The Return

Oh snap. I think it's been three years since I was last here. I saw 17 comments on my last blog post, feeling a little excited. But yeah, just comment spam. Surprise.

The editor here has been totally overhauled. I do like. I'm wondering if I should continue with this blog area or create a new one for my new adventure. Yes, there is another...adventure that is. I am beginning to do my first sewing related costume.

So it's been literally decades since I've done my last costume by myself and I wish I had pictures of it. Alas that was during the days of film type cameras and the Internet. If you must know, it was of Optimus Prime (like this one but totally not that cool) for Halloween. All of color cardboard. It was sweet though I'm sure years of umm years have clouded the mind. I might have had help with another costume from my mom. I did a toga, you can't mess that one up. After that, I attempted some lame black cloak things at the local convention. And since then, I just never put much effort into it. The desire to do something never went away.

Now a bug has bitten and I want to give it a go. I have an idea. I have the will. And I have the money. There's an anime con that's happening at the end of March which I've never been for various reasons. I think I'm going to go this year finally and I will go in a costume, at least for one day.

I thought it would be cool to record my progress on the costume. There's a little overhead to the overall project to record the process but I think it would be good to get something on paper, or blog as it were. The question is do I do it here or start up a whole new blog. I think a new blog is in order. It just makes sense.

On that note, ta ta for now. Here's to making it to the end.


DDR Resurgence

On Saturday, early in the AM, I went out and got DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) Hottest Party 3 for the Wii. I haven't played DDR since the dance pad for the Xbox 360 crapped out which is probably sometime last year.

Historically, we've always had problems with every single dance mat for DDR. They eventually stop working correctly. It is horribly annoying. We really love the game ( one of the only ways I've managed to lose weight, by the way) and would play it every day, hours on end. However, those damn dance mats that come with the game always give way.

Soft Mat Tip:
If you use a soft pad on carpet, you probably notice that the pad moves all over the place. Not a good thing when you're trying to complete challenges and whatnot. Something we did, and it has worked so far, was to get one of those clear plastic mats designed for office chairs so the chair can roll over carpet. You lay the office mat down and then the dance pad. So far, our pad has not moved while playing. The office mat will probably last longer than the dance pad itself. It's a little investment upfront but it really helps with the moving dance pad issue.
Konami makes good games, I will not argue that. Their peripherals need more work, though. I know there are third party pads out there. There are even metal pads that can simulate the arcade machines. If you have the money, metal pads are probably a decent investment (until a new console comes out and then you're screwed). The soft pads are just not good for the long run and the metal pads are just a tad expensive.

So I spent a little time after playing on Saturday researching what I could do on my own. I found a little video showing how to build your own mat given an existing mat. It's not a complete tutorial but I think I have the gist of it. Currently I'm just missing the most expensive parts (plywood and Plexiglas). I'm already thinking about how to improve the initial design. It's probably for the best to continue with this design and see how it goes. If it goes good, I have other older pads I can rework.

I miss playing DDR. The music is always good (mostly as Hottest Party 2 music selection was not good at all) and it's always a workout. I have a feeling that DDR is on its last legs. With the coming of the Kinect on Xbox 360, real dancing games might be the only thing. I would like to keep DDR style games around as it is a different play style. It's far easier to pound buttons on the ground then be smooth like Usher.


Con Artist

Once or twice a year, I go to a convention. A sci-fi/fantasy type of convention is my preferred setting. I have been known to go to a work related convention (which can also be fun). In years past, I've been mostly to Radcon over in eastern Washington. I recall going to one of the first ones when it was still over in Richland and I was just old enough to drive myself. No parents! Yay! That first con was underwhelming to say the least. I probably didn't know what to expect and came away with an empty feeling. I didn't go to another for several years.

The years have gone by and I added the convention to my existence. It's been normally a annual thing. Up until 2008, it was Radcon. As of this year, it is Norwescon. Oddly enough, the two conventions are kind of same. Norwescon is the bigger of the two but they are both literary types of conventions. Both hosts a multitude of authors in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Radcon has a more science bent to it. Norwescon has the annual Philip K. Dick awards. Both are filled with costumes, room parties, dances, and many new friends. I felt at home at Norwescon and saw many people from Radcon.

The cons are generally a good time. So good I would like to add another convention to my list. There are lots to pick from. Some even local. PAX, a all game type convention, happens Labor Day weekend. Sakura-con is an anime/manga/Japanese con that, unfortunately, happens the same weekend as Norwescon. There's Dragonflight which is a table-top game con during the middle of August. There are a lot more smaller cons, too many to mention but I will point you in the right direction, and many more cons that happen in other places of the US and/or the World.

I would love nothing more than to attend each and every one of them. Of course, I have not found those winning lotto numbers yet so all cons shall remain a pipe dream. Though it is conceivable to add at least one more con. In 2010, I will kind of do that with the insertion of an unschooling conference in May. We were slotted to go last year but sickness said NO! It will certainly be different from my normal convention and I hope to meet new people.

There's something magical about being surrounded by others who are interested in the exact same things as you are. And then there are the one offs where you learn about something new. I probably won't stop going to conventions. They are just filled with too much much goodness and newness. If you haven't ever gone to a convention for your favorite hobby or some other personal interest, I encourage to find one local to you and try it out. You'll have a great few days which you'll remember for years to come.


A Good Use

Back when the G1 (Google Phone) was first released, we were in the process of changing phone companies and plans. We were using Sprint and using my in-laws' plan. I didn't like either of those ideas so we jumped ship. I thought it would be nice to be at the leading edge of tech for once and after much hmming and hawing, I opted for the HTC G1 phone from T-Mobile. And it was awesome!

Right out of the box, I get to read my email from my gmail account. Google Maps apps has more than once save my lost ass. I eventually got a twitter client for it. It was all coming up roses with the phone! But over time, that's all I really did with the phone, with the occasional game of solitaire or Pac-Man. It didn't seem quite right.

Don't get me wrong. I love to be able to read my email anywhere, make tweets to twitter (approaching 1500 updates thanks to my phone), and looking up info about products. My favorite use had to be seeing the wait times for the H1N1 vaccine while standing in line. These are all very good uses but none of them yelled "killer app" for me.

Then, several weeks ago, a new app entered the Android market called Google Listen. Listen is a podcast aggregator for the Android OS. It allowed you to do searches for podcasts and subscribe to them and then it would queue them up for you. This was an app I've been looking for.

I like listening to podcasts. They entertain and educate on my way to and from work and sometimes while I'm at work. It's only about a 20 minute drive but those 20 minutes add up over the week. The local radio stations can only do so much for me at the intellectual level. A couple of my favorite podcasts include Seattle Geekly and Stackoverflow.com. While these podcasts are good, it was an enormous pain given the setup I had (a 2GB mp3 player).

After finding Listen, the enormous pain went away. Instead of hooking up my mp3 player to my home computer, trying to remember which was the last podcast I listened to for a particular series, grab that one (or a bunch as it happened), upload, remember to bring the mp3 player with me in the car, all I had to do was do a search for the podcast in Listen, click(touch?) subscribe and away I went! Wheeee! Since I had my phone with me most of the time, the managing of podcasts became a lot easier.

I didn't keep up with my podcast subscriptions because of the pain it was to listen to them. I got behind. I had to listen to dance music on repeat. Dance music is awesome but it gets real old when you hear a particular song 3 or 4 times in one day and you only listen to the radio for 40 minutes. It got old. Podcasts give me that new car smell all the time!

So with the coming of Google Listen, I found my killer app for my G1. I think I have 5 subscriptions to various podcasts but I go through them pretty fast. I'm on the look out for new ones that keep my interest. A shoutout to samwhoo to suggesting "This Week in Google". I think that will be a good fit for me. Wouldn't you agree?


Renewed Interest

I think I may have mentioned that I'm 34 now. I don't really feel accomplished at all. I have lots of goals that remain uncompleted such as learning Japanese, programming a game, and winning the lotto. That last one is proving near improbable.

I've been listening to JapanesePod101.com off and on over the years. It's a podcast along with a companion website of the same name to help you learning the Japanese language. The podcasts are free and some of the extras are free. Recently they starting releasing videos on YouTube. The videos are great but when they spell things out, they use hiragana. There are like two or three characters that I know so reading the words is impossible. For the most part, I can read romanji (understanding is another matter) so I have some reference for sound but it's driving me crazy that I can't read the hiragana even if I can't understand it. The craziness is driving me back to learning Japanese.

I've also always been interested in making games. From the days of the SNES I wanted to make games. I wrote a game company or two about how to improve their games (got a poster from Lucasarts after I gave feedback on Super Empire Strikes Back). I've done fairly simple games and dabbled in modding. I also started a game development club at my college when I was going (which I'm sad doesn't seem to exist anymore but it was fun while it lasted). Video games are really complex these days where you need to have millions of dollars and dozens of people to pull off a quality game (of course quality is relative). Regardless of the complexity, I still want to do a simple game. I had one idea involving the eternal struggle of ducks versus hunters. Epic to be sure but doesn't have to be complex.

The game development was renewed just the other day. I was waiting in line at the UW Transplant clinic and was looking about. Off in the waiting area, behind a row of chairs, a laptop peeked out with World Of Warcraft on the screen. At the time, I didn't know it was WoW. From a distance it looked primitive. My brain cells fired in a pattern that made me remember the wonder. At that moment, that desire I had buried long ago re-surged to the surface. It was the moving of an object in a 3D world, a world of your choosing, that did it. I think I can do my idea, and it certainly doesn't need to be complex, I just need to put aside the time to do it.

Thirdly, winning the lotto. Seriously, really really improbable! So I think I'll just be enthused about writing. I have been writing a bit more lately. I have a twitter feed with OVER 9000 updates, err I mean over 1100 updates (Believe it!). I have to give and take within 140 characters and my proof reading skills are kind of lax in that medium but it's still writing. So it can be said my interest in writing has been renewed. What I would like to do is improve my writing. Vary my vocabulary, stop using soo many parentheses (annoying isn't it?), write more than blog posts.

It's great having renewed interest in these pursuits of ye ol days. It's not exactly being young again but it's a start. Now the challenge here is to complete these goals this time around. Supposedly, with old age comes wisdom. The wisdom to see that hard work leads to a good finished product with fun and adventure in between. Let's see if enough wisdom has soaked into my brain to finish.


Pen and paper RPG on a computer

So I haven't played D&D for a long time. I wasn't a very active player during a game but I enjoyed sitting around a table with my friends, talking crap, eating Taco Bell, building columns out of dice, you know the usual. It was a hobby with that social aspect teenagers need. I would like to get back into it one day. One thing that was great about the game was the tailored made experience.

There are a lot of online RPGs out there with very rich environments. World Of Warcraft, Everquest, and Guild Wars comes to mind. You are kind of set in what you can do, however. You don't ever have a campaign that is tailored just for you. You're pretty much watching the same movie as everyone else. Which isn't a bad thing. When you just finished the latest Harry Potter book, it's good to talk with your fellow "Potterites" about what happened to Dumbledore.

In a table top game of D&D, your Dungeon Master is your host and pretty much controls everything you see. The DM may run a published module, but it's going to be different from DM to DM. It's custom made to the group you're in. Where a CRPG might be able to have a troll be animated to drool, roar and regrow limbs, it's limited to a scripted event. A DM injects a lot more into a troll. Just having a listen to the episodes of the D&D Podcast with the guys from Penny Arcade, PvP Online, and Wil Wheaton really demonstrates that.

I was thinking about how to transfer the table top experience to the computer. What kind of features would I like to see in such a tool?

A D&D tool feature set might include:
* real-time encounter management based on a rule set but can be overruled by the game master
* voice and cam support for all players and game master
* a tool set to easily create and share encounters and full campaigns
* the table top can be basic or enhanced (eye candy only)
* tool can used via internet or local LAN

Before I started this, I didn't think there were any comparable tools out there yet. A common name that these tools are known by is virtual table. There are several virtual table tools I found for the PC that are available or will be. One is being made by Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Insider tool set. It's only seems natural that WotC would make a tool like this. At this time, the tool with the features I listed above doesn't seem to be available. There are demo videos showing off some features.

Another tool I found was Fantasy Grounds. There is a demo available to whet your teeth on. The UI is pretty slick! A set of dice is available to roll at the bottom. There's certainly a feel of a table there.

Yet another tool discovered during the course of writing this is iTabletop. iTabletop incorporated the use of web cams and audio to interact with the players. A demo is also available showing off some of it's move. You must create an account as the data is actually hosted on their "servers" (Amazon cloud).

While these tools should certainly help out simulate an in-person role playing experience, not one did everything I was looking for. A set of the features from the three tools would be ideal. Start with Fantasy Grounds as the base then add in the easy encounter creation from D&D Insider and top it off with the audio/video communication from iTabletop and we'd have a winner!

Unfortunately, none of the tools are open source. Looks like Fantasy Grounds has some scripting ability but I'm not sure what it can do at the moment. Here's a situation where I may have to roll my own. I have kind of thought about how to go about it and it would be certainly a big thing. Perhaps I'll be able to finish such a thing.

Though all of this would be for naught without others to play with. A rock is just a rock until there are windows around to break. That can be a topic for another day.


Testing TwitterFeed

Just a test for TwitterFeed. I have to wait 30 mins now to see if it worked. But if it does, then it will do the job I need.

Almost two years

Why hello thar! Long time no see. I've been away. Evidently, sent you all over to MySpace. Sorry bout that. I'll never do that again. (I don't even use MySpace anymore and WTF was I thinking when I created that name!)

So, I'm back. Been busy I suppose. Got into Twitter. I'm approaching 1000 updates. Can you believe that? I can't either...wait, yeah I can. I like to write and since I didn't blog, Twitter was my outlet. But I'm finding 140 characters much too constricting. Thus today, about 11am on a lazy Sunday morning listening to "The Girl in Byakkoya" (I absolutely love Paprika BTW), The Last Blog is resurrected.

Lots to write about I suppose. Work, non-work...is there anything in between? Sure and I'm gonna write about it. I will see if can find a way link posts to Twitter. If blogspot can't do it, I'll investigate Wordpress.

Anyhow, it will be good to write long posts again. Welcome back. ^_^