Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Game Review - Knight Hack

Title: Knight Hack
Author: The Jogglers, Philip J. Viverito, Ed Backer, Richard Kohlbacher
Spearpoint Article: Lynne Viverito
Cover Art: Me
Rule Set: Hack Series
Year: 1991
Pages: 52
Setting: Europe, 1000 AD to 1250 AD
Number of players: 2+
Rating: ★★★

And now for something completely biased.

Way back in the 1980s I was very privileged to belong to a gaming group called the Jogglers. I wasn't even an official member, I was more like a mascot and computer nerd. I can't tell you how many games I played between 1988 and 1992. I recall a couple of occasions where a local mall was rented out for play testing, but then turned into mini-conventions to play dozens of rule sets. The Joggler's love their games. When I wasn't play testing this or that, I was editing clip art for the book. My brush with fame came from being able to use this:


The layout of the book was exceptional for the time. We used a Thunderscan and Imagewriter II to process photos. Clipart from 3.5 floppies were the source of much of the line art. The text was written in MacWord, MacDraw and MacPaint were the tools for maps and diagrams.

Knight Hack was born a fast playing historical miniature game. Initially, each turn takes about 15 minutes. After a little play, adept players can get this down to just a few minutes or less. Whole games can be played out in as little as 2 hours. The rule set allows for 15 and 25 mm figures. It was game made by players for players.

So why do I give a game that I play-tested and contributed to only 3 stars? The game evolved and improved with age. Second edition obviously merits 4 stars and Third Edition receives 5.

Drive Thru RPG carries the first edition rules here and Third Edition here.


Book Review - A Brief Study of TSR Book Design

Title: A Brief Study of TSR Book Design
Code: N/A
Author: Kevin Crawford
Rule Set: D&D
Year: 2015
Pages: 26
Number of characters: N/A
Levels: N/A
Rating: ★★★★★

A Brief Study of TSR Book Design is one of those excellent finds for any game master or would be B/X author. In just 26 pages, Mr. Crawford covers the design element of decades of publications for Dungeons and Dragons books. He covers the ins and outs of fonts, margins and styles used in games from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Get your game on!

Mr. Crawford also gives sage advice on direct copying of styles for a variety of reasons such as technological updates, copyright issues and creativity. This is a surprising and useful find for the would be module author and at its price of free is unbeatable. Easily a five star rating.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Breakfast at Darien Lake

Ah, the things you notice when you aren't looking.

The Beaver Brother's Lakeside Cafe at Darien Lake has a breakfast special. $12.99 buffet for adults, $9.99 for kids. The Lakeside Cafe is the best restaurant at Darien Lake for any meal. The breakfast buffet has to be great, too.


I could totally picture myself running here while camping. It is so close to the cabins and so much easier than cooking yourself.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review of Lakota Noon by Gregory F. Michno

     Lakota Noon is the second book review in a series for Professor Carson's Class at the University of Buffalo. Typically, I edit these documents down into a suitable review for my website. In doing so, I remove much of my original paper's intent so as not to provide a vehicle for student plagiarism. However, I was so fascinated by this book and Dr. Carson's class, I felt that I should leave the entire document as a whole. The conversations that this reading sparked was amazing. I hope to revisit this class and take more courses with Dr. Carson.

      If you have the chance take one of Dr. Carson's classes, do it. I've taken at least 3 of them. Each one was better than the last. 



Lakota Noon

     This book covers old ground in the retelling of the Battle of Little Bighorn. The previous review, Month of the Freezing Moon by Duane Schultz was also about conflict with natives as settlers moved westward. Michno is cut from a completely different cloth than Schultz. The two men use data to interpret historical events. Where Schultz attempted to insert the thoughts of the natives into his work by vignettes (Schultz), Michno takes a different tact. Michno uses the standard historical narrative and inserts information gathered from the survivors, meaning only the Lakota, to clarify. Michno laments that previous authors on this subject discounted native testimony as they were an “alien race” (Michno, p. ix-xiv). He quotes William A. Graham as saying the native witnesses, “contradicted each other so much to an extent that I found them irreconcilable” (Michno, p. x). Michno rejects that attitude, writing “we must use both white and Indian sources; further, we must realize that the Indian sources are more important and should take precedence whenever any apparent conflict arises between the two.” (Michno, p. ix-xiv). Theoretically, pragmatic, because the voices of the winners and those who held the field at the end was the only primary source besides forensic details.
     Michno statement of intent was that he was not interested in the study of warfare, morality, or cause. He wrote from a discontent of the framework and structure of descriptions of the Battle of Little Bighorn by others. He wished to build his own study of the Battle and from there, reassess his own thoughts and preconceptions. Michno desired an educational outcome, one that he found satisfying. Michno found the prior work on this topic short on details about the native defenders. In case studies from their perspective, their testimony to events watered down with secondary sources not of native hands. To address this concern in his work, he breaks the battle down into 10 minute segments to present the historical account of the soldiers, plus the discounted statements by Indians and follows both with a detailed analysis of events to correlate or highlight discrepancy between accounts. In this way he shapes an excellent description of the chain of events in the battle. Time studies and motion studies have long been a practice when reviewing this segment of history as these were the only source of information not derived from the Indians. While many of these works are spectacularly clear and clean cut, there is a certain amount of fear when history loses it’s fog of time. Michno takes advantage of both the fog of the past and the rational tradition of time studies to reframe the events of the Battle of Little Bighorn.
     “A Word to the Wise” was the introductory chapter from William A. Graham’s book and is quoted by Michno. It is useful regarding this title, also. Michno and artist Jennifer Hamelman, have created a curious, almost avant-garde book to recount Custer’s last days. The word “book” instead of “title” is used purposefully here. Physically, the book is like no other. The table of contents are broken down by timestamp and page, 13 figures a presented on a table followed by 25 “time-segment” maps. The author wrote a one paragraph acknowledgements page before a two page centerfold map, with key features superimposed on the current site of modern day I-90 for reference. The next page holds a legend labeled “Individual and Tribal Symbol Key”. Cheyenne, Oglala, Minneconjou, Hunkpapa, BrulĂ©, Arapaho and Two Kettle tribes appear on the key, each with their own characteristic shape. Divided by tribe, 58 names of Indians appear, each individual shares the symbol of his tribe but also has a unique two letter identifier. What these symbols are for is not explained until page xiii. Each entry of the narrative has a timestamp, a name and an sequence indicator. For example: “5:50-6:00, White Bull [last 5:40, next 6:10]”. The author explains that this indicates the reader has reached 5:50 to 6:00 in time, in the narrative of White Bull, his prior entry was at 5:40 and the next is at 6. Ingenious, but Michno takes this approach a step further. On page 315 begins a tribe by tribe breakdown of historical personages and at what time they appear in the narrative. Because the author has assigned a symbol to each tribe and person, it is possible to flip through the book and read a single tribe or person’s role in the book sequentially. While this style of reading is always possible using an index, Michno includes none and the endeavour is a visual experience as opposed to a test of hand-eye dexterity. This level of creativity in presentation may be off-putting, but the structure works very well.
     In Michno’s first chapter, he addresses two historical conundrums: the vast array of tipis (or teepees) reconnoitered by Reno and Custer’s desire to attack such a large force. The author abandons historical arguments as illogical. Custer was an able commander and very aware his enemy, if confronted by a vast superior force as the history maintains, any logical person would withdraw. What Michno did was a spacial analysis of how the tipis could have filled the valley in a tight arrangement (Michno, p.3-20). Using Wooden Leg’s description of the camp, it hugged the river and was entirely east of the I-90 (Michno, p.17). Comparing that statement to Captain Moylan’s description of only being 200-300 yards wide, 1,900 lodges would have fit within the space of a quarter square mile (Michno, p.18). This 1,900 lodge number was on the high side of estimates. Some are as low as 1000 lodges, which require far less space or a more sparse arrangement. What this meant for Custer was he was not using Reno’s force as an anvil to his hammer, his movements were meant to draw Indians away from Reno’s force, reducing the threat, not riding headlong into it (Michno, p.19). Strangely, adding the Indian side of the story established Custer as well reasoned as opposed to someone suffering from either myopia or delusions. The first chapter is a solid work of puzzling and reasoning which was of great importance to the following chapters.
     There is the idea that Custer walked into an ambush, a terrible end for a well regarded tactician. From the details of the various defenders, it was Custer who was ambushing them. Ill prepared for combat, forces drew out for battle with Custer’s men on the north side of the village (Michno, p.33). In one hour, by 4 in the afternoon, the Battle was not going well for Major Reno’s men (Michno, p.87). They had taken refuge in a wood and in an attempt to withdraw, suffered horrible casualties. One Bull, having seen the men retreat, ordered his men to let them go to tell the tale (Michno, p.84). Citation is designed for order and comprehension, Michno’s work does a fair bit to disorder this as Reno’s part appears after One Bull’s in the narrative. However, the effect of this style was very effective.
In the last three chapters, Michno returns the tradition of style of discussion and analysis. His analysis pushes away the idea of a single last stand. While Custer’s forces held the hill, some men fled into the gully. Michno notes dryly that “dead men don’t run”. Historical accounts must give way to reason. Beard, a Minneconjou, recounts that he desired to capture Custer but ultimately found him dead, still holding the reins of his horse. The battle was over.
     Why had it ended with Custer dead and his enemies victorious? Custer had done the unthinkable by dividing his forces. Well, yes. But there is one set of rules for strategy and one for tactics. Strategy dictates one should never divide one’s strength. However, as a purely practical matter, tactics are dictated by the environment. Separation was a requirement of the engagement (Michno, p. 294). Custer lead a cavalry regiment, not a phalanx.
     Michno’s account of the battle ranges from mathematical to bone chilling in its details. This title was an offbeat, yet wonderfully readable recount of the battle with a strong focus on all of the voices from the various tribes and companies. This book was designed for study, reading and rereading. The wonderful documentation in the form of footnotes, the photographs, charts, maps and symbols make this title an excellent addition for any history bookshelf.

Citations:


Gregory F. Michno. Lakota Noon. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing. 1997. Print.


Schultz, Duane. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, November 1864. New

York: Published by St. Martin’s Press. 1990. Print.


Review of Daniel K. Richter’s Ordeal of the Longhouse

     Daniel Richter did not set out to write a book about the Iroquois. In taking on the daunting task, he constructs a compelling history of people who “found themselves caught up by economic, political, and demographic forces over which they had little control”. Richter explains how the Iroquois met these challenges or ordeals, often with unique geographical and cultural advantages, with adaptation and changes unlike other people in the region. These were not unique advantages to the Iroquois. What set them apart from others was their ability to hold on to these advantages for so long.
     Richter treats the Iroquois as if they were newly come to North America, placing them on the same footing as Europeans. Additionally, he cautions the reader against reading the phrases “the Iroquois” or “the Five Nations” as a singular or uniform entity but as a leader or collective of leaders and persons working within their self-defined political authority. Richter’s premise was to re-envision the Iroquois’ creative adaptations to situations by highlighting what he calls “a double trio of geographical and cultural advantages”.
     By Richter’s own admission, the seventeenth and eighteenth century politics and policies of the Iroquois descended into a confusing array of system, people and points, all in flux. While he authored a survey of primary source materials, he sought to maintain the flavor of the thoughts and ideas of the Iroquois. Throughout, Richter stays true to making the voice of the Iroquois audible in his work.
To this end, this book is punctuated with 22 plates, 7 maps, methodological comments, 104 pages of notes and 26 pages of biographical information. At one point Richter labels his own work “slim” and “pedantic”. He could added “humble”. The Ordeal of the Longhouse is well paced, excellently reasoned and designed, while remaining accessible to the average reader.
     Richter's “slim” book is rich in detail, wonderful in exposition of the plight and firmness of the Iroquois culture against the wave of European forces arrayed against them. Richter weaves an excellent story of historical facts and apt observation and analysis.


Destiny 1... again



Well, I have finished Destiny 2 and have some time on my hands. I figure back to the beginning is a good place to go. I am going to play thru Destiny 1 in the order of production. I created  new PS4 account so I could keep my old characters with all of their equipment.

The first time I played, I kept getting caught up in the semester cycle where I couldn't play for weeks. I stumbled through House of Wolves and Dark Below only knowing that they were new because my boys had completed them.

Vanilla
Earth
A Guardian Rises
Restoration
The Dark Within
The Warmind
The Last Array

Moon
The Dark Beyond
The World's Grave <I am here.
The Sword of Crota
Chamber of Night
Shrine of Oryx

Venus
A Stranger’s Call
Ishtar Collective
The Archive
Scourge of Winter
Eye of a Gate Lord

Reef
The Awoken
A Key Awaits

Mars
Exclusion Zone
The Buried City
The Garden’s Spire
A Rising Tide
The Black Garden

The Dark Below
Fist of Crota—Earth
Siege of the Warmind—Earth
The Wakening—Moon

House of Wolves
A Kell Rising—Venus
The Silent Fang—Earth
The Ruling House—Earth
Wolves' Gambit—Venus
Queen's Ransom—Venus

The Taken King
The Coming War—Phobos
Cayde's Stash—Earth
The Dreadnaught—Dreadnaught
Enemy of My Enemy—Dreadnaught
Lost to Light—Moon
The Promethean Code—Earth
Last Rites—Moon
Regicide—Dreadnaught

Rise of Iron
King of the Mountain—Earth
The Walls Come Down—Earth
The Plaguelands—Earth
Download Complete—Mars
The Iron Tomb—Earth

This run thru is different. I have a second PS4 I am using, so I don't have PS+ or any of the later addons. I think if I hop on my main PS4, those features will unlock. So as long as I only play on this second machine, I will get the entire "vanilla" experience. I wonder how that will hold up to all of the newer stuff?

I'm trying to complete two or three adventures a night. I haven't touched Destiny 2 in a couple of weeks. I am sort of bummed about the whole Cayde-6 thing.


Strange Memory Collision

This morning, I came out of the shower thinking of Disney. That isn't so odd, but it was triggered by a combination of smells. At Disney World, they use H2O products in all of the hotels. Bubbly Orange is my favorite. I need to pick up some shampoo to match the soap I have.

My wife's perfume from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab called Cheshire Cat and my Bubbly Orange soap reminds me of August in Disney. The soap also pairs well with my BPAL scent, Perversion.

Smells are powerful triggers. Today, a combination of them turned a boring Friday into this:



Cruisin'

Back in 2014, I had the chance to sail on The Oasis of the Seas. It was amazing. 

Our destination was the Bahamas, Nassau in particular. What a beautiful island. I can't wait to go back.

The Oasis of the Seas is a new ship, first sailing in 2009. It has 16 passenger decks, a casino, 5 pools, a carousel, chapel, a library, and dozens of other features. Our trip was only 3 nights, so obviously I couldn't see everything they had to offer. I never set foot in a bar and was only able to breeze through the shopping areas. On the deck was a massive amphitheater which also served as a rally point. As big as it was, I only saw it once.

The views from the ship were incredible. Even in port, the sights were amazing.

My wife and I were traveling with three small children and we were new to the ins and outs of cruising. My mother-in-law guided us through the process. Thank god for that, we would have been lost.

Even still, the Oasis was big enough to swallow us up even with help. One evening, my daughter and I got lost on the ship and found ourselves in the chapel, then a library and finally, a wonderful viewing point at the top of the ship. It was overwhelming.

The Oasis of the Seas is a massive ship. We could sail on that three more times and likely not see it all. Next time, we may take a longer cruise on a smaller ship. Or not. Depends on where we want to go. I would love to sail on the Oasis again.

Having said that, my mother-in-law is a great planner but not a professional planner. We keep telling her she should be. Maybe someday she'll retire to that life. In any event, my wife and I have a friend, Jaime Nowicki who is a travel planner. She loves Disney but also handles trips to other locales, too. Of course, Disney Cruise Line is one but she also plans for Sandals, Beaches, Royal Caribbean, AMA Waterways, Azamara, Celebrity, Carnival, MSC Cruiseline, Norwegian, American Cruise Line, Princess!

My dream trip would be to Cuba. My wife, Kitty's dream is to go to England and Ireland. We need someone like Jaime to manage these dreams and give a plan that is both incredible and budget friendly.

You can find Jaime on Facebook or Twitter, or contact her by email or phone at:

716-491-9980
j dot nowiki at magicalvacationplanner dot com

Of course, there is a website, too.





Thursday, June 14, 2018

Guest Post from Jaime Nowicki @ magicalvacationplanner.com

This is my first guest post from Jaime @ at magicalvacationplanner.com.


June 19th!

Disney Vacation Dates for 2019 will be available to book.

Book soon to get your preferred Disney destination, resort, room, package...they will fill up fast! You can book a Disney Vacation Package with only a $200 deposit. I am a certified Disney travel agent, my concierge services are complimentary, and I am looking forward to helping you plan your 2019 Disney Vacation.

Contact me at: j.nowicki@magicalvacationplanner.com or check out my website.

Don't forget to like my Facebook page.

Book Review List

I am compiling a list of book reviews I plan to launch this summer. I am starting with a classic by Ritcher. Right now, I am editing the first review for publication on Friday. Check back for more updates.

Book Reviews
  1. Review of Daniel K. Richter’s Ordeal of the Longhouse
  2. Review of Lakota Moon by Gregory F. Michno
  3. Review of Duane Schultz’s Month of the Freezing Moon
  4. Review of Howard H. Peckham’s The Colonial Wars, 1689-1762
  5. Review of Leo Tolstoy’s Hadji Murat.
  6. Review of Richard M. Ketchum’s Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War,
  7. Review of Martin Bruegel’s Farm, Shop, Landing: The Rise of a Market Society in the Hudson Valley, 1780–1860
  8. Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad Paul Gwynne
  9. The Storm Before the Storm Mike Duncan
  10. The Delikon H.M. Hoover
  11. Workers Go Shopping in Argentina,
  12. Age of Youth in Argentina
  13. Children of Facundo
  14. SPQR Mary Beard
  15. The Legacy of Conquest
  16. Buying into the Regime
  17. The Country of Football
  18. Creating a Common Table
Movie reviews:

  1. Blessed by Blood.
  2. Battleship Potemkin

Ubuntu Reinstall on Chromebook

There are many guides to installing Linux on a Chromebook. What I don't see are too many guides on what needs to be done afterwards. Using Crouton gives a very basic experience with Ubuntu, so a lot of things need tweaking.

One step that I often forget is switching to Dev Mode on a Chromebook can require a restart. Also, walking through the Ubuntu install also requires a restart. You can combo these together or do them one at a time. It doesn't really matter. What does matter is the restart option in Ubuntu will turn off your Chromebook. Think ahead.

I find the best way to get software easily is the Software Center. I know it can be buggy and odd, but it is a good place to start. Under the standard install of Ubuntu via Crouton, it isn't there and the terminal is the best option. First things first, make sure your install is up to date:

sudo apt-get update

This should only take a few seconds. Now you can get the software center:

sudo apt-get install software-center

The Software Center takes much longer to download and install. For whatever reason, sometimes the Software Center doesn't work. Simply repeat the command:

sudo apt-get update

The next thing I hit is a proper browser. NetSurf is 3 years old and kind of funky. It works fine in a pinch but doesn't offer a lot of features. I like Chromium.

A good word processor is a must and I am a fan of Libre Write. Write isn't the only game in town, you could simply use Google Docs, Abiword or WPS Writer. WPS Writer has the look and feel of MS Word, Abiword is a stripped down word processor which is easy to use and distraction free.

Stay tuned for more ideas of how to extend your Chromebook's usefulness.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Using GIMP to Resize Photos to a Specific Size

This afternoon I am editing photos for a website. I would like to take some images from 4992x4000 down to exactly 620 px across. I will be using Gimp and a little math to make this happen in seven steps.

First things first, I could do the math in my head, but I want to make this a step by step process. The second thing is, unpwnd doesn't require a specific size so the images in this walkthru will not be 620 px. That is not lost on me, I happen to Blogger as my platform and it has very different tools from Wordpress.

Step one. Open the image.
Step two. Click on Set Image Canvas Size. The dialog box will open and show that the image is currently 4992x4000. That is nothing like 620 px across.
Step three. I am going to adjust the width and the height. For the width, I need to lose those to extra pixels, it is so small no one will notice. So width becomes 2992-2=2990.

Height is another story. I am going to take away a multiple of 620. I decided that I would go with 620 times 2, so what I end up with is 2760. That is 4000-1240=2760.

Before I hit resize, I clicked the Center button. It just so happens that my subjects are dead center and this works. If it did not, I could have adjusted this manually.
Step four. I want to point out that I have been working with Canvas Size and not Image Size. Essentially, I am cropping the image to a particular size based on some math rather than an eye for photographic composition. Actual photographers have a great eye for composition and would not use this method.

Anyway, I think I can trim a little more of the edges and when I do that, I want my height and width to be an exact multiple of 620. I take the width of 2990 and divide by 620 which gives me 4.822 and some change. I do the same for the height which gives my 4.451 and change.

Now for a trick. I am going to take four away from each number leaving 0.822 and 0.451. Both of these numbers need to multiplied by 620. 620 is the only number I know for this process, which is why it keeps popping up. The results are 510 and 280.

2990-510 is 2480 and 2760-280 is also 2480.  2480 divided by 620 is 4.

Again, I am using the center bottom so I don't clip away my subjects. Also, this could a manual process.
Step five. Scale the image. I could do this part 2 ways. I picked the easy way: I scaled the image to 620. I could have also used the drop down box to select percent and typed in 25. There is no difference.
Step six. This is the result, an image that appears way too small. But not really, GIMP didn't change the scale of the display and the image is actually much bigger.
 Step seven. I set my view to 1:1. Looks good.
While all of this seems labor intensive, it is. But only once. Changes are your camera always outputs the same size image so you can save this as a macro making the process automatic.

And here is the final output at 620 px.

Neat, eh?