Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Trier photos

View of the city, from up in the Porta Nigra

Pond near the Roman baths

Chloe and Emma Afoot

In the Roman museum

These are all from our Koblenz Exchange Program trip.

Visiting Trier, the big Roman town I didn't know about

According to people who lead tours around Trier, Germany, the town is underexposed. Even Wikipedia agrees that it's the oldest city in Germany, and was a residence of the Western Roman emperor.

It was the first sight our Schenkendorf School exchange program hosts took the group to see, on our second day in Germany.

George Brooke in front of the Porta Nigra, the most famous Roman ruin in Trier. The Porta Nigra was a Roman gate that was rebuilt into a Christian church and then re-Romanized later.

I was sufficiently ignorant of German geography that I didn't realize until now, looking at a map, that Trier is really close to Luxembourg. Wikipedia says the closest city to the town is Luxembourg City.

Our tour group

The Porta Nigra

Staircase inside the Porta Nigra

Arcade inside the Porta Nigra

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I didn't know Word had a Spike

I bumped into this rather neat feature of Word the other day. It's called the Spike. It's a cumulative paste buffer: you can cut several items to the Spike, and each item you cut gets added there. Then you can paste the whole set of items somewhere else. Details here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Poppies by a crater lake in Germany


Chloe and I just got back from two weeks in Germany as participants in Summitt Elementary's Koblenz exchange program. I'm planning to post a bunch of photos. These photos of Chloe and the daughter from our host family, Ann-Sophie, are standouts. They are walking through poppies in a field near a volcanic crater lake.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Easy process for casting foam terrain

I can't wait to try this process, from the Reaper Miniature site. It involves making a negative mold from a box of wet sand, and spraying expanding insulation foam into it. Very easy, but they've got the full explanation here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Acceptance of gays passes the 50% mark according to study

This could be a turning point. An interesting article with some theories as to why.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Early 1900s in color

Wow, real photos of the 1900s, in color.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Even scientists have trouble with statistics

Scary stuff, since this is what is used to make drugs we all take.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What did people do in a Medieval City?

If you've ever asked yourself this question, here are some great answers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Random D&D dungeon map maker thing

I rather liked the sort of maps made with this geomorph-based free online tool. Basically it's got a bunch of tiles that it lays out. You can print & cut them out yourself, if you like.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Did you know there were gay-to-straight conversion camps?

Well, this guy went undercover at one to find out what goes on there. Kind of a must-read. Sheesh, that's got to be the worst camp ever. I mean, that's worse than being sent to fat camp. Hmm, they had D&D camps, but I don't think they had D&D-player-to-Christian-who-hates-D&D-conversion-camps. So that's a good thing (see moral panic over D&D).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Orc with babies

Did you know you could get figures of baby orcs? Awwww.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It's expensive to raise kids...more than it used to be

Interesting comparison of costs of raising a kid then and now.

I’ve often wondered how they and their generation managed to comfortably bring up kids on one income while my friends and I struggle to do it on two. The answer, it turns out, is pretty simple. Child rearing is now 22% more costly than it was back in 1960. Adjusted for 2009 dollars, middle income parents spent $182,857 on their youngsters in 1960. Today they spend $222,360.
Article says the fault is with health care and child care costs.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Worlds Apart" by Malaina Gray, short story on Strange Horizons

There's a lot to like in this very short fantasy piece, but I'll just point out that I appreciated the Narnia references after having recently read The Magicians.

I also remember a fun Narnia reference in the novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, which has a character whose situation is similar to the character in Gray's story.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The D&D Monster Man

Impressions of D&D monsters. Awesome. This is mostly about a guy making funny noises, but he also does some neat things with mime.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

For people who love circle diagram jokes

....a group which obviously includes me, I offer this item from XKCD, about the differences between geeks and nerds.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Kids and turtle

On a birdwalk last month.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Letters of Note

I have been enjoying the blog Letters of Note recently, which posts facsimiles of letters by (usually) famous people, and also transcribes them. You get a glimpse of people's passions; sometimes you find out they were crazy; you might get interested in a bit of history. It's great stuff.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Reading books on a regular old phone

If your phone can run Java applications, you can put free books on it, easily. I've been using the free books found at Books in my Phone for some months now, and I'm a huge fan.

What they've done is take mostly old out-of-copyright books, along with some new ones by Creative Commons fans like Cory Doctorow, and compiled them into JAR files. They've got some kind of book reader application, and all that they change for it is the text file that makes up the content.

The file sizes are really small, so the fact that the reader code is repeated doesn't matter. I've got eight books on my phone right now, and the size is negligible compared to my MP3 files and photos.

I read Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town this way, and really enjoyed it. I'm currently enjoying Dogland by Will Shetterly. These are both recent books, but I also got a big kick out of Seventeen by Booth Tarkington, which was published in 1914.

You might have to experiment a little to figure out which of the available formats works on your phone and where to find them on your phone's menu. My phone has a cable for interacting with the computer as a USB drive, which lets me quickly put files on the memory card; I made a Books folder on the card. Then I find then find them via the Games & Apps>Memory Card> menu option, which lists the folders on the card. You just have to figure out how you view the contents of your memory card on your phone.

Once you figure this out, though, you're on your way. And you can skip this process if you have a data plan and want to download books directly to your phone from the Books in my Phone website.

It's even possible to compile your own reader to take any text file you've got and convert it to something readable on your phone, but I haven't experimented with that yet. I've got to reread Pride and Prejudice and maybe take a shot at Middlemarch or War and Peace first. Ooh, and I downloaded a collection of Chekov stories.

My mom would definitely approve.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The North Skirt

Electronic clothing that does something useful: the North Skirt is decorated with rows of LEDs. The row that points north lights up. Video.

UP locos passing a crossing near Yett Creek Park

Morning bike rides to work are often obstructed by trains so that I'm forced to watch them pass. I'm biking again because Lily is all done with day care and I don't have to tote anyone in the mornings.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The things that prose can bring

Perhaps I should stop being surprised when I come up with good ideas by simply setting down to rewrite something. It's a process that's guaranteed to force you to think about what's going on in a story. But the fact that writing with no specific intent generates new ideas never ceases to amaze me.

I often set out to generate ideas on a specific topic...and I can usually come up with something I like if I keep after it. There, the trick is to start a list and keep making it longer, and include every stupid idea that comes to mind. But having ideas come during a rewrite feels like manna from heaven when you forgot to say your prayers.

As I write this I'm fresh from a writing session. I'm rewriting a short piece. It's 800 words and getting shorter, so I can do a whole draft in a single writing session (given that my current daily goal is 500 words and given that once I pass 300 I'm typically in a groove where another few hundred words is no problem). Somehow, just rearranging the sentences and paragraphs of this piece that I thought was pretty well baked is giving me lots of wild ideas about the character's situation and motives. 

Chloe on a recent birdwatching trip with me

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

New superhero game ICONs, and free setting for it

My man-on-the-scene for superhero roleplaying, Doug, just told me about the new ICONS superhero rpg, which has some design elements that I like the sound of, mainly simplicity and some old-school harking.

He's sufficiently excited that he's created a setting for it called DOA, designed to facilitate one-shot adventures, along with some characters. Doug's super characters are always worth reading. So far my favorite is Montgolfier, the big-headed supervillain who is really hard to hit.

_American Virgin_ volumes 1 through 3 all winners

I'm a big fan of the graphic novel American Virgin, by Steven T. Seagle. It is distinguished in my collection by being both obviously adult-themed and completely lacking any superpowers, magic, or scifi hijinks.

I just lucked into Vol 3 at Half Price Books. I was lucky to find it there before I bought it new, because this is a series I'm collecting: a comic about a young guy who crusades for abstinence until the girl he thought he'd marry dies.


Volume 3 develops a couple of characters in ways I like...the main character's stepfather starts to grow a pair, the relationship with his mother, who so far has been an unmitigated jerk, is nuanced a little, and we learn more about both sister Cyndi's background and our main characters'. I'm excited about where this comic is going.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Traveller map tool generates maps from a list of worlds

This is pretty online tool that generates nice graphical Traveller subsector maps from a standard sort of universal world profile list (UWP).