Monday, December 22, 2014

Maps – The Stave Church

Last week, I did a quick drawing of a Norse themed building. Today, for the winter solstice, I knocked out a floor plan for a fantasy themed stave church.
When sketching this church, I imagined that the parishioners are followers of a river goddess and that the church is very old. From the exterior, this church would appear to be several storeys high, but the interior shows a largely, airy nave.
The church is orientated to the north, is a mirror of a river to the west of the church. Most rivers do not flow north, so this one is special.

The sacristy is in the north and is rather spartan. It features a large stone urn for the storage of offering. Next to the urn is a small trap door leading to an short under ground tunnel. This tunnel often floods, so escape by this route is in the hands of the goddess. A pair of tables, stools and two curved shelves round out the last of the furnishings of the sacristy.
A small concealed door leads from the sacristy to the sanctuary.  This is more of decorative feature as all parishioners see it in use during every service to allow access to the apse.
A large tree stump was brought into the building to serve as a small altar. When a more suitable table was found, it was dragged to the eastern side for use an ab. On the western side is a stone capped well. The water contained within is both drinkable and holy.  The well also serves as an ambo during high ceremony requiring water.
The nave contains ten smaller pews which can be moved as needed. Two larger sets of pews are affixed to the south wall. Along the southeast and southwest inner walls are leper windows, for those who cannot enter the nave.
Three sets of steps lead down to doors, a change in elevation of just four feet. This outer floor area is often covered in reeds to prevent mud from being dragged into the nave. The east and west doors swing inwards, while the south doors swing outwards. All interior doors swing inwards.
It should be noted that this church is not orientated as it would be in the real world. Churches also tend to have an ambo in the center and not to the side, there is also the issue that lectern is general not found with an ambo. This church placed the ambo to side closest to the river.

Half Baked Idea - The Demon Core

In my last post, I mention a device called the demon core. I know what it looks like, I know that it seethes with power. It is wildly dangerous. Aside from that I know nothing.
There was a real device called the demon core. It was 3.5 inch, subcritical mass of plutonium used for testing. In this capacity, it killed two scientists.
Nasty stuff. I may have to revisit this item and flesh it out for use in my campaign.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Serpent Bay – Five Minute Vinette

A user request from Google Plus – post-apocalyptic maps. I am horrible with colored pencils and I have never tried a post-apocalyptic map. What I ended up with was a sketched vinette.


“They brought the demon core, blood hexes and shells. They pushed us to the sea. In the woods we moved like eidolons hunting, as the skies sizzled with hot brass and steel rain. The sea frothed blue and white; the gnashing of frustrated and frenzied selkies.
“Desperation rose within us, fanned by orisons, curses and automatic fire.


“You tell ’em, we held those bastards at Serpent Bay.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Of #Blackstormtroopers or How Right was My Mom

When I was a kid, my parents took me to see Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In the case of the last two, they let my sister and I ditch school. How cool are my parents?

My parents were largely silent on Star Wars. We knew they liked it, but in retrospect, they obviously enjoyed our love of the series more than their own pleasure. They stepped over countless Star Wars toys, sat through endless monologues, and fielded wacky questions about Tie Fighters and X-Wings. Now that I have children, I totally understand this.

However, during our first viewing of Return of the Jedi, my mother offered a singular and powerful opinion. I have to count it as one of the most important formative moments of my life.

Picture it:


Luke is standing over a crippled Darth Vader and Vader's voice is distorted, failing. He requests that Luke remove his mask, ending his life, so that he may look upon his son with his own eyes.

With great sorrow, Luke complies and we see that Sebastian Shaw is the actor playing Luke's father.

My mother was mortified. She spluttered "Where is hell is James Earl Jones!?!"

I hissed: "Mom! James Earl Jones is...."

Then I got it. She knew that James Earl Jones was Mark Hamill's dad. She just knew that was the right thing, and somehow I knew it too. That piece of accidental advice has stayed with me all my life. Skin color doesn't matter.

There is a corollary to this story. My wife purchased a set of Star Wars DVD's for me. One day, the kids and I watched all three movies. This was one of the special edition sets with all of the modifications George Lucas had time to throw in.

I was stunned when Hayden Christensen was cut into Shaw's role as Anakin.

I howled: "What the hell? That should be James Earl Jones!"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chromebook's Task Manager

I have recently been suffering from some lockups and crashes. The need for a task manager was incredible and I lamented the lack of one.
How wrong I was. The hot key is Esc+Shift. Well. I feel stupid.
What I discovered using the task manager was that Adblock Plus was eating my RAM. Google Drive Sync, the ability to use and edit drive documents offline is also chewing on my memory.
As valuable as I find Adblock, I decided it to turn it off.
We shall see what happens.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Legacy Formatting - Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office

Many years ago, I decided not to use Microsoft Office any more. Yeah me! But what if you have to use both Microsoft Office and Google Documents? Well, you can.
BUT... it seems that all formatting done in Google Docs IS supported by Microsoft Office while Microsoft Office formatting can be horribly scrambled by Google Docs. Nothing is more annoying than perfecting form in Excel or Word and having Google Docs screw up the formatting.
The obvious and horrendous option is to rewrite the whole document in Google Docs. My answer to that is "Heck no."
The better option is to make sure Google Docs does not try to convert Microsoft Documents when they are upload. There is a trick to this. Google Docs doesn't let you do this. Why? All Google Docs are stored in or on your Google Drive. That is where the setting is.
Annoying, I know.
Go to Google Drive and click the gear.
Click settings. The window that opens has exact four options. Uncheck the first item called "Convert uploads".
Once this is done, you will have your Microsoft Office Format preserved. There is a minor cost for doing this - You may not edit the document. On the other hand, the document has a preview mode available, a conversion option, sharing and email choices, and printing options. Usually this is good enough for most users.
I made a choice not to use Microsoft Office, but do you know why Office exists? Because some people like it and continue to use what they know best. As it should be.
When you need to keep your workflow moving and have all kinds of new tools available glitches happen. I hate it when a new product like Drive or Docs comes a long and breaks old files, forcing you to rework them.
If you find yourself in this set of circumstances, you really should pick one software product and use it exclusively. If you end up picking drive. you will eventually need to rework and reformat your files. But don't let your software dictate when you need to do this.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

SFB Scrapyard Sack

I ordered Amarillo Design Bureau’s Scrapyard Sack.
What did I get? I don’t know, but I love it.
There  are several intact ships – A Kzinti ship, a Kzinti Tug, 3 Federation CA style ships, an AUX carrier and a B10 Boom. The small Aux carrier, the B10 Boom and the Kzinti Tug are pretty much ready to go, I could clean them up and paint them now. The others will require a smidgen of creativity to get into action.
Additional items are 6 Federation engines, matched in left-right pairs. 4 Federation frigate engines and lower hulls, an extra CA style hull with engines, a Federation hull with no engines or bridge, and a pair of Klingon wing distruptors or engines.
And in the middle is a nearly complete hull of something I can’t identify.
All and all, I am very happy with my scrapyard sack.
UPDATE: David McGuire over on Google+ gave me some hints: 
"Without a closer look, the center one may be a NCL. Or on the outside, maybe the DN minus the body or the Federation version of the B10"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Warning!!!


Warning!!!
Do not live this life straight through from the beginning to end! These days contain many different adventures you can have in this world. Some adventures take place in the present time, some in the past and others in the future. From time to time as you live, you will be asked to make decisions and choices. Some of them are dangerous.
The adventures you take are a result of your choices. You are responsible because you choose. After you make your choice, follow the instructions to see what happens to you next.
Think carefully before you make a move. One mistake can be your last… or it may lead you to fame and fortune.
Truer words have never been spoken. Thank you R. A. Montgomery. I hope you made all the right choices and found the results to your liking. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reshare – Billiam Brabble and Inked Adventures

Reshare my butt… this is a total post theft.
Billiam Babble on Google +, posted about Inked Adventures, a set of 3d paper dungeon morphs. These sets are available on DriveThru RPG and retail for less than $10.00 a set. In many cases, much less than 10 bucks. You can also check out Inked Adevnture’s link above for free items, support and errata.
What a deal for a creative and easy way to enhance your dungeon crawl.
For the record, my pay day is Friday so sadly I have to wait to order my set.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Brown's Berry Patch

(EDITED May, 2016. I am uncertain as to the status of the Farm, I had heard they closed but they still have an active Facebook Page. It was always a pleasure traveling out the Patch. Perhaps a little investigation is in order.)

It is that time of year again, we are taking our yearly trip to Brown’s Berry Patch. Brown’s is located in Orleans County, just south of Lake Ontario.
Brown’s Berry Patch has seasonal you-Pick fruit, right now, apples are in full swing along with pumpkins. Some softer fruits are available in the shop, but not available as a self picked item. Prices for apples are ridiculously low, be sure to bring a bag to carry your picks home with you. Wagons are available for rental.


Live music and the grill are the center piece of the Patch. The various acts provide family friendly entertainment while you enjoy treats from the snack shop or a meal from the grill. Take some time to take a pictures and shop before venturing out to pick apples.


Kids will enjoy the Barnyard Adventure. Prices are very reasonable, about $5.00 per person. The Barnyard Adventure is subject to weather conditions, so it is best to call ahead or check the local weather for the 14571 zip code.
Address: 14264 Roosevelt Hwy, Waterport, NY 14571
Website: Brown’s Berry Patch

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chromebook and Ubuntu - How do I right click?

If you are using Crouton on a Chromebook, there will come a day where you ask "How do I right click?" With Chrome, you tap with two fingers. In Ubuntu, this does work.
Nothing special is needed. Just hold the ctrl button and click. This also works with any Ubuntu variant and a Mac single button mouse.
Good to know, eh?

Monday, July 21, 2014

C710-2487 Acer Chromebook Hardware Specs

I had to mess with it, I put myself in developer mode and switched to the dev channel in an effort to get my Wacom Bamboo working with my Chromebook. I just don't have time to test to night, so I will simply make a brief post about this Chromebook.
Hopefully, if I keep notes all will go well. This post is for my sanity.
C710-2487 Specs:
Screen Size11.6 inches
Screen Resolution1366 x 768
Max Screen Resolution1366 x 768 pixels
Processor1.1 GHz Celeron 847
RAM4 GB DDR3
Hard Drive320 GB SATA
Graphics CoprocessorIntel HD Graphics
Graphics Card Ram Size128 MB
Wireless Type802.11bgn
Number of USB 2.0 Ports3
Average Battery Life (in hours)4 hours
Brand NameAcer
SeriesC710
Item model numberC710-2487
Hardware PlatformLinux
Operating SystemChrome
Item Weight3 pounds
Item Dimensions L x W x H11.22 x 1.09 x 7.95 inches
ColorIron Gray
Processor BrandIntel
Processor Count2
Computer Memory TypeDDR3 SDRAM
Hard Drive InterfaceSerial ATA
Hard Drive Rotational Speed5400 RPM
Optical Drive TypeNo
Audio-out Ports (#)1
Battery TypeLithium-Ion (Li-Ion)
Batteries:1 Lithium ion batteries required. (included)

This Chromebook
A newer Chromebook

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Multi Day Chromebook Offline Test Part 3

My questioning mind. Google Drive stores files locally. I wonder where? Could I find those files and drop them on a jump drive to edit elsewhere? I can’t see them anywhere on the hard drive and since this is an offline test of the Chrome OS, I don’t want to connect or fire up Ubuntu to poke around.
My other question is why doesn't the spell check work? I noticed that the spell checker for the Chrome Web Browser is working, but that function is apparently different than the spell checker for Drive files. I find it baffling; you would think they are the same tool.
The other funny thing is, I can’t delete drive files. I am sure that is a safety feature, but in messing around, I have created several “Untitled Documents” that I can't ditch. That is maddening to a file freak. Why can't I delete?!?
Well, I guess some mysteries in life are good.
Aw, who am I kidding. I am so gonna Google the answers later. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Multi Day Chromebook Offline Test Part 2

As my multi day test of my Chromebook’s offline I noticed that I have some curious behaviors. Dropbox happily stores and updates information on my Chromebook hard drive by virtue of either manually downloading via the Chromebook’s App or automatically via Ubuntu’s capabilities.
Strangely, when I click Chrome’s Dropbox App, I am told I am offline.
I know that. The App doesn't do any caching locally even though the files are all present and accounted for. I have to manually navigate to the folder and open the files.
Some files open natively such as .jpegs or .pdfs. MS Word files open in Quickoffice, not Drive. From the Drive’s Open menu, I can't even access those files.
I could copy and paste information from Quickoffice to Drive, but that is just weird.
Or is it? I have to ask myself “why are you using both Dropbox and Drive?”. Well, the answer is Dropbox offered features that Drive didn’t have when I first starting using them, and now that each has more features, I am using them wrong.
I have 5 gb of space on Dropbox and over 100 gb on Drive. I should be using Drive all the time. I just can’t do it, because there are items I want to be available offline that drive does not handle. A copy of the Ubuntu installer for Minecraft. I suspect Drive wouldn't like that file at all.
Drive is a different sort of animal. It isn’t the beast of burden that Dropbox is. Dropbox stores data while Drive creates data. Someday I will adapt and figure it all out. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Multi Day Chromebook Offline Test Part 1

I am currently offline today, but still wanted to do a little writing. Google Drive is an excellent writing tool and the offline capabilities are great. Drive offers a snap shot of my current files and the last time they updated.
In theory, I guess I could lose some work by not syncing or syncing in the wrong way but I won’t be doing this today.
According to my indicators, I have two hours of battery life from a fresh charge. Normally, this is four or more hours, but I am using 3pm-Player for music and charging my phone at the same time. This is a pretty big drain on the battery. Unpluging the phone and turning off the music cause the indicators to creep back to about 3 hours.
This particular model of Chromebook has a 300 gb hard drive and I feel that this may be killing the battery life. I hear it spin up from time to time while playing music and when the automatic save kicks in.
In offline mode, Drive does have some limitations. I can create a Doc, a Presentation, Spreadsheet or Drawing. Forms, Geogrebra, Python, Source Code and StackEdit are all unavailable. That is ok, I don’t really need those now, but my hyperactive mind wonders if there is a setting or option that I could select to make them active offline. I should Google that… later.
When writing offline, I am hesitant to edit a currently existing file. The reason is I do have my iPhone that is connected to drive and obviously could use another computer to connect. I don’t want to wonder what edit will appear first. Until I get comfortable with this offline cloud stuff, anyway.
All and all, this is pretty good. The tunes are rocking and the internet is safely held at bay.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Chromebook Post I Always Meant to Write

For Christmas, my wife and I exchanged Chromebooks. I received the Acer C720 and she the HP Pavilion. We were replacing my Asus EEE and her Toshiba A210 and Macbook. We had some doubts about each machine as we were used either Ubuntu, Vista or OS X. However at the $200 price point, we thought we'd take a chance.
It's 145 days later and the report back from my wife is excellent: her Chromebook is used daily. Her favorite features are the quick boot time and the easy to use interface. It does nearly everything she needs.
She has two basic problems with her Chromebook. First, she can't connect her iPhone. This is the walled garden problem with iPhones. You just can't do it. The second issue is the lack of good MP3 player software. However, she found Spotify which is excellent on the Chromebook to address the lack of music.
My experience has been completely different. I am a power user and I was very concerned with the lack of offline capabilities, drawing software and photo editing tools. I have taken every step to avoid any problems by installing Ubuntu with Crouton. I cannot convey how easy this was, the Crouton is brilliant.
In my case, installing Crouton was premature. I do enjoy Ubuntu and all the powerful software that comes with it, but I discovered that I needed very few add-ons to make my Chromebook perfect for daily use. The Acer comes with a 300 GB hard drive plus 100 GB of cloud storage via Google Drive. I never have a lack of music. In fact, I can use Google Drive to store my basic music collection and download it to either my Chromebook or iPhone from my desktop. My player of choice is 3PM-Player, it reminds me of the old CD Player found with Windows 2K or Mac OS 9.
In the first few weeks of using my Chromebook, I was pining away for GIMP or Photoshop. Then I noticed that I was firing up Ubuntu and GIMP to do really basic editing. I guess I am more addicted to power tools than I thought. Talk about killing a fly with an axe. Recently, I added Pixlr to my machine and it meets most of my day-to-day needs. The Photo in this post was edited using Pixlr. The touchpad is not the tool for photo editing, but even a cheap mouse fixes this issue.
The only other downside is the "lack" of offline software for the Chromebook. The Chrome Store has tons of offline software, but for the longest time, it was hard to find. Recently, the Store added a checkbox filter for locating offline software which corrects the problem, sometimes. There are software vendors that try to sneak online stuff into the offline category, but those offerings stand out like a sore thumb.
I am really very pleased with our Chromebooks, I am starting to think of Ubuntu as a security blanket. I just can't let it go. Not now. But everyday, I'm learning to love my Chromebook more and more.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Certain Vibe – Dyson’s Delves, Tsoran and Gemstone IV

I’ve been a gamer since I could read. Perhaps, thanks to my dad, before I could read.
Some of my favorite games have something in common, a certain vibe. My favorite D&D modules are some of the earliest: Keep on the Borderlands,Ghost Tower of Inverness, Isle of Dread, and the adventure that appeared in Butterfield, Parker and Honigmann’s What is Dungeons and Dragons book.
All of them have the same vibe; an organic construction, a hint of what is to come and a basic hook that could be implemented at anytime. There is the name place which is foreboding and yet interesting. A diagram like structure of events. A collection of “show, don’t tell” sample characters to inform the DM of what is expected from the players. And nothing else.
It was all so simple:
“Do X and maybe Y will happen.
“Can’t really say for sure, your players have free rein.
“Make it work.”
I loved the way these old modules assumed that you and your players had something to bring to the table. There were events, maps, and charts documented, but you needed people to make the whole thing work.
That is awesome.
Recently, I returned to Gemstone IV, a MUD that thrives on the idea that players make the story. Being entirely text based, everything is very rich in descriptions and only rarely does art make it’s way into this world. There are many talented artists at Simutronics; but again, living by their player base, the players also a very creative bunch. Strangely, one of the most prolific “artists” was a player going by the handle Tsoran. He spent his time creating maps of the Lands of Elanthia. He may not consider himself to be an artist, but his maps ARE the image of the Lands. It is what I picture when I think of the game.
A number of years ago, Tsoran stepped away from the game and left the work of mapping the Lands to others. There would be no more updates to his maps. I have always been enviously of his detailed maps and wanted to make my own. Sadly, they never compared and I did not share too many.
Until I stumbled on Dyson Logo and his tutorials. Using his methods, I quickly cranked out a map that I loved. One that did not surpass Tsoran’s source materials, but stood along side. I was extremely please with myself.
Soon, I found myself digging through Dyson’s maps and blog postsfor more artwork to emulate so that I could improve my works. I found that he has a series of books called Dyson Delves. I ordered the first one and found myself back in The Keep on the Borderlands.
Dyson’s books capture that certain vibe. Unscripted but beautifully detailed. Just thumbing through the first book gave me the same feeling I had when reading those classic modules.
Go give Dyson a try. His work is available at RPGNow in electronic form or from Lulu in book form.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good Things from ADB, Inc.

They have updated prices on the Starline 2500 range of minis. A quick look at the list shows about half the ships (or more) have dropped in price significantly. Of course, this the flip side is some ships have increased in price by a fair amount. When I say fair, I mean that some jumped bucks to $19 or more for large battleships.
I haven’t crunched any numbers, but at a quick glance, half the ships are much cheaper, many stayed the same and a few very large models had a modest price increase. Going from memory, I think that some smaller models are one third the original price. Additionally, the company is heading towards all metal ships again.
I love this. I can’t wait to place my order.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Premium = 16 character slots

I recently upgraded to premium and re-activated every character on my account. I ended up with character slots to spare.
I couldn’t help but notice that I had two empaths, a rogue, a sorcerer, a bard, and four wizards. I have played paladins and warriors on another account, they don’t really speak to me. I know I wanted to try a cleric so I set one up in River’s Rest. But where do I go from here?
My main character is a sorcerer, I am really happy with how he is working out. I’ve had him for more than a decade. My second character is an empath which I also love a lot.
I am tempted to create one of everything and double up on the six classes I enjoy the most.
To this end, I started a basic cleric, bard and ranger. I hope to have one of everything up to level 5 in a few weeks.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mint 13 XFCE - Save HD Space with backdrop file resizing

Mint has always had gorgeous backdrop images for the desktop. The photographs by masterbutler are incredible.
But if you are on a small machine, like my ASUS eee PC, you don't have a lot of hard drive space.
You could just delete a lot of things, such as the backdrop files, but that would be a shame. Instead, I choose to resize them to fit my 800x600 screen. To be honest, I am not missing anything. The images surpass my monitors ability to display them in all their glory.
Since Mint comes with Gimp, this is an easy task. The directory is /usr/share/xfce4/backdrops. I hesitated to "undo the beauty" by reducing the size until I opened the credits file. Masterbutler has thoughtfully provide a link to 80+ pages of wonderful images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/alwbutler/.
Go ahead and scale those images. You may find yourself using the space to enjoy more art by masterbutler.