. I'm not about to give up my comic book story -- Dewey's Comic City, which is right down the street from the university where I work -- but I'm always looking for good gaming stores in the Valley.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Cold Steel Reign Falls on the Web

A few weeks ago I was bitching about how a new game I was interested in -- Cold Steel Reign -- had an ad in a gaming magazine, but didn't have a Web site. The game has an interesting premise: the Civil War was never won, and instead, the conflict plunged the fractured United States (and presumably the rest of the world) into a new dark age. Two hundred years later, gunslingers are facing down sorcerers in the ruins of the America that was. Pretty darn cool.

The publishers have remedied that situation by launching www.coldsteelreign.com. The site has details about the game's upcoming Player's Handbook and Gamemaster's Guide and promises news, faqs and forums. There aren't any PDF previews, but there are some articles detailing the setting's history.

Friday, April 08, 2005

A Weekend of Geeking Out

A few more hours and I'll be on my way to MepaCon in Scranton, Pa., where I'll be spending the weekend playing every game I can lay my hands on including Dungeons & Dragons, Spycraft, and Call of Cthulhu.

I'll also be running a bunch of minatures games, specifically: Babylon 5: Call to Arms (starship combat), HeroClix (superhero combat) and The Hills Rise Wild (Dark God-worshipping hillbilly combat).

I'm looking forward to it; hell, I'd be looking forward to it if all the con involved was sitting in a corner and starring at the walls for two days. My brain's been on hyperdrive for the last week or so, and I really, really need some downtime.

And some new dice. Definitely some new dice.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

CNN: Red Ink Falling Out of Favor with Teachers

Stupid. Stupid. STUPID.

And I say this as someone who got a hell of a lot of red marks on his papers in elementary and high school. Of course, you just know that eventually purple (the replacement color of choice) will itself become stigmatized, thus giving rise to some other color for grades.

Now I can understand mixing up colors a bit to separate corrections from comments. But to eliminate the color red entirely just because it's too "negative"?

Ugh. All I can say is that you can't find self-esteem in a marker, and you can't manufacture it by changing colors.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Yep, It's Spring...

... and that means its baseball time! It also undoubtedly means another season of watching my beloved Mets lose, but hey, that's what it means to be a fan, right? I did find this nifty iCal calendar from Apple that will at least let me know when the mets are going to be los--err, playing.

I had a lot of fun watching games with Jordan the last two years (including teaching her to shout "homerun!" when the Mets hit one out of the park) and this year I think I'm going to have to get her a Mets cap of her own. Heck, I'm going to buy myself a new one while I'm at it; my old cap is presently being held together with staples.

And if I get tired of watching them lose, I can always rent Frequency, which in addition to being a great movie about time travel and fatherhood, also has the benefit of taking place against the backdrop of the '69 World Series.

The Delaware Comes to Easton

I've got a blog entry up onNuketown about the Easton Flood of 2005, with a photo of the free bridge which is closed because the water is smack up against the bottom of it (and at this point, the sides too). Many thanks to fellow Eastonian Edmond A Woychowsky for the photo.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Rising

The Delaware is once again proving that it is nothing to be triffled with. After heavy reasons that lasted most of Friday and Saturday, the river stood at 33.40 feet, which is just a hair under where it crested back when Ivan came through. But it's not supposed to stop there; the Express-Times says that the river will crest Monday at 35.90 feet.


What's this all mean? Well, based on what happened last time and what I already know, Route 611 is under water, as is Larry Holmes Drive. The parking lot for the Gov. Wolf building is probably underwater, and I hate to think what's happened to Frank & Dot's (which is where we usually buy our beer). And they closed the free bridge; last time around, the water was lapping at the bridge's underside; I imagine it'll be even worse this time.

As for us ... we're in pretty good shape. We live up on College Hill, which overlooks the river, so we'll be fine (although Eddyside Park, which where the neighbhorhood swimming pool is, is apparently underwater). We had a few scary moments Saturday night when the power went out. No power meant no sump pump, which mean a hell of a lot of water in our basement if I didn't start bailing. Fortunately, the power came on after about 15 minutes, and the pump was able to kick in again. It does have us thinking about buying a battery-powered sump pump ... just in case.

I'll try and snag some photos of the flood and post them tomorrow; I'm not sure whether or not I'm going to work; if they close the Route 22 bridge too, I'm screwed, commute-wise.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

"That is not dead which can eternal lie..."

The Delta Green campaign setting is showing new signs of life, as the folks at the Delta Green Yahoo Group have spawned a new Delta Green Wiki, based on content salvaged from the still-operational (but, because of a technological screw up, no longer updatable) Ice Cave.

BRP snobbery aside, the Delta Green Yahoo Group (like the DGList before it) is a great resource for Call of Cthulhu, and is particularly good at tainting modern day events with the Cthulhu mythos.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Bloggers in Pennsylvania?

It turns out that there are a few bloggers in Pennsylvania. The key word, though, being "few". I could only find one other blogger in Easton, but I've got to think there at least another one or two.


Months after saying "pop-pop" for the first time to describe her grandfathers, Jordan has finally broken down and started calling her grandmothers "G'Ma".

In other Jordan-related language news ... she now says "Daddy's Apple" when she sees any of my Macs, proudly told Sue that "Daddy's Jeep is red!" and that the loud sound overhead was from a "heck-la-oper" (it was a plane, rather than a helicopter, but you try convincing a two year old she's wrong).

And, of course, she still steadfastly refuses to say her name is "Jordan". Nope, as far as she's concerned, her name is still "You".

Blatant Self Promotion, 3/30 Edition

On the professional writing front, I've got a review of the fan web site BattleTech Universe up on SCIFI.com. In print, Knights of the Dinner Table #100 is out, and includes my "Summon Web Scryer" column, which talks all about Torg.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Chaos With Radio Active

I violated the first rule of web design with Nuketown's new Radio Active podcast, and did not check all the urls in the RSS feed. Dumb, dumb, DUMB! This prevented iPodderX and other podcatching clients from downloading the show.

Everything's fixed now. Or it should be ... I have to check it when I get home to night. Many thanks to Evo of The Dragon Page for reporting the problem and helping me test the corrected feed.

Paragraphs Would Be Nice

David Duchovny, of X-Files fame, has a blog promoting his new film House of D, which he directed and stars in. It appears to be a coming-of-age/mid-life-crisis sort of indie movie (and thus, no grey aliens doing unnatural things to his nasal cavities).

I haven't read much of it yet, but I will say this: David, you really, really need to add some paragraphs to your posts. The Block-o-Text approach is just way too hard on the eyes.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Fires of Heaven

This is going to be a most excellent commuting week. My Jeep Wrangler, which got rear-ended a few weeks ago, is back in commission and ready to be driven. That's good news, but it's made even better by the fact that I just snagged Robert Jordan's Fires of Heaven as one of my download picks for March. That means I've now got 36 hours of fantasy goodness sitting on my iPod, just waiting to be listened to.

Coupled with a few of my favorite podcasts (Geek News Central, The Dragon Page, Driving Decompressions) downloaded over the weekend, and I've got one great week of audio lined up.

Friday, March 25, 2005

"She's Gone From Suck to Blow!"

I received the following feedback from a disgrunted Nuketown reader today:
Subject: You suck
Message: Did Ayn Rand blow you, or what?

Naturally this person was so proud of this witty little e-mail that he didn't include a valid response e-mail address (instead using the highly entertaining and oh-so-inspired false address "screwu@hotmail.com").

Since my own response can not reach this presumed champion of the downtrodden and herald of the masses, I'll post it here instead.
To: screwu@hotmail.com
Message: Thank you for the enlightened commentary. I'm glad you took the time to submit such a thoughtful--and entertaining-- rebuttal to whatever it was you didn't like about Nuketown. It's feedback like this that really makes it all worthwhile.

Actually, I'm not kidding about that last bit. I enjoy provoking responses like this with my writing, although I really wish I knew what post got this guy's panties in a bunch.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cold Front

Sue's is getting over her virus, but is still quarantined on the sofa bed. Both Sue and Jordan have pink eye, which is also in retreat.

Me? I'm gulping vitamin C and drinking lots of orange juice, which probably won't do a damned thing to help, but which makes a nice post-modern ward against viral evil. I thought about smearing garlic paste around the door jams, but it's such a bitch to get out of the molding.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Spycraft 2.0?

GamingReport.com has a blurb about Alderac's new lineup, including a mention of Spycraft 2.0:
"The Spycraft RPG has been a staple in the RPG industry now since it was released in 2002...three years later, we bring you Spycraft RPG 2.0! Updated and re-tooled for better gaming on your players part! A brand new, more focused skill system, as well as a chase/dramatic situations system that will blow your socks off! The Spycraft CCG is no longer carrying the D20 logo, as it has grown into its own and differs from the way that system works. This new system is definitely what you and your customers need for expert espionage roleplaying! Releasing in July, 2005."

Now you'll note that this mentions the "Spycraft CCG"; I'm assuming that's a typo, given the context of the rest of the paragraph (and that the paragraph after it specifically discusses the collectible card game).

The forums have a discussion of what this means, and no, Alderac isn't dumping d20 entirely. The game's going "open gaming license" instead, which basically means that a) they can include all the rules for leveling up a character in the game and b) as a result, they can no longer display the d20 logo.

I think this makes a lot of sense; both Spycraft and Stargate suffered from relying on the D&D Player's Handbook for advancement. Heck, I'm an experienced player and I still got confused by their cryptic references to what was needed from the PHB.

That said, I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude with Spycraft 2.0. If it does what I want to it to do (overhaul the mastermind system based on the Fixer/Pointman splatbook, incorporate NPC classes, pull together the myriad backgrounds and feats from the assorted source books) then I'll consider converting. Otherwise, I'm content to stick with the hodgepodge I know, rather than the one I don't.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Berin asked, so I figured I'd answer.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Sayeth the machine: "An accomplished diplomat who can virtually do no wrong, you sometimes know it is best to rely on the council of others while holding the reins."

Oh well, win some, lose some...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Ursinioid, the personal blog of UncleBear.com's Berin Kinsman, is back online. Go there. Be amused. Be enlightened. Repeat as necessary.

My Mac Guys Podcast

I just found a new podcast to listen to, thanks to Podcast Shuffle. The My Mac Guys podcast features two guys, well, talking about their Macs.

I've only listened to one so far--which talked about kids and Macs--but I liked what I heard. They've got the friendly banter thing down, and I like the combination of opinion and practical tips.

Plague Ward, Day 3

Sue continues to camp on the sofa bed downstairs as she battles what the doctor described as "a nasty virus that we really can't do anything about." Jordan's feeling better, but still grumpy, and still on a wacky sleep schedule. She's going to the pediatrician today to figure out if the pinkness in her eyes is really pink eye, or something else entirely.

Me? I continue to tend to the sick, making sure Sue has what she needs and taking care of Jordan, at least until around 11 p.m., when I have to go to sleep. Then Sue and Jordan hang out on the sofa until the little one finally dozes off. My goal is to keep them comfortable while still getting enough sleep to avoid getting sick. Oh, and to drink as much orange juice as is humanly possible...

Monday, March 21, 2005

Radio Active Traffic

I haven't gotten a lot of feedback on Nuketown Radio Active yet, but I am starting to see some traffic to the XML feed; according to my tracker, it's seen 171 accesses. That doesn't mean it has 171 listeners, just that some how, some way, it was loaded 171 times.

Of those, about 21 visits were sent our way by iPodder.org's "All Things Sci-Fi" index, which is certainly a good thing.

I've registered the feed with Podcast Alley (though it hasn't shown up there just yet) and I'm looking for other places to list it. If anyone has any suggestions on that front, please leave a commment or e-mail me.

Plague of Doom

Ok, not quite that bad, but Jordan's got something resembling pink eye, combined with some sort of weird head/throat/chest cold. That hit on Saturday, which sent our sleep cycle into a tailspin as she had trouble sleeping through the night.

On Sunday, the illness hit Sue hard, and hit again harder later in the day after she got done teaching a wilderness tracking program in New Jersey. By the time she got home, she was a wreck: chilled to the bone, achy all over, etc. So any and all plans yesterday were torpedoed in favor of sick duty, though thankfully (for all of us) I've been able to dodge the bug.

Sue's feeling better, at least well enough to watch Jordan today (which is important, as I have only so many vacation days available, and we're planning a big trip this summer). The big question now is how Jordan's doing; if her eye continues to get pinker, she's going to the doctor.

Getting Paranoid

My long-awaited, long-lusted for copy of Paranoia XP arrived yesterday via Amazon.com, and I spent a good chunk of this weekend (at least those chunks not spent taking care of Sue and Jordan) reading it and laughing manically to myself.

It's a special kind of GM paradise, where arguing about rules is forbidden and in which knowledge of certain rules is outright treasonous. It's a game that opens with the following disclaimer about genders:
Note on pronoun usage: The Computer suggests any citizen concerned about this games usage of 'he' for the generic third person pronoun, instead of 'he or she', should attend to more important matters, such as serving The Computer with fervent loyalty

It's also a kind of player paradise, because you don't even have to pretend to try and get along with your fellow Troubleshooters, and instead, are actively encouraged to scheme, betray and otherwise mess with your friends.

I can't wait to run this thing.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Center for the Study of Science Fiction

My review of The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is up on Science Fiction Weekly.

Nuketown Radio Active #2

The 3/18 edition of the Nuketown Radio Active podcast is available for download. Full details are up on Nuketown.

I think #2 sounds a lot better than #1 did, which is to be expected given that I now have double the audio-recording experience. I'm also getting more comfortable with recording my audio, though I think I'm relying too heavily on my show notes (and the show notes themselves are overly-detailed).

In other podcast news, I was just about to add myself to the "All Things Science Fiction" cateogry over on iPodder.org when I discovered that I was already listed!

Many thanks to node editor Evo Terra of The Dragon Page for being so on the ball. If you haven't done so already, check out the Dragon Page Wingin' It podcast. For more of my thoughts on their show, check out my "Podcatching" column for March 2005.

Friday, March 18, 2005

How to Blog

While I'm a little past the "how to" stage, if you're interested in learning how to blog, particularly if you're stuck on which software to use, then stop by Emily Robbins's blog, How to Blog. She compares different blogging solutions, talks about add-ons you can use, and other assorted blog-related topics.

Random Podcasts

Looking to spice up your Podcast listening? Check out Podcast Shuffle, which randomly serves up new podcast every day. Pretty nifty, though I haven't tried any of the podcasts its served up yet. I found the link via Ranchero's blog, the nice folks who make NetNewsWire for Mac OS X.

Geeking Out

I got to do the bachelor thing last night, as Sue and Jordan were out at a Longaberger Basket party, so I geeked out and spent the entire evening reading comic books and watching X-Men 2.

If you'd like an indication of the sort of impacting having a kid has on my ability to geek out on a regular basis, I was reading comics that I bought in October and I got X2 for Christmas, but only just now had time to watch it.

I got caught up on the time-tripping storyline in Superman/Batman, which isn't as good as the first half-dozen or so issues that launched the series (mostly because of the constant jumping around, which interfered with rather than enhanced the story) but it was still a fun read. I also read through my X-men books; I enjoyed the "New Brotherhood" arc with Black Tom and Juggernaut, but I really, really wish they'd just kill of Xorn once and for all. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to comic book physics, but come on, a guy with a black hole for a brain?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Flame On!

I've been making a concerted effort to avoid flame wars online. They never seem to be worth the effort you put into them, and after a few first few posts the chances of actually convincing anyone of your opinion become vanishingly small.

That's not to say I don't enjoy reading other people's flame wars, and if you want to read out a great one, check out John Scalzi's post entitled "James Valvis at it Again" on his blog Whatever.

In it, Scalzi responds to some criticism of his first published book, Old Man's War by another, unpublished writer named James Valvis (well, unpublished in the commercial sense of the word; he's apparently got a few credits under his belt, but no big books sales).

It's a fascinating read, partly because Scalzi really is a good writer, and a damn amusing one as well. He's deft at responding to Valvis's self-righteous screeches, and the comments from the peanut gallery (particularly about Scalzi's ass-kissing prowess with publishers) do a good job of breaking up the increasingly length dialogue.

As for Valvis, well, I can't say too much about him, since this is the first I've heard of him. He does strike me as being one of the "happy-to-be-a-starving-artist" types, which as a group are people that I have very little patience for.

As for the quality of Old Man's War, well, it's on my reading list. At the pace I'm going right now, I should get to it around 2008.

Finding Serenity

While surfing around on Amazon.com I came across a new book called Finding Serenity : Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly by Benbella Books. It's a collection essays analyzing Joss Whedon's Firefly.

I'm intrigued, and I've requested a review copy of it for Nuketown, but so far there's been no word back from the publisher.

2005 Nuketown Readers Survey

I'm running a Readers Survey over at Nuketown in an attempt to figure out what people like and don't like about the site. Take the survey.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Serenity: The Role-Playing Game

GamingReport has word that Sovereign Press will be releasing the Serenity Role-Playing Game, a game based on the movie that was based on the short-lived-but-still-excellent sci-fi western Firefly by Joss Whedon.

Got all that?

According to the GamingReport, the game will focus on the movie, and ignore the series, which is something I find a little bizarre. While I have high hopes for the movie, I can't believe it has enough content to drive an RPG all by itself; I'm thinking there must be a snafu with the rights to the series preventing Sovereign from exploiting it. Either that, or they're saving the series for a supplemental source book or two.

Unfortunately, Sovereign's web site is mum on the subject. In fact, the web site has to be one of the lamest I've ever seen for a gaming company; just contact information and some links to their more robust sites for Dragonlance and Larry Elmore. Granted, it's better than nothing, but only nominally so.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

"Ready for an upgrade chummer?"

I haven't played Shadowrun since college, but I've always had a soft spot for its mix of fantasy and cyberpunk. I'm happy to see that FanPro's releasing a 4th edition in August 2005, but I can't say that new edition will return me to its digital fold. The world, as they say, has moved on.

HTML Special Characters

Scratching your head trying to find a list of special characters for HTML? Then check out this page at the now-defunct (but still online) WebMonky Web site. It's got everything from cedillas to umlauts.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Google Bar for Firefox

If you like Firefox, but are disappointed that the Google Toolbar is Internet Explorer-only, then check out the "googlebar". It's an open source toolbar for Firefox and Mozilla that seeks to emulate many of the features found in the official toolbar.

It can:
  • Restrict a search to the site you're currently on
  • Perform an "I'm Feeling Lucky" search
  • Do searches of specific Google directories (i.e. Mac and Unix)
  • Search highlighted text
  • And many more things I won't list here.

iPodder.org Gets Sci-Fi Category

The number of science fiction podcasts continues to grow, so much so that iPodder.org has added a new "Science Fiction" category.

I'll be checking out three of them this week: Wizard News Podcast, Sci-Fi Talk and Requiem of the Outcast.

iPodder.org itself just got a facelift; I'm not sure if I like the new version any better than the old. The directory has only the most basic browsing functionality, meaning you have to drill down through each section to look at the podcasts. There's no search function, which is a real liability IMHO.

Once you do drill down, the only thing you see is the name of the show--there's no description--and the hyperlink is a small globe icon next to the show's name. Why can the show's name itself be linked, with the initial front page summary listed beneath it? Those two changes, combined with search, would make the whole site a heck of a lot easier to use.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Science Fiction Blogs: Resistance is Futile!

Once upon a time, I struggled to find any science fiction blogs. Now Nuketown's "Science Fiction Blog" link index has 21 entries.

It's astounding, and what I find most impressive is that we're not just talking enthusiast blogs here; we've also got several blogs by science fiction writers (the best of which is easily John Scalzi's Whatever), two supporting scifi franchises (Serenity, which is admittedly not very current, and Battlestar Galactica, which is a strong example of how a blog can enrich and empower a TV production).

Get to the Escape Pod!

It's official: Nuketown Radio Active is now live. Check out the site or subscribe to the feed.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Nuketown Radio Active #1

The first edition of Nuketown's new podcast is now done, edited, and online. I haven't created the RSS feed for it yet, but you can download the mp3 file via this link. The show runs about 30 minutes, and is a 30 mb download; expect much fanfare on Nuketown once the feed goes live.

Topics discussed include Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Marvel's limited series honoring the 10th anniversary of the Age of Apocalypse, grammar and e-mail, and the upcoming release of The Incredibles DVD.

So how is the show? Well, I think it's a decent enough freshman effort. I learned that what I thought was a half-hour limit to recording in GarageBand was just a misunderstanding on my part. I also discovered that if you record new audio into a track, it will overwrite what's already there. That caused me to do a little first aid to restore lost audio, and if it sounds particularly choppy in places, that's why (well, aside from the parts where I tripped over my words and/or made a few "Kennisms").

Games & Hoaxes

I've got two new articles up on Nuketown. The first is a review of Games Quarterly, a print magazine that covers all manner of non-electronic gaming, from board games to card games to wargames.

Second, I have a debunking of the "Phenylpropanolamine Chain Letter", a scare mail that talks about a very real drug recall but (as is often the case with these things) mixes in unhealthy doses of misinformation.

Regarding hoax debunking, you can expect to see more of them on Nuketown in coming months; I'm going to be trying to get back into the debunking groove with two write-ups a month.

Comments on Comments

I've been wondering for the last few weeks why the number of comments on The Atomic Age have trinkled down to nothing. Were the posts just not grabbing people's attention? Did something I said alienate the blog's fledgling readership? Was some mysterious force preventing people from posting?

It turns out the last one was correct. Or at least, I think that's what the problem was. The "mysterious force" was Blogger, and I think when they upgraded their comments system, they fubared comments on this blog. I'd had it setup so that you had have a Blogger account in order to leave a commet. However, with this option enabled, if you tried to leave a comment you got sent to a "blog not found" error page.

If you happened to be logged in to Blogger at the time, then you could leave a comment, but if not, no dice. So I've changed the settings within Blogger, and made comments open to all. This seems to have worked--the "blog not found" error is now gone when you click on "Leave a Comment"--so hopefully this will let folks around here get back to talking.