Friday, December 15, 2006

The Geek Tree 2006 Photo Set

Photo: The Geek Tree For years, people have been asking me for pictures of the Geek Tree, and for years, I've been promising to find a way to take them. This year, I finally did. Check out the Geek Tree in all its glowing glory in this Flickr photo set.

I experimented with a couple of different approuches, but ultimately I hit upon taking the photos with my Sony Cybershot DSC-L1 digital camera on "auto" mode with multi-point focus enabled and the flash turned off. The baseline photos this created were not spectacular, but using Adobe Photoshop Element 3's "Auto Smart Fix" enhancement at 25-50% effectiveness I was able to improve the brightness and contrast of the photos without making them look bland and washed out. I'm pleased with the result -- the shots aren't spectacular, but they nicely illustrate the tree.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I converted The Atomic Age over to the Blogger's beta software. So far, it's looking pretty good -- it's not nearly as impressive as WordPress (what with it's built in support for Flickr, and other web goodies) but it's a giant leap forward from what they had. Heck ... it's got categories now!

Geek Gazette

Yes, the Atomic Age has been quiet for a while, but I figure promoting a fellow geek's web site is a good exercise for it. All power to Google!

The site in question is the Geek Gazette, a monthly to bimonthly (hey, publishing is hard!) PDF-based ezine. Its content spans the breadth of geekdom itself, from movies to games to TV to comics to, well, everything that makes up geek life! Pick it up and geek out!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Radio Active #41: Harping Monkey's Second Life, SysStat, Model Makers

Sickness and teething played havoc with Radio Active's publication schedule, but the podcast returns with a shorter show that catches folks up on happenings around the thermonuclear burg. In Net News, I take a look at the Harping Monkey Inn's virtual digs within Second Life, talk about the SysStat widget for Mac OS X, and talk about a the Model Maker's Podcast, a show dedicated to tips and tutorials for wargamers and modelers. Get the episode.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Radio Active #40: Geek Fitness, 7th Son, OSRIC, Pandora's Star

Book Cover Geek fitness (or the lack there of) leads Episode 40 as I talk about my quest to lose 35 pounds. Over in Net News, I congratulate Jason Adam's for reachign the 50th episode of Random Signal, talk about Nathan Fillion's upcoming appearance on the 7th Son podcast, and offer some old school, 1st-edition D&D-style gaming with OSRIC.

Rounding out the podcat is a review of Peter Hamilton's science fiction novel Pandora's Star, a space opera in which humanity has spread to the stars via a system of planetary wormholes and suddenly finds itself confronting the mystery of two stars instantly encapsulated by Dyson spheres. Get the episode.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Radio Active #39: Nuke(m)Con, Doom, Geeky Media

Covert Art: Doom The gaming world has GenCon. My gaming group has Nuke(m)Con. Radio Active #39 starts with a look at our home grown convention and then takes a look at a couple of new geeky media outlets in the form of the Geek Gazette newsletter and Geek Label podcast as well as an exceedingly useful anti-repetitive stress injury software tool for the Mac. Finally, in the category of "movies we watch so that you don't have to", there's a review of the video-game inspired horror flick Doom. The film stars the Rock and once again proves the axiom that you can't make a good movie from a video game. Listen to the episode and read the show notes

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Radio Active #38: Painting Ghosts, Portable Apps, A Feast for Crows

Radio Active starts glowing again as the Great Fall Painting Project of '06 winds down. This time around I've got updates on said project as well as the far geekier AirTunes setup I finally got working. Sites of Note looks at Jonathan Coulton music videos shot using World of Warcraft, the world-building third season of the Harping Monkey's Round Table and the very cool (and very geeky) Portable Apps web site, which provides geeks with self-contained versions of Firefox, Open Office and other programs they can stick on a thumb drive. Finally there's the much delayed review of A Feast For Crows, the fourth book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series. Get the show, read the show notes.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Radio Active #37: GenCon (Almost) Live, Geek Acres, Nintendo DS

Home improvement once again takes center stage as my wife and I prepare to re-paint our living room. But it's not all painting and scraping: I've also got two new sites to talk about -- GenCon (Almost) Live and Geek Acres -- and a run down of my favorite games for the Nintendo DS. And that review of George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows? Yeah, that gets delayed again -- look for it in Radio Active #28. Get the episode and read the show notes.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Radio Active #36: Stargate, Geek Design, Tech Podcasts

Technology vlogs -- also known as video podcasts -- take center stage in Radio Active #36 as I run down the big list of shows I watch every morning while eating my Cheerios and feeding the baby, including commandN, diggnation,, Geek Brief and Geek Entertainment TV. I've also got news about the Stargate SG-1 Viewers Choice Poll, ramblings about resisting the urge to pull an all-nighter, and thoughts on geek interior design. Get the show.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Radio Active #35: Eberron Music, Vintage Gamer, Geek Activism

This show features a Radio Active first as I do a game and music review of the same product: Wizards of the Coast's Sharn: City of Towers for the Eberron campaign setting. The show has a ton of listener feedback from Radio Active #34, as well as a review of the Vintage Gamer podcast, a discussion of the 95 Theses of Geek Activism and a link to a conversation between two famous geeks: Zack Braff of Scrubs and Garden State fame and Kevin Smith, known for his films Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma. Get the episode and read the show notes.


The Atomic Age has certainly fallen on hard times since the new Nuketown went live, which is ok, since suspect RSS aggregators and search engines were the only ones really reading it. Still, I should post here more often, as it is a sort of back-up outpost for the ol'thermonuclear burg.

While we're on the topic of little-used outposts, I do have a MySpace profile that I setup back in the spring for a workshop I gave on Web 2.0, and I decided I'd beef it up a bit just in case anyone's looking for me over there (hey, it could happen). You can check out the profile at this url:

If nothing else, I've found MySpace a useful way to show support for some of my favorite independent bands and performers, like Jonathan Coulton and the Atomic Swindlers, both of whom have profiles on the site.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Radio Active #33: Battlestar Galactica Season 2 Soundtrack, Uncle Bear Podcast

Radio Active #33 is online after I successfully hid away on the third floor and forced myself to get the damn thing done. It features a review of the Battlestar Galactica Season 2 soundtrack, and various ramblings about the new Nuketown

NT Redesign: It's Alive!

The new Nuketown is up (and thus, the number of posts around here is down). So far response has been positive, but there hasn't been much in the way of comments, so I'm working on penning some content specifically aimed at getting a response.

Monday, July 03, 2006

NT Redesign: All Over Except for the DNS...

The redesign is finished -- yesterday I setup the email addresses through the new house and worked out the page forwarding scheme that will make sure people can get from the old pages to the new ones. I also told Network Solutions to point to the new Web hosting service, an arcane process known as changing the DNS. Now those changes neeed to spread through the internet, and once they do, the new site will be accessible.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

NT Redesign: RSS Tweaks, Statistics, File Uploads

The list of things left to be done before the new site launches is growing ever shorter. During lunch today I created the "RSS" page that points to the two major feeds on the site (the main site feed, and the podcast feed), I got the new "Hall of Fame" statistics page working completely, and added the last four podcasts to the web site.

Only two tasks remain: setting up the redirect to send folks to the new web pages, and the mod_rewrite redirect for the old podcast files, so that all the old podcast file links don't break.

After those two things are done, it'll be time to officially through the switch; I'm hoping that will happen tomorrow, and that the new site will be officially "live" by Saturday.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NT Redesign: More CSS Hacking, Image Moving

And now we enter the dog days of the redesign, as I hack away at the lingering issues, back up all the files off of the new site, make sure that all the Radio Active MP3s and Nuketown images are re-loaded on to the new site, and generally try to avoid being too bored while doing the grunt work.

The most complicated task before me is manually updating the new site's database with the location of all the Radio Actives to date. It requires updating several tables manually (though I'm getting an idea on how to automate the process) and will probably take a good chunk of today to finish.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006

NT Redesign: CSS Fixed, Geek Tree Moved

I got a few minutes tonight to work on the new site, something I haven't done for a few days. I was able to fix the float issues with the CSS (basically there are a couple of elements in the drupal.css file that had "clear: both" properties set, which caused elements in my design to float oddly).

I moved the "Geek Tree" feature over to the new site. I tested the user registration process, but for some reason it didn't work. I'm not sure if that's because the beta isn't in its final location, because I've got some toggle switched in correctly, because Google is blocking the e-mail, or something else entirely.

Once I've got that working, the last major project will be to setup the various redirects, either through PHP or Apache's mod_rewrite, so that a minimum number of links are broken. It just wouldn't do to have a spiffy new site, and then have no one be able to get to it because I lost all my search engine and cross-linking traffic.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's a Boy!

His name is Lucas Kenneth Newquist. Full details on Nuketown.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

NT Redesign: File Uploads, Links

I hit an unexpected roadblock with the new site today as I discovered the new host doesn't let me modify the php.ini values, which in turn means that Drupal won't be able to upload any files over 7 mb in size, which is about 90% of the podcasts. Never fear though -- I think I can work around that by uploading the files manually and then hand-updating the Drupal file table. That's not pretty (enough so that I'll want to work on a short program to automate the database updating part of the process) but it should work.

Why bother? Because Drupal automates the creation of RSS feeds, and it will automatically include the file in the podcast feed, so net-net I'm probably saving 20 minutes by doing it this way rather than hand coding the RSS. That's the theory at least.

In other news, I've successfully moved the links index over to Drupal, but now I'm considering whether I want to use it or not. I'm going to experiment with having each link as a node in Drupal, which would allow the entire Linkport index to be referenced by the rest of the site, would allow users to comment on any sites, and possibly allow me to setup voting for links (though I'm not sure if I want to go that far, mostly for technical reasons). New links would be added on a freeform tagging basis, meaning I'd use tags, rather than categories, to organize them.

Keeping the Links section in Drupal makes them easier to edit, which could also help should any volunteers step foward and want to help with expanding the site.

W00T! 300 Posts!

Actually, 301. That's how many posts there are on The Atomic Age (not that many people have read them, this being a such a backwater burg compared to Nuketown...)

Monday, June 12, 2006

NT Redesign: Features, Registration, Breadcrumbs

The weekend wasn't quite as productive as I'd hoped, but I still managed to get all but one of the standing features over to the new site, I've setup the registration process (now with an improved e-mail notice letting folks know when their accounts are active) and the breadcrumbs module (which shows you where you are within the site).

I've got a few more modules to install (Google Analytics, Hall of Fame Statistics) but those should be easy. The "Similar Entries" module, which I installed this morning, is working but is displaying HTML entities (the encoded versions of things like apostrophes) as code rather than as symbols, so I need to fix that.

The two big sections of the site that still need to be ported are ones being driven by databases independent of Drupal: the Links page and the Geek Tree. Transferring them should be straightforward; it's just a question of getting a good block of time to back everything up and get it all moved. The NukeShop won't be ported in its current form -- if it arrives at all it'll be via a Drupal module that I need to test later this week on the old PowerMac.

Once all this is done (and it should be done this week) I'll open the site to beta testing, and focus my attention on managing the transition. There are a lot of pages on the old Nuketown who's URLs will change on the new one, and I need to work out a way to make sure everyone can find the new pages.

Friday, June 09, 2006

NT Redesign: Powering Up

Nuketown's main drives are now online, the habitat ring is spinning up, and minimal life support has been established. Which means that things are going pretty damn well on the ol'thermonuclear burg front -- I've ported over about 90% of the content from the site, which is basically all of the news and reviews from 2001 through to March 2006. I'll be manually moving over the content from March to now, partly to test of the systems, partly because I'm too lazy to modify my MySQL dump scripts to accommodate Drupal 4.7's new node structure.

I've ported all of the new categories over from my local Nuke-Drupal setup, and connected them to the primary navigation, which will consist of the following links (which evoke earlier incarnations of Nuketown):
  • Blog
  • Bookshelf
  • City Hall
  • Gameroom
  • Hoax Central
  • Linkport
  • Music Hall
  • Theatre
  • Podcast

Yeah, some of those names are kind of cutesy, but I needed a better way of naming the primary categories since simply writing "Books" didn't cover the other print products I review, like magazines and comic books.

I received a Google Analytics account earlier this week, and will be adding it to the new site this weekend. Analytics is useful for tracking traffic on your Web site, and coupled with Drupal's own internal reporting tools, it should help me fine tune Nuketown like never before.

A few minor CSS issues have turned up over the last two days, but I'm not overly concerned about them -- a night's worth of tinkering should solve that. Instead of messing with CSS I'm going to focus on porting stories to the new site, getting all of the modules I want to use installed, and working out the inevitable file-upload headaches (which require messing around with Unix permissions, and can be either easy or hard to resolve, depending on my host). With any luck, we'll be beta testing within a week.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

NT Redesign: Phase One Complete

The initial set-up of the new Nuketown site is done: I've got Drupal up and running, and I've uploaded the Neonuke template. This is the just-out-of-the-box configuration, so I've still got quite a lot of work to do: next up will be getting the navigation system operational and importing all categories from the copy of Nuke-Drupal that I have running on my PowerMac.

Still, it's a milestone, and I'm reminded strongly of the scene in 2010 where they've just arrived at Discovery and are in the process of powering up all of Hal's systems. I'm half waiting to hear the site say "Welcome home Dave..."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

NT Redesign: MySQL Headache

I tried to setup Nuketown's new Drupal installation over lunch, but alas, the MySQL configuration of the new host stymied me -- I could create the database through a Web interface, but it wouldn't let me work with it (adding tables, data, etc.) until the domain was moved. Since I don't want to move the domain until the new site is converted, I'm in something of a Catch-22 situation.

So instead of getting Drupal installed over lunch, I left home with an e-mail off to the folks at the hosting service. I'm hoping they'll come up with a solution that lets me access the DB without jumping through the domain moving hoops.


Customer Support gave me the answer via their wiki last night: set up a free subdomain through their service, then assign the DB to that, and set up the subdomain web site so it mirrrors the eventual Nuketown web site. It took a while for everything to propagate properly, but I'm now able to access both the test site and the database.


The Senate is about to reject the same-sex marriage ban, which I'm very glad to hear. It's an idiotic, un-American, anti-individual proposal that should crawl back under the same rock where it was lurking with the flag burning amendment. To understand just how stupid this is, consider this quote uttered by Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana: "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one."

I can think of a few thousand that are more important than this, starting with preventing terrorists from destroying American skyscrapers, and doing it in such a way that does not gangbang the Constitution. Then again I'm one of those wild and crazy guys who a) likes living and b) likes living in a free country.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

D&D: The Southern Arc, Part 3

The conclusion of the Southern Arc adventure sees the Dark City adventurers taking on a dark naga in the depths of the UnderOerth. It's also responsible for one of the great new campaign quotes by Damon playing his elven wizard Corash: "If only I hadn't blown that gust of wind fighting that monkey".

Welcome to the Apocalypse

Or not. Then again, when you've got crap like this going on, it's hard not to fear for the future of the Republic.

Monday, June 05, 2006

D&D: Pelor Twofer

Since I didn't post a D&D entry yesterday, you get two today:
  • Sir Peldonius Trueshield: Sir Peldonius Trueshield is the seneschal of the Church of Pelor in Obsidian Bay, an aging military leader who retains his cunning wit and excellent connections among the nobility of several countries.
  • Archibald Everson: The Herald of the Sun Father is the charismatic leader of the Church of Pelor, honored by aristocrats and respected by peasants for bringing the comforting light of his patron to Obsidian Bay.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

D&D: College of the Laughing Song

The College of the Laughing Song is Obsidian Bay's bardic college. It hasn't played a huge role in our campaign to date, but I'm planning on working in a storyline or two involving either the college or its alumni.

NT Redesign: Registration, Related Links, Search

One of the problems I encountered in the earlier Nuketown beta was that folks tried to login after they got their user name and password, but before I had approved them. I've solved that problem with the "Extended User Status" module, which allows me to send a message notifying folks when their account has been approved. I need to tweak it a bit so that it sends the username/password in the activation e-mail, rather than the "you've created an account but it needs to be approved" e-mail, but it should help considerably.

I also added a "related stories" module that lists the top five related links for each story in the database, which is something I do now on Nuketown, and wanted to replicate on the new site. I'm very pleased with the search feature built into Drupal 4.7, which offers users a fine degree of granularity in searching the site -- it's going to be a real quantum leap improvement.

I did find some lingering formatting issues involving the forum, but I don't plan to have the forum active when the site launches, partly because the old Nuketown forum didn't see a lot of traffic, partly because I'm not thrilled with Drupal's formatting of forums, and mostly because when commenting is turned on for all of Nuketown's posts, it won't really be needed.

Friday, June 02, 2006

D&D: The Southern Arc, Part 2

The Southern Arc, Part 2 features more dungeon delving, this time including a great ariel fight pitting the adventurers against gargoyles at the edge of a 100-foot tall subterranean cliff.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

NT Redesign: Primary Nav, Breadcrumbs, CSS Tweak

As I discussed over on Nuketown the redesign and conversion to Drupal has started up again, and I'm making slow but steady progress. I'm going to be chronicling that progress here, since it's easier to post to Blogger, the posts will be short, and everything I do here is one less thing I need to worry about tweaking back into shape over at the burg.
So, today's milestones included:
  • Primary Nav Fix & Breadcrumbs: Rather than rework Drupal's primary navigation scheme to indicate what section you're in as you're browsing the site, I've installed the taxonomy_breadcrumbs module. This will provide a list of breadcrumbs showing where you are in the site on every page save the home page, and provides the context I was looking for. I also fixed a problem with the formatting on the navigation block.
  • CSS Tweaks: There was setting in the core Drupal CSS that was causing headaches with the CSS for my theme, forcing content to appear below the right-hand navigation items (rather than at the same height with it). I saw it in the previous beta and fixed it; last night I figured out how I did it the first time, and re-applied the tweak (writing it down so I know how to fix it again in the future, should the need arise).

It lives...

My C#-based RSS screensaver is working now (no, you can't see it yet) -- it's built and running on another Windows machine. At first it wouldn't run because .Net Framework 2.0 wasn't installed, but once that was addressed it worked perfectly. The screensaver is a tweaked version of the one that ships with the Visual C# 2005 Express Edition -- I've added the ability to visit whatever RSS item is presently selected and disabled the ability of users to change the feed and image directories.

Of course, Windows Vista will come along, and its Windows RSS platform will negate all this work, but that probably won't be deployed at work for another two years, so it should have a short-but-useful life.

Scrambling Madly

Once upon a time, in the distant past, I was actually ahead on my Knights of the Dinner Table columns. Then I slacked, and fell back to the regular production schedule, and ever since then it's been a mad scramble to get things done. Fortunately the latest column came together beautifully (though I had to raid my Junk File of oddball sites to do it) and I have the makings of July's column already researched, so I may actually be able to get ahead again. Maybe. If I don't slack. And the baby doesn't come until next week...

D&D: The Southern Arc, Part 1

The Dark City adventurers begin their track into the UnderOerth in the Southern Arc, Part 1. The "Bard Descendent" part of this adventure was great -- a lot of people bitch about GMs running quasi-PCs as part of an adventuring group, but my bard Thom has turned into a good support and comic relief character, and I have no compunctions about killing him, as his near-death at the edge of the cliff illustrates.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Xcode 2.3

A new version of Apple's Xcode software development toolkit was just released on May 23. Check out what's new or login to the Apple Developer's site to download it. Personally, I don't do a lot with it, but it can be handy to have around when you're messing around with scripts, and apps like FileMerge come in handy.

D&D: Attack of the Messengers

The saga notes don't do it justice, but they're online. In this outing, the fledgling Persuaders Guild goes up against the Messengers Guild ... and loses quite badly. As in, "heads-removed-from-bodies-and-left-on-guildmaster's-bed" badly.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Nuketown Updates

If you're wondering what's going on with Nuketown, check out "Welcome to the New Burg, Same as the Old Burg", in which I discuss the current state of the redesign and post a screenshot of the current alpha build of the new site.

Visual C#

After many, many years away from it ... I'm programming for Windows again, specifically using C# to create an RSS screensaver. Thankfully, there's a C# Express RSS Screen Saver Starter Kit that should simplify things nicely.

Right now I'm searching for good C# reference boks -- so far I've come up with Programming in the Key of C# by Charles Petzold and C# Cookbook, 2nd Edition by Jay Hilyard, Stephen Teilhet.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mouse Milestone

Jordan used a mouse correctly for the first time yesterday. Albiet it was a single-button, Mac-mouse (kinda of like training wheels for mice) but she was able to manuever the cursor and click on large Web page icons. Contrary to what you might expect from a geek dad, I haven't been pushing computers on her -- she likes to play pretend with them, but I haven't been in a huge hurry to get her actually interacting with one. Now that she's three and change though, her coordination is starting to collide with her interest. Fortunately, I've got an old G3 iMac just waiting for her...

Monday, May 15, 2006

"Why do we fall Bruce?"

"So we can learn to pick ourselves up" -- Thomas Wayne, Batman Begins.

Friday, May 12, 2006

T-Mobile Doesn't Rollover for Feds

Goot to know that T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless say they are not participating in NSA phone-records project; this makes me proud to be a T-Mobile customer. Just because the government asks you to piss all over the Constitution doesn't mean you have to actually do that.

SCIFI Wiki has launched its own wiki, SCIFIPEDIA. It's got 1,087, which isn't bad for a just-launched wiki; more over it's not just the word "wiki" slapped onto a static site, but an honest-to-god wiki -- it looks like they're powering it with Wikimedia (the same wiki software behind for Wikipedia).

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bad Twin

Uncle Bear has a review of Bad Twin, the book by almost-LOSTie Gary Troup, who died en route to The Island. It's not bad, but not great, and it raises some interesting questions -- like why was Troup working real-world (at least, real in his world) corporations like Hanso into a fictional book?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Life Imitates Brazil, part 2

Wired reports that military service and high security clearances aren't enough to keep you from getting snagged by the government's terrorist watchlist. All that we need now is for someone's name to get mispelled by a bug jammed in some machinery and for them to get shot by a SWAT team, and the conversion to real-life Brazil-think will be complete.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Drupal 4.7.0 Released

Drupal 4.7.0 is out, which means I can now go ahead with my planned upgrade of Nuketown to that open-source CMS. In other words, no more excuses.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Worse Than a Wall

Reason provides a prime example of life imitating Brazil, with the immigration devolving into a bureaucratic monstrocity that's sure to a) not accomplish its goal and b) make life hell for everyone in the United States, legal, illegal or just visiting.

Monday, May 01, 2006

'Revenge of the Nerds' Being Remade

Story here. Someone needs to cue Hollywood into the fact that we already won. Maybe Steve Jobs could do it.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Geek Culture

Geek Culture: An Annotated Interdisciplinary Bibliography is a comprehensive overview of books, articles and other publications relating to geek culture. I'm thinking of writing an essay on the topic of geek culture for Nuketown, and this looks to be a gold mine.

Creature Sighted in Bethlehem

Lance has his new monster PC up and running. And it glows.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jersey and You

One more reason I'm glad I'm not living in New Jersey anymore: misplaced plague mice.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Radio Active 29

Hey -- what do you know, this podcast's actually on time! Exactly two weeks after #28, Radio Active #29 goes live. This time around I talk about Battlestar Galatica, give a brief review of the film version of V for Vendetta, review the open source Civ2 variant FreeCiv and offter thoughts on the Misfit Brew and Does My Geek Look Big In This? pocasts. I round it out with a review of the Spell Compendium source book for D&D by Wizards of the Coast.

The Myth of Price Gouging

It's not price gouging, it's the market. When demand goes up, supply goes down, and prices increase. It's simple economics, but apparently some people just can't understand that. Including some who should know better (and this little politically opportunitist probe, btw, is one of the many, many reasons I won't be voting Republican in the fall).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hail Comrade!

A woman's been arrested for the crime of "harassing a foreign official" after heckling the Chinese president at a press conference. Anyone else remember when standing up to Communists was a good thing?

Typo Confounds Kryptos Sleuths

Wired has an article about the encrypted scultpure Kryptos that sits in the CIA's courtyard. I've read about this before, and it got me to thinking about using such a thing in a role-playing campaign as a plot lynchpin -- the PCs need to decipher the riddles the sculpture contains to understand some secret prophesy or perhaps find the keys necessary to unlock some ancient treasure horde.

Now that I think about it some more, this would be a cool relic for my RISUS Gamma World protocampaign: the Sentinal of Kronos stands in the ruins of deserted Forerunner citadel, promising riches beyond imagining to anyone who can solve its riddles ... and survive the challenges they reveal...

Computer Envy

I don't often drool over Windows PCs, but this Lance at Ditlog is putting together a pretty damn cool box. Read about it (and view pictures) in Dr. Stein and the Forbidden Lure of Oblivion".

Terrorism vs. Pornography

Iraq is a mess, Al Qaeda is still out there, but fortunately the Bush Administration is willing to take time from their busy schedules to protect us from the greatest threat of all: pornography. Porn, like spam, is omni-present on the Web and porn, like spam, isn't going to go away because a bunch of overzealous religous prudes in Washington pass a bunch of new overly complex laws. It didn't work in the 1980s, it's not going to works in the 00s.

What I'm waiting for is the inevitably pornographers-are-terrorists line, which when combined with the drug war, will bring a nicely horrific synergy to the White House's efforts.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Inbox Relief

It took 15 minutes a day for two week, but my work inbox is finally tamed and prioritized. And there was much rejoicing.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Genre Fonts

Uncle Bear's restored his excellent free archive of genre fonts. Here you'll find TrueType fonts -- which work on Windows or Mac OS X -- for LOST, Illuminati, The Incredibles, 24, Sin City, Battlestar Galactica and much more.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Environmentalism and the Apocalypse

I've been kicking around the idea of a RISUS-based, Gamma World-inspired play-by-post campaign. If I do, these sorts of crazies will have a prominent role.

In Nukeland, all but 12 percent of the world's population has been wiped out by war, nukes, and viruses. The Last Church of the Green, whose founder foresaw the apocalypse laying waste to all but 10% of the population, is dedicated to reducing the Earth's population into aggreement with said prophesy (and getting rid of the excessing 2 percent).

Break on Through to the Other Side

I'm on the other side of my allergy attack now -- the nauseating post-nasal drip kept me up until 4 a.m. watching Nowhere Man and Scrubs DVDs, but its now fleeing in favor of a simple stuffy nose (which I'll take over The Drip anyday). I've still got a ways to go until I'm firing on all thursters, but at least emergency power and some basic subsystems are back online.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Code Monkey

Jonathan Coulton's got a new Thing a Week up for all you programmers out there: Code Monkey. Thankfully I've never had to code in this sort of environment, but its still damn funny. My favorite lines:

Manager say code monkey very diligent but his output stink.
His code not functional or elegant think. What do code monkey think?
Code monkey think maybe manager want to write godamn login page himself.
Code monkey not say it out loud.
Code monkey not crazy, just proud

Die Spring, Die

All of College Hill is abloom with flowers and the fresh greenery of new growth, all of which makes for some beautiful misery. Because spring is here ... and so are our allergies. Sue and I have the sore throats; Jordan has a runny nose (that we know of -- she could have a sore throat too, but at three her self-diagnoses aren't all that specific). I've started taking Claritan, and hopefully Sue can find something she can take while she's pregnant.

It's going to be a long week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


You've got to love this quote from the Apache mod_rewrite doc:
"Despite the tons of examples and docs, mod_rewrite is voodoo. Damned cool voodoo, but still voodoo. ''
-- Brian Moore

And it's totally true. mod_rewrite is damned cool, but it can make your head hurt. A lot.

Dead But Dreaming

I accidentally deleted The Atomic Age the other night while I was prepping for a Web 2.0 presentation at work. I contacted Blogger's Help Department and today they restored the blog without nary a mark on it. All I had to do was republish the site. Many thanks to Blogger for saving what had been dead but dreaming.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The "Delve Format" for Adventures

Jesse Decker and David Noonan discuss ways to improve the standard adventure module with its statblocks and endless lists of references. Their changes are inspired by the GenCon Dungeon Delve, which allows players to spend an hour crawling through a dungeon, and which requires quick-and-easy maps and references for the DMs who run it. Among the changes are larger-sized maps with important elements clearly labeled, statblocks that include important monster abilities directly in the text (such as the confusion table for an umber hulk's gaze attack) and two-page map spreads. It's an interesting approach, and one I'm thinking of adapting for my own game prep.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Reaper's Fantasy Figure Finder

I'm doing my KODT column this month on minis, and in my searching I came across Reaper's Fantasy Figure Finder, which allows you to search their mini database on an impressive array of critera, right down to what object is being held in which hand.

Very cool. Now I just need to earn some more freelance cash so I can go buy some new minis...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Having iTunes Calculate Album Length in Minutes

When I write an album review, I need to know how long it is. iTunes will tell me this, but if it's longer than an hour, it displays the results like "1.1 hour", which is useless. There must be a way to get iTunes to display the total number of minutes in a playlist ... and I will find it!


A reader found this post and sent in the all-to-easy solution:
I was getting really frustrated trying to find the same thing and Google brought me to your post.
I did find the solution. You'll probably feel as silly when I did when I figured it out.
Click the results "1.1 hour" and it will switch to HH/MM/SS.

Thanks Matt!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Mets Won!

The Mets won their first game of the season, beating the Nationals 3-2. Unfortunately I didn't see the game, but MetsBlog has commentary.

Home Page Experiments

I'm playing around with some variant home pages for Nuketown, and I've come up with one I really like: it uses a large photo/image/graphic on the home page, and places the content beneath it. It feels more webzine-ish, and less bloggish, while retaining interactivity (or rather adding it, since there isn't much there now).

Here's the variant home page, with three different sets of cover art. Feedback is welcome and appreciated!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lost: Over Thinking

Spoilers abound. Uncle Bear looks at the map, and starts speculating. Its spawned a lengthy, thoughtful thread that includes posts from yours truly, so check it out.

Lost: Having a Blast

So if you haven't watched "Lockdown" yet, then you don't know about the map, which means you shouldn't view this overlay, which does some image manipulation and translating to try and figure out what the hell it all means.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

On top of ol'Spaghetti...

The Flying Spaghetti Monster was spawned during the Evolutionary Wars last year (no, not those Evolutionary Wars) as a perfectly reasonable alternative to creationism/intelligent design. After all, if some ambigious, unnamed super-powerful entity could have created the universe, why couldn't the it have been the The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Now its Gospel is about to be revealed and in it true believers will discover:
  • A "Flying Spaghetti Monster" created the universe, Earth and its creatures, making a few mistakes on the way after drinking heavily from heaven's beer volcano.

  • The FSM hid dinosaur fossils underground to "dupe mankind" about Earth's true age and is the secret force behind gravity, pushing everything downward with its "noodly appendage."

  • The FSM wants everyone to talk and dress like pirates. Global warming is considered a punishment for the relative scarcity of pirates these days.

And as we all know, any theory that has pirates has to be right. I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere (well, maybe not there ... but definitely somewhere). Now if only they could work in some ninjas...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Shocking, I Know

You are a

Social Liberal
(75% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(85% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test


I discovered last week that the annoying itching sensation I have in my ears is Swimmer's Ear (yes, you can get it without actually swimming, which I haven't done since June). So now I get to stick medicated drops in my ears four times a day for a week, which means ... no iPod (since it's kind of hard to listen to the earbuds when you've got drops in your ears ... talk about a godawful mess).

So I'll be iPodless for at least a week as the medication does battle with the infection. Argh ... and I was just getting caught up on my podcasts...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Moons of Jove

Moons of Jove is the new experimental LiveJournal blog that my friend Nathan Lilly (of GreenTentacles fame) just launched. Stop by, post a comment, and make him feel at home in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mets Geek

They're geeks. They like the Mets. Clearly these are my kind of people.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Atomic Upgrades

I made some minor repairs and upgrades to The Atomic Age last night -- I cleaned up the blog roll, killing out a few of the bad links, adding in some fresh ones, and I finally got my Technorati profile working on both this blog and Nuketown, which allowed me to add a link to my profile.

I also added a link to Blogshares, the blog information market that I play around with from time to time (I'd claimed Nuketown, but never got around to the Age. I've added a link roll for my account and a Flickr badge, so this little blog's about as Web 2.0 as you can get -- the only thing left is for me to post to it from Flock (well, and maybe add hooks into a MySpace account, but I just haven't gotten into MySpace).

So why all the work on this backwater blog? Well, for one thing I just wanted to improve my grasp of the various Web 2.0 technologies and see how easy it was to integrate it into Blogger -- people ask me about this stuff from time to time, and I like to give informed answers. The other part of it is that The Atomic Age, while still standing in Nuketown's radioactive shadow, is eeking out a small but growing amount of traffic. It's averaging about 30 visits a day, with occasional spikes to 100 or even 500 visits, and if people are going to be stopping by, I might as well hunt down the dust bunnies from time to time.

Adventure as a Mac Widget

A few months ago a friend and I were talking about the classic text adventures like Zork, Hitchiker's Guide to the Galxy and the original Colossal Cave (later known as Adventure).

There are a bunch of places on the Web were you can play these games, but now you can get lost in a maze of tiny, twisting passages (all alike) through Mac OS X's Dashboard via the Advent widget. This brings the game full circle for me, as I originally played it on my parents' Apple II+.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Nuketown Radio Active #27: The Flu, Battlestar Wiki, V for Vendetta

Radio Active goes temporarily political with a review of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V for Vendetta graphic novel. But before I launch off on that tangent, I've got news about the flu that ravaged Nuketown, updates on some of my freelance projects, and a bunch of new sites of note, including the Battlestar Galatica wiki, the Liberty & Culture blog, an excellent conversation about "Common Sense" gaming via and a cool write-up on virtual desktops for GMs from Check out the podcast and read the show notes.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Microsoft Messenger for Mac Updated

Microsoft updated Messenger for Mac to version 5.1. According to Apple, the new version:
  • encrypts chat and file transfers
  • easier to save chats
  • many more enhancements
What the "many more enhancements" are, I have no idea, and Microsoft's download page ain't telling.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Quicksilver to the Rescue

I posted yesterday about how I've started using Quicksilver as an alternative to Mac OS X's built in Spotlight search. Spotlight is ok for simple document or media searches, but sometimes it doesn't dig as deeply or as thoroughly as I'd like.

At its most basic, Quicksilver is an application launcher for Mac OS X. You hit a hot key, type what you're looking for and it opens/executes it.

It can do a lot more than that though, including finding specific files and then allowing you to execute actions based on them. For example, I know that I have a file called "LDAP Notes" somewhere on my computer, so I fire up Quicksilver, do a search and it finds the Word doc with those notes. I can then immediately launch Word from that Window. You can also use it to say, launch a playlist -- I want to listen to The Cult, so I do a search on that, get the iTunes playlist list containing those songs and it launches. Through Quicksilver, or its various plugins, you can find a tremendous amount of information on your Mac, perhaps more than you might like. It can index keychains, command line history, recent items (from the Apple menu), bookmarks, your Safari history and much more, increasingly geeky stuff.

I should note, however, that Quicksilver is beta software. I haven't had any problems with it, but as with any beta software, you need to keep an eye on it. Fortunately, Quicksilver has a "stable mode" which allows you to turn off a lot of the bleeding edge stuff. The software isn't particularly well documented, and I found this tutorial useful for understanding exactly what Quicksilver is good for.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Failing to Spotlight History

I discovered today, much to my annoyance, that under OS 10.4.x, Spotlight won't search Safari's history, though it will search your bookmarks, and within Safari itself, you can search the history as if it were another set of bookmarks.

Fortunately, it turns out that Quicksilver -- which I'm finding more and more useful -- can search my Safari history and my bookmarks, which makes me a happy little geek. Just not happy with Spotlight.

The Horror at the Fountain

Our Dark City D&D campaign has started up again after a few months hiatus. The saga for the first of the new adventures, "The Horror at the Fountain" is online. In it, our heroes figure out exactly what caused a baby in the Mudsitters District to be born as a tentacled mutant ... but after learning that an aboleth or illithid might be behind the plot, they're less than thrilled about pursuing that particular line of investigation.

Beating up the Messengers Guild though, seems pretty attractive (then again, when last they checked, the guild didn't contain any tentacled monstrocities, so I suppose I understand their interest).

In other Dark City news, I created an index on the Griffin's Crier that lists all of the PCs in the campaign, which should be useful in keeping track of who's who. I plan on making another list of associated NPCs.

Scientific Widgets Roundup

The Scientific Widgets Roundup links to a bunch of useful Mac OS X Dashboard widgets for physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology and math. Unfortunately a few of the links are broken, but most are functional, including the Clear Sky Clock (or evaluating sky conditions), the Sunlit Moon (which reveals the true phase of the moon) and The Periodic Table (which gives you quick access to information about elements).

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mets Blog

Spring training is underway and the baseball season is almost upon us. And thanks to MetsBlog, I may even have half a clue what's going on this season.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Google: Mars

Google: Mars pulls together a wide array of Martian imaging and data to create an educational and fun look at the Red Planet. You can browse geological features such as mountains, canyons and craters, view the landing sites of various spacecraft, and view areas connected to news stories. I can't wait to see how cool this gets once it starts integrating the new hi-res imagery from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Easton Blogs

I came across two Easton-related blogs after reading the lastest issue of The Elucidator (a quarterly magazine published in Easton): Easton Undressed (which includes a podcast and audio recordings of council meetings) and, which bills itself as a 'concerned citizens forum'. I haven't had a chance to read either extensively, but its nice to know that there a few blogs showing up around the burg.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Titanic Lightning Storm on Saturn

CNN reports a massive thunderstorm on Saturn is generating lightning strikes 1000 times more powerful than those on Earth. Don't you wish you could be in orbit around the ringed planet right now, watching it?

Adventures Ripped from the Headlines

Is your weekly game looming before you, and you don't have a single adventure hook in mind? Then check out this Treasure Table post, which discusses using real-world news (or in some cases, fake news from real tabloids) for inspiration. I've never done this, but it strikes me as being a great idea -- and one I might start using in my Dark City campaign.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Radio Active #25

Radio Active is now 1/4 of the way to Episode #100! Hmmm ... that sounded a lot more impressive in my head. This time around I've got a review of John Scalzi's Old Man's War, some thoughts on losing (and finding) my scifi and reviews of the Does My Geek, Roll 2d6 and BrickNebula podcasts

Steve Colbert: Epic Wizard

Yep, Stephen Colbert played D&D as a kid. Too bad he still doesn't -- we could use a few more dice-throwing celebrities...

Monday, January 23, 2006


BrickNebula is a podcast that proves you can find just about anything on the Internet if you look long enough. It's dedicated to the incredibly niche subject of Star Wars LEGOS. Published every month or so, the two hosts talk about new LEGOS kits, debate the merits of the different revs of Wars LEGOS, and delve into the occasional science fiction rant or rave.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Efficiently Delicious

"Several Habits of Wildly Successful Users" offers a bunch of tips for making good use of the bookmarking Web site Among their suggestions, use your "inbox" to track specific tags, use the plus (+) sign to find all posts about multiple tags (e.g. xmen+comics) and how to do a daily dump of bookmarks to your blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

PATRIOT in Retreat?

A story on Reason discusses the unexpected resistance that's popped up to making permanent certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act.

I'm glad to see it -- the PATRIOT Act as never a good idea. The federal government couldn't handle the information and powers it had at its command before 9/11; what made anyone think they'd do any better with shiny new unconstitutional ones?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Flock: A Social Web Browser?

Flock is a Web browser that tries to put a friendly face on the Web by tightly integrating with a bunch of different kinds of social software, including, Flickr, Blogger. The idea is that rather than jump from page to page, utility to utility when you want to bookmark or blog something, you just use this Firefox spin-off instead. It's fun to play with, though sometimes it feels a little too cute for its own good.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I've finally created a page to track my bookmarks. Share and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

GD Said What?

I recently had a problem where images that were supposed to be edited into three different sizes by the GD module within Apache were simply being copied to a new folder. I got three images, and their file sizes were different from the original, but their height and width were identical to the original photo.

Turns out that it was the GD module's doing -- it seems that JPEG support wasn't enabled, so rather than fail it just sort of faked it, copying the images, but not really manipulating them. I figured out what it was up to by running this bit of PHP code:

$gd = var_dump(gd_info());

gd_info snags the GD settings and throws them into an array that I then dumped. That's what told me that JPEG support was set to "false". So now you know ... and knowing is half the battle!

Patch Job

I'm pretty comfortable with Unix nowadays, but there are moments when I still feel like a stranger in a strange land. One of those moments was when I first encountered the patch command. Sure, I'd used patches before, but never a command line patch, and unfortunately (as is usually the way of such things in Unix) everyone just assumes you know how to do it, and never offers an explaination.

Fortunately, Wikipedia has one. The entry provides an overiew of the patch command, some history, and examples of its usage.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Giving Apache What It Wants

In Web development, it's a good idea to give the Web server read/write access to the files/directories it wants to read/write to (and ONLY the server, since giving too much access is an invitation to hackers/crackers/script kiddies), but doing that can be a somewhat ... arcane process. After some web wandering, here's the process I've come up with:

1. Figure out what user/group the server is running as. On Mac OS X boxes, the default is www/www; on Unix boxes I think the default is apache/apache, but it depends on where you are. If you have root access, you can look at Apache's httpd.conf file, which explicitly states which user and group apache runs as. If you don't have root access, then you can look at the Unix process list and see what Apache is running as.

2. Change the file's user and group Use the unix command chown command thusly (assuming the user/group the server is running under is "www"): chown www:www [file], where [file] is the name of the file/directory you're changing. You'll probably need root access to do this as well (something I'm still trying to work around on Nuketown's test server, a Linux box that I don't have root access to).

Monday, January 09, 2006

World of Waiting

You know, it figures. I've been out of World of Warcraft for weeks, only poking my head in occasionally to see what's up. Tonight I actually want to make an extended excursion and ... the server's down. Ugh.

Free Your Mind

It's not quite Neal Stephenson's virtual desktop, but Freemind still looks pretty cool. It's a Java-based "mind mapping" software, providing a visual tool for organizing your thoughts. I haven't tried it yet, but its on my list of stuff to play with this week.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Power of Mdfind

This article on O'Reilly explains mdfind, which offers all the flexibility of Spotlight from Mac OS X's Unix command line.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lego Mindstorms Gets an Upgrade

Too cool. The next-gen Mindstorms robots can react to ultrasound, sound, light and touch, etc., and can be programmed via Bluetooth or USB (as in, one guy demoing the robot was able to control it from his freaking phone!). it's going to be expensive -- $250 -- but so was the first one. Plus, it is educational ... right?