Sunday, December 28, 2008

Further on the new table

The LA and I went through hardware and craft stores this weekend, and procured a four-foot piano hinge and a two-yard length of 72" wide crimson felt. These items will be combined, after we've visited a supplier, with two sheets of 5/8" MDF, each 4' by 2'6", and a few battens and laths, to produce a folding tabletop. The extra felt will allow me to ensure that the underlying table is protected from scratching while still having the tabletop covered in nice crimson felt which will grip dice very nicely and (sadly) show spills a treat.

I shall probably also make a wooden frame with no bottom, to use as a virtual dice tray.

Friday, December 26, 2008

On tabletops, gaming and space problems

The LA and I enjoy the occasional (read: regular) game of Arkham Horror, which, while fun, is also space-hungry. Our largest table is approximately 3 feet square (EDIT: just measured; 3'6"), and this is (barely) large enough for our four-investigator games. However, for Christmas, the LA's father was kind enough to buy for us the Dunwich Horror expansion. This adds a number of cards, making some of the locations rather more interesting (and in some cases, posing the risk of "killing off" at least one location permanently), a few wrinkles in the mechanics (apparently, spraining one's ankle twice was fatal in the 1920s; who knew?) and an extra board. While much of the expansion can be "dropped in" without the new board, it's reportedly best with the board. This presents a problem.

I have, however, already worked out how to fix it. What I shall need for this is: a four-foot length of piano hinge, two four foot by two foot six sheets of MDF (sufficiently thick for me to install the hinge such that it's flush on the pin side), about a square yard of felt (preferably something I can easily glue down, although staples would also work), four 18" battens, and the usual screws and suchlike. With these, I can make an expansion tabletop. With some extra felt and sufficient edging, I can make a most excellent gaming surface.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On relocation

I've not been feeling like it's the run-up to Christmas. I've been wondering why this is, and have finally realised that my situation this year is unique so far in my life. Last year, I came to the USA in mid-December, with my body having seen the usual shortening of the days at 51° North.

This year, the shortening of the days has been as expected for 37° North. However, my body has not figured out that I've moved roughly 14° Southwards, and so it's insisting that it's roughly the end of October. Despite this, the Solstice has passed. I'm still not in my usual Winter funk, and I think I may escape it entirely. I'm frankly astounded at how much difference this has made.

I like it.

On the associations of music

Take any British person my age or thereabouts, and play them Booker T and the MGs' Soul Limbo. They will immediately think of cricket. Play them Fleetwood Mac's The Chain, starting at 3:00. Their first thought will be of motor racing. Play them the aria Nessum Dorma, and they'll think of 1990, and the football World Cup.
This came up recently in discussion between the LA and I. I still can't stand Nessun Dorma, because of its overplaying during the World Cup of 1990. The LA pointed out that in the US, it's more likely to be something akin to Gary Glitter which is associated with sporting events... which led to my remembering the one hit the Timelords had, back in the late 1980s, which came about the way it did because the Doctor Who theme was in 3/4 time.
This led to my doing some searching for the Doctor Who theme, and learning that the 1980s theme (decent, and reminiscent of my childhood even though I never watched Doctor Who) was in fact not the original theme, but a reperformance using synthesisers. The current theme, of course, is another re-do. The original theme, however, is utterly wonderful. I can well believe that a mother wrote to the Radio Times complaining that it had terrified her son; it's still exceedingly spooky, even today. When taking into account its genesis, it's an astounding piece of work; it was hand-assembled, note by note, and mixed down by means of multiple almost-synchronised tape players, with each line having been put together with lots of razorblade and stickytape use. Compsed in 1963, it still sounds like the future. Reportedly, the composer's reaction on hearing it for the first time was "Did I really write that?"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On mistaken identity

The kitty was scratching at the couch, so I went over to see if she'd gotten her mouse under there again. While doing so, I felt something soft fall across the back of my hand.

I thought it was her tail. As it turned out, it was my tail; my ponytail, that is.

Things are getting interesting when you mistake your own hair for one of the cats...

Friday, December 19, 2008


So the swatch last night came out as close as it gets to exactly the size I thought it would. Hooray for swatching! This means that it's currently in the washing machine, felting. It will felt easily, and hopefully I worked out the proportions correctly to have it felt into a square. For now, I shall save this post and see what it does.

Meanwhile, the ski cap has become a bust due to twisted stitches necessitating a frogging. I just didn't want to start again. I shall find some other use for the yarn...

I rock.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the d6

OK. This is getting mathematical, not to mention repetitive. Here's the summary:

Last night, I knit up a swatch on 8s. Far too loose, and far too spendy; I only have 69g of yarn to play with, so my swatch must not exceed 9 grams. Hopefully, it'll be a little less, and felt square, which will give me a huge margin to play with, but that would be lucky. So, I'm assuming it'll be a bust that I might be able to make a catnip pouch out of. Anyway, 8s are too much for this yarn with my tension; 7s are much better. I get a lovely fabric, and I'm close to figuring out the right size. I've just frogged another swatch, in preparation for a go with a narrower width. This swatch was 18 stitches by 24 rows (including caston and castoff) and came out to four and three quarter inches wide by four and a half tall. It also came out to nine grams dead on, so I carefully wound it into its own ball (leaving it attached, though; I won't cut it off until I felt it). If my tension stays even, I'm looking to try 16 stitches by 26 rows, which should (fingers crossed!) felt square and use up the same amount of yarn. If it comes out roughly the right shape knitted, it'll be time to felt it and correct from there...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the latest project

I've started swatching, and it's going to be (hopefully) on size 7 needles. The yarn is knitting up beautifully, especially now I've stopped twisting the knit rows (thanks to Barbara for pointing that out; I figured out what I was doing wrong, and it was slowing me down as well - easily fixed, but I might use it for effect, and I'll deliberately keep doing it in the hat since I don't want to frog that) and it's giving me a lovely fabric. I may want to try some socks for myself in this yarn, once I've finished this project.

The intention is to knit up six swatches which are sufficiently off-square that when I felt them, they'll come out as near square as I can get them; then, I'll figure out what to do for pips (probably a contrasting yarn, felted), and then sew it up, stuff it, and let the cats at it.

Then, I'll start figuring out patterns to make triangles numbered from 1-8. That, I may not felt.

You'll know I've become really confident when I start doing patterns for pentagons numbered 1-12. That pattern, if I can pull it off, I shall type up and make available...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On this date, one year ago...

I arrived in the USA. At that point, I was expecting to return to the UK around three weeks later, but things turned out deliciously differently. Let's take a look, shall we?

The LA and I saw an immigration attorney. His advice was that we could wait eighteen months, or I could extend my trip and marry while in the US. We decided on the latter. The LA and I then shared our first Christmas together, with the cats. Since then, many things have occured. For a start, the LA and I married, and went to Disneyland, all on the same day. We went and were introduced to the LA's paternal grandfather on his 90th, which made him very happy.

We moved up North to the Bay Area, held a celebration, and have been enjoying ourselves. The LA took up knitting, and now so have I.

The cats continue to entertain.

And today, I put up the Christmas tree again, and fixed the balky garage door opener. The down limit was set too far down, which was causing occasional bounces. However, the door itself is cracked and ought to be replaced.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On surprises

The LA and I now have... an embarrassment of gifts. In all seriousness, I have wrapped eight separate items for her, even though she knows what is in six of the parcels. Mother dearest, your package arrived today; the LA does not know what was in it for her, since I took it in and extracted the relevant while she was at work. The LA is intending to spend some time this weekend wrapping items for me, probably while I perch upon a ladder in the garage to fiddle with the opener of the door, which has lately been not of the finest for reliability. Meanwhile, I know some of what I shall receive; even had my mum had the items she ordered from Amazon gift-wrapped, I would have known, because Amazon's systems are not as clever as they could be.

You see, I had multiple books in a trilogy upon my wishlist. My mum decided to get the trilogy, and so proceeded to buy one of the books from my Wishlist. Amazon took it upon itself to be helpful, and suggested she might wish to buy the other two. She did so... and Amazon entered the domain of Fail, because those very same two books were still upon my wishlist. She was forced to e-mail me and alert me, so that I didn't receive duplicates.

Still, as I said, the LA will have surprises, and I shall also. The local secondhand bookstore (to which, should she return, my mother will be paying a visit) had a rather inexpensive mystery bag of books for sale last time we were in there, and it has not yet been opened. The LA will be ensuring I don't catch a glimpse of its contents until the day.

I do hope that the gifts we're sending will be close to timely. I'm certain they'll be well-received, even if they're not.

Monday, December 8, 2008

On improvements

The LA and I enjoy Arkham Horror, a co-operative boardgame published by Fantasy Flight Games. The setting is Arkham, a fictitious Massachusetts town, in 1926; menaced by an "Ancient One", a cosmic horror from beyond space, the players take the role of investigators combating this being. They do this by killing monsters, and closing the gates from which the monsters have sprung. It's a simple concept, but the game is exceedingly complex (it takes at least three times as long to play it first time around, unless you have an experienced player to help) and very replayable. Until recently, the Fantasy Flight website had a very good amount of support for the game, including suggested variations, FAQs and the like.

No more. Or rather, I don't know anymore, because the site was redesigned, and now I can't find anything of use, I often have to try again because the site takes so long to load, and searching is rather tricky since the plugins take so long to load, and they don't do text properly. Sure, it's prettier, but it's less useful. I strongly dislike this form of redesign; Lucasarts did it a while ago, effectively barring me from obtaining patches for a couple of games I have, because their browser and plugin detection disallowed me from entering, and the computer I was using didn't have the horsepower for the plugins they demanded.

Fortunately, for Arkham Horror, there is still BoardGameGeek.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

On poultry

So, despite it being Thanksgiving recently, and Christmas soon, I decided to roast a small amount of turkey. Part of this was because it was on discount after Thanksgiving, and part was simply because I like the leg meat, and the turkey joint that my mother-in-law roasted for Thanksgiving didn't include any. The LA hasn't liked leg meat in the past, but I'm hoping she'll be OK with this. If not, there's plenty of white meat.

However, this leaves open the question of what I ought to roast for Christmas. I'm partial to beef, since the LA dislikes pork and I dislike lamb, but there is also the option of duck.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On gifts

As the LA has said, we've done our gift-buying for each other, and we've managed to get ourselves a little unreliable as regards other gifts. If any of my readers wish to buy me gifts, then there is an Amazon wishlist containing things I covet located here, and those of you local enough to be able to get to Concord could do far worse than buttonholing me to ask about the wishlist I have for Black Diamond Games.

Or you could just send a card. Nothing I'm coveting is a need, they're all wants.

Monday, December 1, 2008

On the casting of pods, once again.

So, these are the podcasts I'm currently subscribed to, in no particular order. I'll give them a little mini-review each.

The Bungie Studios Podcast - mostly shilling for Halo stuff, highly irregular, but still amusing.

Writing Excuses - professional writers giving their advice on how to write professionally - everything from "how to avoid being formulaic, even when following a formula" and "what editors do and why you need one" to "how to submit your work for publication". Bite-sized fifteen-minute chunks of advice, from people who have done what they're telling you about, and have good chemistry.

Fear the Boot - this was the first podcast I listened to, and it pretty much spoiled me for other podcasts. Production quality and host chemistry is excellent, and the RPG advice is well-considered. This was also the only podcast I ever listened to from a portable mp3 player (episode 82 dropped the day before I came to the US).

The Podge Cast - after some host drama which I won't go into here, ex-hosts of Fear the Boot created this podcast. They're still insightful, and the quality is still good. They range wider than RPGs, but they remain mostly focused on such things.

Bear Swarm! - A cross between Fear the Boot and the Podge Cast, with a little more swearing. Good fun, and mostly good advice.

Atomic Array - another RPG-focused podcast. Still under review, but pretty good so far.

Game On! With Cody and John - this one's about board games, and is nicely entertaining.

Save Against Frostbite - slowly improving sound quality (they've finally killed the hum, and hopefully soon they'll manage to figure out turning the gain down to stop the mics clipping) and huge amounts of profanity, from a bunch of Canadian geeks talking about anything and everything.

I also have Radio RTFM and the Red Earth Saga in the list, but those two both appear to have suffered what's known as podfade.