laurion: (Default)

As if the weather and the new virtual bachelorhood didn’t make it hard to sleep, there was also a gang of hoodlum birds (I picture them wearing ‘colors’, do-rags, and baggy feathers), that decide the best way to demonstrate their prowess was to stay up all niht pretending to be car alarms.  There were two or three of them at 11:30 at night, long past birdie bedtime, and that persisted until 3am or so, when the numbers started to *increase*.

Now that it is morning, and the temperature is rising, it’s actually quieter out there, just in time for me to go to work.

Originally published at lebor.net. You can comment here or there.

laurion: (Default)
Ridley Scott is apparently making a movie based on the board game Monopoly.

I kid you not. See here.

Ok, of all the dozens of questions clamoring to be asked, a few are louder than others.

First, why Monopoly? Scott claims it to be the most popular board game in the world, but that smacks of a half-truth to me. It might be the most popular board game in the sense of the most well-known commercial board game in the world, but I'd be willing to press the issue and compare it to chess, checkers, go, or even tic-tac-toe (although that last one is arguably not a game, or at least not a board game).

Continuing the why rant, why should being the most popular make it good material for a movie? It's a terrible game, with no good plot options leaping out at me that haven't already been explored by such classic comedies as Trading Places, The Money Pit, and Airplane (because I often muse to myself after a game of Monopoly that I picked the wrong week to quit huffing glue). I would find more movie material in Risk, Stratego, Mouse Trap, or even Trivial Pursuit. Not to mention the hundreds or thousands of contemporary, but lesser known, games.

Which brings me to question two: Why does he try to sound like this is such a novel idea? I mean, yes, granted, he is reversing the typical formula. Usually after a popular movie is out, they make a bad game based on it, and many times the bad game is a copy of Monopoly with movie stills pasted on the squares with Elmers glue and shipped while the buzz is still high. (Tanga is selling Pirates of the Carribean Monopoly if anyone is interested.... ) In no way, however, is he being original. There's a freaking musical based on Chess. There are plenty of movies made where the central element is a gambling game (Maverick, Wall Street [Tell me the stock market isn't a gambling game...]). Fer crying out loud, he isn't even being original in making a movie based on a board game. Little movie called Clue, remember it?

Thirdly, why now? If you were going to make a Monopoly movie, wouldn't you make it in the 80's? When American games really were about Monopoly, Scrabble, Clue, and Trivial Pursuit? I know the writers have been on strike, but that's no excuse for the lamest movie premise ever. Does he *want* to suck right now? Has he developed an inoperable tumor that impairs judgement? Either this will be an atrocious comedy, or an even more atrocious attempt at serious social commentary. I'm picturing Christopher Walken as old Uncle Pennybags. Speaking of which, does anyone remember Uncle Wiggily? That would be an awesome movie. Or not.

Alright, time to back off the ranting, and save the rest for game night. Maybe we should have a ritualized burning of my extra monopoly set. (I bought it for the paper money... what does that say about the game?) Here's hoping he and Mr. Crowe don't screw up the Nottingham movie, because another good Robin Hood telling isn't a bad idea. Given the obvious mental infirmities of the director, I won't be getting my hopes up.

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laurion: (frustration)
Transmission is shot, and has to be rebuilt. I'll be without a car until tomorrow at least,
and it doesn't look happy for the wallet either.

Bugger, bugger, bugger all this for a lark.
(Or if you don't like that reference, try this one: Buggerit millenium hand and shrimp!)

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laurion: (Default)
So, because last night I had cause to introduce a new crop of people to Radiskull and Devildoll, I got the bright idea that I wanted to somehow put this onto my iPod, which has video capability. If I can get it into a movie format, I can convert it for the iPod. I know there are plenty of tools to convert standard .flv flash videos (like youtube's) into useable movie files, but I'm not finding anything for the more typical .swf files. Anyone out there with good suggestions?

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laurion: (Default)
On of my goals this year is to be more organized. I don't necessarily mean organizing all the physical stuff I have around (although that's part of it), but to improve the organization, and thus, the efficiency, of all the things in my life. I have a _lot_ of hobbies and activities and commitments (some would say too many) and over the past few years I've been slowly building up efficiency in managing them.

Many of you have heard of the GTD (Getting Things Done) methods. A lot of people swear by it, enough so that a couple years back the CIO gave everyone in the organization a copy of the book. Recently I went through it (in audiobook form, because I had more time to listen to it in my car than to pick up the actual book), and while I think most of it requires a rather difficult shift in lifestyle that I'm not sure is worth the payout, there are several points that I do agree with.

One of the big ones is that if you have a commitment, or a thing to do, or a place to be (or whatever else is in your mind that the book calls 'stuff'), and you don't get it out of your head and into some trusted reference place, it'll either be lost, or rattle around your head taking up brain cycles and causing the feeling of too much to do. Trusted in this sense doesn't really mean something you trust to not lose your data (although, again, that's part of it), but trusted in the sense of something you'll have regular access to, and you can rely on to be up to date, able to show what you need to remember, and that you'll actually use regularly. A sort of external brain, or a vm swap page that you can use to get things down while you're thinking of them so you can stop thinking of them. In years past individuals may have used a variety of tools, like a blotter calendar, rolodex, appointment book, in tray, dayrunner, secretary (a real external brain!), etc. But I'm a believer that technology should make our lives easier, so I favor the newer electronic options. There are also newer non-electronic options like the Hipster PDA. So far it's working.  Much of this could be done with a wiki, but I'm also keen on not having to build the tools unless I have to.  Why reinvent the wheel?  Find the tool that does the thing and does it well. Here's what I like:

Google Calendar. I actually prefer Apple's iCal, but I'm regularly not in front of my own computer, and Google's access from any station is the tipping feature. GCal looks and feels a lot like iCal, and rightly so: things work well in that model, at least for me. Gcal does a pretty good job of offering up access so I can sync it with my iPod, or my phone, or otherwise get it out and into a portable format, as well as being able to e-mail or SMS reminders for information push instead of pull.

Tasktoy. I'm a list oriented person. I make lists for lots of things. Last year I was using Remember The Milk, which has a very slick interface, but I found it to be too slow, and tasktoy has some really nice features, like setting a cookie for location awareness. If I log in from home, it shows me tasks and lists designated for achievable at home. Similarly if I log in from the office. Tasktoy is also a lot faster. The one think I miss from RtM is shortcut keys so I don't have to use the mouse as much. Maybe I'll look into building some of those with greasemonkey. (*adds that to a list...*) Again, the key here for me is that I can access it from any internet connection. I used to use my palm pilot for this function, and it worked great, but I've moved away from carrying that with me everywhere, because of battery life problems and the desire to simplify the physical stuff in my life (another big theme in my organization). I look forward to the day when my iPod is also a decently functional PDA. For those who are not as list oriented, and those who are, there's a ton of options out there for dumping and remembering those to-do's in your life. Zirr.us looks interesting, as does Stikkit.

Information management. I am a voracious consumer of web based information. I have hundreds of bookmarks, and read dozens of incoming news sources on various topics. For a few years I've been completely sold on RSS and getting everything to come in that way. It's not strictly speaking a push technology, but it does let the computer pull the information without me having to pull it myself. Again, I'm lucky enough to be looking at a world where more and more of these things can be done online, making for access from many places easy. I aggregate everything from computer news sources, word a day, gaming news, software updates, newspapers, music news, and even all my webcomics. I even have a custom LJ layout that turns my friends list into an RSS feed so I can aggregate that. Typically anything which is transitory in nature I pull through RSS, excepting e-mail and IMs, as those are more interactive mediums. This lets me rapidly scan through 200-300 items a day, discarding most, and opening into tabs (I love tabs!) anything which needs more than a cursory glance. The two big RSS aggregators online right now are Bloglines and Google Reader. Both of them are good. Neither of them works for me. I want my feed items sorted by feed, not by time, I want to be able to quickly mark something as read and to get it out of my sight, because I am ruthlessly discarding anything which no longer needs to be read, or has already been opened in a new tab. And on top of that, I like projects that are under my control and that I can customize (why I use WordPress for my main blog, instead of LJ, e.g.), so I use a project called Gregarius, and a plugin that lets me double-click a feed item to mark it as read and hide it from sight.

I've also gone back to del.icio.us to help manage my information content. They have a new firefox extension that takes over the local bookmarks, and routes everything into del.icio.us. This makes it _very_ easy to keep things in sync at home and the office, and to not have to make a local toolbar with my most used links. It gives you a toolbar that can display different groups of links, and makes it very easy to record and tag link for later retrieval. Previously I used Spurl, but the sheer number of tools that enhance the functionality of del.icio.us brought me back to it.

Wishlist's are a specialized list, because it fills with things that aren't to do, to get at the grocery store, or to pack for a trip, but are items I'd like to have some day. This list also has to be public to a certain extent, so others can find items at gift giving occasions. Amazon.com provides an excellent service if what you want is on Amazon.com. Over the past year I've moved from Giftbox to MetaWishlist, and now to GiftHat, because of various features, and developer responsiveness (MetaWishlist, excellent as it is, does not seem to be under development any more). I want a list that has a bookmarklet to make it easy to enter items I come across, and like a registry lets gift givers "reserve" items. This past Christmas and the one before I received too many duplicate gifts, prompting the move to GiftHat.

There are a large number of tools that I use to organize my computer usage and to streamline that, but this post is about the external brain tools, so I'll save the others for another post.

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laurion: (Default)
Arisia '07.  Those who went will understand more of what I'm talking about than those who didn't.  For those who didn't, Arisia is an annual SF Con in the Boston area.  This year it moved to a new hotel.

The hotel was a lovely hotel.  Wonderful architecture.  Well designed for your standard business-class traveler on any normal occasion.  Completely unable to handle thousands of hang-out-in-the-hallways congoers.  Many of you will have already experienced or heard of the hotel difficulties, but let me make my own marks.  First, the elevators were a problem.  Not only were they fragile and small, necessitating a 7 person occupancy limit, but there were only 3 of them, where the old hotel had 6 or so which could accommodate at least a dozen people each.  Add to this the fact that there were only two stairwells, both at the far flung corners of the building, and the immediate impression is that of traffic problems.  I also noted that unlike in the Boston Park Plaza, the con was not able to center on a few floors, and was forced to put Dealers Room (much smaller than in the past) and Art Show (also smaller, but somewhat better) at the top of the building, making it very difficult even for those who chose to take stairs.  I also noted that the hallways were much narrower in this location, making the congestion and crowds that much greater.

Second, the location was unfortunate.  It was not right on the T, so there was a lot more automotive congestion, although I was unaffected.  It was also about a mile from any reasonable food option (the wonderful cafe in the bottom of the Modern Continental building next door isn't open on weekends), and even then, if you were an out of towner you were in trouble.  For us locals though, I managed to get out to Anna's Taqueria Friday night and Central Square Saturday night, so fed relatively well.

Thirdly, although the conference space seemed fairly generous, the layout and locationing was inconvenient.  Notably, every panel I had in Prefunction space A was continuously affected by people looking for the panel in President's Ballroom A, on the other side of the partition wall.  Conveniently, though, one of my panels was on the 2nd floor, right across from learnedax's room/Intercon party room where I had stuff stashed.

The gripes posted, there were plenty of good things about the con this year.  Having to walk a mile+ to and from where I was staying gave me plenty of time to catch up on This American Life.  The Intercon G InterKong Party was probably_the_ most successful public party on Friday night.  Wired blogged about us.  We had hundreds of people come through.  Without much advertising.  Part of it was that we were conveniently located near the access end of the hallway, so people going up and down the hall were bound to pass us.  Part of it was the ever popular snocones.  We also got a lot of interest in the Banana Smoothies and the genuine Atari 2600 with Donkey Kong.  Kudos to learnedax for organizing it, and to Nat B. for bringing stuff and helping out, and Alex for helping stock supplies and set up, Alex for making tasty smoothies, and Alex (learnedax) again for making every part of it go.

And I was on panels for the first time this year.  I had a good experience overall, and will do it again next year, I think.  I started off on the Funny and Fabo Table Games panel, with a few others, and we got to show off some of our favorite amusing games.  We had one MiB who talked about Ninja Burger and Munchkin, one WizKids guy who talked about some of the clix products, Bill Todd who talked about Chopstick Challenge, and Gloom, and I talked about Evo and Bang.

I followed this up with the Podcasting 101 panel.  I've been running one as a side project for about a year now.  Only two of the panelists had actually done podcasting, and the other two were looking at doing it to promote their books, which the other podcaster was doing, so I had a different perspective, not being an author promoting a book. We had a good diversity in the panel, and it was the most attended panel I was on, with perhaps the exception of Sunday.  We had a full room, with a few people standing.  I brought some gear and recorded most of the panel (with permission). That one went exceedingly well.

TS Larp: Beyond Boffer was mostly attended by ringers; a lot of Intercon regulars.  There were 4 or 5 that weren't though, and one of the Panelists wasn't (one of the panelists didn't show).  This is the panel I was on with TPau, and although the audience was small, I think we covered some good ground, helped clarify the differences in game styles for those who had only played Live Combat games, and made some good points.  I think we sparked some interest, but I don't know if we will see any real effects from it.
Sunday I moderated The Eye of Argon: The Professionals.  I'm not sure what makes me a professional, but I was honored to share the panel with GoH Esther Friesner, SF writers Shane Tourtellotte and Michael A Burstein, and artist E J Barnes.  Esther proved herself to be an old pro, handily wiping out the first page-long chapter.  I'd decided we'd change readers at the chapter marks to help move along in case someone proved an excellent Argonaut.  On the other end of things, Michael had never read it before, or even heard anything about it.  Shortly in to reading, he turned and asked me if this was a joke...  he rallied though, set a personal goal of making it through a whole paragraph. To his credit, he succeeded, doing very well for a first-timer.  I dug out a bright orange hotel-concierge style bell from the 70's edition of the game Pit, and cheerily rang it when someone goofed up or cracked up, myself as well.  I know the panelists had a good time, and the audience seemed to have a good time as well, so all for the best.

After followed the Intercon G ConCom meeting, and the NEIL Board meeting, both of which went without too much of a hitch.  I then fled the scene so I could work my way back to Framingham, pick up asdr83, and dash down to Westerly, RI, to see a production of this year's 12th Night show that my brother had a small role in.  It was an excellent show with some very entertaining juggling, excellent selection of music, and fabulous costumes.  If I'd been able to make a better job with dinner, it would have been quite the excellent evening, but we did alright.

All said and done, a busy, but good weekend.

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laurion: (Default)
Welcome to 2007 everyone, get used to writing it on your checks.

It's a new year, the days are getting longer again, the holidays are over and people are getting back to work and in some cases, school. In general, it is a time of new beginnings, and turning towards life again.
I guess this is part of why people make resolutions now rather than at other times of the year. If it were me, I'd do my annual review and goal setting on my birthday. Maybe I should do that this year, as it's a big birthday coming up. (30, for those of you playing along at home)

But how could I not make a few internal resolution at this time of year? I'm not public about them usually, maybe because if I fail I have fewer people to answer to, maybe because I don't make much of myself overly public. But getting them out there makes them more of a promise, so maybe that'll help keep me honest. One of those resolutions is to post more often, as part of not shying away from openness. So if you see me, or talk to me, and I haven't posted in a few days, feel free to give me a verbal kick in the pants.

The holidays were a jumble of family, and more family, and friends, and more family, and friends. And cats. And despite the uphill battles and stresses of figuring out how to make all the holidays work, it went pretty well. Plus, I got double aces around in Pinochle, so that's a good thing! One of the new toys (and the biggest new toy) is an 80GB iPod. It's replacing the old 40GB, mostly because I need the larger capacity to actually carry my whole music collection, but it's about 2 generations newer than the old one, with a color screen, photo capability, and movie capability. Last night I started playing around with converting some tv episodes to see how it handles video on the go, and the tools out there for the Mac make it a dead simple operation. But it takes a _long_ time to convert a 700MB DivX file to iPod capable MPEG4 on this underpowered PPC mini in the office. Heck, it takes about an hour on my MacBook Pro. Price to be paid in going from one highly compressed format to another. So I'll have to see about batching things up and letting it run overnight. And maybe stepping up to the Core Duo mini.

Our apartment now has a functional fireplace, and I like to make use of it. So one of my wishlist items this Christmas was a decent set of fireplace tools. That translated into my fireplace receiving almost as many gifts as anyone else this year. Not only did it get the 5 piece tool set, it also got a large bag of fatwood kindling, a basket with various toys to make the fire blue, or smell good, a canvas log carrier bag, and a small load of wood from my parents. My fireplace feels loved.

Remember when USB thumb drives were new technology? And how the prices were exorbitant? I remember paying over $150 for a 1GB drive. I was looking online today and saw that the 4GB version of what I think is the best drive out here (the Sandisk Micro Cruzer) can be had for around $80. The ever quickening pace of technology leaves even me dizzy.

I've got the Atari now, but the games did not reveal themselves, so I have a copy of Donkey Kong winging its way towards me. This is for the Intercon G InterKong themed party at Arisia. You should all come and play! I'm thinking of raffling the system away to some lucky partygoer. What do you think? P.S., I also have an original NES dug up from the basement, with a couple dozen games if someone is interested.

Yeah, that's a pretty good start to posting in 2007.

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laurion: (Default)
Why does all this crap have to happen just as I need to take a flight for a weekend that I have many other things I cold be doing with? Frustrating.

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laurion: (Default)
Reference:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/23/business/23tax.html?ex=1154404800&en=882e147ffb6ed922&ei=5070&emc=eta1

So the IRS is cutting half of the tax lawyers who audit the wealthy. Good idea? I don't think so.

I'll admit that not being one of the wealthy, I do perhaps have a opinion colored by perspective and jealousy, but setting that aside, does it make sense to you to have a policy that clearly has the support of at least a simple majority of the population, and then go out of your way to make it impossible to police simply as a way of disregarding it? It strikes me that those most likely to be impacted and therefore the most likely to object are also those with the political currency (let's face it, in a capitalist society [which I don't inherently object to], economic currency _is_ political currency) to find ways to mitigate any possible impact.

Something in this screams conflict of interest, of the sort that got Abramoff in trouble...

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