If you've no listened to it, go find a disc, download, or stream to enjoy Bleak Expectations. It's hilarious, ridiculous, and highly entertaining.

That's all for today for I've worked very hard over the last three days in order to get my business ready for initial orders (not the proper launch, per se, but a few test runs with friends to see what goes tits up).

Annoyingly PayPal have yet to deposit anything in my account meaning my verification has yet to occur, preventing any kind of launch. I've also applied for online banking with Lloyds TSB so we shall see what that experience ends up being like.

Amusingly I may ask my mother for technical advice in that sphere as she has years of experience with online banking for businesses. Apparently the UK banks could learn a thing or two from those of New Zealand when it comes to online stuff.

Right, time for me to sleep. More work tomorrow.

Please help me if you can, I cannot manage colour theory on my own and need to build a set of colours for the site using multiple fixed base colours, not just one. If that makes sense then perhaps you can help me.

Zzzzz...



Leaving the lodge

23 September 2011

I'm heading back up North now from Northumberland, having helped pack up the house we use there. It's an odd place, but not in a bad way, but more in the way that even with high speed internet access it still retains its feel of being a microcosm.

Whilst the rest of the world may go at one speed the house there stands in stark contrast. This is hardly a unique phenomenon but one that I felt would be diminished by access to modern amenities.

Maybe it's the bleak landscape that can be seen through every window or the way the land never feels far away. It's nice though, a welcome physical retreat from which to marshal one's thoughts and muster a renewed strength to deal with the world.

Yes, I know, I'm getting needlessly prosaic, that's too bad.

The other thing about the place is the way it has so many "ghosts" inhabiting it. Not ghosts in the traditional sense, more like in the echoes of the many, many people that have been there. Looking at the living room one can feel the huge number of people over the years who have sat around the fire after a day's hawking, picking off the odd stray louse (accursed filthy crows!) and discussing the best flights of the season.

This is particularly prominent as the last time I was there was for the barbecue, wherein a hundred or more people bustle around the place.

The house itself feels a little melancholy once everyone has gone, but more in a "I hope they'll come back soon!" way than mourning for years gone by.

It may only be properly inhabited for a few months a year but in that time a lot more living gets done than many places see in the same time.

Sleep well, house, we'll be back soon.



Staring into the gaping mawe

22 September 2011

I don't know about anyone else but when I'm talking to someone I don't know I find myself staring at their teeth whilst listening to them. Perhaps I should be making eye contact or something like that, but what I'm noticing is their teeth and lips, more than anything else.

For example, during my weekly meetings as part of my enterprise scheme thingy, my adviser always seems to wear a shade of lipstick that doesn't gel neatly with the natural shade of her lips. While she's talking I'm listening but the rest of my mind is noticing the visible line between the bright red of the makeup and the much paler shade beneath.

Similarly I notice that my own teeth, whilst healthy, are not overly neat and tend to have a more rounded quality to them which I dislike. Perhaps one day I will endure braces to have this corrected.

As I get to know someone I do this less and less, but I suppose part of me is gathering data about the expressions they make whilst talking, building their profile, as it were.

Just a little something I was thinking about.

I really enjoy the show Bob's Burgers, as you may already know, however it's only this evening that I started considering why I'm attached to it.

I think it's the accessible nature of the show, by which I mean the lack of epicness. Episodes do not generally involve events which require a huge world to exist within. Now don't get me wrong, I love a richly populated and well developed world/universe for a book/game/film/TV show/bacon sandwich but the world of Bob's Burgers has this small-town feel to it.

Instead of taking the cast into vastly important exploits or relying on improbable deus ex machina it's mostly just feasible stuff. There's something deeply comforting about a show that doesn't leave me feeling "Oh wow, I wish things like that could happen in my life". Instead the situations presented are twisted into hilarity by wit, delivery, and the interplay of personalities.

The Simpsons used to feel more like that to me but in recent years it feels like it's getting more outlandish and not in a good way. I still enjoy the series but in a very different way.

In other news, I'm really enjoying Sons of Anarchy season 4 and Breaking Bad is quite enjoyable too.

Perhaps it seems silly that I watch many TV shows rather than living, but as it stands at the moment I'm in transition, creating a new status quo in which I operate my business. Once that's done I should be in a position to start putting together the Wooden Dice podcast, doing some work on Wooden Dice itself, learning to dance, geocaching, and the many other things I enjoy doing.

Hopefully I'll eventually have time to get back to learning to knit and play the guitar too. It may seem these things are forgotten but they really aren't, I just need to focus on some other more pressing business first.

I must say my abilities at finishing projects I start are vastly improved. There's still a way to go, but it's night and day compared with how I used to be. My Gorkamorka projects have helped massively and it's carrying over nicely into my approach to my business. My work ethic isn't as good as it was when I was 14, but it's closer to it than when I was 22, which is a relief and really helps my self-esteem.

I may have rambled but that's because this keyboard makes it so much easier to write comfortably and get my thoughts flowing.

At last, a bluetooth keyboard!

20 September 2011

I think I've finally managed to get something rather awesome working. A virtually full-size wireless keyboard for my iPhone!


It's a little clunky it seems to integrate with iOS natively after a few initial issues. The hinge could also use some love but it was significantly cheaper than the keyboards I've seen for sale online, I am simply not willing to pay forty quid for a keyboard. I can't seem to get the pound sign working, alas, even using Alt Gr, all I get is π, but I think I can live with that!

The next fun bluetooth-based project for my iPhone is to try to get my Pogo printer working with it. Celeste now exists to enable OBEX bluetooth file transfers but it seems unhappy with iOS 4.1, although I've read of a few people getting it working. Personally I've had no luck.

Bizarrely it doesn't show up in Windows, but I know my bluetooth dongle works as I was able to use this keyboard under Windows. I can print pics under Linux, of course, but it's rather infuriating, I must say!

Earlier I referred to the bluetooth file transfer project as "fun". What I meant was complex, frustrating, and in no way fun whatsoever.

This should make for some interesting blog posts though as I can now comfortably type on the move in a way I was unable to before. Nifty, eh?

One last complaint though - my question mark key is inexplicably on the other side of my right shift key. Yeah, I've got no idea why either.

I was listening to Just A Minute today and had a good laugh at one of the panellist’s attempts at the subject “Skinny dipping”. Later I wanted to send the quote to a friend of mine and it occurred to me that not only would I have to transcribe it myself but more so that if I didn’t, no one else would.

What I mean by that is if I don’t write it down now it will not be available in text form in future. Yes, that probably sounds very mundane but it’s more interesting due to the mindset surrounding it.

Once I became an adult the world I lived in was highly connected and became more so over time. These days if there’s something that makes me chuckle I can do a quick search and find the quote written down on any number of websites making sharing it very easy. That’s the world I’ve become accustomed to and as an adult, it’s the only world I know.

Nicholas Parsons, chairman of Just A Minute has been on every episode since the show’s beginnings in 1967. He’s 87 and is still doing a remarkable job. He and the panellists did not grow up in the world I did, their words do not have the permanence I’ve come to associate with multimedia encountered through the internet.

A television show usually has subtitles available somewhere, but radio?

It’s the concept of tangibility and permanence that I found so interesting. Our daily conversations are not generally recorded or transcribed, but it is common for the media we consume to be permanent. It used to be that if one missed a television show one could wait for it to be repeated, or in later years purchase it (should it be released) on a home media format. With the advent of digital media pretty much anything can be recorded and distributed online with ease.

I’m struggling to couch this concept in text, for which I apologise. A live radio show may well be recorded, but given that it is significantly more difficult to skim through an audio-only medium (it is, trust me) there’s more freedom in the format today. The audience and performers may remember it but beyond that it floats free from anchors to history.

You there! Reword this to make more sense.

Referral traffic, eh?

30 August 2011

How interesting. According to Google Analytics my personal blog is getting some minor referral traffic from yppp.org. If you don’t know what that is, don’t ask me, I really cannot explain. I can remember it being a thing, of some description, back in the days of YourPSP.

I also recall them deciding they would be Wooden Dice’s rivals, or something?

Either way, I would imagine their forum is probably much more active these days than Wooden Dice’s, but I can’t check as one must register to even view their site and I really can’t be bothered.

The reason I say “rivals” with both uncertainty and a little disdain is simple. Wooden Dice was founded in February 2005, several years before the YourPSP community even launched. Furthermore, it was not created to be related to any given gaming community. I’m not quite sure why the YPPP fellows feel our two groups are related but it’s probably something to do with me personally, rather than the WD community.

Regardless, it’s probably just a thread of them laughing at me over something or other, it’s hard to say. Haters gonna hate and so forth, I’m still me and am enjoying it.

In terms of what the plan for Wooden Dice at this juncture is, I’ll explain a little. I intend on attempting to transition the forum to phpBB via SMF, if I can get IPB to behave on my test bed server. The idea being to move to software we can keep up to date for free and with support for extensibility.

Once that’s done I plan on implementing something like Facebook Connect and Twitter’s equivalent to make it significantly more easy to register on the site. With any luck the new software will prevent continued issues with spambots.

Now, that said, the cynical amongst us would ask “Why?” and I’ll put it simply – WD’s members have lives and it’s currently a bit of a pain in the arse to use the site and even harder to invite new people (an admin has to authorise their account personally!).

Well I’m working on putting together a new video podcast, a spiritual successor to Napier Subculture, amongst other things. I would like to use the forum as the community for it. I will also be looking to recruit some new blood from my alma mater to assist with the show.

That’s the most obvious public-facing stuff that’s happening at WD at the moment, but not the only thing. I can’t exactly discuss it in precise terms on here but there’s stuff going on under the surface and WD is far from dead. Hello, YPPP.

I tend to keep an eye out for people discussing Gorkamorka online. I actually have a search alert setup with Google so when new content appears I get emailed as soon as it’s indexed.

As a result I’ve seen various people over the last few years sorting out their own campaigns and house ruling things. Sometimes I approve, but mostly it confuses me. The rules for GoMo aren’t that complicated, mostly, and the stuff that gets house ruled most often seems to be the stuff that is easiest!

A prime example and one that annoys me every time I see it is vehicle capacities. If you didn’t know Gorkamorka uses WYSIWYG vehicle capacities, meaning your vehicle needs to physically accommodate your models.

To put in in terms of Dr. Cox from Scrubs (R.I.P.):


Dr. Cox

Did you actually just page me to find out how much Tylenol to give to Mrs. Lensner?

JD

I was worried it could exacerbate the patient's…

Dr. Cox

It’s regular strength Tylenol. Here's what you do: get her to open her mouth, take a handful and throw it at her. Whatever sticks - that's the correct dosage!

Place the warriors on the vehicle. However many fit – THAT’S THE CAPACITY.

Instead I see people trying to put fixed numbers on it to “make it fair” or “for balance”.

No.

In Gorkamorka a bigger vehicle holds more warriors. It also is harder to manoeuvre, much more likely to clip things, and is far easier to board. There’s the disadvantages. Deal with it.

This is also what I think of as the “Don’t play with douchebags” rule. If you really want to win at GoMo then grab a load of Ork boyz and give them choppas. Spam the enemy and you will, statistically, win. There’s no real fun in that for anyone else though and, let’s be honest, it’s not exactly an exciting tactic.

If people want to have ridiculously huge vehicles and ruin the game, stop playing with them. They’re just going to make life miserable for you throughout the campaign in all likelihood. Play in the spirit of the game and encourage others to do the same – fun will follow.

Lastly, don’t get me started on people trying to remove flesh wounds and “Down” from the game. This isn’t 40K, stop it.

Grrr…

Remember the Digital Economy Act?

Yeah, that bit of dodgy legislation that the Labour government forced through during the wash-up period of the last parliament. The one which only 16 MPs bothered to show up for the reading?

Yeah, that one.

Well there’s an Early Day Motion (1913) in the works to deal with some of its more glaring issues.

That this House welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on Free Expression, Frank de la Rue, to the Human Rights Council of United Nations; notes that he is `alarmed' by the Digital Economy Act 2010 and other three strikes disconnection laws and that he considers them to be a violation of freedom of expression; further notes the report's recommendation to repeal laws permitting disconnection of users from the internet; further notes that La Rue emphasises that web censorship should never be delegated to private entities, and that corporations should only act to block and censor with the authority of a judicial process; and calls on appropriate Parliamentary Select Committees and the Government to re-examine new website blocking proposals from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as part of the Home Office's Prevent strategy, and in sections 3 to 18 of the Digital Economy Act 2011 in the light of this report.

I’ve written to my MP, Alistair Darling, but given his position within the last government I hold little hope that it’ll do any good.

If you’d like a convenient way to do the same head over here – The Pirate Party are doing their best to make this happen.

Monetising content

01 March 2011

This is a subject that has been bouncing around my head for some time and I doubt I am alone in that.

I love releasing content for free, but I also like to have secure revenue streams to finance future projects, living expenses, and to throw on the pile.

At the moment I'm not really producing anything with mass appeal, but even if I was in these lean times there's not exactly lots of capital kicking around. Audio content, for example, is tricky as it requires both a delivery vector and some way to monetise that; be it through web site ads or audio ads.

Video content isn't quite as difficult but is still tricky. It takes much more time and is significantly harder to get looking professional, for not that much greater return on investment.

In general this sort of thing is stuck in my mind as I would really, really like to avoid a soul crushing desk job. I have other plans to as many of you know but the initial step is to secure funding.

This stuff always starts bugging me when I absolutely must sleep. Argh!

friedmanI recently had an argument online with someone where I found both my business experience and my university knowledge useful.

This semester I have a mandatory module on sustainability and corporate social responsibility in which more progressive business models are discussed. Certainly plenty of businesses exist that are based on the view postulated by Milton Friedman in 1970 (that businesses have no responsibility except to maximise profits) but this is no longer true of all companies. Sure, if you’re a publicly traded company chances are that’s going to be the case as you’ve got shareholders to answer to and quarterly reports to issue to them showing your short term profits, but if you’re a privately owned company that isn’t necessarily the case.

The argument fell into two levels, the first being that all business schools teach profit maximisation, and the second being that the only kind of business that exists for anything other than to maximise profits is a non-profit organisation.

Well, given that my business school has a mandatory module stressing that Friedman is full of shit, I’d say the first one was rather categorically refuted. I very much doubt my counterpart in the argument agrees with me, but given that he insulted me and was unwilling to accept this basic fact I think I shall disregard his feelings on the matter.

As for the second issue, that is also not the case. I know several businesses that were not founded on the principle of maximising profits. Making enough money to thrive and continue to exist, certainly, but it wasn’t about getting as wealthy as possible. I don’t name examples because there’s the whole privacy thing. It’s not my place to divulge the names and purposes behind these businesses, but I know for a fact they exist.

Similarly, I’ve considered business plans in the past that were created in order to ensure sufficient cash-flow to finance things I enjoy doing. For example I would love to be able to film and present video podcast for a living, at least for a while. I’d establish a business to do it and wish to make some profit, but the goal wouldn’t be how to get the most profit long term or short term. The fact that such a business could exist seems to be beyond the imagination of people fixated on Friedman’s view.

The world is changing just as it always has been and over time businesses and the theories behind them grow more complex. Perhaps in a hundred years they’ll be deserving of true academia. Maybe. In the meantime they seem to be mainly a set of different basic ideas and ideals tarted up with obfuscating language and the odd graph.

 

So, to those of you who feel the need to insult me, patronise me, and put words in my mouth when I disagree with you, bear in mind I am no fool and would not disagree with you sincerely if I didn’t have good reason to.

 

But you know, just for kicks, you know how companies are only ever interested in profit and that is their motive behind everything?

How do you think things like this get done?

Pro-tip: A certain company, led by a certain person, got together a load of other like minded people worldwide to do something good. Said company are already at the top, they do not stand to gain anything substantial and are not directly attributed to this work, but if they had been geared just for profit this would never have happened.

Friedman’s work is from 1970, at the moment it’s 2011.

If things hadn’t changed at all in over forty years wouldn’t you be worried?

Doom Fortress Syndrome

31 January 2011

When working on new stuff for Gorkamorka I always try to avoid what I think of as “Doom Fortress Syndrome” – creating something so ridiculously overpowered that fielding it isn’t even remotely possible.

doom-fortress

An artist’s impression of a “Doom Fortress”

Generally we keep this sort of thing in check during our idea jams although a bit of craziness is of course welcome but most of that stuff ends up on the proverbial cutting room floor. In order to maintain the balance we try our best to follow the principles mentioned on the last page of Da Uvver Book (“Gorkamorka Designer’s Notes”). Shooting is not supposed to be particularly deadly, for example, so we try not to introduce anything that will mean that a faction can dominate the board. When we wrote the rules for the Dust Rat Long Rifle we made it expensive enough that a mob wishing to field several of them would end up forgoing much more versatile kit due to the sheer expense of the weapon, balancing its strength.

grot-megatankThis is pretty much the reason why under normal circumstances you’ll not find us putting armour values over 10 on things – barely anything can penetrate vehicles that tough.

For this reason you won’t find us encouraging you to field battlewagons, tanks, or mega tanks for that matter. They look awesome, but the balance issues they raise risk the game turning into an arms race. Essentially it’s about trying to ensure an even playing field – no one faction should even be the obvious best choice.

It always annoys me when people say “Which side/character is best?!” for a videogame. The more sensible ones mean “Which do you think would suit someone who hasn’t played this before?” but a large number seem to be under the impression that there is one character or faction that is superior to all the others. In a well balanced game that kind of question should be gibberish!

The arms race I mentioned would mean that mobs that aren’t able to easily field powerful weapons would end up on the losing end much of the time. Sure, Orks can get hold of Rokkit launchers to try to crack the armour on a tough target, but what about Rebel Grots?

It’s a similar principle behind my opposition to Killa Kans in Gorkamorka – as a scenario component they’re fine, but as a regular mob member a Killa Kan causes problems. Gorkamorka is unique amongst the Games Workshop skirmish games (as far as I know) in that it has a mechanic known as “Da Rollin’ Road” (see page 96 of Da Uvver Book). This little set of rules means that one can have chases, races, and so on, which I think is rather awesome. Unfortunately if you cannot thrust then you are at a bit of a disadvantage – and walkers aren’t exactly known for their speed.

This is pretty much the only problem I see with the Snorta rules, but even then they can run like the Muties can which tends to help things.

To conclude I’ll say this – the ethos of a game is vitally important when crafting new rules. Just because you can add it doesn’t mean it’ll fit with how the game was intended to be played. Sometimes you’ve just got to say “well that’s pretty damn cool, but I just don’t think it’ll work in practice”. You don’t have to say it, actually, but it’s a principle I encourage you to adopt.