Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Theology from my five year old

My wife: "I think only God likes macaroni and cheese as much as you do."

Kira: "But God isn't alive. He's dead."

RIP Albert Hofmann

Albert Hofmann died today at 102.

My brother summed it up best, "Thanks for the memories, Dr. Hofmann."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kids and Koda playing in Vacaville

We drove up to Vacaville today and spent time time with my parents. The kids had a great time and pretty much took up every available minute Grandma had while we were there. (I think Grandma wouldn't have had it any other way.) Robin trained Koda while I hung out with pop and talked about everything from politics to family history. All in all, a great day to hang out with family. Here are the shots.

Kira in Grandma's backyard

Kira posing for the camera

Grandma and the kids pick flowers

Danica finds her favorite
Croquet!

Robin relaxing in the backyard

Koda enjoying the shade

Deep in thought

Happy dog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Verve - The Thaw Sessions

The Verve's first piece of music to be released in a decade. Apparently, when they got together again for the first time in 9 years, they met in a recording studio in West London. Twenty minutes later, they picked up their instruments and started playing.

Link

Verve @ the Warfield on YouTube

Link

Someone posted a video on YouTube of the last song The Verve played at the Warfield. It was a new song, and they never said the name. It was definitely the "softer" of the two new songs they played.

BTW, you only see The Verve (well, Nick McCabe) in the video somewhere around five minutes and thirty seconds into it. Looks like the person filming it was right behind the security "fence", and the vast majority of the video is the lights reflecting off the fence.


Here is a link to all the videos on YouTube with The Verve at the Warfield.

The Verve at the Warfield


Just got back from seeing The Verve and I had a damn good time.

The only problems were that the show started 30 minutes late and that the volume was cranked to 11. I mean, I love The Verve, but I also love my hearing as well. (Perhaps this is my age speaking for me...)

The doors opened at seven, I got there at 7:30, and even though the show was supposed to start at eight, the concert hall was a ghost town at 8:30. I was surprised that only a fifth of the seats were filled, but once the band started playing, people started pouring into the concert hall until the place was absolutely packed. I had a great seat on the balcony, so I had a great view of the entire show.

I felt sorry for Nick McCabe (the lead guitarist), as his equipment was constantly suffering technical problems, and one of the roadies/tech guys was constantly out on stage futzing with the zillion foot pedals at McCabe's feet and working on his guitar between songs. This added a few delays between songs, but the crowd was really into the show. Richard Ashcroft (who has a much shorter haircut and doesn't look like he has the same heroin-junkie physique) kept apologizing about the delays, saying that they were only human. Honestly, everyone was having a good time and didn't care.

More entertainingly, another stagehand kept running on stage, but to make sure that there was a glass of beer in front Simon Jones at all times.

Anyway, the show was very good and I was glad I got to see them again. They were definitely more coherent than the last time I saw them in SF, and Ashcroft wasn't begging the crowd to throw drugs onto the stage.

They played ten songs from Urban Hymns, three from A Northern Soul, none from A Storm in Heaven or any of the EPs, and at least one new song (possibly two).

  1. This Time (Urban Hymns)
  2. Sonnet (Urban Hymns)
  3. This is Music (A Northern Soul)
  4. Space & Time (Urban Hymns)
  5. Life is an Ocean (A Northern Soul)
  6. On Your Own (A Northern Soul)
  7. Weeping Willow (Urban Hymns)
  8. Second One Down (NEW)
  9. The Rolling People (Urban Hymns)
  10. Velvet Morning (Urban Hymns)
  11. The Drugs Don't Work (Urban Hymns)
  12. Lucky Man (Urban Hymns)
  13. Come On (Urban Hymns)
  14. Bittersweet Symphony (Urban Hymns)
  15. ??? (NEW)

I'm expecting The Verve is touring to test the waters for a new album and presumably another tour supporting it. That would be good news for me, because I'll buy tickets again whenever they come back.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What I'd like to see a President do

Clinton dodges another deathblow

Clinton deserves kudos for her Pennsylvania victory, but at best it's a victory for her fundraising to keep going, rather than to realistically overtake Obama in the delegate race.

If she had lost, or had won by a small margin, then her fundraising efforts would have had some serious issues... and that would have been bad for a candidate who is currently ten million dollars in the red.

As for the delegate count, she scored better than I predicted (by four points), and that translates into 80 more delegates... but Obama just scored 66 delegates. That means she started to cut down Obama's lead by 14 whole delegates. By the time all the results are in and all the delegates are sorted, I'm expecting her lead in PA to be about 16.

Unfortunately, that means Obama is only ahead by 152 delegates, as compared to 168 before Pennsylvania. Including super delegates, she would only be down 128 rather than by 144.

To put this into context, I've maintained an excel spreadsheet since right before Super Tuesday (way back on February 5th), mainly to track how well Clinton was doing in the race, compared to my candidate. Back then she was up 82 delegates, a seemingly insurmountable lead. Below is a chart I've kept that tracks her delegate lead over Obama... which peaked for her on Feburary 6th (after the last votes were counted and delegates assigned) and then has been in a freefall until the Ohio/Texas/Vermont/Rhode Island election. That gave her a slight bump of about thirty odd delegates... but the Texas caucus results erased her lead and let Obama essentially net more delegates in Texas and still have enough to cut into her lead in Ohio.

Clinton's Delegate Lead - with PA Highlighted

Given that there aren't many delegates left to divy out, and they are still being divded proportionally and not "winner take all" states, we are back to where we were before Pennsylvania.

She needs to win big (as in 16% or more) to even begin to cut into Obama's lead, but as long as she can win, she'll have dodged another deathblow and can keep raising raising money to maintain the fiction that she can win the race.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Analyzing the PA exit polling by CNN...

It's early, and it's exit polling, and it's only asking 1421 people how they voted... but slicing the numbers it looks like 52% of those polled picked Clinton and 48% picked Obama. I picked the male/female data, college/no college data, and the vote-by-age data, and all of them churned out pretty much the same percentage.

Just another datapoint to throw onto the fireplace while we watch the election burn away.

ʎʇıʌɐɹb ɟo ɹǝʇsɐɯ

I just had to post an entry with that title just to see it posted. What can I say? I'm easily amused...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Psychic Predictions for Pennsylvania

My guess for tomorrow's primary in Pennsylvania...

Clinton 53%, Obama 47%
Six point lead for Clinton
83 delegates for Clinton, 75 for Obama

Meaning... she would be down 160 pledged delegates, rather than 168. Including super delegates, she would only be down 136 rather than by 144. In terms of the percentage of delegates on her side, she would have raised her total from 47.72% to 47.95%. A whopping quarter of a percentage point.


So long as she wins a single percentage point, I'm sure she'll paraphrase Dr. Suess tomorrow night, "a win is a win, no matter how small."

It would be a win, and it will give her a handful of delegates, but at best it's a PR victory that might keep her it the race until May 6th and woo a few more superdelegates. Unfortunately for her, without a sixteen percent victory in Pennsylvania, her goose is cooked.

Thanks to the way the Democrats primary race is structured (and the fact that she is in the red when it comes to delegates), she can't just squeak by with a win or two, but needs to win big to overcome Obama's delegate lead. Even worse for Clinton is the fact that polls show Obama leading Indiana and North Carolina (the last "big" delegate states), and with Obama getting double digits in NC for weeks.

My bet is that she'll squeak by in Pennsylvania, her campaign will continue on life support until the next races, and then she'll at best squeak a victory out of Indiana... and be completely crushed in North Carolina. At that point, the Democratic race will be (for all practical purposes) be over on May 6th.

Then again, given how she is going deeper into debt, it might be over before May 6th. *shrug* Time will tell.

All I know is that when it comes to Pennsylvania, we'll see tomorrow night!

Daggerfall strikes Lego Star Wars!

One of the things I like doing is playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii with Danica, and one night I managed to stumble on a bug in the game.

See, Daggerfall was a great fantasy roleplaying computer game that was released back in the 90s, and it foreshadowed great games like Morrowind. Gameplay in other FRPGs games were very linear, as your character literally was railroaded from one quest/fight scene to another. Daggerfall let you explore the world and would randomly generate thousands of little quests for your character to experience, and so it allowed you to do pretty much whatever you wanted. It was revolutionary in the 90s... but the game had so many software bugs, that after awhile, it was completely unplayable. As Wikipedia points out, one bug caused players running up stairs to fall through the terrain into a featureless black space. You'd be running one minute, and then falling into an infinite black hole the next.

Anyway, I just fell into the void while playing Lego Star Wars.

"Just where the heck am I?"

I was jumping down into a shaft which takes you to the end of the current game, and apparently I missed the floor and shaft and went in between them. My character fell through the floor and into the partially animated space underneath the gameplay area. I tried everything to get out, but eventually I had to concede that I was trapped in a portion of the game where characters aren't meant to be, and thus can't get out.

I dropped out of the game and reloaded, but that moment brought back all of those memories of playing Daggerfall. The best game in the world that I could never play.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Traveller: New Era and the Star Trigger

One thing I was thinking about on my way to work was how much I enjoyed reading the story of the Star Trigger in the Classic Traveller Darrian alien module.

It was a scientific project gone horribly wrong and subsequent destabilization and flaring of their sun wiped out their high technology and crippled Darrian society for hundreds of years. Worse, the shock waves of the blast compounded the disaster, traveling at the speed of light and eventually slamming into neighboring star systems for parsecs around the homeworld. After many decades of recovery and rebuilding, research into exactly what happened eventually led to the successful creation of Star Trigger technology and the subsequent mounting of these ultimate weapons on their starships. Essentially, the Darrians have yet to rebuild to their previous technological height, however they possess a nuclear-equivalent deterrent for use in their struggles with a neighboring hostile state, the Sword Worlds.

This got me thinking about Virus and the New Era.

What if the Imperium (being the allies of the Darrians) had somehow acquired/stole Star Trigger technology before the outbreak of the Rebellion? What if the Black War phase of the Rebellion escalated not jut to nuclear and chemical weaponry, but involved multiple Star Trigger attacks on high population systems (the linchpins of the Imperium)? Given the extent of black war attacks in the shattered Imperium, imagine Star Triggers detonating in a number of high population worlds, crippling entire subsectors and causing a catastrophe far larger than the Darrians ever experienced centuries before. Additionally, given the number of deep strikes near enemy safe zones, imagine the fallout of Star Trigger strikes deep in enemy territories.

The subsequent failure of high technology in the wake of a Star Trigger war would be just as devastating to the Imperium as the impact of Virus, but would also have the added plus of not having to introduce AI into the setting, nor have to deal with the ramifications of it still existing after it served its purpose as a galactic wrecking ball.

You could still run a full New Era-style campaign in the aftermath of a "Star Trigger War", and as an added plus you could keep or destroy any faction you want from the previous game. Perhaps play a game in the remains of Strephon's holdings, or just wipe the slate clean and run a Reformation Coalition-style campaign straight out of the T:NE books.

The more I'm thinking about this, the more I'm digging it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Negativity

While Clinton retains a big edge over Obama on experience, public impressions of her have taken a sharply negative turn. Today, more Americans have an unfavorable view of her than at any time since The Post and ABC began asking the question, in 1992. Impressions of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, also have grown negative by a small margin.

In the new poll, 54 percent said they have an unfavorable view of Sen. Clinton, up from 40 percent a few days after she won the New Hampshire primary in early January. Her favorability rating has dropped among both Democrats and independents over the past three months, although her overall such rating among Democrats remains high. Nearly six in 10 independents now view her unfavorably.

Holy cow! I've said Clinton's negatives were terrible before, but they have sunk to record lows. How do you win an election when over a majority of the electorate doesn't like you?

I bet she is feeling bitter right now

Holy cow. Obama has always been trailing Clinton in Pennsylvania, often by double digit margins. Now that enough time has passed for "Bittergate" to show up in the polls, I see that Clinton is now leading in the low single digits and one poll even shows Obama winning (also in the low single digits).

Translation: "Bittergate" hasn't amounted to a hill of beans, and the state is very much up for grabs... and nobody that grabs it will have a mandate. That translates into very bad news for Clinton, who needs a huge margin (like by twenty points) to even begin to cut into Obama's delegate lead.

Even worse, the last two Indiana polls show Obama beating her in this state. Again, even if she wins Indiana, odds are against any large margin to help boost her delegate count. Especially since the North Carolina primary has been showing Obama with double digits over Clinton for well over a month.

If we assumed the latest polling turns out to be the same numbers on election day (which they never are), then Clinton is looking at gaining a whopping fifteen pledged delegates and only be 155 short... and will need at least 75% of the remaining superdelegates to get on her side to even have a chance of beating Obama. Regardless, she'll need to pull sixteen points ahead of Obama in every single remaining contest to even have a chance of winning if the superdelegates split fifty fifty. Good luck pulling that off...

IMO, this primary is over and we are just watching the continued crumpling of Clinton's presidential aspirations.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mom in Paris

Just got these photos from my mother, who is currently in Paris with my Aunt Marge.

In front of the Notre Dame


In front of the Eiffel Tower



You know that I'm an uncultured American, because I had absolutely no idea that the building she was standing in front of was the Notre Dame until I did a wikipedia search for paris cathedral.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend-o-Gaming

Another successful weekend of gaming. Friday was Runequest, where the PCs are part of a criminal syndicate, similar to the Corleone's in the Godfather. The previous few sessions included a gathering of members of the Endali family, granting promotions, favors, wheeling and dealing, etc. Mr Kolmok (their Boss) has been promoted and has now taken on the services of three new Capos. The current session was a chance for the PCs to interact with Kolmok's new henchmen, figure out their new goals, and prepare for their next mission.

Saturday was Mutants and Masterminds. The PCs (along with two agents of Unison) broke into the headquarters of their archenemy, Victor Alexandros Jr. Victor turned out to be an extremely powerful psychic (with telepathy and mind-affecting powers), capable of fighting off both Shannon and Johnny with little challenge. Thomas and Bobbie-Sue tried helping, but Victor had Jason Morse (Shannon's brother) there to greet and fight the PCs. Unfortunately while Jason was powerful, luck was on the side of Thomas and Bobbie-Sue. By the time they managed to incapacitate Jason, Bobbie-Sue was able to join into the fight with Victor... who had just managed to knock Johnny down. Bobbie-Sue grappled Victor, while Shannon used the last of her strength to stun him. Bobbie-Sue tossed him through the time portal back to the future, Shannon collapsed and died, and all of the PCs (and the two UNISON agents) fled the scene. As they drove off, the explosives the UNISON agents set went off, and Victor Alexandros Jr. and his plan on change the future came to a crashing halt.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Flickr Photos

I just uploaded a bunch of photos to Flickr. The entire photo archive pretty much the highlights the Johnson family in 2007 up to the present.

Here is the link to my Flickr account

Link to a slideshow of the above


I've also attempted adding a slideshow here on the blog, but it looks to me like it picks up the same eight or so shots, rather than the 182 photos in the archive... :/

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Game of Empire reborn?

James Maliszewski, long time sci-fi RPG writer and the author of the Thousand Suns RPG, recently said the following on RPG.net:

It's a bit of a ways down the road yet, but what I'm thinking of a game where the players take the roles of powerful individuals and/or organizations that are vying for power and influence within an interstellar state (or states). Ideally, it'd be pretty simple and intuitive rules-wise, but would still have enough heft to be able to handle and differentiate between, say, outright military actions and more subtle diplomatic or economic maneuvers.

Mind you, this is all still simmering in the back of my mind, so there's nothing definitive yet. In the best of all possible worlds, the game would seamlessly integrate with the RPG so that you could play out the effects of one on the other. I'd love to be able to see players take the roles of, say, the emperor, noble houses, megacorporations, and so forth and then watch as their machinations affect the adventures their characters have in the RPG. Another possibility would be to use rules of this sort to help create an Imperial SF setting, effectively making the game a way to develop the history of the setting, etc.

Maybe it's a pipe dream but I plan to try nonetheless.

and

I'd love it to turn out to be as nifty as Pocket Empires, which, as you say, various issues aside, was a mighty fine book of its type. I also recall "the Game" that GDW ran internally to plot out the history of its 2300 AD game. I remember being very disappointed to discover that, despite its name, it didn't have any hard and fast rules and was an ad hoc kit bash among veteran wargamers. Still, I love the idea of a political-economic-military-social simulation of history as a tool for roleplaying. I'm pretty sure it can be done; it's just a question of creating the right balance between ease of use and the complexity of the subject matter.

I'm working on The Pilot's Guide to the Core Worlds this month, but, after I finish that up, I'll probably give some thought to "The Game of Empire" (or whatever I wind up calling it).

As far as I'm concerned, that's the single most exciting project I've heard about in RPGs since... well... Thousand Suns. :) What can I say? I really dig the game. It's my true love Traveller all over again, except without the impossibly huge setting strangling the life out of it.

I can only hope that I can help make this book see the light of day somehow...

These people are completely insane

"Close to a quarter of Obama supporters reported they will back McCain if the Illinois senator fails to get the nomination, while a third of Clinton backers said they'd vote Republican if Obama is the Democratic nominee."

Source

While I'm an Obama supporter, the idea that someone would rather support the Republican candidate over the other Democratic challenger is completely nuts. Like, moonbat crazy nuts. Compared to McCain, the difference between Obama and Clinton's policies can only be detected with an electron microscope. I can't wrap my brain around how stupid Democrats can be. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, indeed.

Awkward realization

Right now the BBC front page has an article titled Burma migrants suffocate in lorry, which is about fifty four Burmese illegal migrants suffocating to death while being smuggled into southern Thailand. It's a horrible story when you think about it, but I have to admit that for while reading it I just couldn't stop wondering what the hell a lorry was.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More Koda Photos - Three Weeks Ago

Just like what the title says... compare both the shot with Robin and Koda in the yard with the last two photos in the last blog entry. Our little boy is getting bigger and bigger ...

Kicking it in the yard

Playing chase with Kira

I think he likes the attention...

Koda - the growing pup

Koda is the new addition to the Johnson family. He's a purebred Labrador Retriever who has fit very well into our lives and is making the lot of us very happy. However, while he is a cut little puppy... he was only eleven weeks old when we got him ... four weeks ago. To say he has grown during that time is a bit of an understatement...

Koda's first day home:


Tonight, four weeks later:


I love watching this guy grow up, and it's mindboggling to think he is going to grow at least double this size in about three months or so. He has just hit the thirty pound mark today, and his mother is sixty pounds and his father is nearly seventy. Pretty soon, the kids won't just have a bouncing little dog, but a wall of fur who wants to be a lap dog. :)

Magazine titles galore

http://www.philsp.com/magazines.html

A lot of these are pedestrian, but lordy are there plenty of magazine covers here to harvest pulp graphics from. I know where to go when I need to find a photo of American's heroes fighting nazi gorillas hand to hand on a biplane. Wacky.

Sites with collectible game artwork

I've been wasting a heck of a lot of time tonight surfing these two sites and downloading photos.

Magic: the Gathering Wallpaper of the Week Archive
http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/wpotwarchive

Pirates of the Spainish Main/Cursed Sea card gallery
http://www.wizkidsgames.com/pirates/cardgallery.asp

I have all the M:tG wallpapers, and only the original five Pirate's sets to comb through for great art. See, I've recently discovered the link, and I need artwork:

http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/deck.php#

I'm thinking this will make neat prop/quest cards for table top games.

Even if I never use it, it's been neat downloading all that art, begging for campaign writeups... What I really need to do is check out deviant art...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Once more into the breach

I'm not promising anything with this blog, although I'm going to attempt to post info to it whenever I feel like it. Nothing focused, mainly thoughts and ramblings stemming from my life, my family, and my hobby. Who knows? Perhaps this will stick. Perhaps I'll look at this page a few years later realizing that I hadn't posted anything other than just this message. ;)

Time will tell.