Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

October 31, 2006

Blood. Let.

Filed under: fitter/happier — lexifab @ 10:56 am

Have arrived at work later than usual thanks to an early blood donation. Am now feeling slightly light headed, chirpy and largely inattentive. I hope nobody asks me to do anything important.

 Come to think of it, I hope nobody has *already* asked me to do something important and I just forgot.

October 27, 2006

This is a call to the Sawl!

Filed under: geekery,now playing: anything — lexifab @ 10:42 am

The New Salisbury Lexicon “game” (not exactly the word for it) is continuing along, but it’s starting to lose its puff a bit. We’ve shed at least three or four players, but actually I think that’s a good thing, as I think the weight of numbers we stared with was probably detrimental to establishing a good rhythm.

Xopher and I talked a bit the other night about how we might restructure a future game to make it work a bit more. I disagree a bit with a couple of comments that the subject itself is limited – that’s just a matter of taste, though I can perfectly understand not wanting to bother with something that doesn’t inspire you. More significantly, it is clear that the week turnaround makes it seriously hard to sustain interest – I mean, I’m as committed as anyone to seeing the damn thing through to the end, but even I have weeks where I can barely churn out my designated 200 words. So a turn structure that is a little less…well, structured will probably be the go.

Also, the conceit of starting at the start of the alphabet and working through is a bit limiting too. In principle I have absolutely no problem with any artificial constraint in a writing exercise – the point being, “given this constraint, what can you do with it?” applies equally well to alphabetical lexicons as it does to writing in iambic pentameter or a haiku – but the issues it does create are twofold. One, it means the whole thing goes for 26 rounds, which is a shame as it is quite obvious that the initial burst of enthusiasm for the task will be hard (no, realistically – impossible) to sustain for half a year. Second, as Xopher pointed out and I eventually came to agree, the whole thing becomes a bit weaker if one can’t create a new reference to a “closed” letter. If during the middle course of a game someone becomes desperately interested in aardvarks and makes several references to them, under the rules you can’t make that a “real” reference and link to it. It becomes worse if everyone starts doing it, because heaps of new information which should logically warrant discrete entries instead get shunted into the interstices instead.

Xopher proposed some changes to a game structure including: no fixed turn times, a set number of entries/turns (say 10), using any letter you like. He made some other structural suggestions around this framework that haven’t quite stuck in my head, so I hope when he gets back from SupaNova after this weekend he can chime in and resuggest them. The advantage to the basic proposal is that we don’t have the “waiting for one or two more late entries” problem, and the problem described above of not being able to refer backwards through the alphabet. I can foresee issues arising from the inevitable situation where Enthusiastic Player A has done all 10 entries before B has done his second and before C has started – A gets a disproportionate influence on the direction and tone of the game – but there’s undoubtedly a way to address this.

Still, for all that I am not unhappy that we have tried it out using the rules as written before we start drifting it (that’s gaming theory jargon for changing or ignoring written rules to suit the style or preferences of the gaming group, like how nobody uses Encumbrance in D&D except fanatical bean-counters).

Anyway – comments? Especially those of you who have dropped out who might like to discuss or disagree?

October 26, 2006

Late or early?

Filed under: news of the day — lexifab @ 4:07 pm

Didn’t get in to work until half past 11 because I was waiting for a guy to come and take a look at the dishwasher (something electronic has fried, causing the heating element to fail). Immediately I had to drop whatever I was planning to do in order to get a request for tender out. It’s three hours later, and I’ve just now had a chance to take a break and grab some lunch (and coffee! OMG!).

Question: now that the emergency is over, should I: (a) tinker about with a document I spent all day yesterday on, which doesn’t really need any more work, essentially wasting taxpayers’ money and my time on what it a glorious sun-shiney, warm day, or (b) go home?

I’m deeply conflicted about this: on the one hand I have kind of a work ethic and I kind of want to build up my hours so that I can take a week off in late November to go to Fi’s niece’s wedding.

But on the other hand - sunshine!

October 25, 2006


Filed under: geekery — lexifab @ 11:06 am

No play reports for PTA. Jimbo was sick, so we watched the first couple of episodes of Torchwood instead.

I don’t have too much to say about that yet. It hasn’t exactly made an impression either way. I couldn’t say whether I’d be interested in watching more if it were not connected to Doctor Who. Of course it is, so I will, but… I think it’s interesting (to me) that the only element of the show about which I feel passionately so far is that I hate Eve Myles’ character’s hair, which looks exactly like Gina Riley’s from Kath and Kim. Eugh.

October 24, 2006

Calling Mr Skin

Filed under: administraviata — lexifab @ 12:33 pm

One of the comments I just moderated looks like it was probably a spam so I deleted it. However as it used actual English sentences and made some (slightly incoherent) comments about playing World of Warcraft, it is possible that they came from an actual human typist.

If there is a Greg out there who uses an email handle along the lines of Mr Ski or Mr Skin, send me another comment making it clear that you are, in fact, sentient, and not just a particularly well-targeted spambot.

The rest of you should just ignore this or make some amusing bon mot about my gullibility vis a vis the mysterious Mr Skin.

Getting ready for Primetime

Filed under: geekery,now playing: anything — lexifab @ 12:19 pm

I seem to recall that some time ago i mentioned I was going to talk about  Primetime Adventures, the new sort-of-roleplaying game I picked up a couple of weeks ago. It’s a pretty neat concept – it’s less of a game and more of a process with game elements, wherein participants develop and script a television series. Everyone collaborates to develop a group of central characters - each of whom has some issue (“Slayer who just wants to be a normal teenager”; “Loving mother with borderline psychotic controlling personality”; “Younger sibling who just wants to be taken seriously” etc etc) – in a specific situation (“Set in a quiet coastal town”; “Survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious tropical island”; “A space station in neutral space where opposing races can conduct trade and diplomacy”).

One player (the “Producer”) sets up some of the situations and opposing forces (villains, adverse circumstances or whatever), but the role isn’t quite the traditional roleplaying GM job. An equal portion of the storytelling work comes from each of the other players, who must find ways to work their character’s issue into scenes, creating dramatic conflicts. But the players aren’t exactly taking a traditional approach either, because of course it’s a maxim of drama that sometimes – or often – the characters don’t get what they want, making their lives more difficult and their stories more interesting. So, just as often as you want to see “your guy” win the day or save the maiden, sometimes you want to screw their chances to make things just that little bit more interesting “for the audience”. PTA has rules to encourage this.

Play starts with a show-development phase, in which ideas for the situation and characters are brainstormed (“Okay, how about we make a western – but in space?”) until everyone is happy with them. Next up is the pilot, in which the characters and the situation are introduced and the basic direction of the show is launched. If the show gets the green light – i.e. everyone agrees that so far it doesn’t suck and they would all rather continue with this than play something else – a season of episodes is played out, with one episode per game session. During the season, each character will get a spotlight episode that is primarily about that character and their issue, with the other characters and the overall plot (if there is one) playing a supporting role. This is a neat idea, because it means that characters of less assertive players still get guaranteed their moment to shine.

The system is pretty simple – in turns, each player asks for a scene (“Okay, it’s at night and Sydney’s in a goth nightclub in Berlin. It’s a plot scene and she’s trying to get the professor to sell her the secret formula”). The Producer sets up the scene, adds a few details and other characters, and the players roleplayi, script or otherwise elaborate scene details until it becomes apparent that there is a conflict arising (“It’s a trap: the Professor’s family has been threatened and he has sold Sydney out to the NME”). The exact stakes of the conflict are determined, based on the character’s issue, with different characters gaining or losing different things depending on their issue. If Sydney’s issue is about protecting the innocent, then the stakes might be whether she can convince the Professor that his family will be safe if he helps her; if her issue is fear of failure, then it might be simply whether she can get the formula or whether she has to go back and face her hated boss empty-handed. Each participant in the conflict receives a number of cards depending on how seriously they take the conflict and the participants with more red cards than the Producer (who is always “the opposition”) wins and gets to say how the scene plays out. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but not much.

So far we’ve only done the development stage for our game, which Xopher succinctly details here, with the pilot to follow in tonight’s session. But so far, PTA looks to hold great promise. First off, the concept is solidly structured for short-term play – a season is either 5 or 9 episodes long, not counting the pilot – so it doesn’t wear out its welcome. Second, it takes the creative load off one person and distributes it to everyone involved. Third, there is a basic resource management element which ensures that episodes don’t meander or drag too long (caveat: we haven’t actually tested it yet, but actual play reports culled from the intarweb are promising). Fourth, the show can literally be about anything, as long as everyone playing is interested in the idea – it seems equally applicable to serious drama, situation comedy, cartoons designed to sell toys to kids… 

So that’s a fairly compressed explanation of what the game is about. After tonight I’ll try to do up a play report and talk about how it went.

October 19, 2006

A bit flat

Filed under: fitter/happier,geekery — lexifab @ 4:03 pm

I woke up wrong this morning. Actually, I barely woke up at all, and really had to drag myself kicking and snoozing to get out of bed at all. And in retrospect, that was probably some kind of mistake. I have no energy, I can’t maintain focus on anything. Not even legitimate work-avoidance distractions like meetings and seminars are serving to accelerate the painstaking pace of the day.

In Torg, two characters from different universes (for want of a more detailed explanation) can engage in a fight to see whose reality – laws of physics, the existence of magic, morality, cultural assumptions etc – dominates. The loser of these battles is said to have disconnected from his native reality (and is in many ways screwed). In the game, this is a very, very cool conflict with lots of exciting consequences. In reality it would be a schizophrenic episode of nightmarish proportions.

I’m not feeling that bad. I’m not even sure why I brought that up, except to note that (a) disconnected is a pretty good word for how I’m feeling today, which is strange considering how focused and on-song I’ve been feeling for the rest of the week, and (b) I probably have a really crap Reality skill and should probably put a few more points into buffing it up before Orrorsh drops its maelstrom bridges.


October 13, 2006

State of play at the plague house

Filed under: fitter/happier,geekery,news of the day,now playing: anything — lexifab @ 3:22 pm

Having been sick all week, affording me much-needed time to slack off and not be at work, I am now strangely full of beans and/or pizzazz. Pizzazz beans. They’re those blotchy white and red ones, I think. I digress.

I’ve had some sort of non-specific virus that didn’t seem terribly consistent in terms of symptoms or severity from day to day. It wickedly tricked me into thinking it was gone about Wednesday, so I went into work and pottered around for the morning until somebody pointed out I was pale and sweating like a stick of albino gelignite. In response I mostly hung around reading, sleeping, surfing the web and playing WoW all week and wondering why those activities, most of which I live for, seem so much less entertaining and rewarding when you’re actually not feeling all that well. That seems most unfair.

At least I wasn’t Simon though, who was also home all week and has by and large tended to look and sound way worse than me. He’s had constant sniffles and racking coughs and sinus pains, all of which have been merely intermittent for me. I suspect he’s still at home today – I didn’t see him before I took off for work.

The world continues to spiral into chaos and cruelty and stubborn self-destructiveness, and as usual of late I find myself looking at it with no more than a casual disappointed frown, before turning my gaze back inwards to more pleasing diversions. This week I’ve been poring over various gaming podcasts, catching up on current episodes and relistening to a few older ones.

(Crapping on about gaming after the tag)


October 7, 2006

Happy birthday Mister Simno

Filed under: administraviata,fitter/happier,news of the day — lexifab @ 1:59 pm

It’s the Simonster’s birthday today. He is an unmentionable age which nobody has yet mentioned. To celebrate, we’re having duck and/or marinated tofu in a noodle stir fry, ginger gow gees and some sort of profoundly rich thing involving raspberries and chocolate ganache.

I was off work a bit with the ills this week. I actually got sent home by my work colleagues for looking ‘awful’. I could have protested that I was also ‘bored’ and had ‘nothing to do’, but I was actually feeling pretty damned bad, so I took off as directed. In fact I think my general malaise was possibly due to overdoing it with the exercise over the last couple of days, but my remedy for that was to do more exercise, both yesterday and today, on the theory that I’m just in that early period where it’s really hard work and you haven’t quite gotten back into the rhythm of regular running/cycling yet.

Or I could have a bit of a flu. That’s not out of the question.

October 4, 2006

Belated dot points from the anniversary long weekend

The first weekend of October is a long weekend in Canberra. It might be for Labour Day, but don’t quote me. All I care about is that it’s the long weekend that more or less aligns with the wedding anniversary of Fi and Lexifab (by her cunning design rather than coincidence or any particular input on my part). In fact this year the actual date (the 5th of October) falls almost as far from the long weekend as it’s possible to get (i.e. the following Thursday) but it’s still a handy marker.

So what did we get up to over the three glorious days to mark our four years of blissful weddedness? Prepare to be bowled over by the romance!

  • Renovations – we started work on the kitchen-study-bathroom hallway, where four decades of ad hoc wallpaper adhesion have agglomerated into a nigh-impervious woody mass of quite startling ugliness. A few experimental attacks with a paint scraper (standing in for the proper tool for the job) seemed to suggest that, although it was evident that we were dealing with at least four layers of wallpaper, glue and quite possibly paint, the stuff would come off readily enough after a quick wash down with warm water. What we didn’t reckon on is that not all parts of the hall had been treated equally, and in addition to the aforementioned materials, several spots included a stratum of generously lavished putty. We charitably think that one or more of the doors may have been moved, necessitating quite a bit of patching up, but it’s equally possible that the putty was a (failed) shortcup attempt to smooth out some uneven panels or holes in the wall sheeting. Either way, it resistance to all attempts to scrape, chip, gouge or otherwise dislodge it was impressive. And painful. Over the weekend, two long sessions involving multiple scrapers have still not seen the job finished. I’ve missed the renovating.
  • Gardening – Not really much gardening, but after collecting the mower from its ethically challenged repairer, I felt some obligation to get out and use the damn thing to make the back yard just a little bit less hospitable to snakes. Add in some minor weeding and a bit of overdue tree branch trimming and you get a slightly tidier yard and the first mild sunburn of the summer.
  • Gluttony – As the drunken report from Sunday evening intimates, the rugby league grand final was held over the weekend (the AFL one too, but I was gardening at the time and only saw the last five minutes of that). This matters only insofar as it was an excuse to eat very bad food (pork crackling, ribs and sour-creamed drenched potatoes) and drink beer in front of the telly for a couple of hours. The after-effects, which seem to have visibly accumulated at my now somewhat-distended abdomen, have convinced me that a return to sensible eating and vigourous exercise after the excesses of the Europe trip are probably now overdue. 
  • Picnic in the park – Got together with several enchildrened friends for a picnic in the botanical gardens on Monday afternoon. Not much to say about that except that zucchini slice is considerably better than I would ever have expected, that the weather for picnics at this time of year in Canberra is just about perfect (and that a vast number of people are aware and take advantage of the fact) and that wrangling other people’s kids without some familiarity with their preferred psychological management techniques is hard work, but friendly ducks are an excellent distraction.
  •  Roleplaying – Emma’s here on one of her occasional forays out of the land of fictitious vegetarian options and appalling teenagers, so we broke out Warhammer and gave it a run. It’s a fairly traditional system with few original features, but there is a lot of amusement to be had from its careers system and the ridiculously mundane occupations available to newly minted characters. Our group came from diverse corners of the labour sector, to be sure: a huntsman, a smuggler, a ratcatcher and a charcoal burner. Funny thing about Warhammer seems to be that the above are all a viable adventuring collective whether you are playing for laughs (as we mostly did) or seriously, in the default “grim nihilistic doom” mode. We decided that we had enough fun to schedule at least one more session, for which I have decided I will actually plan (if only because the starting adventure provided in the rules is a bit rubbish).
  • WoW – I seem to recall I had enough time gaming online to finally achieve some arbitrary personal goals (buying a cool looking rhino mount and improving my reputation with one of the important game factions) but it was all a bit “whatever”. I think my interest in the game is merely treading water at the moment, waiting for the new release in November or so to see whether I can get fired up again. Of course, if I actually get to go to one of the big 20-player instances like Zul’Gurub or Ahn’Qiraj a bit more regularly (by devoting a bit of time to it on a Sunday morning) I’ll probably get some enthusiasm going, if only because those are the main parts of the game that I haven’t fully explored yet. Once I’ve seen a place in the game a few times, I tend to lose interest a bit, but there are a lot of those areas that I have yet to get to because of the need to coordinate with 19 other people.

So, yeah, not much in the way of romance. We did go shopping together though. We bought a nice new lamp for the lounge (planned), an electric shaver for me (sort of planned, though again not really on my part), some random discount cookware (unplanned) and a bright orange suitcase to replace the one that the QANTAS baggage handlers were kind enough to destroy only during the last leg of our trip.

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